Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mobile video calls all set to catch-up in India

According to a new survey conducted by PwC, a consulting firm, the Mobile VAS market in India is set to grow to a Rs 55 thousand crore industry by 2015.

Thanks to the  BWA and 3G network roll outs. Speed that so long has been a deterrent for overall VAS adoption, will now be a key enabler that will drive adoption of VAS.
Here are some interesting results of the PwC report titled Value Added Service: The Next Wave:
87 per cent of the people surveyed are aware of VAS based on regional entertainment, in the form of regional music videos and movies clips; 47 per cent are ready to adopt the services in future and are also willing to spend Rs 50 per month on regional entertainment.
71 per cent survey respondents are aware of the VAS of medical advice from doctor; 49 per cent of the users are willing to adopt the service in future at a price of Rs 73 per month.
Four out of five people are willing to use SMS in future and spend monthly average of Rs 42. In terms of revenues, SMS can contribute nearly Rs. 14,000 crore of revenue by 2015 for the mobile VAS value chain players. The operators, however, would need to focus on the multilingual SMSs and handset manufacturers would need to design keyboards (or applications) which are designed for ease of typing in Indian languages.
Future adoption for medical advice from doctors is higher for SEC B (51 per cent) as compared to SEC A (49 per cent) and SEC C (47 per cent).
Subscription interest for online gaming is almost double for students (57 per cent) compared to 30 per cent for those working full time.
Interestingly, future adoption for making video calls is higher for SEC C (54 per cent) than SEC A (48 per cent) and SEC B (49 per cent).
Even though mCommerce has awareness levels of more than 60 per cent for most of the services, future adoption rates are lower. This points towards the special focus that is required to remove roadblocks to adoption like usability and data security concerns.
On the road ahead for VAS, Sivarama concluded:
“With handset manufacturers entering VAS ecosystem with powerful operating systems and associated Application Stores, we will see shifts in the industry with handset players, VAS vendors and service providers collaborating and competing with each other. The revenue share of VAS players is expected to increase over time.”.

CloudTalk Launches Voice Social Network for iPhone and Android

Emotion may be the missing element in Facebook and Twitter posts. A new mobile social network called CloudTalk adds this by having you use your voice to post, as well as allowing text, photos, and videos. CloudTalk today released mobile apps that let users interact with the primarily voice-based social network on iPhones and Android phones.
San Francisco-based CloudTalk's Chairman and CEO David Haden demonstrated the new app to PCMag.com last week. Hayden had previously released a CloudTalk predecessor, called Pana.ma in 2009. Not only can users leave voice messages in a social network feed, but our meeting was recorded using the service. CloudTalk also lets users create and participate in public communities; current examples of these commnunities include Digital Photography, Singles Club, Music, and Apple Talk.
A Web version of CloudTalk is available, but it's still in beta, and doesn't include all the features of the mobile apps, such as community content. "We're leading with the smart phones, because that's what people use for communication. We're at a transition where the mobile is more important than the Web," said CloudTalk's chief marketing officer, John Linney.
Unlike Facebook or Twitter, though, you don't have a set group of friends or contacts for all your group conversations in CloudTalk. Instead, you invite selected contacts as participants for each conversation, and can add more if necessary. The conversations remain available, so you can add to them at any point in the future and all participants will be updated, somewhat similar to how Google Wave works. Users can also send private messages to contacts, but unlike in Facebook, you don't get to see all of another user's contacts on a rich profile page, and you're not prompted to add friends. It sounds a bit like T-Mobile's Bobsled, but with an emphasis on messages, rather than VOIP calls.
"The friction caused by phone calls when we can't take them, and voice mail that feels like a dead end, is making it harder to use our voice in daily communications with our social circle. CloudTalk stands out as the only platform to put the power and convenience of voice at the center of the social communications experience," wrote Hayden on a company press release, announcing the service. "CloudTalk makes talking as easy as texting, so we can freely use our voices to convey emotion, avoid misconstrued tone and get a message across far more quickly and powerfully than text alone."
Not only does voice add emotion, but some concepts are just too involved for a simple tweet to do the job. This could be of particular interest to businesses, which may need to collaborate with complex instructions and descriptions, either for procedures, strategies, or products.
CloudTalk iPhone and Android apps are free and available starting today on the Apple App Store and the Android Marketplace. Look for an in-depth review of the service on PCMag.com in the coming days.source

Airtel Closes Operations in Manipur

India’s largest GSM mobile service operator Bharti airtel shuts down its operations in Manipur state leaving over three lakh subscribers in the North East telecom circle in the lurch.

According to the statement by the All Manipur Airtel Workers Union “following continuous attacks by militants on telecom towers and employees associated with the Airtel, the BTS/Mobile Network tower are now switch off which will breakdown the mobile services of Airtel in Manipur state.”

Presently there are 5 Mobile Service Providers (GSM/CDMA) in the North East region – Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone, Reliance and Tata Indicom. The services of almost all the private operators have been affected except state-owned BSNL.

All the five GSM/CDMA service providers operating in the state having threatened to shut down their operations following threats, attacks and extortion notices from different militant groups in the past few weeks.

The decision of the Airtel Manipur Union to switch off all BTS towers of the service provider will lead to the closure of all Airtel network in the state till a amiable solution is brought. However only those customers located in capital city Imphal were currently being able to use their services.

