One of yesterday's speakers was from E-Mobile, Japan's new 4th operator, of which I have to confess I'd been fairly unaware until recently. It's affiliated to E-Access, an established fixed broadband operator with about 2m DSL subscribers.
E-Mobile's main offering is flatrate HSDPA - at around $45 a month. Interestingly, it comes with the offer of a 'free' DSL line for customers to use at home (and which would offload some traffic from the cellular network). Although some companies like Carphone Warehouse have given away 'free broadband' before, this is the first time I've heard it being done more for the reason of macrocellular offload economics, rather than simple bundling.
This has some significant implications for future femtocell business models - the current working assumption is that the user should be "happy" to pay for their own indoor-wireless backhaul when their phone is on the femtocell. That assumption may be a bit too optimistic:
- If the broadband is supplied by a separate company to the mobile operator, they may well view cellular femto traffic as being as undesirable as P2P when running on 'their pipes' . They may try to extract some form of rent from 'over the top femto operators' in the name of QoS - especially as those femto operators are likely to be mandated to provide emergency services access. It's easy to imagine femto traffic being 'traffic shaped', especially if it's being used for high-speed data. (I've heard some fairly fanciful notions of femto-HSPA being positioned as a replacement for WiFi in-home, but I'll address that in another post)
E-Mobile is also expected to launch a full mobile voice service early in 2008. Although details are not available yet, I suspect that it might turn out to be a full mobile VoIP service using HSDPA+HSUPA. As it's a completely new IP-focused operator, I can imagine that it would probably like to avoid buying a cellular circuit core if it can avoid it. (It has a roaming deal with DoCoMo outside its own HSPA coverage area).
- If the broadband is provided by the same company that runs the femtos (triple/quadplay), then they are at risk from competitive pitches like E-Mobile's. "We've sold you a personal mobile broadband service, but we'll reward you for using DSL at home by giving it to you for free, as it saves us money"
VoIPo3G would probably be made easier in Japan than many other countries, because of the lack of need for SMS or prepaid billing support. There is also ample scope for tariff arbitrage - apparently mobile voice charges in Japan are amongst the highest in the world - the presenter suggested 40c per minute is typical, which goes some way to explain why data services like email are so widely used instead.
It is already offering a partner-based VoIPo3G service in conjunction with Jajah, on its mobile data PDAs.
It's also apparently launching a mobile voice service early in 2008. Although details are not available yet, I suspect that it might turn out to be a full mobile VoIP service using HSDPA+HSUPA. It has a roaming deal with DoCoMo outside its own coverage area,