Forget the closed portals; go straight to the open Internet. That, in a nutshell, was the message for customers a year ago when T-Mobile launched web'n'walk, its mobile Internet service in Germany and Austria.
As the first provider to enable "real" mobile surfing on the World Wide Web, the company heralded a new era for mobile data services. T-Mobile customers are now able to use the mobile Internet service in six countries: in Germany, Austria, the UK, Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. And most recently, T-Mobile Hungary began offering the service as well.
Ulli Gritzuhn, Marketing Director at T-Mobile International, speaks at a T-Mobile publication about the development of, and prospects for, the mobile Internet:
Q: One year ago, T-Mobile caused a sensation when it launched web'n'walk.
Forget closed portals, go straight to the open Internet, became the company's
new approach to the mobile Internet. Ultimately, this was intended to push use
in data communication. Is the strategy working?
Gritzuhn: "We now have over half a million customers in Europe, and in
the meantime, have expanded services. Most importantly, we have received very
encouraging feedback from our customers. As with most new services, it was the
early adopters who were the first to show an interest in web'n'walk. Now others
are following suit, which means that the application scenarios are also
broadening. My conclusion is that our strategy is working; we're on the right
track. But I'm also aware that we're still in an early stage."
T-Mobile is clearly setting itself apart from competitors with its open Internet
approach. Do you think other market players will follow this approach?
Gritzuhn: "We'll have to wait and see. But I assume that our competitors
in the different T-Mobile countries are well aware that our open mobile Internet
offer fulfills essential customer needs - namely, the desire for unrestricted
and comfortable surfing and mailing on the move at reasonable prices."
If competitors were to bring similar products to the market, T-Mobile's USP
would disappear. Surely that can't be your goal?
Gritzuhn: "I'm quite relaxed about the whole thing. As far as the overall
market is concerned, broader communication and acceptance for the open, mobile
Internet certainly would be useful. Aside from that, we're making the most of
our time advantage by linking the topic closely to the T-Mobile brand. And,
quite frankly, there are more than enough examples from the business world that
show 'inventors' of an idea can profit even from imitation offers."
T-Mobile is currently very prominently placed in the media with a web'n'walk
campaign featuring Robbie Williams. Has there been a positive effect on the use
of the mobile Internet service?
Gritzuhn: "Not so much on immediate use. That would be asking too much at
this stage. However, we can see even now that we're reaching customers who have
previously shown little interest in mobile Internet.
Without the involvement of a superstar like Robbie Williams, we would have had a
much harder time of it."
Q: How do you see the general development of
the mobile Internet compared to the stationary Internet? Will the mobile version
ever be able to reach the significance of the stationary Internet?
Gritzuhn: "That's a difficult comparison to make because usage scenarios
are so different. It's quite pointless to want to reproduce the visualization
opportunities offered by a large PC monitor directly on a mobile phone display.
But that's not the issue here. More important for me is the question of
frequency of use. Most people use the Internet privately at more or less fixed
times Ã¢â‚¬â€œ mostly after work or on the weekend. This is where the mobile Internet
has clear advantages. They can use it spontaneously, whenever and wherever they
need it. This is the great attraction for our customers. As I said, we are still
in the early stages of development of the mobile Internet. But it's by expanding
the offer, and I'm thinking here of integrated download offers, such as music
and localization services, that its significance will increase significantly in
the coming years."
Q: When web'n'walk was started a year ago, you said
that you believed that within five years, every new data device would support
this service. Are you still of this opinion today?
Gritzuhn: "I think we'll reach this goal even quicker. If we consider
that every third device in our portfolio today supports web'n'walk, then this
prediction is not outside the realms of possibility."
Q: Where is the
development of web'n'walk headed? What will this service look like in, say, two
Gritzuhn: "This has to be considered from two separate aspects Ã¢â‚¬â€œ data
cards on the one hand and mobile phones on the other. In view of our implemented
HSDPA network, I predict that use via data cards will rise considerably. With
HSDPA, we offer real broadband experience and we are even the first network
operator in the world to offer downloads of up to 3.6 megabits per second in
Austria. This is sure to further boost the acceptance of mobile data
communication and also broaden usage scenarios. In our experience, this is where
mobile data communication can really compete with stationary data communication.
I am optimistic that this experience will also have a positive effect on those
customers who organize their mobile data communication via mobile phone.
Particularly as the first HSDPA-compatible devices will be coming onto the
market soon. But we will also continue to work on improving the service
interface of web'n'walk. We will link more content directly with our start
screen,that is to say we will closely link services such as MobileTV or music
offers with the start screen. This will not only stimulate use, but, very
importantly, will also lead to greater customer satisfaction."
Speaking of content offering, special content has previously been available via
the t-zones portal in particular. web'n'walk, above all, stands for unrestricted
access to the open Internet. Will these two worlds grow ever closer together?
Gritzuhn: "Ultimately, we will also integrate the services offered in the
t-zones, such as ring tones, wallpaper or sound logos, into web'n'walk. This not
only gives customers access to the open Internet, but also enables them to
easily order their favorite services, such as ring tones or wallpaper. It would
be foolish for us to leave the customer to go round the houses with t-zones for
Q: So in the long run, that means that the t-zones offering will
Gritzuhn: "It's not as simple as that. You shouldn't forget that many
customers still use devices that only support access to t-zones. We don't want
to rob them of the opportunity to call up information and, more importantly,
order download offers. However, the future, of course, belongs to web'n'walk
with the greater freedom, improved possibilities and better comfort it offers."
Please note that this interview was republished from a T-Mobile press release
and Ulli Gritzuhn wasn't interviewed by the::unwired. Nevertheless, his answers
were interesting enough that I've decided to publish it here since it provides
some interesting insights into T-Mobile future mobile data strategy.
Cheers ~ Arne