It is significant to say that different militant groups have demanded huge sums of money from the mobile phone service providers in the state, at least two employees of two different companies have been shot in the past two weeks. The police have so far registered as many as six cases of extortion and threats, but no arrests have been made as yet

How Osiyan Got VAS CONTRACTS??

The office of former Telecom Minister A. Raja pushed for contracts for Osiyan Communications, a New Delhi based mobile Value Added Services solutions provider, corporate lobbyist Niira Radia has allegedly said in a statement to the India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the 2G spectrum scam. A copy of what is allegedly Radia’s statement (pdf) to the CBI has been hosted ondailybhaskar.com.
According to that statement, after hearing phone calls that the CBI had recorded, Radia revealed that she had received a request from the office of former Telecom Minister A. Raja’s office to lobby for Osiyan and recommend the company to her clients, Unitech and Tata Teleservices.
She says, ” We had received request from Minister’s office for Osiyan which is a value added services company in the Telecom Sector. They wanted us to recommend their company for introduction to Unitech and Tata Teleservices Ltd. In this regard I had called Rohit Chandra (CEO of Unitech Wireless), to check whether they had called for tenders for USSD and CRBT (the transcript reads USSB and PRBT) and if possible they may consider they may consider this company..”
On being asked by Chandra, if she was acquainted with Mahesh Jain, she responds that she did not know Mahesh Jain but had seen him in Minister A. Raja’s office.  ” On being further asked whether I knew Mr.Mahesh Jain and whether M/S Osiyan Communication was a company related to Mr.Mahesh Jain, I state that I do not know him personally but I had seen him in Minister’s (A. Raja) office. I further state that it was not in my knowledge whether Osiyan is owned by Shri Mahesh Jain but it was in my knowledge that Shri Mahesh Jain is associated with the company.”
In another call, she inquires about the status of Osiyan’s proposal, to which Sanjay Chandra answers that the documents have been sent. ” I state that I had this call with Rohit, the call, I am inquiring about the status of Osiyan (Osian in the transcript) proposal to Unitech to which, Rohit informs me that he has sent across those documents.”
She also asks Vishal Mehta, Group CEO of Unitech, to let Sanjay Chandra know that she was being chased for Osiyan Communications in a separate call.
What is Osiyan?
Osiyan’s website isn’t functional – there’s just a landing page. According to a presentation that we found on Scribd, the company was founded in 1997 and offers services and solutions such as MCA, SMSC, UMS, CRBT, LBS, 3G, USSD, IVRS and M-Commerce, among others, and claims to have deployments in US, Oman, Uganda, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Brunei, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Laos and Indonesia. In India, the presentation suggests deployments on Vodafone, Airtel, BSNL, BPL (Loop), HFCL, MTNL, Spice, Idea, Reliance Communications and even Tata Indicom.source

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

UAE Restrictions Will Hit All Wireless Providers, Says RIM

Potential changes to wireless data services for very small business in the United Arab Emirates will affect the entire industry and not just BlackBerry services, Research In Motion said Saturday.

The company said that it was not being singled out by the telecom regulator, amidst reports that the regulator plans to curb BlackBerry enterprise services to business with fewer than 20 mobile subscriptions.
The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has confirmed to RIM that any potential policy regarding enterprise services in the UAE would be an industry-wide policy, not specific to BlackBerry, applying equally to all enterprise solution providers and with the intent of avoiding any impact on legitimate enterprise customers, RIM said in a statement.
RIM's statement follows a report last week in The National, a newspaper in Abu Dhabi, that said the TRA had instructed local operator, Etisalat, that very small companies will have their BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) accounts terminated at the end of the month. Such customers would be able to move to BlackBerry Internet Service, which does not rely on private servers, the newspaper said.
The TRA did not return calls asking for comment.
The proposed rule comes at a time when some governments in the Middle East are facing protest movements that use online communications and social networks for planing and coordination. By imposing such a rule, the UAE may want higher control on the kind of users who will have access to encrypted services, analysts said.
The TRA said in a statement on Saturday that it confirms the continuation of all Blackberry services in the UAE to both individuals and to business customers, including BlackBerry messenger, BlackBerry email and BlackBerry browsing. It said it would clarify to operators any confusion with regard to TRA regulations, without providing the context for the announcement.
A number of countries, including India, are attempting to get access to corporate mail on BES. India holds that its security rules allow law enforcement agencies access to all communications when required. RIM has said that it is not technically feasible for it to provide access to BES communications, as the encryption keys are with customers. It has however offered solutions to the Indian government for lawful access to its other services.
John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address isjohn_ribeiro@idg.com.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bharti Airtel launches 'Airtel Photos' in association with Zoomin

Now upload your photos online and get the prints at your doorstep with Airtel Photos
  • Service available to all Airtel broadband customers across the country
  • Now import and store unlimited number of photos on your personal space on the cloud
  • Add your personal touch to gifts such as calendars, t-shirts, mugs, photobooks using photos, themes along with a personal message

