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Friday, December 31, 2010

Free SMS sites expect jump in usage around New Year :)

Free mobile short message services provider and e-card sites are betting big on the growing net savvy gene-ration. As netizen finds e-way the ‘cool’ way to wish their loved ones across the globe, firms like Indyarocks, Way2sms, 123greetings and ibibo are expecting a double digit growth in their revenues this December.

“We are seeing an increase in usage of free platform for every single festival. New Year will be the biggest occasion for us and we are expecting around 15 million SMS greetings to be sent during December 31 and on January 1,” said Kalyan Manyam chief executive officer, Indiya-rocks, one of the free SMS providers.

The free service providers who follow a revenue model based on advertisements also see advertisers evincing interest this year. “We are on way to touching a revenue of $0.75 million (around Rs 3.3 crore) this year and we generally see a 60 per cent rise in revenues this festive season due to a high interest from advertisers,” added Manyam.

One of the important resons for the uptake of free SMSs in the rencet time is because all major mobile service providers withdrew offers on voice calls and SMS during festive season. These free services provide netizen the ease of use and ability to send group SMS greetings with a single click of the mouse.

ibibo, a social game provider in India also provides free SMS and free call option for its registered users. “We use all means to enhance social commun-ication, free SMS and free call is also part of this. During the festive season we see a trend in the usage of e-card and we expect an increase of 40-50 per cent this season,” said Rahul Razdan, president - products & operations, ibibo. The companies which witnessed an increment in visitors during Christmas eve, has even come out with innova-tive means to lure users for New Year. For example, Indiyarocks is running a contest where users can share their special moments in 2010 and is also running a virtual movie awards based on users choice. Another player specialised in eCards —123Greetings, has come out with New Year e-greeting with music, animation, special effects and offers more customisation. The site, which sees an average of 399, 250 visitors per day from across the globe, said visitors from India make up around 20 per cent of its traffic.

“Our service is used by over 91 million unique visitors annually and we offer 20,000 greeting cards which is a mix of 3,000 seasonal and everyday cards. However, we see more users using our service during December. We expect a two-fold growth in the number of users and also revenues from India this month,” said Arvind Kajaria, managing director of IntraSoft Technologies Ltd., which owns 123Greetings.com.

The data available at Google Trends India and Google Insights websites hosted by Google which analyses a portion of hot Google web searches, some of the hot searches on December 24 were Way2sms, New year greet-ings, Christmas SMS hindi, jingle bell songs and Christ-mas scraps. The graphs and statistics state most of these searches are being done from cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai and Pune where majority of the working youth are concentrated and Internet penetration is high. Even the data from last New Year’s eve shows that Indians prefer e-cards and e-sms to wish their loved ones and the trend is expected to be the same this year.

Mobile TeleSystems acquires 100% stake in Sistema Telecom

 TeleSystems OJSC (MTS), a provider of mobile communication services, has acquired 100% stake in Sistema Telecom LLC (LLC Sistema Telecommunications, Informatics and Communications), a non-operating subsidiary of JSFC Sistema (AFK Sistema OAO). All the three companies are based in Russia.

Announcement (November 16, 2010):

MTS has signed a non-binding indicative offer to acquire 100% of Sistema Telecom for RUB11,590 million ($374.86 million).

The acquisition includes a 45% stake in TS-Retail, in which MTS currently holds a controlling 55% interest, certain promissory notes previously issued by MTS in the amount of RUB2,000 million ($64.68 million), and property rights in respect of the group of trademarks, including the egg trademarks of MTS, Comstar-UTS and Moscow City Telephone Network (MGTS).

As part of the transaction, MTS will assume debt considerations totaling RUB1,800 million ($58.21 million), which include the settlement of RUB1,350 million ($43.66 million) in debts between MTS subsidiaries and Sistema Telecom.

ING Bank is acting as financial advisor, while Latham & Watkins is acting as legal advisor to MTS.

