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US mobile market is ripe for disruption by Softbank, analysts say

Stephen Lawson | Oct. 15, 2012
Japanese conglomerate Softbank has built much of its business using new ideas to disrupt industries, and there are several ways it could shake up the U.S. mobile market, analysts said on Thursday.

By tapping into its home-country experience, Softbank could even introduce offerings radically different from what wireline or wireless service providers have offered in the U.S., said analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates.

Softbank combines its home and mobile services with services such as gaming and entertainment in addition to straight connectivity, Gold said. U.S. operators have never done that well or successfully, he said. For example, the big carriers' TV services for mobile phones have been expensive and offered limited selection.

The problem is that U.S. carriers haven't been focused on these value-added services, haven't been creative when developing them and haven't priced them attractively, Gold said. That's been true for cable and DSL (digital subscriber line) carriers as well as mobile operators, he said. For example, a cable operator might have shaken up the industry 10 years ago by offering a video-conferencing service like Skype, but none did, Gold said.

Softbank may change that pattern, Gold said.

"They need the pipe, but what they want to do is bundle services on top of that," he said. "Think of it as a new AOL." That tightly controlled subset of the Web once satisfied millions of users who were new to the Internet. Today, consumers might welcome a set of services that made mobile simpler, Gold said. For example, Softbank might sell customized, easy-to-use restaurant maps with a built-in reservation system. "There are other services that do that, but it's very messy," Gold said.



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