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Avoiding the sirens song: Rogers OneNumber service

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

frsutratedstudentRisky is an understatement when it comes to introducing a new & unproven service. But it’s a clear “sunk at the dock” if you screw up the implementation. Let’s take a look at the non-WebRTC but should easily have been WebRTC implementation of Roger’s OneNumber service.

Roger’s is the largest mobile operator in Canada and about 18 months ago launched a new FREE service called OneNumber. The service is an attempt to extend your mobile phone to your desktop. Its a desktop application that allows you to make/receive your mobile phone calls on the ‘softclient’. Send/receive text message again on your PC and finally sync your contacts between your phone. Rogers also developed an iPad and Android application to pair with the service.

I want to emphasis this is a FREE service for any of Roger’s 7m post-paid customers. They won’t disclose how many subscribers they have (usually not a good sign) but hints from the company are they have 200k subscribers. As marketing always leans toward whatever big number they can muster. I’ll say 200k subscribers signed up but probably only 20k subscribers use it at least once per month (I’m being generous at 10%). Even if I stick with the original 200k subs, this is only a 2.5% take rate of their base. Again for a FREE service. Ugh.

Rogers did everything right, they created a satellite web site, hired a bunch of bloggers to write about it (I didn’t get a check though) and pimped it up in the various new media. Unfortunately, they made a slight mistake. The application itself sucks. Buggy, crashes, audio issues and those are the good points. The ever polite Canadians have provided to date a mere 59 click reviews on iTunes and 104 on Google play and the written reviews are far from glowing.

The underlying service of voice/text frankly must have been a nightmare to implement on the rigid  “our way or no way”  IMS architecture. So congrats to Rogers – this must have been hard to actually make work.

No doubt there is some loyal users who will swear it has changed their lives. The question is two fold, do users really want the service and did they get put off by having to download an application and finding it clunky?

Clearly WebRTC would quickly overcome some of the hurdles that Rogers faced. Clearly WebRTC would have allow Rogers to faster respond to early user feedback. Clearly for all the attention to marketing detail, the execution of the actual application got relegated lower on the priority list. Finally, the application is a compilation of numerous acquired vendor technologies meaning Rogers likely had little opportunity to customize. You can’t outsource creativity.