The transaction is expected to close in the end of 2010.
Deal Value (US$ Million) 374.86

Deal Type Acquisition

Sub-Category 100% Acquisition

Deal Status Completed: 2010-12-27

Deal Participants
Target (Company)   OOO Sistema Telecom

Acquirer (Company) Mobile TeleSystems OJSC

Vendor (Company) AFK Sistema OAO

Deal Rationale

The acquisition will provide MTS full control of its logos and trademarks to ensure that all shareholders benefit equally in its brand's further development.

Mobile Data Growth in India an Opportunity and a Challenge!!!

Mobile data continues to grow at a phenomenal rate in countries that have already deployed data centric 3G networks. AT&T for example has noted a data growth of over 5000 percent in just three years. Most of this growth is attributed to high bandwidth video related services like video chat, IP TV and access to video content over sites like YouTube on the Internet access. The continued price pressure on data rates together with an unprecedented growth in demand has created a major challenge for operators around the world forcing them to seek ‘unconventional’ solutions.

One such solution is a ‘small cell’ approach where operators deploy femtocells in locations with poor cellular coverage. The data is backhauled via the existing broadband network using standard IP providing a more cost effective data coverage. The alternative solution that is gaining favor is to enable the Wi-Fi radio on the user’s smart phone and deoliver data over that interface rather than over licenced spectrum like UMTS/3G. Data in this case is also backhauled via the pubic Internet. Studies have shown that the majority of mobile data is generated by smart phones in indoor settings which make Wi-Fi an excellent data offload technology. Both these technologies allow data to be moved at a fraction of the cost – though Wi-Fi can be an order of magnitude cheaper than deploying femtocells.

India has been late to the 3G party but is fast catching up. Earlier this year, seven private operators paid a whopping $14.6 billion to buy 3G spectrum. A number of operators like Reliance and Tata have already launched their 3G services. As of end of September 2010, the wireless subscriber base in India stood at 687.71 million, second only to China. However, iSuppli forecasted that 3G will garner 250 million subscribers by 2012.

While there are similarities between India and other 3G enabled nations, there are some very significant differences. Due to fierce competition, voice tariffs in India are one of the lowest in the world. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recently reported a year-over-year decline in Average Revenue per User (ARPU) per month of 33.9 percent for GSM subscribers and 19.6 percent for CDMA subscribers. As of June 2010 the ARPU for GSM was Rs. 122 ($2.71) and for CDMA INR 74 ($1.64). This can be compared to an ARPU of more than $50.00 for post paid service in the U.S. Hence, to recover their huge investments in 3G, Indian operators will have to increasingly look at data services to drive revenue growth.

Indian operators do have a great track record in generating significant revenue from VAS services like ring back tones, music downloads, SMS and a variety of downloadable applications. Most of these services are offered through a strong web portal as ‘premium services’. So it is reasonable to assume that as 3G gains momentum, a lot of these services will be supplemented by high bandwidth services like video sharing, mobile TV, multi-player high-definition gaming and videoconferencing which can become a major revenue generator for them.
Another important factor that is likely to drive up data traffic is India is general internet access from mobile devices. While India has a rapidly growing mobile subscriber base, the low penetration of laptops and personal computers means that the primary source of internet access are likely to be mobile devices. Whatever be the driver, the focus on mobile data is likely to become a double edged sword, quickly outstripping network capacity. These factors, coupled with the limited spectrum allocated to operators in India, may lead to a ‘perfect storm’ where the networks get overwhelmed.

Operators are already aware of this problem and are actively seeking solutions to this problem using offload techniques. Femtocells are a valid proposition for them but they are pricey and are still not proven in the current deployments. A more appropriate solution for the Indian market is data traffic offload to Wi-Fi networks.

With this in mind operators are looking at developing Wi-Fi zones of their own or partnering with Wi-Fi operators and aggregators to see if some of the data can be offloaded to these networks. Both, Tata Communications and Bharti Airtel have been actively deploying hundreds of Wi-Fi hotspots across the country as a service to their broadband subscribers. BSNL, Reliance and Spectranet are also offering Wi-Fi Internet access.

