Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gainers and Losers of MNP RACE

Data gathered during the first four days of MNP in India has revealed that consumers have clear preference for some operators over others.
Vodafone Essar, India’s third largest operator, appears to sit the best with consumers, with 61,789 users wanting to switch to it. Aircel comes in second with 28,088 while Idea Cellular comes in third at 15,220, according to data gathered by Financial Express.
The country’s largest operator, Bharti Airtel, had just 10,412 users who expressed wishes to switch to it.
State-owned BSNL and Reliance Communications, the country’s second-largest operator, appear to be the biggest losers. Net customer loss are estimated at 51,562 and 48,089 respectively.
The data also revealed differences in consumers’ preference by region. More than a third of the 30,627 subscribers who wished to port their numbers expressed a preference for Vodafone, while 11,502 out of the 25,000 customers who wanted to port their numbers in Maharashtra preferred Idea Cellular.
New operators fared badly, despite MNP being touted as the means for these new entrants to gain subscribers. Sistema Shyam’s MTS emerged the biggest loser, with a net 1,354 customers wishing to port out.
A net 956 customers wished to leave Loop Telecom while 288 wanted to exit HFCL. Uninor looked to be the only new entrant who stood to gain, with a net 379 customers wishing to port in.source

Airtel Succeeded in grabbing 1Lac 3G customers within 72 hours of launch

Bullish on 3G:(from left) Mr Atul Bindal, President, Mobile Services, Bharti Airtel; Karthi, actor and brand ambassador; and Mr Vineet Taneja, Operations Director - South, Bharti Airtel, at the launch of 3G services in Chennai on Thursday.

Airtel has succeeded in enlisting over one lakh customers for its range of 3G services within 72 hours of its launch, say company officials.
Mind boggling response
At the launch of the third generation services in Chennai and Coimbatore, Mr Atul Bindal, President, Mobile Services, Bharti Airtel, told Business Line, “The response has been mind boggling with the total consumption of around 200 GB a day.”
“We never anticipated such a huge response,” he said.
Bharti Airtel will rollout the services in 13 circles by March. Over the next one year, it plans to extend the services to 1,500 cities and towns , he told newspersons.
In the 72 hours of the service becoming operational in Bangalore, around one lakh customers are enjoying a variety of services, including video call , movies and music, according to a senior company official.
Mr Bindal welcomed Airtel's brand ambassador and cine star Karthi on to the Airtel 3G platform as the first 3G customer in the city. Airtel will offer services such as video call, live streaming of video, high speed Internet, mobile TV entertainment through the 3G technology. Users can also avail themselves of the services through the existing ‘SIM' cards.
For laptop users, Airtel offers 3G ‘dongles,' he said.
In a bid to attract mass trial and adoption of the service , the company offers packages of up to 10 days. For Rs 8, under the Sachet plan , a user can avail himself of 10 MB of free data (one day validity); and 65 MB for Rs 63 and one day validity.
Mr Bindal said the company's cumulative spending in Tamil Nadu was Rs 7,000 crore.source

