Krishna Baidya’s Random Musings

Archive for October 2009

Gartner predicts that worldwide sales of smartphones will grow by 29 percent year-on-year to reach 180 million units in 2009, overtaking notebooks in total unit terms. The research firm adds that it expects smartphone sales revenue to reach US$191 million by 2012, higher than end user spending on mobile PCs, which is forecast to reach US$152 million by the same point. Currently smartphones account for 14 percent of overall mobile device sales, but Gartner expects by 2012 they will make up around 37 percent of global handset sales. However, it adds that the PC vendors’ cumulative share (Apple excluded) of the smartphone market has remained static at around 1 percent and is unlikely to rise above 2 percent during the next three years, highlighting the challenges faced by PC vendors looking to tap into smartphones.

“PC vendors will find it difficult to simply use existing supply chains and channels to expand their presence in the smartphone market,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner. “The smartphone and notebook markets are governed by different rules when it comes to successfully marketing and selling products.” Gartner notes that PC vendors have traditionally introduced smartphones based on the Windows Mobile platform, which have mainly attracted business users. But it adds that PC vendors will face extreme challenges in having to adapt and base their smartphone offerings on a consumer-focused value proposition based on short life cycles, fashion design, hardware and software platform diversity.

T-Mobile USA has launched a new unlimited mobile plan available to customers outside of a contract in a bid to compete with prepaid rivals such as Leap Wireless and MetroPCS.  The new plan will offer unlimited talk, text and Web surfing for US$79.99 a month to customers who do not want to sign up for a long-term contract, which typically lasts 2 years. Earlier this year (March) it started offering ” Unlimited Loyalty Plan”, unlimited minutes on an individual line for $49.99/ month and unlimited minutes on a two-line Family plan for $89.99/ month, to its customer who have been with the carrier for at least 22 months with a reliable payment history. Now, the company is believed to extend the $50/ month unlimited service for non-contract customers. The new deal represents a 20 percent discount on T-Mobile’s standard unlimited monthly fee for contract customers, though subscribers to the new deals will be required to pay a higher fee for a handset.

The introduction of unlimited monthly prepaid plans in the US was pioneered by Sprint subsidiary Boost Mobile, which launched a US$50 monthly plan in January. The plan has since been replicated by a number of its prepaid rivals and has led to a fierce price war in the prepaid low-end segment.

This is quite a bid to attract customer to its network and will not be surprising the beginning of a price war. As a end user, I am not complaining. Other broader implication is more subtle (but non-avoidable in my opinion) where mobile carrier too is following suit of ISPs in becoming nothing but a dumb pipe. It will be interesting to see how long more other operators across the world can wait before forced to accept this very fact.

Google is planning to launch a branded smartphone that will bypass mobile operators and compete with handset vendors running its own Android platform, reported TheStreet yesterday citing an analyst source. Northeast Securities analyst Ashok Kumar, who claims to have talked to Google’s design partners about the plan, says the device will be sold via retailers rather than operators. By bypassing the operators, Google is aiming to offer a device that lets users determine the functions. The rumoured “unlocked, low-cost, Web-friendly touchscreen device” is also likely to undercut the Android phones being developed by the likes of Motorola, the report says. “It’s a bit of a departure from Google’s strategy, but I think the speculation is valid,” says Michael Cote of the Cote Collaborative.

Kumar predicts that the device could be launched by year-end, though others think this timeframe is optimistic. He adds that the device is likely to be based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform but it is unclear who will actually build the device. The report noted that Google already has plans with computer-maker Quanta to build its own netbooks that will run on a Linux-based Google Chrome operating system (OS) and be available next summer. But TheStreet says that Taiwan’s HTC is the most likely vendor to build Google its own Android phone. HTC was an early supporter of the Android platform and already has four Android phones available in the marketplace. Neither Google, HTC nor Quanta were available to comment. A report this week by AdMob claims that Android has secured a 7 percent share of the smartphone OS market since launching a year ago.

Comviva, formerly known as Bharti Telesoft, has launched the virtual SIM and handset concept in Cameroon eight months ago, which is likely to increase mobile penetration like never before, helping people without the financial ability to afford a handset, to have mobile connections.

In the 21st century, mobile telephony is scripting a new chapter that underscores its billing as the economic change agent for under-privileged masses in Cameroon. A virtual mobile SIM works this way: a potential user approaches any mobile operator, registers for a SIM and is allotted a number. The user can top up that number by an affordable amount and receive or make calls from any phone. The user can also have all other facilities like SMS, content, weather updates or any other value-added service as in any regular mobile connection.

Once the virtual number is inserted into any handset, the user’s ‘personality’ resides in the gadget as in a dual SIM format, and the user can receive or make calls from that handset. Once a call gets ended, it depends on the users to delete the number residing in that handset, or retain it there if more calls are expected on that handset.

Sangeet Chowfla, Chief Strategy Officer of Comviva says, “The concept dramatically increases the affordability of a mobile connection for the economically underprivileged. For someone with a low disposable income, the cost of even a $50 handset can mean 180 days’ savings. The virtual SIM concept can cut that by a factor of six.”

This concept was introduced with an aim of catering financially marginalized population, but later on it has also appealed to unintended user groups, including businessmen who prefer to have a different SIM to use while speaking to a certain group of their contacts, and youngsters who prefer to have dual numbers to interact with different friends’ circles.

