Opportunities for Location Based Services in India: A Brief!

30 05 2009

These are some facts to be aware of Location Based Services. Compete, a web search company who has come up with the findings about LBS and their usage among smart phone users. According to survey conducted of 1000 such users:

1. 1 in 3 users uses LBS.

2. Smart phone users who use LBS pay more monthly bill as compared to their counterparts who don’t use LBS.

3. Weather, Navigation & Store location are three most popular LBS.

When recently Tata Indicom announced launch of A-GPS service in collaboration with Qualacomm, they are certainly going beyond mere concept of Location Based Map services. Though the response to the services isn’t known yet, there are some issues involved with A-GPS when it comes to Indoor environment which might prove hindarance to adaptation of A-GPS based LBS.

Recently I had visited the webpage http://skyhookwireless.com. The company is pioneer in providing LBS with its innovative XPS i.e. Hybrid GPS System. As per initial reviews, XPS offers better performances as compared to GPS & A-GPS, both due its innovative approach to LBS. It gathers data from hundreds of Wi-Fi APs, GPS Satellites & thousands of Cell Base Stations to locate users with pinpoint accuracy. Certainly 6 year old company came into limelight after Apple decided to use its core technology in iPhone platform.

There are many caveats which need to be addressed before offering LBS. Gathering sufficient data based on satellite isn’t handy all the time and A-GPS solution isn’t reliable enough in Indoor environment. Also GPS receivers have Cold Boot issue when they are turned on. Though there is rise in number of applications dealing with LBS services on iPhone platform, coming years will certainly add many more in fray as more smart phone users are expected to use these kind of services. But as of now, outlook for LBS in India is grim, with only few takers for these costly services without any notable application in market.

Now coming back to three types of LBS used widely, Indian market surely has potential for all the three services. From farmer’s point of view, knowing about weather in advance will surely going to help him a lot  before planting crops or navigation services will help users navigate safely during storms or bad weather which is prevalent is many parts of country. But as said many times, affordability of these kinds of services is big hurdle in their mass adaptation. Cost effectiveness plays major role in subscribing VAS in Indian market.

It is estimated by ABI research that market for LBS by the end of 2013 will be around $13billion, Indian Mobile Operators are surely looking to grab the piece of cake in coming months. With the launch of 3G/WiMAX and rise in smart phone users, certainly there  lies potential for LBS to be exploited. But let’s address the need & affordability issues before we hurry up launching of LBS, as practically every LBS technology in market has some nasty issues to think seriously about. But still LBS are going to be major contender for VAS revenues in NGN. Though in US, LBS services based applications are tied up with specific smart phones, in India where we have few Smart phone users  yet, Nokia ‘Ovi’ LBS may generate significant revenues for troubled device maker. Also there lies little scope for LBS on existing 2G platforms. So in short we will have to wait a bit longer to see surge in LBS applications mushrooming India market.

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700 million Broadband subscribers by 2013?

29 05 2009

 

Though we have only 7 million Broadband subscribers in India (Fig update-Qtr End Mar-09), this hasn’t damped the Telegeography from predicting the Upbeat future for Global Broadband Connections in near future. According to GlobalComms Insight, by the end of 2013, the number of Broadband subscribers across globe will touch the mark of 700 million, growing by 72%, while wireless subscription will have grown over two billion, an increase of 60%. The survey also predicts that: number of fixed lines will also fall over in next five years, but the decline will be gradual and will be offset by growth in Wireless & Broadband segment.  In short, GlobalComm insight predicts that by the end of 2013, there will be no fewer than 2.5 billion net new subscribers or revenue generating units.

The research also states that Asia-Pacific region will continue to dominate the global market in terms of subscribers’ number with almost 50% of global share, but they will account to only 28% of global market value. Though North America’s impact in subscriber figure will reduce to only 7% of global share, they will continue to hold 23% of global market value. This is really significant finding to note.

