Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Complicated and overpriced VoIP solutions are old school, says Jajah
21/11/2007 by Leila Makki
VoIP telephony provider Jajah has launched Jajah Direct, a next generation telephone service designed to bring free or low-rate International calls, without the need for Internet access.
Jajah, known for providing inexpensive Web-activated calling through regular phones, functions like a classic callback system that connects both parties from local exchanges via low cost international circuits.
The new service, Jajah Direct reaffirms Jajah’s mission to remove the barriers to unrestricted communication by providing the savings of an Internet call and the convenience of a telephone, claims a company statement. The service allows users to make international calls to any of 122 countries worldwide at substantially lower rates than those of traditional international calling plans.
“With the introduction of Jajah Direct we eliminate complicated VoIP solutions and archaic offline pre paid calling cards single-handedly,” says Jajah co-founder Roman Scharf. “Over complicated and over priced solutions are now old school! The 21st century of telecommunication knows no boundaries.”
The service works when a user calls a local telephone number, and then inputs the number of the phone he or she wishes to call. A new number is then sent by Jajah Direct, which when the user calls that number will automatically connect to the intended recipient for free or at reduced calling rates.
The web-activated telephony service, which has the support and backing of Intel and Deutsche Telekom, differs from other VoIP providers in that it doesn’t require a broadband connection, contracts, special devices or headphones, or downloadable software.
Daniel Mattes, Jajah co-founder said, “Jajah has put the final nail in the coffin to silly headsets, expensive international calls and being tied to a computer. We believe that Jajah Direct has
effectively removed all the barriers to true international communication.”
The Google Skype affair
22/11/2007 - by Andrew Beutmueller
Google for some reason tends to generate as much scuttlebutt as it does cash. Hyperbolic speculation that the search engine giant must certainly be launching its own mobile phone finally died down when Google effectively pooh-poohed the notion with the Android deal announcement. Hot on the heels of that fish story is this week’s Google potboiler - the search engine giant has its sites set on a Skype alliance or even an outright purchase of the VoIP pioneer that has become something of a burden for eBay.
eBay caused industry mouths to collectively gape in 2005 at the final purchase price of US$2.5 billion leaving some wondering if some of its own site members were not more adept negotiators than those on the board – it remains unclear whether the EBay-Skype ecosystem did not rather turn out to be more of an eco-wilderness.
Rumors of a Google Skype marriage were first hinted at with impish delight by Jemima Kiss on her London-based Guardian tech blog in a post entitled, “Rumoursville: Google sniffing round Skype”.
“Currently in favour around London's webbist community is the rumour that Google has been in negotiations to buy Skype, the web telephony firm, from eBay,” wrote Ms. Kiss. This makes sense on a number of levels, particularly because it fits with Google's ambitions for disrupting the mobile industry through its new open mobile phone development platform Android, and for eBay - which was recently forced to admit that it had paid too much for Skype … Place your bets.”
The perfect wager for compulsive gamblers addicted to long shot thrills, a Google Skype merger is not founded in actionable evidence – that being said it nonetheless makes sense.
For one, Skype and Google are already intimately familiar. Back in August of last year eBay and Google announced to great fanfare a multi-year deal involving text-based advertising and "click-to-call" advertising features, so they are almost half way down the altar?
"This agreement underscores how much we value eBay as a partner," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the time … “By working together to promote click-to-call functionality through Google Talk and Skype, we are offering advertisers another innovative way to connect with customers.”
On the other hand the key word in Schmidt’s above remark may be “advertisers” - Just like the gPhone, which turned out to be no more than another search software ad revenue scheme, and which cooler heads correctly predicted, a possible Skype buyout is unlikely because it goes beyond the safe and very lucrative ad harbor that Google continues to happily dredge.
One inspired commentator who goes by the nickname, ProfessionalGun reacting to Jemima’s Google/Skype tech-teaser wrote … “With Google's acquisition of GrandCentral earlier this year, they are automatically tied to the Gizmo Project, which is an open source VOIP service that GrandCentral specifically supports.
The real advantage to Gizmo (or perhaps the main disadvantage for Skype) is that it's a full fledged SIP network. Skype, by contrast, is completely proprietary.”
Remember the hot word on the street in June of 2005? The blogosphere was all lit up like an aluminum Christmas tree because “Skype in merger talks with Yahoo!?” In the immutably salient words of American baseball icon Yogi Berra “It’s Déjà vu all over again.”
What's heartening to see is that this is also an attempt to stitch together the broader ecosystem and that the scope of this Pilot is broader than just payments as trialists will be able to use their mobile phone for services such as travel on the London Underground, credit card payments, Location Based Services delivered via smart posters, and electron tickets for entertainment.
London trials electronic wallet, ticket platform
28 November 2007
Londoners could be using their mobile handsets as electronic train tickets and credit or debit cards from as early as next year, as the UK's first large scale trial of Near Field Communications (NFC) technology gets underway.
On Wednesday, mobile operator O2 UK revealed the details of its O2 Wallet application, which has already been much discussed in the media.
Starting this week, around 500 people invited from the O2 customer base, will participate in a six month trial of the technology across a number of sites throughout London.
Along with partners including Transport for London, TranSys, Barclaycard, Visa Europe, Nokia and AEG, trialists will be able to use their mobile phone for services such as travel on the London Underground, credit card payments, Location Based Services delivered via smart posters, and electron tickets for entertainment.
Each trialist will be equipped with a Nokia 6131 NFC handset installed with the O2 Wallet and can use the services simply by touching the card to a reader.
Cath Keers, customer director of O2 UK said: "This trial is going to provide insights which will prove crucial to getting the customer experience right as we bring NFC on mobile to market. But the trial is just the start of this journey. For this to work we will need the whole ecosystem to come together which means mobile operators, banks and retailers all working together to fulfil a
The assembled panellists at the press event in London anticipate that such devices could come into commercial usage by the end of 2008 at the earliest. Richard Humbach, head of the NFC Business Line for Nokia's Emerging Business Unit, said he expects NFC to be a mass market technology within the next two to three years.