The virtual SIM is being considered as a boon for low-income families that cannot afford multiple handsets. Family members can top up their personal virtual numbers with payment upfront, feed their numbers into the common handset and receive and make calls from the same handset without having anyone else to bear the tariff for their personal usage.

Success in the Cameroon venture, where virtual SIM users are learnt to be making five million calls per month, has stirred Comviva to launch the facility in partnership with local operators in different markets, with East Africa, Bangladesh and India to be the early markets for launch.

Source: SI

Indian telecom industry has not been impacted much by global economic slowdown and many new vendors see this as opportunity to enter Indian telecom space. With the 3G auction around the corner, 27 new handset vendors have entered the market in just one quarter, according to Economic Times.

These new mobile companies are coming up with dual SIM cards, full Qwerty keyboard and at a cheaper price to attract more customers. Mobile handset sales in India recorded a 6.7 percent increase to 100.9 million in the year ended June 30, as compared to 94.6 million in the year before. Even Mindtree has entered the telecom space through its acquired company Kyocera Wireless. China Wireless Technologies’ Indian subsidiary, Coolpad Communications, is targeting Rs. 800 crore revenue in next five years in India. The company is set to invest Rs. 400 crore as capex and opex over the next three years.

According to a new research study by IDC India, the new vendors have ensured that the overall mobile handset shipments touched 6.3 percent as compared to 1.2 percent during the June 2008 quarter, when the new vendors totaled 11 percent. “The shipments from such new players who have entered the Indian market in the last 12 to 18 months grew six-fold with 6.41 million unit sales,” said Deepak Kumar, Associate Vice-President (Research) of IDC, India.

In terms of shipment, Nokia still leads the market share in India with 56.8 percent followed by Samsung with a 7.7 percent share and LG with 5.4 percent share in the 12-month period ended June 30, according to the report. ‘With the mobile handsets market in India growing in volumes , device manufacturers have started focusing on niche and emerging segments based on lifestyle profiling of buyers ,” said Naveen Mishra, an Analyst at IDC India.

“We see the market getting further crowded. At the same time, an accelerated evolution of the market is at work, as rising competition forces vendors to offer a combo of volume and value,” said Kumar.

Source: SI

voice_logoIs Google Voice a traditional phone service or a Web application that in no way competes with LECs? That’s the question that lies at the heart of the Federal Communications Commission probe of the service, and the subject of much opining since the FCC launched its probe on Friday. Google was quick to weigh in on the matter.

The FCC wrote a letter to Google Inc. after a bipartisan group of lawmakers requested the probe, and after AT&T Inc. lodged a complaint claiming Google Voice has an unfair advantage over traditional companies by being able to block calls to some rural exchanges that charge high, margin-killing termination rates. Phone companies in contrast are banned from all call-blocking – a policy AT&T itself has protested many times. This is an issue, AT&T argued, because Google Voice should be seen as a competitive threat to regular calling services, and subject to the same regulations.

AT&T Senior Vice President Robert Quinn said: “Google casually dismisses the bureau’s order, claiming that Google Voice ‘isn’t a traditional phone service and shouldn’t be regulated like other common carriers. But in reality, Google Voice appears to be nothing more than a creatively packaged assortment of services that are already quite familiar to the commission.”

That’s a claim Google has now refuted resoundingly, answering the FCC with a statement claiming that Google Voice is not a phone service. Rather, it enhances existing communications by offering a single portal through which to access those landlines, mobiles, IM, texts and other modes. Google’s Richard Whitt, senior counsel, also noted that AT&T and other LECs charge for their services and are the beneficiaries of Universal Service Fund subsidiaries. In contrast, Google Voice is a free application that cannot afford to remain so if it must pay “exorbitant” termination rates for calls to certain exchanges.

Those exchanges, Whitt argued, have higher-than-usual termination rates because they have profitable relationships with adult chat lines and free conference calling services. The result is a large amount of expensive traffic. That reality, Google said, arises from outdated carrier compensation rules that should be fixed.

Depending on the FCC findings, the case could result in any number of free Web services, like Skype, for instance, being regulated as traditional landline or mobile services. That’s a turn of events that Whitt warned would end up slowing innovation significantly. AT&T in turn looks at it as leveling the playing field. Free IP-based services have been steadily cannibalizing a segment of its bread-and-butter voice services, helped along by a lack of competitive regulation.

In its letter, the FCC asked Google to answer some questions by Oct. 28, including how Google thinks the service should be regulated, why there’s an invitation-only policy for the trial service, and how Google decides what calls to block and how it blocks them.

source: VON Magazine

Cisco yesterday announced it is buying mobile packet core specialist Starent Networks for US$2.9 billion (US$35 per share). The price represents a premium of 21 percent over Monday’s closing share price. Founded in 2000, Starent completed an IPO in 2007 and reported revenue of US$254.1 million last year, a 74 percent improvement on the year prior, and net income of US$60.5 million. Earlier this year Starent scored a major win with US operator Verizon Wireless for deployment of LTE networks. Cisco expects the Starent deal to close in the first half of calendar year 2010. Upon completion, Starent will become the new Mobile Internet Technology Group led by Starent’s president and CEO, Ashraf Dahod, within Cisco’s Service Provider Business which is led by Pankaj Patel.

The move comes only days after Cisco announced the US$3 billion acquisition of Norwegian video conferencing specialist Tandberg. At the time, Cisco chief executive John Chambers said the firm would be “more aggressive” over the next 12 months in pursuing other acquisitions.