Clever services on cheap mobile phones do ROCK in Poor Countries

COUNTERFEIT drugs can make up around a quarter of all those sold in poor countries, according to some estimates. They provide a lucrative and lethal business, against which most consumers are powerless. “If your anti-malaria pill is made of any old white powder, you may not survive,” says Bright Simons, one of the founders of mPedigree, an advocacy group from Ghana.
Mr Simons is not just fighting with words. Late last year mPedigree launched a mobile service in Ghana and Nigeria that could make a dent in the fake-drug trade. People buying medicine scratch off a panel attached to the packaging. This reveals a code, which they can text to a computer system that looks it up in a database. Seconds later comes a reply saying whether the drug is genuine. The service is paid for by pharmaceutical companies that want to thwart the counterfeiters. Hewlett-Packard runs the computer system and found a cheap way to print the scratch-off labels.
This is just one of many such services mushrooming in poor countries, using mobile-phone technology that once carried only humble voice and text messages. Rohan Samarajiva, the boss of LIRNEasia, a think-tank in Sri Lanka, calls it “more than mobile”. Jussi Hinkkanen, Nokia’s head of policy in Africa, says the mobile revolution is moving “from ear to hand”.
The number of users is still small: even among young people in South-East Asia (a tech-friendly lot) only 8% had used “more-than-voice” services, according to a poll by LIRNEasia. But the potential is exciting. Mobile phones are the world’s most widely distributed computers. Even in poor countries about two-thirds of people have access to one (see chart 1). As a result, such devices and their networks, though mainly still much simpler than in the rich world, have become a platform on which many other services can be built. This boosts innovation—just as smartphones and faster wireless data networks have led to an explosion of mobile applications (“apps”).
Classifying mobile services in poor countries is not an exact science. Richard Heeks, director of the Centre of Development Informatics at the University of Manchester, sorts them by their impact on development. One category is services that “connect the excluded”. In their simplest form they provide information to those who would otherwise be out of the loop. Farmer’s Friend in Uganda, for instance, sends out market prices and other agricultural information in text messages.
Such services have been around for some time, but they have become more common—and much more varied. Nokia now provides its Ovi Life Tools, a set of information services from weather to sport, to more than 6m users of its handsets in China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria. Esoko, a Ghanaian “communication platform”, in the words of Mark Davies, its founder, allows two-way communication: people and businesses in 15 African countries can upload their own market or other data, which then become accessible via the internet and mobile phones.
Mobile trading platforms are also in this category. At first most of them focused on agricultural goods: Dialog Tradenet in Sri Lanka lets farmers check market prices and text in offers, helping them to time their harvest to maximise income. But many, including Dialog Tradenet, have other things on offer. In India, Babajob.com lists low-skilled jobs. The most popular items on CellBazaar in Bangladesh are second-hand mobile phones. For people with some cash to spare, KenyaBUZZ, one of the larger local websites in east Africa, is selling tickets for cultural and sports events over the phone.
Mobile phones can also spread learning. In Bangladesh the BBC World Service Trust sponsors a service called BBC Janala that allows people on a few dollars a day to improve their English. After dialling “3000”, they can listen to hundreds of English lessons and quizzes, updated weekly. Mobile operators charge about two cents for each three-minute lesson. Since BBC Janala was launched in November 2009, 3.1m people have used it.
Researchers in South Africa working for SAP, a software giant, are trying to connect very small businesses, which make up a large part of Africa’s economy. One service lets craftsmen create a virtual job docket with a few texts or touches on a smartphone, even without mobile-network coverage. The information is uploaded to a computer system later. Another allows rural stores to order goods, saving time-consuming trips to city markets.
A second category of services includes those that cut out the middleman, or at least keep tabs on him. This is especially helpful in using government services. In the Indian state of Karnataka, corrupt officials would often demand a bribe before issuing landownership certificates, which farmers need, for instance, to obtain a loan. The Bhoomi project helps them directly, by using the internet and mobile phones.
Disintermediation is also made possible by mobile money. Services to transfer cash by text message have been around for some years. One of the most successful, M-PESA, began in 2007 in Kenya, where it now has more than 13m users. It is now used for salaries, bills, donations: few things cannot be paid for via a handset. Similar services can be found in more than 40 countries. Though not yet on the same scale, this seems to be only a question of time: in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, more people have a mobile phone than a bank account (see chart 2).
Other firms are extending the reach of mobile money. Software developed by Tagattitude, a French start-up, uses a handset’s sound channel to transmit money and will be used by several banks in Africa. A Little World, an Indian firm, has combined several pieces of technology to create a “branchless microbanking system” to allow people in remote areas to withdraw cash. A fingerprint reader identifies them and the sum is deducted from their accounts via a special handset. A small printer produces a receipt. The system already has more than 3m users in India. In Andhra Pradesh it directly disburses welfare payments and pensions.
Money on the move in Kenya
The sound of the crowd, texting
A third, perhaps even more promising category is “crowdvoicing”. Ushahidi, founded by a group of activists in Kenya, is among its pioneers. After the country’s disputed elections in 2008, Ushahidi (which means “testimony” in Swahili) mapped reports about violence, most of them text messages, on a website. Now the organisation offers software and even a web-based service to monitor anything from elections to natural disasters. Similarly, text-messaging software called FrontlineSMS collects and broadcasts information.
Such techniques are increasingly applied in other areas, particularly health. Stop Stock-outs, another African group, has used Ushahidi to map where essential medicines are sold out. By checking whether a drug is genuine, users of mPedigree and another Ghanaian service called Sproxil provide real-time data about which illnesses are on the rise (and can be sent more information as needed). In Mali a company called Pesinet gets agents to send in the weight of newborn babies. If the figure falls below a certain level, the baby is examined more closely.
Then there is txteagle, which hopes to reward those willing to perform small jobs on a mobile phone. Its founder, Nathan Eagle, discovered that nurses in Kenya were much likelier to text in the stock levels at their blood banks if they were compensated with a bit of airtime. This got him thinking about whether other tasks could be “crowdsourced” in this way. Today firms use txteagle for translating words into a local dialect and checking street signs for a satellite-navigation service. Mr Eagle hopes that the service will spread far, in particular to Asia.
A fourth and last category hardly exists yet, but could prove the most important, says Mr Heeks: platforms that allow the world’s poor to “appropriate the technology and start applying it in new ways”. One small example is “beeping”: hanging up after a single ring. First used to signal that someone wants to be called back because of lack of credit, it has become a free messaging system. In some countries, street hawkers assign special ringtones to different customers, which are in effect free messages placing orders.
In rich countries, online stores for smartphone apps gave digital innovation a boost. LIRNEasia’s Mr Samarajiva hopes that something similar will happen in the poor world. An early example is AppZone in Sri Lanka. It allows developers to create, test and sell applications, while operators promote them to their customers.
The list will certainly get longer. Whether such services will be commercial successes is another question. Having looked at 400 mobile businesses, the Monitor Group, a consultancy, concludes that too many are dependent on donor money. Social entrepreneurship often muddles demand and need, says Jan Schwier of Monitor. The fact that an African smallholder needs prices for his crops on his mobile does not mean he will pay for them.
Not many services are set up to grow, says Brooke Partridge of Vital Wave Consulting, which advises businesses in emerging markets. Providers lack technology, money and market knowledge. “We don’t need more new services, but a better focus on commercialisation,” she says.
For others bureaucracy, taxation and bad regulation are the obstacles. In many African countries providers of new mobile services cannot deal with network operators directly, but must use intermediaries to get, for instance, a short code for customers to dial. Governments also use mobile networks as cash cows. A study in 2008 by the GSM Association, an industry group, found that the ratio of mobile-related tax to operators’ revenues in sub-Saharan Africa was 30%. Today the share is probably even higher. And regulators often limit competition, for instance by failing to license radio spectrum to new entrants. All this means that mobile communications are more expensive than they need be. “Price remains the major barrier to the growth of mobile entrepreneurship in Africa,” says Steve Song, a telecoms expert at the Shuttleworth Foundation, a think-tank in South Africa.
Talk of a “Development 2.0”—meaning a mobile-driven transformation of how poor countries develop—thus seems premature. But the potential of mobile services should not be underestimated. If they take off, they could transform lives and livelihoods, not just by connecting the world’s poor to the infrastructure of the digital economy, but by allowing them to become digital producers and innovators.
Fanciful? Maybe, but sceptics said the same about the potential of mobile phones in poor countries a decade ago. Just think what would be possible if smartphones and even tablet computers become as cheap and common in poor countries as mobile phones are today.source

