With record numbers through the door for the first day of the ninth LTE World Summit, there was certainly a lot to take in. And as the dust settles at the end of a long day, I finally got a few moments to take stock. The big revelation of the day? For me, it wasn’t a technical specification, or a marketing nugget, it was the fact that Erik Hoving, chief strategy, innovation & technology Officer, KPN Group, does his own research. To whit, Hoving took himself onto the streets of Amsterdam, to ask passers-by if they knew what LTE meant. The shock result? Zero. Nada. No a single one. True, it probably wasn’t the most scientific of surveys – he only asked ten people – but the point stood.
And what was that point? LTE should not be about the technology, it should be about educating consumers as to what LTE can do for them and how it can make things better. (Ask not what you can do for LTE…)
Hoving told us that KPN, the host operator of the LTE World Summit had prepped its network ahead of it acquiring the LTE spectrum in the auctions last year, a possible risk, but one that enabled it to launch its LTE network just six weeks after acquiring said spectrum. A video he played us showed that it was not activated by a team of highly trained network engineers, but by the Mayor of Amsterdam who wacked a great big red button after which a big on sign appeared on a plasma display behind him. Well, seemed legit to me.
So what can we do with LTE. Hoving believes that the carriers actually shouldn’t worry themselves about it but let others take the lead – specifically children – or at least Hoving’s children who apparently, ‘get’ LTE, in a way that older folk just can’t. A next generation network for the next generation. He did stop short at suggesting that only those under 40 should be allowed to use LTE, an idea that I don’t think would go down well in the propositions department.
Other facts Hoving bestowed upon us was that most consumer interact with their smartphones a full 150 times a day, which he said represented how many times users interact with their carrier. It’s technically true, but I would argue that the consumer doesn’t see it that way – it’s interacting with the content he or she wants and not the operator. Indeed, should the operator not just get out of the way?
In terms of advanced LTE deployments it doesn’t get much more impressive that SKT. Dr. Jae W. Byun, CTO of SK Telecom revealed that since its launch in 2011 it has made great strides and by 2015 expects to have 19 million LTE subscribers (73 per cent of its market). The short term good news is that the ARPU from LTE is 28 per cent more than from 3G users, a great example of LTE being self-monetising. Dr Byun noted that launching LTE had also had a positive impact on its competitors market share and increased their ARPU as well, though SKT was able to retain its dominant position. As you would expect average download speeds on SKT’s LTE network far exceed that of 3G (27Mbps vs. 4.2Mbps). Surprisingly though average data usage is only double (2.1GB vs. 1.1GBs).
In contrast to Hoving’s assertion that operators should not bother offering services, Dr Byun said that SKT has successfully offered two – a service that delivers video highlights of baseball games, and T-Premier TV highlights package. And thanks to its near ubiquitous LTE layer, it offer VoLTE as standard. He also showed his secretary using Joyn services, and converting an HD voice call into a video call. In many senses, it’s a glimpse of European networks of the (hopefully near) future.
Following his speech Dr Byun joined a panel discussion with Andreas Lieber, Head of Mobile Business Development & Partnerships, Groupon, USA; Iain Dendle, Business Development Director, Shazam, UK; Roxanna Zea, CSO, Tele2, Sweden, and Jonathan Alferness, Director of Product Management, Mobile Ads Lead, Google, USA.
Google’s Alferness revealed that because of the speed and ubiquity of LTE, if someone at Google checks the accounts they’ll notice a huge bill for their LTE service, built into his Google Chromebook. “LTE is transformational – I don’t turn on Wi-Fi,” he said.
GroupOn’s Leiber said that despite the perception that OTTs have it all worked out, digital innovators do want to work with operators. “Partnerships make sense,” he said and listed three reasons why it talks to operators, “distribution, revenue and promotion.”
Operators also enables it to reach customers that it would not otherwise be able to through integration with carrier billing, to access those who would otherwise not trust giving out their credit card details.
Shazam’s Iain Dendle said something similar, while it gets two million new users from the App store, it needs operators to further expand its reach, while the benefits for the operators is that they get to offer, “a magical service’ that ‘encourages usage of the network’.
Interestingly Dr Byun revealed that while Apple and Google dominate in consumer apps, it sees an opportunity to compete by offering something similar for the enterprise markets. Leiber backed this up by saying that operators should offer services where they can innovate, such as O2’s successful live music offering in the UK, but should not do so if they are just looking to copy.
The morning’s presentations were finished off with a ‘fireside chat’ (no actual fire allowed – Health & Safety), between Informa’s chief research analyst Mark Newman and Vodafone Netherlands CEO, Rob Shuter). Shuter said that despite the maturity of the market there was plenty of room for growth in the market with a relatively low usage of data at an average of just 500MB a month. As for future pricing, he said it was likely that voice and SMS would be unlimited, with just data metered. It would not just be about bundle capacity though, with innovations such as QoS allowing for more pricing variations.
While there were many tracks and sessions throughout the day one of the most popular was the 5G innovation masterclass, which saw standing room only for the talk, which looked at how the network might look in 2020. At least no one can say the LTE World Summit is not forward looking!
Check back tomorrow for a run-down of the keynote highlights of Day Two, which if it’s anything like today will be bustling, busy and essential.