Mobile Phones - Just A Connection Or More? Wallflower Vodafone Will Find Out

What do we want and expect from a mobile phone? If it's just a connection, Vodafone's fine. If it's an all-singing, all-dancing device, then Sky, O2 and 3 are sitting pretty, and so are BT and EE.

Today's news that Sky has struck a wholesale deal with O2 to launch its own network, or mobile virtual network operator (MVVO), next year is not a huge surprise. The talks had been leaked and undoubtedly those whispers were made public on purpose to let the City know that as BT was courting EE, Sky was not asleep on the job.

The wholesale deal is being widely seen as giving the BT and EE marriage the go-ahead because a telco and broadcaster coming together with a mobile network operator is already happening elsewhere.

For me, the fascinating question is that we all assume quad-play (mobile, fixed line, television and broadband) is the way forward for the compelling reason that it's hard not to see it panning out that way. Who wouldn't want a deal, a single bill and one number to call? 

But don't we already have apps for that? Sky doesn't have a mobile television offering, but the home page on my iPhone has a couple of its apps that tell me what's on -- so I can record it and what's showing, so I can watch it live (WiFi permitting). So does Sky need to become an MVNO to secure this relationship?

The answer is probably that it doesn't know for sure, but it simply can't allow BT to tie the knot with EE and watch it selling quad play solutions to customers without being in the game itself.

So where does this leave Vodafone? That's the really interesting question in all this. Sadly, I don't have an answer for you but I can't seeing the long-term prospects as being too good. Nothing to do with its service, of course, but people getting BT or Sky broadband, or television -- and that's the majority of us Brits -- are going to get pitched quad play deals that will make it very tempting to sign up. That can't be good news for Vodafone,

Ultimately, you could presume that people can put apps on their mobile and interact with BT Sport and Sky television in any way they choose, regardless of who supplies their mobile connection. Trouble is, just as Sky has shown with landlines, if you have a big customer base it's pretty easy to migrate them on to other parts of your platform with a six-month deal with the possibilities of some free sport or movies chucked in for good measure.

We only really need a connection from our mobile provider, but if there's a deal to be had, we'll snap it up.

This can't be good news for Vodafone as it stands back and watches two mega marriages take place. 

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