February 2011


Instability in some parts of the Middle East is not slowing the regions hunger for connectivity and the rapid growth of its telecoms sector.

On February 28th the telecoms carrier community will again meet in Dubai at Capacity Middle East to discuss drivers for growth and how telecoms is shaping regional development.

At last year’s event carriers took turns making the case for why their operating areas deserved to be the hub for the region. These carriers have been challenged to provide operating environments that are business friendly and open to deeper levels of cooperation, connectivity and competition.

Abdulhameed Alhamad, General Manager, Wholesale Marketing at STC, Raghu Venkataraman, Chief Strategy & Investments Officer at du and Etisalat’s EVP, Carrier & Wholesale Services Ali Amiri will be speaking on this year’s keynote panel and giving their take on how strategic investments in the region can help to capture market share. There will be an emphasis on greater interregional connectivity as well as how deeper infrastructure investment can shape the future of the market.

Undersea cable operator Gulf Bridge International (GBI) along with Tata Communications are increasing interregional connectivity with new undersea cable systems in the Persian Gulf while it has been reported that Etisalat and du have begun testing a shared network in the UAE ahead of a national rollout later this year. These kinds of developments are expected to bring prices down in both the retail and wholesale space and continue to drive growth in Middle East telecoms.

As competition emerges as a priority, instability in some parts of the Middle East has highlighted the role that connectivity is playing in the region. This instability will certainly be a topic of discussion as instability does not lend itself to the creation of telco hubs but is an interesting topic as a component of political and economic change.

What will be interesting to see at this year’s Capacity Middle East is how operators and regulators discuss the role of the internet in this instability and how affects their businesses. The impact of limiting internet services as a perceived means of calming unrest is a topic that operators from within the region and beyond are sure to have an opinion on.

The Middle East’s strategic location between Asia, Africa and Europe makes it an ideal meeting point for carriers and this year’s conference will have more than 700 attendees and has expanded in format to include an additional day of panel sessions and networking. As with each year, Capacity Middle East continues to grow up alongside one of the most dynamic telecoms markets in the world.

Capacity Middle East 2011
28 February – 2 March 2011, Dubai

Matthew_Whalley

To clear this up immediately: no, I am not proposing a return to the era of 1920s Chicago with its ban on alcohol and preponderance of illicit “speakeasy” bars.

The following is a list of habits and behaviours which I would ban if I could; and whose prohibition, I believe, would make the world of pan European PR coordination a far more effective and agreeable place to work. I would be very interested to hear feedback from both sides of the curtain (“coordinator” and “coordinated”) on whether you recognize or could add to this list…

1. The coordination “Cockney” – just because I was born within the Bow bells of London  may make me a Cockney, but it does not mean that I possess the skills and sensitivities to manage multiple markets. Being a native English speaker has many benefits (English remains the “lingua franca” for business in most of Europe), but pan European coordination requires many other skills and experience

2. Unacknowledged success. A half page article in the Financial Times may not be the only definition of success; coordination teams who ignore or discount local achievements are doing themselves and their network a disservice. ‘What does this radio slot mean to the local market’? ‘How long has the team been pitching this vertical title typically dominated by the competition’? ‘What does this endorsement from a powerful local blogger mean’? As Shakespeare noted about the quality of mercy, such acknowledgements are “twice blessed”; to the coordinator and the coordinated.

3. Forgetting who actually does the work. The most amazing, compelling and creative PR plan in the world would remain just that – a plan – without the support of the local markets; they are the ones whose role it is to implement. It is their local market and media knowledge, their relationships, their long hours and good humour that bring the plans to life and generate the results against which we are all measured.

4. Ill conceived conference calls. Has humanity ever wasted so much time as the hours spent on interminable conference calls which are not preceded by an agenda, have no relevance or call to action for participants and no follow up summary? Think of the things we could have done with that time . . . . I for one could have learnt Chinese, recreated the Sistine Chapel in my bathroom or, even, updated my timesheets with all the time spent on meaningless calls. Keep calls regular (not ad hoc), keep them brief (30 mins max) and ensure that they are “sandwiched” by an agenda and a follow up note.

5. The surfer´s voice. If coordination teams are guilty of conference call inflation (increasing ubiquity matched by decreasing value), countries are sometimes guilty of “multi tasking”. There is nothing more irritating that presenting over the phone against a chorus of keyboards typing, alerts sounding , lunch orders being taken. In terms of distraction, this is the equivalent of trying to deliver a presentation in a nightclub complete with pumping music, strobe lighting and dry ice. Keep calls to a minimum but make them count.

6. Clichés and Colloquialisms. Let’s “hunker down” and plan for the “end game”; if we bring our “A game” it will be a “slam dunk”. Apart from being incomprehensible (even to a native English speaker), this type of dialogue simply reveals a paucity of clear thought and is wide open to misinterpretation and confusion. Genuinely clear thought is typified by language and terminology which can be understood in any country.

7. Focusing on what can’t be done instead of what can. I appreciate that this type of response can be culturally driven and a way to manage (central) expectations, but I have found that focusing on the negative can be self-fulfilling and destructive. “There will be strikes planned for this day . . . it is a Bank holiday weekend . . . there is not local customer reference . . the journalists do not speak English . . . we have no local spokesperson . . . .” These may all be legitimate observations, however, a focus on what could be achieved given these constraints is far more effective and fulfilling. “Given the above, we could propose an exclusive with one English speaking journalist . . we would propose embargoed meetings with trusted press to provide them with time to prepare . . . we would position the story in the context of a local competitor. . . we would research some local market data to add context . . . etc.”

8. “Yes but that will not work in my market . . . .” see above.

You make recognize a few of these; once again they are not behaviours I regularly see in my agency, however I’d love to hear about your “prohibitions” and how they would implore the world of pan European coordination.

@RogerDara

At the close of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I took some time away from the show floor to recap some of the key mobile industry trends, developments and themes that have emerged at this year’s show.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_Telecom

Nokia has begun its campaign to re-imagine itself at Mobile World Congress and is looking to become the most operator-friendly smartphone vendor

The news of Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft seems to be sinking in at Mobile World Congress. Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop continues to appear throughout the event to again tell people why this move makes sense. He’s confident in his messaging and delivering it clearly but his enthusiastic explanations don’t do the scope of the announcement justice.

Elop declared at Monday’s keynote presentation: "A battle of devices is shifting to a war of ecosystems.”

This signals a move in the market that has been coming into focus in 2010 with the emergence of Android as a true force in the smartphone market. Throughout Mobile World Congress, Elop has been banging the “three-horse race” messaging hard and Windows Phone 7 with Nokia’s reach will create a third combatant in the smartphone market. This will be a definite but distant third player and one that will have to make a pretty drastic statement when they finally bring a device to market.

Jo Harlow, senior vice president marketing at Nokia Mobile Phones, has hinted that this will be within 2011 but her statement was definitely not a guarantee.

Operator Friendly

What has been interesting since the initial announcement Friday night, where Elop said he’d been on the phone with European operators reassuring them, is the operator-friendly message that Elop has been emphasizing. Elop seems to be carving the smartphone market up and putting Nokia on the side of the operator and its business model.

Operators are in a unique position and need all of the help they can get to retain revenue and take some control back in the market they brought to life. If you are an operator you see Apple taking market share in areas you’d like to excel in while Google has seen Android explode in 2010 and at the same time a revenue hog on the web. In the smartphone market these two players are in a luxurious position as operators grasp at different ways to answer the “dumb pipe” question.

Nokia and Microsoft have the opportunity to be the shoulder to cry for operators that have seen opportunities squander elsewhere. iPhone is established and Android is a force in the market as we have seen throughout Mobile World Congress with this additional platform creating, what Nokia says, will be more competition and choice for operators.

Elop explicitly addressed the operator community during the Microsoft keynote on Monday and let them know that Nokia’s new partnership will create the most operator-friendly smartphone platform in the market. He added that Nokia and Microsoft would help operators to retain and drive revenue, which aren’t likely goals for Apple.

Elop said: “We understand what it means to be friendly to operators."

This kind of messaging plays into Nokia’s history of strong partnerships with its operator partners and broadly makes sense but looking at another aspectof Nokia’s business you wonder if Nokia needs to focus on the smartphone market. The company has shown its strength around the world with feature phones and is still a force in the market even though it may not appear to be an innovator any longer.

Peters Suh, CEO of Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) noted in an application-focused keynote panel that Nokia has between 30%-40% global market share in handsets, which he then followed up by saying, “but I’m not sure that the smartphone market is a global phenomenon”. This is a fair statement as emerging markets with limited mobile coverage may struggle to take advantage of advanced features.

Feature Phones Not Its Future?

Suh was highlighting that perhaps this doesn’t play to Nokia’s overall position or strengths in the mobile market. It may not want to play the role of emerging market or feature phone vendor but that may be what it is good at. Nokia has been looking for an identity for some time and this move has not brought anymore clarity into play.

What is clear is Elop may be playing to operators now but eventually Nokia will need to attract consumers and prove to them that its Windows Phone 7 devices are not just operator friendly but customer friendly as well.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_Telecom

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo believes the goal for Twitter is to be like water, to be immediately available and instantly useful.

Twitter has taken a mainstream role in pop culture but its CEO is striving to improve the service and have it reach more devices and engage more people.

Dick Costolo outlined Twitter’s goals, achievements and meaning at Mobile World Congress 2011 comparing the information network to the ubiquitous and usefulness of water. He said he wants Twitter to have the same functionality on every device, anywhere, adding that the Twitter experience isn’t the same on iPhone, Blackberry and Android. Costolo compared this to using a shower saying every time we use a different shower we don’t have to relearn how to use water.

 

Simple and Useful

"Our goals this year are that Twitter will be instantly useful. We want you to get a meaningful timeline right away," said Costolo. "We want the experience to be the same. I shouldn’t have to think about how to use Twitter…We want deep integrations into the platform. When you take a picture with a camera phone, you shouldn’t have to switch applications to tweet that photo."

He highlighted the importance of the mobile experience for Twitter users and noted that 40% of tweets are from mobile devices with 50% of Twitter users using multiple platforms.

Costolo continued the water analogy in explaining the meaning of Twitter and saying each tweet was like rain drop. There are billions of them but a single rain drop can hold tremendous meaning for some but nothing for others.

He said, “Some tweets are purely social and don’t have any extra meaning. This is where we’ve been criticized. What these criticisms miss is the distinctly personal connection of these tweets."

What Twitter has carved or stumbled upon is social context and how important that is for people as they sift through the mountains of data that appear in front of us everyday. As we try to make sense of all of this data, we need to shape it and contextualize it in order to evaluate it and give it meaning.

Costolo said the goal is to be simple and that is because Twitters users give order to their own universe and can constantly evolve their experience through following and unfollowing other Twitter users. Costolo sounds if he wants Twitter to be the least of the focus as its user focus on shaping their connections and interests into a service tailored to them. This ties into his ideas about deep platform integration noting that the Twitter just needs to work from smart devices to basic handsets with SMS services.

Costolo said: “With just a few social connections, a user is far more likely to become an engaged user. One of the things we have to do this year is shorten the distance between ‘awareness of Twitter’ and ‘engaged on Twitter.”

Revenue Through Engagement

This level of engagement is important to Twitter from a financial perspective as it is helping brands get in front of the right people with the right products and services but it will need to understand its users betters. Users that join Twitter and use it as a listening device are far less valuable to the company then people who are actively engaging with their community.

