Sunday 14 December 2008

Still something to cheer up for wireless sector

In the last year as everybody knows because of the lack of money in the market situation has turned towards grimness. In these difficult times everybody tend to take measures whether right or wrong we can’t say for sure. One thing though which is sure is that everybody tries to cut cost in these difficult circumstances and hence results in the some unpopular decisions. Telecomm companies are no different than others and hence quite rightly taken stern steps towards cutting costs. There is some nervousness especially among the investors which gives an impression that spending in the wireless sector will be hot has as well.

Although the certain trends and strategic vibes coming out of the major companies doesn’t suggest so for the time being. Infact I must say wireless infrastructure spending has overtaken wired in the majority of large enterprises.

I can see the main reason behind this increased spending is that companies are well aware that majority of us like to have wireless these days. Majority of the companies, no doubt also expect all their networked equipment to be wireless enabled. This obviously presents a strategic view in front of the companies and investors as a need for mobility and hence the need to upgrade or replace an existing wired LAN.

As everyday passes by in these hard economic times the budget is getting reduced and hence there is a sense of urgency to be more efficient. I might not be very wrong is say that at the moment wireless/mobility sector seems to be achieving that efficiency by taking certain calculated steps.

Companies are trying every possible bit to get the maximum out of the existing or newly planned wireless infrastructure and the technology as such.

Once such company which everybody thought will say goodbye to Wireless is Alcatel-Lucent.
In the highly anticipated strategic announcement by the newly appointed CEO of Alcatel-Lucent, Ben Verwaayen, has announced and hence strongly countered that it is committed to being a major supplier of mobile infrastructure.

I guess Ben Verwaayen see that there is a huge potential in the wireless market and hence despite being pressured by some of its major investors he still wants to go ahead with the spending on the wireless infrastructure major being the LTE.

In the last year whenever I spoke to my friends in different companies I got the view that everybody wants to cut the cost so that they can continue or maintain their R&D section. In my view this is the right thing to do specially for the giants of telecoms. It’s quite simple that R&D projects will enable to develop new and exciting products and hence the revenues.

Based on the above information which gained by talking to different people at the top of the industry I’m 100% confident that companies like Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Network, Alcatel-Lucent etc will maintain its R&D resources and will be ready with LTE products when the market demands. It is very much obvious companies will focus in a more targeted way than in the past and thus may be putting LTE at the very centre of their efforts. The whole ideas to regain the market share and become a leading supplier within 18 months.

340m 'Active' mobile broadband users by 2014

Mobile broadband computing (MBC) has grown very strongly in 2008, to 35m global subscribers. This is forecast to increase almost 10x by 2014, to 341m according to a new report titled "Mobile Broadband Computing" by Dean Bubley from Disruptive Analysis.

