Will Everything Everywhere rule the waves?
The recently consummated joint venture agreement between 17 million subscriber Orange (France Telecom) and 13 million subscriber T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom), a merger by any other name, was opposed by O2 and Vodafone, but subsequently approved by the UK industry watchdog OFCOM.
Overnight the Everything Everywhere network became the UK’s biggest cellular provider, promising improved coverage by merging and rationalizing network equipment, plus savings generated by re-branding under a single identity and merging the marketing and retail functions.
Who didn’t join the party?
In addition to Vodafone and O2 the Hutchison 3G UK (branded Three or 3), with 4 million UK subscribers and the countries most extensive coverage of 3G, was absent. Curious because their lead in 3G was thanks to a 50/50 infrastructure joint venture in MBNL Ltd. with none other than T-Mobile. As recently as September 2010 Orange joined this partnership. All the more curious then as MBNL Ltd has been folded into the Everything Everywhere alliance; in some small way leaving 3 with a seat at the table.
Does the alliance indicate war?
Not if the June 2011 announcement by opponents Vodafone and O2 are an indication. Both O2 and Vodafone agreed with the newly created Everything Everywhere to collaborate in another commercial joint venture. This agreement attempts to put the three operators at the head of future mobile commercial services initiatives.
The agreement is to provide retailers, banks, advertisers and marketing partners, with a single source partner in developing M-commerce products and payment services using technologies such as NFC (see our article What Is NFC).
Does the alliance indicate peace?
Not competitive peace, but it does in the opinion of unlockworldwide.com indicate commercial consensus. The surprising UK harmony between the phone network providers is most probably a product of much wider global telecommunications issues. As device convergence moves beyond the mobile phone, beyond the internet, beyond entertainment and quite plausibly via NFC, replaces your credit/debit swipe card and becomes a primary financial tool.
Will NFC bring radical change?
Almost certainly. Just as the introduction of the iPhone caused us to call these superior devices SmartPhones, the further enhancement of our personal communication device may cause marketers or the market reaction to create a new semantic to describe our “talking credit card”.
Indeed, as the mind wanders one finds it plausible to think in terms of my HSBC phone (Hutchinson Whampoa 3G are related to HSBC) and even a Barclay phone.
It is indeed reasonable to predict that the France Telecom / Deutsche Telekom Everything Everywhere agreement implies a move toward cellular monopoly. However, the monopoly over who broadcasts your wireless phone signal is simply a vehicle to avoid unnecessary repetition of transmission towers and broadcasting equipment. Just as we run trains owned by several companies over tracks owned by the nation (or a commercial alliance) it is reasonable to cut waste out of advanced communication networks.
Let all the MNOs become MVNOs (see our article What is an MVNO?).
Just as today you dock your iPhone into an iTunes station and hear music through state of the art speakers, so will you future device dock into your monitor, offering internet communication (because it has a big screen), movie on demand and TV on the same screen.
That same personal device you today call your phone will also guide you to your destination, probably pay road use charges as you drive, serve as money, and monitor your health. It’s a BIG BIG picture; hence the term Everything Everywhere.