Monday, July 24, 2006

Dean Bubley: Fudging the numbers, part 1

Dean Bubley posts at the Disruptive Wireless blog his top ten list of how the mobile industry gets creative when playing with stats. Here they are:

  1. Subscribers = Users - Fudge: multiple phone/SIM ownership by many people
  2. Overall ARPU numbers - Fudge: exclusion of rebates, and similar repayments that come out as "costs" rather than lost revenue
  3. Data ARPU (1) - Fudge: Inclusion of revenue from enterprise & data-only devices (laptop cards, M2M modules, Blackberries) aggregated in non-SMS Data ARPU, and then using the figures to suggest that consumer use of content/MMS/etc is rising faster than it actually is
  4. Data ARPU (2) - Fudge: Revenue allocation of bundling. So, I get 250 minutes + 500 texts per month for £30 (+ video / MMS / whatever). How do they decide that "inside the bundle" 1 min = 5p / 1 text = 10p ... or 1 min = 3p / 1 text = 14p ? How is this audited? How much "arbitrariness" is there when operators report "Data ARPU was 19%"?
  5. Coverage % - Fudge: it's outdoor coverage, bizarrely using "percentage of population covered". Which is strange, as I always thought that most of the population lives indoors.
  6. Radio downlink speeds (for 3G, or WiFi, or WiMAX or whatever) - Fudge: what's the aggregate capacity of the cell? so, how many concurrent users of your 1Mbit/s HSDPA saturate the base station, or its backhaul?
  7. Comparisons mobile vs. broadband - Fudge: comparing apples & pears - people vs. households. Sometime useful, but often irrelevant as both are important metrics for different reasons.
  8. Comparisons of mobile phones vs PCs - Fudge: no, most people's "computing experience" won't be on phones, even in developing countries. Have you been to many developing countries, Mr Marketing VP? Seen kids packed into in Internet shops using MSN & doing their homework? Stop using the (equally spurious) home PC penetration figures & understand the real world
  9. Early mobile application market growth numbers - Fudge: often include substantial "internal" use by the mobile industry itself - application developers, competitors, journalists, testing (including automated network probes) etc, rather than "proper customers"
  10. Smartphone market size - Fudge: Includes a huge number of "closed" operator-customised phones developed on theoretically open OSs (eg DoCoMo FOMA use of Symbian & Linux) which are locked-down for 3rd-party software, plus a vast number of Nokia S60-based devices bought by people who neither know nor care that their device has an open "smart" OS. The proportion of smartphones bought by individuals who knowingly choose an "open" & flexible software platform is probably less than 20%.