Decade Review 2000-2009: My decade


Mark Mitchinson
Samsung Mobile UK and Ireland vice president

Ten years ago, Samsung Mobile had a UK market share of 0.2 per cent – that’s now around 30 per cent. For me, one of the most successful phones has been the A300 with 1.5 million sales. One2One (T-Mobile) was the first to sign up and we never looked back. I owe a lot to the guys at One2One for the support and faith they showed in the early years.

In 2000, we signed a trading deal with BT Cellnet (O2), worth just £500,000 per annum. It was a clear vote of confidence from the boys in Leeds, and we turned over in excess of £58 million that year. Our partnership with Orange goes back several years and is pivotal.

But the opinion of its purchasing arm was somewhat different back then. It reckoned the brand had potential, but not in 2G – and the clamshell form factors were considered too radical. Thankfully, its engineering team took a different view and liked the quality and capability. The rest, as they say, is history.

In the early days we’d launch two or three mobiles a year, which gave us good volume and tremendous value. Now the roadmap has increased and offers better consumer choice. The G600 sold over two million in the UK alone.

Eight years ago we launched the A400 and boxed it with Calvin Klein CK One perfume for The Link. It was the first time a gifting proposition was offered by a mobile manufacturer and it was a great success.

The distributor model has changed radically. For ages, distributors have talked about ‘adding value’. But few have delivered that and they risk going under if they can’t diversify. We have worked extremely well with Data Select and Brightstar over the past few years. We’ve healthier sales from distribution channel now and, together, we’ve increased turnover.

Mark Finlayson
Next Communications managing director

3G competed with dial-up modems and ISDN lines at launch – 384Kbps was quicker than most land lines, and ADSL only offered 500Kbps. 3G now allows 7.2Mbps in cities and most handsets now enable high-speed data. It has changed how we use mobiles. Mobile content is now available easily, cheaply and instantly.

In 2000, there was BlackBerry and nothing else for mobile connectivity to a Microsoft Exchange server without using a laptop and modem. When Microsoft made Exchange and Windows Mobile work together, there was an alternative.

This was followed by Nokia with Mail for Exchange, which opened new opportunities at a lower cost. All these products have brought the benefit of Exchange Sync to the lower end of the SME market and helped to generate new revenues for the industry.

James Browning
20:20 Mobile managing director

The things that stand out most are the technical innovations that have come because of the roll out of the 3G networks.

The investment and capacity the networks brought to the market has facilitated huge development in hardware and software. It impacts what you handle as a distributor.

Products are more complex and distribution is no longer just about hardware, but about selling the technical support, and the software and applications that go with handsets.

Sectors go through phases. There is a growth phase, then a shake-out phase where things align, and then a maturity. There has been consolidation, with distributors such as European Telecom and Clockwork exiting.

That consolidation has even reached network operations, and there will be more to come. We are moving towards that mature market now. The supply chain has matured and distributors add more value now – configuring handsets, running customer service functions, bundling products and developing customer websites.

Box shifting is gone. Successful distributors are now akin to value-added resellers in the IT sector.

There have been challenges. In the early days of prepay, the supermarkets got it all through distribution. Now they buy direct from the networks. Distribution has seen volumes rise and fall. The challenge for distribution is how you replace that volume as it moves.

Paul Leonard
Sprint Communications managing director

BlackBerry and iPhone have woken the industry and enabled it to deliver on its data promise. And although it came late in the decade, Android will continue that trend and allow end-users limitless flexibility.

The industry has matured immensely. And it’s been cyclical – we started in B2B, moved into retail and now focus on B2B again. More generally, the industry understands better where it sits against fixed propositions, and in the converged piece.

Driving laws were massively important too, and have allowed dealers to eat cake. Car kit installation is a vital part of business.

The recession has changed things too, and for the better. It has been a reality check, and made us bigger and stronger. The wave has gone, and we see what’s left. Dealers are serving other things. We’re now a tracking company as well, and that probably wouldn’t have happened if not for the recession.

Mike Short
O2 vice president of research and development

There were one billion mobile phones in use in 1998. There are over 4.3 billion today. Any industry that grows four-fold in such a short period is remarkable.

O2 introduced the first BlackBerry in Europe in 2000, launching GPRS at the same time. BlackBerry changed the market in terms of data and what smartphones are capable of. O2 continued with the Windows Mobile XDA in 2003, the Apple iPhone in 2007 and the Palm Pre this year.

The Stewart Report in 2000 concluded mobiles were safe. The 3G auctions the same year have enriched the whole experience – like the colour TV revolution. I mean, who wants black-and-white TV now? Colour screens also meant customers used phones differently, downloading content.

And app stores have made it all real, led by Apple’s AppStore.

Andrew Harrison
Carphone Warehouse chief executive

The explosion of the prepay market in 2000 was a key turning point. No one anticipated how big prepay would be. One2One was the first to bring out a prepay offer, and Orange exploded the market when it changed the terms and removed the time-limit on airtime credit.

2003 saw the end of the prepay bubble and the networks revert back to focus on the contract market. It also saw 3 launch and undercut the market with very cheap tariffs. It made the other networks pull out of the low-end prepay market and work towards offering better contract tariffs.

They also put more focus on their own retail footprints, which provided us with more competition. Until then, the high street had been dominated by independent retailers – ourselves and Phones 4U, as well as DX Communications, Phone People and Odyssey back in the day.

But the network shift towards contract and their own retail estates saw many independents begin to die out. The Link was one. It relied heavily on the prepay market, and despite its best efforts, collapsed in 2006.

Internet buying started to become increasingly popular during this period too. In 2004, we bought e2save – four years after buying 285 stores from Tandy. 2004 also saw the emergence of cashback deals. The networks spurred this phenomenon in their attempts to penetrate the market further.

It was exciting to be part of, but some independents took advantage of their customers in the process.

Mark Duncan
T-Mobile UK sales director

The thing that sticks out is the mobile internet. It has transformed this industry in the past decade. In the early 1990s, it was still about minutes and texts, and the early days of WAP.

The products and services we offer and customers choose now are a million miles from that. A related area is the explosion of mobile email and the rise of BlackBerry. 

Lately, SIM-only has been very significant also, created as the market reached saturation. Contract and prepay value are now much closer. Customers get great value regardless of their payment method.
The profile of distribution has changed. Ten years ago, indirect sales represented a much larger percentage.

But every network has rolled out stores and websites. There is now a good balance. Direct and indirect channels are more complimentary; it’s less confrontational. Both have a critical role.

Terry O’Brien
Vodafone UK head of retail

The last 10 years in mobile retailing have been a scramble for customer acquisition through store expansion and huge pricing competition. The winners of the future are those who can delight customers, keep customers and inspire them to get more from their mobile. 

The retail landscape needs to be much more than a single engine of customer acquisition and needs to become a fully integrated channel for customer support, product and service experience and sales.

Faisal Sheikh
Fone Doctors proprietor

The 7650 was Nokia’s first S60 phone and a glimpse of the future. It shaped the market. 3 breathed life into the market. It was fairly stale prior. If not for 3, consumers would still be paying £30 a month for 300 minutes.

Recently, ethnic MVNOs have been revolutionary in that they have done away with calling cards and reduced calling rates. These types of companies are making their presence felt.

The iPhone made mobile sexy again. Never has a new entrant made such an impact. It brought applications to the fore and a changing of the guard. As the decade turns, Apple, RIM and HTC are the new elite. Nokia, especially, has catching up to do.

Tom Alexander

Orange UK chief executive

The mobile market has done so much to improve our lives over the last ten years, with the first decade of the new millennium having been one of huge significance, and one where communications have been at the forefront of revolutionising our lives in the 21st century.
If the last ten years have been about laying the infrastructure, the next ten will be about consumers reaping the benefits, with the advent of life-changing services that will totally revolutionise the way we connect with the people and places that are important to us.

In the same way that it’s hard to recall what your business or social life was like before being able to talk to people on the move, innovations in home security, healthcare and commerce will fundamentally change the way we do things for the better.
The decade has seen some incredible advancements that we now take for granted. Ten years ago, Britain was yet to see its first colour screen mobile, clamshells and touch screens were still the stuff of science fiction films. The monochrome classic ‘Snake’ was the must-have mobile game, and the idea of the internet in your home – let alone accessing it on your mobile phone – was still one that most Britons were still trying to get to grips with.
In 2002, we took a leap towards the future with the world’s first Windows-powered Smartphone – the Orange SPV (which stood for Sound Pictures Video). It was the first time that a consumer could access emails, the internet, watch video and listen to music on a single device. It paved the way for the future – a future of Smartphones that now do things we simply expect as standard from our mobile.