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

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, 12582.com, 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.

Monday, 24 August 2009

3G or 4G: What should India do?

The first thing I should mention as I always do, please stop calling LTE as 4G as its commonly called as 3.9G. Labelling it as 4G does make it sound better (or sexy, some would say) but its not correct. Maybe the authors who label LTE as 4G dont want to try hard and do some research or its just to make the end users panic that India has missed a complete generation of mobile technology. LTE-Advanced will be the 4G technology and its still long way away (part of Rel-10).

Last week I wrote about Indian subscribers getting taste of 3G as the state owned MTNL and BSNL have launched some services. I am not sure what has been launched but all I can say is there is a dismal takeup as of yet. I read an article today about how Motorola is testing 4G [sic] and this can spoil the governments plan of rasing Rs 35,000 crore (£4.6Billion: 1Billion = 100 crores).

People may start panicking that investing in 3G is now doomed and it can just cause problems for the operators in future. The reality though is much more simpler. In a simple sentence, I would say that going for 3G or LTE does not matter much. Read on.

Lets first get Hardware out of the way. Most of the Base Stations (NodeB's, eNodeB's, RNC, etc) have a major part as SDR's or Software Defined Radios. The advantage of this is that if you have bought a 3G Node B, with just software change it should be upgradable to LTE eNode B. I have come across quite a few products where the equipment manufacturers are claiming that their 3G equipment is fully upgradeable to LTE. I did blog about some of this in this post here.

The second point we should get out of the way is the terminology. For a layman, 3G is something that was introduced 10 years back in 2000 so its quite an obsolete technology. In reality, 3G is commonly used to refer to even the new developments within the 3G spectrum. For example some of the people may have heard of HSDPA which is actually referred to as 3.5G in the mobile domain. Similarly we have HSUPA which is 3.75G and so on. The latest development is going on around 3.8G and 3.85G as part of Release 8. In general usage 3.5G, 3.75G, etc. is referred to as 3G but its more than 3G (3G+ ;). The good thing is that this 3G+ is till evolving. Release 8 was finalised in Dec. 2008 and the terminals based on that are still being tested. It should hopefully be available soon.

So whats the difference between LTE and HSPA+ (also known as 3G even though its 3.8/3.85G). Not much I would say from a general users point of view. Please note I am not arguing about the fundamental technologies because 3G+ uses WCDMA and LTE uses OFDMA/SC-FDMA technologies. OFDM based technologies will generally be always superior to WCDMA ones but it doesnt matter much. The main enhancement that has happened with LTE as compared to 3G is that in 3G the bandwidth is fixed to 5MHz whereas in case of LTE the bandwidth is flexible and can go all the way to 20MHz. Now if we compare the data speeds in 5MHz spectrum then there may not be much difference between them. Now how many operators will be rolling out services across 20MHz bandwidth? More general case will be using 10MHz.

In case of HSPA+, there is a new feature that allows a UE to use couple of cells. In this case even though the bandwidth is 5MHz but due to Dual Cell feature the UE would effectively see 10MHz bandwidth. This will definitely enhance the speeds.

Now coming to devices. 3G/HSPA/HSPA+ technologies have evolved over quite few years. There are some nice sleek and cheap handsets available. The technology in it as been rigourously tested. As a result the handsets are quite stable and many different design and models available.

LTE is yet to come. NTT DoCoMo and Verizon will be the first one to roll it out probably end 2010. Initial plan is to roll out the dongles then handsets will the eventually arrive. The initial ones will have problems, crashes, etc. Will take atleast till 2010 to sort out everything.

The big problem with LTE as many of us know is that the standards have to support for the old style CS voice and SMS. This should be fixed in Release 9 which is going to be standardised in Dec. 2009 (Mar. 2010 practically). There are different approaches and maybe untill LTE is rolled out we wont know which of them is better.

Last thing I should mention is the spectrum. The consensus is that 3G operates in 2.1GHz spectrum mostly worldwide. LTE would initially be deployed in 2.6GHz spectrum. The digital dividend spectrum when it becomes available will also be used for LTE. Most of the devices for LTE will be designed that way. As a result, 3G will continue to operate as it is in the 2.1GHz band. The devices will always be available and will be usable for long time.

