End-to-end transaction data is increasingly being recognised as the not-so-secret sauce required for full-flavoured telco transformation. If so, it should be treated with the reverence it deserves, Thomas Sutter, CEO of data collection and correlation specialist, Nexus Telecom tells Ian Scales
Nexus Telecom is a performance and service assurance specialist in the telecom OSS field. It is privately held, based in Switzerland and was founded in 1994. With 120 employees and about US$30 million turnover, Nexus Telecom can fairly be described as a 'niche' player within a niche telecom market. However, heavyweights amongst its 200 plus customers include Vodafone, T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom.
It does most of its business in Europe and has found its greatest success in the mobile market. The core of its offer to telcos involves a range of network monitoring probes and service and revenue assurance applications, which telcos can use to plan network capacity, identify performance trends and problems and to verify service levels. Essentially, says CEO, Thomas Sutter, Nexus Telecom gathers event data from the network - from low-level network stats, right up to layer 7 applications transactions - verifies, correlates and aggregates it and generally makes it digestible for both its own applications and those delivered by other vendors. What's changing, though, is the importance of such end-to-end transaction data.
Nexus Telecom is proud of its 'open source approach' to the data it extracts from its customers' networks and feels strongly that telcos must demand similar openness from all their suppliers if the OSS/BSS field is to develop properly. Instead of allowing proprietary approaches to data collection and use at network, service and business levels respectively, Sutter says the industry must support an architecture with a central transaction record repository capable of being easily interrogated by the growing number of business and technical applications that demand access. It's an idea whose time may have come. According to Sutter, telcos are increasingly grasping the idea that data collection, correlation and aggregation is not just an activity that will help you tweak the network, it's about using data to control the business. The term 'transformation' is being increasingly used in telecom.
As currently understood it usually means applying new thinking and new technology in equal measure: not just to do what you already do slightly better or cheaper, but to completely rethink the corporate approach and direction, and maybe even the business model itself.
There is a growing conviction that telco transformation through the use of detailed end-to-end transaction data to understand and interact with specific customers has moved from interesting concept to urgent requirement as new competitors, such as Google and eBay, enter the telecom market, as it were, pre-transformed. Born and bred on the Internet, their sophisticated use of network and applications data to inform and drive customer interaction is not some new technique, cleverly adopted and incorporated, but is completely integral to the way they understand and implement their business activities. If they are to survive and prosper, telcos have to catch up and value data in a similar way. Sutter says some are, but some are still grappling with the concepts.
"Today I can talk to customers who believe that if they adopt converged networks with IP backbones, then the only thing they need do to stay ahead in the business is to build enough bandwidth into the core of the network, believing that as long as they have enough bandwidth everything will be OK."
This misses the point in a number of ways, claims Sutter.
"Just because the IP architecture is simple doesn't mean that the applications and supply chain we have to run over it are simple - in fact it's rather the other way about. The 'simple' network requires that the supporting service layers have to be more complex because they have to do more work."
And in an increasingly complex telco business environment, where players are engaged with a growing number of partners to deliver services and content, understanding how events ripple across networks and applications is crucial.
"The thing about this business is not just about what you're doing in your own network - it's about what the other guy is doing with his. We are beginning to talk about our supply chains. In fact the services are generating millions of them every day because supply chains happen automatically when a service, let's say a voice call over an IP network, gets initiated, established, delivered and then released again. These supply chains are highly complex and you need to make sure all the events have been properly recorded and that your customer services are working as they should. That's the first thing, but there's much more than that. Telcos need to harness network data - I call them 'transactions' - to develop their businesses."
Sutter thinks the telecom industry still has a long way to go to understand how important end-to-end transaction data will be.
"Take banking. Nobody in that industry has any doubt that they should know every single detail on any part of a transaction. In telecoms we've so far been happy to derive statistics rather than transaction records. Statistics that tell us if services are up and running or if customers are generally happy. We are still thinking about how much we need to know, so we are at the very beginning of this process."
