Nokia’s Internet everywhere and user-generated content strategy will require lots of cheap bandwidth

Last night I watched the presentation of Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo at CES Las Vegas (via live web feed) and came away with three realizations: (1) Nokia is no longer just a mobile phone (cellular) manufacturer; (2) they design products to enable people to create their own content easily — video, photos, blog posts — and upload it to theLast night I watched the presentation of Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo at CES Las Vegas (via live web feed) and came away with three realizations: (1) Nokia is no longer just a mobile phone (cellular) manufacturer; (2) they design products to enable people to create their own content easily — video, photos, blog posts — and upload it to the Web instantly; and (3) mobile Internet or Internet everywhere, as Kallasvuo kept saying, is central to their strategy.

Kallasvuo announced new products such as the N76 (a very thin flip phone that is supposed to compete with Motorola’s RAZR) and the N800, a Wi-Fi tablet, that is the successor to the N770, and now has Skype. He devoted a significant part of the presentation to showing how users create their own content. He talked about the quality of Nokia’s video and photo cameras that are embedded in their phones (the N93I), and their partnerships with Vox (the Six Apart blog platform) and Flickr (photo-sharing site) which allow users to send their content directly from the phone.

For me the coolest products announced by Nokia are the N95 (with GPS and maps, Wi-Fi, 5 megapixel camera) and the N800 (Wi-Fi tablet). The N95 has the functionality of today’s GPS devices but it goes further. If you are looking for a restaurant nearby, you simply go to one of the directories or guides and it shows you a map pinpointing the locations of various restaurants. You click on one location and can call the restaurant for a reservation, or get directions. The phone will tell you where to go just like a GPS device. And because it has Wi-Fi, if you need to go to the Web to find anything, you can avoid using GPRS.

The N800, successor to the N770 Tablet, is just as cool. Here’s the best thing: Skype will be automatically loaded into the device! Today the 770 uses Gizmo Project which is a good VOIP application but most of my contacts are on Skype so Gizmo is not as useful to me. With Skype on the N800, I can really carry the device with me, instead of my Apple iBook which is a bit heavy, and use it to browse email, the Web and make calls all via Wi-Fi.

What does this all mean?

(1) Bandwidth hog

More people will be using mobile phones to create video and photos, and upload them not only to sites such as Vox and Flickr, but to their own blogs and other websites. They will not do this via today’s expensive and slow GPRS connections. I have written about my nasty 250 EUR surprise on my personal blog. Most users of these multimedia phones will be young people who are very budget conscious. Because they also travel a lot, they are not going to sign up for data subscriptions that force them to pay 15 EUR for uploading 1 MB.

So something has to happen here: the mobile carriers have to lower the price of their data subscriptions significantly (e.g. by offering all-you-can-eat flat fee subscriptions with no roaming charges) and they have to improve the capacity of their networks so that people don’t sit there for half an hour waiting to upload their video. Any chance of this happening soon, especially since the operators are more keen on shoving lousy TV shows down to your phone?

The other thing that will happen even if the mobile operators don’t lower prices and increase bandwidth is that more people will use Wi-Fi in public places. Citywide or region-wide Wi-Fi will become THE network of choice for all of these uploading/downloading activities. Cities and regions that are building these networks are on the right track, but they must focus also on providing a lot of bandwidth.

(2) Voice calls are free

Skype on Nokia’s Wi-Fi tablet is here. It means free or very low cost voice calls even when I am traveling abroad. I don’t have to put up with those horrible mobile roaming charges. I wait till I am in the vicinity of a Wi-Fi network before making long calls, looking at email or surfing the web. With Wi-Fi everywhere in every city, I won’t have to wait long.

(3) User is in control

Having a device that has cellular and Wi-Fi capability allows us to choose: if we are really in a hurry and don’t mind paying the cellular operator for a data upload or download (or a voice call), that is up to us.

But if we don’t want to incur roaming charges and if we have a large file such as a video that we want to upload, we can do it on the SAME device when we come to a place with Wi-Fi coverage.

I like having that choice and as more cities put up these networks, it may be the choice that I and most people make all the time.

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Comments

  1. Stuart Friedman says

    It really depends on the country. Wind in Italy; TMobile in the UK; and TMobile in the US are doing some relatively inexpensive all you can eat packages. TMobile takes things a bit further by permitting you to roaming on their wifi nets on many of their plans.

    The Cloud is also doing some interesting things with muni wifi in some cities in the UK.l

  2. […] The iPhone and the Nokia Wi-Fi enabled devices unveiled yesterday make the case for Wi-Fi everywhere. In Applications, Municipal Wireless, Technology Posted Tuesday, January 9, 2007 […]

  3. One issue that no one ever seems to mention / is bundling of services/phones. Specifically, I would like to know if I, or anyone else, for that matter, would be able to purchase these phones sans calling plan/being chained to some for-profit network provider’s access plan.

    Ideally, I would like to participate in this kind of setup : a) buy a stand-alone phone, no calling plan from anyone.
    b) make calls, surf web, email, etc. on munifi.
    c) in emergencies, use the local cellular network (I would expect someone to jump in and charge me at this point).

    I hope someone has thought of this model, and is actively attempting to get it implemented.

    I’m assuming the incumbent telco’s are doing everything in their power to keep this scenario from happening.

  4. In Europe and Asia, people buy these phones unbundled. You can buy them too via Amazon (UK, France, Germany, etc.) or any other online store located abroad. Then, just pop in your US SIM card and off you go. I have been using my Nokia N80 to make calls on Gizmo Project (similar to Skype) via Wi-Fi. Works like a dream.