Thursday, 25 September 2008

Being a regulator is a tough gig

Just back from the Westminster Media Forum event at the Imperial War Museum. This was an interesting event pulling together a wide range of participants - and certainly not the usual mobile fare - to discuss and provide insight into Ofcom's most recent mobile sector assessment (MSA). Feedback is still welcomed, if you are quick, before the 6th November.

You can find the agenda above. The discussion was stimulating and avoided the usual trapdoor around the slowness/lack of cooperation from the operators. Indeed, some very good insight was provided by the operators into some of the challenges they face.

During a brief discussion on number portability both Three and Orange eloquently and reasonably put forward opposing views on whether a two day turnaround was enough or insufficient (highlighting some substantial economics for them as a result of each answer).

Even coming from the industry and having worked for a carrier - and thus one would hope with some insight into the right and wrong - it was easy to be sympathetic to both views. It left me admiring Ofcom for their ability to move at all in such a complex environment particularly when, in a number of cases, the participants are not so quick to share their views.

One also had a sense that Ofcom were listening hard to the views being presented. There were representatives from Infrastructure Providers, Operators, Investment Banks, Consultancy, Law Firms, PR, Device Manufacturers, Publishers and the odd start-up.

We were asked to comment on three topics briefly:

Whether new entrants and new tech could alter the shape of the market place?

To which my answer was "could?!"

I showed this graph which highlighted the coolest brands in the UK last year. Of the top ten, the top six are either an internet business or owe their success to the internet. Ten years ago none of these companies would have made the list.

Why would we imagine that the mobile world would be different? Particularly when there is a general acknowledgement that the existing incumbents cannot innovate quickly enough or are restricted from re-positioning radically because of shareholder commitments.

The second question was: the impact of instrastructure sharing on changing the commercial landscape for mobile operators

I attempted to provide an alternative answer to this than just citing the MVNO deals of Blyk, Tesco, Virgin, BT et al - though nobody actually mentioned these so I would have been on safe ground.

My argument is that operators will be forced into infrastructure sharing because of the troubled economics of the access business. I illustrated this point with some fixed line stats regarding the iPlayer showing escalating costs of carrying the traffic. What is an issue for fixed ISPs today is an issue for operators tomorrow. Or rather next week as iPlayer is coming to mobile over WiFi from next Wednesday (or using Skyfire now over 3G). I do not see how the operators can maintain profits at a healthy level without infrastructure synergies.

Finally, Ofcom invited comment on the growing importance of consumer protection issues.

I argued here that there needed to be a change in perspective in data protection issues so that it was supportive of the ways in which a new younger networked generation were using it. Simply halting sharing of information is old school.

Putting it more eloquently here than I did 'live': it is difficult for the middle-aged shaping this policy to put themselves in the shoes of the younger generation who are actually making the rules of engagement and actually doing so on the fly.

Some of you might recognise that I used Whatleydude as an illustration in explaining this. It was the first room I had been in for a while where nobody recognised his name. Sanity prevails in some far flung places.....

More on this another time as there were a couple more titbits that would be good to share



Blogger Hitesh Patel said...

nice information about wifi connect....
for more information regarding Festival

26 September 2008 at 06:16  
Blogger Whatley said...


Me? As an example?

I want to see this presentation!


26 September 2008 at 12:36  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home