Does the rise of mobile broadband pose a challenge to the triple play business, asks Julian Clover?
A few months ago UK supermarkets began refusing to take cheques, the inconvenience of having to write out the amount was all too much, so it was credit and debit cards or that old fashioned thing called cash. It was at this point that I realised that it wasn’t a particular problem because increasing numbers of people don’t have a chequebook anyway.
It’s happening too in telecoms as well; whereas in some countries you have a mobile phone because it can take a generation for a fixed line to be installed some people don’t bother anyway. In Scandinavia in particular I’ve noticed that it’s common to be given a single number so that when you call a business associate you could just as easily be speaking to them at their desk or on the way to pick the kids up from school.
The next stage of this evolution is mobile broadband. For the past few months I’ve been using a USB stick, rather than fumbling for my credit card when I’ve turned up in a coffee shop, because the Wi-Fi provider is someone other than the four I’ve already registered to.
My mobile broadband provider is the same as my mobile telephone operator, though it could just as easily have been BT or Virgin and I’ll bet 3 Gbits that Sky will have launched such a service before the end of next year.
It is key to all of these companies to have mobile broadband as part of their customer offer, not just because of the revenues they receive in return for the customer convenience, but because if they don’t there is a danger it might begin to undermine their core business.
Virgin Media, ZON and Com Hem are just three cablenets that have introduced mobile broadband as part of their proposition. Virgin is also linking the price to the level of fixed broadband that you subscribe to within the home. (BT has for some time given a limited number of wireless minutes as part of its Total Broadband offer).
Virgin has a significant number of students as part of its internet subscribers, and when they’re not sleeping or drinking, students tend to move around a lot. The convenience of mobile broadband means they could well be tempted to abandon a fixed broadband service if the price of a mobile service is attractive enough.
The attention given to broadband over the past few years as part of the triple play bundle means that it is essential for operators that this new means the telcos have unearthed to pay for their 3G licences does not undermine a core business.