Tuesday 12 February 2008

Why is everyone talking of Gooogle Android?

It seems everyone is eager to show their own take on the first official Google Android phones at MWC. ARM, Texas Instruments, Marvell and Qualcomm are just a few of the companies hoping to impress with their Android handsets.

Google launched Android, an open development platform in November. Phones sporting the Android software are expected out later this year. Google also announced the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of 34 handset manufacturers, carriers and chipmakers that have said they plan to support Android products and services.

Google hopes Android will become the dominant operating system for many mobile phones. Android is set to improve the Internet for phone users.

"What's the big deal? Android doesn't look like it enables anything different from what everyone else offers."

But James Bruce, North American mobile manager for marketing at ARM, said that it's not so much what Android allows cell phone users to do, but rather what it doesn't require handset chip and device makers to do.
"Android provides a complete application framework, which can be put on chipsets with a lot less work," he said.

In a nutshell, Android should simplify the process of getting a new phone and new applications to market. Today, the cell phone market is extremely fragmented. Every manufacturer has its own operating system for phones. And very often even different models of handsets are developed using proprietary software. This makes it difficult for handset components makers, application developers, and the handset makers themselves to develop new products and services quickly because they have to design functionality for each software iteration. Even the most basic functions like SMS could require different programming from one brand of handset to another.

Android is supposed to alleviate this problem, because it provides a common operating system and development platform that has all the basic functionality baked in. But the software, which is based on a version of Linux, is also open enough to allow application developers to design new applications and services for the device.

To learn more about Android, check this out.

Monday 11 February 2008

Nortel's 4G cocktail at MWC 08

Nortel is busy demo-ing 4G technologies at the Mobile World Congress (MWC ... formerly 3GSM) 2008.

"Today, at home or at the office, your network is just there - putting the world at your fingertips. But if you are out on the move, whether it be for meetings, running errands, or traveling around the world, your communications experience becomes very, very complicated," said Scott Wickware, vice president of marketing and strategy for Carrier Networks, Nortel. "You can e-mail, but you can't send or open certain files. You can surf the net, but you have to wait ages for pages to load and forget about watching a video. Your other option is to search out a WiFi hot spot where you'll then have to pay yet another connection fee. When you go mobile, all of a sudden you are forced to pay attention to the network and you shouldn't have to."
The demand for better connections and the need for the experience to be simple are what drive the next level of innovation in our networks. For wireless networks, that next level of innovation is 4G mobile broadband, which includes LTE and WiMAX. 4G can extend the quality experience that users get from their fixed connections into the mobile world. Nortel has all the elements needed to bring carriers successfully into the 4G world: innovation in WiMAX and LTE, a strong ecosystem, all IP-core, and a deep understanding of what consumer and business users are looking for from their wireless experience.

Nortel's 4G Mobile Broadband website says:
4G delivers true mobile broadband for the masses with a superior user experience. Nortel is boosting the adoption of mobile multimedia and the delivery of a true mobile broadband experience through our leadership in 4G-enabled technologies (WiMAX, LTE (Long Term Evolution), UMB (Ultra Mobile Broadband), and IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem). 4G mobile broadband provides improved performance, lower total cost of ownership and enables a new era of personalized services. 4G networks are IP-based and flatter with fewer nodes to manage. The benefits are significant and can make 4G mobile broadband a truly disruptive and game-changing technology.
If Nortel calls this 4G then this is 4G ;)

Sunday 10 February 2008

World's Smallest ...

No we are not going to talk about this small camera as its not related to this blog :)

We are going to talk about the worlds smallest phone which has entered Guinness World Records.

The modular Modu phone system, created by Modu Mobile, the world's smallest mobile phone, which weighs just 40.1g and measures 72mm x 37mm x 7.8mm.

The modular Modu phone system, created by Modu Mobile, can be slotted into different cases or even into other specially developed consumer technology. "Modu starts with a tiny handset, which is the lightest phone in the world at 40.1g," said Zack Weisfeld, vice president of marketing at Modu Mobile.

Despite its small dimensions, Weisfeld claimed that the phone does " everything that a sophisticated cellphone does". "You can use it anywhere in the world, send and receive SMS, it has a speaker, Bluetooth, MP3 player with at least 1GB of storage and acts as a mass storage USB Flash drive," he said. "It is tiny, but it is the right size to make it functional, to make you able to dial numbers." Slotting the Modu into different "jackets" also allows users to change what the device can do.

