A full version of this article, with comment from all industry pundits interviewed for the feature, is available in the printed version of Mobile News only (issue 430, January 12, 2009). To subscribe to Mobile News, click here
Gordon Ballantyne, UK sales and service director, T-Mobile
“The market will be flat in 2009. We won’t see massive changes in calling patterns but managing spend will become more important. It’s great to be known as a value player, and we predict growth on that.
“The market has changed dramatically – beyond traditional box/voice to encompass SIM-only and mobile broadband too. We have 22 per cent market share of mobile broadband.
“That will grow in 2009, as the land-grab continues.
“We will differentiate on customer service – we aim to be number one for that, to be customer champion. We are investing heavily.
“It will become important as handset complexity issues increase. Our network share with 3 will bear fruit. Others will cut costs at the expense of service. We will not.
“We have a number of services due in 2009 – a Wi-Fi router ‘Share Dock’ and another G1-style release halfway through the year.
“There will be more Android phones in the market too, and the public will appreciate more its usability. We will also see greater background momentum towards LTE technology.
“And we will build a much tighter, long-term relationship with our partner channel to fuel growth in 2009.”
Andy Tow, UK managing director of airtime distributor Avenir Telecom
Paul Hooper, managing director of B2B dealer Uplands Mobile
Clive Bayley, managing director of retailer Fonehouse
Chris Earle, operations director of fixed line service provider Unicom
Peter Liley, sales manager of airtime distributor Midland
Florian Seiche, Europe vice president of manufacturer HTC
Mark Bond, UK strategy and wholesale director of network operator Vodafone
Paul Leonard, managing director of B2B dealer Sprint Communications
Jean-Pascal van Overbeke, UK head of sales and loyalty of network operator Orange
Francois Mazoudier, chief executive at mobile office network provider GoHello
“2009 is very simple. Firstly, big platform vendors as we have known them will cease to exist. They were big in the eighties, struggled in the nineties and have fallen away in the ‘noughties’.
“2009 will see the final nail in the coffin for huge companies selling hardware platforms to operators.
“Secondly, ‘software as a service’ will explode. No one wants huge upfront costs anymore – they don’t want that financial burden and banks won’t lend to them anyway. Subscription services will take off. Hosted services is the right business to be in.
“Thirdly, mobile will really come out of the woodwork. SMEs are starting to choose mobile over fixed, again because of the relative financial commitments.
“But once businesses use mobile as their primary office communication, they won’t go back to fixed.”
Rob Haycock, managing director of accessories distributor Kondor
Graeme Oxby, managing director of MVNO Virgin Mobile
Nathan Vautier, UK & Ireland managing director of manufacturer Sony Ericsson
Bob Sweetlove, business manager of airtime distributor Hugh Symons Communications
Mark Mitchinson (pictured, centre), UK & Ireland vice president of manufacturer Samsung Mobile
“Yes, 2008 is going to be challenging, but that just makes me hungrier and more determined to succeed.
“In a mature market the stakes are high and the consumer will naturally demand more from their preferred manufacturer and network provider.
“Together, we need to work on compelling propositions that address cost savings on both sides. For the retailer, we need to drive more consumers into store; the footfall might be down but the conversion rate is performing well.
“ARPU is predicted to fall in 2009 but I don’t see why it should. Yes, if you drive SIM-only deals, you should expect to see a decrease.
“But surely it has to be the responsibility of manufacturer and network to work as one to bring feature-rich devices and innovative content to the toughest yet most exciting market in Europe; striking the balance between cost effective supply and demand.
“The clear winners in 2009 will be those companies that put focus on meaningful and innovative customer care and service, true market driven content, converged product offerings and flexible supply chain management. Samsung will be doing all of the above and much more.
“There is real opportunity through turmoil and difficult times like these.”
Marc Allera, UK sales and marketing director of network operator 3
Manny Hussain, managing director of retailer Intek
“2008 was the toughest year for a decade for mobile retailers. 2009 will be even tougher. We have to get real and stop giving everything away to secure the deal.
“It’s time to make real profits by displaying commercial courage.
“Customers are actually commenting on how refreshing it is not to have such inducements, which they see as ‘false’. They just want good honest advice and quality service.
“We also wish to finally slay the clawback dragon. We will do this with the help of our network trading partners and also Shebang and PCCS to truly systemise a method of rooting out and excluding high-risk customers from getting past our own credit-vetting systems.
“The networks’ own systems have proven unreliable in keeping out non-payers.
“I hope other networks are not as drastic in their revenue shares as O2, which will live to regret its decision. Others need to consider carefully how much upfront payment they intend to offset, as independents rely heavily on this cashflow to run their businesses.
“Unfortunately, staff and landlords don’t accept a deferred payment so only retailers with deep pockets will survive major changes on this front. It’s a very dangerous time.”
Gareth Limpenny, managing director of handset distributor Frequency Telecom
Mike Walsh, managing director of service provider Abzorb
Dino Maroudias, director of B2B dealer DM Telecom
Julien Parven, sales and marketing director of airtime distributor Fone Logistics
Faisal Sheikh, proprietor of unlocking and repair centre Fone Doctors
“2009 will pan out, roughly, as follows. EU plans to cap itemised billing fees at €5 per month will spark outrage from network operators. ‘The best regulation is self-regulation,’ they will say.
“Apple will announce the iPhone Heart, exclusive to O2. The phone will have exciting new features such as MMS. It will also support Bluetooth and be heavily subsidised, and free, on new £50 weekly tariffs. Unlockers will promise a solution within days.
“LG will complete its acquisition of Motorola, and the first LG Moto phone will be released – the LG Moto V333 Van Gogh Razr.
