Parallel Wireless is Hiring

Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

Monday, 19 June 2017

Network Sharing is becoming more relevant with 5G

5G is becoming a case of 'damned if you do damned if you don't'. Behind the headlines of new achievements and faster speeds lies the reality that many operators are struggling to keep afloat. Indian and Nigerian operators are struggling with heavy debt and it wont be a surprise if some of the operators fold in due course.

With increasing costs and decreasing revenues, its no surprise that operators are looking at ways of keeping costs down. Some operators are postponing their 5G plans in favour of Gigabit LTE. Other die hard operators are pushing ahead with 5G but looking at ways to keep the costs down. In Japan for example, NTT DOCOMO has suggested sharing 5G base stations with its two rivals to trim costs, particularly focusing efforts in urban areas.

In this post, I am looking to summarise an old but brilliant post by Dr. Kim Larsen here. While it is a very well written and in-depth post, I have a feeling that many readers may not have the patience to go through all of it. All pictures in this post are from the original post by Dr. Kim Larsen.

Before embarking on any Network sharing mission, its worthwhile asking the 5W's (Who, Why, What, Where, When) and 2H's (How, How much).

  • Why do you want to share?
  • Who to share with? (your equal, your better or your worse).
  • What to share? (sites, passives, active, frequencies, new sites, old sites, towers, rooftops, organization, ,…).
  • Where to share? (rural, sub-urban, urban, regional, all, etc..).
  • When is a good time to start sharing? During rollout phase, steady phase or modernisation phase. See picture below. For 5G, it would make much more sense that network sharing is done from the beginning, i.e., Rollout Phase

  • How to do sharing?. This may sound like a simple question but it should take account of regulatory complexity in a country. The picture below explains this well:

  • How much will it cost and how much savings can be attained in the long term? This is in-fact a very important question because the end result after a lot of hard work and laying off many people may result in an insignificant amount of cost savings. Dr. Kim provides detailed insight on this topic that I find it difficult to summarise. Best option is to read it on his blog.

An alternative approach to network sharing is national roaming. Many European operators are dead against national roaming as this means the network loses its differentiation compared to rival operators. Having said that, its always worthwhile working out the savings and seeing if this can actually help.

National Roaming can be attractive for relative low traffic scenarios or in case were product of traffic units and national roaming unit cost remains manageable and lower than the Shared Network Cost.

The termination cost or restructuring cost, including write-off of existing telecom assets (i.e., radio nodes, passive site solutions, transmission, aggregation nodes, etc….) is likely to be a substantially financial burden to National Roaming Business Case in an area with existing telecom infrastructure. Certainly above and beyond that of a Network Sharing scenario where assets are being re-used and restructuring cost might be partially shared between the sharing partners.

Obviously, if National Roaming is established in an area that has no network coverage, restructuring and termination cost is not an issue and Network TCO will clearly be avoided, Albeit the above economical logic and P&L trade-offs on cost still applies.

If this has been useful to understand some of the basics of network sharing, I encourage you to read the original blog post as that contains many more details.

Futher Reading:

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Smartphones, Internet Trends, etc

Every few years I add Mary Meeker's Internet Trends slides on the blog. Interested people can refer to 2011 and  2014 slide pack to see how world has changed.

One of the initial slide highlights that the number of smartphones are reached nearly 3 billion by end of 2016. If we looked at this excellent recent post by Tomi Ahonen, there were 3.2 billion smartphones at the end of Q1 2017. Here is a bit of extract from that.


Rank . OS Platform . . . . Units . . . . Market share  Was Q4 2016
1 . . . . All Android . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,584 M . . . 81 % . . . . . . ( 79 %)  
a . . . . . . Pure Android/Play . . . . 1,757 M . . . 55%
b . . . . . . Forked Anroid/AOSP . . . 827 M . . . 26%
2 . . . . iOS  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 603 M . . . 19 % . . . . . . ( 19 %) 
Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 M  . . . . 1 % . . . . . . (   1 %)
TOTAL Installed Base . 3,211 M smartphones (ie 3.2 Billion) in use at end of Q1, 2017

Source: TomiAhonen Consulting Analysis 25 May 2017, based on manufacturer and industry data


Rank . . . Manufacturer . Units . . . Market Share . Was Q4 2016 
1 (2) . . . Samsung . . . .  79.4 M . . 22.7% . . . . . . . ( 17.9% ) 
2 (1) . . . Apple  . . . . . . . 50.8 M . . 14.5% . . . . . . . ( 18.0% ) 
3 (3) . . . Huawei  . . . . . . 34.6 M . . . 9.9% . . . . . . . (10.4% ) 
4 (4) . . . Oppo . . . . . . . . 28.0 M . . . 8.0% . . . . . . . (   7.1% ) 
5 (5) . . . Vivo . . . . . . . . . 22.0 M . . . 6.3% . . . . . . . (   5.6% ) 
6 (9) . . . LG  . . . . . . . .  . 14.8 M . . . 4.2% . . . . . . . (   3.3% ) 
7 (7) . . . Lenovo .  . . . . . 13.2 M . . . 3.8% . . . . . . . (   3.8% )
8 (8) . . . Gionee . . . . . . . .9.6 M . . . 2.7% . . . . . . .  (   3.5% )
9 (6) . . . ZTE  . . . . . . . . . 9.2 M . . . 2.6% . . . . . . . (   5.2% ) 
10 (10) . TCL/Alcatel . . .  8.7 M . . . 2.5% . . . . . . . (  2.4% ) 
Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80.2 MTOTAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350.4 M

Source: TomiAhonen Consulting Analysis 25 May 2017, based on manufacturer and industry data

This year, the number of slides have gone up to 355 and there are some interesting sections like China Internet, India Internet, Healthcare, Interactive games, etc. The presentation is embedded below and can be downloaded from slideshare

Monday, 13 January 2014

My observations on Mobiles and OTT Apps in India

What a change 2 years can make. The last time I was in India, people were reluctant to use data, smartphones were far and few and even those smartphones were just status symbols rather than for actual 'smart' use.

This time a lot of things were very different. I found that there was a Phablet craze going on. No sooner were people starting to get used to these big screen devices they realised how many things they could do. The well to do were buying Samsung devices and the people who did not want to spend big bucks were content with the little known brands.

The Domo phablet on the left in the picture above costs around 8000 (£80/$130) and the Maxx on the right is roughly ₹5500 (£55/$90). Both these come with 1 year warranty.

There were also quite a few ads using celebrities promoting Phablets. Its good to see people spending on these devices. Unlike UK where most of these devices are subsidised on a contract, people in India prefer pre-paid option and buying the phone outright.

