Features

Features

Unlocking the service layer will encourage a new market of innovation and  competition, both from application developers and the operators says Jonathan Bell.  But how can it be done?

Superficially, today's fixed and mobile telephone networks are not too different from those of thirty or more years ago.  You dial a number - it could be a special short number, or an 800 number, the principle is the same - signalling takes place to connect your call to the other party.  Sure, the numbers you dial look different now.  And they've added some nice features that make things more convenient - like a built-in answer-phone service and caller identification so you can filter out calls, find out who called and when etc.  For business users, there's even a little more like calling circles, hunt groups and multi-party calling for example.

We sense as service users that mobile telecoms provide a more personal service with greater utility.  Call the number and you connect to the person, not the location.  Wherever they are, whatever the time.  People of all ages have adopted text messaging enthusiastically as an additional, highly valued communication option.  Increasingly, mobile email and high-speed data are also becoming more commonly used, blurring the boundary between person-to-person telecommunications and "the web".  People are nomadic, and now connectivity and the device is mobile too, it is clear that extra attributes such as location and presence can be utilised to create services that are more "user aware" and therefore useful to the user.

To adapt the rigid A to B model that we started with, telecommunications engineers adopted a layered model and ensured that the signalling aspects of a service were separated from the actual communication channel.  It's called Signalling System 7 (SS7 for short), and the same principles have been re-used in SIP - the IP-based equivalent - that will, in all likelihood, eventually replace SS7.  The core network provides the signalling, switching and channels to deliver the service.  The layer above is the Service Layer.  It is in this layer where intelligence is added to the signalling and basic switching function. 

The Service Layer is implemented by one or more Service Control Points (SCP).  SCPs are also commonly referred to as an Intelligent Network Platform or "IN" platform.  When the network switch receives signalling for any kind of telephone number other than a standard, geographic number (which it will route directly), it passes control of the call to a designated SCP.  The SCP figures out what to do.  This might be to perform a number translation, check and authorise the call depending upon a prepaid tariff and balance, try several numbers in sequence or parallel, or look-up additional information such as subscriber ID, location, personal calling rules etc.  Throughout this process, the SCP is in charge and controls the call.

So far, so good.  So what's the problem?  Essentially, it is that SCPs are only available as a complete, vertically integrated hardware and software system.  In other words, a ‘box' that you connect into the network to perform predefined functions.  They were designed in the 1990s or earlier to provide the limited range of standard telephony services at that time and to comply with the ITU and 3GPP standards.  As the SCP is controlling phone calls, it is engineered to meet the exacting requirements for network equipment (NE) - "five nines" availability:  resilience to failure, upgrade with no down-time, hot swapping of components etc.  The deployment requirements, the restricted ambition in terms of the range of services when the SCPs were designed, the tight vertical integration and severe structural rigidities mean that the end-user services are essentially pre-baked into the SCP.  Adaptation of services has to be done by the SCP provider and is extremely expensive, often with very long lead times.  It means that the Communication Service Provider (CSP) can only sell and market a limited range of standard, utilitarian services.  They cannot experiment or innovate.  They have only one supplier for any changes that they require, the business case for which often fails due to the high costs of SCP adaptation.  Uniquely in a highly competitive marketplace, CSPs are handicapped in their ability to compete by differentiating their offer in terms of its capabilities.

Traditional SCPs are characterised by high prices, inflexibilities, single source for changes, slow evolution and enhancement.  As a CSP, once you have procured your SCP, you are a hostage to fortune.  Well, at least everyone is in the same boat.  But meanwhile voice minute price-points are in decline and all CSPs are under tremendous price pressure.  And the insurgent VoIP-based, price-focussed competitors are chasing hard. 

It used to be like this in Enterprise IT.  Enterprises bought a complete, vertically integrated stack of hardware, system software and applications from a single vendor.  This has all changed now.  There are commodity hardware providers, system software providers and application software providers.  There is competition within each layer.  The competition has driven the price-points down, platform performance and flexibility up and application innovation up.  There is something intrinsic at the heart of all this:  open systems and architectures promote competition and result in lower prices and innovation.  It's the basis of all free markets.

Until now, this option simply hasn't been available to the SCP.

What is needed is a solution that enables service agility in the telecoms network through an open, flexible platform that utilises commodity server hardware...in other words, a modern "IT" system designed explicitly for the telecoms network that unlocks the value of the telecoms service layer.

With this approach, new services can be created and delivered at a fraction of the cost and timescales normally associated with the telecoms industry.  In turn, this provides operators with the advantage needed to compete with the plethora of new device oriented applications currently hitting the market.

Opening up their SCP platforms to the burgeoning Java developer community will see increased levels of innovation in person-to-person communications - the 95% of all operator revenues today - sustaining operator market lead in these services.

Jonathan Bell is VP of Product Marketing at OpenCloud
www.opencloud.com

Jean-Noël de Galzain explains how developer communities, business leaders and  policy makers will attend Open World Forum 2009 to ensure open software plays an active role in the digital recovery

Free Libre Open Source (FLOSS) has been around for a number of years, but only recently has it become a mainstream alternative to licensed software. The raison d'être of FLOSS is to enable developers to gain a new "community" style approach to the design, development and distribution of software, whereby everyone is given free access to a software's source code. This approach to sharing software gives developers greater flexibility than more popular licensed programs, which restricts use and keeps users busy with trying to avoid any violation of intellectual property rights.

The people behind the FLOSS movement are helping to make things happen for open source. FLOSS is an ecosystem driven by software editors along with enterprises, service providers, distributors and integrators. It forges breakthroughs in networks, embedded systems, Web 2.0 technologies, Web services, application development, critical information systems and security. FLOSS supports the development of cloud computing, SaaS and other emerging technologies to help revolutionise the world of IT.

The benefits of FLOSS are hard to ignore, and more and more firms across Europe are embracing the concept-especially now when companies are tightening budgets and trying to cut costs without impacting services.  According to a study by UNU-MERIT, Open Source will represent 30% of the market for software and services by 2012. 

Open source is revolutionising information technology and is no longer limited to basic software such as Linux or Apache. Fledgling open source firms are finding opportunities in various business applications, including databases, customer relationship management and business intelligence.

Without a doubt, open source creates tremendous opportunities and challenges for those in the space but what will be the impact on innovation, governance, public policy, and ultimately, IT careers? How will FLOSS really revolutionise the local landscape of information technology and what technological advances in commercial and Free Software can be expected for the future?

The Open World Forum in Paris on October 1- 2, 2009, will play host to thousands of participants from 20 countries, to share their thoughts, foster innovation and competitiveness, and address these questions. The event will explore innovations and future trends in FLOSS and how the world can help build the future of FLOSS and make it a crucial component for the digital recovery.

The second annual Open World Forum is targeting open source developers to ensure the event's success in Europe. The event is open to the community at large and not targeted specifically at a specialised sector or the research community. It is aimed at all stakeholders: communities, IT managers, architects, developers, researchers, academics, industrialists, investors, etc.

The event will be held at Eurosites George V in Paris and the agenda will include global IT players (Alcatel-Lucent, Atos, Bull, Cap Gemini, Google, IBM, HP, Siemens, Sun, Thales), as well as the main communities (ASF, Eclipse, Linux Foundation, Qualipso, Mozilla, OW2, OSA Europe), large research and competitiveness clusters (System@tic Paris Region, Cap Digital, INRIA, Fraunhofer FOKUS, UNU-MERIT) and a wide network of SMEs from around the world.
The Open World Forum addresses issues raised by policy makers, professionals, users and contributors, customers, as well as the undecided, on the new information technologies and communication strategies available using Open Source. The agenda will include seminars and plenary sessions involving well -known personalities in the industry.

The plenary sessions will explore how Open Source can contribute to renewed economic growth, as a major driver for competitiveness and innovation as well as a force for social improvement and national sovereignty.

Delegates are invited to attend the plenary sessions on key economic and societal issues such as employment, innovation, cloud computing, IT governance, the role of the communities and the FLOSS as a social and economic leverage in public policies.

The event will end with the delivery of the roadmap by the president of the Program committee, Jean-Pierre Laisné, CEO of OW2 & Chief Open Source strategist at Bull, and the directors of the 7 major themes addressed during the Open World Forum, namely public policy, innovation, ecosystems, technological revolutions and economic governance, careers and BRIC.  I hope that you can join us as well.

