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@ Mipcom: Trutap’s Dragon Flames Vodafone On Mobile Data Costs

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Doug Richard, co-founder of British social media app Trutap and formerly a Dragon’s Den judge, led a ritual roasting of a network operator in a morning mobile session here in Cannes. Neil Walker, Vodafone’s senior content relationship manager, was the operator put up to fend off the many grievances of the baying content companies. Richard complained it costs £0.03 ($0.01) for service providers to get users’ cellular location data from carriers every time the customer moves so Trutap decided not to bother. He called on Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) to “drop that £0.003 to one thousandth of a pence” and to emulate the success Facebook had found by making its platform more accessible to entrepreneurs.

Richard’s downloadable blog, IM, SMS, photo and social networking app launched in September and is seeking handset, rather than operator, distribution. Drawing a round of applause (and, as befits a Dragon), he told Walker: “I’ll have worked through another couple of fortunes by the time you guys come to market. You will never discover the uninvented if you never open the pipe.”

Vodafone: Walker countered: “It’s a nascent business. We have introduced flat-rate in the UK, flat-rate is being rolled out in Germany. Flat-rate is definitely something we’re looking at … We’re gathering data, we’re looking to see what works. When we know where we want to go, then that’s what we will do but there’s no point jumping just at the moment.” He said customers would rather pay for services like TV at a set rate than have access to flat-rate data generally.

NBC: NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) Global Networks’ sales director Amelia Gammon also aimed exasperation Walker’s way, grumbling the networks have not been able to give it the user demographic data it wants to target ads and services: “We’ve been trying for years (to get) the information from these guys, but they don’t have it and that’s and that’s why we’re going in to the off-net space, to get this information … from very small consumer profiles. When people sign up to our service, we ask them a few demographic questions. “The important thing for us is, we don’t know who our mobile demographic is – we know who our film and TV fans are but we don’t know if they’re the same people and that’s vital to informing our content decisions about what programming or new content production we make available.”

Vodafone: In a corner, Vodafone’s Walker responded: “I don’t want to get argumentative – it’s not that we don’t have it, it’s just that you haven’t made it worth our while to share it just yet .. We do have that information, but it’s spread around the organisation. What we need to do is bring that together – but what is right and proper?”