I have to admit that even though I am a fan of these big screen devices, I find the Samsung Galaxy Tab just a bit too big for the use as a phone (see pic above).

It was also good to see that people have embraced the 3G data usage as well. I got a 6GB package for roughly 1000 (£10/$16). I found that people complained about the speeds and were prepared to pay more for 4G (faster data rates). I also noticed that a few people were not aware of Wi-Fi and the fixed broadband. I was told that the fixed broadband was capped, offered similar prices and could be quite unreliable. I guess Wireless is helping in India where the fixed Infrastructure may still be an issue in many places.

I have to mention here that I did not meet anyone who was using an iPhone. This could be due to iPhone being ridiculously expensive and people may be thinking why pay a high price for such a small screen. A comparison of iPhone prices worldwide showed that the price of iPhone 5S as % of GDP per capita (PPP) is the highest in India. See here.

Another area of observation was SMS and OTT apps. I remember spending a lot of time trying to convince people to use OTT apps for messaging as it would be cheaper for International messages. Well, now it seems everyone has adopted it whole heartedly. One of the problems with SMS in India is that you get too much Spam SMS and sometimes the operators are the culprits. There is no way to send a stop for these SMS messages. With OTT Apps, you know who is sending you messages and you can block the offenders.

There are many OTT Apps which are popular like Hike, Line, WeChat, WhatsApp, etc. The winner though is undoubtedly WhatsApp. I met an acquaintance whose has stopped using emails for business and now relies completely on WhatsApp. Then there were others who loved it because of Group chat facility.

There were many reasons why WhatsApp is a winner. Along with a simple interface and Group chat facility, one of the other reasons pointed out was that the facility to see when the person was last online was very useful. Recently WhatsApp introduced facility to send Voice messages. This helped it acquire some of the WeChat users.

It was good to see the beginnings of the mobile revolution in India. Wonder what my next trip will show me.

Please note that this article is based on what I observed in Mumbai among friends and family. In no way should this be treated as  detailed research.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Is the Global Mobile Roaming model broken?

Yesterday, I noticed some heavyweights discussing roaming prices on Twitter. It is embedded below using the new Twitter embed feature:

Those who follow me on Twitter may have noticed me ranting about the roaming prices recently so I thought that this is a perfect opportunity to put my thoughts down.

As being discussed above, I went on the websites of two UK operators and found out about their roaming rates to India and The USA and they are as follows:

 It should be noted that there is a better rate available with some kind of bundle opt-in from both the operators and I have not shown about the other UK operators but they offer a similar sort of rate so I am not trying to single out O2 and/or Vodafone.

Since LTE is 'All-IP' network my interest is more from Data point of view rather than the voice point of view. A colleague who went to India recently decided that enough is enough and he bought a SIM in India locally. Apparently is just a bit too difficult to get SIM in India if you are not an Indian resident, nevertheless he somehow managed it. The rates as shown below was INR 24 for 100 MB of data.

Rs. 24 is something like $0.50 or £0.35. You see my problem regarding the data rates? People may be quick to point out here that India has the cheapest data rates in the world. On the other hand we look at US, the rates are as follows:

Even if we assume $15 / 1GB data, its far cheaper than the roaming rate which may be something like,  £3/MB = £3000/GB or £6/MB = £6000/GB.

I blogged about all the interesting developments that have been happening in LTE World Summit regarding the roaming solutions but what is the point of having all these solutions if the operators cant work out a way to reduce these costs. Or is it that they do not want to reduce these costs as they are a good source of income?

The operators complain that the OTT services are taking business away from them and turning them into dumb data pipes but to a lot of extent its their fault. People like me who travel often dont want to spend loads of cash on data and have worked out a way around it. Most of the places I visit have WiFi, most of my work is not urgent enough and I can wait till I am in a WiFi coverage area. In some parts of the world, still I have to buy an expensive WiFi access but compared to the roaming rates, its still cheap so I have stopped complaining about it. My decision to book a hotel depends of reviews, free breakfast and free WiFi. Some of our clients who give us their phone to use abroad strictly inform us that data should not be turned on unless its a matter of life and death.

If the operators dont change their strategies and work out a better solution for the roaming rates I am afraid that their short term gains will only lead to long term pains.

Do you have an opinion? I am interested in hearing.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Summary of 'The Future of Wireless International Conference' #fwic

Here is a summary of the Future of Wireless International conference held in Cambridge on the 27th and 28th of June 2011. The summary is a compilation of my notes with the tweets sent using the #FWIC tag.


Roberto di Pietro, VP Product Marketing and Business Development, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies
• 26 million 3G connections being added every month
• 226% growth is seen in smartphones from 2010 - 2014
• Mobile as a single platform for developers.
• Devices smart enough to know which network to connect to
• Qualcomm arrived on the scene 6 months after everyone but they are the only ones with 4G, 3G and 2G multi-mode chips
• In 2012 they would be releasing the new System Architecture with Single / Dual / Quad cores upto 2.5GHz (Snapdragon next gen)
• Question: Will smartphones die in the future when people move to tablets for everything except for voice/sms and they get simpler phones for that
• Answer: Smartphones will co-exist as companion devices with the tablets and will continue growing for a while.
• In other discussions: QoS will be a big differentiator and offloading would certainly be needed. Femtocells are going to form part of any strategy.
• Network signaling load and need for developers to improve apps design noted in qualcomm keynote here in cambridge

Mr. BongGoon Kwak, Senior Vice President, The head of Mobile Business Fast Incubation Business Department Mobile Business Group in Korea Telecom.
• KT adding 0.5 million users every month.
• Mobile data predicted to grow 26 fold by 2015 (6.2 exabytes/month)
• E = MC^2. Where E = evolution, M = mobile and C = connectivity
• mobile banking users in Korea increased 100% to 18 million due to smartphones
• smartphone ARPU up 32% on feature phone
• KakaoTalk ( users have increased which has in turn reduced the SMS ARPU
• NaaS (Network as a Service) is a new trend

Mr. Edward Zhou, CMO of Western European Region, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
• states they have 5300 people in Europe but only 65% are from local market
• No. 2 telecom solution provider with revenues of $28 billion
• has 110,000+ employees with 150 nationalities worldwide, more than half work in R&D
• By 2020 there will be 5.5B MBB (Mobile Broadband) users as opposed to 1.5B FBB (Fixed Broadband)
• 70% of companies (especially SMEs) will be using cloud based services.