India’s leading telecommunications company, Bharti Airtel today joined hands with Zoomin.com – India’s No.1 photo service, to announce the launch of ‘Airtel Photos’. This exclusive partnership enables Airtel broadband customers anywhere in India to import and store unlimited number of photos on their own personal space on the cloud.
Powered by Zoomin.com, Airtel Photos enables the user to import photo albums from Facebook or upload photos directly from their computer to their account. Users can store unlimited photos in their Airtel Photos account as storage is free. The Organizer- another feature unique to the service, allows to customers to work seamlessly across photo albums to create a customized collection of favourite folders. The service also enables customers to add a personal touch to gifts such as calendars, t-shirts, mugs, photobooks using photos, themes along with a personal message. They can choose from a range of themes, funky art clips and designed templates and add captions of their choice.
Whats more- the service does away with the hassle of credit/debit cards or even payment on delivery! Airtel Photos unique ‘Pay per Instance’ allows users to keep track of their orders that get reflected in their monthly postpaid bill.
According to Mr. Girish Mehta, Chief Marketing Officer, Telemedia Services, Bharti Airtel said, “The launch of Airtel Photos is in line with our commitment to enrich the lives of our customers with broadband. Airtel has always led the way in partnering industry leaders for bringing in innovative services for customers. By providing choice and convenience, Airtel Photos will enable our customers to cherish and celebrate life and relationships like never before.”
Sharing his thoughts on the partnership, Sunny Balijepalli, Founder & CEO, Zoomin.com said, “India is a visual culture with deep family bonds. Photos are perfect visual representation for the celebrations of those moments of magic every family experiences. We are delighted to partner Airtel, India’s premier telecommunications company, to empower its customers to celebrate their life’s moments with photo prints and the ability to express themselves through personalized gifts such as photobooks, mugs and t-shirts.”
Airtel Photo Print enables customers to choose from matte, gloss and luminous print finishes. Photo products available on Airtel Photos range from Rs. 65 to Rs. 595 inclusive of applicable taxes and delivery charges. For details on the complete product portfolio, customers can visit www.airtel.Zoomin.com. source

Nokia's push email services barred in India

Cellcos must block new pushmail offering until security requirements are satisfied.

 RIM's clashes with Indian authorities over email services that they cannot monitor have hit the headlines, but the BlackBerry maker is not the only firm in the spotlight. Microsoft, Skype and Google have their own ongoing negotiations about how far the government should be able to monitor and intercept mobile email and messaging. Now Nokia's new push email services have been barred until they can satisfy the requirements of the security agencies.

According to the Economic Times, the Ministry of Home Affairs has ordered mobile operators to bar Nokia's new offerings for now, and "not to launch Nokia's proposed pushmail/powermail service without putting in place monitoring facilities". This directive comes despite a compromise, reached in December, under which Nokia set up a server in India to help authorities monitor email and provide real time interception.
The issue is hugely serious for Nokia. While RIM is mainly risking the loss of future business, as 3G starts to take off in India, Nokia already makes substantial business from corporate and consumer email services, and has specifically created an offering for those without PCs, as part of its LifeTools family of apps for emerging markets. At the high end, Its E Series devices are the most used business phones in India and almost half of them are activated for push email, the service now under threat. This allows users to manage multiple email accounts via clients such as Yahoo, Gmail or Sify.
Meanwhile, the March 31 deadline for RIM to present a solution for BlackBerry Enterprise Services, which would satisfy the authorities, has passed with no apparent resolution. The arguments are taking place against a change in the law, which is broadening the legal meaning of telecoms and IT services. This will make it compulsory for operators to have systems in place to support authorized intercepts - based on telephone numbers, device identity, email IDs, IP addresses or keywords - by national security agencies on a real time basis.source

Sunday, April 17, 2011

4G rollout likely by next year

Even as third generation (3G) mobile telephony is still at a pilot stage, technology players are hopeful that the more advanced 4G will be here sooner than later due to its sheer economic advantage over the former besides its easy upgradability on the existing infrastructure.
"The 4G is likely to be in India sooner than later, as early as next year, because it is economically more advantageous than 3G, apart as it can be easily upgraded on the existing infrastructure," said Nikhil Sadarangani of JDSU India, a provider of optical products and solutions.
So optimistic is Sadarangani about its roll out that he said, 4G application trials are likely to rolled out by next year as the technology is already here.
However, 'its introduction in mobile handsets will depend on devices that are economical', he said adding that initial focus will be on data and services.
Joining in, Tata Elxsi sales head, communications business, Mrinmoy Purkayastha noted that the pace of technological advancement is very fast in the country.
"With speed as a consideration, 4G will be introduced here in a phased manner from next year. However, its transition from data services to mobile handsets may take some more time but by 2014-15 it is likely to become a reality," he said.
Already 4G trials are taking place in Europe, the US and Japan, the markets which already have 3G running. However, the actual global roll out will be in 2012, Purkayastha said.