Jean-Noël de Galzain, CEO Wallix
www.openworldforum.org

Matt Bancroft argues that an open wireless marketplace drives huge benefits for all participants. First among these is that the marketplace as a whole becomes larger; the availability of a broader and richer set of devices and services drives more mobile activity from more types of mobile users. Not only do service providers benefit from this overall market growth, but a host of opportunities are created for partners and third-party vendors as well. End users benefit from a broader set of compelling, competitively priced services

Discussions about openness in the mobile arena have, for the most part, centred on the operators. How open are the major mobile carriers like Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and others today? When will they become more open? How open will they get?

There are three other key elements to openness in the mobile marketplace:

  • Open devices - devices that can be obtained through multiple channels, will run on multiple networks, and can be personalised with services, features and applications that are added after the device is in use.
  • Open services/applications - services, features and applications than can be easily obtained and enabled after the device is in use, and that can come from either the primary service provider or from third-party providers (eg off-deck/off-portal services).
  • A wide set of more "open" contractual relationships - options to enter into longer - or shorter - term relationships with service providers, depending on the needs of an increasingly varied customer base.

Open devices

On the device side, mobile devices can have open or closed operating systems.  They can be locked to one network operator or be usable on multiple networks, and can allow access to additional services, features and applications or not, once in the hands of the users.

The iPhone, for example, could be considered a completely closed mobile environment. The device is normally only available through one operator in each market and comes with a service contract lasting at least 18 months.  When the iPhone first launched, the only services and applications you could use on it came with the device; you could have any flavour of iPhone you wanted, as long as it was vanilla. However, with the successful launch of the App Store, services are now available from third parties.  The phone and service plans for the iPhone are still mainly only available through one operator in each market and usually require a long-term contract. But even though new applications are only available via one source, the App Store, they do now come from a wider range of third-party application developers, who are free to determine the features and prices of their offerings.

Google's Android and the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) project comprise an initiative that is meant to specifically address the openness of mobile devices. The goal of this initiative is to develop a completely open mobile operating platform on which vendors will be free to develop applications and services that will work on all of the devices employing the Android platform. Leading this charge on the operator front was T-Mobile, which was first to field a mobile phone using the Android platform at the end of last year. Many other operators - like Vodafone - are launching Android-based phones as well.

Interestingly, the vendors involved in the Android and OHA initiatives are touting Android devices as "iPhones for the masses". Because the platform will be on a number of different devices from different handset vendors, the vendors claim that it (and the services and applications that run on it) will be able to capture a much larger market share than Apple could possibly do with a single (relatively expensive) device.

Open services/applications

In terms of mobile services and applications, most mobile devices are sold in Europe with a limited set of services. These are preloaded on the device. A more open system would allow more - and more diverse - services, which could be tailored for mobile devices and accessed directly by the subscribers. Some services would be delivered directly by the operator, while others would be supplied via a range of models, from partnership, co-branding and joint delivery with the operators to wholesale models where the operator facilitates access for the mobile subscribers. This more open model would broaden the available services and drive up overall mobile activity as a consequence.

Open contractual relationships

In Europe there is a mix of customer types. Many are contract customers in longer-term relationships where they are locked into one- or two-year contracts with the service provider. By contrast, pre-paid customers have shorter-term relationships, literally buying "airtime" periodically to support their mobile needs.

In the contract model there are conditions to lock in the customer, including financial penalties for breaking these contracts. Customers are unlikely to switch operators in the middle of a contract, regardless of their support or service experience. An open marketplace has a broad mix of relationship types to meet the differing needs of an increasingly diverse set of enterprise and consumer subscribers.

Macro trends driving toward openness

Network operators will execute a number of strategies that will continue to open the European wireless marketplace further. The fact is that the mobile market is becoming saturated - many European markets are running at well over 100% penetration - putting enormous pressure on the operator to look at new strategies to keep stimulating revenue growth. These strategies include: driving increased usage, particularly advanced data usage; going after new customer segments, including lower-ARPU customers and customers from competitors (who may want to bring their phones with them); and finding new ways of managing acquisition costs and a changing blend of customers.

These strategies will lead toward more open business models. Operators are already broadening the set of services that can be delivered either through them or with partners. They will also promote and differentiate new contracts that are tailored to meet the needs of different segments of the customer base. These will necessarily include a mix of subsidised and unsubsidised devices, with explicit policies for devices sourced independently from the operator.

As next-generation networks such as LTE and WiMAX roll out, we expect to see fundamentally open access models where there is a wider set of devices using the network - not just mobile phones but also computers and netbooks, mobile Internet devices, and other consumer electronic devices. Some service providers will expand the pay-as-you-go category to include the more nomadic type of user who may want access to the network for a specific period of time.

Mobile customers are demanding more flexibility. Enterprises want to be able to directly control and manage the devices used by their employees - and the applications on these devices - regardless of where they come from or what network they run on. And consumers want an "Internet-like" experience on their mobile devices wherever they are. As mobile devices become less like phones and more like portable computers, it is difficult for many users to understand why they should not be able to use their mobile devices on whatever network is available to them. Nor do they understand why they should not be able to access the best and most relevant applications and services out there, wherever they are or whomever they come from.

Openness - opportunity or challenge?

We believe that openness will support a larger wireless marketplace - period. And there is an inevitable trend towards more openness in the European mobile market. This openness is coming in a variety of flavours - more open network access, more open device platforms, more open service provisioning and more options for contractual relationships with service providers. Forward-looking operators will manage this change and find ways to capitalise on more open commercial models that can deliver higher revenues and margins. Delivering devices, services and experiences that are tailored to subscriber needs will naturally lead to improvements in ARPU, customer satisfaction and ultimately, customer retention.

Matt Bancroft is Vice President, Mformation
www.mformation.com

Mobile Marketing

The number of European users of mobile location-based services will grow from 20 million users in 2008 at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 37% to reach 130 million users in 2014, according to a new report from Berg Insights. Local search, navigation services and social networking are believed to become the top applications in terms of number of users.
According to senior analyst André Malm: "The key enablers for LBS are rapidly falling into place. On-device application stores allow easier access to mobile services for a broader audience at the same time as flat-rate data plans make pricing more transparent. In conjunction with more operators opening their location platforms to third parties, location aggregators have started to provide common APIs for accessing location data from multiple operators. This together with ever growing GPS handset sales will allow more application developers to create location-enabled mobile applications."

Berg Insight estimates that more than 20% of mobile handsets shipped in 2009 will feature GPS and that the installed base in Europe will surpass 50% of total handsets in 2013.
Many of the most popular services will primarily rely on advertising revenues. However, revenues may not grow at the same rate as usage because the mobile marketing and advertising ecosystem is highly fragmented and immature. It will take several years before a successful model has been established that can reach out to a critical mass of active users. At the same time, service categories including navigation and tracking can be expected to remain premium services to a large extent also in the future.

"Besides monthly subscriptions and per-use fees, service providers will increasingly offer one-time fees, service bundles or device bundles to match consumer expectations," says Malm.
www.berginsight.com

 

Telecom execs online

Telecom executives are spending an extra 11 hours a month online sharing their professional experiences and learning from their peers, according to a study run by online business networking service www.MeettheBoss.com.

MeettheBoss surveyed 15,000 of its 200,000 executive members to understand more about what effect Web 2.0 has had on the business world.

The survey asked its executive users what direct value they gained from spending time running blogs, writing tweets and connecting with other executives on sites such as Linked-In, Xing, MeettheBoss, Ryze, Facebook and Twitter.

The answers revealed that the telecom executives proficient with online activities are spending an average of 11 hours more per month online than this time last year - and over 90% of respondents said they felt their time online was ‘very valuable' to their daily role.
Professionals are going to the web for immediate answers to their most pressing questions.

"I find online business hugely beneficial," says MeettheBoss member Jacob Lee, Project Director at Vodafone. "It allows me to create or join active discussions and get immediate answers and experiences from colleagues and like-minded professionals on a range of issues."

Finding answers for your business is one thing, but most executives have spotted more ‘individual' advantages to this new phenomenon.

"Everyone knows that building contacts in the industry can strengthen your career prospects, but sharing your knowledge with the world is a very effective personal branding exercise," says Adam Burns, Editor-in-Chief of online business channel, MeettheBoss.TV.

Many thought leaders agree with him. Ed Candy - Group CTO for Hutchison 3G and Dr Felix Wunderer - SVP Fixed Mobile Convergence for Deutsche Telekom, have all shared their expertise on the site.

