Vodafone CEO: Mobile must move it or lose it

And the lowdown on India
Written by Jo Best, Contributor on

And the lowdown on India

Speaking today at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin warned operators to move more quickly or find themselves nudged out of their own industry by new entrants.

He said: "We have to be faster in execution. As an industry it takes a long time to get things done... we need to move faster or others will eat our lunch."

Sarin added: "Adjacent industries are moving into industry... they're all coming into our space. It's taking us too long to deliver new products and services. We've been talking about money transfer services for some time now - it's time to stop talking and actually deliver."

Sarin called for the industry to work on standardisation and clear up the ambiguity over mobile TV, IP and mobile advertising or risk hobbling the market. To encourage advertisers to shift more business onto mobile platforms, the industry must work out the appropriate size for banner ads, the right length for video ads and the most intelligent ad serving formats, according to the Vodafone boss.

The Vodafone CEO added the industry must also get some speed on with LTE (long term evolution) - the process of developing 3G technology - or risk WiMax players cutting in on traditional mobile territory.

But the land grabbing Sarin warned about is not just a one-way street - mobile operators are increasingly moving onto the turf of broadband operators and fixed-line players. Vodafone, for example, recently began reselling DSL access and offering cheap tariffs for users making mobile calls in their homes in an effort to encourage greater substitution of mobile options for fixed-line phone service.

He told delegates this morning: "We need to make our moves and pull more and more [minutes] from fixed-line," highlighting that with a lower penetration of fixed-line services, India is ripe for mobile substitution.

India is likely to be on the mind of the Vodafone CEO following its purchase of Indian network operator Hutchison Essar which was announced yesterday.

Sarin saluted the Indian government's stance on mobile, saying: "The other thing that's exciting for me is the Indian government has set out good regulation for infrastructure building. We're excited about moving into rural areas… People light up base stations almost as quick as we put them down.

"We've gradually been moving our business to where the growth is and India represents a fabulous opportunity for us."

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