Krishna Baidya’s Random Musings

Archive for the ‘collaboration’ Category

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.

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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

Move over credit cards, India is now preparing to use the mobile contactless payment method. Citibank has announced the launch of Citi Tap and Pay pilot service in Bangalore as an effort to make the mode of payment more convenient. Using the NFC or Near Field Communication technology, Citi along with Nokia, Vodafone, ViVOtech and MasterCard, is aiming to gain insight into a wide range of parameters including, assessing customer acceptance to making contactless transactions through mobile NFC. This technology allows the user to use the phone instead of a credit card to make purchases at the grocery store, bookstore or eating joint. If the technology becomes a success in India, it will be a big opportunity for other banks to tap into the market with Citi as pioneers in the field.

The technology has already been piloted across other parts of the world and may soon replace the traditional credit card system. In fact Visa launched the world’s first commercial mobile payments service using NFC in Malaysia, in April this year. In Japan, the technology has already been employed by wireless carrier NTT DoCoMo which allows customers to use cell phones as mobile wallets. Now NFC is making inroads into India.

A recent study by ABI Research shows that globally, 450 million mobile phones will be NFC-enabled by 2011, which represents about 30 percent of handsets shipped worldwide in that year. Moreover, Strategy Analytics predict that mobile phone-based contactless payments will facilitate over $36 billion of worldwide consumer spending by 2011. Now, the banks are eying to cash in the Indian mobile subscriber base that stands at 415 million in May 2009 to promote the contactless payment. Jeff Semenchuk, EVP and Head of Growth Ventures, Citi Innovation said, “Citi believes contactless mobile payment services will be a key lifestyle driver for our highly mobile, international and increasingly urban customer base.”

The mobile phone can be tapped on a contactless reader at the point of sale to pay for purchases eliminating the need for the traditional swipe of credit cards. With this, the need to send SMS or mobile data charges is also eliminated. One can avail of the service free of cost and all one has to do is register and have a Citibank account and MasterCard card. However the service will function only on NFC enabled Nokia 6212 phones which cost Rs 11, 560 but will be sold at an inaugural price of Rs 5000. The customer also needs to have a Vodafone connection and will be charged for the GPRS service to make contactless NFC mobile payment.

Michael Mullagh, CEO of ViVOtech, which will be providing the reader machines and the necessary software said, “This new technology promises to revolutionize the payment and shopping experience and bring enormous benefits to consumers and the payment, retail and mobile ecosystems.”

Although there are already a few startups like mChek and Cashnxt that are planning to launch similar pilots in other parts of India, it is the first time that an initiative like this is being taken up in India. Out of the four lakh Citibank customers in Bangalore, the project is targeting around 5000 for the pilot which will be six months long.

Gartner assessed the suitability of APAC countries as offshore locations and identified “10 Leading Locations for Offshore Services in Asia Pacific for 2009.” These included the undisputed leader in offshore services, India, and the greatest challenger in terms of potential scale (China). The rest are a mix of mature environments that offer limited cost-benefits (Australia, New Zealand and Singapore) and emerging countries with a variety of challenges, but attractive costs (Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam).

Although India continues to grow in top-line revenue levels of IT services being exported, its share of the overall worldwide totals has declined as other countries are investing to gain more market share. Enterprises seek strategies to reduce risk, and India faces challenges. These include wage inflation, local attrition rates, geopolitical issues (including the Mumbai terrorist attacks) and the “Satyam Effect.”

Despite increases in investment, infrastructure remains India’s biggest weakness while strained power capacity and inadequate connectivity remain challenges. Some IT service categories such as application outsourcing have matured and the level of incremental growth is smaller.

What about China?

China is still attracting great interest. But it has challenges to buyer confidence including security, quality and intellectual property issues, relatively low English-language capabilities, and a scarcity of middle managers.

A large portion of the current market is geared to R&D-embedded engineering services, which differ significantly from commercial enterprise buyer requirements. Thus, there is a need to build strong process and quality maturity for delivery of IT services to commercial enterprises.

Marketing skills across the value chain of the outsourcing industry are still immature, which results in a lack of information access and authenticated, verified sources of data for decision-making. Given the immaturity of the market, organizations wishing to set up in China should plan and budget for more substantial levels of project management, change management and governance requirements.

Where else then?

The Philippines generates considerably more offshore revenue than China. The country has a history of providing services to the US and Asian markets. Some IT services have been exported for more than 15 years. It’s now a key outsourcing destination for call centers, finance and accounting.

English continues to be the predominant language in the country and the level of accent neutralization required is relatively low – significantly lower than in India and China. It has a good labor pool that’s scalable at low cost and its overall cost structure is lower than India’s. Wage inflation and attrition ratios are also lower.

When considering the Philippines as an offshore location, companies must be sure to establish adequate risk mitigation measures around intellectual property protection, security and privacy. They should also ensure they are comfortable with specific technology and industry knowledge before signing a deal.

Companies seeking to be pioneers in a large and untapped low-cost destination should investigate Vietnam. Opportunities exist, but rigorous due diligence is required. Salaries of IT and business process professionals are among the lowest in the world. Consequently, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are attracting a good deal of interest from major IT companies. Both IBM and CSC have made substantive investments in setting up global delivery centers in the country.

Companies should think carefully before allowing the cost base to overly influence their choice of Vietnam as an offshore destination. Understand all the risks, including hidden costs, risks related to data security, ease-of-doing-business issues and relatively low-level English-language skills. 