Costolo added that Twitter is making money. While that may be a vague statement, he certainly sounded like he understands his product and is clear on how he’d like to see the business grow.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_Telecom

On the second day of Mobile World Congress 2011, the event hosted an operator keynote panel. This keynote panel session included insights on a broad range of topics across the mobile market. Here are some short highlights from the panel:

  • Audioboo: Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, gives predictions for mobile penetration http://boo.fm/b278532

  • Audioboo: Daniel Hajj, American Movil, gives an overview of the Latam mobile Market. http://boo.fm/b278441

  • Audioboo: Wang Jianzhou, Chairman & CEO, China Mobile talks about the explosion in mobile data. http://boo.fm/b278425

@Matthew_Whalley

@Edel_Telecom

Last week I was speaking with a ‘social media pro’ who informed me that I shouldn’t bother with blogs as its all Quora nowadays.

At first hand it’s not such a silly statement – may people instinctively believe that the volume of blogging has fallen massively since 2007 at the expense of the shiny toys of Twitter, Quora, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. If all the conversations are happening in other channels why should we bother to blog at all?

This view is short sighted. In fact, blogging for marketing purposes has increased:

A common mistake people make is that people live in a “field of dreams” world whereby they think that simply blogging about a subject will make people come and visit. Blogging is great for telling prospects about what you are selling but it does not bring people to your site.

In fact a blog is a focal point and acts as a base of operations for communications. Even though you may use Twitter and Facebook there still needs to be landing point – a place that people end up when they click on the link.

 

image

Writing as a blogger, I an confirm what many people know, in that it takes a great deal of effort and dedication to compose a blog post. it’s not like twitter where brisk thoughts can be jotted down in 140 characters – instead a blog is a place where context is added to headline, where ideas are fleshed out and where structure is given to a proposition. Twitter and Facebook are not the right platforms for this – this is where a blog shines and becomes a library of all your thoughts and ideas. In essence it is where ‘idea starters’ reside.

What’s more a blog can also address questions or concerns your audience find important. By all means people use amplification tools like Twitter and Facebook to draw their attention to your blog post, but the thoughts reside in one place.

SEO is also vital. New, focussed and relevant content will always be picked up by Google which will in turn bring extra traffic. It is here where the second stage of engagement takes place – directly on the blog. This is often more in-depth and focussed than through other channels like Twitter. How often have we all felt that 140 characters is not enough to give a detailed opinion. Facebook too has its limitations – even though you can write as much as you like, many find lengthy wall posts unappealing – it really is a case of the right message for the right channel.

At no stage i am suggesting that a blog is used in isolation. As if proving my own point, when i raised this question on Quora, i received in depth replies. Priit Kallas, Founder and CEO at dreamgrow.com explained his reasons why Blogs are important:

  • Create an image of an expert
  • Interact with clients and prospects
  • Improve search engine rankings
  • Spread the word
  • Talk about more than just products and services
  • Solve client’s problems
  • Build trust
  • Stay on top of your field
  • Build brand
  • Exercise your creativity
  • Put a human face on your brand
  • Proving ground
  • Foundation for social media activities
  • Differentiate from competition
  • Educate clients, prospects, stake holders
  • Increase traffic
  • Make money

And here is a real life screen shot straight from Google Analytics (points are weeks):

The increase in traffic was 3 to 4 times and leads grew even more. Not too shabby.

So how should a blogger blog?

  1. Write informative and relevant posts
  2. Use social media to amplify the post

Blogging takes time and effort. Whereas a quick tweet may be insightful, the dedication to compose and elaborate on ideas takes in the form of a structured blog post is incredibly difficult. To all those people who do this regularly or even as Jeremiah calls it – a ‘casual career blogger’ , truly salute you for bringing opinion and content. Where people talk of information overload, they forget that all the info points somewhere – and that more often than not is a blog.

Recommended reading:

29 Ways to Keep Me Coming Back to Your Blog Again and Again

Corporate narcissism: The single biggest mistake made on corporate blogs?

The State of the Blogosphere 2010

21 Tips To Create A Brilliant Business Blog

Corporate Blogging Goes Mainstream

 

Originally posted on Technobabble 2.0

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