3G or 4G: Battery Life vs. Bandwidth

With all the hype around the advent of 4G, I thought it might be a good idea to look at the real differences between 3G and 4G devices, how they interface with 3G and 4G Wireless Networks, and offer some insights that might help you sort out what you actually need right now. Speed vs. Service … let’s consider the following:
For the record it is April 15, 2011 — This is information is time sensitive. According to Tony Malone, Verizon’s VP Network Ops, Verizon plans to cover 100 million Americans in 25 to 30 metro areas with 4G LTE by the end of 2011. It will double that coverage by early 2012 and completely cover the US by the end of 2013. Interestingly, due to its 700-MHz license, Verizon’s 4G LTE Network will cover a greater portion of the US than its 3G Network covered.
3G is a defined standard. Verizon’s EVDO (Evolution Data Optimized) Rev A provides speeds of 600Kbps-1,400Kbps Download (bursts to 3.1Mbps), 500Kbps-800Kbps Upload (bursts to 1.8Mbps) – Is that too geeky? Sorry – at its best, 3G is comparable to low-end home DSL service. I live in New York City where there is good 3G and 4G coverage. I just ran some broadband speed tests on my 3G Verizon iPhone 4. In three consecutive tests it averaged 500 Kbps down and 300 Kbps up — well below the published specification. 500 Kbps is just a little better than I used to get with my AOL dial-up account in 1996 (Geeks: Please do not write me an email or comment about 56k modems being 10x slower than 3G. A 56k modem with compression yielded approx 200Kpbs performance. There was less stuff to download in 1996 and perceived speed with about the same. As a practical matter, in an area with a substantial amount of contention, I have enjoyed 3G download speeds of under 200Kbps and so have you!)
That said, 3G email is fine, Exchange Server runs fine, Calendar runs fine, Contacts sync fine, Google is snappy, apps run great, YouTube buffers a bit, and the web is clunky, but serviceable. 3G speed is what we have become accustomed to in our modern-American mobile world.
4G, which stands for 4th Generation wireless network technology, is really a marketing term. It may sound technical, but the truth is that standards organizations, such as the International Telecommunication Union, have not officially defined 4G. Oops!
Not to worry, Verizon has done it for us. From its point of view, LTE (Long Term Evolution) is “the” 4G standard. Verizon says that 4G is six to 10 times faster than 3G. I can’t verify that, but again, from my apartment in NYC, I ran broadband speed tests on my Verizon HTC Thunderbolt. In three consecutive tests it averaged 21 Mbps down and 2.5 Mbps up. Trust me, that’s fast for a wireless device. In fact, I’d be happy if my Time Warner Road Runner Extreme Cable Modem consistently gave me this kind of performance.
If you are looking for raw wireless speed, 4G from Verizon is as fast as it gets.
But … speed is not everything. And 4G is not everywhere!
Over the past few weeks several awesome 4G devices have hit the market. AT&T introduced its 4G Motorola Atrix. Now AT&T doesn’t really have a 4G network. As I said in a previous article, if you read the fine print in AT&T’s agreement, it says: “4G speeds require a 4G device and are delivered when HSPA+ technology is combined with enhanced backhaul. 4G speeds available in limited areas with availability increasing with ongoing backhaul deployment.” As of this writing that means AT&T 4G is only available at full speed in Northern CA, Greater LA, Greater Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Charlotte NC, Baltimore, Buffalo, Boston, Providence RI and, Puerto Rico. If you are not in one of these areas, AT&T 4G is 3G.
This will change over time. AT&T also plans to cover the US with its 4G Network. But, for now, what this really means is that the 4G Atrix will fallback to a 3G when it can’t find a 4G signal. And, as you can see from reading the previous paragraph, that’s pretty much everywhere in the USA. This is also true with the Verizon HTC Thunderbolt and its new Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot SCH-LC11 and every other device on the market that calls itself 4G.
Now, as Verizon’s VP Network Ops said, Verizon has about 1/3 of the USA covered with LTE and plans to have about 2/3’s covered by early 2012 and most of the USA covered by the end of 2013. That’s just about the time your new 2-year contract is going to end. Hummm … seems like most people really won’t have 4G coverage for a while.
Just how many batteries do you need for 4G?
Sorry to bury the lead, but 4G may not be for you. Why? Battery life. 4G devices look for 4G networks. When they can’t find a 4G network, they fallback to 3G. However, unless you turn off the 4G radio, the devices keep searching for 4G signals. This absolutely eats batteries. Sadly, some devices don’t even let you turn off the 4G feature, but even those that do, require you to constantly know where you are and be conscious of the status of your network and your equipment. Yuck!
So, if you are used to popping in an extended battery and doing your 3G business all day long, you are going to need two extended batteries or four regular batteries in our current 3G/4G hybrid world. Do you really want to charge one to three extra batteries every day? Do you want to buy the extra equipment to do that? Do you want to spend the money on the batteries?
If you need the speed, and you know where you are, and you are geeky enough to always be conscious of whether your background data, 4G radio and WiFi radio are on or off, then a 4G device may be for you.
However, if you are a normal person who travels for business and is not used to constantly monitoring battery life and tweeking your device to extend it, you might want to rethink 4G.
Should you avoid 4G devices? No. Most of the 4G devices available today not only have access to the much faster 4G wireless networks, the devices themselves are significantly more powerful than their 3G counterparts. This makes the entire 4G mobile computing experience much, much more productive and enjoyable.
Should you cancel your 3G contract and rush to get a 4G device? No, unless you have a specific reason to do so. And, if you have a reason, you are not reading this article.
If your contract is up between now and the end of 2011, don’t be afraid to purchase a 3G device instead of a 4G device – you won’t absolutely need a 4G device until late 2012 and, remember – the carriers will support 3G for at least 10 more years.
Do I love my 4G smartphones? Yes, I strongly love them. Note the plural. I have not yet spent a day without four battery changes on my primary phone. (A Verizon HTC Thunderbolt). Just for a point of comparison, I had a extended battery on my Verizon 3G BlackBerry Bold 9650 which never needed charging on any business day during its service life. I don’t miss it, but I do miss the battery life.source