Though most of these executives agree there is no substitute for face-to-face networking, using social media tools correctly can bring substantial return on your time investment. You can become a thought leader in your niche environment overnight and even pull business to your door. The challenge is finding the best one for you.
www.MeettheBoss.com

 

Transforming business

The latest in a series of books describing how to adopt and apply the TM Forum's Solutions Frameworks as part of cost-base transformation for communications service providers, is now available.

Business Transformation with TM Forum Solution Frameworks and SOA is co-authored by Iwan Gramatikoff and Serge Garcia of Edelweiss Consulting and John Wilmes, Chief Technical Architect, Communications Sector, Progress Software and co-chair of the TM Forum's Information Framework Collaboration Program.  The authors assert that to move towards the "next generation" business model supported by the TM Forum Solution Frameworks, enterprises must first undergo a business transformation. With that transformation they will acquire the ability to use business processes more effectively to attain strategic goals.
Business transformation requires more than just introducing a new IT and process architecture. To move forward, service providers need to transform their organizations from technology-driven to market-driven. The purpose of the new is to guide and assist service provider transformation towards this next generation world.

Recognizing and overcoming the challenges involved can result in:

  • Effective business processes to help reach strategic enterprise goals
  • Agile resource management that can evolve as needed
  • Efficient resource allocation to meet expected results

Service-Oriented Architectures (SOA) and TM Forum Solution Frameworks offer complementary approaches for managing complexity and ensuring success. This book is intended to enable organizations to find the best path to follow for their own successful business transformation.
www.tmforum.org

 

LTE growth

The number of LTE next generation networks is set to grow significantly with the number of subscribers exceeding 100 million by 2014, according to a new report from Juniper Research.
The LTE report found that these market numbers will be buoyed by the embedding of broadband capabilities within consumer electronics devices such as MP3 players, Netbooks and digital cameras.

Juniper Research forecast that whilst subscribers will largely use handsets such as smart phones, and laptops, consumers will be motivated to connect devices in the home by LTE.

Report author Howard Wilcox comments: "There is intense activity in the LTE market right now, with in excess of 30 network operator commitments. Operators and vendors alike are moving rapidly to jump on the road to LTE, attracted by the connectivity-based opportunities that the technology offers. Sony, for example, announced that network connectivity is one of three top priority actions."

However, the report determined that there are still several open issues that need addressing before the market takes off. One of these is the issue of device convergence: what will a smart phone look like, and be capable of, in three years' time?
Further report findings include:
       

  • There will be multiple millions of LTE subscribers as early as 2011.
  • Embedded LTE chipsets will become the second most popular means of access behind SIM cards by 2014.
  • Whilst early LTE adopters will be enterprise subscribers, consumers will begin to take up LTE based services towards 2012/2013.

The report provides a balanced assessment of the opportunity represented by the rapidly developing and very topical LTE mobile broadband technology. It includes a comprehensive six year forecasting suite of critical figures, data and analysis on enterprise and consumer subscriber take-up, devices, network access via dongles, cards and embedded capability, chipset shipments, arpus and service revenues. The report also evaluates the key mobile operators and vendors pioneering in this developing market.

LTE Mobile Broadband Strategies: Consumer & Enterprise Markets; Devices & Chipsets 2009-2014 can be freely downloaded from the Juniper  Research website.
www.juniperresearch.com  

 

For several years now, the mobile TV industry has been searching for the elusive  business model that will drive mass adoption. Analysts continue to paint a rosy picture of mobile TV in the future, with Juniper Research predicting that the global user base for mobile broadcast TV services is likely to exceed 330 million by the end of 2013. But despite the optimistic outlook, Diana Jovin notes that it remains unclear how we will reach these future heights when compared to where we are today

In most countries today mobile TV in its current form represents a complex interaction between content owners, network operators and standards organisations. Broadcasters own the relationships with the content owners, mobile operators own the consumer relationships, spectrum and network infrastructure, and there are a myriad of competing standards being pushed by a variety of commercial organisations and regulators. Amidst the discussions of content rights, standards, spectrum and infrastructure - that is how to deliver mobile TV - it is little surprise that the industry has struggled with a more important question - what does the consumer want from mobile TV?

In this last year a clear answer to the consumer question has emerged, and it is one that simplifies the complicated relationship between broadcasters, content owners and operators. Over the last year, consumers have indicated a strong preference for a free-to-air model, which provides them with the same terrestrial over-the-air programming that they know and watch on their TV at home, but simply received on their mobile phone rather than their living room television set. This gives the consumer content using existing broadcast infrastructure that does not require the operator to make considerably outlay on capital expenditures. From a commercial perspective, it has the potential to stimulate a variety of related service and premium markets.

Following on the heels of successful free-to-air mobile TV rollouts in Japan and Korea, frequently cited as the industry's leading mobile TV success stories, more than 20 million consumers in analogue broadcast TV markets chose to purchase TV handsets that receive free-to-air terrestrial broadcast signals - all in a brief eighteen month period between mid-2007 and the end of 2008. In response to this burgeoning consumer interest, several of the leading operators in operator-controlled markets, such as Latin America, have now included these handsets in their mobile phone portfolio. This is a clear indicator, when compared to the more sluggish adoption of subscription mobile TV services in other parts of the world - over the same period of time - that the free-to-air mobile TV model works and can appeal to both the consumer and the operator.

In Europe, the mobile TV industry has been preoccupied with decisions regarding which standard should be the dominant one to drive mobile TV adoption forward, citing fragmentation of standards as impeding progress towards viable consumer solutions. Early in 2008 Viviane Reding announced that the European Commission would be endorsing DVB-H as the preferred technology for terrestrial mobile broadcasting. Yet by late 2008 LG revealed the launch of its latest touch-screen device into the European market equipped with a DVB-T mobile TV tuner putting it in direct conflict with the EU's decision to support DVB-H. With the industry focused on standards discussions, an important question remains in the background: what do these standards mean for the consumer?  Looking more closely, mobile TV based on DVB-H or another similar mobile broadcast standard provides content that is different from content traditionally received on a TV set at home - and is usually accompanied by a recurring service fee.  In contrast, DVB-T transforms a mobile phone into a portable television set, delivering the same free and familiar content that one would view on a conventional set at home.

To date, mobile TV has been trialed and deployed in various markets in several forms. In many markets, mobile TV is offered as a service, which includes a custom content package offered by an operator for a monthly service fee. These are typically pay TV services delivered via digital broadcast standards such as DVB-H or FLO, or streaming services delivered via WiFi or 3G and an accompanying data plan. The challenge with these services is that they require the consumer to become familiar with a content package that they're unaccustomed to and be willing to pay for it in the process. In contrast, free-to-air mobile TV piques consumer interest by simply place-shifting the same programming that they are used to viewing on their TV set at home. Consumers are able to transfer their TV viewing habits to their mobile phone, watching their favourite programmes at the time they expect them to be broadcast.

A question that springs to mind is whether consumers want to make their television mobile, or would they prefer to subscribe to a tailored mobile TV service? The adoption figures to date begin to point at the answer to this question. Even so, for free-to-air mobile TV to be truly successful, it must ultimately be embraced by operators in markets where they control handset portfolios and purchases.  Towards the end of 2008, the industry saw operators such as Telefónica, Telcel, Claro and others adding free-to-air TV phones to their mobile handset portfolios. So what brought about this shift in strategic thinking from operators, and how does free-to-air mobile TV deliver value?

The pay TV business model seems to be the obvious one for operators - it delivers direct monetisation of a new service that can be upsold to existing subscribers.  However, one needs to assess a variety of factors to understand the ultimate impact on an operator's bottom line. Here are some of those factors, with a comparison between a pay subscription and a free-to-air business model:

  • Cost of entry: The development of new mobile TV infrastructure is quite expensive. Given the recent economic downturn and the corresponding tightening of capital budgets, operators are giving the ROI on subscription mobile TV tight scrutiny, given the size of the required investment. In contrast, free-to-air mobile TV uses existing broadcast TV infrastructure installed by the broadcasters, enabling operators to provide the feature to consumers without having to bankroll costly spectrum acquisition, infrastructure deployment and content licensing.
  • Subscriber stability and growth: Most of the operators who have deployed free-to-air mobile TV in Latin America, for example, are leaders in their market. They view free-to-air TV handsets as a way to solidify a leadership position, attract new subscribers, reduce subscriber churn in the existing customer base, and grow service revenue over time by providing a high value service to consumers. In developing markets, where many consumers cannot afford the data plans and service fees associated with pay TV models, and where some countries prohibit the bundling of TV services with operator networks, free-to-air TV provides a vehicle for operators to increase the value they provide consumers without a significant investment.
  • Related and premium services: Operators are now recognising that free-to-air TV can be used to attract consumers and then generate revenue from related or premium services. Arima, a Taiwan original design manufacturer (ODM) of handsets, recently announced an SMS-TV design that allows viewers to send and receive text messages while viewing free-to-air TV. Also, once consumers have become accustomed to watching TV on their handset, they will be more receptive to considering complementary subscription offerings around premium programming.