Which countries will dominate the growth figures? Which 3G services will push the numbers? What regulator policies will help in achieving the targets?  Will India be the frontrunner in Broadband space? We will have to wait for answers to some of these questions. But here in India, where we are still awaiting for spectrum allocation (or rather release) for 3G/WiMAX and consequentially rise of Data Industry, these predictions sound highly inflated. Unless and until we have clear policy guidelines on 3G/HSPA or NGN, it is very likely that we might miss the bus with great margin. Time has come to really push forward the Broadband agenda in next five years. Now it is with policymakers to decide the right time for auction without further delay. Unless we push forward for 3G/WiMAX, we are likely to remain Internet Clogged country in coming years. Till then, Wait & Watch!





Nokia launched Ovi store globally-but with disaster!

27 05 2009

Yesterday on May 26, mobile handset maker ‘Nokia’ launched its much hyped & awaited service store named ‘Ovi’ (Finish ‘door’) globally.  In fact the day May 26 was supposed to be glorious day for Finnish handset maker, but at least as of now after visiting the Ovi Store, I must admit; Nokia has long way to go in providing services to its users (& that too free of cost).

Nokia forayed late into service industry. After a huge dip in handset sales last year with increasing competition from RIM ‘Blackberry’  & Apple ‘iPhone’, Nokia has wisely decided to change its business model & take a plunge into Service Domain. With the launch of Ovi store, which will be available to 50 million Nokia device owners globally across 50 Nokia handsets including forthcoming N97, Nokia has finally come head to head with Apple’s App store. But it will be a real challenge for Nokia, to launch new devices on one side and work on its consolidated software & service business on other side, in coming months.

After visiting Ovi Store (http://ovi.nokia.com), whose launch is termed as ‘perfect disaster launch’ by many people in the industry, I must admit it would have been better if Nokia had sorted out few issues with store services & applications, before launching it globally. It appeared that Nokia is in hurry to go head to head with Apple for long, but this doesn’t justify the launching blunders made on global scale. Though official site says ‘Customers can visit the Ovi Store through their browsers to immediately begin downloading, personalizing and making their devices smarter…’ some of the applications are just not working as per expectations &  for rest we need to wait for some more time.

You need to officially register with Ovi store to start using its services. Registration is simple & straightforward without much detail to fill up. Of course the main attraction is ‘Ovi Store’, there are some other value additions which you may like to explore. The one I liked the most is Email service. With clean, neat & faster interface design ’emails’ just works perfectly, though I haven’t tested it with attachments. Then ‘Calendar’ comes handy if you need to keep track of your schedules. Another interesting service launched under the bundle is ‘Nokia Maps’. Though it appeared bit slow at the moment, it comes handy if you are accessing it via your handset while moving.

The site also claims that ‘In the available countries, customers can update their devices with the Ovi store mobile application, by selecting the Ovi Store icon in the download folder on their devices. The mobile client is available in English, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish and supports operator billing in UK, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Singapore & Spain’ . Also globally credit card billing is available through the mobile application and the mobile website. Nokia is planning to expand its service to remaining countries, few more languages and devices throughout the year.    

 The best part of having an Ovi account is that you could simultaneously play games online (on your mobile) once you have finished sending work-emails for the day. Branded under name ‘N-gage’, you could play ‘Tetris’, ‘Worm World’ & even ‘Age of Empires’  online with your friends. Nokia also lists out top five games to play & share in sidebar. A quiet happening place to check out.

Along with N-Gage you could actually share photos, files and even download unlimited songs at store. I have tried uploading few photos & it works just fine.  If you are using Nokia Xpressmusic 5800 ‘Comes with Music’ phone, you have arrived at right place to download songs free of cost. For others, you need to pay for downloads. It was really heartening to see some good ‘Bollywood’ collection of songs (Devdas, Sunidhi Chouhan etc), along with regular U2 & Kiki Dee etc. I was prompted to spend some time with ‘Introduction to Bollywood’ but as time was running short I decided to visit it later to explore. It is still not clear, how Nokia would generate revenues from downloading original soundtracks, when I could get almost many of them free of cost somewhere else on web.