So end-to-end transaction data is important and will grow in importance. How does Nexus Telecom see itself developing with the market?
"When you look at what vendors deliver from their equipment domains it becomes obvious that they are not delivering the right sort of information. They tend to deliver a lot of event data in the form of alarms and they deliver performance data - layer 1 to layer 4 - all on a statistical basis. This tells you what's happening so you can plan network capacity and so on. But these systems never, ever go to layer 7 and tell you about transaction details - we can.
"Nexus Telecom uses passive probes (which just listen to traffic rather than engage interactively with network elements) which we can deploy independently of any vendor and sidestep interoperability problems. Our job is to just listen so all we need is for the equipment provider to implement the protocols in compliance with the given standards."
So given that telcos are recognising the need to gather and store, what's the future OSS transaction record architecture going to look like?
"I think people are starting to understand it's important that we only collect the data once and then store it in an open way so that different departments and organisations can access it at the granularity and over the time intervals they require, and in real (or close to real) time. So that means that our approach and the language we use must change. Where today we conceptualise data operating at specific layers - network, service and business - I can see us developing an architecture which envisages all network data as a single collection which can be used selectively by applications operating at any or all of those three layers. So we will, instead, define layers to help us organise the transaction record lifecycle. I envisage a collection layer orchestrating transaction collection, correlation and aggregation. Then we could have a storage layer, and finally some sort of presentation layer so that data can be assembled in an appropriate format for its different constituencies - the marketing people, billing people, management guys, network operation guys and so on, each of which have their own particular requirements towards being in control of the service delivery chain. Here you might start to talk about OSS/BSS Convergence."
Does he see his company going 'up the stack' to tackle some of these applications in the future.
"It is more important to have open interfaces around this layering. We think our role at Nexus Telecom is to capture, correlate, aggregate and pre-process data and then stream or transfer it in the right granularity and resolution to any other open system."
Sutter thinks the supplier market is already evolving in a way that makes sense for this model.
"If you look at the market today you see there are a lot of companies - HP, Telcordia, Agilent and Arantech, just to name a few - who are developing all sorts of tools to do with customer experience or service quality data warehouses. We're complementary since these players don't want to be involved in talking to network elements, capturing data or being in direct connection with the network. Their role is to provide customised information such as specific service-based KPIs (key performance indicators) to a very precise set of users, and they just want a data source for that."
So what needs to be developed to support this sort of role split between suppliers? An open architecture for the exchange of data between systems is fundamental, says Sutter. In the past, he says, the ability of each vendor to control the data generated by his own applications was seen as fundamental to his own business model and was jealously guarded. Part of this could be attributed to the old-fashioned instinct to 'lock in' customers.
"They had to ask the original vendor to build another release and another release just to get access to their own data," he says. But it was also natural caution. "You would come along and ask, 'Hey guys, can you give me access to your database?', the response would be 'Woah, don't touch my database. If you do then I can't guarantee performance and reliability.' This was the problem for all of us and that's why we have to get this open architecture. If the industry accepts the idea of open data repositories as a principle, immediately all the vendors of performance management systems, for instance, will have to cut their products into two pieces. One piece will collect the data, correlate and aggregate it, the second will run the application and the presentation to the user. At the split they must put in a standard interface supporting standards such as JMS, XML or SNMP. That way they expose an open interface at the join so that data may be stored in an open data to the repository as well as exchanged with their own application. When telcos demand this architecture, the game changes. Operators will begin to buy separate best in class products for collecting the data and presenting it and this will be a good thing for the entire industry. After all, why should I prevent my customer having the full benefit of the data I collect for him just because I'm not as good in the presentation and applications layer as I am in the collection layer? If an operator is not happy with a specific reporting application on service quality and wants to replace it, why should he always loose the whole data collection and repository for that application at the same time?"
