Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Network Spaghetti

If you want to drive from say Battersea in London , to Brighton in Sussex , you will find that your journey encompasses a variety of motorways, A roads and maybe the odd B road. The A205, the A23, the M23, back on to the A23, the A27, along the A2038, and right on to the A2010, and then finally a cheeky hand-brake turn on to the seafront. Ignoring the heinous amount of stealth tax you pay in petrol (and if its a company car, the tax man will have billed you for that privilege as well), the only cost you pay for using these roads is the road tax that you pay each year. Something like a 175 squids for unlimited use of the UK 's finest roads. And if you're a foreigner, it's free!

This Christmas, I found my self doing a lot of traveling. With family in UK and Greece and home in Germany , my girlfriend and I managed 8 flights, 6 airports and 7000 miles. My internet access during this period consisted of my home access provided by T-Com (@ €35,99/month), Vodafone Germany Unlimited (limited to 5Gb/month!) 3G data card (@ €50/month), 3 x 15min access on a T-Mobile Hotspot at Köln airport (3x 15 min = €12), 2 x 1 hour access to Swisscom Wifi at Zurich airport (2 x 1hr = 12CHF), 2 x 1 hour access to BT Openzone at Gatwick (2 x 1hr = 12ukp) and some borrowed bandwidth in Greece on EOL, and AOL in UK. So 1 month cost of Internet connectivity comes to a grand total of about €130!! I'm paying another €15/month for a "fixed" telephone line and about €50/month for my Germany Vodafone mobile contract. So my total basic "connectivity" requirement came to about €200 (excluding fixed and mobile calls, SMS and MMS messages and mobile phone data usage). What the %&$*!

This is not how it should be. So how should it?

Firstly, I want my provider to provide me with a "personal connectivity" solution - this means a home internet connection, a mobile phone and connectivity wherever I go. Companies are making inroads, offering combined billing for each of these differnet access offerings, acquiring or own-branding elements they dont offer and combining the offering under a single brand. Problem is, each network connectivity component is often provided by a different network infrastructure and therefore a different business unit. This makes technical and business integration and proposition development very challenging (although it really shouldn’t be that tricky). Look at T-Mobile - with its T-Mobile mobile division, T-Com fixed line offerings and T-Mobile Hotspots wi-fi business. If you go in to T-Mobile shop, you may find a T-Com leaflet, but no salesman is going to sell you the benefit of a seamless & simple personal connectivity solution.

Secondly, If I accept I may have to use a few different networks and providers (3G isn’t always available nor suitable), then please can I put everything on one bill. Perhaps my personal connectivity service provider could do a deal to enable me to use other networks using my mobile phone to authenticate and bill the transaction. This will avoid me having to whip out the credit card in front of a hundred tired and hungry passengers jostling for place in the EasyJet boarding scrum.

Thirdly, if I have a query or glitch, I would appreciate the ability to make a free call to a helpful service agent who can see my account details and ideally speak the same language as me. It would be a real bonus if they saw a read out of my customer value in terms of total historical expenditure, rather than the total of €3 that I just paid them. And it would be great if they could fix the problem.

Finally, I don’t want to have remember usernames, passwords, PINS and access codes for all these networks and services. This is rubbish. This total space is a frickin nightmare. My head is so full of different numbers, passwords, access codes and other crap that I can hardly remember my date of birth argghhh.

Ok - breathe deeply....

I know it’s a very crap and tenuous analogy, but I want the London to Brighton experience for my connectivity requirements, without any traffic jams. I dont want to have to stop at tolls at every junction. I would like one connectivity provider with one customer number I can call for any problems. I want one bill, one username and one password. If I happen to go abroad, I want to use the same account without having to pay extra. I want simplicity, seamless connectivity and value for money. And I really couldn’t give a toss if the network I’m using is 3G, DSL, HSDPA, Wifi, Wimax, or WiBro.

Sounds like it should be simple, but it ain't. Spectrum regulation, Telecoms de-regulation, Oligopilisation, Government deficit repayments, Technology IP ownership, standardisation, biggness, ignorance and a lack of customer focus have all contributed to what is now a spaghetti plate of network services across Europe . It's a mess, and although some companies are now heavily focused on detangling the mess, it will still be some time before we will get to this.

No comments: