What will it take for successful 4G in India?

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By Zia Patel

India is indeed a funny telecom market—saturated with 13 players, with each of them contemplating different strategies to claw market share. Along with a spew of scandals, license cancellations and price revisions, we’ve just witnessed the end an eight-year-long feud between the estranged Reliance brothers. They recently joined hands again under Reliance Jio, with the goal of providing 4G in India .

While pan-India coverage has yet to be achieved by any provider, and 3G subscribers number only 33 million, Reliance, Airtel and Videocon have already stepped on the 4G accelerator. On the other hand, Vodafone claims that it’s too early for India to go 4G. So is Reliance Jio doing the right thing? Let’s rummage through a few facts.

More people in India access the Internet through their phones than through a computer, which means that to most Indians, the availability of cheaper handsets is more significant than the service - be it 2G, 3G or 4G. Hardware is what will have a real impact for the mass market in India – which is evident from Micromax Mobile’s success so far.

Many in India would still prefer streaming a movie using Wi-Fi, calling at the lowest rates and using 2G/3G to access Facebook. 4G data packages will be priced higher, so operators will have to offer other incentives to attract customers. In this atmosphere, Reliance 4G will have to challenge Uninor’s cheap calling rates, Aircel’s cheap 3G data packages and also provide good coverage.

There’s yet another matter of concern—network compatibility. Since 4G can be deployed using different technologies, a device that’s termed 4G isn’t necessarily compatible with every provider’s network. For example, a Nokia Lumia or a Blackberry Z10 might not be compatible with the 4G network provided by Airtel or Reliance, while an expensive Samsung Galaxy S4 will be. This is why iPads in the US are bundled with AT&T, Verizon or Sprint; the device doesn’t work seamlessly across all networks.

Hence, our view is that Reliance Jio will need to carefully plan out their strategy before they rattle India’s telecom world. Reliance Communications has done this before by making mobile phone usage on CDMA networks democratic and affordable. And we’re convinced Reliance pull this off again, with a brand-led strategy. Here are four steps that also earlier applied to 2G and 3G, but have different implications in this context:

Make life easy

The trick will be to find a simple way to explain how Jio can help people and make life easier. They have got their first move right by attaining licenses in all circles – this might restrain the Indian consumer from switching SIMs while switching regions, who on an average possesses 2.2 SIMs.

Be honest and transparent

The Indian consumer might be still rallying under recovery mode from the wake of the 2G scandals and 3G stay orders. Reliance must lift levels of public interest and breed confidence in its brand.

Be clear and understandable

Perhaps the point is that it’s important to create brands that are down-to-earth and accessible in terms of tone, look and feel. Jio should be impeccable in communicating to the masses what it offers and on which devices it’s bound to work.

Be affordable

It is fair to assume that India’s expanding middle class is the primary target, which means that what they offer has got to be affordable. If it rolls out devices locked to its network, bundling with cheaper devices such as Micromax and Karbonn might be a good option, ensuring cheap voice calls at the same time.

Above all, has Jio got its timing right? Jio bringing the two estranged brothers back together was itself a surprising turn of events, and we are pretty sure it will lead to a lot more interesting things ahead. We’re certainly watching.

 

Zia Patel is Head of Strategy at Wolff Olins Dubai. Aditya Das, a management student at IIM Lucknow, also contributed to this piece.

 

Image via MPR news

Unleashing the Fox

Mozilla Debuts Brand for Firefox OS

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Last night at the Mobile World Congress kickoff in Barcelona, Mozilla unveiled some new news about Firefox OS. In addition to showcasing demo experiences, they also debuted the new brand platform and expression, which we’ve been working on with them since last summer.

Based on the idea that Firefox OS is a catalyst for individual and collective progress, the new identity reinforces that the brand is going to new places and spaces by literally unleashing the Fox, symbolizing the freedom that more people will have to take advantage of the full power of the web. 

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The visual expression is based on the principles of being bold and dynamic yet simple and straightforward with a friendly, human spirit. These same principles guide the brand and product messaging and reflect the overall experience upon which Firefox OS is built.

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With the world gone mobile, Wolff Olins is happy to have played a role in helping Firefox create an operating system brand that isn’t restricted by current technology ecosystems and empowers people everywhere to blaze their own trails, amplify their voices and transform the future. 

To learn more, check out Mozilla’s post here.

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Touchy-feely phone calls

     

By Rachel Blatt

You know the little kick of dopamine you get whenever your phone buzzes with a new text message? Imagine what it would be like if you were the thing buzzing. In the future, a magnetic marking on your arm, stomach, finger or fingernail might be able to alert you to a new text message, call, calendar alert or low battery warning. 

According to Digital Spy, Nokia is filing a patent for a new “vibrating magnetic tattoo” that will do just that—an interesting project among a growing number of investigations into “haptic” (or touch) feedback in mobile devices.

Their patent application details stamping or spraying “ferromagnetic” material onto your skin and then linking it to your phone. Based on your phone’s commands, the material would vibrate with “one short pulse, multiple short pulses, few long pulses… strong pulses, weak pulses and so on,” according to the filing.

Cambridge-based Zoran Radivojevic and Piers Andrew are the inventors, along with Finland-based Jarkko Saunamaki and Tapani Jokinen. 

There’s obvious value in creating #useful experiences that enrich customers’ lives, and being the first in your sector to do it.  But is this truly useful? Similarly to the “Face Unlock” system in Google’s latest Android operating system, your magnet tattoo could be used as an identity check, like a magnetic fingerprint. In a very noisy place, where you risk not hearing your phone, this technology would certainly make you aware of it. In quiet places, it could also be less disturbing than the sound of your phone vibrating. 

Of course, once you tell your friends about your new magnetic tattoo, ignoring their calls will become all the more incriminating. 

What do you think? A #useful innovation or an uncomfortable intrusion?

Image via US Patent & Trademark Office

So, What Does RIM Stand For?

By Sam Liebeskind

With yesterday’s formal introduction of new RIM CEO Thorsten Heins, the Canadian smartphone maker has officially declared the start of its uphill battle with the likes of Apple, Google, and Microsoft.  The most valuable weapon in this fight?  Brand.  Here’s why. 

A decade ago, Blackberries were only ever seen clipped to the belt loops of corporate suits.  Blackberries meant business and all of RIM’s research, products, and marketing were focused around that idea.  Superior product specs ultimately drove sales. 

But then America entered the “crackberry” era.  As RIM’s smartphones grew more mainstream —the result of blurring lines between leisure and business, otherwise known as  #Bleisure more and more people became familiar with the technology.  Then demand moved beyond professionals as everyone from college students to teenagers with delusions of grandeur started adopting Blackberries. (I remember my teenage sister begging our parents for one, even composing a handwritten argument detailing all the ways the phone would ostensibly improve her life).  

RIM had trouble truly reacting to the new expectations of these shifting audiences: WORK + PLAY, UTILITY + FASHION.  While the company released new phones to try to feed the momentum, their internal culture was still rooted in the past, hindering their understanding of what people wanted from their technology.  Without a clear position in this new world, Blackberry didn’t stand a chance of making the best future-led phones for anyone. 

Meanwhile, their new breed of customer had little connection to the brand beyond its product.  Many fled when shinier phones emerged from brands that represented a specific lifestyle choice and communicated social capital.  Apple = sexy design.  Android = geek chic.  As a result, RIM continued to lose smartphone market share and their shares fell 75% in 2011.

If RIM is to keep the Blackberry from going down as a pop-culture fad of the 2000s, they’ll have figure out what makes it unique in the eyes of their new buyer and thoroughly embrace that spirit.  They need to determine what RIM now stands for (figuratively), inside and out.  And they need a reason to exist in this new world, where people of all ages are increasingly mobile and connected.

If this vision is solidified and shared, RIM will be able to innovate with a purpose.  They’ll start to build a product ecosystem with features that people can’t live without and over time, their authentic brand will resonate.  Only then will RIM have set the Blackberry back in motion.

Image via Gizmodo

See Also:

Future Patrol: Wolff Olins Macrotrends: #TheInternetOfThings