On its own, the Modu phone might not have a standard keypad, but it will still make calls. Put it into a 'sleeve' or 'jacket' (which are essentially cases) and you can turn it into a multitude of different devices.

If, for example, you're going out clubbing, you can pop it into a fashion sleeve with a fancy design. If you're on a business trip and you need a phone with a Qwerty keypad and large screen, you just have to pop it into a 'jacket' with those features.

The idea is that when you buy the Modu phone, you'll get a range of two or three sleeves with it and therefore you're essentially getting three phones for the price of one. If you need extra sleeves you'll be able to buy them for €40-€60 (£30-£45) depending on functionality.

The Modu phone will be available from the 1 October in Israel, Italy and Russia to start with, and it'll cost €200 (£150) unsubsidised with two jackets. According to Modu, there'll be around ten jackets to choose from.

Turning the Modu phone into other phones isn't as far as this device can go. Have a look at the these to see what we're talking about.

Friday 8 February 2008

LG Viewty is Beauty

Wow, LG Viewty (officially LG-KU990) allows you to record in DivX format (.avi extension) as compared to .3gp format. The trouble with .3gp format is that it can generally be seen on phones and not really watchable on PC or old PDA's. I am not sure of the resolution and quality though. With 5 MP camera, i assume it should be quite good.
I have a DivX compatible player at home, but i have not yet seen big brands supporting MPEG4. It would be fun in future we will have capability to record our favourite programs in DivX format as well as normal DVD format.
Any DivX fans around?

Thursday 7 February 2008

Video Sharing on Mobile

Youtube recently improved their mobile offering to include advanced features such as access to a large catalog of mobile video and to features that were only available on the desktop version in the past. YouTube for Mobile users can now choose from tens of millions of videos, according to the company. However, users must have a streaming-capable phone with 3G technology, which is necessary for high-speed data access over cellular networks.

Apple's popular iPhone comes with a preloaded YouTube application. But the iPhone doesn't support 3G, so the video-streaming experience can be sluggish at times. It's faster over Wi-Fi connections.

With the expanded mobile offering, YouTube users also can access their accounts, favorites, videos, channels, and directly upload and share content from mobile phones. Another new feature is the ability to rate and post comments on the go.

San Bruno-based YouTube has no immediate plans to make money off the mobile service but eventually may show ads to viewers, said Hunter Walk, YouTube's product manager. For now, YouTube just wants its audience to become more accustomed to watching video on their phones, Walker said.

Operators have realised that this can seriously impact their walled gardens and their ability to make loads of money out of the mobile users.

For this reason 3 and O2 are launching EyeVibe, a mobile video community that combines their highly successful SeeMeTV and LookAtMe! services into a single community allowing any UK mobile subscriber with a video-enabled handset to share and earn cash from their mobile video clips.

The advantage the operators have is that they will share their revenue with the people who upload their videos thereby encouraging them to use their service rather than Youtube for mobile. I am sure Google is already aware of this and working on a similar ad based scheme.

Finally, SK Telecom announced the launch of T LIVE Video Share that enables users to share images on the camera phone screen during the voice call.

T LIVE Video Share is based on IMS or IP Multimedia Subsystems, the next generation communication platform capable of at least two multimedia services. Major mobile carriers in the world such as AT&T Wireless commercialized IMS services called Video Sharing.

So far, mobile users had to hang up the phone to switch from voice to video call, but T Live Video Share users will be able to open the data call during the voice call so that they can share the images on the camera screen and start video chatting, according to SK Telecom.

To activate T Live Video Share, the sender should wait for the message that video sharing is on and push the "video call" button, and the receiver should accept the request. To return to voice call, they can either push the "video call" button again and select the "stop", or push the "end" button.

Unlike WCDMA video call, T LIVE Video Share uses the network optimized for data communications and offers video service of superior quality, the carrier said. SK Telecom expects T LIVE Video Share will expand the scope of communications beyond voice calls. Currently, the service is limited to sharing images on the camera screen, but the company will extend it into contents sharing service and enable users to share all contents in the phone such as photos, music and mobile internet connection images.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

IMS Service: An Insight

Brilliant article from 'The IMS Lantern':
An IMS service is a service that makes use of SIP and the IMS either centrally or marginally.

SIP itself and even more, the combination of SIP with other protocols can give birth to a flurry of new services, some of them implemented on IMS.

