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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

UK Cellular Industry: Lack of Innovation

Rather than doing the obvious and spoofing the new Orange product for its’ lack of Uniqueness, I’d really like to focus on the lack of innovation by the UK Cellular Operators. All the innovation seems to be coming from BT, whether it be UMA phones (yes, the Fusion was well before the Uniq and probably the Uniq wouldn’t exist if BT didn’t form the UMA standards committees) or MobileTV (with BT pushing its’ DAB-IP solution for Virgin). It is interesting that Leeds City Council a big user (4,000 handsets) of Orange chose the BT product over the Orange one.

Part of the answer may lie in the ownership of the operators: for instance the Uniq will be available next week in France, but only in November in the UK. Whether my fellow Brits like it or not, France is a much more important market for Orange than the UK and probably most if not all research and development is performed in France.

The freaky bit is that it has been argued that the early announcement of the Uniq on May 31st was in direct response to the 9cegetel announcement of the launch of SIP-enabled FMC phone on its’ MVNO with SFR. This is interesting on three fronts: the technology is completely different to the Orange UMA phones; the handset maker is a small Taiwanese ODM and Vodafone has a small indirect interest in 9cegetel.

It is to be noted that French innovation does not stop at the mobile market: 9cegetel and Illiad are also big innovators in the Broadband field as well – it is hardly surprising that France Telecom is suffering in its’ home market. Also, Orange in the UK with its’ broadband service development seem to lag well behind Orange in France.

A similar story could be developed around T-Mobile when comparing the UK market with the German market. Although it is understandable that T-Mobile hasn’t launched a FMC (fixed mobile convergence) product given the lack of a broadband access network, it is a complete mystery why T-Mobile hasn’t launched a FMS (fixed-mobile substitute) produced, especially given the apparent success of its @home service in Germany.

O2 is even more bizarre with its’ FMS product, Genion being launched in Germany in 1999 and probably saved the German subsidiaries existence during the darker days of o2’s existence. It still hasn’t seen the light of day in the UK. However with o2, I’m waiting with baited breath for something spectacular to be launched after its’ acquisition of Be.

I think Vodafone takes the award for the weirdest operator with most new products seemingly launched in Germany. An example of this is the Zuhause product family. I’m really hoping for the delay in the UK to be worth waiting for with something really different from the masses to be launched in the UK – a Femtocell approach perhaps?

Even new born H3G seems to be left with a strategy of fastcopy of successful products for Italy: the recently awarded SeeMeTV is a direct copy of a similar Italian service.

I wonder why?