TRAI after the SPAM SMSs now

Starting Feb 1st (2011), telecom operators will have to comply to new TRAI guidelines on SMS spam and while the deed is noble, it will create more confusion for consumers.
First, the fineprint.
- From Feb 1, there will only be 2 categories of messages- Transactional (Bank alerts, Railway & Airline alerts, Messages to parents from school etc) and Non transactional or Promotional (all remaining categories except mentioned earlier – like courier alerts, spam, marketing offers, news alerts, subscribed SMS services, intra company or group messages and so on)
- Only transactional messages will have full branded sender id (like TA-HDFCBANK) for others, there will be a 6 digit code (like TA-n12345 or TA-nABCDE), where n is the category of the message and further 5 digits are the unique code given by the telecom operator to each aggregator.
- All non-transactional messages will be compulsorily passed through the NDNC filter.(This means, you will NOT receive the subscribed/ paid news alert or even your courier status message if you are registered with DND) and will be allowed only during 9am to 9pm.
As a consumer, you will now have to open each and every non-transactional message to check on the content. So far, you could easily delete a message just by checking the names, but now ensure that you open each and every sms to see if there is something important.
Moreover, does this mean that you need to unsubscribe from DND to get other relevant & important messages (that TRAI considers non-transactional)?.
What’s your take? What will be the impact of this on bulk sms services? Operators have started testing this regulation – so chances of the implementation being delayed is minimal.source

Self-Service Mobile Developer Program by NUANCE

Nuance Communications, Inc. today announced that it is providing access to the Dragon Mobile SDK for iOS and Android via a new self-service website as part of tThis initiative will enable mobile developers to leverage the powerful dictation and voice search capabilities at the core of the successful Dragon Dictation and Dragon Search apps, as well as Nuance’s trusted Vocalizer text-to-speech (TTS).