The ability of SIP to combine various existing services of different types (communication, data, content, applications) can give birth to a new user experience, which is by itself a new service. This is an important matter to consider when comparing SIP with more purpose-centric protocols.

These new services can reach a huge community covering all the continents, all types of access technologies and spreading between telco domains, other business domains, and the Internet, possibly redefining the definitions of these domains.

IMS and SOA (Service oriented Architecture) are not alternative architectures to deliver new services. They should rather be seen as building blocks permitting to create a new and more powerful service architecture called UOA (User Oriented Architecture).

This draws a potential future world, in which there might be a little bit of SIP everywhere, and consequently a a good potential for IMS to fit as a particular SIP service architecture deployed by telco operators.

However, history shows that the best technologies do not always prevail. In a possible future, the potential of SIP as a service control protocol used in different architectures including IMS, and/or IMS as a service architecture augmenting the intrinsic capabilities of SIP, might eventually fail. Conversely, would SIP and/or IMS be only used at a fraction of their potential (e.g. for VoIP and a limited set of additional services), they could still be a success.

WiMAX or LTE or ............Both?

Everyday I am starting to get a bit more convinced that in future both WiMAX and LTE will work side by side and operators will be more willing to have an open mind about the rival technology.

This article from European Communications has put in words exactly how i have started to feel recently:

There is much expected of WiMAX and it's probably fair to say that some of this can be classified as ‘hype' yet there is much to be excited about, provided we set realistic expectations with early stage deployments. It's also important to remember that WiMAX comes in two distinctly different flavours - mobile WiMAX (referred to under standard 802.16e) and fixed (802.16d). There are significant differences between the two, not least the fact that it's technically much easier to deliver the high bandwidth speeds to a stationary external antenna associated with fixed WiMAX than it is to one on a mobile device in someone's pocket or handbag.

This means that whilst symmetrical speeds of 10 Mbps may be technically possible at a range of 10km today, in practice this is likely to be achieved only using fixed WiMAX and is reliant on other variables for its success, such as a high quality external antenna with line-of-sight to the base station. Given this situation is far from common and that buildings get in the way and degrade WiMAX signals, it will be more likely that mobile WiMAX users will only see half that data rate at much shorter distances from the base station - at least until techniques such as MIMO (multiple input multiple output) and beamforming are perfected to counter, and even take advantage of the multipath effects from physical obstructions.

One of the biggest obstacles to widespread WiMAX deployments is the lack of available high quality spectrum. In the US, Sprint benefits greatly from its 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings. This relatively low-frequency band allows greater coverage per base station since signals travel much further than at higher frequencies. This results in fewer base stations needed, making WiMAX cheaper to deploy in the US than in other markets that don't have access to the same spectrum. Even given the availability of 2.5 GHz spectrum, for Sprint's network to provide nationwide coverage it will require more than 60,000 base stations across the US.In Europe, bandwidth below 2.5GHz is scarce and mostly occupied by analogue TV and current GSM mobile signals. Therefore, until now most European WiMAX trials and licences have been limited to the 3.5 GHz or even 5 GHz bands with often disappointing results, which is why we haven't seen anywhere near as much WiMAX traction in Europe as the US. It may not be until after analogue broadcast signals are switched off across Europe (with the UK scheduled for 2012) that sub 2.5 GHz spectrum becomes available and we start to see large-scale European WiMAX deployments.

An alternative high speed mobile technology that could be used instead of, or to run alongside, WiMAX is LTE. The crucial difference is that, unlike WiMAX, which requires a new network to be built, LTE runs on an evolution of the existing UMTS infrastructure already used by over 80 per cent of mobile subscribers globally. This means that even though development and deployment of the LTE standard may lag Mobile WiMAX, it has a crucial incumbent advantage.

So which technology will ultimately prevail? It is arguable that LTE is more ‘risk-free' than WiMAX because it will run on an evolution of existing mobile infrastructure. Also, mobile operators will be able to use their experience from current 3G and HSDPA networks to carry out the incremental fine-tuning necessary to ensure that the rollout of LTE will deliver on user expectations. Also in Europe it has the advantage of being unaffected by the lack of available spectrum.

However, the recognition of WiMAX as an IMT-2000 technology by the ITU in October 2007 is a significant step, that in the future may help WiMAX to gain a foothold in today's UMTS spectrum and so close the spectrum availability gap, but the full impact of this move has yet to unfold.

