Thursday, 5 November 2009

Fair Usage Policies and other hazardeous terms

This post is both a reply to Giffgaff's questioning about naming unlimited offers and a statement about why I expect in terms of unlimited internet. ( I have also posted this reply on the Giffgaff forum)

As a carrier never use the terms ‘for life’or ‘forever’ except if you are actually offering the service for free even once the customer is not topping up or paying x£ a month - that T mobile add just annoys me and I'm surprised they haven't been attacked for false advertising yet.

‘free’ is borderline but is acceptable if it is pay 10texts get 1 free or something like that.

'Unlimited' is the trickiest and the one which o2 mobile has been ok so far. There is 2 cases; home broadband and mobile internet:

-home broadband, unlimited should be really unlimited no fair usage policy, no traffic management, no gimmicks. It's totally economically viable and possible. I 've had had experience with the french market and they don't have an issue providing it at all so data caps etc in the UK just feal like prehistoric and ridiculous limits.

-mobile internet however is a totally different problem as the spectrum and data speeds are limited and even with improved infrastructures a mobile network cannot replace the fixed one. Having a fair usage policy on this is therefore acceptable, however having a ridiculous 750MB/month for the iphone like orange did this week and calling it unlimited is really taking consumers for idiots as no iphone will use less than 1GB per month except if left in a draw (seriously I can't leave my iphone more than 20mins without having an email or checking news so in a draw or under 750MB is nonsense). I read earlier this week a blog post complaining about the fact that the o2 FUP didn't say what was considered a fair usage. Honestly I was a bit scared of it when I first signed up as I know I am a big data user and the iphone uses a lot of data too but after a year of using up between 3-5GB/month (with months not using any data as abroad or getting the iphone repaired/replaced) well I still haven't reached the point of being warned or being told off for using too much data. I know my data usage might even go down now that I can offload most of the traffic on to my wifi routers at work and at home and progressively use less data intensive apps as video is just not worth it (even if flash and therefore full youtube support would totally change this). So in this case femtocells have no appeal; the use I can see with them is to have other users being able to connect on it in a femtofonera community case and/or in a international no roaming fees on the femtocells agreement.

So far I've only been focusing on unlimited data. Unlimited calls and texts are difficult for me to appreciate honestly as I call about 10-15mins/month and send 60 UK texts/month & 60 EU texts/month. Most of the offers I know in the french mobile market are 1-6 hours of calls so "600 mins and texts for 15£ a month" offers sound to me like they are already unlimited offers but with a much more advanced and clear FUP. Unlimted texts should be truly unlimited.(obviously using automated systems to spam or resell these credits can't be allowed but that in the T&Cs and is not a FUP)

Calls packages are already unlimited calling plans but are not termed as such which obviously points out the carriers have not been consistent so far but should it really be called unlimited -I don't know - but an unlimited calling plan with no FUP could be successfull it worked out pretty well for the french DSL markets with calls to landlines in france +100 destinations unlimited combined to data and TV channels(triple-play) - this is what Tmobile's project dark in the US is trying to offer but on a mobile network and I think it is ging to prove popular for all (eventually with LTE and femtocells accessible to all users on a network that will be a viable option). I think carriers are or at least have been so far better placed to propose such offers than MVNOs so we don't expect giffgaff do offer a project dark type of offer.

To conclude unlimited titling for mobile services if the FUP has a quite large margin is ok. So maybe have an "unlimited internet for feature phones"(ie any phone) and an "unlimited internet for app phones/smartphones"( for iphone and android - WinMo and WebOS aren't going to survive long but they can be included along with blackberry until then) with undisclosed FUP but potentially being 500MB and 5GB respectively but only doing something about it when users are 2-3x over that FUP and doing so consistently over 3-6 months. No FUP on unlimited texts. Unlimited calls to mobiles, landlines and non premium 08 numbers (ie SIP, free helplines, etc) with no FUP would make a good offer.