The Dragon Mobile SDK is now available through the Nuance Mobile Developer Program for Apple iOS 4.0 (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch) and for many devices running Android 2.1 and higher versions. The SDK currently supports US and UK English, European Spanish, European French, German, Italian and Japanese for dictation and search, with additional languages to be added through the end of the year. TTS capabilities, on the other hand, exist for more than 35 languages including Indian English and Hindi. 

All those developers working in India on applications that are ported to the US, European or Japanese iTunes store or the Android Market can now leverage the power of Dragon Mobile SDK for rapid inclusion of voice recognition into their applications. This is all possible through the new self service developer portal which provides instant access to easy-to-integrate prepackaged wrappers and widgets. Developers also have access to an on-line forum for additional support, a variety of code samples and full documentation. Nuance’s sales and sales engineering staff in India will also help in providing responses for the developer’s queries and facilitate product demonstrations for developers, when required.

“The mobile application explosion is in flight with Apple nearing 10 billion downloads and Android apps expanding rapidly,” said Sunny Rao, Managing Director, India and South East Asia, Nuance Communications. “We’ve created an amazingly simple way for developers to innovate privately and securely on the two fastest growing platforms in the world. India has a thriving developer’s community on the iOS as well as the Android platform, and we are positive that the Mobile Developer Program will witness great traction among those developers focusing on the export markets of the US, Europe and Japan, ” he added. 

Many developers have already experienced the power of the Dragon Mobile SDK for their apps, including Siri, Price Check by Amazon, Ask for iPhone, aisle411, Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, and SpeechTrans. 
Nuance Mobile Developer Program Pricing

Developers can download the Dragon Mobile SDK and have access to the cloud-based speech services for 90 days absolutely free. And once ready for market distribution, developers have tiered pricing options to accommodate their unique needs and those of their applications. Nuance also offers a range of developer customization programs including specialized language models and application optimization. To learn more about the Dragon Mobile SDK and supported devices, please visit: http://dragonmobile.nuancemobiledeveloper.com.

9th VAS INDIA 2011 Conference

All the major Indian Telecom Operators along with the Leading VAS technology organisation's will be congregating at 9th VAS INDIA 2011, a single day International Conference which is being  held on February 4th 2011 at Taj Lands End, Mumbai.

Organized by Bharat Exhibitions, VAS India 2011 is India's Premier & Only Forum on VAS for fast growing Indian Telecom Industry.  Now into successful 9th year, VAS INDIA 2011 will offer the best business platform in the country for Indian Telecom Industry to conduct business & share their strategic plans for India A recent study projects value- added services market in India is expected to grow to about US$ 5.6 billion in 2011.

According to Mr. Manoranjan Mohapatra, CEO, Comviva "In an intensely competitive landscape, operators are facing challenges on three key fronts: driving cost efficiencies, ensuring revenue growth and building customer engagement with their brand. Consumers are demanding highly relevant, timely, personalized, content-rich and context-aware value-added services over the mobile – with expectations of consistently high levels of service. In this scenario, the ability to cost-effectively and rapidly retail a wide catalogue of services tailored to specific consumer sub-segments is a critical competitive differentiator for operators. Comviva is supporting operators in this endeavor with solutions that enable VAS business transformation and enable them to realize their business goals.VAS India 2011 is a key forum for Comviva."

Mr. Vishwanath Alluri, CEO, IMImobile says "VAS industry in India has grown distinctively and has opened new avenues for innovative products with the rapid increase in the mobile customer base. With induction of 3G, we believe that video will play a critical role in VAS penetration in India. It will make up for the low penetration of PC. However, availability of 3G enabled phones at lower price will be a critical enabler in the overall push. We are sure that VAS India 2011 will bring thought leaders on one platform and spread the message."

Global majors in the VAS segment are participating in the event - Making it truly global platform to conduct business, Comviva, Motricity, IMI Mobile, Avaya, Gemalto, Ehangcom, Handygo, Flytxt, Creative Software, Foremost, Infogin, Netmagic, Yantra Software will share their strategic plans for India.