Considering all the facts above, I think 3G (HSPA/HSPA+) is the best option in India or as a matter of fact in any country that is thinking of jumping directly from 2G to LTE. When the time is right, it should not be difficult to move from 3G to LTE.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Indian subscribers getting taste of Mobile Broadband

Lots of interesting developments are happening in India at the moment. The first and the most basic being MNP or Mobile Number Portability finally becoming a reality. For the first time users will be able to move operators and retain their number. This will change the way the users will use their phones. For example most users use their mobiles as secondary phones for making calls while they give their landline numbers to important people. The reason being they are not sure how long they will stick with the current operator. If they change the operator they will get a new number. I think that this will definitely change with MNP.

MNP is not the only thing. Many operators and equipment manufacturers are waiting for the 3G spectrum auction for some time now. The auction was recently postponed for variety of reasons. The auction will let the private operators to bid for the spectrum and they can decide if they want 3G or WiMAX or LTE. The state run MTNL and BSNL have already launched 3G and in Northern India but there have been not many takers yet. Maybe the people are but sceptical right now or maybe the lack of devices. The other thing is that people are maybe not sure if the technology they invest in will be around tomorrow or not.

MTNL is keen to experiment with WiMAX but it does not want to do it alone. There are many companies in India that have developed WiMAX protocol stacks so it may be a boost for these generally small and medium sized companies if WiMAX is deployed by MTNL. The only problem with WiMAX is that there are hardly big global names with any WiMAX devices/equipment. As a reult the prices could be higher and the consumers may have less choice. 3G and LTE will help in this scenario. Qualcomm for example is already looking forward to getting a big chunck of the Indian market.

India has a very big pool of keen technologists and they will whole heartidly embrace mobile broadband and the variety of apps/mobiles but only when they know that there will be stability and reliability. Once the ball starts rolling then the snowball will turn into an avalanche. The question is not if, but when.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

August 2009: Mobile TV Roundup



Qualcomm is slowly building content for its Flo TV mobile service for cell phones with the recent announcement that Discovery Communications launched a Shark Week Mobile Channel.
Discovery Channel’s Shark Week programs are scheduled to air on the
Flo TV service through Aug. 14.

Flo TV uses the analog spectrum previously occupied by television broadcasters, and offers programming from several of the large network brands. Flo TV President Bill Stone says he envisions expanding the service from cell phones to cars and other consumer electronics products.

Flo TV, however, is not the only mobile TV service. AT&T CruiseCast launched a satellite-based television service in cars June 1.

CruiseCast, which is really an AT&T logo slapped onto RaySat Broadcasting equipment and services, offers 22 TV channels and 20 satellite radio channels. Its satellite antenna is a fat disc the size of a Bundt cake affixed to the roof of a vehicle.

The service costs $28 a month, plus $1,300 for equipment, which requires certified installers who charge an additional $200-$300, says Jim Llewellyn, who demonstrated the service July 31 in San Diego.


If you feell you're missing out on The Ashes action, you can now watch the Ashes for free on your W995.

A 3-month pass for the Sky Mobile TV service now comes bundled with the device exclusively on the 3 Network.

With the service, you can watch eight made-for-mobile channels that use highlights content from the Sky Sports 1, 2, 3 and Xtra channels. You’ll also be able to watch live matches right on your W995 too.

Australian cricketers Glenn McGrath and Matthew Hoggard appeared at the launch of the new bundle, and McGrath expressed his thoughts on the new bundle, saying ”the Sony Ericsson W995 on 3 is a real must for any dedicated cricket fan. To be able to access crucial games via Sky Mobile TV on the go, especially when a tournament like The Ashes is on is invaluable to me.”

After the initial 3-month period, Sky Mobile TV will cost you £5 a month. So, while the savings aren’t amazing, amounting to a whopping £15 in total, it’s still a great feature to have right now if you’re a cricket fan.



Testing of free mobile digital TV for cell phones, netbooks and other on-the-go devices is ramping up in the weeks ahead, and the first devices that can provide such broadcasts should be on store shelves by next year, according to the broadcaster-based group behind the effort.
"Just like you turn on your TV today at home and watch live and local broadcast television, you will turn on your handset and be able to watch live and local broadcast television," said Anne Schelle, executive director of the Open Mobile Video Coalition.

Trials are underway around the country in cities such as Chicago, New York and Raleigh, N.C. The biggest test pond will be Washington, D.C., where broadcasters have the attention of what may be the nation's most powerful audience — politicians. "We already have two stations on the air there, and we'll have the rest of our stations on air by next week," said Schelle.