Nevertheless, LTE is still perhaps three to four years from being ready whereas mobile WiMAX equipment is entering the final testing phase now. Some operators far from seeing LTE as being less of a risk may take the view that by missing an early mover advantage into ultra high speed mobile broadband and waiting for LTE would have an impact in terms of potential subscribers perhaps attainable by moving to WiMAX now.
Also LTE will start to come to the forefront at the same time as analogue TV signals are switched off in Europe, making the spectrum debate largely irrelevant to the WiMAX versus LTE argument. This is of course provided national governments release spectrum for WiMAX and it's available at a price that operators deem worth paying.

Interestingly many operators have already stated their interest in both camps. In August of this year, Vodafone, a key advocate of LTE, declared itself ‘technology neutral' and joined the WiMAX Forum. This pragmatic approach is perhaps a sign that for now many operators will adopt a ‘wait and see' approach and learn from the experiences of early pioneers such as Sprint Nextel before deciding whether to choose WiMAX or LTE.

Ultimately the decision may be to use both. As Spirent Nextel is showing in the US, the real estate occupied by an operator's current base stations can also be used to site new WiMAX base stations. Then the strategy could be that LTE is used to support mobile broadband users and WiMAX to support fixed or lower-mobility broadband users. Alternatively, they could well use LTE for macro cellular coverage and WiMAX for micro cell coverage.In all likelihood many devices of the future will ship with both LTE and WiMAX capability, meaning full compatibility across both technologies. Consumers will probably not even know which particular technology is delivering high speed data to them and they're hardly likely to care, so long as it works to their satisfaction, and the content provided is engaging and available at the right price

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Bye Bye Moto...

Well its nearly time to say Bye to Motorola as they are planning to sell off (or merge perhaps) their Cell Phone business.

Guardian has an interesting peice on this:

Such a move could reshape the global mobile phones industry, leaving the rump of Motorola to concentrate on radios, networking equipment and household electronics such as television set-top boxes.

Although renowned for its ultra-thin Razr phones, Motorola has been losing market share; it slipped from second to third place in the world last year, behind Samsung and the industry leader, Nokia.

Motorola has been facing break-up calls for more than a year from the billionaire shareholder activist Carl Icahn, who owns 3.3% of the stock and sought boardroom representation last year.

Icahn greeted the announcement with satisfaction: "For many months I have been publicly advocating the separation of mobile devices from Motorola's other business and I am pleased to see that Motorola is finally exploring that proposal."

He warned, however, that he intends to try to unseat four or five of Motorola's 13 board members again at this year's annual meeting: "We believe Motorola is finally moving in the right direction but certainly still has a long way to go."

Motorola's profits slumped by 84% to $100m (£50m) in the final quarter of 2007. Although the Razr has surpassed 50m sales worldwide, the company has failed to follow up the model's success with a broader range of popular handsets.

Analysts have suggested that its technology neither suits burgeoning demand for multimedia functions in Europe and America nor the pressure for low prices which prevails in developing countries.

Motorola's announcement followed speculation of a sale of its phones division in a note published by an analyst at Nomura, who suggested that a Chinese buyer may be interested in the business.

Motorola's mobile phones division accounts for about half of its $36bn global sales. But its 12% share of the phones market is just half of its level at the peak of the Razr's success in 2006.

Regarding a takeover, Businessweek says:

A big reminder of the difficulties is the collapse of the highest-profile attempt by an Asian company to acquire a struggling Western cellular brand. In 2005, the Taiwanese electronics group BenQ, which had won respect in the telecom and computer industries for its innovative design and was making headway establishing its brand worldwide, tried to jump-start its global push by buying the struggling handset unit of Siemens (SI). The deal proved far too big for the Taiwanese company, though, and in 2006 BenQ Siemens went bankrupt.

As BenQ's experience illustrates, in the fiercely cutthroat handset market, a misstep could push a manufacturer way behind rivals, and achieving synergies could take time. A foreign takeover would probably involve the headache of integrating vastly different operations and clashing cultures, which could discourage any potential buyer from courting Motorola, particularly when its existing strategies are working. "It could be a dangerous undertaking," says Michael Min, a specialist on information technology companies at fund manager Tempis Capital Management.

Tomi Ahonen wrote an interesting comment on forum oxford on this one:

I'd hate to see Motorola quit the handset business, but its a very difficult market to succeed in. The mobile phone handset is the most complex piece of consumer electronics, the market place tolerances are tiny - with a shelf life for a given model of under a year (often under 6 months) - you have to continue to deliver hit models several times a year, every year.

We've seen giants quit. Philips was the world's largest consumer electronics firm in the 1970s and 1980s and quit the phone business. Siemens was the world's largest engineering company, also made phones; no more. Ericsson was the biggest telecoms manufacturer and couldn't sustain the losses of its handset division to merge it with that of Sony - which at the time and since the 1990s was the world's largest consumer electronics company. It took them years to turn their joint venture around.

We have giants from all sides playing in this game. Motorola the inventor of the cellular phone is now quite seriously considered to be on the way out.

Then there is the paper and rubber maunfacturing company from Finland, Nokia that got into phones that is now the giant. And two other conglomerates from South Korea, Samsung and LG, that are gobbling up market share..

A very rough market place. I do love competition. Americans are good at competition. I also love history, and it seems like a cruel twist of fate, if Motorola were to exit. But they haven't done really anything impressive since the Razr. And for a giant of their size, that is pretty sad...

Lets see how it plays. I often hear the big investor analysts say when they look at our industry, that there are too many players, and the market has to consolidate. It seems surprising when the news arrives of the Alcatel-Lucents, Nokia-Siemens Networks, Sprint-Nextels and SonyEricssons etc.

Meanwhile on another front we also see Microsoft wanting to gobble up Yahoo..

Monday 4 February 2008

Vodafone's new data plan - playing catch-up with '3'

Vodafone has cut their mobile broadband rates. In a way this is good news as more small businesses will go for this option so they can check their mail while on the move.

I know some of you may be thinking that people always had the option of using Blackberry, but that option is expensive and not convinient for everyone.

So what is Vodafone offering:

  • £15 (promotional period only) for upto 3G of data (18 months contract) and free USB modem
  • £20 for 1GB of data on No contract + you buy your own modem

Even though this looks good initially, '3' has been offering a much better package:

  • £10 for 1GB - 18 months Contract gets you a free Modem or Pay as you go with No Modem
  • £15 for 3GB - Same terms as above
  • £25 for 7GB - Same terms as above

The only problem with '3' is that people dont trust them enough (even though i used them and generally never had problems).

In any case this is still good news but the operators need to understand that they will have to lower the price slightly more before the critical mass adopts this whole heartedly. I say that £5 for 1GB and £10 for 3GB is a good starting point.

With more people adopting Mobile Broadband, operators will be forced to provide better services which in turn mean that they will have to move on new technologies like HSPA+ and LTE asap. This is because these new technologies increase the capacity and speed and the connections will become much more reliable.

We will have to wait and watch which operator has the courage to take the bold step of £5 for 1GB of data.

Ps: One of my colleague for India mentioned that you can get unlimited data using GPRS in India for Rs. 99 (< £1.5). Can anyone confirm?

Wednesday 30 January 2008

Comparison: HSPA+ vs LTE

Advantages of LTE over HSPA+
  • Flexible Spectrum usage possible with LTE: LTE will be the same whether the bandwidth available is 5MHz or 20MHz. Ofcourse the data rate will increase when the BW is increased. With HSPA+ only 5MHz bandwidhts possible. Similalrly with HSPA+ only FDD mode of operation is possible whereas with LTE FDD or TDD mode is possible.
  • Spectrum Effeciency: Better spectrum effeciency, by a factor of 2 atleast over HSPA+
  • Simpler Architecture: LTE has a much simpler and relatively flat architecture compared to the legacy UMTS network in HSPA+
  • Higher Data Rates: LTE gives DL data rates of 144Mbps and UL of 57Mbps. HSPA+ gives 42Mbps in DL and 11Mbps in UL
  • Ultra Low Latency: 10ms instead of 50ms for HSPA+
  • Short TTI: 0.5ms instead of 2ms for HSPA+

Advantages of HSPA+ over LTE
  • Will be ready much before LTE: HSPA+ technology should be available in Q1 2009 whereas the earliest with LTE would be sometime in 2010.
  • Much less investment in infrastructure: Since HSPA+ is evolution of HSPA which is already being deployed, it would be easier and less costly to upgrade. With LTE since its based on OFDM a lot of new components will be required. Also in case of LTE the number of components are reduced but since they work in a different way, new components will be required.
Did i miss something?