How to go about mobile banking

Heard about mobile banking? “Yes,” pat comes the reply from Mumbai-based Supriya Pandit. She was issued a Mobile Money Identifier (MMID) by her bank, two months back. But the 30-year old graphic designer doesn’t know how to use it.
MMID is a seven-digit number issued by your bank for transactions through mobile banking. There will be different MMIDs for different savings accounts but all these can be linked to one mobile number. Axis Bank, Federal Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank, recently launched Interbank Mobile Payment Service (IMPS) or mobile banking. “The idea is to enable quick transfer of funds through mobile phones,” a senior official at State Bank of India (SBI) said. While mobile banking is available free of cost for the consumer, a transaction cost (of 10 paise) for availing IMPS is levied by National Payments Corporation on the bank from which the money is transferred.
You can transfer money across banks, provided the beneficiary bank is registered for mobile banking. As per the Reserve Bank of India norms, an individual can transfer up to Rs 50,000 per day but you can receive an unlimited amount. Transfer of funds can be done by anyone who has an MMID but he needs to be a registered net banking user. Net banking users automatically get registered for mobile banking. Apart from fund transfer, mobile banking can also be used for purchase of goods and services, making bill payments, investments in mutual funds or creating fixed deposits.

Here’s how to go about m-banking. (This is the process for Kotak Mahindra Bank, the process may differ slightly for other banks)
Step 1: If you are registered for net-banking, download the mobile banking application form from the bank’s website. Or, send an SMS to the customer care service and get the link for the mobile application.
Step 2: When you run the application, you will need your net banking username and password to log in. On logging in, you will get the activation number or the (IMEI) number, to activate your account.
Step 3: The application gives the option of banking, investment and change password.
Step 4: Under the banking head you can also pay bills, request for cheque books and report loss of debit cards. Under the investment head you can buy and redeem investments in mutual fund schemes.

A Full Web Experience Of Mobile Internet

The mobile environment has always been dynamic. And as market forces change, it is becoming too complex. As consumers turn increasingly to the mobile web, there is a corresponding growth in the expectations for accelerated access, intuitive navigation and enhanced personalization and interactivity. Media is also becoming richer and more content is being evolved. The recent increase in bandwidth capacity connecting India is enabling the deployment of high-speed networks. This is supporting the growth of mobile internet services by alleviating bandwidth limitations. Globally spurred by the proliferation of web enabled mobile handsets, the demand for collaborative 'Web 2.0' applications, as well as greater 3G penetration and mobile broadband convergence means that the mobile web is increasingly becoming an integral part of the consumer's overall media experience and daily lives.

According to recent industry figures, mobile content and services revenues in India will increase from $4 bn in 2010 to $10 bn in 2015 (Juniper Research). A study by IMRB and IAMAI suggests that about 2 mn users are accessing internet through their mobile phones and other mobile devices actively. Whilst data services such as mobile e-mail and mobile internet provide a basic means of communication and a source of information for individuals across the world, many people in the market have never experienced these services. Cellular internet usage will be important in those countries where the affordability and ubiquity of the mobile phone has made it a popular alternative to expensive PC access. Relatively low bandwidth, limited coverage, and the constraints imposed by the handsets have held back the development of data applications and slowed the consumer adoption in India and other growth markets. Now that mobile communications are extending to all sectors of the society, previously under served segments will have their first experience of the internet via a mobile phone. The transition from limited WAP browsing that once defined the mobile web experience to delivering a full web experience on the mobile will change the dynamics of the internet usage across India-changing the way people communicate and share information.
To be able to meet the demand for extensive use of mobile internet, operators would normally need to invest in upgrading bandwidth. Yet the cost of bandwidth across India is high compared to other growth and mature markets. The economics of investing in the necessary bandwidth to deliver a high speed internet experience compared with the mobile data revenue projections do not currently stack up. Operators in mature and growth markets across the world are wrestling with the data conundrum-how to meet the user expectations of high speed access to rich content and a 'real' web experience, when revenues are not increasing in proportion to growth in data volumes. This is where the technology must play a role.
Technology Prerequisites
Technologies will enable operators to solve the data conundrum and deliver an enhanced user experience while ensuring that the revenues grow in sync with an increased data usage.
As per our experience deploying platforms that exploit such technologies, operators are able to reduce bandwidth and capex investment by over 40%. At the same time, the increased ease of user experience has driven data usage by more than 30%. Importantly, this translates into an increase in the data ARPU, an essential area to grow, given the constant pressure on voice revenues. Implementing a data solution that incorporates key technologies enables the cost-efficient delivery of internet and data traffic, whilst enhancing the end user's service experience. As data usage will continue to grow, operators need to ensure that their data solution is future proof and can scale cost-effectively to handle increased traffic volumes.
Content Presentation
Content presentation is an integral part of delivering an enhanced service experience. To ensure an engaging experience, operators must deliver tailored content and subscriptions, enable personalized workflows, and provide essential functionality-without requiring an upgrade in the handset device. Whilst caching, compression and acceleration techniques also help enhance the user experience in terms of response times. Operators also need to consider how to further improve the service experience
A key issue with the current set of browsers despite significant advances in making the 'mobile web' possible, is that they fall short of what 'users' really want to do. Personalization addresses this issue by taking into account a digital consumer's context, behaviour, and content interests and is essential to enhance usability and uptake of mobile internet services.
Handset Requirements
A significant number of component-specific factors is the user's handset device, which influences the quality of service experience and are outside the purview of the operator's immediate control. These factors include characteristics of the connecting device such as the form factor, screen display, the user interface, browser functionality, as well as the web content visualization and layout. In this environment, it is a challenge to pinpoint any single technique, protocol or device to improve the performance characteristics of the mobile internet. Nevertheless the operator can optimize the user experience by deploying widgets that enable the optimal content delivery. Concerted efforts are required by all the players in the value chain to provide a seamless user experience.
Keeping an Eye on the Bottom Line
Operators can exploit technological advancements in terms of data solutions as well as innovations in the type of retail pricing models they offer to exploit the mobile web opportunity. Efforts are being made by service providers to attract the users by migrating from 'legacy per minute' pricing models to flat 'all you can eat' data tariffs to stimulate data services uptake. In many growth markets including India, operators are offering time-bound internet access for a flat fee, enabling users to control browsing costs in line with their budgetary outlay.
While this approach will help drive usage of mobile data, operators also need to keep an eye on the bottom line. The feasibility of offering 'all you can eat' model may not hold up in the medium to long term. Operators will need to charge differentially for premium services and ensure quality of service for such offerings, which is where deep packet inspection technology comes in.
It is clear that mobile data is here to stay and represents a major opportunity for operators to grow revenues, and improve data profitability by cost-effectively managing traffic volumes and deploying differential pricing strategies.
Manoranjan Mohapatra
The author is CEO, Comviva

