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Why Amazon is thinking beyond the operator

I was trying to buy a computer monitor the other day. I was standing at a train platform browsing Amazon via their dedicated app. I was prevented from hitting the ‘one click’ buy button because my 3G Vodafone service kept swapping into E, then into GPRS (that annoying little round circle on the iPhone) and then into ‘NO Service’.

As a result I didn’t bother with the purchase. I hadn’t bothered to put the item into my shopping basket. Like most high-frequency Amazon Prime customers, I just order with one-click and rarely bother storing anything for purchase.

No wonder Amazon is thinking beyond the operator. See this post from VentureBeat (“Amazon reportedly tested new wireless spectrum from satellite provider Globalstar“).

When the mobile operator can’t get it’s data connectivity working properly — enough, that is, to let me simply send and receive a few tens of kilobytes and thereby completely by Amazon purchase — it’s time for the Amazon executives to start problem solving.

I’m confident I’m not alone in being unable to make transactions because I’ve got limited data connectivity. This actually ends up happening quite a lot to me as I buy quite a lot with Amazon. I wonder if the company collects any analytics to show just how many customers try and buy something — but can’t — because of poor signal?

Many of those following my Tweets the other week rubbished the connection capabilities of Globalstar. I haven’t had cause to use their primary service myself. However speed isn’t the problem. It’s basic connectivity. Generally speaking, Satellite data service is excellent if you’re in one static location, you’ve got good weather and you’re paying a decent whack for a decent data speed.

Sticking a satellite antenna into a device that’s already screwed from a battery consumption standpoint isn’t good news. That wouldn’t be a workable solution for the mass market.

That’s ok though — as it’s not what’s being discussed in the VentureBeat post (which itself is quoting Bloomberg). No. It’s TLPS — terrestrial low power service — which, if approved, would give Globalstar the ability to coat large swathes of the place in WiFi-like connectivity. (See: “Understanding the Terrestrial Low Power Service” from Globalstar).

It’s all a bit theoretical at the moment as a few regulatory hurdles need to be surmounted. Wouldn’t this be a stimulating addition to the mobile ecosystem?

I can imagine Amazon doing a massive connectivity deal in this regard to make sure that all of their customers (or, at least, Amazon device users) never want for signal when they’re trying to make transactions.

I like the thinking. I seriously like the panic it would cause the existing and rather lazy mobile operators around the world too.

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