Bottom line carriers don't be scared of launching trully unlimited services with no FUP, yes some users will be getting more than what they've paid for but they are the one's who will drive your userbase numbers up which will compensate for this. Have a look how "Free" a french ISP revolutionized the country with this type of offering and has a massive base of fanatic supporters. By doing what consumers want you to do you will get the most reliable guarantee of customer fidelity - devotion.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Proposed Giffgaff Pricing

I read the giffgaff blog post a few days ago asking how they should organise their pricing and it made me think quite a bit. Here is what I came up with, and have posted on the giffgaff forum:

Calls and texts

As packages just make life easier,especially by preventing customers from thinking "this call is going to cost me a fortune, hurry up and let's put the phone down" which is associated with per min/text billing, obviously it wouldn't cost a fortune with gifffgaff but there is still that feeling of money draining away when paying per min or per text. This is definetely not the case with packages as, as a customer you feel that you payed for it so you might as well use as much of it therefore you're going to call more and enjoy doing so. However with packages comes the feeling of being ripped off when you don't use much of your plan.

The key is therefore to ensure flexibility between both models, to maximise customer satisfaction.

I think therefore that having four plans on offer and anything over that is billed on a per text/min basis being the best option available. Also being able to switch from one package to the other on a monthly basis would also be great as it gives usage flexibility to the customer.

So here's what pricing plan I would see:

-no package (existing but not necessarily advertised)

-5£ package with x texts and mins

-10£ package with y texts and mins

-15£ package with z texts and min

Per min and per text charges over that with their individual pricing (ie X/per min and Y/text ; X and Y don't have to be equal)


(P.S: Giffgaff will not be charging for data during the first 6 month and no roaming data as systems won't be in place for the launch. )

I think the data plans should have:

-a monthly cap rather than a daily cap would be definetely much nicer.

-and tethering should be included in an data packages for smartphones (iPhone in particular :smileyhappy: , I reffer to those packages as "unlimited" later on ). The potential issue with this might be excessive data usage we have to admit it. However, by giving a combined "phone data" +"tethering data" package I think most of the users will be disciplined and involved enough in the giffgaff project to keep themselves under control to prevent putting giffggaff in a difficult situation.

Therefore maybe 4 monthly data packages:

- 20 Mo/month @ 2£

-500Mo/month @ 5£

-"unlimited" with fair usage of 3Go/month @10£

-"heavy usage unlimited" with fair usage of 6Go/month @15£

I think having a robust EU roaming data package would also be great, ie in the 500Mo range at a pricing of 60£ perhaps

Obviously that will have to wait for quite a bit but I see it as a very attractive offer in terms of quantity and usage , the pricing itself could be higher (not 300£ high please) but it would be very innovative.

Pricing being a rough schematic throughout obviously


Sunday, 11 October 2009

Femtocells: the conditions to be accepted by consumers

Three business models

Femtocells are starting to get out on the market now that most technical challenges have been met. However, the appeal for customers being so far limited to spending a fair amount to improve the coverage which they are already paying for. That is ridiculous. I can see three potential ways which would make sense, don’t forget it has to have an added value to be worth our attention.

1. The first case would be getting it for free with my iphone (or other useable Smartphone) contract or integrated into DSL modem at no extra cost. In such a case I don’t spend money and I get the good coverage which I expect to come with the expensive contract.

So far they have been proposed at a price of 100 to 200£/$/€ which is quite a lot. I will only be ready to put down that much of money down if I am going to get a return on that investment in some way. And coverage is not my priority as I as a consumer would choose the network which offers the best coverage in my area.

2. The first reason would be to reduce roaming charges as I do tend to travel in different EU countries for prolonged periods and I have broadband setup in those places which I already use for data but cannot do so for incoming calls or certain outgoing calls (I do use Skype for most of the outgoing calls anyway). Therefore carriers like Vodafone or orange which are present all over Europe would be capable of doing this. Other carriers would have to agree to a partnership with FON with its Femto Fonera concept (a bit more about my ideas about this further on). It is only through its potential to make savings on calls that I as a consumer would be interested in a femtocell. Personally I do not call that much anyway so having discounted or free calls from the femtocell would not be attractive for me but I believe that heavy users would be interested in a domestic situation.