CONTENT DELIVERY ON 'missed-calls'

The just-concluded cricket world cup tournament saw an innovative service on the mobile platform. Anyone who wanted to know the score only had to give a ‘missed-call’ to a specified number, to get a call back or SMS with the score. Such ‘missed-call’ campaigns are the latest promotional tool for marketers, says its developer, a Bangalore-based tech start-up ZipDial Mobile Solutions Private Limited.
The company says its patent-pending technology has been used in campaigns of Proctor & Gamble, KFC, Pepsi, Sanofi-Aventis, Videocon, and even for Miss Bangalore pageant and a recent Nasscom conference in Mumbai.
t enables promotional activities through its ‘call-to-action’ platform, where consumers interested in a product or service have to dial a number without any charge. The user has to dial a particular dialing number given to companies by ZipDial. The call gets disconnected and they get a reverse call back. The user’s number gets registered through the ZipDial’s platform.

The companies promoting the products or services can then use the registered mobile numbers of their potential users, who by dialling the number had shown interest in their product, for sending promotional messages and offers.
“The concept caters to 100 per cent mass market, as it is free of cost and takes not much effort for dialing,” Valerie Rozycki, chief executive office, Zip Dial, said. As a mass market tool, it offers varied services like polling and generating sales lead and brings customers closer to their brands using high penetration of telecom services.
“The concept, which was launched last year during IPL matches, has scored big during this year’s World Cup. On the very first day of the World Cup cricket match, we received 4 million dials on a single day,” she said.
The high penetration of the Indian mobile market, which is expected to reach 800 million, will help the company expand its reach and business, she said.
“State Bank of India is currently going through a pilot project, which was run by Eko, SBI’s business correspondent. Customers can check account details through this service aimed at those who are not English literate,” she said.
The KFC campaign was started in Chicago, and a fan-club engagement during the football World Cup.
Timing it with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s regulations on SMS spam, which came into effect on April 1, 2011, it recently launched a verification service, which has been used by e-commerce companies including Flipkart, Myntra, SnapDeal and TutorVista.
Zip Dial, founded by Valerie Rozycki and Amiya Pathak, started with self-funding and recently received VC funding of $800,000 (Rs 3.6 crore) from Mumbai Angels.SOURCE

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Marco Polo goes Mobile

Marco Polo Hotel has launched a new mobile booking facility which will allow potential guests to book rooms using their mobile phone.
The MobiBook application, which can be downloaded on smart phones, lets guests view reservations in real time, edit their number of stays and preferences and reserve rooms.
“Marco Polo Hotel is constantly finding innovative ways to deliver customer convenience when booking their stays with us and our sister properties – Savoy Group,” said Marco Polo Hotel and Savoy Group of Hotels vice president Sunil Marya.
“Satisfying their needs and requirements has never been more important to us than what it is today given the fierce competition in our industry. With sweeping innovations taking place in the hotel industry, we need to constantly find creative ways to communicate our services to sophisticated clienteles by providing them mobile solutions to the way they book with us,” he added.source

Idea plans 3G tie-ups to cover non-licence areas

India’s third largest mobile operator, Idea Cellular, hopes to gain hopes to gain significantly from mobile number
portability (MNP) that is expected to create a churn in 3G subscribers following a price war among operators.

Idea has already gained the most from MNP, with a net addition of 4 lakh subscribers, taking its total subscriber base to 89 million users. “Number portability is aimed at enabling customers to shift from one operator to another, irrespective of whether it is 2G or 3G services,” said Ambrish Jain, deputy MD, Idea Cellular, on Tuesday after launching the company’s 3G service in Andhra Pradesh.

Jain said Idea is also preparing to enter into pacts with select mobile operators for specific areas where it did not have 3G licence. “These alliances will enable Idea subscribers throughout the country to enjoy 3G services apart from deriving the benefit of national roaming,” he said without elaborating on the timeframe for these pacts to come into effect.

Last week, Bharti Airtel, while launching its 3G services in Hyderabad, also said that it was looking to partner with other mobile operators to offer services in areas where it does not have licence. Jain said margins of Idea Cellular were under pressure due to a slide in the average revenue per user (ARPU). However, he said, the company is optimistic about compensating for the decline in ARPU with increased revenue from value-added services, particularly 3G services. “A hundred-fold expansion in data usage, with the adoption of 3G services, is likely in three to four years,” he said.

