HG

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The change !!!

With the introduction of 3G services, the expected rise in mobile data consumption will modify user habits. The 3G wireless platform that would provide data speeds of up to 21Mbps, mobile TV, high-definition video content, multimedia gaming, video calling and conferencing on your mobile handset is definitely worth waiting for. Here’s what industry experts think about the third generation of mobile telephony and how it would influence new consumption regions and patterns for the 700 million mobile subscribers – growing at the rate of 15 million subscribers every month – in the country.

Mobile services to modify user habits
3G was introduced in several other countries in the past decade, but the evolution of services have been different. Samaresh Parida, director strategy, Vodafone Essar, is betting on “easy access to Internet.” He said services like entertainment, sports and news will gain importance among users. “In the next phase, a number of ‘economic enablers’ will gain traction rising on the back of 3G - services like finding potential employees and employers, specific information like market prices, etc.”

But for now Vodafone is focusing on educating the consumer about the potential of the services on offer.

For now, the delay in the launch of services like video calling on 3G networks following regulatory & security concerns, has not dampened the enthusiasm, either in consumers or telecom operators.

Reliance Communications (RCom), which had launched its 3G services in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chandigarh, said the key to success will be the infotainment segment.

Syed Safawi, president & CEO (wireless division), RCom said: “The favoured services on the Internet has moved from e-mail to m-commerce to social networking. We expect to see similar social behaviour on the mobile platform as well.”

RCom is also confident about the targeted 3G applications like medical journals and disease-specific apps for doctors and patients; tutorials and guides for students appearing in various competitive exams; or banking and trading platforms for those who are hooked on to the financial markets.

Payment and banking through mobiles
Sample this: India has about 70,000 bank branches, 6,000,000 villages and a mobile subscriber base of 700 million. It is getting increasingly difficult for banks to expand in rural areas because of infrastructure, manpower and operational problems. Mobile phones have penetrated almost all Indian villages. The way forward for banks is to expand through mobile phones.

Last year, when mobile banking and m-commerce services were introduced, people shied away especially due to security concerns. But in the second half, with most banks offering mobile services and educating the customers, the average Indian are more at ease with the use of these services. In 2011, banks are all set to capitalise on the mobile platform for full range financial services following the introduction of 3G and an encouraging regulatory framework.

“Initially customers used m-banking to check their account balance on handsets, but we expect it to graduate to person-to-person money transfer and payment of utility bills,” said Deepak Chandnani, president, Obopay, an m-payment solutions company that has tied up with Yes Bank and Nokia for its Mobile Money Services in Pune, Chandigarh and Nasik.

With commercial banks empowered to open mobile branches without RBI’s approval in areas with less than 50,000 population, Chandnani feels the move will allow easy and cost-effective access to financial services among the unbanked rural areas. “The thumb rule for any m-payment service provider will have to be platform agnostic service. This will enable consumers across various telecom service providers, banks and handset users to adopt m-payments without any glitches.”

Entertainment morphs into premium mobile content
“While content makers are making tall claims in this space by redoing existing content, from Films, TV and other Video formats, for mobile consumption — I believe that is very short sighted,” said UTV Group CEO and founder chairman Ronnie Screwvala. Original content, especially designed for the mobile keeping in mind the consumer ‘snacking’ habits, is the key to cracking the code for 3G, he said.

Screwvala said up to 15 per cent of 3G consumption will come from aggregated content while massively re-purposed content will be around 35 per cent. “Leverage an existing brand like films or TV shows to create something for the mobile and the rest will flow from original content and that alone.”

Content providers like T-Series claimed to have tasted success with new delivery models like selling music on websites like www.itunes.com. The primary challenge, according to Bhushan Kumar, CMD of T-Series, was micro payments. “In order to sell our content on mobile, we are evaluating subscription models, including freemium models.” The challenge ahead, said Kumar, was to ensure that interaction with the content or the artist was seamless on mobile phones and “3G will play a very vital role in enabling this interactivity.”

Screwvala argued that while most of us have been paying a meager sum for our cable connection – average of Rs 100 for 400 channels a month – at the same time, we are comfortable paying Rs 30 per month to download a ringtone. Clearly, mobile offers an excellent opportunity for subscription revenue rather than just being dependent on advertisers. However, piracy continued to be a concern, especially with high-speed data on mobile phones. “If telcos are not able to stop illegal content sharing websites, then 3G will become a double-edged sword for both telcos and content owners like us,” said Kumar.

Social Networking on mobiles to become a ‘must-have’ feature
According to a study report by Analysys Mason, the number of mobile social network users in India is expected to reach around 72 million by 2014, driven by reduced costs of smartphones and the launch of 3G services.

With users tuning in with social personas on their mobile phones, professional networking sites like LinkedIn have launched apps for iPhone, Palm and BlackBerry to ensure that mobile professionals stay connected on the go. “A new application for the Android platform from LinkedIn will provide users of this fast-growing operating system to connect with professionals on their tablets and handhelds,” said Hari Krishnan, country manager of LinkedIn India.

Web access on mobiles is gathering speed but players have realised that 3G services may be limited, initially, to metros and Tier-I cities. “Within social media, the most heavily used services on mobile phones will be messaging and photos. Besides social media, we will also see increased usage of other web-based services such as content, travel, commerce, education etc,” said Beerud Sheth, CEO SMSGupShup, a popular social networking platform on mobiles.

“As interfaces on handheld devices evolve to enhance user experience, communication in social and professional contexts is bound to increase over the next decade,” said Krishnan. Sheth said 3G data plans need to be cheap and simple — without any hidden costs. “Educating customers on web usage is a particularly unique hurdle in India — if users don’t know the benefits of using the web, how can we expect them to use the mobile web?” he wondered.

Priyanka Joshi

Telecom Minister kicks off new year with new promises

The government will evolve a new telecom policy which takes care of the interests of the common man, the government and the telecom service providers, and will include a clear regime on contentious issues like spectrum allocation, Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal said Saturday.

"In the ultimate analysis, we want efficient use of spectrum, and optimal use of spectrum. We want revenues to be generated," Sibal told reporters, while unveiling a 100-day agenda of his ministry with regards to all three departments - telecom, post offices and information technology.

"So in the next 100 days, we will hold consultations with key stakeholders to evolve a clear and transparent regime covering licensing, spectrum allocation, tariff, pricing, linkage with rollout performance, flexibility within licences, spectrum sharing, spectrum trading and mergers and acquisitions in a technology-agnostic environment," the minister added.

According to the minister, the revamped policy will usher in an era of transparency in all dealings with regards to precious resources like spectrum.

"The new policy would also take care of use of foreign equipment by telecom service providers while extending services using the third-generation spectrum.

"When we do all this, we will do this in the interest of the aam admi (common man). There are three public interests here - how do we get reasonable revenues for the government, the consumer must get the service at a reasonably low rate, while we keep the industry robust," Sibal said.

The minister also said that all pending security issues with regards to foreign equipment suppliers will be resolved in the next 100 days, which would allow operators "to launch their 3G services in their entire plenitude without delay".

"Security issues regarding telecom equipment procurement, messenger services and subscriber verification will be resolved in the next 100 days," Sibal said.

Sibal said that his ministry would start a dialogue with the department of space, ministry of defence and public sector companies to free up spectrum and make it available for the telecom sector.

"We will also rollout the national frequency plan 2011 in the next 100 days," he said

52-WEEK FLOP: ONMOBILE GLOBAL SERVICES



Value-added services provider for telecom operators — OnMobile Global, has witnessed a significant de-rating by the markets.

As a play on both domestic and other key emerging markets' telecom fortunes, the worst may probably be over for the company.

With several new entrants launching mobile services, there was a tariff ‘war' as each operator tried to woo subscribers. This led to falling average revenues for a user and affected value-added services usage as well.

The entire telecom sector witnessed a significant rating and as a result even a VAS player such as OnMobile's stock price fell by as much as 36 per cent over the past year. Of course 2009-10 was a difficult year for OnMobile with net profits falling steeply over the previous fiscal.