When talking of mass adoption of mobile TV, it is important to think about consumer uptake globally and not just in those parts of the world where digital mobile TV trials have led to deployments. Interestingly, despite the significant focus and discussion on digital standards, by 2012 more than 85% of the world's population will still be receiving analogue broadcast TV signals. This suggests that a comprehensive global strategy must encompass both analogue and digital free-to-air mobile TV.

The second consideration is that despite the fastest subscriber growth figures the majority of the people living in developing markets do not have data plans that accommodate streaming services, nor can they accommodate recurring monthly service fees. Being able to provide free-to-air mobile TV - whether analogue or digital - in entry-level priced handsets opens up opportunities for adoption by a large, global population. This is a particularly important consideration preceding the World Cup activities in South Africa next year, which are certain to hold appeal to soccer fans around the world.

Offering TV on handsets for free at first glance seems counterintuitive as a business model.  However, by providing consumers with the content they want, and without requiring costly and time-consuming investment by the operators, free-to-air mobile TV presents a compelling business case, especially as it has the potential to stimulate service revenue and reduce customer churn. Consumer adoption figures underscore the seal of approval placed by consumers on this market approach proving that free-to-air mobile TV is a viable strategy for stimulating the global adoption needed to deliver on industry analysts' market predictions.

Diana Jovin is VP, Corporate Marketing, Telegent Systems

Despite a marked reticence among many brands to take the mobile marketing plunge,  Daryn Wober believes its potential is considerable, and take-up imminent

The Internet Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers recently revealed research showing that "...mobile ad spend bucked all market trends, doubling in size on a like for like basis in 2008, increasing by 99.2% year on year." That's encouraging but at £28.6 million, and even though the study ignored mobile marketing expenditure, it's still a tiny element. In a total market worth around £17 billion you'd be forgiven for not getting too excited. But in 1998 that £28.6 million was roughly what the internet advertising market, at a similar stage of development, was worth. Internet advertising grew exponentially from that point and is now worth £3.35 billion so if mobile heads the same way, things are about to get interesting.

Given the almost universal access to mobile devices in the market it seems to make sense to target consumers on the platform, but it's clear that few brands have taken the plunge to date - many brands rate mobile as a ‘would like to have' rather than a necessity in their marketing campaigns. But for brands to market themselves effectively they need to ‘follow the consumer', targeting customers on their platform of choice, whatever that may be. Like the early days of the internet, mobile advertising can be a daunting prospect, but in reality it need be no more complex than the online platform. What's required is specialist partners that know the specific requirements and have the infrastructure to provision, deliver, manage and track campaigns. With that expertise in place, mobile is a viable and valuable channel that can be exploited alone, or as part of an integrated campaign.

It's important to look at how consumers are using their mobiles right now so that we can see how the market might develop in the future. At the moment, a significant proportion of mobile users stick with voice and text services, shunning any of the added value applications and services available. That may be because of their demographic profile, the handset they own or their pricing package. For those consumers, the marketing and advertising options are limited and well established, but fundamental changes are afoot and relate to three primary factors:

Firstly, the latest generation of mobile phones, typified by the iPhone, are now much more capable devices - they have high resolution colour screens, lots of processing power and broadband connectivity. Secondly, ‘all you can eat' data packages are now widely available and finally, we have a significant generation of consumers that have grown up with mobile and are comfortable interacting with their chosen devices. Those factors have created an entirely new universe of opportunity, comparable in many ways to the impact broadband services had on internet browsing via the PC.

Some brands are responding to the mobile opportunity, but for the most part they remain wedded to the ‘lowest common denominator' formats like SMS voting and competitions utilising shortcodes. It is definitely worth pointing out that these types of campaigns can produce great results though. However, there is a lot more that could be done and opportunities are being missed - everything from WAP portals to music and video downloads and brand-specific user generated content. What's missing for brands is the ability to target those campaigns effectively and that's where mobile network operators become most important.

On the surface mobile ought to be an advertising nirvana. The handset is the most personal device in comparison to other platforms. Mobile operators know an awful lot about their subscribers including where they are and who they like to call. With that information to hand it's possible to build a highly accurate profile that could be used to target marketing and advertising messages accurately and appropriately. Blyk, the so called ‘free mobile network' has created an entire business using this approach (although their overall business model is yet to be proven), offering 16-24 year olds free calls and text messages in return for personal data. Subscribers are then targeted by brands via text and MMS with adverts and offers that are relevant to their profile. There are plenty of critics of Blyk's model but the company has certainly proven that consumers are accepting of advertising on the platform if there is also a benefit accruing to them, in this case, free calls and texts.

Operators use third parties to enable mobile advertising across their networks but handicap the effectiveness of these campaigns by not sharing specific information on subscriber habits. This data would add considerable value from a brand and agency perspective and help build more targeted and therefore more successful campaigns. Good news for all. Advertising on Google.com owes much of its success to the harvested data on individual search preferences Google shares with advertisers. Operators need to follow suit and share information within strict legal parameters. Additionally, brands need to see that they are getting a return on their investment and in many cases the tracking and measurement systems aren't available. Those factors, combined with the technical complexity of delivering mobile campaigns have held the sector back.

At the moment brands are primarily working within their comfort zone; the established media channels. They know those channels work (even if returns are diminishing) but their knowledge of the available opportunities on mobile is limited. If they have a forward thinking agency, mobile could be brainstormed and potentially added as an additional element, but even then it is likely to be on a limited and ad-hoc basis rather than as part of an ongoing integrated campaign. The inevitable result is that brands are missing out on a key outlet for reaching consumers, especially in today's connected society where people have their mobile phone with them 24/7.

It can be very difficult to assess what is possible on mobile and we shouldn't blame brands or agencies for the current situation. The typical mobile campaign planning experience today involves speaking to a wide range of companies that can deliver only a single element of the solution. The result may be a complex supply chain that is difficult to manage and difficult to extract value from. Brands and their agencies work within a fast paced environment - they need to know what is available and what the value is and most of all they need to know that it ‘just works'.

The good news is that there are specialist managed services platforms available with the technological capabilities to address the key issues for brands, agencies, and operators. With a managed service platform in place, taking control of the planning, execution and tracking of mobile campaigns across multiple channels becomes far easier for the brand. The operator benefits from working with a trusted provider that has the required technological expertise to plug into their network effectively. Managed service platforms can host and deploy mobile adverts to specific demographics, making the most of the specialist technology and expertise.

For brands the managed service platform means they have access to core campaign elements that can be switched on and off very quickly and incorporate the activity into a wider campaign, knowing that what they plan will work. For example Lynx, the male grooming brand, recently implemented a multi-platform marketing strategy to coincide with the launch of its ‘Snake Peel' product. Lynx ran a number of competitions for 16-24 year olds giving them the chance to win various prizes. One of the competitions offered men the opportunity to demonstrate their dating prowess by sending in videos and texts of chat-up lines with the best one winning a trip to Miami. Alongside this competition, ran a series of banner adverts on a number of operator portals and traditional physical promotion in the form of branded ‘man-wash' booths at summer festivals (where men could be washed by a model and then text-in to enter further competitions). The success of this campaign was down to a brand and their agency understanding their target consumer and the ways in which they interact and the core campaign elements being available ‘off the shelf'. As a result, Lynx interacted with its target market effectively through the right channels, including mobile, at the right time. Good strategic planning and effective brand placement in appropriate channels always produces results.

Consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to accessing multimedia and interactive services on their mobile phones, and with that change in behaviour we are seeing a corresponding increase in the opportunity for brands and mobile network operators - where there are eyeballs, there is an opportunity to advertise. Despite that, we most often see an entirely haphazard approach to exploiting the opportunity. It has much in common with online marketing ten years ago but if the current success of the online platform is to be replicated on mobile, brands and operators need to work together with specialist managed services platforms that have the required experience and technology. These platforms allow campaigns to be planned, booked, implemented and managed across multiple networks and off-portal channels. Just as importantly it allows for verified reports, tracking and analysis from a single trusted source. The operators must also become more active players in the value chain. If mobile advertising is to realise its potential operators can no longer remain silent. They are the crucial gatekeepers. Subscriber information must be shared in a carefully controlled and legal manner with trusted specialist players. With this information campaigns will become better targeted, richer for the consumer and more fulfilling for all parties involved.