Vikas Singh, CMO for Telemedia Services at Bharti Airtel was quoted as saying: “Airtel Wi-Fi hotspots will be strategically located at leading premium hotels, hospitals, chains of restaurants, coffee shops and corporate buildings that are the hub of corporate, community and social activities. For us, this is an initiative to increase customer stickiness and enhance average revenue per user (ARPU) of our broadband customer base.”
In parallel with the 3G roll out, alternative wireless services are being deployed to address the demand for wireless Internet services.

Companies like Tikona, a recent startup, are building all-IP wireless networks using unlicenced spectrum. The technology, referred to as WI-BRO - a variation of WiMAX, is built on meshed networking routes traffic over wired and wirelessly meshed access points. The iSuppli study forecasted a subscriber base for such services to reach 19 million by 2012.
By deploying a Wi-Fi data offload solution, mobile network operators can provide:
l Improved coverage and Quality of Service (QoS) for mobile data subscribers
l Seamless transition between 3G and Wi-Fi – no need for subscribers to manually register or log in to use the network
l Utilization of the existing mobile billing and charging infrastructure
l Subscriber access to secure content provided by the mobile operators – known as “walled garden” services

However, some work must be done to implement this functionality. Based on the operators’ requirements we have classified them into the following three categories.

The 3GPP and 3GPP2 standards bodies have published specifications for these techniques and some companies have developed products to enable seamless integration of Wi-Fi and Cellular networks. IntelliNet has been actively involved in a commercial trial with a leading edge operator in India and the initial results are promising.

However, successful deployment of this solution will require the vendors and the operators to work closely to implement a complete end-to-end solution which will not only address the technological aspects but also all the operational issues in deploying this service such as the integration with the backend OSS systems.

This technology will not only assist operators with 3G licenses offload their excess traffic but also will help operators with 2G licenses to provide their subscribers a 3G-like experience - and do so at a fraction of the cost of deploying 3G infrastructure.

Anjan Ghosal
The author is President, CEO and Founder, IntelliNet Technologies

Mobile connections cross 4 crore in Gujarat, 1 crore added in just 9 months

From a little over 4,000 in 1997 to over four crore in 2010. That is how Gujarat has progressed in number of mobile connections in the past 13 years. Now, the state boasts of 4,01,58,662 mobile connections.

The October 2010 subscription data report of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which was released last week, says the mobile subscription in Gujarat stands at 4,01,58,662.

These connections have been provided by 10 operators.
Considering that Gujarat's estimated population is about six crore, the current number of cellularconnections gives one the impression that about 66.6% of people (or 6.66 out of every 10 people) have mobile connections.

But industry sources say there are many who possess more than one connection, so it is not necessarily true that 66.6% of people hold mobile connections.

In May 1997, there were only 4,100 mobile connections in Gujarat. At that time there were only two operators and the incoming charge was Rs8 per minute. It took 11 years for the number of mobile connections to reach one crore in May 2007.

However, the number of subscriptions increased remarkably in short spans thereafter.

Then it took another 18 months for that figure to double. And by the end of January 2010, that is, in only about 14 months, Gujarat recorded a total of three crore mobile phone connections. And soon, in next nine months, one crore connections were added and the number of connections now is over four crore.

Five years back, Gujarat was on the top in the number of connections among 22 circles in India but today it stands seventh.

By end of October 2010, Tamil Nadu had 6.36 crore mobile connections followed by Uttar Pradesh (East) with 5.46 crore, Andhra Pradesh (5.40 crore), Maharashtra & Goa excluding Mumbai (5.23 crore), Bihar (4.63 crore) and Karnataka (4.38 crore). The number of mobile connections in India is now 70.66 crore,of which Gujarat contributes 5.67%.

In last one year, five new telecom companies - Videocon, Uninor, Aircel, Etisalat (GSM service) and Shyam Sistema (CDMA service) - have launched their services in Gujarat. Besides, two existing CDMA players _ Tata and Reliance _ have also started their GSM operations in the state.

Of the total four crore mobile connections, the new players have a share of around 50 lakh connections. Industry sources say since there is a rise in multi-SIM users in Gujarat, there is a huge potential for mobile penetration in rural areas.

