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  -> NCL goes to CTIA in Atlanta - March 2004

NCL visited the US Telco event of the year in Atlanta, Georgia. One cannot help but notice the substantial differences between the US and European market.

Firstly, there is a lack of pre-pay focused mobile network operators. Operators are very post-pay focussed. So if you are selling top-up software, think carefully here! Virgin Mobile USA is an exception, however, and this pre-pay subscriber focused operator has been experiencing phenomenal growth. In the 4 months between November 2003 and March 2004 when we were there, Virgin had increased its mobile subscriber base from 1 to 1.75 million, and is now in the top 10 mobile network operators in the US.

So why is there not as many pre-pay operators. One of the reasons could be that a subscriber cannot receive calls if with no credit, and that is not an attractive proposition for a pre-pay customer. Mobile subscribers pay for a portion of the cost of receiving a call. In Europe, receiving calls is free unless you are roaming into foreign networks. The same applies to text messaging.

One particular challenge that US Op-Cos are facing is Churn Reduction, even with full number portability. Churn can be as high as 4% per month! And Churn can cost! The causes of churn are usually a lack of network coverage or customer support. CRM packages would benefit.

Inter-carrier messaging is big business in the states. Because of the number of disparate network systems (GSM, CDMA, TDMA, iDEN, PCS etc.) interoperability is not always easy and a number of inter-carrier messaging companies have started to fill this gap. Perhaps inter-carriers would benefit from MMS also. (Note that the Pan-European GSM standard ensures that OEM equipment suppliers and phone manufacturers all obey the same frequencies, network protocols (SS7) and standards making interoperability relatively, cross-network texting and roaming all a little easier. So inter-carrier opportunities are not as lucrative here in Europe.)

More recently inter-carriers are now delivering traffic back and forth to European networks. Also, some operators (T-Mobile) now route short code traffic back to home networks. So you can now get your star signs on the move in the US!

A technology getting a lot of interest in the US is Push to Talk, Nextel Communications being the leader in delivering this service. Push to Talk is like a "walkie-talkie" but operates over the digital cellular networks. Users can also broadcast to a number of subscribers.