I gave my review and comments on Day 1 of the GSM Association's big Mobile Asia Congress that was held ere in Hong Kong this week. I gave Twitter updates also about Day 2. I will give here my main reviews and comments about Day 2 to complete the wrap-up.
We had Masayoshi Son, the CEO of Softbank, the company that is also known as Yahoo Japan, who bought Vodafone's failing mobile network in Japan (earlier known as J-Phone) and is now the third biggest mobile operator, but also fastest-growing of Japan. Softbank is also the exclusive iPhone network in Japan. Son-san pointed out that his background is the internet, Yahoo etc, and he is late to mobile, but inspite of that, he said very emphatically, that "The PC internet is gone, because of the 2nd IT revolution: mobile." He gave us stats on the status of the mobile industry in Japan today - that 55% of Japan has migrated past 3G to 3.5G, that the Japanese mobile content industry is worth 14 Billion dollars annually, that 50% of mobile data is consumed in the home; the peak time for mobile data consumption is between 9 PM and 10 PM; and smartphone users consume 10 times more data than non-smartphone users.
Son-san also gave a bombshell announcement, that they will turn off their 2G network already in March of next year, 2010. I believe this is the first network and first country to do so. Their bigger Japanese rival NTT DoCoMo will turn off their 2G network a year later in March of 2011. He also said that all digital content (globally) will end up on mobile phones.
We heard from Singtel's CEO, Allen Lew. Singtel is not only Singapore based mobile operator, but that distinction is not seen as very impressive in the city-state of 4 million inhabitants. But Singtel also is an owner with mobile networks in many countries in Asia-Pacific from Australia to the Philippines so the Singtel Group is one of Asia's telecoms powerhousese. Mr Lew said that as Singapore is so small and very advanced in high tech, they use the Singapore home market as a live test-bed for innovation ideas, that they are considered for their other affiliates. Mr Lew said that in Singapore almost 50% of smartphone owners are shifting web surfing activity away from PCs.
Telenor's President and CEO (Norway's Telenor is world's 5th largest mobile operator group by subscribers, with properties in Asia in Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and launching in India) Jon Fredrik Baksaas spoke about the eco-friendly initiatives they have, such as solar powered cellular network base stations etc, but an interesting tidbit that came out, is that in Europe, Telenor has installed 870,000 household electricity meters that are remote digital meters and operate on the GSM cellular network, in Sweden. As Sweden's population is only about 7 million people that is probably a third of all households.
In the afternoon I listened in on the Mobile Broadband Business Case session, and first up was my friend Tetsuzo 'Ted' Matsumoto, the Sr Executive Vice President at Softbank. As usual, he had a lot to say, and said for example, 'The mobile internet is the core of the future of the ICT industry'. He joked that the Japanese spoke 'enough' on phones already, but went to explain that you cannot increase the total traffic of voice, it is finite, we have only so much capacity to talk per person per day, but the capacity to increase data traffic per person is enormous growth opportunity. And business-focused as always, Matsumoto-san also told us that the business in data dongles in 3G is not as profitable business, as is services on phones, so they focus on building their 3G and beyond services around phone based services, not data dongles for laptops.
Grameenphone (Bangladesh's biggest mobile operator) Head of Regulatory Affairs, Mahmoud Hossain said they are bringing the internet to rural villages, via mobile, on shared solutions so many people in the village will share in the service and its costs.
Rajat Mukarji of Idea (one of India's largest mobile operators), told us of the Indian market, where the average price of a voice minute is 1 cent (US). He Mr Mukarji also said that in India mobile is the first screen, not the fourth screen; and mobile is the first internet connectivity opportunity for most people of India.
Then my friend Sigve Brekke the CEO of Telenor Asia Group (the five countries in Asia out of Telenor's 15 affiliates, that have over 80 million subscribers and about half of Telenor Group's total customer base). Mr Brekke told the Congress that mobile broadband in the less developed parts of Asia meant an internet for the small screen. He said that the internet on mobile is different from the internet on PCs, and pointed out that this meant a re-definition of the internet concepts, with new services and new business models. He said very simple pricing was also needed, something easy to understand, price by the hour, by the day, by the week - that kind of models. Mr Brekke also said that the biggest single service opportunity for mobile broadband in Asia was 'social networking' (haha, sounds familiar to our readers, eh?)
Next we heard from Tony Warren, GM of Regulatory Affairs at Telstra (Australia's biggest mobile operator) who told us that 60% of phones in Australia are 3G already, and over half of mobile data is now non-SMS type of more advanced mobile data. And he said that MMS is experiencing enormous growth, grew 300% in the past year.
At the last session I attended the Segmentation session. There we were treated to a truly magnificent presentation on mobile segmentation by MTS (Russia's biggest operator, one of world's 10 largest mobile operator groups by number of subscribers) Group Director of Strategy (and my good friend) Garrett Johnston. Garret's presentation was rather mobile operator segmentation 'technique' and detail-specific, probably not of great interest to our readers, but a few tidbits worth mentioning that touch on the general level. He said that when MTS ran its new segmentation model, for its first target segments they improved customer profitability by 12% to 14%. He also said that they now manage microsegments dynamically based on actual behavior, to a granularity of 'thousands' of segments. As my comment from the outside, this is essentially then on par with global leaders like the operators in Scandinavia.
And there was a presentation by Norm Lo the Asia Pacific VP for RIM. I think it shows how much RIM has evolved away from being only a business/enterprise oriented smartphone maker, that Mr Lo showed several slides focusing on consumer apps and services, before he mentioned business/enterprise apps for the first time. Times are a'changing.
Thats my summary, was a great event, learned very much and made many good new contacts and friends, and met up with several past friends. I was very sorry to miss Ben Joffee of Plus8Star and MoMo Beijing, a good friend of mine due to being in a conflicting session.