However, building a critical mass of devices will be key to the technology's success and Nokia could not put a date on when NFC technology could be implemented into the SIM card. "Over time the technology will move to the SIM," said Humbach. "But the standards are not complete and the technology needs to progress, so at present it's tied to the handset," he said.
However, security firm Gemalto and NXP Semiconductors are known to be collaborating on a SIM-enabled NFC platform which will work with NXP's MIFARE technology. MIFARE is used as the Oyster branded contactless ticket system on London's public transport network and could potentially see the technology used in any device, simply by changing the SIM card.
Likely to loosen the stranglehold the operators have in the US telecoms market.
Verizon Goes 'Open'
November 27, 2007
Verizon Wireless plans to become the first U.S. carrier to open up its cellular network to other devices and applications "by the end of 2008."
The number two cellular provider in the U.S. this morning made the surprise move to open up its CDMA network after opposing similar requirements from Google and others for the wireless broadband 700MHz spectrum due to be auctioned in January 2008.
The Verizon plans could potentially allow users to get on its network with many new and existing CDMA-enabled devices. The opening up of its network is a dramatic turnabout on Verizon's previous position.
In early 2008, the company says it will publish the technical standards the developers will need to design products to interface with the Verizon Wireless network. Any device that meets the minimum technical standard will be activated on the network. Devices will be tested and approved in a $20 million testing lab, which received an additional investment this year to gear up for the anticipated demand. Any application the customer chooses will be allowed on these devices.
Verizon hasn't yet revealed what the "minimum technical standard" for phones will be. No matter how much it opens up its network, the new Verizon plans won't allow AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA subscribers to jump networks, simply because these operators use GSM-based technology for their phones rather than CDMA. Sprint users, however, could potentially move onto the Verizon network with their CDMA phones. Whether Verizon will actually allow this will become clearer after the operator's press conference this morning.
Depicts the raging popularity of Social Networking & UGC sites in India - Orkut (#3) and YouTube (#6) are amongst the top 10 sites in India based on traffic ranking.
The BJP seems to be taking a cue from Hillary Clinton and Obama in the US.
Tech-Savvy BJP sells brand Modi on Orkut and YouTube
Ketaki Ghoge, Ahmedabad
Hu khaato nathi aane khaawaane deto nathi. (I don't take bribes and I don't let anyone take them either) Imagine an animated 3D caricature of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi delivering a classic one-liner on your cellphone.
Five such 10-second mobile advertisements are ready at the BJP's information technology cell in Ahmedabad. As Gujarat prepares for elections - to be held on December 11 and 16 - the party will upload these films on the Internet, to be downloaded by fans and party workers. "The ads will be hugely popular," said math professor Shashiranjan Yaday, 44, who heads the cell.
The election will be one of the most keenly-watched in recent times. It follows a sting operation that showed saffron leaders boasting of murdering and raping Muslims during the riots in 2002 and claiming they had Modi's tacit support.
The campaign revolves around portraying Modi as a cult figure with even negatives like his alleged egotism painted as decisive leadership. Last week, the cell uploaded eight videos of people like Ratan Tata and Navjot Singh Sidhu singing Modi's praises on YouTube.
The videos were viewed nearly 8,000 times. A range of downloadable material on Modi, like speeches, is also available. Fan sites on Modi were created two months ago, while several fan clubs were floated by BJP supporters on popular social networking site Orkut
As an ecosystem, the HSPA ecosystem is here and now and probably for the first time of many years of promises, the wireless industry is finally delivering.
Availability of devices is one of the biggest factors in deciding to go with HSPA. The other is the fact that its the natural evolution from current WCDMA/UMTS deployments and merely a software upgrade to existing 3G platorms.
As for on ground momentum - 147 operational HSPA networks in 70 countries, over 400 devices from 80 suppliers including 161 PC peripherals and the claim that over 25 HSPA networks across the world already support 7Mbps device speeds
The other big blow to WiMax is the Sprint decision to reconsider its WiMax plans even though it already held spectrum and had negotiated supplier deals.
Industry panel writes off WiMax, says HSPA is now broadband status quo
20/11/2007 - by CommsDay
A panel of executives from a diverse group of companies including Microsoft, Telstra, Ericsson and Qualcomm has cast doubt on market prospects for WiMax, with one boldly predicting that the HSPA “train” has “already left the station.”
Speaking at the end of the GSM Association’s Asia Mobile Congress in Macau last week, the consensus was that the HSPA ecosystem, as it is being termed, has an unstoppable momentum.
Telstra’s Mike Wright, Executive Director, Wireless Engineering & Operations said “As an ecosystem, the HSPA ecosystem is here and now and probably for the first time of many years of promises, the wireless industry is finally delivering.”
“Back in 2005 we had to make a difficult decision because we had one of everything (wireless standards). We looked at WiMax and Flarion. We made a decision to go with HSPA.”
Wright said availability of devices was one of the biggest factors in deciding to go with HSPA, as was the flexibility of the platform– Telstra was using it for fixed broadband services in some remote locations in Australia, while users were also to be found in helicopters, aircraft, fishing boats and oil rigs.
Ericsson’s Lena Beming, Strategic Marketing Director, Business Unit Networks went further, comparing 3G numbers to fixed numbers and declaring that two-thirds of all broadband users
across the world are wireless and that 70 per cent of all those wireless use HSPA, with WiMax coming in at a just a few percent.
Beming reeled off a list of impressive statistics backing her case, citing 147 operational HSPA nets in 70 countries, over 400 devices from 80 suppliers including 161 PC peripherals and the claim that over 25 HSPA nets across the world already support 7Mbps device speeds. She also said that HSPA broadband pricing was “approaching” fixed pricing, citing three in Sweden which offers 7.2Mbps peak speeds for US$30 per month and Maxis in Malaysia which offers 3.6Mbps services with a 3Gb cap for $32 per month.
“A major advantage of HSPA is its volumes,” she said, adding that HSPA is “just a software upgrade.
You can’t beat that cost.”
Qualcomm’s Jeffrey Belk, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Market Development, said that debates about the supremacy of WiMax over HSPA was “simplistic” as chipsets, such as Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon brand, increasingly supported clusters of access technologies. But he added that the HSPA “train has left the station” and it would be difficult for WiMax to catch up, pointing to the fact that Sprint in the US was reconsidering its WiMax plans even though it already held spectrum and had negotiated financially-advantageous supplier deals.
“Our world view is that this is now about new classes of devices,” he said, pointing to the GSM Association’s initiative to encourage PC notebook manufacturers to embed HSPA chips in their products. He also suggested that breakthroughs in chip designs were helping to dramatically push back some of the resistance from slow battery innovation, pointing to one new chip that supported a stand-by time of one month.
The strong endorsement of HSPA’s momentum came as the GSM Association announced a raft of new initiatives designed to increase the reach of the GSM technology family, including a foreign money remittance programme with Western Union, a series of trials of near-field communications-enabled “mobile wallet” services and a tender to select a model HSPA-embedded notebook for purchase by GSM operators for their customers.
Friday, November 23, 2007
India Telecoms Update @ Oct07
- 8.05 mn wireless sub adds taking total base to 217.1 mn
- 0.17 mn drop in wireline sub base to 39.4 mn
- Overall telephony subs base at 256.6 mn taking teledensity to 22.5%
- Broadband subs base up marginally to 2.7 mn
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The debate that continues in mind is that there already exists somewhat similar functionality in mobile devices and so whats the differentiation here - Possibly the larger display and option to keep the ebook reader separate so as conserve battery as voice continues to remain top priority ?
Amazon taking care of the device's connectivity on behalf of users and bundling this in the price of ebooks is rather innovative.
The idea that the 'essential plumbing' is handled by the device manufacturer means that consumers simply pay the price on the box. This certainly makes the consumer proposition far simpler.
Challenge however clearly is going to be adoption as less than 1 per cent of sales by US publishers in 2005 were ebooks. bundled data pricing and pricing ebooks substantially lower than paperbacks are measures being taken by Amazon to catalyze ebook uptake.
While it has a special display to enable long periods of reading, the memory at 256 MB is rather poor.
Amazon Kindles a wireless plan
20 November 2007
The mobile services market is turning into a free for all at the moment, with online retailer Amazon announcing an innovative assault on the mobile content space this week.
From November 29, the internet book shop will start selling 'Kindle', a wireless-enabled electronic book, in the US.
The gadget is basically an internet terminal with a big screen and some ebook software installed and allows users to download new books and other content over the mobile interweb.
Kindle, which will retail for $399, has an always on connection to Sprint Nextel's EV-DO 3G network so users can grab new content anywhere, although sideloading is also allowed.
But the interesting thing is that there's (almost) no subscription model - the data charges are included in the price of the ebook. A typical best seller or new release will cost around $9.99 and should be downloaded in less than a minute, Amazon claims.
Ovum analyst Steven Hartley said that Amazon taking care of the device's connectivity on behalf of users is a particularly welcome move. "The idea that the 'essential plumbing' is handled by the device manufacturer means that consumers simply pay the price on the box. This certainly makes the consumer proposition far simpler, although the scenario of the operator becoming 'merely' the bitpipe is brought a step closer."
Users also get free mobile access to the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia as well as 250 or so top blogs and international newspapers, although these are available on a monthly or annual subscription basis for a range of prices starting at $0.99.
Users can also email their own files to the device for $0.10 a pop, or just use the USB cable supplied.
However, Hartley was unimpressed by these subscription charges, especially for blogs which are free, calling the offering, "Not a totally 'out of the box' model then," he said.
"In addition, naysayers will argue that Amazon can afford to provide connectivity, because uptake will follow the same path as previous ebooks, i.e. low," he said.
"According to the Association of American Publishers, less than 1 per cent of sales by US publishers in 2005 were ebooks, suggesting that the Kindle faces an uphill struggle. Certainly Amazon is pushing content hard with bestsellers retailing for $9.99 or less compared to the hard back average of $25), but Amazon's ebooks can not be shared like a printed edition."
The device measures 7.5" x 5.3" x 0.7", weighs 10.3 ounces and boasts a 6" diagonal display based on something Amazon refers to as 'E-Ink electronic paper' - apparently it's electrophoretic and easier on the eye when reading for long periods of time.
Kindle has 256MB of internal storage, which is reportedly good for around 200 books as well as an available SD memory card slot. If wireless is turned off, Amazon reckons users should get a week's worth of reading before needing to recharge. With wireless on it needs recharging every other day.
The device sports a USB port as well as an audio jack and support for formats including MP3, which suggests it should play music too, although it's not clear whether a media player is installed. It will play audio books though. The device also features a full QWERTY keyboard, to make it easier for users to search for content.
Implementations in various global markets have shown that number portability definitely increases churn but not to alarming levels for the larger operators for whom this poses not only a threat but also poses a significant opportunity.
For the smaller operators carving out a distinct niche for themselves can not only help them tide over possible number portability related churn but also win subscribers from the larger all encompassing operators.
Impending Changes on Number Portability in India to Intensify Competition
Hong Kong (Dow Jones) - The customer is already the king in India's booming telecommunications industry, and announcements by the government last week are set to ensure that it will remain that way for a long time to come.
It will be a welcome, or even a heart-warming change for millions of mobile phone subscribers in the country, when mobile number portability - which allows customers to switch to a different service provider without having to surrender their existing phone number - is introduced in about a year's time. It will also be a sea change from the time, only about a decade ago, when they had to wait for weeks, if not months, to get a fixed line installed at home. And it will likely drag tariffs further down in an industry that already offers the lowest call rates in the world.
But at least some of the service providers in the industry, if not all, will suffer the effects of even more intensified competition, and they could be expected to do everything within their powers to retain customers. In the lead time that they enjoy up to the introduction of the number portability, market leader Bharti Airtel as well as others could be expected to launch new plans that lock-in customers for a certain period of time by offering a sweeter deal.
They will need to make extra efforts to retain their corporate accounts, as well as individual high-billing users, who will undoubtedly be targeted by competitors. Additional investments to improve network reach and service quality will be called for. And costs will inevitably rise, while average revenues per user could remain under pressure in a more competitive environment.
Of the 10 mobile service providers in the industry with at least a million subscribers, the smaller ones such as Spice Communications and state-run Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTE) , which are listed on the local stock exchanges, as well as unlisted firms such as Aircel, could be at a greater risk than others, as they lack a nationwide footprint.
Among the bigger companies, Reliance Communications has the greatest opportunity, but it also faces the biggest threat. Reliance currently offers a majority of its around 40 million customers CDMA services, while the rest of the industry offers mostly GSM services. Reliance has been looking at a far bigger presence in GSM as well, and the introduction of number portability offers it a big opportunity to steal GSM customers from competition. However, it is equally possible that its existing CDMA customers are weaned away by competition, and R-Comm will have to constantly watch its back to prevent that from happening.
Number portability, however, needn't be bad news for everyone in the industry. It is a great opportunity for a service provider to differentiate from the rest of the pack by offering a truly superior service that is customized to individual users -- something that few service providers seem to be doing today. And as Bharti's Chairman Sunil Mittal reportedly said, it opens the prospect of attracting high-end users from competitors. If managed well, the revenue upside from a higher number of high-end customers could even stem the continued fall in average revenues per user each quarter.
I see potential in India due to lack of local loop bundling and the high costs involved in rolling out greenfield wireline networks.
Proposed allocation of frequencies in the globally harmonized 2.5 GHz band is a welcome move.
BSNL Plans $750M WiMax Splash
November 20, 2007
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) plans to splash out $750 million on WiMax networks to cover one sixth of India's 1 billion-plus population, and has already issued the first tender for WiMax equipment.
The move marks BSNL's first big WiMax deployment -- though not as big as some believe, according to the carrier. While some media reports estimate the equipment contract to be worth $1 billion, BSNL tells Unstrung the planned WiMax expenditure is closer to $750 million.
BSNL will actually issue two WiMax tenders. The first one, issued last week, focuses on covering small towns and rural areas. BSNL says it wants about 1,000 mobile WiMax base stations, based on 802.16e technology, and 100,000 pieces of customer premises equipment. The project will be mostly funded by the government's universal service obligation (USO) fund for broadband access.
The second tender will cover certain large cities, "where broadband demand is high," and will be issued in the next two or three months, according to BSNL.
According to the The Economic Times, BSNL plans to cover 25,000 villages, provide broadband access to 40,000 primary and secondary schools, and set up 50,000 WiMax kiosks.
But some reckon the spoils for vendors will be a lot less than $750 million. Protip Ghose, VP of sales and marketing for Indian WiMax vendor Telsima Corp. , believes the tender will be worth $300 million at the most.
He adds that BSNL is trailing some of its rivals. "There are much bigger WiMax deployments happening in India," says Telsima's Ghose. "By the time BSNL offers the tender and starts its service, other operators will be offering services in just about every city."
Telsima, which supplies WiMax gear to Reliance Communications Ltd. and Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (VSNL), says it expects a "big bang" for WiMax services in India in the near future. Operators have been quiet about their WiMax plans, because they prefer to build out the network first, then have a "massive country-wide" launch, says Ghose.
Regardless of the actual value of the contract, BSNL's tender is sure to generate huge interest from vendors including Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola Inc., Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Nortel Networks Ltd., Nokia Siemens Networks , Aperto Networks Inc. , Alvarion Ltd., and Telsima.
The first tender for rural broadband coverage has gotten off to a shaky start, though. It has been postponed for about three weeks, because the government has not yet issued the spectrum or the policy for broadband wireless access. The policy, at least, is expected in the next month.
BSNL says it has been assured of getting at least 20 MHz of spectrum at the 2.5 GHz frequency band and expects the 2.5 GHz licenses to be issued in the next two to three months.
BSNL has already dipped its toe in the WiMax water with a small deployment of about 10 Aperto base stations to serve business customers in 10 cities.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Google's goal with the establishment of the Open Handset Alliance is to become the main provider of LBS and mobile advertisements on wireless handsets, replicating its success in PC-based ads and location-oriented services like Google Earth.
Key to success for this strategy will be getting a mobile-handset company to be first to market with a successful product that uses the Google software.
Can Google's Foray into Mobile Phones Succeed?
The promise : ubiquitous, mobile Internet access for millions of users worldwide.
The stakes: a market of 324 million units and advertising revenue of $3.8 billion by 2011.
The risk: embarking on an ambitious effort to establish a consortium to promote a new platform for mobile computing/communications, an endeavor that others have tried before - and have achieved only high-profile failure.
The news : Google's bold initiative to reshape the mobile-phone market by establishing a consortium of companies intended to promote a new platform for mobile-handset software that will bring Internet access to smart phone platforms.
For users, Google's move could mean that Internet access will no longer be limited to the confines of the PC.
For Google's rivals, the establishment of the consortium means the arrival of a powerful new competitor - one that could cannibalize their sales.
For Google, this initiative could allow it to achieve its goal of dominating the potentially lucrative market for mobile advertising and Location-Based Services (LBS).
Opening up handsets
Google on Monday announced the formation of the Open Handset Alliance, a multinational coalition of top technology and mobile communications firms. The Open Handset Alliance will focus on developing the Android software stack, a set of programs consisting of an operating system, middleware, a user-friendly interface and applications. Platforms based on Android are intended to deliver a superior user experience and improved Internet access compared to existing smartphones.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of Android is the fact that Google intends to offer the software to mobile-handset OEMs for free, or very close to free. This represents an alternative to existing software solutions like Windows Mobile, Symbian and various flavors of Linux, which incur considerable expenses for mobile-handset OEMs.
"The implication of this is that it short circuits an incumbent node in the value chain, potentially decreasing consumer prices for such high-end devices. However, it also cannibalizes a relatively lucrative revenue stream for operating system suppliers," said Francis Sideco, senior analyst, wireless communication, for iSuppli.