Mr. R. Swaminathan, Senior Executive Vice President, Reliance Communications Ltd.
• Low cost mobile networks and devices helped drive innovation in low cost business models in Rural India
• Customisation is a mecessity for the rural market.
• One offering includes a fixed phone that uses Mobile as a backhual using the Yagi antenna
• 15 operators in rural India. Voice tariff went from 20cents to 1 cent. Entry cost reduced by 95%
• ARPU in rural India is $2.
• Telecom operators have done innovations to keep costs to minimum
• Phone to tablet is best evolution for Indian rural market, using visual images and txt to speech technologies not smartphones
• Good to have some text to voice and vice-versa apps
• Ends with saying that there are 870 million people in rural India and possible market size is $25 billion that can be exploited

Kanwar Chadha, Chief Marketing Officer and Board Member of Cambridge Silicon Radio
• Innovations in location-aware wire-free connected world
• Spoke on view of local business vs global, very entertaining perspective , assume nothing and be careful of interpretation
• Example is the initial GPS cost $3700 but was still successful in Japan because guys wanted to show it off to their dates.
• Maslow's hierarchy of needs dont work for India as its more important to have entertainment (TV) than roof.
• FM very succesful in India but nowhere else.
• Sat Navs will not succeed in India because addresses and maps not very well mapped. Things like coupons, sms will be very successful

Innovation Hothouse: Mr. Christian Leicher, Member of the Executive Board at Rohde & Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG.

Session on start-ups very interesting
• Augmentra talked of GPS based smartphone apps. Users can share and get paid when someone else download what they share. Their guidebooks, etc are trusted by half the search and rescue mountain teams
• Oxems have a solution for the new plastic pipes that are being deployed. The normal metal detectors cant detect these pipes so they have a RFID based solution.
• Pneumacare has a non-contact medicare solution that can be used to track people with respiratory problems
• has a unique app discovery solution that can reach upto 6 millions users in 90 different countries.
• Cambridge temperature concepts has a solution that can increase the chances of fertility without IVF to the same levels after 6 months use.

Interesting points from the breakout sessions:
• Mike Bowerman of Alcatel-Lucent: Soon we will see pricing based on time of day, location, etc. Infrastructure sharing lower costs but it means that coverage from some location can completely vanish.
• John frieslaar of Huawei talks about how many will be connected to networks and the cause of demand
• Stephen temple says industry must spur innovation not gov.agree but will gov let us?
• 75% of UK mobile data consumption is driven by BBC iplayer, YouTube and adult videos says Sam Leinhardt of Penthera
• Ed Candy, 3: Apps evolving from Handset Apps to Widgets to Intelligent Browsers based
• Content is king but context is queen
• O2 in UK started putting data caps and lost 7K customers in London. They were using 7% of network capacity so O2 happy to get rid of them

Stephen Baily, General Manager, BBC R&D
• BBC R&D iPlayer usage on tablets is 3million/mth 2% of total
• Dual screens being explored by BBC with a universal controller API. The proposal has been submitted to W3C.
• Working on Dual-Screen concept where iPad becomes a complimentary device to TV (See
• BBC R&D iPlayer usage on tablets is 3million/mth 2% of total
• BBC is looking again at mobile broadcasting based on DVB-t2m standard
• 90% of broadcast os normal schedule than the time shifted one.

Dr. Tapani Ryhänen, Laboratory Director, heading Eurolab (Cambridge and Lausanne) of Nokia Research Centre
• Imagining tomorrow devices, creating technology today
• Morph concept video

• Nokia Research Center in Cambridge working in lots of futuristic technologies like Data driven Apps, Stretchable electronics, Bend to zoom, flexible phone and display
• Another video that I wasnt able to locate on Youtube

Few points from The "Can big wireless deliver on the promise of a big society?" Panel Debate
• Motorola's David Chater-Lea: "Due to spectrum needs we're going to see breakdown of barriers between commercial & private networks"
• Neul/Ofcom's William Webb: "To get a truely wireless society we need more small cells and increased backhaul. Then we need FTTH"
• Otherwise we're going to have situation where wireless will be held back by the wired network
• Public safety: should governments use private networks or commercial networks & give priority to emergency services over customers?

Graham Fisher, Former CEO of Orange Labs R&D, BathCube:
• Net neutrality doesn't work in a world of finite resources
• High end phones expectaions include screens that can work in sunlight, AR, 3D, etc.
• When it comes to retail price plans mobile operators are all in a bargain basement, they need to reintroduce value

Dan Reed, Corporate Vice President, Technology Policy and Strategy and eXtreme Computing Group at Microsoft
• The uber change happening is collision of computing/comms/content. We need to work out how to work together

Ken Blakeslee, Chairman of WebMobility Ventures:
• Digital natives vs digital immigrants
• Is mobile too inward looking?
• We're moving from hardware to software driven marketplace where communities are the new currency
• Users can be bought and bribed, communities can not

Interesting Obervation:
• Cambridge Wireless - run largely by women as an organisation but 95% of attendees at Future of Wireless conf #fwic are male

Poll of #fwic audience returns 50:50 re: whether mobile infrastructure should be common wholesale solution vs competitive between operators

Hopefully you have enjoyed this summary!

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Indian entrepreneur spirit

In India you can fix and recycle anything and everything. The last time I visited India, I took an old Nokia phone whose screen and buttons were not working. The charger socket was damaged. There was no battery. The cover was damaged and there was nothing right in that. It did have sentimental value for someone who wanted it fixed if possible.

I gave it to someone to get it fixed and then when I saw it again after a week it was all nice and new. I has to pay 1400 Rupees (approx. £20/$30) but it was invaluable for the person who wanted it fixed.

I read a very interesting Blog article by Shekhar Kapur yesterday and I decided to share it with you. Shekhar Kapur is well known actor/director of movies and his well known international movies as director include Elizabeth and Bandit Queen.

You can read the complete blog article here.

Back in UK, I do nowadays see mobile repair shops springing up in different places but I still think they are far behind these Indian repair shops which dont have much equipment and components but can still fix your item miraculously.

I also found another Interesting blog that has some interesting articles on the theme of 'Indian Entrepreneur Spirit'. See here.

Monday, 19 April 2010

All eyes on TD-LTE in India and China

The TD-SCDMA and Long Term Evolution (TD-LTE) network will be massively deployed in China, the world's largest telecommunications country by number of telecoms users, in 2010, globally premier international market research and consulting firm Infonetics Research said in a forecast report.
More and more mobile carriers have started developing the LTE, including Verizon Communications Inc., China Mobile Ltd., and China Telecom Corporation Ltd., Infonetics noted. There will be no more than twenty LTE networks in the world at the end of 2010.

China Mobile Communications, the largest mobile telecom carrier in China, will establish three experimental TD-LTE (time division-long term evolution) networks separately in three coastal cities - Qingdao, Xiamen and Zhuhai - beginning the third quarter of 2010, according to the China-based China Business News Daily.