One more aspect of Ovi Store which needs some attention is projection of Ovi as one stop shop for all free & paid content downloads. Though site claims that thousands of the content industry’s biggest names along with independent content developers are distributing their media, applications & games through Ovi store, we need to watch it closely for its content related services in coming months. If you are a content provider & application developer you could directly sign up to distribute contents through Ovi store by visiting http://publish.ovi.com

Finally coming back to Ovi store, while I was trying to register my mobile device, even after number of tries to register, it failed to add up my device. Even My To-Do list, Events & Notes section was showing ‘Reload to check details’ despite few reload attempts.  I tried downloading few Wallpapers & Ringtones, but it seems that the registration process with Ovi webpage isn’t foolproof yet. I got message to verify my mobile number in Inbox, but link provided in the message doesn’t seem to be opening. So alas, I decided to close store without much success with application usage or even without successfully registering for services.

Though there are number of issues with registration and services offered, my advice to you; Just wait & Watch. It might happen on very first day where nothing seems to be working fine at start, but as time passes by we would get to see some of best services offered under one roof (single interface) for Nokia device owner. But as of now, just drop in without keeping much expectation.





Top Ten Telecom Industry Expectations from newly elected Government of India!

19 05 2009

First of all I would like to congratulate you all Indian People, without them it wouldn’t be possible to get such a clear election mandate. So it is clear, people want stable & fracture less government for better future and so does Indian Telecom Industry. We as a part of Indian Inc, are hoping for the best in coming five years term and there are lots of expectations from newly elected (yet to be formed) government. Here is Telecom Industry’s Top 10 wish-list (or expectations) which I hope conveys the best sentiments of Telecom India.

1. Release of 3G/WiMAX Spectrum Auction Date:

We all have been waiting for it since last August. The last time when date was declared in Feb-09, we already knew it wasn’t going to happen till formation of new government, by the end of Jun-09. Now is the best time to take on the issue early. Longer the delay in decision making, more we are losing. Please no false promise this time!

2. Improving Rural Mobile (Internet) Penetration:

This is well known fact. Figures itself speaks for it. We have long way to go in establishing our self as a telecom superpower. With basic needs are yet to be satisfied, brining mobiles to the wish list of rural India is justified by the fact that, it is more of a necessity than luxury. Telecom Infra Sharing is well perceived but better infra sharing norms are needed, both active & passive. Better utilization of USO fund is must for the cause. Need clear guidelines for USO fund utilization for rural infra setup. We are waiting for it even before we foresaw it!

3. Making Broadband Affordable to masses:

Broadband in less than 200Rs? Why not? If speed is not a concern, reach-ability & affordability could be. With fastest Internet speed in India at 16Mbps, we have only 7million Broadband users. Awareness among people, high literacy rate among masses & relevance of Internet in day to day life could help in brining broadband to people unless we bargain on cost. Remember, we have cheapest call rates in world (for Voice) & but probably one of the costliest Internet usage rate in world. Just don’t talk in plain, mission is critical!

4. Improving QoS of existing mobile services (2G/2.5G/2.75G/CDMA-1/ADSL/EVDO etc) by making Operators more & more accountable:

If we are talking about 3G norms, then don’t forget that we are still far away from customer satisfaction on existing platform. This is our argument for launch of 3G/WiMAX in India. No Indian operator complies with QoS benchmark set by regulators, fully. Remember, a dropped call is lost revenue, but for customers it is just not only about money. We perceive things differently. Make Operators more & more accountable for QoS. Slapping fine is good, but needs more strict actions from you. A real tough decision is welcome!

5. Encouraging content development in Indian Languages:

If Web failed to ignite it, mobiles could do the same. We are ready to bring web on these portable devices, but remember still literacy rate in India is approx 60%, then forget about using Facebook. We could really bring revolution in mobile usage and all these aspects are interlinked with each other.  And please, don’t do it in Microsoft way.  We are still better aware of our own languages.

6 Making long term telecom policy, reviewed every five year, in consultation with Industry experts:

There is hardly any dual opinion about it. Benefits of clear guidelines are many, and in long term they are just innumerable. The theme of long term policy should be aligned for national interest (Local players benefits and encouraging competition for quality), beneficial for masses. Perhaps charting a separate telecom evolution path suitable for our need (Indian masses) will be just needed from you. Don’t look at China, we could have our own-A far better approach!