"It is pure SIM card penetration in which more than one SIM card is sold to a person. At present, in rural areas of Gujarat the actual mobile penetration is less than 40% so there is a huge potential there," said COO ofBharti Airtel (Gujarat Circle) Shivan Bhargava.

Of the total mobile subscription of 4,01,58,662 in Gujarat, about 3.80 crore are believed to be prepaid connections. "Around 95% of the total mobile connections are prepaid. With more telecom players entering the market, the prepaid connection sales have gone up. Simultaneously, there is also a rise in multi-SIM holders in which people want to try out the cheapest tariff services," said senior vice president (operations) Idea Cellular, Arul Bright.

He said in September and October which are months of festive season, many numbers were added and that pushed the mobile subscriptions to over four crore.

Top 10 Mobile Stories of 2010 around the globe!!

We really have to stop calling these things "cell phones" soon. Looking back, 2010 may be the year the cell phone was finally overtaken by the mobile device, the smart handheld, the itty computer—whatever. Everybody has 'em, and the mobile world is just heating up. Yeah, sure, we're PCMag. Personal computer magazine. Mobile phones are the personal computers of the 2010s, and this year helped show what's coming. Here are my top 10 US mobile trends of 2010.

10. Wireless Consolidation (Or Not)
I have nightmares about the U.S. becoming a wireless duopoly, with Verizon and AT&T owning every American soul and vaguely competing just enough to keep an inattentive FCC happy. Sprint and T-Mobile mostly treaded water in 2010, but I've been really happily surprised by scrappy little MetroPCS, US Cellular, and Cricket, which have gone from being lowest-common-denominator, purely regional carriers to lively specialists in budget 4G (on Metro's part), great customer service (on US Cellular's) and cheap smartphones (on Cricket's.) I'm hoping the little guys will keep innovating, growing and maybe even merging, offering a fifth nationwide player to replace late, lamented Alltel and keep the big guys on their toes.

9. Motorola's Back
Two years ago, Motorola looked practically dead; the inventors of the modern cell phone had simply fainted away under a pile of repetitive RAZRs. Yeah, sure, it was selling a lot of cheap dumb phones, but innovation looked over and done with. But then Qualcomm's Sanjay Jha took over the company, turning it into a premiere Android smartphone shop, and Motorola leveraged a strong relationship with Verizon to bring out the Droid in late 2009. In 2010, the Motorola Droid X and Droid 2 were two of our top cell phone reviews by traffic, showing that Motorola is back to being a major force in the mobile world.

8. Blackberry Lights a Torch in a Dark Hallway
Microsoft wasn't the only major mobile manufacturer to struggle in 2010. BlackBerry has watched its market share slide, slide, slide in the U.S., backstopped by massive growth in emerging countries - but I'm talking about the top 10 mobile stories in the USA, OK? The new BlackBerry 6 OS is effective but underwhelming, and the flagship Torch has sold decently but not spectacularly. RIM just needs to stay alive until it can assemble a bunch of recent acquisitions—OS company QNX, browser company Torch Mobile, UI company TAT—into a spectacular new operating system that will debut on its PlayBook tablet in 2011.

7. Apple and AT&T, Together ... Forever?
Every month, "iPhone on Verizon" rumors. Every month, no iPhone on Verizon. 2010 started with some pundits positively proclaiming that the iPad would appear on a carrier other than AT&T, and lo and behold: it was an AT&T exclusive. The iPhone 4? An AT&T exclusive. But late this year, as Android's growth seemed to start making Apple sweat, we began to see cracks in the alliance: Apple quietly blessed Verizon, allowing a somewhat awkward iPad+MiFi solution, and Verizon executives started using indirect language to pave the way for more Apple products to appear on its network. Maybe 2011 will be the year the dam finally breaks.

6. Windows Phone 7
Several of our top mobile stories by traffic were about Windows Phone 7. Microsoft's new OS broke big after the company basically spent a year playing dead in mobile (including with the dead-on-arrival Microsoft Kin), showing you really can't count anything out in a market this fast moving. In six weeks after launch, Microsoft shipped 1.5 million phones to its launch partners; the company has also slapped down half a billion dollars in marketing money. The new OS is a fresh start, with an interface that looks like none other and a more than 50-50 chance of becoming a real, consistent player.

