Thursday, 29 January 2009

Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – BillMonitor and 47,220 mobile tariffs

This week’s post from Mobile Industry Review.
Last week I met with Rebecca Jackson from BillMonitor. BillMonitor has been launched to address the key issue faced by all mobile users; which is the best tariff for me? There are already a number of price comparison tools on the web available from the usual price comparison websites; so what makes BillMonitor different? The team behind BillMonitor include statistics professors from Oxford University so it’s leveraging the combined intellect of some very smart people! This team has used mathematics to develop an algorithm that uses behavioural forecasts to predict future usage. BillMonitor analyses over 47,000 mobile tariff variants to make recommendations based on the data entered by a user. These recommendations involve the algorithm taking pragmatic decisions about predicted usage to arrive at suggestions that should offer good value for the next six months. BillMonitor takes the view that certainty is key for mobile users and therefore it is preferable to pay a little more each month to ensure you don’t get seriously stung when you occasionally exceed your bundle, rather than identify a tariff that may on some occasions be inadequate. The results can be enhanced by the bill tracking feature that looks at your actual mobile usage via your online account. Searching can be improved by selecting specific variables like contract length, operator and roaming. When I first looked at BillMonitor I expected it to be more relevant to Normobs but having seen the power behind it, I think it’s got something to offer all mobile users.
At the moment only the big operators are included in the tariff analysis but the virtual operators like Virgin, Tesco and Lebara will be included in a couple of months. BillMonitor will also shortly be launching a business version for the SME market which will include multi handset business tariffs. I was keen to try out the monthly bill tracking feature but at the moment it only covers Vodafone, Orange and O2. I’m on 3 so I’ll have to wait for an update to the site. However I did a quick calculation of what I need, based on the last half a dozen bills, fed it into the tariff analyser, and discovered I’d be better switching to O2 on a 30 day contract if I don’t need a bundled handset. If I want a handset then 3 is still the best network for me.
BillMonitor is free of charge to consumers and will remain so. Monetising the service is likely to come from managing the more sophisticated requirements of business users, on top of the existing referral fees when a user clicks through and makes a purchase from an operator. Referral fees in no way influence the results and BillMonitor is currently undergoing the Ofcom price comparison certification process which guarantees impartiality.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Truphone update

I had a quick catch up with Geraldine Wilson, CEO at Truphone, this morning to see what their plans are over the next few months. Now that Truphone supports multiple handset software platforms a lot of work is going into making the user experience and functionality as consistent as possible. This is a challenge because the different platforms provide varying degrees of access. Geraldine also assured me that Nokia S60 users have not been forgotten and we will be seeing more from Truphone here in the future. Truphone is very keen to use the handset app stores as a key route to market and the lack of a proper Nokia app store is a frustration for Truphone, as much as it is for us loyal S60 users.

Work is also progressing on tariffs and flat rate tariffs will be launched within a couple of  months to give users a choice of either per call pricing or fixed monthly charges. Truphone users who have multiple devices have found it frustrating to have to manage separate accounts for each device. This will be fixed shortly allowing a single Truphone account to support multiple handsets. As one of Voxbone's iNum partners, Truphone is looking at how best to exploit the potential of iNum to support its aim of delivering products for customers with an international lifestyle. Expect to see more on this shortly.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – some thoughts around .tel and mobile users

Today's post from Mobile Industry Review.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had several conversations with people about .tel domains and how .tel creates a simple, single place to store and share your contact data. .tel is a new top level domain that allows users to publish their contact data directly to the web, in the DNS, so it’s easily available from any internet connected device in a simple, easily accessible, consistent format, without the need for a website. As the data is not stored on a hosted website there’s no HTML to slow down or screw up the display of the data and of course no need to organise hosting, which simplifies the whole experience for Normobs. .tel is about communications, not web content. For me, it’s my interactive business card!

So what does .tel mean for mobile users? .tel is a mobile optimised contact directory. Mobile apps will allow the data to be accessed without having to open a web browser. When you’re mobile you can check the current contact data for a .tel user at any time, from your handset. As this data can be managed via profiles, you will only see the current, and therefore relevant, contact data for the user at that point of time. So at the weekend or in the evenings you could see ‘home’ contact data and during the day, business contact data. You might also see a different, more limited, profile when someone is travelling. Plus of course you can click on a phone number in the .tel profile to call the person.

