Vodafone the ignorant

Published on March 11, 2008

Below is an article blogged by Simon Judge, the all powerful mobile developer. Indeed the interview is fascinating, to the point that I think Vodafone is a big, proud and ignorant mobile player. That is harmful to all of us. Read here about another instance where Vodafone is abusing its power. Do they know how harmful they are because of their ignorance?

There is a fascinating interview with Arun Sarin, Vodafone chief executive, on the FT site today. It gives an insight into Vodafone thinking. I particularly liked the following part…

Q: Given the entry of Google and Nokia, all pushing on mobile services, how do you avoid Vodafone becoming a pipe down which others send services?

A: Most importantly, we have 240m customers. We have the relationship with the customer, they are either buying top-up cards from Vodafone, or we are billing them on a monthly basis. Just the simple fact we have the customer and billing relationship is a hugely powerful thing that nobody can take away from us. We could lose our customers and then, yes, they could be gone.

The second thing is we know where the customers are, in terms of location. We know precisely where you are. Frankly only we know where you are. The handset manufacturer that sold you the handset does not know where you are. But we know where you are. So if you say at the most basic level say we have got a customer relationship, we have got billing and we know where you are, these are hugely important things. So whoever comes into the marketplace is going to have to work through us.”

Arun obviously hasn’t heard of Bango, Sharewire, Paypal and even Google Checkout. He hasn’t heard that, due to network operator inability to share information, there are already third party databases of network operator cell ids that can be used for location. He also hasn’t heard that a large number of future phones will incorporate GPS. He doesn’t understand that it’s not about the network operator knowing where the phone is, it’s about the phone knowing where it is.

Read the transcript - I also believe the Vodafone strategy involves an over-reliance on brands.