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the carrier, handset and component makers, and handset solution suppliers in China in late 2008 began to cooperate for the development of TD-LTE in three phases, the report said.

The first-phase trial of technological concepts completed in June 2009, and the ongoing R&D and experiments in the second phase will be finished at the end of June 2010, the report indicated, adding the third phase will begin with China Mobile setting up three trial networks in the third quarter.

China Mobile Communications, the largest mobile telecom carrier in China, on April 15 inaugurated its first experimental TD-LTE network at the site of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

The trial network consists of 17 outdoor TD-LTE base stations made by Huawei Technologies completely covering the 5.28km square site and will be used to provide mobile high-definition multimedia services.

ZTE and Datang Mobile Communications Equipment as well as Motorola and Alcatel-Lucent have also set up TD-LTE access points inside a number of pavilions.

Motorola, Inc.'s Networks business has already announced in February that it has successfully deployed a TD-LTE network at the Expo Center for World Expo 2010 Shanghai China, and completed the first indoor over-the-air (OTA) TD-LTE data sessions at the site. These advancements demonstrate another milestone of collaborative industry efforts on TD-LTE commercialization, reaffirming Motorola's commitment to address the future needs of TDD spectrum operators in China and around the world.

These milestones follow the announcement by China Mobile Communications Corporation (CMCC) in 2009, that Motorola was selected as main equipment supplier to provide indoor TD-LTE coverage for pavilions at Shanghai Expo. During the Shanghai Expo, Motorola will provide an advanced end-to-end TD-LTE solution and the world's first TD-LTE USB dongles. Motorola will also leverage its orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) expertise with professional services to deploy, maintain and optimize these leading-edge networks. Visitors will be able to experience applications such as high-definition video on demand, remote monitoring and high-speed Internet access services.

Motorola, Inc.'s Networks business announced on April 16th that it showcased an end-to-end TD-LTE demonstration via the world's first TD-LTE USB dongle at the Shanghai Expo site to support the "TD-LTE Showcase Network Opening Ceremony" hosted in Shanghai on April 15. Delegates at the ceremony experienced applications that run over a TD-LTE network via USB dongles, including high-definition video wall (simultaneous 24 video streams), remote monitoring and high-speed Internet browsing applications. This latest advancement demonstrates a major milestone of the collaborative industry efforts in building a healthy TD-LTE device ecosystem, reaffirming Motorola's commitment to TDD spectrum operators around the world.

Motorola, a leading provider of TD-LTE technology, and China Mobile share the same commitment to accelerating TD-LTE commercialization and globalization. "We are very excited to support China Mobile in bringing the world's first TD-LTE USB dongle demonstration enabled by our TD-LTE system," said Dr. Mohammad Akhtar, corporate vice president and general manager, Motorola Networks business in Asia Pacific. "A healthy devices ecosystem has always been critical to the development, commercialization and success of wireless network technologies. We are working closely with partners to drive this ecosystem as demonstrated by the advancement announced today. TD-LTE is now a commercial reality and we are very pleased to see that industry players are joining forces to accelerate TD-LTE globalization."

Interest in TD-LTE continues to grow because of several key factors: the low cost of TDD spectrum that is particularly attractive to emerging and developing markets; operators' continuing need for more capacity and spectrum; and the ability to hand-off between TD-LTE and LTE FDD networks. In effect, this ability to roam between LTE FDD and TD-LTE means operators can use TD-LTE networks to augment their FDD LTE network for more capacity or other applications such as video broadcasting, while operators choosing to use TD-LTE as their "main" network can still offer their subscribers the ability to roam to other operators' FDD LTE networks in different countries. Motorola is one of the few vendors in the industry that has expertise in, and is committed to investing in both FDD-LTE and TD-LTE, as well as WiMAX. By leveraging its orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) expertise and WiMAX legacy, Motorola has built up its leadership position in TD-LTE with a number of industry-firsts.

Nokia Siemens Networks has inaugurated a TD-LTE Open Lab at its Chinese Hangzhou R&D facility. TD-LTE smartphone and terminal manufacturers will be able to use the lab to test the interoperability and functionality of their devices across TD-LTE networks.

"The development of terminals and devices has always been a bottleneck in the roll-out of new mobile technology," said Mr. Sha Yuejia, vice president of China Mobile. "We are thus more than happy to see that Nokia Siemens Networks has established a cutting-edge terminal testing environment, an initiative that we support wholeheartedly. After all, a healthy ecosystem needs efforts from all stakeholders."

Nokia Siemens Networks' Open Lab will provide an end-to-end testing environment for verifying the compatibility of terminals and devices with the company's TD-LTE network products and solutions. The lab will also provide consultancy and testing services to device manufacturers. Nokia Siemens Networks' TD-LTE R&D center in Hangzhou is fully integrated into the company's global network of LTE Centers of Competence.

Providing a live TD-LTE experience to operators in the region, Nokia Siemens Networks also recently kicked off a nationwide TD-LTE road show in China. Beginning in Beijing, the road show will cover more than ten provinces in three months, demonstrating the most advanced TD-LTE technology and applications.

In India, Even as the government hopes to raise around $9 billion from the 3G and BWA auctions, foreign telcos waiting in the wings are eager to unfurl a new technology — TD-LTE —which is akin to 4G technology.

US-based Qualcomm and Sweden's Ericcson aim to piggyback on TD-LTE, hoping that it will help them gain a toe-hold in India, the world's fastest growing mobile market. Qualcomm is to participate in the broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum auction. If it does secure its bid in the auction, India could well become the first country after China to roll out TD-LTE.

TD-LTE, or Time Division Long Term Evolution, caters to peak download speeds of 100 Mbps on mobile phones, compared to the 20 Mbps for 3G and 40 Mbps for Wimax. LTE brings to the table additional spectrum, more capacity, lower cost, and is essential to take mobile broadband to the mass market.

The government has slotted the sale of two 2.3 GHz blocks of spectrum on April 11, providing 20 MHz spectrum in each of the country's 22 telecom circles. The base price has been set at $ 385 million. However, Qualcomm will need an Indian partner for its TD-LTE foray in the country since foreign direct investment is limited to 74%.

The US telco aims to use the 2.3 GHz spectrum band offered for TD-LTE-based BWA services. Sources in the know told TOI that the company would bid aggressively to corner one of the two BWA slots up for sale. There are 11 bidders for the BWA auction.

Asked to comment on the market dynamics, Sandeep Ladda, executive director, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), said: "Though the Indian market is huge, it won't be smooth sailing post auction. We are adding 1 crore customers a month and in January, we added 1.9 crore customers, but the implementation of the new technology has its own cost. And India is a very cost conscious market."

Eager to play by the rules in India, Qualcomm has notified that it would enter into a joint venture with an Indian partner to launch its services and later exit from the joint venture after the network becomes operable.
Meanwhile, The WiMAX Forum has gone on the defensive during the WiMAX Forum Congress Asia in Taipei, Taiwan. The group is speeding up its time table to deliver the next generation of WiMAX--a reaction to heavy data use among WiMAX subscribers as well as the looming threat posed by Qualcomm and Ericsson's lobbying for TD-LTE in India.

Recently, the forum launched a global initiative to accelerate advanced WiMAX features that would double peak data rates and increase average and cell edge end user performance by 50 percent.

Mo Shakouri, vice president with the WiMAX Forum, said enhancements to the current generation of WiMAX weren't on the forum's roadmap, but were brought to the forefront at the urging of several WiMAX operators already facing capacity crunches. The forum reports that the average usage of data on WiMAX networks is close to 10 GB. Clearwire recently reported that mobile users average more than 7 GB of usage per month. In Russia, mobile WiMAX operator Yota sees more than 1 GB per month in data traffic from subscribers using its HTC smartphone. For laptops, it's 13 GB per month.

"Demand for data is moving so fast that we were pushed by many people to add this functionality," Shakouri said.

The WiMAX Forum has also been prodded to announce more detailed plans for 802.16m, and step up the timeline for its development via a new group called the WiMAX 2 Collaboration Initiative, which is made up of vendors Samsung, Alvarion, Motorola, ZTE, Sequans, Beceem, GCT Semiconductor and XRONet. The companies will work in tandem with the WiMAX Forum and WiMAX operators to accelerate the next-generation standard. WiMAX 2, the marketing name for the 802.16m standard, is expected to expand capacity to 300 Mbps peak rates via advances in antennas, channel stacking and frequency re-use.

The forum previously forecast 802.16m would hit in 2012 or 2013. But increasing demands for data--coupled with Qualcomm and Ericsson urging Indian mobile broadband license bidders to go with TD-LTE--motivated the forum to put some stakes in the ground and declare that WiMAX 2 equipment will meet certification by the end of 2011.

"There has been a lot of noise about TD-LTE, and the WiMAX Forum had not specifically given dates regarding timelines for 802.16m," Shakouri said. "Basically our announcement around 802.16m came about because of the noise in India."

The formation of the WiMAX 2 Collaboration Initiative is a marked change from the way the first generation of WiMAX was developed. Sprint Nextel was the entity driving the majority of the standards work as it was eager to get to market and begin building an ecosystem. Vendors are now taking the lead and driving equipment readiness before the 802.16m standard is finalized by the end of this year. Shakouri said the standard is 95 percent finished.

"Those companies are going to take a more active role inside the forum," Shakouri said. "They have all come together to speed up the process."

The group of vendors plans to collaborate on interoperability testing, performance benchmarking and application development before the WiMAX Forum establishes its certification program to narrow the gap between the finalized standard and commercial rollouts.
So how much of a threat is TD-LTE to WiMAX? Shakouri said the answer depends on spectrum decisions. "At this moment, the spectrum we are focusing on is separate, aside from what Qualcomm announced in India," Shakouri said. He also said that a TD-LTE ecosystem is at least two to three years behind WiMAX.

Many analysts speculate that TD-LTE will become the crossover technology that will prompt WiMAX operators to flip to LTE. Clearwire was part of a group of operators and vendors that last month asked the 3GPP standards body to begin working on specifications that would enable TD-LTE to be deployed in the 2.6 GHz band, which Clearwire uses for WiMAX. During the CTIA Wireless 2010 trade show last month, Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow reiterated the company's interest in deploying LTE when the technology catches up to WIMAX. He also called for one standard down the road.
Another initiative the forum is announcing this week is the launch of its Open Retail Initiative, a global program aimed at driving WiMAX into consumer devices sold directly or through retail channels that can be activated by the consumer over the air on the network. If you remember the evangelism of early WiMAX advocates like Barry West, this capability was supposed to be the Holy Grail of the technology.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Indian Mobile Users just keep increasing

India, the world's fastest-expanding mobile market, added more than 19 million cellular users last month to post the biggest monthly growth ever, according to official data Thursday.

India's number of mobile subscribers swelled by 19.10 million in December after climbing by 17.65 million the previous month, driven by some of the world's cheapest calling rates.

December's increase was a record for monthly wireless subscriber growth, according to figures from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) posted on its website.

India's mobile phone companies added an average of nearly 15 million subscribers a month in 2009 to bring the total number of cellular users to 525.15 million - up 51.4 percent from December 2008.

The sector's explosive growth has drawn a flood of global entrants in the past few years, sparking a cut-throat billing war among the players which has hit revenues and profits.

The new players that have beaten a path to the country of nearly 1.2 billion people include Norway's Telenor, Japan's NTT DoCoMo, Britain's Vodafone and Russia's Sistema JSFC, hoping to boost revenues and make up for saturated domestic markets.

At least another four cellular company launches are expected in the first half of this year in India including Emirates Telecommunications Corp, or Etisalat, India's Datacom Solutions and Loop Telecom.

With the new users added in December, 45 out of every 100 people in India now have a mobile phone. Total teledensity including fixed-line users now stands at 48 percent of the population.

The Cellular Operators' Association of India forecasts the country's mobile phones will number one billion by 2013.

But industry leaders and analysts say the cellular market is getting too crowded and forecast a savage period of consolidation in which the number of players will get whittled down to around half a dozen from the 14 currently.

As mobile subscriptions surged, the number of fixed-line telephone subscribers continued to fall, edging down to 37.06 million at the end of December from 37.16 million a month earlier, according to the TRAI figures.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Upto 25 million mobiles in trouble in India

I blogged about the Shanzhai phones earlier and mentioned that since they dont have an IMEI, they can cause problems for the security officials and India was considering banning them.

Now, this has finally happened. Mobile phones without the code were blocked at midnight - operators were asked to bar calls to them "in the wake of increased threat perception from militants".

The absence of this number makes it impossible to trace either the caller or the phone or to access call details.

Indian intelligence agencies say phones without the code have been used in attacks by militant groups.

The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is a 15-digit code which appears on the operator's network whenever a call is made.

It is estimated that India has more than 25 million phones without codes. Phones with no codes or invalid numbers are mostly cheap, unbranded phones. Millions are manufactured in India or imported, mostly from China.

If you're one amongst the estimated 25 million users with such phones and wish to have the phone in working condition again, (in case yours went offline as well) there is a legal way of doing it. The government has authorized some organizations to legalize your illegal handsets by assigning an approved IMEI number to it. The GII (Genuine IMEI Implant) program involves a short trip to the nearest GII outlet, paying a nominal Rs. 199 fee to have your phone legalized.