Most of us have many different modes of contact – landline numbers, mobile numbers, VoIP, IM, Twitter, plus other information we want to direct people to, like our blogs and websites. Trying to second guess the best method of contact for both parties is impossible so .tel puts it all in one place and gives the other party choice of contact method, within your chosen parameters. Privacy functionality allows you to make certain contact methods only available to specific individuals or groups of people. I find my preferred phone numbers and other methods of contact change fairly frequently, particularly as I’m always keen to take advantage of new deals and services. Advising contacts of new numbers and ID’s is a pain so it’s much simpler to point people to a .tel where my preferred numbers and ID’s are always current.

I believe the true value of .tel will start to become apparent once the developer community starts releasing applications that use .tel data. There are already applications like the BlackBerry and iPhone apps that simplify the .tel lookup and data management processes from your mobile device.

If you want to try out a .tel domain for yourself you can sign up for a free temporary name here. .tel domains will be available for purchase at a premium price from 3 February and via general availability from 24 March. I guess most people will wait for general availability when .tel domain pricing will be similar to the usual domain pricing. At that level it’s a small price to pay to have your current contact data always up to date and easily available.

Have a look at my beta .tel at

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Reckless Ambition live on New Year's Eve

George, my son, in his band Reckless Ambition playing live on New Year's Eve. Fantastic performance, particularly as the guys are only 14 years old. So when you hear about Reckless Ambition in the future, remember you saw them here first!
Reckless Ambition are:
  • George - rhythm guitar
  • Henry - lead guitar and vocals
  • Liam - bass guitar
  • Jacob - drums

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – Mobile as a landline minutes stealer

Today's post from Mobile Industry Review.

When I was talking to Truphone CEO Geraldine Wilson recently, she made the comment that Truphone expects an increasing proportion of its business to come from landline minutes substitution, rather than the big mobile operators.
Mobile calls as a substitute for landline calls fall into two categories. The increasing size of mobile call bundles means that many users have enough minutes included to ‘forget’ about their landline and just pick up their mobile for every call. Ofcom’s 2008 Communications Market Report highlighted some interesting points:
Mobile telephony (including an estimate for messaging) accounted for 40% of the total time spent using telecoms services, compared to 25% in 2002. However, much of this growth has come about as a result of an increase in the overall number of voice call minutes (from 217 in 2002 to 247 in 2007) rather than because of substitution with fixed voice, which still accounted for 148 billion minutes last year, down only 10% from 165 minutes in 2002.
However, fixed-line voice has remained resilient, with overall outbound minutes falling by just 2% to 148 billion minutes in 2007. Sixty per cent of voice minutes originated on fixed lines in 2007, and in Q1 2008 just 12% of households had no fixed line (with 11% of households being mobile-only).
Seventy per cent of people with a mobile and a fixed-line phone use their mobile to make some calls even when they are in the home; ten per cent of people with a fixed line at home never use it, claiming that they always use their mobile.
So, mobiles are starting to make an impact on landline calling but there is still a long way to go in terms of substitution. From a calling perspective there is sometimes a rationale for using a mobile instead of a landline, however most of us still need a landline to get a broadband product. Unless Ofcom mandates naked DSL in the UK, where it would be possible to order ADSL broadband without a phone line, most of us are stuck with a phone line so we might as well make some use of it. Currently, the only way to get broadband without a phone line is via Virgin Media, if you live in a cable area. Although mobile broadband is a great product when you’re out and about, I’m less convinced that it’s a replacement for landline broadband in terms of speed, coverage and download limits.
Another factor in the fixed mobile call substitution debate is mobile coverage. For many of us, in-building coverage is too flaky for mobile calling to be a reliable alternative, however this is where some of the mobile VoIP providers score because they use your broadband connection. DeFi Mobile and Truphone have been great ‘home’ mobile services for me because cellular mobile coverage isn’t great here.
Mobile VoIP players are well placed to exploit the international calling niche with rates that are invariably lower than landline providers. Truphone, DeFi Mobile, Rebtel and others each have a slightly different spin on where to make money from international calling and in some cases mobile VoIP providers are looking to replace landline calling completely. To get maximum value from DeFi Mobile’s fixed monthly tariff it makes sense to use it for all your calls. Plus, as a UK DeFi number is a landline number, the people you call will be able to return calls without paying a mobile ‘premium’.
So where next for mobile landline call substitution? The 3G mobile infrastructure sharing deals between 3 / T-Mobile and Vodafone / Orange will in theory lead to improved coverage, so extending the reach of the mobile operators. The niche mobile VoIP providers will continue to chip away at landline minutes, particularly for international calling. However, if we see the arrival of femtocells this year, accompanied by mobile tariffs aimed at taking landline business, then this could presage a step change in user behaviour and perhaps lead to much more call substitution. Femtocells could dramatically improve in-building mobile coverage and combined with naked DSL could be a winning combination. Now there’s an idea …