7. Encourgaing Telecom Technology Innovation and lessening technology dependency on foreign players in long terms: 

It was a long time; we heard anything from C-DOT. If Huawei/ZTE could do it, why can’t we? It all comes from long term goals set by regulators/governments with specified chartered path. Much is said, less is done. No one could deny the benefits of non-dependence on unknown foreign players with lesser familiar technology evolution paths. Forget about loss of billions of dollars in revenues, we are vulnerable to threats/failures more than anything else.  Industry (Telecom) – Academia parternership needs to be revived for this, but more will come from Industry vision rather than just pushing Innovation agenda. Telecom Excellence/ Research centers need to be flourished, all with your support. Believe me, coming generations will ripe its benefits.

8. Encouraging  Telecom entrepreneurship:

We saw it in Software/IT/ITES, now we need it in Telecom. No sub-domain in telecom is less worth exploring. We saw much of innovation coming in content development & on software side (VAS) but believe me there lies tremendous potential in other aspects as well. All we need is budding intelligent minds ready to take on less traveled paths.  Bharti Airtel has set an example earlier on by setting up Telecom Innovation Fund for budding telecom entrepreneurs, why can’t just take this idea to larger scale?

9. Identifying potential threats (long & short term) in front of telecom industry before they kill us:

No one foresaw the threat of fake Chinese mobiles to national security unless we were hit by it. Do we really need to learn our lessons in hard way, always? This not only applies to national security but also applies for new technologies making old vanish, all of a sudden. Telecom Industry needs your support to flourish irrespective of existing threats. We really rely on you for its identification & rectifications. And we are very serious about it.

10.  Releasing new technology guidelines at faster pace:

Take an example of MVNO guidelines or VoIP, industry foresaw the benefits of both long back, but still we are helpless. We got the technology, we got the funds but we have no rules & regulations for it, what do you expect then? This time we won’t talk about need of time. Delaying on this means, we are going to lose more & more. Identifying potential markets & its relevance would certainly be helpful in quicker policy making.





The Enterprise of Future: Telus Case Study (Concluded)

9 05 2009

From IBM Study Pages

 TELUS: DELIVERING ON EVERY COUNT

Canadian telecom provider TELUS excels when it comes to CSR. The company is committed to reducing its own carbon footprint by cutting its fuel and electricity consumption, encouraging employees to telework or use environmentally friendly forms of transport (such as walking, cycling or public transport), and minimizing emissions from airtravel. It has also developed a number of “green” business solutions to help other companies reduce their impact on the environment.

 TELUS is simultaneously making an active effort to reduce waste, with a free program for disposing of unwanted handsets and accessories, irrespective of the carrier. In 2007, it recycled more than 40,000 phones, and partnered with Tree Canada to plant a tree for each handset collected through its “Return and Recycle” program.

 The company also works closely with other telecom providers, law enforcement agencies and government departments to tackle the problem of online sexual exploitation and make the Internet a safer place for children; participates in a number of corporate philanthropy programs; and supports various artistic and cultural initiatives across Canada. These efforts have deservedly earned TELUS a place on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index; indeed, it is the only North American telecom company to enjoy such an accolade.





The Enterrpise of Future: Telecom Industry Edition-(Final Part)

9 05 2009

Now, we have reached to last topic of discussion in the series ‘Enterprise of Future: Telecom Industry Edition’. Today we will talk about creating long term relationship with the community, which telecom companies are serving. In other words, the final trait of ‘Enterprise of Future’ we will talk about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Let’s explore it!

CSR isn’t a new proposition. In India one of the leading IT Service firm, Infosys Technologies (Infosys foundation) is one of the pioneers of CSR. But in Telecom Industry the idea has yet to kick start. Basically when we are talking about CSR- we talk about acting in an ethical fashion that considers need of workforce, society & environment as well as those of investors.

According to IBM Study, only 53% Telecom CEOs believe that CSR is a good proposition for business, as compared to overall average of 69%. That could be the reason telecom CEOs are allocating a smaller portion of investment of their total investment to CSR initiative, than their peers in other industry.

