Editor's Corner

The German mobile market is quickly shaping up as a great fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) experiment that the global industry should pay attention to.

Last week during CeBIT, T-Mobile International said it will start offering a converged WiFi and cellular service this summer, allowing customers to connect to any of the 6,000 T-Mobile and T-Com hotspots in Germany, which cover train stations, cafés and other locations. However, customers won't be able to use the service via other hotspots such as those in homes or offices.

In addition, Freenet, whose parent company is mobile operator Mobilcom, plans to offer its DSL customers dual-mode GSM/WiFi handsets from UTStarcom and Nokia, and possibly partner with the Cloud or FON. And vistream, the fifth German mobile operator and that market's first mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE), announced last week it will offer dual-mode GSM/WiFi services in the second quarter. The key offering of this service is enabling customers to move via the vistream mobile network and use public and home WiFi hotspots.

vistream told FierceWireless that its strategy is attracting a host of divergent MVNOs, starting with a large chain of radio stations that will launch several branded offers in regional markets. Other MVNO candidates include a fixed-line operator, a call-shop company with an ethnic target group and a big German content company that wants to launch an ESPN-type of offer. In addition, vistream says it is in talks with first and second-tier ISPs and two of the discount MVNO companies, which have been aggressively competing in the German market with cheap voice plans.

What has precipitated all of these new services? The German market, it turns out, is an extremely cutthroat telecom market. Competition as a whole has centered on competing for price leadership and offering discounted home-zone calling plans, where users get cheap calling from their homes. Interestingly enough, Germany's mobile market is experiencing a dual and even triple subscription growth phenomenon, meaning subscribers are buying more than one subscription. Look for FMC to really shake things up on the price front with cheap VoIP calling and give the rest of the world a sense of how it fits in the telecom world. - Lynnette