QUESTIONS and Answers

The mobile business industry panel tackles topical issues
One in three people say they have hung on to at least one redundant (often SIM-free) phone. What can we as industry do to encourage recycling? 

Parven, Fone Logistics: Initially, the issue of handset recycling must be made more visible and by virtue, more attractive a proposition.
While there are recycling schemes and initiatives that make it easy for customers to engage in recycling, none has sufficiently bridged the gap between the perception of the handset still having a value and that of giving it away for scrap.
Most customers retain a previous handset for eventualities such as losing or damaging their current device, or even because they still have a fondness for using it.
Were there facilities for a customer to deposit a handset for recycling and receive some reward by way of a credit to their account from the originating network, the number of handsets placed for recycling would surely increase.

Foote, OpenHand: With the current levels of mugging, I think the one in three have got the right idea – always hang on to one to avoid having to pay through the nose for a replacement.

Heeran, Valista: Within developing economies the market for recycled handsets is growing at an impressive rate. Operators should capitalise on this opportunity by providing incentives to subscribers to hand in old handsets when upgrading their mobile phones.
If a cross-operator consortium focuses on managing the relay of handsets between markets, the operators could offer these incentives either through money off the upgrade or perhaps, more likely via call credit.
If the industry fails to address the issue, governments could provide an alternative by introducing a recycling tax on new handsets (from which users would be exempt if they hand back old phones). However, incentives rather than mandatory taxation are always more preferable.

Price, Avenir Telecom: The speed and effectiveness of environmental policies is a growing global concern. And, due to a distinct lack of education, the recycling of mobile handsets is far down consumers’ list of priorities.
As the WEEE directive regulations are due to be published at the end of the year, it is likely that the industry will face greater pressure to improve this. And it is far better to be proactive as an industry and drive change rather than have it forced upon us.

Seaton, Airwide Solutions: The answer lies with education and incentives.
Most users probably don’t really know why or where to recycle and few know the benefits. In addition, many people are concerned about the data on their phone with many seeing the removal of the data as a nuisance they cannot be bothered with. Education on why recycling matters and who it benefits will certainly encourage the uptake of recycling by consumers.
However, education needs to work alongside policies promoting recycling at the point of replacement. For example, services to remove data on the phone, thus ensuring that it won’t be abused, will help. And because the recycling benefits someone other than the user, the user needs to be compensated with phone credits, usage credits, or other incentives.

With the convergence of mobile, fixed-line and broadband into triple- and quadruple- play offerings, will the independent retailer be squeezed out? Or do you see opportunities here?
Price, Avenir Telecom: Independent retailers who are taking a progressive approach to convergence are recognising that this can present growth opportunities, providing they have the right supportive relationships. Distributors with global reach and established links to all these services are in a key position to help facilitate this. Their interrelationships throughout the supply chain and wider industry knowledge can guide retailers on the best areas to leverage in order to make revenue from this inevitable change.
Since convergence emerged back in the 1990s, however, we have seen the views of independent retailers begin to polarise; there is still some understandable hesitancy to believe that this will become as popular with consumers as anticipated. Unless the industry collectively takes greater steps to educate and work in partnership with retailers, we will see a shakeout between those who may have missed the opportunity to respond and those who have used their relationships to embrace this change in order to grow their business.

Heeran, Valista: Convergence presents a potential play for the high street retailer, but it depends from which sector the offering emerges. Consumers are used to walking into a high street store to buy a mobile device – but in general they do not visit a shop to purchase fixed-line, TV or internet subscriptions and packages. (Sky and Freeview are of course the exception to this rule).
If the main convergence player emerges from a fixed-line, internet or TV background, then it will present problems for independent retailers as new competitors enter their space. But if it comes from a mobile player, with or without an already established high street presence then independent retailers will suffer less at the hands of direct competitors.

Foote, OpenHand: While the quality of salespeople at network level remains poor and explanation of the product shoddy at best, there is a massive opportunity for the Dealer to take over this space. The networks cannot service the channel direct purely down to logistics let alone quality of sale.

The Mobile Business Industry Panel aims to get views from leading figures on key topics. On the panel we have a selection of senior management from operators, distributors and retailers, plus a couple of industry observers and pundits. Each month we invite comment from some of them and we print the best/most interesting of their responses.
If there are any questions you think we should put to the panel just email them to us:
Director of Marketing, Fone Logistics
VP Product Management, Valista
Managing Director, Avenir Telecom
Tony Foote
Channel Director, OpenHand
CMO, Airwide Solutions
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