But there seems to have been a revival of sorts in the first half of FY11, with revenues growing 18.3 per cent to Rs 255.3 crore over the same period in the previous year, while net profits zoomed 123.8 per cent to Rs 41.4 crore.

The tariff wars now seems to be abating and with the launch of 3G by some operators and many more of OnMobile's clientele set to do the same over the next few months, the company would hope to drive up volumes.

Globally too with strong wins from Telefonica, where implementation in 13 Latin American countries is set for March 2011, and strong execution for Vodafone in countries such as Egypt, revenue visibility is enhanced significantly.

— K. Venkatasubramanian

Re-Evaluating Your Mobile Service

It would seem virtually everyone owns a cellular phone these days, everybody from senior citizens to young kids. Mobile phones are getting to be an important part of our daily lifestyles. However as we keep adding regular monthly programs to our list of expenses it can easily begin to seem expensive. If you start to add up the cost of cable television, a land line, cell phone as well as web service it may be astonishing to discover what we shell out each month on these things. A lot of individuals are finding they should pare down and cut down on a number of these types of bills. A signal booster can increase cell phone reception for those on a lower cost network.

A number of people already have reduced payments by simply eliminating their residential phone line and using their cellular phone exclusively. For other individuals bundling offerings with one provider has decreased costs. Often the best alternatives are different from one individual to another because most of us have a little bit different preferences, routines, ways of life not to mention prices and services may vary a bit from one area to another.

The main thing to do would be to think about what you truly need. Give thought to whatever you really need most as well as what you make use of the most. Think about those additional features that you don’t really need, in some cases dropping these extras will help save a few dollars and we don’t notice that much difference.

When it comes to cell phone services there are plenty readily available. Just be certain you currently have the cell plan which suits your needs most effectively. For many people an unrestricted cellular plan will be the cheapest choice, but for other consumers a prepaid plan is actually best. Either way if you utilize your cell phone often be certain you have enough minutes accessible each month. If perhaps you won’t use it very often make sure that you are not wasting a lot every month simply for the luxury of having a cellular plan; check out a prepaid cell plan.

If perhaps you have a family with kids that prefer to text, look for a wireless family plan which offers a lot of service in this particular area. If you don’t you will probably spend way more than you ought to for the coverage. It is usually difficult to restrain your childrens texting behaviors, it’s often more economical to choose a a cell plan that will cover this type of usage.

Mobile users face Epic problem

HUBLI: Election Photo Identity Card (Epic) is supposed to be one the authentic documents to prove one's identity. But with the government's fresh directive to mobile service providers, several mobile users who had obtained mobile connection by furnishing their EPIC are facing the threat of disconnection.

"If your face is not clearly visible in the EPIC photo, then we cannot accept it as an authenticate ID proof" is what mobile service providers have been telling mobile users who are rushing to mobile service outlets in the city and elsewhere after their mobile screens flashed an emergency SMS.

V Savita, a homemaker in Vidyanagar here, had obtained Idea connection by furnishing a photo copy of her election ID card two years ago. She was shocked after receiving the text message a few days ago __ "Document submitted for this number does not comply with revised Govt directive. Pls submit valid docs before 31st Dec to avoid disconnection".

When panic-stricken Savita rushed to an Idea outlet with her election ID and a photocopy of the same, the staff told her that her face is not properly identified in the card, and "hence it was rejected during verification".

Savita, who does not have DL or other documents to prove her identity, is now under the fear of disconnection.

Another customer, Basavaraj Hiremat, a farmer in Sulla village, is also equally disturbed. After having his photo ID card rejected for the same reason by Airtel, he has been cursing the government agency for its negligence in clicking photographs in poor light. He says many in his village are facing the same problem.

A private mobile service dealer, on condition of anonymity, said they are left with no choice but to reject the voter ID proofs of several consumers because of mismatch or lack of clarity in photos. "Most of the ID cards that are not being accepted are either old or mismatch. The benefit of doubt goes against the mobile user as we have to send the data to the authorities every month. We have to face music for any fault. So we are strict about it," he added.