Cell phones are probably the largest single group of devices that could receive local TV programming.

"There are 250 million of them out there," said Schelle. It's not clear whether wireless carriers are as enthusiastic.


MobileCrunch has picked up an interesting story from AV Watch - who themselves have spotted a USB tuner that plugs in to your TV, and then streams out 1-Seg (that’s a Japanese TV standard) formatted TV that your iPhone/iPod Touch can pick up via an App running over WiFi. Nice.

The iPhone has been at somewhat of a disadvantage for a time, because unlike a lot of other phones in Japan, it can’t natively pick up a TV signal - Japan is one of the places where Mobile TV has worked (but there are a number of specific reasons for that….), so this little bit of kit solves an issue for people who need their TV fix.

The USB device is called the SEG Clip, and is sold by I-O data it follows a previous device that was more of a standalone unit from Softbank Mobile - that one was it’s own receiver, transmitted the data by WiFi, but also double as an extra battery if you plugged it in to an iPhone.



WISH-TV today announced the expansion of its mobile offerings to include a new application for BlackBerry smartphones. This mobile application is the latest addition to 24-Hour News 8’s fully synchronized television and digital offerings that are available free of charge at www.wishtv.com .

WISH-TV unveiled its iPhone custom application with great popularity and much success in May 2009. In addition to these specialized applications, 24-Hour News 8 is also available via any web-enabled mobile device.

LIN TV , WISH-TV’s parent company, in conjunction with News Over Wireless (NOW) has developed the custom BlackBerry smartphone and iPhone applications for each of its 27 local television stations. Six LIN TV stations, including WISH-TV, launch the BlackBerry smartphone service today. LIN TV is the first in its local markets to provide instantaneous and on-demand access to its local news, sports and entertainment, as well as video, weather forecasts and traffic reports to BlackBerry smartphone subscribers.

Six LIN TV stations launched the BlackBerry service last week, including WISH-TV, WAVY-TV, KRQE-TV, WANE-TV, WALA-TV and KXAN-TV. LIN has been among the more aggressive broadcasters in the deployment of its content over nontraditional platforms.

Media Content and Communications Services (MCCS) has made its Hindi, Marathi and Bengali news channels -- STAR News, STAR Majha and STAR Ananda -- available on the mobile TV platform.

The content of all three channels will be streamed live, including the ads that appear during the news programmes. The content will be available on the 3G networks of MTNL and BSNL. However, the company claims that their mobile TV option will also be made accessible to subscribers of other telecom operators, who offer 2.5G services.

Currently, only two mobile operators -- BSNL and MTNL -- offer 3G services in India. The video content delivery process is faster on 3G mobile networks, as compared to 2.5G.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Femtocells in India: No thank you.

So many people ask me if Femtocells will be big in India but I am not sure if I know the answer to that. Honestly I will be surprised if any Indian operators have any plan of Femtocells and even if they are rolled out people might not be tempted.

In a post last month, David Chambers gave an interesting overview of facts and statistics of mobile and internet users in India:

First some details on the current situation in India:
- Population: 1.1 Billion
- 80% live in rural areas and survive on agriculture
- 39% are illiterate
- 27% live below the poverty line
- 77% live on less than US$0.50 per day
- The economy is growing at around 8-9% annually (and has done so for a few years), similar to China, but is still far behind in infrastructure – traffic congestion is throttling and there is not yet a metro/underground in the main cities, although some are being built.
- 2% PC penetration

And from a mobile phone perspective:
- It’s all 2G. No 3G licences have yet been awarded.
- It’s GSM. Both the CDMA technology operators (Reliance and Tata) who have a combined share of around 20% are said to be planning GSM technology rollouts, because the technology is cheaper and there is a wider range of handsets.
- It’s growing faster than anywhere else. Over 9 million new subscribers every month, with around 180million subscribers reported today. That’s still a huge growth to catch up with China, which has almost 500M subscribers, increasing by some 4M/month.
- Around 200,000 towers, with around 20% of towers hosting more than one operator’s basestation equipment.
- ARPU figures vary, with a lot of the newer subscribers probably in the US$ 2-4/month bracket, although overall the industry makes around $8/month
- Call rates are in the order of US 2 cent/minute.
- Yankee reports operator share of Bharti 30%, BSNL 18%, Reliance 17%. Vodafone (formerly Hutch) is growing quickly.
- 2G cellular data cards, using fixed price data plans, are becoming popular in a similar way to 3G cards/USB dongles promoted in developed countries. The data rates and capacity are more limited.

