Biography for Keith Mallinson
Keith Mallinson is a leading industry expert, analyst and consultant. Solving business problems in wireless and mobile communications, he founded consulting firm WiseHarbor in 2007.
Articles by Keith Mallinson
It is good that arguments for and against consolidation, including the proposed mergers of BT and EE, of O2 and Three, and the possible structural separation of BT's network from its downstream operations in the UK are being based on extensive evidence and analysis. Nevertheless, that still does not make it easy to make sense of all the facts and figures being selectively presented for and against the proposed changes, and from which markedly differing conclusions are being drawn by protagonists and antagonists respectively.
Smartphones are still too much like blank cheques, or loaded guns, with regard to international data roaming charges. Usage alerts were introduced in an attempt to increase transparency and control for consumers. They are failing to do that. Regulated measures often fail to keep up with market developments. Postpaid calling plans are popular and convenient for operators and customers alike, but they lack even the rather basic control, on total spending, that prepaid calling has always afforded consumers. Much better spending safeguards for LTE-era data usage are required.
It seems regulators and governments prefer impressive-looking obligation targets that are actually rather easy to achieve, while taking as much money as they possibly can out of the mobile sector in spectrum fees. Instead, it would be better to find ways of keeping more money in the sector by reducing auction transfers so that investments in infrastructure and service quality on a more widespread basis can be increased.
Mallinson: Germany's spectrum auction shows how monopoly power can be exploited - and hurt operators
Spectrum is too valuable to be given away. However; a more sophisticated array of operations obligations and commitments could encourage more capital to be invested in improving mobile networks and services, and making them cheaper, rather than simply siphoning off as much money as possible from operators in auction proceeds for governments to spend on other programmes outside telecommunications.
Nokia's integration of Alcatel-Lucent following the proposed acquisition of its rival will be difficult and messy. Some significant rewards will take many years to achieve, if ever. However, very large research and development demands with economies of scale and scope in 4G, 5G and with fixed-mobile network convergence make this kind of transaction inevitable and indispensable.
M2M and the Internet of Things will create demand growth for mobile network connectivity, but revenue potential is mostly in the broader ecosystem implementing entire solutions and in providing holistic application services, such as in security monitoring and home automation. That might also be worth mobile operators pursuing. More fundamentally, however, they must also ensure they seize network services demand growth in general and accommodate it with corresponding cost reductions right across their networks.
We are currently on the brink of dramatic change and market expansion which might well become as significant as the smartphone revolution, with a large proportion of objects communicating with each other and being constantly connected to the Internet. Many of these will connect through wires, fibre and Wi-Fi, and some will use cellular communications to do so. However, most will also become accessible and controllable by personal mobile devices including smartphones and tablets.
Dramatic structural changes in mobile communications technology supply, with the demise of vertical integration, is forcing those who are developing standard-essential technologies for 4G and "5G" networks to monetise these efforts through patent licensing, as well as their own product sales.
Fundamental changes in demand will be very disruptive to smartphone suppliers. Smartphone vendors that want to succeed will need to make significant cost reductions while also adapting with new product offerings, changes in supply chains, and product distribution.
The smartphone revolution has greatly expanded the size of the handset market with global revenues doubling in the last six years, as consumers substitute more expensive smartphones for their feature phones and basic phones. Yet changes have devastated most of the leading incumbent handset vendors.