In major cities, you can visit The MobileStore outlets to get this done. You might also want to contact your operator if they have arranged for any such facilities. For those interested in The MobileStore program, all you need to do is to call 6000 63 63 to figure out the nearest outlet where your Chinese phone can get a new lease of life

The MobileStore claims to have successfully done over 30,000 IMEI implants in over 60 cities.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Updates from GSMA Asia Mobile Congress 09 - Day 2

Summary of interesting facts from the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress 09, Via Tomi Ahonen's, Communities Dominate Brands:

  • 55% of Japan has migrated past 3G to 3.5G
  • Japanese mobile content industry is worth 14 Billion dollars annually
  • 50% of mobile data in Japan is consumed in the home, the peak time for mobile data consumption is between 9 PM and 10 PM; and smartphone users consume 10 times more data than non-smartphone users.
  • Japan's Softbank will turn off their 2G network already in March of next year, 2010.
  • Allen Lew, Singtel's CEO, said that in Singapore almost 50% of smartphone owners are shifting web surfing activity away from PCs.
  • Jon Fredrik Baksaas, Telenor's President and CEO, spoke about the eco-friendly initiatives they have, such as solar powered cellular network base stations etc, but an interesting tidbit that came out, is that in Europe, Telenor has installed 870,000 household electricity meters that are remote digital meters and operate on the GSM cellular network, in Sweden. As Sweden's population is only about 7 million people that is probably a third of all households.
  • Rajat Mukarji of Idea (one of India's largest mobile operators), told us of the Indian market, where the average price of a voice minute is 1 cent (US). He Mr Mukarji also said that in India mobile is the first screen, not the fourth screen; and mobile is the first internet connectivity opportunity for most people of India.
  • Tony Warren, GM of Regulatory Affairs at Telstra, told that 60% of phones in Australia are 3G already, and over half of mobile data is now non-SMS type of more advanced mobile data. And he said that MMS is experiencing enormous growth, grew 300% in the past year.

You can read the summary of first day here.

Read the complete report here.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Updates from GSMA Asia Mobile Congress 09 - Day 1

Summary of interesting facts from the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress 09, Via Tomi Ahonen's, Communities Dominate Brands:
  • According to Rob Conway, CEO of the GSM Association, the number of subscribers will grow to 8 Billion (not sure when though).
  • China Unicom, China's second largest mobile operator with 142 million subscribers - bigger than AT&T and Sprint put together.
  • Bharti Telecom of India has over 110 million subscribers
  • According to Manoj Kohli, the CEO of Bharti Telecom, India already 20% of all mobile phone owners have 2 or more subscriptions. He also told us that as India will add 500 million new subscribers by the time frame of 2014-2015. India is currently adding 10 million new mobile subscribers every month. And most revealingly, he said that in India the customers will go from 'no internet' directly to 'mobile internet'.
  • According to Wang Jianzhou the Chairman and CEO of China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile operator with over 500 million subscribers, on the Chinese 3G standard of TD-SCDMA, they already have 3G phones being sold that cost about 1,000 Yuan, or about 130 US dollars. The average China Mobile customer spends 1 minute per day on voice calls, but sends on average 3.6 SMS text messages per day.
  • According to Yamada-san, the President and CEO of Japan's NTT DoCoMo, on NTT DoCoMo's network, today already 42% of their total revenues come from non-voice data services. NTT DoCoMo is so far in its migration of its customer base from 2G to 3G, they will terminate 2G in March of 2011.
  • Yamada-san also told of their new 3G video TV service, they call BeeTV. BeeTV is special in that it is optimized for the small screen, not re-purposed video content from TV and the internet. BeeTV in only six months has achieved 800,000 paying subscribers - who pay 315 Yen per month (about 3 USD).
  • Yamada-San's 20 minute presentation also mentioned that NTT DoCoMo's i-Consierge service (yes, think of it as your personal butler, the phone learns your habits and starts to help you with your life, this is like magic) has 2.3 million paying subscribers one year from launch. Their i-Channel idle screen invention is spreading and they have launched it also with their partner in India, Tata, who offer Cricket game updates via the idle screen using i-Channel.
  • Japan's mobile advertising market in 2008 was worth 900 million dollars.
  • Grameenphone and Huawei won the 'Green Mobile' award for their 'green' network initiatives.

Read the complete blog here.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Wavesecure: Helping track lost phones

Siliconindia organized Mobile Applications Conference (MAC) on October 31, where 25 mobile companies exhibited their applications and presented their business plans in NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences) convention center, Bangalore, in front of around 400 people and entrepreneurs. Industry leaders within the mobile space also put some light on where the industry is headed and how entrepreneurs and developers can take advantage.

TenCube, whose anchor product, WaveSecure, is the market leading mobile security suite recognized by customers and analysts, won the best mobile application award. TenCube was the unanimous choice of judges as well as the audience. It got 71 votes followed by Eterno Infotech and Divium, which got 37 and 36 votes respectively. Originally developed for police and military use in Singapore, WaveSecure has become Nokia's preferred mobile security product, chosen to be bundled into millions of premium Nokia devices. It is also the preferred security service selected by leading operators like Telenor and SingTel for their subscribers.

Very interesting FAQ's for those interested.

See Demo below:

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Beyond Voice: New uses for mobile phones could launch another wave of development

The Economist recently published a special report on Telecoms in Emerging markets which is available here. The following is an extract from that.

In a field just outside the village of Bumwambu in eastern Uganda, surrounded by banana trees and cassava, with chickens running between the mudbrick houses, Frederick Makawa is thinking about tomatoes. It is late June and the rainy season is coming to an end. Tomatoes are a valuable cash crop during the coming dry season and Mr Makawa wants to plant his seedlings as soon as possible. But Uganda’s traditional growing seasons are shifting, so he is worried about droughts or cash foods that could destroy his crop. Michael Gizamba, a local villagephone operator, offers to help using Farmer’s Friend, an agricultural information service. He sends a text message to ask for a seasonal weather forecast for the region. Before long a reply arrives to say that normal, moderate rainfall is expected during July. Mr Makawa decides to plant his tomatoes.

The Farmer’s Friend service accepts text message queries such as "rice aphids", "tomato blight" or "how to plant bananas" and dispenses relevant advice from a database compiled by local partners. More complicated questions ("my chicken’s eyes are bulging") are relayed to human experts, who either call back within 15 minutes or, with particularly diffcult problems, promise to provide an answer within four days. These answers are then used to improve the database.