While Idea’s ARPU at present ranges from Rs 172 to Rs 200, the 3G services are expected to arrest any further decline in average revenue per user.

The average spend on data usage in India is only $ 0.3 against the world average of $ 4 and $ 21 in Japan. Typically, data services account for 28 per cent of revenue and voice contributes the remaining 72 per cent. But this is likely to change in two years with data contributing at least a third of revenue, he said.

Idea Cellular had traffic of over one billion minutes per day as of December 2010, compared with 697 million minutes per day a year ago.

Jain declined to comment on the DoT’s intent to issue showcause notices to Idea with respect to overlapping of licences, saying “the matter is sub-judice”. In 2008, Idea had picked up a stake in Spice resulting in a situation where both Idea and Spice held licences in Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra circles. Idea maintained that it did not breach any licence agreement. In March, additional solicitor general of India Amarjit Singh Chandhiok suggested a penalty of Rs 300 crore on the company.source

Sharp to launch GSM based 3G phones in Indian market

Sharp will be launching a whole range of 3G enabled mobile phones in the Indian market. With a range of various 3G phones already available in the Indian market it will interesting to see what new this company brings in the market. The company hopes to sell its GSM models priced above Rs. 10,000. If the handsets have all the essential features of a smartphone then the price bracket by SBSIL will be competition in the market. With this mid- level price range the mobile company could easily fetch good amount of buyers.
Sharp Business Systems (India) Limited, within a short span of ten years in India, is already amongst the top brands for Digital Multifunction Products. The company has a nation-wide sales & service network covering even the remotest locations of India. Sharp considers India to be an extremely important market for its products. It is a measure of this strong belief in the Indian market that it has three subsidiaries in India
The company already has a range of handsets like Sharp Alice meant for youth has a Compact Full-touch Design with FM (recording, schedule recording), Front Stereo-speaker, SNS shortcut (Twitter, Facebook, Orkut, Gmail, Yahoo India in favorite menu), Opera MINI browser pre-installed and is a fully loaded handset, Sharp Blink another dual SIM handset by SBSIL with Feminized appearance with 7 color LED illumination lamp, Instant access to the latest songs and news for free, CMOS camera , 2.4inch QVGA TFT display, Opera Mini etc.
With this launch of 3G handsets hoping for some good results in already existing range of handsets in Indian market.source

Idea to take 3G to 200 towns of AP by fiscal end

Idea Cellular, the country’s third largest mobile operator, today launched its 3G services in 14 towns in Andhra Pradesh including Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam, with plans to cover 200 towns in the state by the end of the current financial year.
Andhra Pradesh, with 8.5 million subscribers in 17,200 towns and villages, accounts for 10 per cent (Rs 1,600 crore) of the total revenues of Idea Cellular. The company has 6,500 cell sites in the state and plans to increase it substantially in the coming months, Subbaraman Iyer, chief operating officer (Hyderabad circle), told mediapersons here on Tuesday.

Stating that mobile data was the next growth area as voice revenue growth was flattening, deputy managing director Ambrish P Jain said 28 per cent of the entire telecom revenues came from broadband globally, which was expected to touch 33 per cent by 2013.

“Indian data ARPU (average revenue per user) is one of the lowest in the world at $0.03, as against an ARPU of $4 in the developed world. There is a high potential for data ARPU growth,” he said, adding that data currently accounted for 4 per cent of Idea’s revenues and its ARPU was between Rs 170 and Rs 250 depending on the circle.
Jain said the company was present in 11 circles now and intended to go pan-India with 3G, including in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, through strategic alliances by the end of this financial year.
“Currently, 10 per cent of our over 89 million subscribers nationally are using 3G-enabled handsets. There will be upgradation of handsets from time to time and we are in talks with mobile manufacturers to launch 3G handsets through combo offers,” he said while declining to draw any time line.
Replying to a query on mobile number portability (MNP), Jain said MNP had been very positive for Idea and the company had gained to the tune of 400,000 subscribers nationally.source

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cameraphone sales to touch 1bn in 2011

Sales of cameraphones will grow to more than 1 billion handsets this year, helped by fast growth at the high end of the market, research firm Strategy Analytics said.

"The growing quality of high-tier cameraphones is making them an increasing threat to the lower end of the point-and-shoot digital camera market," said analyst Neil Mawston.

Sales of cameraphones will grow 21 percent from last year to 1.1 billion handsets, topping the 1 billion mark for the first time ever, Strategy Analytics said.

The research firm forecast for sales of cellphones with 5-megapixel or higher resolution cameras to more than double this year to 361 million phones. At the same time it sees the digital still camera market at 130 million units.

"Smartphone vendors, such as Nokia and HTC, are increasingly loading their flagship models with more megapixels to deliver improved imaging quality for premium operator services like augmented reality," Mawston said.

Smartphone demand surging, Nokia to tumble

Growing demand for phones running on Google's Android platform will help the smartphone market grow in 2011, boosting companies like HTC and Samsung Electronics who are betting on the platform. 

Android's popularity has helped the Asian manufacturers to rise fast in smartphone rankings, and HTC overtook Nokia in market capitalisation for the first time on Thursday. 

Shares in HTC were worth $33.4 billion at their Thursday close, with Nokia stock worth $33 billion. 