Some of the interesting highlights from the report as follows:
  • Growth has been driven by cheap HSDPA modems and flatrate data plans.
  • The majority of MBC users exploit conventional-seized laptops with separate 3G USB modems (“dongles”). This model will continue to lead despite the growth of netbooks, built-in 3G, WiMAX and MIDs (mobile Internet devices).
  • At present, Europe accounts for 50% of global mobile broadband users, reflecting earlier introduction of consumer-friendly USB dongles and ferociously-competitive low-priced HSDPA tariffs.
  • “Free” netbooks, provided on a subsidised basis by mobile operators on typical 2-year contracts are popular, but have a limited addressable market.
  • By the end of 2011, about 30% of mobile broadband users will be exploiting notebooks with built-in 3G or WiMAX modules. 58%, roughly twice that proportion, will use external modems like USB dongles.
  • By 2014, there will be 150m users of notebooks and netbooks with embedded mobile broadband worldwide. In terms of shipments, 100m wireless-enabled laptops will be sold annually by then – but not all will be activated.
  • By 2012, there will be 45m users of WiMAX-enabled MBC devices. 11m of these will also use 3G or LTE connections in various hybrid approaches.
  • Use of LTE in mobile broadband computing devices will be very limited until 2012. After that, ramp-up will be rapid, reaching 75m units shipped in 2014.
  • By 2011, only 40% of mobile broadband users will be on long-term monthly contracts. Most will use prepaid, session-based, bundled or “free” models.
Some of the other interesting points from the extended summary as follows:
  • Some operators' marketing teams have become over-zealous about competing with fixed broadband. In some markets, HSDPA is now cheaper than ADSL/cable. This is unsustainable, as the cost structures differ hugely. There are physical limits to the capacity of mobile data networks, which will rapidly be reached with the explosion of low-cost traffic. Some cellular networks now see more than 90% of 3G traffic from PCs. Network operators are now hostage to future high-bandwidth Internet applications gaining viral adoption among mobile users.
  • Adoption of embedded-3G and embedded-WiMAX notebooks will grow slowly alongside separate “dongle” modems. Predictions of 50%+ attach rates in 2-3 years are over-optimistic; there are numerous practical, commercial and economic reasons for delayed adoption
  • To date, most mobile broadband users have connected with an existing notebook PC, together with a separate datacard or USB dongle. Looking forward, a broader set of choices are emerging, with the advent of embedded-WWAN notebooks, small & inexpensive 7-10” sized netbooks, MIDs and the use of 3G handsets as “tethers”. Implicitly, these all compete to some degree against higher-end smartphones as well.
  • At present, the majority of mobile broadband subscribers are engaged through
    traditional monthly contracts, typically over 12-24 month periods. However, further evolution is necessary. Disruptive Analysis expects a variety of new business models to emerge and take a significant share of the overall user base, including:
    • Session-based access, similar to the familiar WiFi hotspot model.
    • Bundling of mobile broadband with other services, for example as an adjunct to fixed broadband or mobile voice services.
    • “Comes with data included” models, where the upfront device purchase price
      includes connectivity, perhaps for a year.
    • Free, guest or “sponsored” mobile broadband, paid for by venue owners or
      event organisers.
  • Incrementing capacity of Networks by perhaps another 10x in the next 6 years will need investment in more spectrum, more cell sites, newer radio technology, better backhaul and dedicated “hotspot” solutions like femtocells and WiFi. Yet in the current climate, these investments face delay, meaning a “capacity crunch” is possible in some cases.
On an unrelated note, More than 25 per cent of the content that workers view each day will be dominated by pictures, video or audio by 2013, according to research by Gartner. Though this does not specifically say mobile content, I think the same phenomenon will be observed in the mobile world and maybe to a larger extent with applications like Youtube already very popular with the mobile users.

Saturday 13 December 2008

Help to decipher the text messages

The world of text messaging is evolving so fast that honestly its becoming difficult for me to keep track of the 'text slangs'. If you are in a situation like me then dont worry help is at hand.

ITPro published an article recently reporting that the 'Post Office' (yup you read it correctly) has released a guide that lists lot of common slangs being used for texting. A word of caution would be that some of the terms are specific to Brits so they may not be applicable in other english speaking countries.

Some of the interesting terms listed are:

  • ATM - At the moment
  • 4EVA - Forever
  • Code 18 - Someone who is bad at using technology
  • 404 - Clueless
  • BAB - Boring
  • P999 - Parent Alert (Note 999 is emergency number in UK. So this would become P911 in US, P112 in Europe and P100 in India)
  • GOOD job - Get Out Of Debt job
  • Code 11 - Old Fashioned (London specific)
  • 143 - I Love You (more commonly used one is ILU)

The guide is available from the Post office site here. (Ftp link for PDF)

There is also a very interesting book called "Txtng: the gr8 db8" that was published not too long ago.

The book is not expensive and I found it very interesting as it contains loads of useful information and statistics. The best thing is that in the end it contains very detailed list of text abbreviations, not only in english but also in 11 other languages (using english charachters though) including Chinese, French, Italian, Spanish and Welsh.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

iBangle: Not a phone but great concept

The iBangle is Gopinath Prasana’s vision of a future iPod where the devices have become darn close to becoming jewelry. If you factor in inflation and the cost of Apple products today - might as well call it jewelry because it’ll cost as much. I digress, the iBangle is a thin piece of aluminum (of course) with a multi-touch track pad. To achieve the perfect fit, a cushion inside the ring inflates to keep itself taught against your wrist. Unisex? Maybe.

If this concept becomes reality, it would be just mater of time before a phone is rolled in along with this.

The wearable concept is also puched in the Nokia concept phones like the Nokia 888 and Morph.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

LTE Advanced: NSN Proves relaying technology

Nokia Siemens Networks has broken new ground with another technological first: mobile broadband communications beyond LTE. Company researchers have successfully demonstrated Relaying technology proposed for LTE-Advanced, enabling an exceptional end-user experience delivered consistently across the network.

Completed in Nokia Siemens Networks research facilities in Germany, the demonstration illustrated how advances to Relaying technology can further improve the quality and coverage consistency of a network at the cell edge - where users are furthest from the mobile broadband base station.

Relaying technology, which can also be integrated in normal base station platforms, is cost efficient and easy to deploy as it does not require additional backhaul. The demonstration of LTE Advanced means operators can plan their LTE network investments knowing that the already best-in-class LTE radio performance, including cell edge data rates, can be further improved and that the technological development path for the next stage of LTE is secure and future-proof.

These performance enhancements have been achieved by combining an LTE system supporting a 2x2 MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) antenna system, and a Relay station. The Relaying operates in-band, which means that the relay stations inserted in the network do not need an external data backhaul. They are connected to the nearest base stations by using radio resources within the operating frequency band of the base station itself. Towards the terminal they are base stations and offer the full functionality of LTE. LTE-Advanced is currently being studied by 3GPP for Release 10 and will be submitted towards ITU-R as the 3GPP Radio Interface Technology proposal.

The improved cell coverage and system fairness - meaning offering higher user data rates for and fair treatment of users distant from the base station - will allow operators to utilise existing LTE network infrastructure and still meet growing bandwidth demands.

The demonstration has been realised by using an intelligent demo relay node embedded in a test network forming a FDD in-band self-backhauling solution for coverage enhancements. With this demonstration the performance at the cell edge could be increased up to 50% of the peak throughput.

More info on LTE-A coming soon.

Monday 8 December 2008

No LTE networks in UK before 2011

According to, any rollout of a next generation mobile network in the UK is still years away, says telecoms kit maker Ericsson's UK CTO John Cunliffe.

"I would say probably the end of 2010 at the very earliest," he told "Networks will be ready for rolling out - shipping in commercial quantities - next year and then the devices, we think, will start to come in 2010," he added.

Cunliffe would not give an estimate on how much a commercial rollout of LTE in the UK might cost. "People need to do more modelling around rollout costs," he said. "It's a new equation."
However, he claimed operators switching to LTE would reap the benefits of "total lower capex and lower opex" - provided they are willing to stump up the infrastructure cash.

However Cunliffe highlighted that any large-scale deployment of rival 4G technology WiMax would also require similar investment in infrastructure to that of an LTE deployment. "If you think about WiMax starting off as essentially a radio you need a much bigger ecosystem around it," he said.

"By the time you actually deliver a service, the operators still have to pay for the infrastructure that goes around it and they've still got their opex - their people costs and so on - so the WiMax piece - the radio piece - is actually a small piece of the equation. In terms of the maturity of the 3GPP ecosystem, it's well ahead of where WiMax is."

"The fastest being deployed in the UK at the moment is 7.2Mbps but our roadmap continues until 42Mbps. We can even see that it may be possible for the technology to reach as much as 80Mbps…so there is certainly a lot of mileage in HSPA…People maybe think that we've got to have LTE to get to the higher speeds but HSPA will go a long way before we need to get to LTE speeds."

Cunliffe added the top speed of LTE currently being demoed by Ericsson in lab conditions is 160Mbps and a drive test has reached a maximum of 154Mbps, with an average of 78Mbps.

What are the biggest hurdles to a UK LTE network being rolled out? Cunliffe believes they are timing - when operators will switch, especially those with significant investment in HSPA - as well as the inexorable issue of ROI: "Obviously there will be questions about return on investment," he concluded.

Sunday 7 December 2008

2009 is crucial for mobile vendors

Some time ago I wrote in my blog about the good results posted by the companies for that particular quarter. At that time I was slightly bullish in terms of future earning of the telecoms giants.

With the new financial results predicting more economic woes, the early signs suggest that the majot telecoms companies might have a rocky ride ahead.

Most of the major vendors have already issued warnings for their handset sales. The news comes amid a week of profit warnings from other handset makers, including Research In Motion and Palm, as the handset market faces declining demand in the midst of a global economic slowdown. The research firm Gartner also released statistics about the smartphone market, which saw its weakest year-on-year growth since the firm started tracking the industry, and Nokia saw its share of the smartphone market fall to 42.4 percent, down from the 48.7 percent share it had a year earlier.

I remember during the year 2000/2001 when we saw the major telecoms burst, Nokia was still holding up and it produced some good results. I expect/expected similar this time as well from Nokia.

I was proven wrong when Nokia issued a market warning for the second time in less than a month, cutting its outlook for global handset sales, as the world's largest handset maker braces for a slowdown in the coming year.The Finnish giant now expects global handset sales to drop below the 330 million units for the fourth quarter it estimated on Nov. 14, and also said its estimate of 1.24 billion units for 2008 would have to be revised down. Those numbers were cuts from previous estimates. The company also said it expects growth to slow in 2009, with the market contracting 5 percent from its 2008 levels.

Indeed these figures coming out of Nokia presents bleak picture and make everybody nervous. It is very much evident by looking at the current climate that year 2009 will be challenging for telecoms industry.

However I still believe that companies like Nokia have a strong, enviable base to build on and I believe even in tough situation it will continue to strengthen its position on many fronts.

There is no doubt that in the face of a global economic downturn and weakening demand, handset makers and vendors affiliated with cell phone components are probably headed toward a large shakeup.

Companies with more high-end portfolios, including Apple, Research In Motion and HTC will be better positioned to handle any turmoil that would affect the handset market. All three have showcase devices that could help propel them through any choppy waters. In the case of RIM, there are multiple devices that could turn into large sellers, most notably the BlackBerry Storm, which Verizon Wireless has already launched.

However, others such as Motorola and Sony Ericsson, which cut 450 jobs from its North American headquarters earlier this fall, are in a weaker position. Motorola has said it is planning on focusing more on phones running on Windows Mobile and Google's Android platform to chart it back to growth, but said an Android phone would not be in the market until the end of 2009.

Most of the handset vendors will develop a strategy where they will concentrate on the market where the handset sales are still on the up. Europe has already been considered saturated in terms of mobile sales and hence this doesn’t come as surprise when Ovum declared in its report that Europe has become the first regional mobile market to be hit by the economic downturn.
But the the US mobile market has to date resisted the downturn and developing markets such as Latin America continue to enjoy double-digit revenue growth rates. Markets such as Latin America which remains overwhelmingly buoyant gives enough hope to vendors hence the expectation that they will be able to ride out the current financial crises.

I guess 2009 is going to be interesting.

Thursday 4 December 2008

SMS Rocks! Long distance shoulder amputation by text

We have heard of dumping and divorce through SMS, betting through SMS but none can beat this one. A surgeon carried out an operation in Democratic Republic of Congo by following instructions received over SMS.

A British surgeon volunteering in the Democratic Republic of Congo saved the life of a teenage boy by amputating his shoulder using instructions texted by a colleague in London.

David Nott, 52, a general and vascular surgeon at Chelsea and Westminster hospital, was working with the charity Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) in the town of Rutshuru when he came across the badly injured 16-year-old in October.

The teenager's left arm had been so badly damaged - either in an accident or as a result of the fighting between Congolese and rebel troops - that it had already had to be amputated. But the flesh and bone that remained had become badly infected and gangrenous.

"He was dying" said Nott. "He had about two or three days to live."

The doctor realised the boy's best chance of survival was a forequarter amputation which requires the surgeon to remove the collar bone and shoulder blade. The only problem was that it was an operation Nott had never performed. But he remembered that one of his colleagues at home had carried out the procedure.

"I texted him and he texted back step-by-step instructions," he said.

"Even then I had to think long and hard about whether it was right to leave a young boy with only one arm in the middle of this fighting.

"But in the end he would have died without it, so I took a deep breath and followed the instructions to the letter."

Such an operation, if performed in the UK, would require careful planning with every sort of modern medical product on hand if things went wrong.

But in Congo Nott had just one pint of blood and an elementary operating theatre.

Despite the basic conditions, the operation was a success and the teenager made a full recovery.

This news could not have come at a better time because the inventor of SMS, Matti Makkonen, received this year's Economist Innovation Award for Computing and Telecommunications.

If I remember my stats correctly, there are 3Billion+ users or SMS worldwide with 1Billion+ SMS exchanged daily and its nearly 20 years since SMS has been launched.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Nokia admits defeat in Japan

Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia has said it will stop selling its handsets in Japan after struggling to grow its market share in the country.

Nokia said it would continue selling its luxury Vertu brand in Japan, and would dedicate its Japanese business to research purposes.

Nokia has nearly 40% of the global market for mobile phones, but it reportedly managed to take only 0.3% of Japan's market last year.

Samsung and LG have also faced problems in Japan - a market dominated by sophisticated domestic phones.

According to research firm IDC Japan, foreign companies account for only 5% of the Japanese market, which is dominated by local firms selling phones with features such as TV broadcasting and electronic payment functions.

The Nokia-owned luxury brand Vertu was created in 1998 and focuses on one-off specialist phones costing from 3,500 euros to more than 100,000 euros.

Source: BBC

Monday 1 December 2008

Nokia to power Smarter Homes

Nokia Home Control Center - My home is where my phone is

Nokia Home Control Center is a solution based on an open Linux based platform enabling the home owner to build a technology-neutral smart home that can be controlled with a mobile phone, using a unified user interface. Nokia Home Control Center supports the most common smart home technologies, including Z-Wave as well as enabling the incorporation for proprietary technologies. Thus, it allows third parties to develop their own solutions and services on top of the platform, expanding the system to support new services and smart home technologies.

Building blocks for an intelligent house are readily available in the market. Putting it all together is, however, like trying to build a house from blocks that do not fit with each other. There are smart refrigerators, energy-saving washing machines, heating systems that can adjust the room temperature with one-celcius-accuracy, security systems with touchpanels, low-energy walls, programmable thermostats, self-adjusting curtains, configurable set-top boxes, self-operating yard lights and much more. The problem is all these systems are separate and you end up having a dozen remote controllers and miles of cables in the living room.

Until now, solutions to home automation challenges have been sought through the development of better sensor networks. Although they are, of course, very important parts of new smart home solutions, no single sensor network technology can solve the challenges in this field. Z-Wave, ZigBee, and KNX are all attempts to define a common command language for home networks. So far, there has not been a clear winner in the battle for the de facto standard of home networks. Hence, it can be assumed that a future home will use several different technologies.

The Nokia Home Control Center acts as a dictionary that translates different technological languages so that they can be presented in a unified user interface. Furthermore, the platform enables grouping different physical devices, even from different manufacturers, to be presented for the user in an easy-to-understand way.

The whole Nokia solution consists of four main components:

1. The heart of the solution is the Nokia Home Control Center which is built on top of standard gateway architecture.
2. Two most important control nodes are the mobile phone and web browser.
3. The back-end server architecture ensures a seamless and secure link between a mobile device and the home gateway and also makes possible updating and upgrading software easily.
4. The partner devices. In addition to the components that Nokia is providing, the value for the end customer comes from the integration of different third party devices and systems under the control of one user interface.

It will be possible for example to monitor and control electricity usage, to swich devices on and off, and monitor different objects, such as temperature, camera, and motion. On one hand, Nokia Home Control Center can be used as WLAN gateway. On the other hand, the platform covers everything from a basic security solution to a more sophisticated heating control system. Users are free to build a solution that fits to their needs and expand it when ever they want.

Mobility is becoming increasingly important in home environments, as wireless technologies for smart home solutions are emerging. As structure wiring is no longer required, these are no longer niche market products meant for new houses. Wireless broadband has become main stream and multimedia consumption over home networks is increasing. From many studies we know that moving from a multimedia network to a smart home network is a much smaller step than building a wired smart home from the scratch. Finally, the last barrier of high equipment prices is breaking down as the technology becomes more and more common.

Nokia 'Home Control Center' features and technical data can be seen here.

The following is additional info from the press release:

Nokia today also announced a partnership with one of Europe's biggest energy companies, RWE. The co-operation aims at developing a comprehensive solution for managing energy consumption and CO2 footage at home. This cooperation combines RWE's energy competence with Nokia's technological know-how.

With this in mind, the first joint solution from Nokia and RWE on late 2009 will focus on home heating management. The product consists of a central control unit together with remote-controlled thermostats for the actual radiator. The user interface will be the PC and the mobile phone. In addition, a separate display will be available. RWE is also planning special offers combining these devices with new energy supply contracts. In a second step, Nokia and RWE are planning additional services in connection with smart meters beyond 2009. These services will provide consumers with real-time information about their energy consumption and allow them to control their energy bill remotely.

"We are delighted to have secured a world-leading technology partner in Nokia for our range of smart home energy products. Our aim is to offer innovative and affordable energy-efficient solutions for every household that are simple and convenient to operate", said Carolin Reichert, Head of New Business at RWE.

Nokia Home Control Center will be part of Nokia's home offering. The solution will be demonstrated at the Nokia World event in Barcelona, Spain, on December 2-3, 2008 and is expected to become commercially available by the end of 2009.