“Service centres will struggle with high return rates, which they will counter the ultra biodegradable receipt given as proof of purchase.
Networks will realise they can’t protect prepay subsidies and take an if-you-can’t-beat-them approach to box breaking.
“Google’s Android will join forces with Symbian and PC World will start selling contracts as the rush for free laptops and smartphones gathers pace.”
Milind Kangle, chief executive of MVNO Lycamobile
Mark Loughran, UK general manager of manufacturer Nokia
“Consumers will be looking for items and services of value to them in 2009.
“There are two parts to that – one is handsets, or hardware, and the other is this trend, developed over the past two years, around user interfaces and services.
“That is where customers will find value. We’ve placed bets on that, on the mobile internet – on mail solutions, music and maps. That’s what will drive usage of the mobile internet and enable personalisation of the experience.”
Mark Salvin, chief operating officer of ISP and IT service provider Fused Group
Ronnie Nag, managing director of dealer Quore
Mark Geraghty, managing director of B2B dealer and distributor Olive Communications
Simon Howitt, head of sales and marketing of service provider Yes Telecom
Dan Hazel, UK manager of VoIP provider Freshtel
Andrew Dawson, sales director of airtime distributor EBS
Ronan Dunne (pictured, right), UK chief of network operator Telefónica O2
“As an industry, we need to work harder to engender more trust. We still rank lower in trust than many other industries which isn’t good enough if we want to grow beyond mobile.
“Some of the practices that have blighted our industry such as slamming and mis-selling must stop. 2009 should be a time for us all to take greater pride in our industry’s reputation.
“The telecoms sector is not immune to the economic environment but latest results show it is in a better position than most. Consumers value their communications needs highly.
“But when times are hard, customer insight is even more important. Companies that deliver on that insight will come out on top.
“Customers will become more ruthless in dealing only with companies they trust.
“I see further opportunities for the independent sector where there is regional/local strength. I expect to see more partnerships as businesses seek to add capability and services they couldn’t otherwise provide alone.
“For O2, as always, everything we do will be driven by customer insight from the propositions we offer to the sponsorship properties we exploit.
“We will also be paying particular attention to how we sell our fixed and mobile services as customers look for a seamless service backed up by expert advice and support. Our retail stores will play a pivotal role.”
Andy Smith, non executive chairman of B2B dealer Qualitel and channel director of digital pen company Destiny Wireless
Tim Stone, UK director of new business development and wholesale of network operator Vodafone
James Browning (pictured, left), UK managing director of handset distributor 20:20 Mobile
“It’s a safe bet we’re going to see the industry raise its game to drive out value – in terms of price and service.
“A flat market has implications for the number of players out there, especially in distribution. Everything hinges on the depth of the economic slowdown and it’s important not to predict an Armageddon before it arrives.
“Distribution cannot divorce itself from the fortunes of manufacturers, networks and retailers. We can shape our destiny, to a degree by adding value with key partners in developing new opportunities. But it is going to be difficult for many in distribution.
“Although we’re in a recession, we at least had Christmas as a cushion.
“Q1 looks set to be extremely tough for everyone. The interest rate cuts may make the downturn shorter than some analysts are predicting.
“The ‘great unknown’ is how mobile consumers will respond, as the industry hasn’t been through a comparable downturn before. Ultimately, 2009 will be a buyers’ market.”
Chris Caudle, chairman of dealer association IMPDA
Med Jeewoth, UK country manager of manufacturer Toshiba Mobile
Chris Tombs, managing director of service provider Timico
Frank Masson, sales director of airtime distributor Advantage Cellular
John Barton, UK sales and marketing director of manufacturer LG Mobile
“Given market saturation, the mobile market will not be able to carry on unaffected in this economic climate. Manufacturers must take on board customers’ requirements for value at every step, matched by clearer explanation of benefits.
“We’ve seen polarisation as vendors have struck deals with networks on certain products ahead of others. This is beneficial to the customer on the face of it, but closer inspection shows it steers sales behaviour away from choice – just like extended-term contracts, a lack of true choice represents poor customer service.
“That said, the trend will continue and clear partnerships will ebb and flow.
“Annual cutbacks in the sales model are a great shame and do the industry no good. The fact it affects independents so harshly is a sad indictment of the sector. Will this change? No.
“There will be growth in handsets with open operating systems, but they need to be better than current models – either by better OS delivery or by more user-friendly UI.
“We will see the firm establishment of touchscreen as a separate category.”
Rod Millar, Europe president of handset distributor Brightstar
“The key will be the trend towards smartphones and the growth in sales of Windows Mobile devices. We’ll continue to see major brand names innovating and coming up with attractive propositions that keep the market moving.
“In distribution, we will see significant consolidation, even if the market continues to grow, as some will no longer be able to finance their debt positions. If the market shrinks, as it may well do in the short-term, things may start to happen very quickly.
“To make a profit, distributors will need to innovate in terms of their service delivery, provide a good, dependable value proposition to dealers and be very effectively managed.
“They will also be able to help finance dealers’ finance business by extending fair credit and continue to carry stock levels that will match market demand.
“Distributors and dealers will offer more services to customers, but exactly what form these service offerings will take, how far they will go, and how much they will be taken up, are questions that are yet to be answered.
“Distributors will need to enter the services market carefully and strategically – most dealers have little experience in providing services so they will need to partner with the right distributors, vendors and service providers.”
Ian Robinson, managing director of airtime distributor MoCo Distribution
Damian Cole, managing director of retailer Get Connected
Andrew Boden, managing director of airtime distributor Mainline Digital Communications
Noel Burrows, head of marketing of MVNO Tesco Mobile
Jon Fawcett, head of group marketing of MVNO Lebara Mobile
John George, managing director of retailer JAG