Blogs & Comment

SpinVox: an outsider's view of the Canadian wireless industry

In case you didn’t see it on CBO’s homepage, I posted a columnearlier this week on SpinVox, the UK-based company that hosts a voice mail-to-text conversion service for mobile phonesbut wants to expand into other areas. Canada, believe it or not, is an important proving ground for the service, especially since they have had limited traction with U.S. carriers.
I interviewed SpinVox founder and CEO Christina Domecq a few weeks ago while she was in town to talk to Rogers and Telus, two of three carriers in Canada that offer the service (SaskTel is the third). “We’re still waiting for Bell Canada to hurry up,” she told me. “Some carriers are faster than others, have a little less bureaucracy.” That may be an understatement.
But Domecq did have nice things to say in general about Canadian wireless carriersthey are her customers, after all. Although prices are high in Canada, she thinks the carriers do embrace innovation as fast as nearly any in the world, save northern Europe. Their size helps: they have the purchasing power for new handsets and services that smaller carriers in the world do not. And to their credit, they received SpinVox’s proposals warmly. “They were much more open to a young U.K. business than they were in the U.S.” SpinVox is a slick application, but it made me wonder if Canadian businesses are more easily impressed by technology with an international flavor than they are of anything homegrownuntil it is proven elsewhere, of course.
Also, Domecq did note that carriers everywhere are not aggressively rolling out new applications and services, because it’s an expensive process not only technically, but in the marketing and customer support that goes along with it. “It’s hard in this economic climate, though. It’s not getting easier,” she said. And any application that needs to run on a specific type of handset is at a disadvantage, because the carriers aren’t rolling out as many new phone models either anymore. Again, it’s too costly. SpinVox is fortunate that its service works on any phone.
So what makes Canada a good market for SpinVox? We pay for voice mail (for now–competition from the new carriers might change that), so we’re more willing to pay to make voice mail easier, and we leave the longest voice mails of any country in the world. (Domecq isn’t sure why that is, but I figure it’s because Canadians go out of our way to sound polite.)
At any rate, it was interesting to hear a global perspective on the Canadian wireless industry.