5. iPhone 4 Antennagate
The iPhone 4's antenna problems made Apple do a very, very rare thing: admit the company did something wrong. That's like dogs turning into cats, or the world spinning backwards. I remember testing the "death grip" over and over again late at night, surprised to see that yes, the iPhone 4's antenna had a bug in it. And yet, if you look at the iPhone's spectacular sales statistics, startlingly few people cared in the end; it turns out iPhones have been lousy voice phones for so long that people don't expect solid call quality from an iPhone. The device's spectacular camera, incredible apps, and myriad other powers more than make up for its voice failings.

4. The iPad (And a Tiny Little Bit of the Samsung Galaxy Tab)
2010 was supposed to be the year of the tablet. It was the year of the iPad. The iPad singlehandedly created, maintained, and triumphed over the mobile tablet category, joined for most of the year by a worthless Island of Misfit Toys that didn't provide much competition at all. Late in the year Samsung brought out the first real Android-powered iPad competitor, but found themselves stabbed in the back by Google, which said that the "real" version of Android for tablets won't be out until 2011. We're going to see literally dozens of tablets at CES 2011, so perhaps next year will be everyone else's chance.

3. The Beginnings of 4G
4G became mainstream in 2010. I should probably say "4G" became mainstream, as the carriers announcing fourth-generation networks did so without the blessing of the International Telecommunications Union, the arbiter of these things, until the ITU finally buckled and gave up. 4G, to U.S. carriers, means wireless networks finally fast enough to go mano-a-mano with wired broadband. But it doesn't seem, yet, to mean radical new uses or prices for those networks. Verizon's speedy network is expensive, while Sprint's affordable 4G network is less reliable and T-Mobile's has few devices able to take advantage of its maximum speeds. Now that many carriers have 4G, they have to use 2011 to make consumers understand why they should start buying 4G devices instead of 3G gadgets.

2. The Rise of Android
According to our traffic counting software, the top four most-read cell phone reviews this year were all Android powered smartphones. One of the top finishers may shock you: it's the LG Optimus S, an extremely well-done, low-end phone for Sprint. But the Optimus S's popularity shows the strength of Android: the operating system was as successful on low-end models as on high-end phones like the Motorola Droid X (which was traffic-grabber number two), and in 2010 it became the market-share-leading smartphone OS to beat.

1. Smartphones Hit a Tipping Point
Sometime in 2010, everyone started asking me about smartphones. According to ComScore, more than 25 percent of American mobile phone owners now have smartphones, and they're no longer high-priced devices. Every carrier has free smartphones, and Cricket, Virgin, and MetroPCS are selling smar phones with low monthly rates. I think we've hit the mobile tipping point in the U.S. where most people are no longer looking for voice communication devices; they're looking for mobile pocket computers that happen to make phone calls. More than anything else, I think this trend will define what we're writing and speaking about in 2011.

Think I got it right? Think I got it wrong? Incensed I didn't include anything from either Nokia or Palm? Tell me in the comments below. For more, see the slideshow above. By: Sascha Segan

3G video calls rollout won't be impacted by security issue !!

New Delhi: Rollout of the much-awaited 3G services is unlikely to be affected by the security issue surrounding interception of video calling, research firm KPMG said.

"3G rollout plans have already been finalised by most operators. There are bigger challenges in terms of rolling out the services in a cost-effective manner and no operator has got a pan-India licence," KPMG Executive Director Jaideep Ghosh told reporters.

So, the rollout of 3G services from the operator's side is not going to change much because of this particular issue, he added.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had asked telecom operators Tata Teleservices and RCom to stop video calling services till they adhered to security norms for its legal interception.

Asked if telecom players would put on hold rolling out 3G services on the back of the government orders, Ghosh said, "Operators have paid huge amounts to get the licences and they would like to roll out services soon. I don't think operators would like to wait for six months or a year. Services would go on, only video calls have been put on hold."