Among the Telecom Operators, Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel, BSNL, MTNL, Reliance Communications, TATA Teleservices, Sistema Shyam, Virgin Mobile, Etisilat, Uninor, TATA DoCoMo, Videocon, Loop Mobile would be part of the event.

Inaugural Keynote would be delivered by Mr. Prashant Gokarn, Head 3G, Reliance Communications.

According to Mr. Jim Ryan, chief strategy and marketing officer, Motricity, "The future of VAS in India is going to be all about delivering the right stuff to the right person at the right time based upon the right monetization model - be it fee based or ad supported free offerings.  In a vast and diverse market like India, this also means delivering VAS solutions in the right language and in the right format (audio, SMS, web, video).  To solve this complex problem and to capitalize on this tremendous market opportunity, Motricity, through our mCore Platform, delivers high value, and highly personalized VAS solutions to mobile operators around the world, all on a carrier grade managed service basis.  Motricity is excited to be part of one of the fastest-growing, and largest mobile markets in the world and we are very much looking forward to being part of the discussion at VAS India 2011."

Mr. Shashidharan- Managing Director, Bharat Exhibitions the organizer of VAS INDIA 2011, says,  "VAS India 2011 will help in strategizing a strong vision for MVAS Landscape in India as it is an ideal stage between the key influencers and decision makers under one roof. This year's event will develop innovative marketing tools for boosting the penetration of VAS adoption in the 3G Ready India. The renowned industry professionals from across the world would share their knowledge."source

Airtel bets on World Cup, IPL to flag 3G service

India’s largest mobile service operator Bharti Airtel is betting on the upcoming World Cup and Indian Premier League (IPL) to hook customers on to its 3G (third generation) service to view cricket matches live on their mobile phones.
“We will pitch for more subscribers during the World Cup and IPL matches to flag our 3G service being rolled out, as they will be able to capture the exciting matches live from anywhere and when on the move,” Airtel chief executive V. Venkatesh told IANS.
Airtel is the main corporate sponsor for all international cricket series played in India during the next three years, bagging the rights at Rs.3.33 crore per match, covering Tests, one-day internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 (T-20) games.
The 10th International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup ODIs will be played in the sub-continent during Feb 19-April 2 and the fourth edition of IPL T-20 matches in April-May.
The company, which paid Rs.12,290 crore for the 3G spectrum licence in 13 circles, rolled out the high-speed multimedia service this week in Karnataka and plans to cover about 40 cities in other circles by March.
“In the run-up, we will carry promos to showcase the benefits of our latest service in watching the World Cup and the IPL in real time. Such big-ticket sporting events give us an opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of the 3G service,” Venkatesh said.
With over 150 million subscribers in the circles, it operates across the country. The company is targeting 20-30 percent of them to migrate to 3G from 2G on its GSM (global system for mobile communication) network in the first year of operation.
“About 20 percent of our customers are already using the 2-2.5G spectrum for various data services, including internet access to check mails, websites, news portals and chat,” Venkatesh said.
“We are confident that they will migrate to 3G for the advantages and host of services we offer at attractive tariffs,” he added.
Airtel chose this tech hub as a launch-pad for unveiling the 3G service as Karnataka is its largest circle by revenue with 15 million customers and commands about 50 percent of the market share in the state.
The company’s high-speed download packet access technology will enable customers to watch live streaming television on the mobile phone with quality visuals and sound.
“It is a common strategy to make best use of sporting events for promoting one’s product or service. We see sales of televisions surge during World Cup soccer, Olympics and international cricket matches in India,” Venkatesh pointed out.
“Similarly, World Cup and IPL offer us a great marketing opportunity to hardsell our new service,” he added.
According to Airtel brand & media head Mohit Beotra, cricket is a game that hooks Indian masses as no other sport so passionately.
“We believe that cricket as a sport represents the zeal and vigour our youth stand for. We are hence looking forward to a long-term association with the game for our brand promotion,” Beotra said in a statement earlier.
The Airtel 3G also gives its customers the power of high speed mobile broadband to enjoy other services, including video calling, social networking, video watching and music downloads.
In view of the competition hotting up, with other operators too rolling out their 3G service, Airtel is offering time-based tariff plans for light users of data where usage and billing will be by hour and flexi-shield plans for heavy users of data where the service will be capped.source