Daryn Wober is Vice-President of Business Development at IMImobile Europe

David Sharpley looks at how the mobile industry can manage the current mobile data  explosion, prevent mobile ‘bill shock' and impress its customers in the process

The days when the mobile phone was only used for voice calls are over. Data services have become just as essential as voice for many mobile customers and are a major factor in their choice of operator, tariff plans and device. This is good news for mobile operators, but it also creates some challenges. While billing for traditional voice and text services on a time and distance basis is well understood by customers, things get a little more problematic when it comes to offering high bandwidth services oriented around content. It's fast becoming clear that mobile operators need far more flexibility and control when it comes to these types of service if they're to make the most of them.

Customers will always prefer an operator who offers a transparent, consistent relationship with a high degree of personalisation and control. Today - especially for a mobile sector facing explosive demand for content, social networking and entertainment services - it's fast becoming clear that a much more intelligent, adaptive and flexible approach to the issue of balancing customers and resources is desperately required. Without the ability to manage access to services, content and applications at ever-finer levels of detail, customers face the risk of experiencing the mobile data equivalent of electricity ‘brownouts' - or the unpleasant experience of suddenly receiving unexpectedly huge bills for content downloads.

At the heart of the problem lies the increasing demand on network and air-path capacity that are being made around the world by users of many different types as they take advantage of the new generations of data-centric devices and services now available. It's generally estimated that a smartphone uses around thirty times the bandwidth of an ordinary handset, while a laptop pushes this to a massive 450 times. In the longer terms, it's expected that mobile data traffic will roughly double each year through to 2012, while general industry sources also indicate that revenues from mobile data in the US and China are growing at around 50% per year. In Europe alone, it's reckoned that revenues from the current mobile data market add up to around $36 billion - forecasting growth to continue at 21% a year to 2011. By contrast, revenues from voice services remain static, pushing mobile data centre-stage in any mobile operator's plans for growth and innovation.

While mobile operators can respond to this by increasing network capacity, this not only takes time and money - the latter currently being in short supply - but also runs up some inconvenient laws of physics in terms of wireless spectrum capacity. If they impose blanket bandwidth and download limits, or just offer ‘best-effort' connectivity, they run the risk of alienating some of their potentially most profitable and high-spending customers with the brownout scenarios highlighted above. Alternatively, if they try to throttle back traffic through high tariffs and roaming charges, they'll alienate customers even more as the newspaper stories already circulating about ‘bill shock' and roaming fees totalling tens of thousands of Euros highlight. For customer communities already hit by the global recession and watching every penny, such strategies will not win operators any loyalty or encourage experimentation with new services

Indeed, the European Union has recently passed legislation that not only limits the fees that operators can apply for data roaming, but also makes it a legal requirement for them to alert customers as soon as their transactions reach a pre-set financial limit.

So, something must be done - but what?

The first thing is to realise that the crucial balancing point for matching services, network availability and customer demand lies in the policies applied to each customer's account. While policy control in its broadest sense has always been an integral part of any mobile service, the tools that have often been applied in the past have been far too heavy-handed for operators to really turn them to either their own - or their customer's - true advantage. ‘Best effort' or throttled-back service is no longer sufficient especially where the experience of enterprise applications or high-value content is impacted. Alternatively, the use of blunt generic pricing policies or caps on service access can have a similarly brutal effect on the customer's trust and their future spending patterns.

It is Bridgewater's argument that what is really needed is an ability to apply a ‘Smart' policy approach to handle this increasingly complex and sensitive relationship with the required levels of personalisation. But what precisely do we mean by ‘Smart'?

There are essentially three components to applying such a strategy:

Firstly, there must be ‘Smart Controls' in place. This means giving customers access to self-service portals or automated alerts that allow them to send top-up or bandwidth boost requests, change their service packages, get information on their usage and calling patterns, and set individual limits on roaming or downloads. In practice, this translates into a far higher degree of personalisation for the user, reduces customer support overheads, encourages experimentation and take-up of additional services and, very importantly, prevents bill shock.

Secondly, ‘Smart Apps' describes the increased control of the reality of the customer experience that can be achieved through a far finer granularity of detail. Both the customer and the operator can start to tailor policies to support specific applications - video and music downloads, web browsing, email, etc. - while also taking into account the customer's own real-time behaviours and preferences as well as the wider network conditions at different times or in different places.

Finally, ‘Smart Caps' can provide a more flexible, real-time and customer-friendly approach to the issue of setting bandwidth caps by allowing operators to act appropriately depending on whether they're facing heavy or abusive users - or customers who inadvertently exceed a set limit by downloading a movie. By optimising and rationalising the allocation of bandwidth across customers - and prioritising those prepared and able to pay for it - the user gets a consistent, fair experience while the operator avoids the need for expensive network upgrades to relieve network congestion.

In practice, a smart policy control strategy can add an unprecedented richness and flexibility to each mobile operator's palette of service and billing relationships - and keep the customer feeling that they're in control of that relationship and the money that they are spending.  For example, by monitoring a postpaid customer's behaviour over long periods in real time, an operator can readily offer personalised bandwidth limits - or alternative tariffs - along with appropriate warnings to ensure fair usage or alerts to new service plans. Alternatively, prepaid customers can be monitored and offered relevant opportunities to upgrade their contracts through a portal as their circumstances change. On top of this, the inherent flexibility of the concept - and its easy integration with standard mobile network architectures - makes managing the charges and service quality parameters for accessing third-party content and applications much easier and more transparent.

The complexity of the relationships between individuals and enterprises and the ever-lengthening content and applications value chain isn't going away and can only increase. Customers demand to be recognised as individuals and only if we have the systems and processes in place to support that individuality will operators keep their loyalty and their revenues coming in. Policy control in the form of a combination of Smart Control, Smart Apps and Smart Caps approach is the most powerful tool operators have in their armouries to achieve that end.

David Sharpley is Senior Vice President, Marketing and Product Management, Bridgewater Systems

Mobile banking has been mooted for some time as a mass market application and it is  undoubtedly on the rise; Juniper Research predicts that the number of consumers accessing banking products and services via their mobile phones will reach 816 million by 2011 and management consultancy Arthur D. Little expects total m-payment transactions to grow by 68% per annum to reach almost $250 billion in 2012. Rodrigue Ullens feels that a number of converging factors have come together to enable the mobile operators to take the initiative and become our banks for everyday transactions

Around the world, customers' banking behaviour is changing- there is an ongoing decrease in branch use while internet and telephone banking continues to rise. The demand for increasingly sophisticated mobile devices and the success of mobile app stores from the likes of Nokia, Apple and RIM has also highlighted how customer expectations of what they should be able to do with their mobile phone are also changing.

Additionally, following the worldwide economic downturn, it would be fair to say that the traditional banking system is in disarray and that trust in financial institutions is at an all time low. All of these factors have converged to create an environment in which mobile banking can develop as customer demand coincides with a need for financial institutions to improve their image, attract new customers and generate revenue growth.

However, if the banks want to move beyond the simple text-message based updates they currently offer and provide the comprehensive ‘mobile banking 2.0' experience that customers crave, a number of large obstacles still need to be overcome. The banks have to quell consumers' fears regarding security and lack of trust whilst also establishing an appropriate billing relationship with their customers.

It is actually the mobile operators who are best placed to provide the mobile banking 2.0 experience as they already have convincing answers to these security and billing questions. Security is a much lower concern as the operators retain those functions they have traditionally controlled (financial institutions would have to rely on a third party) and all of their customers are provided with a dedicated device which holds a secure chip (the SIM card). Mobile has continued to be a growth sector in the current climate, which suggests that the operators are becoming more trusted than our banks. And of course, they already have the necessary pre-existing billing relationship in place with their customers.

Add to the above the fact that we carry our mobile phones with us at all times and that our mobile number acts as a unique identifier in the same way as our existing bank account number and sort code, and it becomes clear that the operators are well positioned to become our banks for everyday transactions. Schemes such as the GSMA's Mobile Money Transfer Initiative are already under way to make this possible and I'm sure we will see mobile operators partnering with companies that hold a European e-money licence, such as Tunz, in order to make this a widespread reality in the coming years.

