Martin Varsavsky is interviewing René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom here at the DLD conference. [Live blogging, Missing stuff. Making mistakes.] [Disclosure: I am on the US board of advisers of Martin's Fon company, and theoretically have some options in it.]
Obermann looks forward to gaining the spectrum required to let mobile phones achieve broadband speeds (= several Mb/sec, I believe he said). He compares European and US markets: The US is more focused on consumers. US users use 1000/mins a month; Europeans use a fraction of that.
Martin: Are consumers better off in the US or Europe?
A: They’re better off with T-Mobile.
Obermann says he expects DT to grow in the next year. Last year they restructured and took $4B in costs out of their structure.
Martin: How are currency fluctuations affecting you?
Obermann: Having the Euro is a great thing. Last year, the weak US dollar cost us money.
Martin: I thought pricing minute would disappear in the ’90s. But it hasn’t. Also, crossing borders still costs money. Will minutes and roaming disappear eventually?
Obermann: I thought mobile Internet would be here in 2002. Sometimes we overestimate the ability of the industry to adapt to customer changes. Second, minutes will disappear. But, roaming occurs in imbalanced markets: not everyone is on the same page. Competition will make roaming more user-friendly.
Martin: Mark Zuckerberg thinks about Facebook as an operating system or telecommunications platform, not a social network. Do you think of the customers of T-Mobile as being part of a social network?
Obermann: They think of themselves as members of multiple social networks. Last year 14-15 billion messages were transmitted over T-Mobile. Social networks will be more integrated with telecom platforms. E.g., you can now send messages from Facebook to T-Mobile users [I think]
Martin: Do you want to buy a social networking platform?
Obermann: No, we want to play with many of them.
Audience: Payment over mobiles is still hard. Will it get easier?
Obermann: Micropayments over mobile is technically possible, and can be supported by technical service processes.
Martin: Do you look to higher people with entrepreneurial experience?
Obermann: Yes, big time.
Martin: Are you retaining the key execs of the companies you acquire?
Audience: Can you imagine, say, YouTube paying you to transport their content to your users?
Obermann: We help our customers get access to whatever they want on whatever device they want it. We don’t want to be monopolists.
Martin: Is the future of video fiber optics or better mobile networks?
A: Both. In the next few years, you’ll see such an increased demand for bandwidth that mobile access will be relatively scarcer and scarcer. It will be hard to cover everything with mobile. The amount of available spectrum will not work. It has to be a hybrd approach.
Audience: When will we see the unlimited, all-you-can-eat program, if the demand is going to increase?
A: Even today, the markets are more more and more aggressive with bundles. In fixed line you see 25-year-old pricepoints. Hopefully billing will become easier…
Martin: It did happen in the fixed world.
Martin: Netbooks are exploding. This is the first time telecommunication operators are selling computers…
A: My mobile as 16GB. Netbooks were one of the hottest selling devices in the past few months. Also, dongles turn laptops into mobiles. The Internet mobilization will have a bigger impact on people’s lives and work than the Internet so far.
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