I got in last night – my first time in KL – beautiful views, spectacular lighting, i.e. lanterns and hanging lights along the freeway and the streets in downtown, but it’s very hot and humid.
Bob Schechter moderated the first panel this morning with panelists:
- Bryan Wang, Director A/P Research, In-Stat
- Venkateswaran Ranganathan, VP Value-Added Services, Airtel
- Vaino Leskinen, VP Sales, FlyTXT
- Pocheng Shyu, Product Line Manager, Sun Microsystems.
There was less controversy here than we saw at the EU & US conferences. Despite different panelists, the first session in the EU and in the US turned into a open versus walled garden argument. Here there was a little of that - it was too polite. Also, while Airtel is less open than DoCoMo, they are far more open than the typical EU or US operator.
Venkat specifically mentioned ringback tones, where Airtel delivers the service and handles the billing but relies on 3rd parties for all content and for content promotion. Apparently when Reliance Telecom rolled out ringback tones in India they initially tried to supply and market the content themselves, but they had a much smaller catalog than the competition. Uptake didn’t compare with the success Airtel was having, so Reliance switched models to that of Airtel. So the model that’s succeeding in India looks very much like the one that succeeded in Korea. This is interesting as subscriber adoption of ringback tones in Korea (well over 50%) and in India (~35%) is far higher than in the EU or the US.
Bryan Wang presented some DoCoMo statistics on 2G versus 3G, which I hadn’t seen before. Apparently with 3G, the number of page views per user per day has gone up dramatically (42.7 vs. 4.7). The key issues are the faster data rates with 3G and DoCoMo’s flat rate unlimited 3G data plan at $36/month.
Other interesting comments: Brian questioned how much operators know about their customers – probably their gender, age, monthly spending on phone services, but far less than is typical in other industries. For example, Tesco segments their customers into more than a million categories. Venkat (Airtel) asked is there a fundamental reason why an operator can’t know as much as Tesco? and then answered his own question No! I was hoping this would turn into an argument or at least a controversy, but the panelists were too polite.
At one point Vaino pointed out that iTunes & iPods are a walled garden, but very successful. Doesn’t an operator need to do both, i.e. develop applications and provide transport for access to open Internet applications?
The best (but also the only) question from the audience was from “Jan from Belgium” (also here): It’s one thing to access Google over the “mobile Internet”, but what do you think of Skype? Unfortunately, the question didn’t get adequately answered. Venkat talked about cost of supporting Internet access and the operator needing to recoup their investment, but the discussion strayed from Skype to Internet content.
While there wasn’t the same controversy as in the EU & US sessions, the reason was Asian operators are, by and large, a lot more open to 3rd party applications. Walled garden approaches are significantly less in Asia than either the EU or the US.