Mobile banking opens up a range of new transactional opportunities such as contactless payments at point of sale, international money transfers and transfers over the mobile internet, all of which have already been successfully trialled somewhere in the world. For example, in Africa money transfers on a mobile phone are becoming the continent's first widespread cashless payment system, enabling cost-effective and secure transactions amongst citizens with no access to a bank account in the traditional sense of the term.
In terms of developed markets, contactless payments via a mobile phone are already widespread throughout Japan, and some European operators, including Belgium's Belgacom ICS, have been selected to provide this service in European countries over the next six months. Furthermore, a recent report from Arthur D. Little has revealed that in China- the country with the most internet users anywhere in the world- 29% of new users do not have a PC at all and instead access the internet solely through their mobile phone.

These examples demonstrate both the potential and the enthusiasm for banking services on the mobile phone. However, the key issue that remains to be addressed is cross border interoperability and standardisation. As the worldwide population becomes ever more global, the ability to take account details across national borders will become increasingly desirable to customers.

Last year, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) created the new country code +883. These +883 numbers (or iNums) have effectively created ‘an area code for Earth', a telephone number that follows you wherever you are in the world. Aligning mobile banking services with the iNum as an international account identifier and sort code will be a huge step forward in addressing the global interoperability issue, even more so once every fixed and mobile operator makes iNums reachable from their networks.

While the mobile operators will not replace our financial institutions for larger transactions, a number of factors have all converged to put them in pole position to become our ‘everyday banks'. The current economic climate, our overwhelming public demand for mobile banking 2.0 and the existing relationship that the mobile operators have with their customers are factors that suggest a new era of mobile payments may be on the horizon.

There have already been a great deal of initiatives within both emerging and developed markets that have demonstrated mobile banking's potential to deliver innovative new services to customers, but the next step will be to take this activity global. People are becoming ever more mobile and the ability to take account details across national boundaries will become increasingly attractive to consumers in the next few years. 

Rodrigue Ullens is CEO and co-founder of Voxbone
www.voxbone.com

www.inum.net

You can't have a discussion these days with anyone in the IT industry without the word  ‘cloud' coming up: yes, cloud computing really is the biggest thing since sliced bread! Why have your own servers running, on average, at 5% loading when a cloud-based service will save huge amounts on processing by paying only for what you use?

Ever faster networks are making physical locations (sort of) irrelevant, opening up the market for all sorts of capabilities to be accessible online -  from applications (software-as-a-service) through infrastructure services like computing, storage and networking to online enabling services like billing, CRM, authentication etc.

If you're an end user, cloud services open up a huge range of services without the expense and expertise needed to have your own infrastructure. For communications players searching for new business models and services that will replace stagnating voice revenues, cloud services offer some very interesting opportunities. Do you take the cost reduction route of cutting your computing costs by moving to being a cloud computing buyer, or do you go the opposite way and expand your data centers to monetize them by selling services to others?

Another angle is to open up some of your internal services and capabilities for others to purchase and use for a price, such as call centres, CRM and billing, all of which service providers have in large measure.

Now all this sounds great in theory, but with not a lot of tangible examples out there of large cloud computing services that are in full deployment, it's hard to guess at how the market will develop and who will win.

One thing is for sure though, no matter how big telecom companies think their IT base is, it's small both geographically and in horsepower terms when compared to Amazon, Google and Microsoft. Economies of scale definitely will play a big part in who can make money as a price war will be played out not only between cloud providers but between cloud and the alternative ‘do-it-yourself' market of owning your own infrastructure.

Although there are numerous applications of a cloud approach, it's possible that cloud services might take off in two key areas. One is video content distribution, because to do this you need the ability to deploy significant network, computing and storage horsepower on demand.

The second area is in providing integrated packages of communications services, computing power and applications to small and medium enterprises. The cloud will make it possible to weave together packages of these services where all the data is stored in the cloud and all the applications are run in the cloud, but businesses get an integrated package where all of that is transparent to them.

I recently saw a demo by a large, multinational mobile operator of just this sort of innovative packaging of services. If they get it off the ground they could find customers beating down their doors.

A recent article in The Economist reviewed the cloud approach and warned that cloud may simply be a way for the computing industry to shield itself from the growing tide of openness. For example, how easy will it be for customers to switch cloud service providers - once your data is in the cloud, can you ever get it out again and move to a different supplier? Can you compare apples-to-apples on price and performance if every provider has different services measured in different ways?

You might expect buyers to be in favour of openness and suppliers to be hostile, but the reality is that lack of openness and transparency might hold back the entire market, so some level of standardization may be supported by both sides. Standards are needed for application interfaces and data structures as well as a common model for cloud ‘piece parts' - what industry called Stock Keeping Units, or SKUs, and benchmarks so that the buyers can easily make purchasing choices.

All of which are areas that TM Forum has a lot of expertise in, so we're actively working on facilitating some of the industry aspects of cloud-based services, and we're working with all sides of industry to understand what's needed.

Cloud is a game changer in that it is yet another step along the way of allowing anyone to enter new markets. It's a changing world and one that the communications industry, if it's smart, will grab with both hands.

Keith Willetts is Chairman and CEO, TM Forum
kwilletts@tmforum.org

Governments and communications companies can work together to give urban  developments a global competitive advantage while offering new revenue streams to CME companies say Peter Elliot and James Bennet

Vibrant and creative cities drive economic, social and cultural development. Governments focus on renovating existing cities and cultivating new ones to act as a catalyst to development. This is now taking place on an unprecedented scale. The integration of ICT with development projects can change the urban landscape by developing the Smart City. The Smart City can enhance the lives of citizens, encourage business to invest, and create a sustainable urban environment. City governments have an opportunity to ensure ICT infrastructure is integrated with the changing city, and communications companies can support this vision to mutual advantage.

The Smart City requires a ubiquitous ultra-high speed network infrastructure, fixed and wireless, that allows people, business and government to connect with each other and the systems that manage the infrastructure and services of the city. The network provides valuable real-time data about the urban environment to Smart City applications and service providers.

Importantly, this information is:

  • context sensitive
  • location sensitive
  • personal
  • secure

This information can enable a myriad number of services:

  • Transport - traffic flow management, speed control, congestion charging, information systems, vehicle tracking, onboard safety
  • Public safety and security - access control systems, alarm monitoring, emergency warning and situation management
  • Transactions - electronic funds transfer
  • Public services - remote patient monitoring, patient records management, education/ learning networks
  • Identity - biometric/smart card systems
  • Utilities - facilities management, climate control, meter monitoring, energy generation and storage management, leak detection and network management
  • Environment - data collection and monitoring.

Many of these services are envisioned today and some have been implemented in isolation with limited capability. However the intelligence and integration of the Smart City infrastructure can:

  • Enhance the social environment - by integrating community services such as health, education, identity and payment systems
  • Manage the built environment more efficiently - homes, buildings, public spaces, transport systems and utilities - to predict and respond to changing conditions, enhancing quality of life and minimising impact on the natural environment
  • Offer consumers innovative services - the fastest internet access and innovative services available from any location, indoors and outdoors
  • Provide world-leading services to businesses - zero latency data connectivity, secure networks, low cost hosting and storage that make the city an attractive place to do business.

The Smart City infrastructure can therefore change the way the city is managed, improving delivery of public services and enhancing the lives of citizens. It can make a city a more attractive place to do business, not only by providing the infrastructure and services required by businesses but also by making a city a more attractive and prestigious place to live and work.

This is a key concern for multinationals that want to attract talent from a global talent pool. ICT can also help a city move to a sustainable future. Operational efficiency, reducing commuting times for example, can help this, but changing the way people live and work will also drive the development of the 21st century urban environment.

Competitive markets for provision of ICT infrastructure and services have developed in most countries around the world. However commercial service providers alone are unlikely to be able to deliver the ubiquitous high-speed access and shared platforms that will enable governments, business and citizens to realise the benefits of the Smart City. Local monopoly operators or duopolies have no incentive to create an open access network infrastructure that disturbs a potentially lucrative status quo. Competitive operators may have difficulty making the business case stack up without intervention from the public sector interested in the broader benefits that a Smart City can deliver. There may therefore be a role for the public sector in directing investment.