Yet from a wired broadband internet position:
- 3 million broadband DSL subscriptions
- 8 million copper loops capable of delivering broadband.
- 10 million dialup internet users.- Fibre is being laid across the country, but fibre-cuts remain a regular fault
So if we look at the potential for 3G femtocells, we find there is little comfort:
- No 3G licences available yet – this is probably some years off, whilst the country focuses on basic 2G voice/text rollout.
- Virtually no wired broadband to support significant volumes.
- Any 2G femtocells would likely conflict with the tight spectrum reuse and frequency planning of the macro network, so would be discouraged except where deployed and managed directly by the operator in extremely high capacity locations.
- The business case for coverage fill-in doesn’t stack up – broadband is unavailable in areas which don’t have cellular coverage.
- The business case for data in the home is even more difficult, with relatively low levels of domestic computer penetration. There is more likely demand for mobile broadband access via macrocells, using the new HSPA, HSPA+ and LTE technologies when 3G spectrum is made available.

So it’s not a question of deployment of 3G femtocells in the Indian market coming a few years after the developed world. The complete lack of copper loops, and the changing technology that makes it more feasible to deploy wireless broadband than dig up and lay new copper loops. The services that femtocells would offer are therefore more likely to be delivered over the macrocellular network (with microcellular support) in the medium and long term for any developing country. There is some interest in 2G picocells which would be deployed by the operator in enterprise situations to handle high traffic concentrations, but this is a different application, technology and market segment from the 3G proposition.

A similar view is reflected in this article here:

Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Vodafone, all became members of Femtoforum about two years back but don't have any deployment of femtocell in the country. Femtoforum is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 2007 to promote femtocell deployment worldwide. According to some media reports Bharti Airtel is conducting pilot projects for femtocells. The same is true for Reliance Communications and Vodafone, both are members of Femtoforum but are doing nothing about femtocell deployment in the country. Despite repeated attempts none of the service provider is forthcoming about femtocells deployment status.

In my recent visit to India I found that people have a different perspective of mobiles. For instance people couldnt understand why we use SMS so frequently and as a medium for communication (between friends, couples). India may probably have lowest tariff for voice and that is one of the reasons people use mobiles for. Many people have removed their landlines and use mobiles only, for their calls. Another most common use of the mobiles is to be reachable wherever you are. People havent learnt to switch their phones of silent and hence many places of worship in India are installing Jammers to stop mobiles working while you are thinking about God.

Similarly, people are not too bothered about the internet. They would generally use it on the weekends to write to their, friends, etc. If there is free net available in the office then its a different thing. The net speeds are also not very good and the link is not too reliable. One of the most popular application is Skype follwed by chatting applications.

I met many people who had Iphones or latest Nokia's/Samsung's but when I asked them if they did any data usage on their phones they all drew blank. I found one guy very actively using net on his E71 but he was connected via WiFi.

In this kind of situation, Femtocells may not be of much use to people. Femtocells would be useful as voice boosters but would that justify its cost. I dont think so. The main reason for surge in Mobile takeup is because its very cheap to make calls. You get some very good call bundles at really low cost. There are off peak rates which is 1/5th the normal rate. If the reception of a network is not good in somebody's house, he would change to a different network. In fact even now Mobile Number Portability is not available in India. As a result some people change mobile numbers every year.

With all these things in mind, Femtocells would be hard sell in India.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Reversing trend of outsourcing

For years the companies has flourished in their business where outsourcing was one of the major source of saving money and still getting good work done.

One of the main reason why India become the major hub for outsourcing was because of it’s immense pool of skilled science graduate which were far cheaper than in US and Europe.
Although in the last decade the salaries in India has risen manifolds but it still remaines the main destination for outsourcing simply because there is no shortage of the skilled techies.

But the current economic climate is changing the whole dynamics and the early signs are for what they call Outsourcing may be coming home.

With the rising unemployment in US and Europe and with so many people are desperate for the jobs all of a sudden companies see the pool of workers who are ready for work in far less then they were may be five years ago.

Remember no body wants to outsource if only they can get the work done at home.
In the current market situation there is a need to cut costs and increase productivity and for that reason some tech companies are looking for a new approach that bypasses traditional overseas locations like India.

