3G iPhone and Australian telcos: An arranged marriage

Fleur Doidge
12 June, 2008
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The imminent launch of the much-coveted 3G iPhone in Australia has had the wires and internet forums abuzz for months now. One of the most discussed subjects is the matter of which telecommunications network providers and resellers or retailers will partner Apple, and what the likely conditions of acquiring a shite and briny new iPhone down under might be. Optus and Vodafone have made their announcements — Telstra and Three are yet to show their hands. And persistent rumours before the WWDC that Mac resellers would be able to sell iPhones have proven as yet unfounded.

You can bet that FoneZone (a Telstra reseller and the parent company of national Mac chain Next Byte) is pretty keen for a piece of the pie though. And what about those Apple Stores?

Having a larger number of purveyors of these fine little devices in Australia would certainly stimulate competition. It might even help lower prices and increase availability for local buyers. But just how prepared are the Fone Zones of the world to march into Macland and do it justice?

Your standard telecommunications provider or mobile phone shop doesn’t have much experience with Apple product. Even with well-known handset brands such as Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and BlackBerry, pre- and post-sales support for the customer can leave something to be desired. And these people mostly aren’t PC salespeople — let alone knowing about Macs.

Yet complaints over and over again come up that suggest a lack of clear communication between vendor and telco and between telco and reseller or retailer.

People say that the big telcos leave something to be desired when it comes to keeping their staff up to date on the latest plans (including bonuses and rewards), technological issues, handsets and the like. So just how are they going to cope with the addition of another completely new brand?

For a reseller or retailer to succeed, vendors, clearly, ultimately have a role to play in ensuring that the right knowledge and skills are passed down the chain. At enterprise level, vendors work closely with business-to-business resellers to maximise market opportunities and share.

But it seems that at consumer level, at the telco level, when it comes to your average mobile phone user and maybe even for the small business user who only has access to consumer solutions, not enough information can be the order of the day.

When this writer worked on a Sydney-based mobile technology magazine a couple of years back, we researched and wrote up monthly articles looking at cases where, for example, smartphones with specific enterprise software were being rolled out for the first time to businesses of various sizes.

What we found over and over again was that these deployments were often more complicated to get to go-live than initially envisaged. Worse than that, when problems arose, even at that business-to-business level few knew what they were doing when it came to finding a fix.

It doesn’t take much imagination to suppose that Apple’s iPhone might similarly suffer at the hands of less-than-knowledgeable retailers desperate to cash in on what’s expected to be something of a stampede — but without access to the right information or knowledge in real time.

Apple doesn’t need any more disgruntled customers after such a long wait.

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