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Monday, February 05, 2007

KPN's HomeZone service... more granular than German offerings?

I see that KPN has launched a mobile homezone-type service offering cheap mobile-based calls while a customer is at or near their home. In principle this is nothing new (O2 Genion in Germany has been running since 1999, and Vodafone has rolled out its At Home service in 7 countries). However, this line "The size of the vicinity covered ranges from about 100 metres in an inner city to several kilometres in the countryside" is a bit of an eye-opener, as Genion & peers generally provide a 2km radius for the cheap-rate calls.

100m brings the KPN service much closer to the type of location-specific granularity achieved by UMA or SIP dual-mode WiFi-based services, or that promised by femtocells in the future. It could be argued, however, that both of those target separate market niches - either people with lousy indoor 2G coverage (which neither the KPN nor Genion-type service improves), or those concerned with applications other than voice, for which high-speed local connectivity is a selling point.

Unfortunately, KPN's offer seems to be based on the increasingly fallacious notion that "the mobile phone offers the convenience of one device, one number and one address book". As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm a great believer in "multiplicity" - the need for operators to support interoperability between users' multiple device, numbers, identities and so forth. The success of the various German homezone services is partly due to the fact that consumers can have two numbers - mobile and fixed - associated with their cellular handsets. A lot of phone calls to the home are of long duration - and it's unreasonable to expect relatives or friends to pay for an hour or fixed-to-mobile interconnect.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your last sentence does not apply to the US where there is no difference between calling a landline and a cellular, so the caller does not have to pay extra.

Nilz said...

Being an o2 Genion user in Germany, I don't see much difference in the coverage area of KPN's HomeZone. An KPN will have to deal with the same problems, o2 had in the early years. So I guess they are going to apply similar rules with the same size for their HomeZones.

It is possible to receive an amount of 6 GSM base stations in one house. So KPN has to mark all of them as the customer's HomeZone. Finer granularity is hardly possible due to the physics of electromagnetic waves.

o2 (called Viag Interkom then) had to deal with a great amount of customers whose "handy" (as the mobile phone in Germany is called) didn't show the HomeZone icon in every room of their house. So they started with about 500m radius and ended up with 2km, just to lower the number of customer service calls.

Perhaps KPN has a more sophisticated piece of software to calculate the base stations for any postal address but I don't believe that.

Dean Bubley said...

Anonymous - yes, I know. However, the US is very unusual in this regard, as you also typically have to pay to receive calls on your mobiles. Most countries work on a "called party pays" principle, with various other markets shifting to that model (Russia, maybe China).

Nilz - fair point. However, there are some innovations which provide higher granularity. I know of one company (who coincidentally emailed me yesterday to offer a briefing) that has a solution based on some clever software on the SIM card & some special goe-location server in the network. Not sure the exact mechanism but they claim this type of resolution improvement as one of their selling points. No idea if that's what KPN's doing, though. Separate point on O2 Germany - they built their network with an unusually dense array of base stations in urban areas, I believe, which could generate the issues you mention.

Hervé said...

Nilz, Dean, there is indeed a solution for accurate home zone solution, with real accuracy and reliability. These two parameters are key together by the way, everybody only sticking to the accuracy part, but needless to say that if you have a accuracy of 10 meters but a 10% reliability, this is not good enough. Seeker Wireless, www.seekerwireless.com, is indeed a location technology company with high accuracy (50 m in high density area, 500 meters in rural ones) and high reliability (99%). We developed a service wrap up around this core technology, essentially a Handset-SIM-based solution for geo-fencing services such as home zone or office zone or "what ever you fancy"-zone which overcomes the issue of large revenue leakage seen in HZ services in Germany. You can find more details on our solution and our market approach at: http://www.seekerwireless.com/Downloads/tabid/1371/Default.aspx.

Hope this helps

Dean Bubley said...

As it happens, I have a briefing with Seeker scheduled for the next few days.

Anonymous said...

O2 Genion launched a Home Zone for the country in 2007 for the Soho customers and took it off the market in beginning of 2008. Why do you think that is?