3. The second case in which I would be interested in buying a Femtocell would be if I could make a certain amount of money out of it. I believe this is the most powerful way of getting Femtocells massively adopted especially in high usage areas. To put this into context, the main factor for carrier interest in Femtocells is to offload data traffic from their macro network. This is obviously due to the iPhone’s enormous data consumption and future increases. However if I have broadband and I’m at home I use wifi so my data usage is already being offloaded. Therefore it’s not only about offloading my data and increasing my coverage when I buy a carrier’s femtocell but more about increasing coverage for the other subscriber’s and offloading their data consumption from the macro network. The femtocell should therefore accept anyone from the carrier’s network; obviously all the data has to be routed through the carrier’s core network so that doesn’t pose any legal or security issues to the consumer. In exchange the carrier should give a portion of the revenues generated through that femtocell to the owner of that femtocell on a 50/50 basis. This is what would make it so attractive for people and businesses to buy them. Think about a restaurant or a coffee shop installing one, they would be able to advertise having an excellent 3G coverage (or even LTE in the future) which would please customers and improve the business’ profit and offload the data used by that large amount of subscribers in one place which are all using the network consequently as customers make a few calls, send a few texts, check their email or send a few photos on facebook in those specific places. This is therefore a win/win/win situation for the carrier, the femtocell owner and the consumer as there is less congestion, new incomes and increased bandwidth for everyone.

The Femto Fonera

Now let’s move on to the Femto Fonera and a few ideas to explore.

Let’s remember that Fon is a wifi sharing community where people share wifi access securely in exchange off which they can roam all the other hotspots for free and even make money of people who don’t share their access and therefore pay to access the internet through the foneras. Now wifi operates on an unlicensed frequency so anyone can install a access point and do whatever they want to do with it whereas femtocells have to operate on frequencies owned by wireless carriers who control what happens on those frequencies. They have to agree that you operate a femtocell which means they keep full control of what it can or can’t do. This means getting a Femtocell doing what consumers want to do with it will be much more challenging than it is for a wifi router.

Applying exactly the same model to a Femtocell Fonera would be the best, if you refer to the second and third model I proposed above and combine them you have it. Have a pricey Femto Fonera which will let you:

- use your mobile phone on a Femto Fonera abroad as if you were at home (ie no roaming charges) both calls and data, obviously there is a need for a way of letting the user know when he is on the Femtofonera’s coverage and when he isn’t anymore .

-make money off any phone using your FemtoFonera’s coverage to make calls, send texts or use data (ie anyone should be able to use the femtofonera without any manipulation )

-offload your calls through your home phone or a SIP server (for example integrated use of your SFR/NEUF or other Telcos’ unlimited calling plan to landlines when on YOUR OWN Femto Fonera(all of them if possible but I’m being “reasonable”))

-access to some local resources and an open applications platform, in the same way as it is currently possible with the Fonera 2.0 and 2.0N

The first telco’s which should be interested are the ones who propose the iPhone as they need to offload bandwidth. But I think there is two very big opportunities for FON if they can pull a few deals:

-partnering with MVNO’s by becoming a worldwide MSSE by partnering with MVNOs (such as blyk, giffgaff, virgin mobile, call in Europe, Simyo or any other MVNO) ( )

-partnering with amazon and enabling a free delivery off documents through the whispernet on the femtofoneras as amazon has decided to bring an international version of the kindle but sending any document on it costs a fortune (6x as much as in the US) and most of the documents downloaded would be from home anyway. It would benefit amazon, amazon customers, Fon and the fon community so everyone one would benefit from this deal, even the wireless carriers as this would lead to a reduced congestion of their network.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Welcome post

Cheesy welcome post to my new blog.



My previous website and unrelated blogs are kind of dead as I haven't updated them for ages but I still have all the content of them so you can be expecting a lot of interesting content to come up shortly