The IBM Study justifies the need of CSR initiatives among Telecom organization. This would lead to many opportunities to profit socially & economically. How shall CSR can be implemented? One example cited in the report is about going green i.e. protection of environment. No doubt, the industry is becoming aware of it, but major initiatives are missing. E.g.  The number green BTSs running on renewable energy are far less as compared to number of BTSs running on traditional fuel. The awareness would lead to saving of traditional fuel which will lead to savings of OPEX, which in turn result in profitability. So indirectly, being aware about environmental issues will generate benefits for telecom organization.

There are some other ways to CSR initiatives like addressing the concern of safety of internet or developing new products for disabled people or developing services/products to fill up digital divide etc. So the question is, “Are you bringing innovation by CSR initiative to reduce carbon footprint?” Just imagine the amount of money you could save with Video & Tele Conferencing services. Recycling of old devices like mobiles could also form part of CSR initiative.

Implications:  

From IBM Study

“Telecom companies should focus on creating CSR programs that are aligned with their broader corporate objectives, developing new products and services for consumers who are currently underserved, devising innovative solutions that will help other businesses meet their climate-change targets and providing better recycling facilities. They should also develop more robust content-filtering and security tools, and publicize the steps they are taking more effectively.

In addition to such measures, telecom operators should ensure that sustainability is an intrinsic part of their day-to-day activities – and, here, they enjoy two significant advantages over companies in many other industries. Firstly, they can measure their carbon footprints relatively easily. Their networks typically account for about 80 percent of the carbon emissions they produce, and 75 percent of these emissions come from powering the base-stations that enable mobile phones to work. Secondly, there are several straightforward ways in which to reduce the energy a base-station consumes, such as turning down the air-conditioning, turning off some base-stations during off-peak periods when there are fewer calls to handle and, in the longer term, switching to new generation equipment powered by renewable sources of energy (like solar power or wind power). ”

 





The Enterprise of Future: Telecom Industry Edition- Part IV

8 05 2009

(Discussion will continue with fourth trait of ‘Enterprise of Future’ i.e. ‘Disruptive by Nature’)

Telecom CEOs are putting more emphasis on business model innovation than CEOs in Media, Healthcare & Financial services, says IBM Study of ’Organization of Future: Telecom Industry Edition’. Seventy percent of CEO respondents plan to make serious changes into business model as compared to twenty three percent, who are planning to make only modest changes. 

There are three major types of Business Model Innovation considered:

A. Revenue Model Innovation: This model innovation considers rethinking how revenue is generated through new value propositions & new pricing models. Forty percent of CEOs are planning to bring revenue model innovation. This is the major business model innovation sought after by telecom CEOs in coming two-three years.

B. Enterprise Model Innovation: This model innovation deals with specializing & reconfiguring the business to deliver greater value through collaboration. Thirty percent respondents are rethinking about this type of business model innovation.

C. Industry Model:  This business model innovation deals with redefining an existing industry, moving into new industry or even creating an entirely new industry. This business model innovation is tougher as compare to other two models mentioned above and only fifteen percent CEOs are thinking about it.

In past few years, technology has evolved to an extent that it would be very difficult to define boundaries of operation between different industries like media, IT, advertising and communication. Today, we often see the integrated communication which is an evolved way to contact each other. Even if telecom CEOs aren’t looking at Integrated Communication as a whole bundle, the evasion by other industries into core business of telecom, has forced telecom CEOs to rethink about innovating their business models. But still percent of telecom CEOs who are serious about Industry model innovation are three percent less than overall average, a highly surprising fact.

Implications:

The message is clear, only revenue model innovation won’t do the job in long term. If telecom CEOs are really worried about dynamics of industry, which are constantly under threat either because of regulators or competitor’s technology innovation (like Skype’s VoIP, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, or Apple’s iPhone etc), they need to put up enterprise model innovation along with revenue model, at work. Collaborating with other technology firms will enable them to develop new skills, enter new markets and improve the quality.

Should you evade other industries for extra dollars? Yes, you should e.g. collaborate with media firms, content provider, advertising agencies or even with software development firms for those extra dollars. This will be a perfect example of great mix of enterprise & revenue model innovation. When economy will be back in form, the pioneers will surely ripe the benefits of early move.