GSMA's mobile broadband sticker

Nathan Burley/Ovum
03 Oct 2008

GSMA has unveiled a mobile broadband service mark that, like "Intel Inside", will be placed on devices to help customers identify laptops and other devices that are mobile broadband-ready - essentially HSPA.

The initial 16 companies involved have earmarked global marketing spend of more than $1 billion to promote the service mark. However, we question whether the initiative is really necessary and what its impact will be.

The GSMA has launched what is essentially an awareness campaign to help drive take-up and use of mobile broadband on laptops and other non-handset type devices. Yet mobile broadband uptake is already growing rapidly without it. It could be argued that any promotion is better than nothing, but it looks a lot like the initiative is designed as a defensive move against Wimax branding.

The "mobile broadband" badge is designed to help make it easier for buyers to identify devices which can connect to mobile data networks as easily as handsets do for voice. But surely it is already in the best interests of device vendors and operators to do this anyway‾ Of the 16 companies involved in the initiative's launch all are already working together on embedded products. How does a sticker help‾

For a sticker to drive user buying decisions, it will need industry-wide support. The GSMA will need to quickly get other laptop manufactures such as HP, Apple, Sony, Panasonic, NEC, and Fujitsu on board.

Additionally the largest barriers to embedded laptop connectivity for OEMs are complexity in the solution and the costs to embed. According to the GSMA, the current cost to build-in HSPA connectivity is approximately $70, and it expects that to get to as low as about 40 by next year. The only way this service mark will keep this number heading south is to increase volumes.

For operators, the initiative brings more co-ordinated promotional activity, but is the $1billion marketing spend any more or less than would have been spent anyway‾ If it's additional, then could the money have been better spent‾ The GSMA could have coordinated subsidies to drive volumes and lowered embedding costs by $100 for 10 million laptops.

There is also a question as to how the GSMA is going to measure the initiative's effectiveness. If mobile broadband is already growing and operators and vendors are already spending on marketing, how will the GSMA know the initiative has been successful‾

One thing that the announcement does highlight is the growing availability of embedded laptops. To date, laptops have predominately been connected by USB modems (or "dongles"). However, the GSMA's vision is to eventually build in connectivity into as many laptops as possible.

Nonetheless, migration to embedded laptops will not occur overnight. First and foremost, the replacement cycle of a laptop is longer than that of a mobile phone, slowing uptake. Embedded laptops are also more expensive and less flexible than a USB modem.

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