2010: Year in Review


Mobile News looks back on a year in which competition heated up among operators, smartphone makers and distributors

Q1 2010

The recession bites. In Ireland, retailer 3G goes into receivership, along with parent Sigma. Radius and BPI pick over the bones. But Mobile World Congress talks of a market finding its feet again, but of one that can “redesign and reform society.”

In the UK, Carphone beefs up store security after thefts and O2 starts a long-running feud with unions over its pay budget. Unions accuse O2 of hostility. They also claim Vodafone has used “ugly tactics” to axe staff. Retail directors Tom Devine and Terry O’Brien are highest-profile casualties of its 2010 revolution. Orange overhauls its dealer scheme.

T-Mobile says it will reach 142 per cent annual sales uplift in the year. It is virtually the last the channel hears from either for the rest of the year, as they embark upon the navel-gazing of business integration.

Micro-P starts its channel hopping with appointment of former C2K and Avenir man John Doughty. Amid a long-running drip-feed of redundancies in Stoke, 20:20 announces 20 new roles in business development.

Trader RP Europe upsets the applecart by claiming it is now number two in distribution, behind 20:20. Data Select is aghast, and talks about ‘adding value’ and proper conduct for a distributor.

Industry veteran John Barton exits LG, part of a mass-exodus of top UK management from the Korean manufacturer that leaves it rudderless for a time, as well as short of crowd-pleasing handsets. Mark Mitchinson at Samsung is tipped for an expanded remit. The industry starts talking of ‘smartbooks’, or ‘tablets’.

O2’s ‘Mobile Landline’ agent GoHello goes bust, leaving the unified comms market broadly open to Vodafone for 2010, building momentum around OneNet.

Three and Orange get heated about network coverage, in an opaque dispute that will involve all operators in the year.

“He was one of the great characters of the industry; a sad loss to us all,” says Charles Dunstone on the death of former Talkland boss Peter Edwards.

Q2 2010

Ofcom wants to slash termination rates from 4.4p to 0.5p per minute. O2 and Vodafone are furious. Three and BT are delighted. T-Mobile and Orange sign on the dotted line. Their UK JV parent will be called ‘Everything Everywhere’. The industry coughs up its breakfast.

Mark Mitchinson leaves Samsung. Simon Stanford fills his considerable boots. LG’s global number-three spot is under threat – from ZTE. Android momentum builds, as does HTC’s. It pumps millions into marketing its newest range. Demand outruns supply of its Desire handset.

HP buys Palm, maker of the poor-man’s iPhone. O2 and Carphone staff declare sales of the Palm Pre to be a “disaster”.

Best Buy opens its first mega electronics store in the Lakeside, a shrine to the great god of commerce. Carphone puts staff pay up, creating a temporary glow on the floor. An O2 manager sends an email to retail employees leaking performance scores of each staffer. Union industrial action is headed off at 11th hour.

Dealer chains Go Mobile and JAG resurrect their merger. John George exits.

T-Mobile terminates Anglia. Three terminates MoCo, which later tells Vodafone to shove off. Micro-P strikes deals with Orange and Samsung.

Brightstar Europe hits quarterly sales of  $200m, and snaps up Austrian firm AKL for $100 million. It also wins the Shebang account from Data Select and RP Europe amid ugly name-calling. Data Select claims “exclusive” with Huawei. Former Orange sales director Stuart Henry joins 20:20. Kondor takes O2 accessories business from 20:20.

Recession at home and spectrum auctions abroad suggests operators might be taken to town by the UK government. O2 says a ‘perfect storm’ is brewing. Overseas, TeliaSonera talks up roll-out of LTE in Stockholm and Oslo.

CSL chief Tarek Robbiati talks up Hong Kong-style LTE and rounds on the UK for failing to invest in infrastructure and failing consumers. UK operators bicker about network quality. O2 stops unlimited data.

Q3 2010

The iPhone 4 lands. Its antenna antics cause uproar. Apple denies all knowledge, then passes the buck. The industry quietly fumes at its arrogance. Orange predicts sub-£100 Xmas Android battle, and suddenly it is a race to the bottom.

HTC and Motorola ride its coattails. Nokia’s profits slump alarmingly, as UK boss Mark Loughran and Finnish top-brass quit.

Orange-T-Mobile JV plays happy families and talks of “pioneer spirit and techno mix”. Vodafone gets uppity about Ofcom and MTRs. Opinion among operators of new number portability proposals (down to one day) splits along lines of young/old.

Vodafone sacks Data Select for iPhone and consumer web sales fulfilment. Word of the move arrives only after boss Peter Jones hives of Data Select’s profitable SIM distribution business and bundles it into a £49m reverse takeover of Expansys.

Shebang has the gall to dump Tesco. An industry first in Tesco relations. It takes up with Asda instead. 20:20 regains the £20m Tesco deal. Brightstar buys MCC in Holland for £54m. Daisy secures £75m transfer kitty. Consolidation of fixed and mobile reseller channels ramps up.

Vodafone and O2 take lumps out of each other. Vodafone suggests O2 has been “milking it”, and will be found out for failing to invest. It also accuses O2 of “guesswork” market share. It rebrands Yes Telecom as VPS as Vodafone finally looks to breathe life into its dealer channel. It preps OneNet Express.

But O2’s partners flex muscles. Olive signs huge BlackBerry contract – worth 1,750 lines and moved from Vodafone. MoCo’s shenanigans suddenly make sense as it signs exclusively with O2. And O2 mainstay Avenir offers new dealers up to £10k to take an account with it.

Orange solus distributors Mainline and Midland start to sell T-Mobile. O2 poaches wholesale business from Orange in shape of aggressive ethnic market provider Lycamobile.  Vodafone announces VIP priority, sorry loyalty, scheme. A UK spectrum auction is pegged for late 2011.

Q4 2010

A fierce war of words breaks out between US giants Brightpoint and Brightstar over global market share. Brightpoint accuses rivals, including UK stalwarts 20:20 and Data Select, of box-shifting.

It preps centralised distribution hubs in Europe. The distribution community warns of global handset shortages.

HTC UK boss Jon French apes channel strategy of former employer Samsung by starving channel to feed high street and, at the same time, intensifying competition among distributors by appointing Brightstar alongside Brightpoint. Data Select boss Peter Jones restates his commitment to Data Select.

Microsoft starts over. Its new Windows Phone 7 platform finally debuts with handsets from HTC, Samsung, LG and Dell.  Plus huge marketing. The industry greets it as a “breath of fresh air”. Nokia shuts a third of UK service centres. Sami Lehtinen is tipped to get Loughran’s UK role. Nokia and Samsung talk, belatedly, about the importance of smartphones.

Retailer Go Mobile targets a retail footprint of 200 sites within 12 months with rollout of its Orange franchises and its new ‘purple partnership’ retail and B2B scheme. Fonehouse restates its 100-store target. Daisy forks out £27m for SpiriTel and £23.5m for NEG MBO Two. Daisy targets £500m turnover. Dealer Pure Mobile acquires rival 360 Comms and strikes a deal with Millennium Comms in Ireland.

Everything Everywhere, in business just six months, is dismissed by rivals after profits slump. The JV is forced to defend its management structure, busting at the seams with 22 VPs. Vodafone calls it a “two horse race” between it and O2. Meanwhile, O2 shrugs and talks instead of healthcare, financial services and advertising.

Ofcom re-sets LTE timetable for UK. Spectrum auction is put back to 2012. Germany, Sweden and the US race ahead with LTE launches. Vodafone proclaims London smartphone central and upgrades it network to 3.5G – in places.