City governments can respond in different ways, reflecting different degrees of confidence in the ability of a competitive market to deliver appropriate services to end users. Examples of the implementation of open access fibre networks show how approaches can differ:

  • In Stockholm a subsidiary of the municipality manages a city-wide passive fibre network that is open for use by all service providers to provide ultra-high speed services to homes and businesses
  • In Amsterdam the city government is working with commercial investors to build the passive fibre infrastructure. The municipality has selected a commercial operator to install equipment and provide capacity to service providers on an open access basis
  • In Singapore the government is promoting a similar model to Amsterdam, but offering subsidies to two commercial operators to build a passive fibre network and provide capacity to service providers. The government has also split the island into three areas and offered ISPs concessions to provide blanket WiFi coverage of public spaces such as parks and shopping centres.

The implementation of Smart City infrastructure creates opportunities for commercial service providers to build new revenues, either by providing the supporting infrastructure for Smart City applications, or by using this infrastructure to offer services to government, business or consumer markets. Governments and businesses can therefore work together to develop the ICT sector at the same time as offering urban developments the opportunity to build a competitive advantage in a crowded global market for cities.

Peter Elliot and James Bennet, PA Consulting
wireless@paconsulting.com

As IBC opens its doors at the RAI Centre in Amsterdam, from September 10th to 15th, it is becoming increasingly clear that everyone in the communications industry is going to have to collaborate to turn the idea of ‘content anytime, anywhere' into a reality

For anyone who has been in the communications industry at any time in the last 30 years, the word "convergence" will be familiar. With broadband availability moving towards universality and mobile networks increasingly being regarded as data highways not just for voice, there is finally a chance that this convergence will happen.

While there will be multiple applications running over this data bandwidth, it is clear that what will drive it will be media. Audiences love the concept of being able to see the content they want, when they want it, at the time they want it, where they want it, and on the device they want.

It is not just a consumer issue. At first digital signage was simply a poster on a plasma screen. Today it is seen as a highly targeted, highly productive means of reaching audiences over what is effectively a private interactive television network. Retailers love the idea of being able to talk to potential purchasers at the instant they are making a purchasing decision - put a recipe for a chicken casserole above the chicken display in the supermarket.
So it is that telcos, mobile network operators (MNOs) and ISPs are now very much in the media business. They have the carrier infrastructure, and they have to be sure they are getting their fair share of the revenues from what will be a booming business, particularly at a time when voice arpu is falling.

On the other hand, broadcasters and production companies have the content that will be the real driver for audiences. Clearly, everyone has to collaborate to make the content anywhere become a reality.

At a time when the landscape is moving fast, it is wise to invest in knowledge; to understand what the commercial challenges are as well as the technology issues, and to see where the established players need to collaborate and where they still compete.

IBC has been an established date in the broadcaster's diary for more than 40 years; over the last decade it has become vital for telcos, MNOs and the data industry too. It is the leading event for anyone involved in content creation, management and delivery, attracting visitors from more than 130 countries.

There are multiple levels to the event. First, it is an authoritative conference, bringing experts from around the world to debate the key issues of the day.

This year the IBC conference has been reorganised into three distinct streams: technology advances; content creation and innovation; and the business of broadcasting. Each contains a series of technical papers, commercial and operational debates and masterclasses from leading creative professionals.

Most important, each crosses the boundaries between traditional broadcasting and the new creation and distribution of media. The content creation and innovation strand, for example, includes a full day on IPTV and mobile media. In addition, to counteract the inevitable concern that conference debates are always led by senior executives who may not be perfectly in touch with the consumer, a session is given over to listening to a panel of students from Japan, Russia, UK and USA talking about how they consume media and their expectations for the media of the future.

Every minute of every day, some 13 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube. Is this just vanity publishing that no one watches, or is user-generated content the future for the media industry? The answer to that question has far-reaching implications for the business and technology plans of data network operators.

Alongside the formal conference there is another opportunity for debate and exploration. There is a series of business briefings: presentations by people who have been there and done it, and share their experiences (good and bad). There are also business briefings on mobile media, for IPTV and online video, and for digital signage.

These presentations are linked to specific zones within the exhibition, again dedicated to mobile, IPTV and digital signage. The zones are an initiative to attract innovators of emerging media into the IBC community. They give exhibitors, and particularly start-up businesses, a simple and low-cost route into the exhibition, and they present visitors with a rapid overview of the latest technology in a particular field without them having to walk all around the show floor.

The full exhibition is large and comprehensive, filling the exhibition space - 11 halls - in the Amsterdam RAI Centre with around 1000 exhibitors. The layout of the exhibition is designed to make it easy for the visitor to find the solutions they need. If you are looking for the latest in communications technologies - from compression and multiplexing to set-top boxes and home hubs - then all the key players are grouped together in one area.

Equally, if your business plan requires you to move into content production or channel management, then you will find what you need in other halls. One hall includes the IBC Production Village, which combines a huge camera demonstration area and hands-on experiences of the latest equipment with a number of active presentations, including the production base for IBC TV News - the event's own on-air and online programme.

Another free presentation strand, "What caught my eye", is helpful for newcomers to a subject, but is always popular with regular visitors too. Experienced practitioners tour the exhibition looking for the latest and best in their particular fields, and in a short and lively workshop talk about what is new and exciting. It also gives tips to the audience on where to find a given highlight and the right questions to ask of the vendors.

There is a third element to IBC alongside the conference and exhibition: a whole range of offerings that add value to your time spent at the event. The business briefings, which are free to all visitors, are a good example. Others range from training opportunities to the chance to network with your peers. And most evenings there are free screenings of some fine television productions and movies in the state-of-the-art digital cinema created by IBC.

The IBC conference runs from September 10 to 14 and the exhibition from September 11 to 15, at the RAI Centre in Amsterdam. Exhibition only registration is free and includes all the added value opportunities including the business briefings, screenings and networking. There are a range of conference packages available for IBC2009: more information - and online registration - can be found at www.ibc.org.

The assumption among consumers is that video will be an integral part of any communication in future: if they can shoot something on a mobile phone and upload it to YouTube, then they will expect to be able to see it on their televisions at home too.

If you have any interest in the technology to make this happen, or the business cases that will realise a fair return on this investment, then IBC is the place to join the debate.

www.ibc.org

Environmental issues are impacting product development across a range of telecoms  offerings says Alix Morley

Environmental concerns are quite clearly becoming increasingly widespread, both among consumers and across a considerable variety of industries.  Telecoms is no exception, determined to prove its high eco status through a range of product and applications developments.

Certainly, the trend is making itself felt throughout the cell phone industry with major producers competing to heighten their green credentials.  Sony Ericsson's GreenHeart range is testament to these concerns.  Both the C901 GreenHeart and the soon to be released Naite boosting the green image of the company.  Indeed, these phones will be sold in smaller packages, thus reducing waste, while Sony Ericsson also advertise the C901 as including "an in-phone manual replacing the standard paper version; while recycled plastics, an energy efficient display and waterborne paint mean that the overall CO2 emissions of the phone are decreased by 15%."  This is certainly in line with Sony Ericsson's stated aim to cut 20% of its carbon dioxide emissions by 2015.

In a recent interview with Reuters, Mats Pellback-Scharp, Head of Sustainability at Sony Ericsson, highlighted that the company is "not aiming at a niche segment.  We are taking this to mainstream and to a bigger audience. . . Naite is the lowest cost 3G phone in Sony Ericsson's portfolio and we expect it to be one of the biggest volume drivers in end-2009 to early 2010."

Sony Ericsson is certainly not alone in venturing into the eco-friendly marketplace.  Indeed, while Samsung Electronics and ZTE have recently developed a solar powered phone, Nokia's 3110 Evolve is also attempting to harness the eco concerns of the consumer with increased green credentials.  Nokia states that: "Innovative bio-materials have been used in creating this handset" while, "even the sales box is made from 60% recycled materials."   Indeed, the company has taken its eco thinking further to include what it terms ‘intelligent charging' - a device which saves energy by only using electricity while actually charging.

The notion of applying a green practices to the charging of phones is one which has recently been further developed.  With a believed 51,000 chargers remaining unused, leading manufactures throughout the EU reached a landmark agreement to produce a universal charger, financially benefiting the consumer, and potentially decreasing what is held to be thousands of tonnes of wastage each year, created by old chargers being thrown away when phones are replaced.

In marketing terms, the benefits of a good ‘eco image' are undeniable.  Indeed, ABI Research has suggested that up to half of the US market takes environmental factors into account when making a purchase.  It may, of course, be argued that such models as the Naite and C901 GreenHeart are merely tapping into an already growing phenomena, being produced just in time to catch the eco friendly wave.  Certainly it creates a positive brand image, which, in an age of increasing public concern over climate change and environmental policies, is likely to positively impact sales.