Farmer’s Friend is one of a range of phone based services launched in June by MTN, Google and the Grameen Foundation’s "Application Laboratory", or AppLab. As well as disseminating advice in agriculture, provided by the Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative, the new services also provide health and market information. The Clinic Finder service points people to nearby clinics, and the Health Tips service explains the symptoms of common diseases.

Lastly there is Google Trader, a textbased system that matches buyers and sellers of agricultural produce and commodities. Sellers send a message to say where they are and what they have to offer, which will be available to potential buyers within 30km for seven days. Mr Makawa says his father used the service to look for a buyer for some pigs, which he sold to pay school fees. These services cost 110 shillings ($0.05) a time, the same as a standard text message, except for Google Trader, which costs double that. In their first five weeks the services received a total of more than 1m queries.

As with the Village Phone project, Grameen is trying to establish a model that can be scaled up and replicated in other countries. Offering agricultural and health information is more diffcult than offering a phone service, however, because such information must be localised and must take cultural di?erences into account.

Grameen’s collaboration with MTN and Google in Uganda is just one of dozens of services across the developing world that offer agricultural, market and health information via mobile phones. In India, for example, farmers can sign up for Reuters Market Lite, a textbased service that is available in parts of India. Its 125,000 users pay 200 rupees ($4.20) for a threemonth subscription, which provides them with local weather and price information four or five times a day. Many farmers say that their profits have gone up as a result.

Tata Consultancy Services, an Indian operator, offers a service called mKrishi which is similar to Farmer’s Friend, allowing farmers to send queries and receive personalised advice. "The rural population is willing to pay substantial subscription fees to get this information multiple times a day", says Kunal Bajaj of BDA. There have been lots of pilot schemes in the past, he says, but commercial offerings are now beginning to gain ground.

Nokia, the world’s largest handsetmaker, launched its own information service, Nokia Life Tools, in India in June. In addition to education and entertainment, it provides agricultural information, such as prices, weather data and farming tips, that can be called up from special menus on some Nokia handsets. The basic service costs 30 rupees a month, and a premium service which provides detailed local crop prices in ten states is available at twice that price. "It is in its early stages, but it has resonated extremely well with its target audience," says OlliPekka Kallasvuo, Nokia’s chief executive.

Services to help farmers have been most widely adopted in China, where China Mobile offers a service called Nong Xin Tong in conjunction with the agriculture ministry, as part of its push into rural areas. It has already signed up 50m users and is aiming for 100m within three years. The service provides news, weather information and details of farming related government policies.

China Mobile also runs a website,, that sends farmers information about planting techniques, pest management and market prices. The service, which costs two yuan ($0.30) a month, sends out 13m text messages a day and has over 40m users. There are dozens of other examples across the developing world.

TradeNet, launched in Ghana in 2005, now links buyers and sellers of agricultural products in nine African countries; CellBazaar provides a textbased classified ads service in Bangladesh.
Mobile phones are also being used in health care. Oneway text alerts, sent to everyone in a particular area, can be used to raise awareness of HIV; sending daily text messages to patients can help them remember to take their drugs for tuberculosis or HIV. Mobile phones can be used to gather health information in the field faster and more accurately than paper records and help with the management of drug stocks. Cameraphones are used to send pictures to remote specialists for diagnosis.

Quantifying the benefits of agricultural and health services is hard, and such services are still in their early days in much of the world. The mobile service that is delivering the most obvious economic benefits is money transfer, otherwise known as mobile banking (though for technical and regulatory reasons it is not, strictly speaking, banking). It has grown out of the widespread custom of using prepaid calling credit as an informal currency.

Suppose you want to send money from the city back to your family in the country. You could travel to the village and deliver I’m not selling for that the cash in person, but that takes time and money. Or you could ask an intermediary, such as a bus driver, to deliver the money, but that can be risky. More simply, you could buy a topup voucher for the amount you want to transfer (say, $10) and then call the villagephone operator or shopkeeper in your family’s village and read out the code on the voucher. The credit will be applied to the phone of the shopkeeper, who will hand cash to your family, minus a commission of 10-20%. In some countries, where airtime can be transferred directly from one phone to another by text message, the process is even simpler: load credit onto your phone, then send it to someone on the spot who in return gives cash to your intended recipient.

These methods became so widespread that some companies decided to set up mobile payment systems that allow real money, rather than just airtime, to be transferred from one user to another by phone. Once you have signed up, you pay money into the system by handing cash to an agent (usually a mobile operator’s airtime vendor), who credits the money to your mobilemoney account. You can withdraw money by visiting another agent, who checks that you have su?cient funds before debiting your account and handing over the cash.

You can also send money to other people, who will be sent a text message containing a special code that can be taken to an agent to withdraw cash. This allows cash to be sent from one place to another quickly and easily. The biggest successes in this field so far have been Gcash and Smart Money in the Philippines, Wizzit in South Africa, Celpay in Zambia and, above all, MPESA in Kenya, which has become the most widely adopted mobile money scheme in the world.

Launched in 2007 by Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile operator, it now has nearly 7m users. Not bad for a country of 38m people, 18.3m of whom have mobile phones. MPESA’s early adopters were young, male urban migrants who used it to send money home to their families in the country. But it has since become wildly popular and is used to pay for everything from school fees to taxis (drivers like it because it means they are carrying less cash around). Roughly $2m is transferred through the system each day, with an average amount of $20. ?In markets in Kenya, stallholders are happy to take MPESA payments.

"It’s pretty dramatic," says Bob Christen, head of the "Financial Services for the Poor" initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

MTN’s launch of a mobile money service in Uganda in March 2009, in partnership with Stanbic Bank, provides further cause for optimism. MTN backed up its launch with a huge marketing campaign based around the simple idea of sending money home, as Safaricom had previously done in Kenya. After three months 60% of the population had heard of the service, a level of awareness that MPESA took a year to achieve, according to MTN. After four months the service had signed up 82,000 users. Of the $5.1m transferred in that period, half was in the fourth month, indicating a rapid take-off. MTN plans to increase the number of outlets that can handle mobile money to 5,000 by early 2010. MTN’s apparent success in Uganda seems to suggest that Kenya may not be a one-off after all. After fine-tuning its technology and procedures in Uganda, MTN plans to introduce the service in 20 other African and Middle Eastern countries; it has already launched in Ghana. Meanwhile Zain, which operates in several African markets, has started its own mobilemoney service, called Zap. According to CGAP, there will be over 120 mobilemoney schemes in developing countries by the end of 2009, more than double the number in 2008. By 2012, it predicts, some 1.7 billion people will have a mobile phone but no bank account, and 20% of them will be using mobile money.