The smartphone market
Google's announcement comes at a time when interest in such products has been stimulated by the arrival of Apple's iPhone, which offers high-quality Internet access. Global shipments of smartphones are expected to rise to 324 million units by 2011, up from 124.3 million in 2007, according to iSuppli. The chart on the side bar presents iSuppli's forecast for global smartphone unit shipments. iSuppli defines smartphones as mobile handsets with open operating systems that allow functional expansion through sophisticated add-on applications. Thus, Google is addressing a market with high growth potential.
Google's goal with the establishment of the Open Handset Alliance is to become the main provider of LBS and mobile advertisements on wireless handsets, replicating its success in PC-based ads and location-oriented services like Google Earth. The stakes in this market are potentially huge, since iSuppli forecasts the advertising portion of worldwide mobile video revenue will rise to $3.8 billion in 2011, up from just $135 million in 2007.
Google's interest in this area is so great that it may consider an acquisition of a provider of map navigation software.
Prospects for success
To determine the chances for success of the Google venture, one can examine previous, similar initiatives.
The closest parallel to the Google venture can be found in the venture launched by Go Corp./AT&T Microelectronics to promote support for pen-based mobile computing. Similar to what Google is doing now, Go and AT&T in the early 1990s attempted to create an industry ecosystem for a new type of product that combined wireless communications and computing.
Like Google, it was to usher in a new category of mobile devices, in that case, the Personal Communicator. Go created an operating system and other software for pen-based computing and the company and AT&T attempted to work with other market participants to cultivate an ecosystem for pen-based hardware and software.
However, the AT&T/Go venture faced major competition from Microsoft, which announced its own pen-based extensions to the Windows operating system, although it did not bring them to market until a decade later. This pre-emptive strike helped bring an end to the AT&T/Go initiative.
Like AT&T/Go, Google is using a "camp strategy," which calls for the formulation of supply- chain partnerships with multiple companies in order to create required building blocks for its initiative, according to David Carnevale, vice president, multimedia content and distribution for iSuppli. Key to success for this strategy will be getting a mobile-handset company to be first to market with a successful product that uses the Google software.
"Google needs to get someone to be the first to make a phone that really creates the category and quickly results in millions of units sold," Carnevale said. "Previous efforts at establishing standards have largely been failures. Selling a lot of products creates de-facto market standards and that's why the iPhone has attracted so much attention."
Like the AT&T/Go effort, Google's plans face considerable competitive challenges, with the company's software vying against solutions from high-powered rivals like Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, Palm and Research in Motion.
However, Carnevale said the Google initiative stands a better chance of success than the AT&T/Go effort. This is mainly because Google's software plays to the company's strengths in providing Internet information to users.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
VoIP over 3G is an attractive proposition for carriers because it enables them to fit more phone calls into their scarce spectrum allocations, reduces operating expenses by combining fixed and mobile core networks, and allows for the launch of new services like push to talk and voice-integrated mash-ups.
Very interesting view point indeed and I guess 3 in Europe had the foresight to realise this and join the VoIP bandwagon rather than battle it as most of the other operators have decided to do.
Mobile VoIP on major growth curve
13 November 2007
Analyst firm Disruptive Analysis is prediction big things for VoIP over 3G, with the number of VoIP 3G users predicted to grow from virtually zero in 2007 to over 250 million within five years.
The anticipated explosion in VoIP over 3G usage would rapidly eclipse voice over wifi, including FMC and dual mode cellular phones, to become the preferred method of communication.
And perhaps more surprisingly, given the historical climate, the analyst believes that it will be the operators themselves which will be mainly responsible for the push towards VoIP being carried over cellular networks.
Dean Bubley, founder of Disruptive Analysis, reckons VoIPo3G is an attractive proposition for carriers because it enables them to fit more phone calls into their scarce spectrum allocations, reduces operating expenses by combining fixed and mobile core networks, and allows for the launch of new services like push to talk and voice-integrated mashups.
VoIP over 3G also fits well with the hot topic du jour, femtocells, as well as future generations of wireless technology such as 3GPP LTE, UMB and WiMAX, which are all IP platforms. Indeed, unless mobile operators continue to run separate voice networks in parallel, they will inevitably transition to VoIP at some point.
But Bubley argues that because these new radio technologies are three to five years away from mainstream deployment, what happens in the meantime will provide the major disruption to operator business models.
Already, some independent VoIP players are exploiting the fact that today's 3G networks can support VoIP. But at the same time, there is an increasing trend of carriers marketing 3G modems for PCs in direct competition with home broadband, and these are often packaged with carrier-branded VoIP applications.
Bubley believes that by 2012, most VoIP over 3G users will be using mobile carriers' own standards-based VoIP capabilities over 3G+ networks. However, a significant minority of about 60 million will be using independent offerings, many actually operated in partnership with carriers or retailers.
"3G networks are increasingly capable of supporting VoIP, for both traditional mobile operators and independent internet-based VoIP challengers. But while CDMA operators will benefit from VoIP being 'designed-in' to their newest networks, 3GPP/HSPA operators will have to wait for several years - a window of opportunity which will be exploited by the 'over the top' players. Rather than competing head-on, partnership models have the potential to create win-win propositions," said Bubley.
I expect to see more action in this segment with all the internet companies with mobility ambitions executing transactions in this arena.
Cha-Ching! Qualcomm Buys Into Mobile Banking
November 14, 2007
CDMA kingpin Qualcomm Inc. is making its first foray into the mobile banking market with plans for a $210 million cash acquisition of software company Firethorn Holdings LLC.
Atlanta, Ga.-based Firethorn develops mobile payment and banking applications for mobile phones that allow users to transfer cash and access account information. The company already has a major partnership deal with AT&T Inc. Firethorn's banking partners include Wachovia, SunTrust Bank, Regions Financial, BancorpSouth, Synovus and others.
Qualcomm has leapt into the mobile banking arena just as U.S. operators start to move beyond testing mobile banking systems and into commercial services. AT&T announced the Firethorn-developed banking application in March and plans to start loading the software on its handsets later this year.
Mobile payments systems currently tend to be more popular in other parts of the world than the U.S. The availability of cheap handsets and a lack of traditional banking infrastructure has driven the popularity of mobile payments systems in markets such as India and parts of Africa. Wireless banking systems are also now gaining acceptance in Europe and Asia.
Analysts, however, now expect demand for mobile banking services to grow and to help drive future revenues for wireless operators. Juniper Research Ltd. expects mobile payments will generate transactions worth approximately $22 billion by 2009.
Other companies in the mobile banking field include well-heeled startups such as Obopay Inc. , which has a deal with Verizon Wireless . It is also possible that other big names in tech such as Google could also make moves in this fast-evolving market.
Qualcomm expects the acquisition to close within 30 days.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
OpenSocial will unleash more powerful and pervasive social capabilities for the web, empowering developers to build far-reaching applications that users can enjoy regardless of the websites, web applications, or social networks they use.
The web is fundamentally better when it's social, and we are only just starting to see what's possible when you bring social information into different contexts on the web
One of the benefits of OpenSocial is the vast distribution network that developers will have for their applications
Google unveils OpenSocial for social applications
3 November 2007
Google has released OpenSocial - a set of common APIs for building social applications across the web - for developers of social applications and for websites that want to add social features.
OpenSocial will unleash more powerful and pervasive social capabilities for the web, empowering developers to build far-reaching applications that users can enjoy regardless of the websites, web applications, or social networks they use.
The release of OpenSocial marks the first time that multiple social networks have been made accessible under a common API to make development and distribution easier and more efficient for developers.
The OpenSocial APIs give developers (with users' permission) access to the data needed to build social applications: access to an application user's profile information, their list of friends, and the ability to share their activities with friends.
It also gives developers of social applications a single set of APIs to learn for their applications to run on any OpenSocial-enabled website.
"The web is fundamentally better when it's social, and we are only just starting to see what's possible when you bring social information into different contexts on the web," said Google SVP engineering Jeff Huber.
"There's a lot of innovation that will be spurred simply by creating a standard way for developers to run social applications in more places. With the input and iteration of the community, we hope OpenSocial will become a standard set of technologies for making the web social."
One of the benefits of OpenSocial is the vast distribution network that developers will have for their applications.
The sites that have already committed to supporting OpenSocial - Bebo, Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, mixi, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and Xing - represent an audience of about 200 million users globally.
The existence of this single programming model also helps websites that are eager to satisfy their users' interest in social features.
"Orkut has tens of millions of passionate users who are constantly clamoring for new ways to have fun with their friends and express themselves through orkut," said group product manager for orkut Amar Gandhi.
"By using OpenSocial to open up orkut as a platform for any developer, we can tap into the vast creativity of the community and make new features available to our users frequently."
The common method that OpenSocial provides for writing social applications means that websites can engage a much larger pool of third-party developers than they could otherwise.
They can direct resources that might have gone to maintaining a proprietary API and supporting its developer community to other projects.
"Our goal is to make life as simple as possible for developers who want to reach the global hi5 audience," said CEO of hi5 Ramu Yalamanchi. "OpenSocial provides a simple and practical open standard approach that encourages developers to build innovative applications."
So while Andoid and the OHA is good news for Linux on the whole, it could become a victim of its own success. Instead of reducing the current 200 to 400 flavours of mobile platform software, a successful Android stack could potentially double that number.
One of the biggest questions waiting to be answered is whether Android is a smartphone platform or a feature phone stack.
Jury out on Android; Linux knitting circle nonplussed
09 November 2007
The activation of Google's Android and the formation of the Open Handset Alliance earlier this week has raised more questions than answers, and nowhere more so than within the mobile Linux 'knitting circle' itself.
On Monday, Google and the newly formed Open Handset Alliance promised great things. The Android platform is described as a fully integrated mobile "software stack" that consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications.
It will be made available for free under the Apache progressive open source licence and will be given to operators and device manufacturers. Customers will be free to customise Android, "in order to bring to market innovative new products faster and at a much lower cost."
While it sounds great, the announcement has largely been dismissed as marketing bluster and many industry watchers are waiting until next week to see if Google and the OHA make good on their promises. Android has said it will release a Software Development Kit (SDK) on November 12, which is expected to hold the answer to many questions.
As Sean Moss-Pultz, creator of the OpenMoko open mobile Linux initiative puts it, "I really have no idea what this Android stuff is all about. They come out with a press release. Thirty-something partners. And no code."
This observation was echoed by Bill Weinberg, general manager of the LiPS Forum, another open mobile Linux proponent, who pointed out that, "operators want code, not standards."
And depending on what the Android platform delivers, it could be just what the operator community has been looking for.
"Apache is a benign open source licence that isn't really reciprocal," said Weinberg. "It doesn't prevent fragmentation and will allow Android to be taken in different directions," he said. "But this is really what operators want because they do not strive to interoperate, so it's in their interest to fork the Android stack in different directions."
So while Andoid and the OHA is good news for Linux on the whole, it could become a victim of its own success. Weinberg predicts that instead of reducing the current 200 to 400 flavours of mobile platform software, a successful Android stack could double that number.
The analysts are also sceptical of the 'openness' that the OHA and Android is promising.
Denmark-based Strand Consult called the announcement "old wine in a new bottle." Essentially, Android is just one of many OS platforms in the market. "History shows that open standards (in the mobile world) in practice means everyone can use the technology if they pay a royalty fee to the company that owns the IPRs for the solution," said john Strand of Strand Consult. "
Nokia calls its Series 60 platform an open platform, just as all other suppliers of OSs do, when really all you're doing is buying and paying for the technology they deliver."
And Nokia is another one waiting to see the code before making any judgement calls. Kari Tuutti, director of communications for the Multimedia unit at Nokia, said, "We will have to see what the alliance delivers in concrete terms. Time will tell if it bring any value."
In fact, one of the only operations to welcome Android with open arms is mobile Linux movement, the LiMo Foundation. But given that it shares a number of key members with the OHA, the news is hardly surprising.
One of the biggest questions waiting to be answered is whether Android is a smartphone platform or a feature phone stack. Google and the OHA are going to have their work cut out for them when it is taken into account that smartphones are really only 10 per cent of the overall handset market.
For Android to be successful and change the foundations of the application market, Strand reckons it needs to sell at least 250 million units - a number 25 times bigger than the market size Apple is targeting with its iPhone. And for this to take place, the smartphone market first has to explode in size.
With LTE gaining ground, both in terms of technical performance and deployments including potentially by Verizon, the window of opportunity for WiMax in the mobility arena in my view is limited but for carriers without 3G frequencies.
In addition, there is limited traction we have seen yet in the WiMax terminals arena.
Sprint Reconsiders WiMax Plans
November 9, 2007
Sprint Nextel Corp. has confirmed reports that its WiMax partnership with broadband wireless service provider Clearwire LLC has been scrapped and that it's now reviewing its business plans.
Under the terms of the companies' original agreement, announced in July, Sprint and Clearwire had planned to split deployment of WiMax in the U.S. between them -- with Sprint handling around 65 percent of the buildout and Clearwire the other 35 percent.
Sprint says it still plans to build out WiMax infrastructure and launch services in 2008, though the extent of its plans are now unknown. In a statement issued early Friday morning, Sprint said the two companies had "mutually agreed to terminate the Letter of Intent (LOI) signed in July 2007." The statement added: "The two companies could not resolve complexities associated with the LOI and failed to reach final agreement on the terms of the transaction."
Clearwire stated in its third-quarter results release, issued this morning, that the relationship as set out in the LOI was "likely to introduce a level of additional complexity to each party’s business that would be inconsistent with each company’s focus on simplicity and the customer experience."
Sprint, though, says it's not scrapping its WiMax rollout plans altogether. The carrier says it is "fully committed to developing WiMax services and deploying a WiMax network." However, it hasn't said whether it is still planning nationwide U.S. coverage. "
In light of this announcement, Sprint is reviewing its WiMax business plans and outlook and the company expects to comment further on these topics early next year," the operator added. And future collaboration with Clearwire is still in the cards. "
Sprint expects to continue to work together with Clearwire on future opportunities to enhance the deployment of robust WiMax capabilities through ongoing discussions that include the possibility of roaming, frequency interference coordination, spectrum exchanges, technology evolution and development and network standards," the carrier noted. Keith Cowan, Sprint's president of strategic planning and corporate initiatives, stated: "We are on track for soft launch late this year in the Chicago and Baltimore/Washington markets and commercial launch in 2008.
In line with Sprint's mandate of improving the customers' experience and simplifying our operations, we look forward to working with Clearwire on opportunities such as roaming and standards." The carrier said it will retain its Xohm services brand and will continue to work with its existing technology partners -- Intel Corp., Motorola Inc., Nokia Corp., and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.. In addition, Google will still develop a services portal for Sprint's WiMax customers.
Sprint's stock closed Thursday at $16.54. Clearwire's share price closed Thursday at $18.03. Clearwire this morning reported revenues of $41.3 million and a loss of $84 million in its third quarter. The service provider said it added 49,000 new customers in the quarter, taking its total to 348,000.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Sony Ericsson revamps music shop
07 November 2007, Telecoms.com
Sony Ericsson revamps music shop; shows new devices
Japanese Swedish joint venture, Sony Ericsson, jumped on the mobile music bandwagon on Wednesday, with an overhaul of its PlayNow music store.
The next generation PlayNow store will allow consumers access to a greatly expanded range of content, discoverable through features such as TrackID, which allows users to search for songs using snippets of lyrics.
Sony Ericsson's catalogue will also be expanded to offer a wider range of content including hundreds of games, themes and wallpapers, as well as millions of music tracks and thousands of mastertones from both major and independent labels.
Consumers will be able to access the PlayNow arena from their mobile phone and their PC, enabling over the air downloads to the phone or side loading of content from PC to mobile. The majority of the music catalogue will be offered in DRM-free format, the company said.
Roll-out of the enhanced PlayNow service will start in the second quarter of next year.
Sony Ericsson also unveiled a number of handsets ahead of the Christmas bonanza, including the web friendly K660 HSDPA device with preinstalled Google applications.
There's also the touchscreen W960 UMTS/wifi Walkman phone which packs a 2.6" display and 3.2 megapixel camera. As well as the W890 and W380 Walkman devices, which feature 2GB and 512MB storage on Sony memory sticks, respectively.
I guess Vodafone realised they weren't getting the expected traction with their approach and decided its probably better to collaborate than compete as if there is anybody today who can pull this off it is probably Nokia.
Voda opens up to Nokia's Ovi platform
07 November 2007
While Google is still getting its mobile strategy underway, Nokia is steaming ahead with its web services offensive, signing a deal with Vodafone on Wednesday.
The "world's largest mobile operator by revenue" and the world's largest handset manufacturer have agreed to launch an integrated suite of Vodafone services combined with Nokia Ovi services on a range of Nokia handsets.
A number of these handsets will be exclusive to Vodafone.
At the core of the initiative is easier access to the internet, as well as integration with the Nokia Music Store. This follows Vodafone's launch of the Omnifone MusicStation platform last week and suggests that Voda isn't willing to put all its eggs in one basket.
Despite speculation to the contrary, Jens Schulte-Bockum, global director of terminals at Vodafone Group, told telecoms.com in September that Vodafone was not necessarily hostile to vendor-led portals such as Nokia's Ovi project.
At the heart of this is an evolution that has seen operators' desire for all out control of the content value chain lessening as they move away from an operator controlled walled garden.
"This is a logical step for Vodafone to make, further improving our customer experience with many of the services already launched with leading Internet partners," said Frank Rovekamp, global chief marketing officer of Vodafone Group.
"Web2.0 is all about social networking and enabling people to connect with each other in new ways. Bringing location and context awareness to Web 2.0 services is the next stage in the web development and Nokia multimedia computers enable people to participate to their favourite internet services on-the-go", said executive vice president and general manager of Nokia Multimedia, Anssi Vanjoki.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Admob Offers Mobile Adverts to Facebook Developers
The mobile advertising agency, AdMob says that it has developed an advertising platform for Facebook's mobile site. The platform is aimed at the 3rd party developers who provide "applications" to facebook users. Now you can bite a zombie while mobile and the developer can earn money from that.
AdMob says that its service for Facebook Mobile is the first monetisation solution for Facebook Mobile developers. Using AdMob, developers retain complete control over the ads appearing in their application and will take advantage of mobile advertising leader's industry leading fill rates to create a consistent revenue stream.
"It is exciting to see great new user experiences like Facebook for mobile devices," said Omar Hamoui, CEO and Founder of AdMob. "AdMob's mobile platform empowers advertisers and application developers to take advantage of the growth of the mobile web by serving high quality targeted ads that users will value."
AdMob has released the code for a sample application, AdMob Footprints, which is a working example of a mobile application. This sample application can be used as a starting point for additional development.
Femtocells help to deepen coverage and alleviate frequency related issues. However, there is a cost and capacity trade-off involved which service providers need to evaluate.
Femto Forum wins backing of big guns
06 November 2007
The Femto Forum, an industry body promoting femtocell technology, has had a busy few months. When it launched in July, the big question was whether the major equipment vendors would sign up to the organisation. But with a member base that has gone from seven to 40 in three months, that question has been answered.
Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum, told telecoms.com that he was satisfied the Forum had won the support of the industry.
"Smaller players pioneered the movement but we also need the bigger vendors on board," he said. New members include Alcatel-Lucent, NEC, Nokia Siemens Networks, Motorola, and ZTE, with a few more of the big names on the cards. But there has also been strong support from the operator community with the likes of Bharti Airtel, Bouygues Telecom, Carphone Warehouse Networks, Orascom Telecom, and Telefonica O2 also joining the ranks.
"The operator input is driven more by strategy than technology," Saunders said. "Femtocells are seen as having a strong role in the network, especially to help deepen coverage."
Femtocells are low power wireless access points that operate in licensed spectrum to connect standard mobile devices to a mobile operator's network using residential DSL or cable broadband connections. Femtcells are more targeted at the domestic market than picocells, they are intended to be used in the home and will typically be connected to the consumer's fixed internet connection.
The Forum is now actively working with operators to ensure that members' products interoperate and meet the necessary demands to ensure successful widespread deployments. The Forum has created four working groups to focus respectively on: standardisation, including radio and physical aspects of the technology; network issues, including interoperability; regulation; and marketing and promotion of business models.
The Forum will also take a lead in the education consumers about the technology, particularly in the current climate of confusion about potential health risks posed by mobile networks. Risks which have been largely debunked by research.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I guess Google views this approach to be far less costly vis-a-vis established phone industry strategies and is hoping that it would position them to be an early leader in the mobile advertising market.
Also very interesting to see the likes of Qualcomm on board and supporting an open source license free platform.
Surprisingly that the only emerging market operator on board yet is China Mobile.
Google announces entry into mobile phone market with software
Reuters, Nov 5, 2007
By Sinead Carew and Eric Auchard
NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc on Monday spelled out long-rumored plans to enter the mobile phone market in 2008 by building software that could help the industry make the Internet run more easily on phones.
German mobile network powerhouse T-Mobile, Deutsche Telekom's mobile unit, plans next year to start selling Google-software-based phones, while China Mobile Ltd, the world's largest mobile carrier, and top carriers in Japan said they would offer Google-based handsets.
Google, which has no immediate plans to make phones of its own, said it was working with 30 companies, including phone makers Motorola Inc Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and High Tech Computer Corp. Also taking part are major communications chip makers, including Qualcomm Inc, Texas Instruments Inc and Marvell Technology Group Ltd.
The leading Internet company has long been rumored to be working on a new class of free or low-cost advertising-supported mobile phone of its own, popularly known as the "Gphone." Google's Schmidt would not rule out the company developing its own devices but said it had no imminent plans to do so.
The Web search company is looking to expand the range of Internet services it now offers through computer browsers to the far larger mobile phone market, where a range of conflicting handset designs and software standards have hobbled Internet use.
The move will put Google in competition with major mobile device operating systems backed by Nokia and Microsoft Corp. A number of Google's partners said they would continue to work with those rival systems.
Google said it aimed to deliver software kits to handset makers in a week and sees phones based on its platform becoming available in the second half of 2008.
"It will open the mobile phone to do things that people now do on their PCs," said Todd Greenwald, a financial analyst with Nollenberger Capital Partners in San Francisco.
"This approach is going to be far less costly," Greenwald said, contrasting Google's open partnership to proprietary phone industry strategies. "It should position Google to be an early leader in the mobile advertising market."
The Mountain View, California-based company has set up an industry consortium including 30 partners so far that it calls the Open Handset Alliance (http://www.openhandsetalliance.com/).
It said the software system, known as Android, will be "the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices."
Android was the name of a small start-up Google acquired in 2005 that was founded by Andy Rubin, a veteran Silicon Valley gadget designer. Rubin earlier this decade created the innovative "Sidekick" mobile Internet device while at start-up Danger Inc.
Sprint Nextel Corp, the No. 3 U.S. mobile service and a member of the alliance, said the system will be based on open-source Linux code and available to phone makers and carriers without license fees.
It is expected to support applications from different developers as well as Google Web search, e-mail and mapping, according to Sprint.
Sprint said it has not committed to putting the software on its phones but is in negotiations with Google about financial terms with a view to offering the system to its customers eventually. Sprint did not give a time frame.
John Garcia, Sprint senior vice president for product management, said an agreement between Google and Sprint could cover everything from delivering mobile ads to putting Google's brand on phones designed especially to support its operating system.
"Rather than trying to restrict customers and saying you can only use my services, which we think has limited growth potential, we'd rather give customers exactly what they want and benefit that way," said Garcia.
Google shares were up 1.9 percent, or $13.32, to $724.57 on Nasdaq after reaching a new intraday high of $730.23 earlier.
The stock traded around $500 in mid-August before speculation about the impact of Google's push into mobile phones -- as well as new forms of online advertising, such as video -- propelled shares to current record levels.