And while the establishment of green credentials may lead to increased sales profits, the implementation of environmental practices can also significantly reduce costs within the individual company.  A recent Ovum report highlighted that the research and establishment of such stratagems and policies may initially be costly, but the long term operation of eco-friendly practices - so the report suggests - is certainly beneficial. 

At the same time membership organisations such as ATIS, which create "solutions that support the rollout of new products and services into the information, entertainment and communications marketplace", have certainly seen the benefits of boosting green credentials.  Indeed, in their Green Mission Statement, the organisation asserts that "ATIS and its members are committed to providing global leadership for the development of environmentally sustainable solutions for the information, entertainment, and communications industry.  The development of these innovative end-to-end solutions will: promote energy efficiencies; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; promote ‘reduce, reuse, recycle'; promote eco-aware sustainability and support the potential for societal benefits."
The use of energy is at the heart of any eco discussion, while energy costs, of course, are also a significant part of a provider's operating expenses.  So - for example - Ericsson's recent announcement that its network IP edge and metro platforms deliver the industry lowest energy consumption based on new metrics that measure how efficiently they can provide subscriber services, such as residential triple-play, not only suggests economic solutions, but also ecological ones.

Ericsson stresses that because energy usage accounts for up to 50% of operating expenses, and energy costs continue to rise while the demand for bandwidth-intensive services increases day-by-day, service providers need greater insight into how specific platforms use energy.

Based on the functions performed by each platform, Ericsson's new metrics provide practical views into energy efficiency, mapping energy usage granularly by subscriber and circuit. The new metrics are the latest sustainability effort from Ericsson, which in 2008 committed to providing up to a 40 % reduction in carbon emissions per subscriber across its product portfolio within five years. In addition to the focus on the IP edge and metro Ethernet, Ericsson has reported significant reductions in energy usage for its WCDMA radio base stations (an 80% improvement in energy efficiency from 2001 to 2008), for its mobile softswitch solution (60% more efficiency per subscriber), and for site power management.
Climate change, it may be fairly confidently argued, is now inevitable, so companies, as much as private consumers, would do well to take measures to reduce their carbon footprint.  Indeed, Ovum claims that: "Estimates suggest that telcos can achieve a 1-2% reduction in global carbon emissions by implementing green initiatives within their operations.  However, the telecommunications industry is expected to enable other businesses to reduce emissions by up to five times this amount, highlighting that telecoms has a major role to play in enabling a green economy."  Certainly, it appears that this industry is in an ideal position not merely to jump on the bandwagon but to lead the way to an improved and green global economy.

Alix Morley is a freelance writer.
alixmorley@hotmail.com

In the face of an economic downturn and cautious consumer spending, Peter Hauser  takes a look at the types of incentives that will guarantee mobile customers' loyalty

Despite well-publicised hopes to the contrary, the telecoms industry is not immune to the effects of the global economic downturn. Handset manufacturers expect unit sales to fall by at least ten per cent this year - fuelled by cautious consumer spending - while industry giants such as Vodafone and Nokia rang in the New Year by announcing redundancies. Some industry commentators argued that the mobile industry was essentially ‘recession proof', thanks in part to the fact that global mobile penetration is still rising fast. However, consumers in wealthier, saturated markets, are likely to re-evaluate their spending under the current economic circumstances. This year, we'll see people shopping around for cheaper deals and swapping out of contract. That is, of course, unless they're getting discernable value-add in return for their loyalty.

Customer churn is nothing new of course. Indeed, for as long as mobile operators have offered post paid contracts, they've been under constant pressure to retain customers, or reduce churn. And this knowledge, that building loyalty is one of the most critical challenges in the mobile telecoms service industry, will go some way to steer the industry through the challenges of operating in a recession.

We've seen lots of industry experts provide advice to operators who are working to increase customer loyalty. But the inevitable difficulty with any strategy to reduce churn is that it relies on anticipating consumer desires, whims and even fashions. No easy feat.

It is a widely held belief that mobile applications can help to increase customer loyalty or so called ‘stickiness'. Indeed, taking a recent high profile example, for all the work Apple has done to make the iPhone a success over the past year, many say that its future lies in the hands of application developers. Over the past 12 months, we've seen speedy growth in iPhone applications, which have turned the handsets into the most sought after devices, not just in mobile technology - but in personal computing too. The rest of the industry appears to have woken up to this challenge; and virtually every other major handset vendor company is setting up their own application store.

But choosing to deploy or develop an application also relies on anticipating customer behaviour and desire. Operators want to find the ‘next big thing', but don't want to be the victim of a fleeting fad. Indeed, the industry has concluded that there is no one killer application for mobiles - so how do operators attract and, more importantly, retain their subscribers?

We believe that the key to success is simplicity. Operators are missing a trick by overestimating the technical know-how of their customers. While there will always be a group of early adopters keen to embrace the latest gadgets and applications, they will be outnumbered by a substantial majority of mobile subscribers who only ever use their handset for making voice calls and sending texts.

With this in mind, we believe that the ‘stickiness' that operators crave comes from creating an environment on the handset that makes it easy for people to use their mobile for more, without being intimidated by the technology, and without entering a world of unknown costs. In short, simple and intuitive applications, which enable users to do more on the mobile and through the network, are ultimately the tools operators need in order to reduce churn.

If consumers will be less likely to try out new services, then applications must be highly compelling, viral and likely to generate word-of-mouth interest. The growth of the ‘casual gaming' market, for example, reflects this need. Last year, the casual games industry was estimated to be worth $2.25bn (£1.17bn) - unsurprising perhaps given that casual games appeal to consumers who are used to, and enjoy, playing games on their PCs.

Classic arcade games, which can be picked up easily and played with circles of friends, look likely to be the order of the day for operators. The most popular mobile games are Solitaire and Tetris - old school, basic games, which are addictive and easy to pick up. Savvy operators are opting to introduce ‘micropayments' where a basic game is promoted for free, and then add-ons (like characters or functions) are offered at an extra cost. The more levels and add-ons there are, the more likely it is that a consumer will play for the long term - and therefore remain a loyal customer for the operator.

Voice activated applications also look poised for success - as they provide a comfortable, ‘easy', way of interacting with a device in order to drive new services. Our own customer research has shown that voice services offer a good, transitionary, way to engage new users and drive adoption. Corporate giants like Google have been quick to capitalise on this trend - with applications like a voice activated search application for the iPhone. Google's service makes searching the web easy and accessible, particularly for use on the move. Location Based Services (LBS) have long been touted as providing consumers with useful information on the move, and combining LBS with voice recognition tools seems to be a route to quick success.

For any voice recognition service, though, quality of service will be key to driving adoption. Developers, or operators themselves, should be prepared to work with the industry's best partners to ensure adequate quality of service - particularly as operators look to penetrate new markets, which naturally call for support for other languages. Companies like Nuance and Qpointer are leading the way to ensure good quality voice recognition. Indeed, Nuance says that its Dragon NaturallySpeaking product turns voice into text three times faster than most people type - with up to 99 per cent accuracy.

But as well as quality, operators must ensure that applications are priced fairly and competitively. Just this week, guidelines for application developers were released on pricing applications for BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM). These were set significantly higher than iPhone applications - a development which is bound to disgruntle some BlackBerry owners.

But developing, and rolling out, more costly applications is an understandable move. After all, more expensive applications are a sure-fire way to create revenue and keep both operators and application developers in business. Business related applications, or premium games services, naturally command a higher price - and if users can see the benefit, or need, for these services, they'll continue to invest. But a balance needs to be struck. Transparency - and one off payments - are the order of the day. Helping consumers understand their bills and what they'll be paying each month will help generate a level of trust and loyalty between consumer and operator. Flat rate data tariffs will also be key to driving web-based applications - vital as the smartphone or mobile computer market blossoms.

Finally, marketing will continue to be of vital importance for operators wanting to attract new customers and retain current subscribers. Adopting better customer relationship management procedures and employing targeted, personalised, marketing will bring an operator closer to its customer - and help build an understanding of services and applications which are needed and relevant. It's important for operators to focus on the wants and needs of users, more so now than ever before. No longer will consumers have expendable cash to ‘experiment with', so it's key to focus on what will work, what will appeal - and importantly what is easy to use. In short, 2009 is going to be a tough year for mobile operators - but the ones who keep their services simple, targeted and fair are poised to ride out the global recession, and ultimately succeed.

Peter Hauser is CEO, me2me
www.me2me.com

    

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