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Making the most of wireless mobility

Written by  Neil Montefiore
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Neil MontefioreIssue:Asia-Pacific III 2007
Article no.:5
Topic:Making the most of wireless mobility
Author:Neil Montefiore
Title:CEO
Organisation:MobileOne, M1, Singapore
PDF size:220KB

About author

Neil Montefiore is the CEO of MobileOne Ltd, M1, Singapore. Prior to his current appointment, he was the Director, Mobile Services at Hong Kong Telecom CSL Limited. Mr Montefiore began his career at The Cable and Wireless group and rose through the ranks to become the CEO of Cable and Wireless Systems Ltd. From there, he moved to the UK as Managing Director of Paknet Ltd, a Cable and Wireless and Vodafone joint venture. Mr Montefiore later returned to Hong Kong as Managing Director of Chevalier (Telepoint) Ltd. Mr Montefiore received the Asian Business Leaders’ Innovator of the Year Award 2002 presented by CNBC Asia-Pacific and TNT Asia. In 2003, M1 won the Best Regional Mobile Operator and Best Brand in the World Communication Awards. M1 went on to win the Best Broadcast Commercial at the GSM Association Awards in Cannes in 2005. The Singapore Business Awards committee named him the Outstanding CEO of the Year for 2002. In 2006, Mr Montefiore was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Institute of Advertising, Singapore, IAS. Mr Montefiore is a chartered engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, CIM.

 

Article abstract

In both developed and developing countries people depend upon their cell phones - often for their survival. Businesses and operators, though, need to focus on how the technology can facilitate an effective and competitive business environment, enhance productivity and generate returns. Mobility should enhance freedom and flexibility, not distort the work/life balance. Working days no longer need be from nine till five, remote working is a reality - lessening pressure on office space, reducing commuting, rush-hour traffic and fuel consumption.

 

Full Article

The wireless industry has just celebrated reaching a significant milestone. It was 20 years ago that an historic agreement was signed in Copenhagen by 15 telecommunications operators from 13 countries that led to the development of the Global System for Mobile Communications. Better known as GSM, the communications technology now serves over 2.5 billion people worldwide. Have we only had global mobile communications capability for such a relatively short time? Was there life before the mobile phone? Well, my generation somehow managed to reach their third decade without making a call on a mobile phone, sending a text or picture message, or forming an unhealthy relationship with a BlackBerry. Today’s twenty-somethings and younger, however, regard you with a mixture of pity and disbelief if you explain how industry and society did actually function without the wonder of wireless. The past 20 years have seen a communications revolution, with mobility making an unprecedented impact on both the consumer and business worlds. The first GSM networks introduced the reality of single number contactability and availability, any time, anywhere. It was a revelation (providing the cross-border roaming agreements were in place) and the ‘corporate road warriors’, as they were referred to in many a PowerPoint presentation of the 1990s, quickly grasped the benefits of the mobile phone. They turned 24-hour working into an art form. They seized the advantage of accessibility and gained an immediate competitive edge over the poor souls who remained tethered to copper wired connections. For some years, mobile voice and text messaging were the only applications available from the mobile device. The word ‘only’ is relative - mobile voice and SMS built, and continues to sustain, multi-billion dollar businesses for the operators and won over a billion users worldwide by 2004, 12 years after GSM went commercial. Just 30 months later, by mid-2006, there were two billion users. In that year, cellular services accounted for 1.6 per cent of the global economy. From voice only, the mobile communications industry has become a comprehensive mature business offering a range of services that has transformed the way that we work; and makes, as well, a huge and positive social and economic impact around the world. Now, nearly seven billion text messages are sent every day. More than one billion mobile phones will be sold this year, and almost two-thirds of mobile users are in emerging markets. At last, we are at a point in the mobile communications industry where the capabilities of both the networks and the devices are in balance. GSM and, more recently, 3G have suffered historically from an unfortunate tendency to over-market their services, and too often the promises were not fulfilled. Now we don’t have that problem. The devices are sophisticated, rich in processing power and memory, and can offer all main capabilities within a single handset - voice, SMS, MMS, music, camera, video, radio, Web browsing, TV screen, mobile email, messaging, calendar, diary… the mobile phone is now even a games console. The networks are faster, the pipes are bigger. Mobile broadband is now rolling out thanks to 3G and its higher-speed cousin HSDPA. So the technology, as it should be, is now a given. What’s important is how the technology and its capabilities can be leveraged to benefit the user. What is interesting about the mobilisation of the corporate and enterprise market is that the services and applications enabled by the mobile device are not new - they are existing tools already used by businesses on a daily basis. What the rise and rise of wireless has added is the USP, unique selling proposition, of mobility. So voice, text, email, the Internet, multimedia all are now available and accessible on the move and, increasingly, capable of being shared securely among predefined user groups. This is a particularly important point, as one of the main barriers to enterprise adoption of mobile services has been the perceived security risk of transmitting confidential data over the air. Today’s business environment is competitive in a way that was simply not envisaged even 20 years ago. It’s a global economy enabled by the ubiquity of communications and instant access to information, irrespective of location. Catalysed by the Internet and the World Wide Web, the growth of this global marketplace has been fuelled by mobile communications. Customers and suppliers can now be sourced from, contacted and collaborated with anywhere, in any time zone. Prices can be compared, specifications designed and altered in real time; instant conferencing brings faster decisions and targeted effort. To truly compete, businesses need to manipulate mobility to ensure the most efficient and economic methods of working. Used to their best effect, mobile communications can reduce costs, increase output, decrease response times, improve customer satisfaction, enhance competitive differentiation and play a crucial part in the success - or otherwise - of any commercial venture, but the potential needs to be understood. Providing the latest PDA, personal digital assistant, to your sales force will not guarantee increased profitability. The advantage comes from knowing how to integrate the capabilities of that PDA into a business. Exploiting the benefits will provide the enhanced productivity that generates returns. Mobility provides freedom and flexibility. It enables people to be more productive, to have access to information when and where they need it. Time can be better utilised and the working day no longer needs to be nine till five - work commitments can be built into a new approach to time management that takes both business and leisure time into account. Mobility means remote working is a reality - meaning less pressure on office space and less time wasted joining in the daily commute. There is no reason why the mobile communications movement should not be a major contributor to the reduction of rush-hour traffic. With the growth of secure all-IP networks, the mobile VPN, virtual private networks, and the data transport speeds now available, the only obstacle to effective flexible working is often the office IT manager. What could the mobile industry do better for its business customers? There was a rush to win the mass consumer market, but some operators are still playing catch-up in terms of targeting the enterprise and corporate customers with relevant services, attractive price plans and proper, informed and accessible support. Operators need to explain clearly the elements that make up a mobile business - from the most suitable devices and cost-effectiveness of combined corporate tariffs to the benefits of a dot.mobi website. Businesses not only need to be mobile, they must start marketing to the mobile. The generation that has grown up with the mobile device is often the audience that traditional marketing can no longer reach. Businesses need to understand what wireless working can add to the organisations. What applications would bring greater efficiency? What potential could be realised by enabling a more mobile workforce? How does the enterprise plan for the future - do operators clearly define both the advantages and limitations of the available solutions? Any investment needs to be carefully considered, but with communications proving the core around which every business is built, it is essential that businesses demand as much as they can from their networks. Operators need to seize more opportunities to serve the enterprise. They need to undertake proper research to understand the different market segments, the potential for partnerships to create flexible all-IP networks, and they need to focus less on highlighting fancy features and more on promoting the benefits of business mobility. In short, they may need to go back to old-fashioned marketing and match the services to the markets. GSM began as a basic voice service with the irresistible addition of mobility and cross-border roaming. Its growth is unmatched by any other industry. We have come a long way from the feverish addiction of the 1990s road warriors. Then mobility was a novelty and was touted as a status symbol. Now it is an essential tool - life can quite literally revolve around the mobile device. Now that we have mobile broadband capability, more and more services are making the transition from the fixed to the wireless world. Mobile Internet access, information and entertainment services, gaming, banking, ‘contactless’ payments - are all now possible, are all now expected - via the mobile device. It is, however, important to keep a firm grip on perspective. The availability of wireless communications is not an excuse for employers to expect more time to be devoted to business needs. Smart devices and mobility should lead to more efficient working practices and a more effective and competitive business environment, not make a severe dent in the work/life balance. Some people seem to think that ubiquitous wireless connectivity means that their laptop is an essential holiday companion. Being able to communicate 24/7 doesn’t mean that you have to. If you’re off on vacation, leave the laptop at home. After all, a smartphone or PDA is so much less obtrusive...

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