Source: Jim Longwood, Gartner

Tata Communications, which runs one of the largest telecom cable networks in the world, has entered into an agreement with the Doha-based Qatar Telecom to share infrastructure and expand their joint reach globally.

The Tata firm, which serves clients in businesses like communications services, software and outsourcing, providing them national and global connectivity through fibre optic and undersea cables, is particularely expected to expand its foothold in the Gulf region.

The pact was announced Monday with Qatar Telecom, popularly called Qtel, which is the only licensee to provide fixed and mobile telephone services in the Gulf nation, and has a presence in 17 countries.

“This is a landmark agreement which will position Qtel at the heart of one of the most robust telecommunications networks in the world today,” said Qtel’s executive director for business solutions Eng. Khalid Al Mansauri. As per the agreement, both companies will align their telecommunications infrastructure and work together to provide secure connectivity solutions to their clients, the two companies said in a statement. “Qtel looks to provide clients with world-class communication services and the capacity to expand internationally.

 Tata Communications continues to build connectivity into emerging markets to better serve its customers,” the statement said. Tata Communications is part of the $62.5 billion diversified Tata Group, which has 27 publicly listed companies with a combined market capitalisation of around $60 billion and a shareholder base of 3.2 million.

Thought of sharing this write up that talks about how netbook pricing holds key to the embedded future. Has some good arguments that is in align with my thought too.

“The fledgling market for 3G-enabled netbooks was given a big boost this month as the leading U.S. operators moved to embrace this new device class. AT&T announced that this summer it will begin selling mini-laptops with embedded 3G modems from Acer, Dell, Lenovo and others in 2,200 stores nation-wide and online, while Verizon Wireless Communications stores began selling their first netbook – the HP Mini 1151NR.

For AT&T, Verizon and other operators in Europe and Asia, rolling out netbooks is another step towards the creation of a potentially much larger and more strategic market for mobile broadband connectivity in a wide range of consumer electronics and industrial devices, from cameras to games consoles to energy meters to environmental sensors. In a sign of operators’ growing interest in this opportunity, there will be a panel session devoted to the “The New Embedded Mobile Economy” at the GSMA’s Telecoms Marketplace at HiT Barcelona on June 18th.

But the size of the embedded mobile economy is going to depend heavily on the cost of the mobile broadband modules, which is going to depend on the economies of scale available to module manufacturers. In other words, it is a bit of a chicken or egg situation.

Although there are already 68 HSPA embedded modules available from more than a dozen suppliers, according to the GSMA, the market itself is still relatively small. The mobile broadband modem market in Europe, including USB modem devices, PC Cards, ExpressCards, and internal cellular modems for laptops and mini-laptops, reached only 10.5 million units last year, according to Telecompaper. The market research group didn’t break out how many of these units were internal modules, but it doesn’t expect sales of computers with embedded modems to overtake external modems until 2012.

Of course, independent of the PC connectivity market, mobile broadband modems are being added to other devices today. Amazon’s successful Kindle electronic reader is spawning imitators, while the GSMA has identified 15 consumer electronics devices, including cameras, watches and media players, with built-in HSPA modems.

Even so, it is still laptops, and particularly the netbook segment, that is most likely to create the initial scale needed to bring down module prices significantly. While there are signs of strong latent demand for 3G netbooks, potential buyers are bound to be very price-sensitive in the current economic climate. If mobile operators want the wider embedded market to emerge in a significant way in the short-to-medium term, they are going to have to price and promote their 3G netbooks aggressively.”

hpweb_1-2_topnav_hp_logo2BlackBerry handsets have become a staple of executives, lawyers, politicians and other professionals who use them to send wireless e-mail securely. However, printing from the device was not dreamt of until now. Now on BlackBerry users will be empowered to even print e-mails, photos, documents, and web pages from the very same device to a printer of their convenience. This is made possible by HP’s CloudPrint for BlackBerry smartphones, a web based technology (to be demonstrated in Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando, later this week) that is “printer-agnostic and driverless” and only requires simple Internet access. This service is likely to available to BlackBerry Internet Service subscribers as well as BlackBerry Enterprise Server customers.

This service was announced as a start of “strategic relationship” between Research In Motion (RIM) and HP, two stalwarts in their respective fields, to offer “a portfolio of solution for businesses”.  I would expect more such tie-up to follow in the near future to enhance value for enterprises customers.  This tie-up looks like a win-win for both partners as enterprise mobility has garnered great momentum in the recent years where enterprises focus has been on efficiency and convenience.

  • Rolling out innovative applications relevant to enterprises’ changing needs will continue to maintain BlackBerry’s upper hand in the enterprise mobility even though Apple’s iPhone is surely making its presence felt.
  • HP Operations Manager for BlackBerry Enterprise Server, also released on the same day, is designed to enable companies to monitor and manage their BlackBerry enterprise environment. Managed BlackBerry Services, part of EDS Mobile Workplace Services that helps enterprises to outsource the management of BlackBerry deployment, gains further credibility and likely to fuel its base of managed BlackBerry device from its current 500,000. 

“RIM and HP are working together to deliver solutions to customers that weave mobility into their daily operations–from innovative new services in the cloud to managed mobile services for the enterprise,” Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive officer of Research In Motion, said in a statement. “Through our collaboration with HP, businesses will have access to an expanded set of applications and services for their BlackBerry smartphone deployments.”