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – Truphone, where next?

Today's post from Mobile Industry Review.
Just before Christmas I met up with Truphone  CEO, Geraldine Wilson, to discuss Truphone’s aim to be the mobile solution of choice for people with an ‘international lifestyle’. I’ve been a big fan of Truphone but disappointed that 2008 didn’t deliver more in terms of a clearer strategy and a better customer experience.
Truphone is now focussing on building a family of products to deliver value to a global customer base that makes international calls or travels to international destinations on a regular basis. At the moment these services complement an existing mobile account by offering cheaper calls over WiFi (Truphone on a Nokia or iPhone), over 3G (Truphone Anywhere) and out of country (Sim4travel travel SIM). More convergence here is the plan with some potentially interesting outcomes, perhaps including a Truphone SIM card. Interestingly, Truphone believes that increasingly it will take business from landline providers, as well as mobile providers, as customers look for a single competitive solution for international calling.
2008 was the year when mobile app stores took off, with the Apple App Store making it easy for the first time, for all users to download new applications to their devices. Whilst other platforms like S60 and BlackBerry offer plenty of scope to find and install new apps, it was Apple that made it easy by putting everything in one place and making it accessible from the handset. The iPhone has also made WiFi on a mobile device mainstream and increasingly popular because it delivers faster ‘broadband’ connectivity than 3G or HSDPA. Increasingly, to deliver a great data experience you need multiple methods, including WiFi. Truphone sees the App Store as the start of a trend that will greatly extend their reach and put Truphone within the grasp of many more users. Plus, Truphone is well placed to exploit the increasing familiarity with WiFi on a mobile device.

2009 has seen Truphone kick off the year with the launch of support for a number of external communications platforms - Skype, Twitter, Live Messenger, Yahoo and Google Talk on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Truphone's aim here is to make Truphone a communications hub on your device where you can manage more and more of your communications needs in one place. I'll be coming back to this functionality in the future when I've had the opportunity to test it out. This year will also see a greater focus on the corporate BlackBerry market with support for central provisioning and central billing to increase Truphone’s appeal to enterprises.
As the recent TruSaver  tariff showed, future tariffs will increasingly support a flat rate component and Truphone will be looking to offer a range of tariffs to support the requirements of their customer base. I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see a flat rate tariff soon with no, or very limited, event based charging for individual calls. Heavier users are certainly looking for simplicity and predictability in charging.
At the moment some UK operators treat Truphone 079788 numbers as ‘out of bundle’ for voice calls and SMS and charge them at a premium. Resolution of this anomaly is a priority for Truphone so I hope we’ll see this barrier to ubiquitous usage of Truphone numbers resolved before long as it’s a problem that stops many of us handing out our Truphone numbers to contacts.

The launch of new functionality on the iPhone and iPod Touch underlines the point that Truphone increasingly means different things on different devices. A consistent customer experience across all devices is important in delivering a clear message to customers about your proposition and it will be interesting to see how Truphone addresses this point. As a Nokia S60 user, I feel that 'my Truphone' is increasingly being left behind.
So, lots of plans and lots to do … 2009 is the year for Truphone to deliver.

Blog Archive