One company who has taken a lead in this is IBM who is focussing on two U.S. communities which are East Lansing, Mich., and Dubuque, Iowa. This could be a trend setting move which other could follow very soon.

IBM believes that in these places there is access to skills also there is a willingness of local universities to cooperate with their business endeavours, and some government incentives to make it economically worthwhile. IBM hopes to create 1,500 direct and indirect jobs in five yearsin East Lansing, Mich and 1,300 jobs in Dubuque, Iowa.

Dubuque didn't just open the door and invite IBM into town but they also offered Big Blue (IBM) an enticing package of incentives worth $55 million over 10 years. These include a loan of $11.7 million that will be forgiven if IBM fulfils its hiring pledge. A local development agency also will spend $25 million to rehab an historic former department store.

Another major factor which is contributing towards bringing the jobs back to US from India is the stimulus package considered by the new president Obama. Although it has not been passed yet by the Congress, Obama has repeatedly discussed IT spending together with the rebuilding the US’s crumbling roads, bridges and schools.

I remember back in early 90’s when India opened its economy to go global one of the first companies to make use of the cheap and skilled science graduate was IBM.
For years India has been the primary location for technology outsourcing not only for IBM but other major tech companies as well.

This all seems to be changing now and the cycle seems to reversing.

It’s not only US but the Europe as well, which is going to get benefited by this reverse in trend. One of the astonishing thing which I came across just last week is that the Japanese companies who has R&D centres in UK are now considered as a cheaper options as compared to the ones in Japan. With the value of British pound fallen so much in the last six months the work force in UK all of a sudden becomes cheaper.

Could this be a new trend?

Industry analysts expect more tech services companies to establish operations in low-cost parts of the U.S and Europe.

I believe that in the coming months and years you'll see more of this although it might not be huge, but it will be a nice niche.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

India gets ready for 3G

So here comes 3G in India. It’s been long coming as the data needs were increasing rapidly in almost all the Indian states. With the existing cellular infrastructure not capable of holding huge traffic particular for data, arrival of 3G was imminent.

The Indian Department of Telecoms (DoT) has published its official timetable for the award of its 3G licences across the country as well as a breakdown of how the relevant spectrum will be allocated across the telecoms circles.

As expected, the state-owned operators BSNL and MTNL each have been reserved one block of 2x5MHz in each circle, with the exception of Rajasthan (State in North West India) which will have no 3G spectrum at all. The number of blocks of spectrum in the private auction differs depending on the circle (see the spectrum table, below).

The auction for the 15-year licences is planned for Jan. 15, 2009. In the majority of 3G service areas there is 25 MHz of paired frequency bandwidth available which relates to four blocks of 2x5 MHz spectrum available for auction in addition to the block reserved for the state-owned operators, Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL). Spectrum is rather limited in many other areas, including the major metro circle of Delhi where only two 2x5MHz blocks will be available to private operators.

All of the 3G spectrum will be in the 2.1 GHz band and in the 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz frequency bands, a separate auction for Broadband Wireless Access (WiMAX). In both these auctions, which will take place two days after the 3G auction, bidders are restricted to just one block of spectrum per service area.

The table below shows the proposed spectrum layout.


Service Area (Indian Cities or States)

Paired frequency bandwidth to be allotted

Paired frequency bandwidth to be allotted

Delhi

160

15

Mumbai

160

25

Kolkata

80

25

Maharashtra

160

25

Gujrat

160

15

Andhra Pradesh

160

25

Karnataka

160

25

Tamil Nadu

80

25

Kerela

80

25

Punjab

80

25

Haryana

80

25

Uttar Pradesh(e)

80

25

Uttar Pradesh (w)

80

10

Rajasthan

0

20

Madhya Pradesh

80

25

Bengal

80

25

Himachal Prades

30

25

Bihar

30

25

Orrisa

30

25

Assam

30

25

North East

30

5

Jammu And Kashmir

30

25

Monday, 22 December 2008

Indian m-Commerce service among top tech pioneers for 2009



JiGrahak is behind ngpay, the brand name of a free mobile-commerce service that allows consumers in India to shop, order meals, make charitable donations, do their banking, and pay their bills, among other things. Launched last February, ngpay already has attracted more than 230,000 users and has become the largest channel for mobile-based transactions with Indian Railways and HDFC Bank, and for movie ticketing. The company expects to have 1 million users by mid-2009.


More information available from this youtube video: