Thursday 1 January 2009

Happy New Year 2009

Happy new year to everyone. May the new year see lots of new technologies succeed. May we see lots of new mobile phones with innovative technologies. May we see operators offering bigger bundles cheaper. May we see the technologies being simplified and understandable by everyone. May we see WiMAX and LTE co-exist peacefully. May we see lots of nice new books available at a much cheaper price :) May we see nice new mobile apps making our life simpler. May we keep reading and writing blogs and exchanging ideas.

Wednesday 31 December 2008

Bar Coded Train Tickets on Mobile

The Association ot Train Operating Companies has announced that all its franchisees will be able to take orders from train travellers straight from their phone and receive their tickets literally seconds before trains depart.

The system uses Masabi's tried and tested mobile ticketing solutions which relies on a barcode image that is scanned by the appropriate device(s) - as used by City AM newspaper and for V-fest events.

There's no need to sign-up and fast repeat purchases can simply be done using the card's CVV.

In addition, you won't be charged extra for using the sytem which uses US Government certified security encryption and when things go wrong, the new barcodes contain enough ticket information to allow alternative systems to validate tickets.

Ben Wittaker of Masabi said that "Once you send your text message to purchase your ticket, you will receive a response with a barcode reference, which can be scanned by inspectors."

Commentators hope that the service is more reliable than the UK train network and more secure than Transport For London's own Oyster system which has suffered a number of security scares in the past few months.

National Express, Heathrow Express and Chiltern Railways have already adopted the Rail Settlement Plan. This will lay the foundations of the rail ticketing body in charge of drafting the UK-wide standard which will oversee the use of tickets printed outside train stations.

Following successful trails with various train companies Masabi has worked with the Rail Settlement plan - the body that cross charges networks for ticketing to create an open standard for train tickets carrying bar codes to be accepted across rail franchises - enabling tickets to be printed out at home, or even displayed on mobile-phone screens, and used on journeys between network operators.

Selling tickets is an expensive part of running a rail franchise, and nearly 90 per cent of tickets are still sold at stations using ticket machines or at traditional windows.

Trials run by Masabi, who specialise in rendering bar-code information on phone screens, have apparently demonstrated that customers will happily buy tickets using their mobile phone - either while travelling to, or on arrival at, the railway station. Masabi's Java application stores the customer's credit card details locally, so the user just keys in the three-digit code from the back of their card along with origin and destination, and the ticket is bought and delivered over SMS or data connection where available.

But the standard also allows for bar codes to be rendered on other devices, or printed out after being bought on-line. Ticket inspectors will need to be equipped with bar-code readers, of course, but many are already sporting the technology and the standard has been devised in such a way that the last eight digits can be manually entered and checked on-line if necessary. Where a bar-code reader is used it shouldn't be necessary to perform an on-line verification as the 2D bar code contains authenticated details of the journey paid for.

The service does open up the opportunity to have one's phone poised, ready to buy a ticket should an inspector turn up, but you'll have to ensure you're are in the middle of a long carriage for that plan - as being dependent on timely SMS delivery to avoid a fine is not a good position to be in.

See Masabi's website for details.

Tuesday 30 December 2008

Improved Antenna to revolutionise mobile battery life

Atif Shamim, revolutionising mobile battery life

­Atif Shamim, an electronics PhD student at Carleton University, has built a prototype that extends the battery life of mobile phones, by getting rid of all the wires used to connect the electronic circuits with the antenna.

The invention involves a packaging technique to connect the antenna with the circuits via a wireless connection between a micro-antenna embedded within the circuits on the chip.

“This has not been tried before - that the circuits are connected to the antenna wirelessly. They’ve been connected through wires and a bunch of other components. That’s where the power gets lost,” Mr. Shamim said.

He estimates his module consumes 12 times less power than the traditional, wired-transmitter module. It is also much simpler in design, lowering the overall cost of any hand-held device, he said.

Mr. Shamim has filed patent applications in the U.S. and in Canada.

Earlier this year, the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation honoured Mr. Shamim and Mr. Arsalan as student researchers of the year for their work in the field of wireless biomedical sensors.

Shamim says his major goals for the innovation still lie in biomedical applications, including his original radiation sensors as well as remote healthcare sensors to monitor heart-rate, blood pressure and body temperature. He and Arsalan have also started up a company called Vital Signs Monitoring, and the two have already filed patents for the technology they developed. Clearly he has come a long way from when he first came to Canada, but he says his goals are still the same.

"My aim when I came here was to get some real skills in this domain, learn some new things and be an expert of something that would be valuable for me to find employment," said Shamim. "I was looking for a neat application for these small transmitters. ...That's where the trend is: make it cheaper, smaller, more efficient, so I think this is a good step towards that."

2008 saw an explosion in mobile social networking

Interesting article on Fierce Mobile Content on how Social Networking sites are being shaped by Mobiles and Vice-versa:

The volume of U.S. wireless subscribers who accessed social networks via mobile handset increased 182 percent between September 2007 and October 2008 according to a recent consumer study conducted by research firms The Kelsey Group and ConStat--in all, about 9.6 percent of U.S. subscribers ages 18 and over connected with a social network via mobile handset during the past year, compared to just 3.4 percent 12 months earlier.

A separate user study released this fall by market analysis firm ABI Research reports close to half of all social networking users have now visited destinations like MySpace and Facebook via mobile device. Forty-six percent of social network members have visited their favorite sites on their phones, with more than half of them checking for comments and messages from their friends--about 45 percent have also posted status updates. ABI adds that among all mobile social networking users, nearly 70 percent have visited MySpace, with another 67 percent checking their Facebook accounts. No other social networking destination achieved 15 percent mobile adoption. ABI suggests that consumers do not wish to create new and separate social networking profiles for the mobile platform, but instead prefer to access their existing social networking accounts on the go.

Both Facebook and MySpace enjoyed banner years in mobile. In November, Facebook announced its mobile userbase has expanded from 5 million to 15 million since the beginning of 2008--writing on The Facebook Blog, mobile team engineer Wayne Chang adds that in the 24 hours after the site began allowing subscribers to comment on their friends' status updates via the Facebook mobile site, users posted close to a million status comments. No less impressive, MySpace announced that same month that its integrated mobile solution customized for device maker Research In Motion's BlackBerry smartphones generated more than 400,000 downloads in its first seven days of release, an all-time high for both MySpace and RIM in terms of first-week downloads. Perhaps most important, the success of the BlackBerry MySpace app underscores social networking's growing profile among enterprise users--for many smartphone-toting professionals, 2008 was the year they abandoned their Rolodexes in favor of making and nurturing their contacts via the virtual world.

I can relate to this as mobile is now the main source of internet connectivity for my wife. I have been asked to get the new INQ1 phone from '3' as it would make her experience of Facebook better.

Monday 29 December 2008

Simplifying LTE/SAE Interfaces

Here is simplified diagram of LTE Interfaces from my upcoming training on LTE/SAE. Hope you find it useful.

Femtocell interference by macro network is now addressed

It is widely accepted that the deployment of femtocells will be a significant factor in driving the future uptake of mobile broadband services. There has been concern however over potential issues of interference between femtocells and the micro/macro networks. These concerns have been largely allayed by a femtocell radio study carried out by The Femto Forum.

If one understand the basic concept of femtocells that the concern for interference is obvious. The femtocells and macrocell network share the same carrier and hence the cause for interference. The simplest way to avoid interference is for the femtocell to utilise a different carrier than the surrounding macro network. But I think this will be like running away from the problem instead of solving it. Also this not very much feasible or practical solution either because majority of 3G operators do not have sufficient spectrum.

This issue was really serious and as expected whoever involved with the femtocell deployment specially the Femto Forum got involved into the research to answers the queries regarding the interference.

The Femto Forum study therefore focused on finding technological solutions for mitigating interference when both the femtocell and macrocell networks share the same carrier. These methods are already being developed for pre-standard femtocell solutions, and Femto Forum members are working to bring them within the standards framework.
The main objective of the study was to identify a number of solutions that will mitigate any potential interference of the macro network by the femtocells.

The first really good news is that the study found femtocells have the potential to deliver an order of magnitude of more capacity than the macro network alone when used in dense deployments, even when occupying the same radio channel as the macrocell.

Effectively what it’s been suggested is that any interference related barriers to wide scale femtocell deployment have been removed so operators will be able to maximise the capacity benefits offered by femtocells.

Following are the key solutions suggested for interference mitigation considering that femtocell and macro cell using the same carrier:
  • Adaptive Pilot Power Control: In this case the femtocell dynamicallyadjusts its transmit power in response to the current level of signals fromsurrounding cells and the desired coverage area.
  • Extended Tests for Dynamic Range: This will ensure that femtocell designsare able to operate reliably even in the presence of nearby high powermobile phones connected to the macro network (this test has already beenincorporated into the latest 3GPP Release 8, 25.104 specification).
  • Uplink power capping: This technique specify that the uplink power of the mobile phone is capped when operating in the femtocell environment thus ensuring that even in difficult radio conditions,the phone hands-off to the macro network before its transmit power increasesto the point where macro noise rise is a problem.
  • Dynamic receiver gain management: Automatic gain or adaptive attenuation in the femtocell will ensure that femtocells can offer good service to both near and far mobile phones without unnecessarily increasing the phone transmit power, therefore keeping the noise rise to a minimum.

At a time when mobile operators are seeing data usage rocket, femtocells offer an economic and effective way to deal with demand. This therefore makes it very important for the femtocell technology to sort out any niggling issues.

There is no doubt that by utilizing the identified interference management techniques femtocells can offer operators an effective method to increase capacity and coverage within theirexisting networks through dense cell deployments.

Friday 26 December 2008

Marketting is the key for femtocells success

In the last year alone femtocells has come a long way and as we speak the technology is in the process of getting deployed at many places. There is no doubt that mobile operators have moved from laboratory tests and technical trials to large-scale commercial pilots of femtocells. The most public of these has been Softbank Mobile in Japan that is using around 10,000 femtocells to test the technical and commercial feasibility of the technology.

There are so many multinational operators who are conducting trials as above with the objective of launching commercial pilots during Q1/2009.

However this opportunity is reliant upon mobile operators developing and marketing a proposition that will have obvious appeal to the consumer.

Even now in some countries the mobile operators struggle to understand what femtocell proposition will work in their market? They understand the business case, but the key issue of how to persuade a customer to acquire and install a femtocell remains unsolved in many regions.
This could be explained best by taking the example of Germany where cellphone subscribers are accustomed to using advantageous 'home-zone' tariffs that use the normal cellular network to determine when the subscriber is making calls from their home. Attempting to undermine this attractive proposition with a femtocell-based solution could be difficult. However places where comprehensive 3G coverage is compromised it is possibly providing the subscriber with their own femtocell, or personal 'home cell which could eventually prove to be particularly attractive for the customer.

I believe the key challenge is the consumer proposition and the future success depends on mobile operators and their ability to package their femtocell propositions appropriately for the various market segments.

I always ask the question whether standalone femtocells are likely to be short-lived.
ip.access claims it is already seeing demand for femtocell modules to be integrated into other devices, such as WiFi home hubs and set-top boxes, etc.

Moving aggresively into the direction of making the femtocell technology a real success, major global operators are now backing the vision of taking femtocells out of homes and offices into the wider environment as part of their Long Term Evolution (LTE) deployment. I think this is a smart move as you cannot be relying completely on the “home only” concept to move femtocells in the vicinity of huge success. At the LTE World Summit in London, China Mobile, T-Mobile and Telus all expressed support for this idea that first was advanced by Vodafone earlier this year. Femtocell specialist picoChip gave reality to this concept by announcing further details of what is claimed to be the industry's first complete LTE picocell and femtocell reference designs. These new platforms will enable high capacity networks for metro, hot-zone and rural deployments. According to the picoChip view of LTE, all deployments will consist of small femtocell base stations.

I hope you agree that with femtocell technology reaching commercial maturity, attention is now switching to developing application services and operator business models that will maximize the technology benefits which will eventually lead to a success story for femtocells.

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
















Andhra Pradesh






Tamil Nadu












Uttar Pradesh(e)



Uttar Pradesh (w)






Madhya Pradesh






Himachal Prades












North East



Jammu And Kashmir



Texting and Internet being trialled on flights

BMI is piloting mobile internet and texting services on planes, but frequent flyers need not get up in arms about getting stuck next to chatty people, as the airline has wisely chosen to leave out voice calls.

The service, from OnAir, will be trialled for six months on just one plane – an Airbus A320, which flies between Heathrow and Moscow. Passengers will be able to use SMS, email and internet on mobiles, PDAs and laptops with GSM SIM cards or dongles.

Peter Spencer, managing director of BMI, said: “It opens up an exciting new era of travellers being able to stay in touch by text message and email whilst in the air.

The pilot project isn’t just about testing the tech or the take-up, however. “The trial will help us address some of the social and etiquette issues regarding the use of mobile communications devices inflight and provide valuable customer feedback which will be at the heart of deciding how the service is developed and rolled out across the remainder of our mid haul fleet,” Spencer said.

“We have chosen not to implement the voice call option as part of the trial,” he added.

On the other side of the world, Delta Air Lines officially launched Aircell's Gogo Inflight Internet service on six of its aircrafts. In-flight Internet initially will be available on five MD-88 aircraft flying Delta Shuttle routes between New York's LaGuardia Airport and Boston's Logan and Washington's Reagan airports plus one Boeing 757 flying throughout Delta's domestic system, with service spreading to other Delta routes as additional aircraft are introduced.

"In-flight Internet access is one of the most popular requests we receive from our customers," noted Tim Mapes, Delta's senior vice president of marketing. To celebrate the launch, Delta passengers traveling on the Gogo-equipped MD-88 Shuttle aircraft will be treated to a holiday surprise with complimentary access to Gogo during a Dec. 16 - 31, 2008 promotional period.

A "WiFi hotspot" decal will be prominently displayed adjacent to the boarding door of the MD-88 aircraft so customers will know Gogo Inflight Internet service is available on their flight. In addition, a Delta-Gogo instructional card will be available in each seatback, providing details on how to sign up for the service. Gogo representatives and Delta employees will be available at all three Delta Shuttle-served airports throughout the promotional period to provide information and assistance to customers traveling during this timeframe.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Mobile healthcare named 2009 tech pioneer

The World Economic Forum on Thursday named Japan-based Mobile Healthcare Inc (MHC) as a 2009 Technology Pioneer. The company, which develops real-time mobile health solutions for preventing and managing diabetes, obesity and other lifestyle-related illnesses that can be accessed over mobile phones, became one of the 34 technology visionaries to be honored at the 2009 World Economic Forum.

MHC Founder & CEO James Nakagawa said, “We have aspired from the outset to be pioneers, exploring the life-changing potential of mobile technology and finding solutions that empower people to tackle their own health issues affordably and easily via their personal cellular devices and the Internet. I was at once ecstatic and humbled by the news that our work had gained disciples from amongst the venerable body of global business and financial leaders put forth by the World Economic Forum.”

The company’s flagship product, Lifewatcher, is a mobile phone-based health management application for people with so-called ‘lifestyle diseases’ such as diabetes and obesity. Users can monitor their own conditions by logging blood sugar levels, calorie intake, exercise and many other variables into their ‘always on’ mobile device, creating a one-glance health portfolio, which collates daily, monthly and even yearly data. It also delivers vital medical information, reminders and alerts with escalating alarm-levels if goals are not met.Using real-time cellular technology, diabetics and lifestyle illness sufferers can also be in constant dialogue with medical practitioners to ensure health measures are in check or, if not, to spark intervention that could save lives. With the dramatic rise of diabetes and obesity to pandemic levels in countries like Japan and the U.S., doctors have been welcoming this self-directed management tool that affordably and easily increases drug, nutrition, exercise and monitoring compliance for sufferers.

Motohisa Furukawa, a high-ranking Japanese politician and long-time participant at Davos said: “Japan is particularly proud this year to see Mobile Healthcare accepting this honor. It is my hope that government representatives attending Davos this year will recognize the particular relevance of innovative technologies like Lifewatcher, as a universal low-cost healthcare solution that is also environmentally sustainable, as we move forward in these tough economic times in a resource-constrained world.”