Operators do not expect to make much money from mobile banking, says Mr Okoudjou, but it can help keep customers from defecting to rivals and cut costs by allowing people to top up their airtime directly on their phones, as well as providing wider social and economic benefits that reflect well on operators. Most importantly, he says, mobile banking can help the industry repeat the huge impact made when mobile phones were first introduced. "This is a second wave that can unleash the potential of mobile phones again," he says. "So we need to do this, and we need to do it properly, and we need to do it all over."

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Farmers worldwide being helped by Mobile Phones Technology

Airtel has entered into a strategic tie-up with IFFCO (Indian Farmers Fertilisers Cooperative) for providing agriculture and allied information to farmers through mobile phones. The facility was formally launched by the Chief Operating Officer (Andhra Pradesh) of Bharti Airtel Limited, Rajnish Kaul, at a function at Anakapalle town, about 40 km from here on Tuesday.

Addressing a media conference on the occasion, he said that the unique facility would benefit over 10 lakh IFFCO society members of rural Andhra Pradesh by giving them access to vital information. The farmer members would be given five free voice messages on farming techniques, weather forecasts, dairy farming, animal husbandry, fertilizer availability and rural health initiatives.

Mr. Kaul said the farmers could also call a dedicated free helpline to get answers from a qualified veterinarian to their specific queries regarding the health of their animals. He said that SIM cards would be provided at subsidised rates and lifetime activation would be done for a mere Rs.47. Calls between the members would be charged at 50 paise a minute. The SIMs would be compatible with any mobile handsets and farmers could buy the handsets of their choice depending on their purchasing power. He said the facility was launched about six months ago in various districts of the State and there were already 65,000 connections.

Question Box provides a service in India and Uganda. In India, phone boxes are installed in slums and villages that connect users to operators that will answer questions. In Uganda, users can call in from any mobile phone and ask their questions. The operators have access to a repository of previously asked questions (and their answers), and they can also occasionally consult the Internet. A special search engine and database were also built specifically for the project.

Another initiative, Avaaj Otalo, provides an audio community forum for farmers in rural Gujarat, India. Working with an organization that produced a popular radio program, Otalo provides a call-in number where farmers can exchange questions and answers. Users are also able to listen to archives of the radio program.

These projects differ in that Question Box avoids having to process users' questions by adding a human listener in the loop; Avaaj Otalo avoids processing by organizing their collection of audio prompts with into a menu. Both programs, however, have yet to deal with the problem of cost because they subsidize the service for users. Otalo operates with a toll-free number and Question Box provides the phones to call from in India. In Uganda, Grameen Community Knowledge Workers provides the mobile phones.

It's easy to see why the fishermen of the southern Indian state of Kerala captured the attention of a Harvard economist when they began using mobile phones a few years ago to track prices in the markets where they sold their catch of the day. Observing how these devices can be used to promote economic growth, Robert Jensen wrote in a 2007 paper titled, "The Visible Hand(set): Mobile Phones and Market Performance in South Indian Fisheries -- The Micro and Mackerel Economics of Information," that "before mobile phones, deciding which [market] would offer the best price was sheer guesswork." With mobile phones, however, suddenly it became an information-based decision. What's more, noted Jensen (who is currently at Brown University in Rhode Island), "it's not a zero-sum trade-off." The fishermen's customers benefitted from lower prices and greater choice, and there was less waste since the fishermen could easily identify the villages that would have the greatest demand for their fish each day.

Now Jensen's "visible handset" is reaching further into rural India. Following a nationwide launch this summer of Nokia Life Tools (NLT), India's farmers can use their mobile phones to access tailored information to help them grow, harvest and sell their crops and manage their livestock. "There is no reason why farmers should not be as successful as fishermen," says Ravi Bapna, associate professor of information systems at the Carlson School of Management in Minnesota and executive director of the Centre for Information Technology and the Networked Economy at Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB).

Consider Ravindra Shinde, a farmer in Magardhokada, a village in the Nagpur district of Maharashtra. When he recently harvested 125 quintal (a quintal is 100 kilograms) of soybeans and was about to take the crop to market, the price was $32 a quintal. But then he received a message on his handset that soybean production in the U.S. and Argentina had fallen, so he held back and later sold his crop for $48 a quintal.

IN the early 1990s, I was engaged in an empirical research work relating to the nexus between mobile phone and poverty in rural Bangladesh. However, friends used to tease me and raise their eyebrows on hearing about the project and my interest at that time. This was to be expected in the early 1990s when, not to speak of the poor, even the "solvent" could not afford to have a mobile set. It was treated as a "luxury" item, only to be monopolised by the moneyed people.

My research findings on village pay phones of the Grameen Bank at that time -- and as published in international journals in subsequent years -- clearly showed that mobile phones could help the poor escape "rural penalty" (a la H. Hudson), defined as poverty mainly due to distance, poor connectivity and asymmetric information. However, as of today, about 40 percent of the rural households in Bangladesh are reported to have access to mobile phones and roughly one-fourth of the users are poor. Rickshaw pullers, fishermen, traders all use it to minimise information asymmetry and quicken communication between two points.

About a decade later, I was invited to comment on two research papers showing the impacts of mobile phones on farmers and traders in Africa.

The first paper was by Megumi Muto and Takashi Yamano, both representing JICA and Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development (FASID). They drew upon panel data of rural Uganda where banana producers could reduce marketing costs and raise income with expansion of mobile phone coverage. The message is that the expansion of mobile networks increased market participation and sales of the perishable product, banana. More importantly, small producers and farmers in remote areas gained the most.

As information flow increases due to the expanded mobile phone coverage, the cost of crop marketing is expected to decrease, particularly in remote areas where potential marketing gains from the increased information flow is large. We indeed find that the network expansion has a larger impact in market participation in areas farther away from the district centers than in closer areas.

The second paper was presented by Jenny C. Aker of the University of California, Berkeley, on the impact of mobile phones on price dispersion of grains in Niger. Using a sequential searching model, the researcher observed that cell phones increased traders' reservation sales price and the number of markets over which they searched. This reduces price dispersion across markets. To be specific, grain price dispersion reduced by 6-7 percent and reduced intra-annual price variation by 10 percent.

What is important, and as revealed in both papers, is that every farmer need not possess a set. It could be the community, producers' organisations and others from where the price information could spread, either as a "public good" or as a "private good." A participant from the audience in that seminar informed us that in his village in Africa, a mobile phone is hung from the branch of a tree and interested persons could use it on payment of a fee. Second, even with access to mobile phones, full gains might not be reaped as farmers might need more information. The role of public authority and media in this respect is very important. Again, producers' organisations could form an information forum of their own to be more effective at bargaining than individual initiatives.