Nokia still has higher volumes, selling 19 phones for each HTC phone sold last year. But its average sale price was just $85 compared with HTC's $360, according to Strategy Analytics. 

Surging growth in the high end of the market, helped in part by new models of HTC, will lift global sales of cameraphones 21 percent in 2011 to 1.1 billion handsets, topping the 1 billion mark for the first time, Strategy Analytics said. 

The smartphone market will grow 58 percent this year and 35 percent the next, research firm Gartner said on Thursday. 

Android, a distant No. 2 to Nokia's Symbian just last year, will increase its market share to 39 percent in 2011, while Symbian's share will roughly halve to 19 percent following Nokia's decision to dump the platform. 

Apple's iPhone platform will be slightly bigger than Symbian this year, while Blackberry-maker Research In Motion will control 13 percent of the market and Microsoft Windows Phone 6 percent. 

Nokia decided in February to start using Microsoft as its main smartphone platform, a move Gartner expected would boost Windows Phone market share to 11 percent next year and to 20 percent in 2015. 

"This is not about giving Nokia too much credit, this is about saying that Nokia will do everything they can to stay in this business. Anything less than this would mean the end of Nokia," analyst Carolina Milanesi said. 


On Thursday, Moody's cut its credit rating on Nokia, citing the Finnish company's weakening market position and uncertainty over its transition to Microsoft's Windows Phone software. 

Moody's cut its rating on Nokia's senior debt to A3 from a previous A2. The agency also cut the company's short-term debt ratings to Prime-2 from Prime-1, and said the outlook on the ratings was negative. 

"The rating downgrade primarily reflects Nokia's weakened market position in its core business, mobile devices, which has reduced the company's margins and funds from operations," said Wolfgang Draak, Moody's senior vice president and lead analyst for Nokia. 

Standard & Poor's also cut its rating on Nokia late last month. 

"The growing quality of high-tier cameraphones is making them an increasing threat to the lower end of the point-and-shoot digital camera market," said Neil Mawston, analyst at Strategy Analytics. 

The research firm forecast that sales of cellphones with 5-megapixel or higher resolution cameras would more than double this year to 361 million phones. At the same time it sees the digital still camera market growing a mere 1 percent to 130 million units.source

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Essar to ask Voda to pay $700 mn more for 33% stake

Vodafone's $5-billion deal to buy out Essar in India's third-largest mobile phone company may run into trouble with the local partner seeking $600-700 million more for its 33% holding. 

Essar group, known for its strong-arm negotiation tactics, will invoke a Reserve Bank of India resolution that stipulates a minimum value for Indian shares in privately-held companies, two people familiar with the development said. 

The April 2010 RBI resolution, which sought to protect domestic companies from aggressive multinational buyers, mandates that Indian shares in privately-held firms should be valued under the discounted cash flow method. Under this method, Essar's 11% stake in Vodafone Essar is worth $1.8-1.9 billion, compared with the purchase option that pegs it at $1.2 billion. 

Vodafone purchased 67% interest in the Indian telco from Hutchison Whampoa and two Indian shareholders Analjit Singh and Ashim Ghosh in 2007 in a $11-billion deal. At that time, Essar and Vodafone agreed that the former could sell its interest in the company to the latter for $5 billion till May 2011. 

The agreement was formed in two parts - one a put or sell option for 22% held by the Essar group overseas and the other a call or buy option for Vodafone to buy 11% stake the Essar group held in India. 

Essar had the first right to exercise its option, but if it tendered its entire 22%, Vodafone's option would become valid. 

The partners had agreed that should only a part of the option be exercised, the value of the stake changing hands would be ascertained by three investment banks, but the amount would be capped at $5 billion if the entire option was exercised. 

The options were to expire on May 8, after which both sides would have been forced to negotiate a price, which, industry analysts say, would have been less much than $5 billion. The country's top mobile company, BSE-listed Bharti Airtel, was valued at $33 billion when Vodafone bought a 67% stake in the then Hutchison Essar in February 2007. 
Bharti is now valued at around $30 billion, despite adding some 180 million customers since then. 

In March, Vodafone said it would purchase Essar's 33% stake for $5 billion as per the agreement. However, the Essar group now plans to argue that since the 11% held in India is being bought by Vodafone it is subject to Reserve Bank regulations. 

"We are mindful of the new Reserve Bank of India guidelines and fully expect the current transaction to comply with them," Vodafone group spokesman Simon Gordon said. A spokesperson for Essar declined to comment on the matter citing a confidentiality agreement. 

Essar had claimed an additional facilitation fee of $500 million from Hutchison during the latter's negotiations with Vodafone. The group may be able to achieve a similar result with Vodafone too, said an industry analyst. 
For Vodafone, much is at stake. It has already locked horns with the Indian tax authorities that claim that the UK-based operator owes the state $2 billion in taxes. The Essar option also will come under similar scrutiny. 
"With the Essar group support and the option to set a benchmark, Vodafone's case in the Supreme Court could get a real boost," said an analyst, who asked not to be named. 

An Essar official said the amount payable for the domestically-held 11% would be subject to capital gains tax, but not the remaining 22% held in the Mauritius subsidiaries. 

Vodafone bought Hutchison's stake through a Cayman Islands company that held shares in a series of Mauritian companies. Given this situation, Vodafone may accept an additional payment to the Essar group as the lesser devil, the analyst said.