With the OSS industry both developing and consolidating, does Nexus Telecom see itself being bought out by a larger OSS/BSS player looking for a missing piece in its product portfolio?
"Nexus Telecom is a private company so we think long-term and we grow at between 10 and 20 per cent each year, investing what we earn. In this industry, when you are focusing on a specialisation such as we are, the business can be very volatile and, on a quarter-by-quarter basis, it sometimes doesn't look good from a stock market perspective."
But if a public company came along and offered a large amount of money? "Well, I'm not sure. The thing is that our way of treating customers, our long-term thinking and our stability would be lost if we were snapped up by a large vendor. Our customers tend to say things like 'I know you won't come through my door and tell me that someone somewhere in the US has decided to buy this and sell that and therefore we have to change strategy.' Having said that, every company is for sale for the right price, but it would have to be a good price."
So where can Nexus Telecom go from here? Is there an opportunity to apply the data collection and correlation expertise to sectors outside telecom, for instance?
"Well, the best place to go is just next door and for us that's the enterprise network. The thing is, enterprise networks are increasingly being outsourced to outsourcing companies, which then complete the circle and essentially become operators. So again we're seeing some more convergence and any requirement for capturing, correlating and aggregating of transactions on the network infrastructure is a potential market for us. In the end I think everything will come together: there will be networks and operators of networks and they will need transaction monitoring. But at the moment we're busy dealing with the transition to IP - we have to master the technology there first.”
Ian Scales is a freelance communications journalist.
To compete effectively in Denmark’s mobile market, Telenor Sonofon relies on a unique way to secure customer loyalty. The operator avoids impersonal and costly direct marketing campaigns by using Agillic’s Post-Paid CLM Business Solution to create an individualised, one-to-one relationship with each high value post-paid customer. This approach has significantly improved customer relations, reduced churn and increased overall ARPU.
“Without Agillic’s solution Telenor Sonofon was unable to effectively execute its one-to-one communication strategy. We wanted to take advantage of the in-depth knowledge we held on our customers to enable us to enter into consistent intelligent dialogues across all our communication channels. We believed this approach would have a positive effect on our churn levels,” explained Martin Kildgaard Nelson, CRM Manager, from Telenor Sonofon. “We were right. Having the ability to automatically advise and educate each customer on the services and products that matches his needs transformed the way we were able to communicate with our customers.”
Agillic’s technology solves this lack of transparency. ”The CLM solution supports successful customer interactions driven by business rules and real time event and behaviour triggers, which gives our customers the empowerment to initiate their own dialogues. Telenor Sonofon responds automatically, with relevant messages which can be reinforced simultaneously through multiple touch points such as MMS, SMS, e-mail and the Internet,” said Martin. “We now create ongoing learning relationships with each customer through the use of both historical data and real time interactions from a central system which has been instrumental in gaining user loyalty and trust.”
Telenor Sonofon uses a number of innovative campaigns to encourage customers to join its loyalty programme. The results have exceeded expectations. “We initially hoped for a 20 per cent registration rate. Within a year, over 35 per cent of our post-paid customers signed up to our loyalty programme,” said Martin. “The churn rate also dropped significantly – among the lowest in the Danish wireless market.”
This success was driven by Agillic’s technology. Concludes Martin: “We noticed a 50 per cent churn reduction with our post-paid campaign and a 5 -10 per cent increase in APRU. This was the biggest success of all of our marketing promotions. These figures are undeniable proof that Agillic’s Post-paid CLM Business Solution provides excellent business results.”
To read the full Telenor Sonofon case study, log on to European Communication’s website www.eurocomms.co.uk
Two trials conducted by Qualcomm and BSkyB in laboratory and ‘live’ settings in and around Cambridge and Manchester have confirmed the performance claims made of the MediaFLO mobile broadcast technology. The trial featured 11 channels from BSkyB delivered to non-commercial devices from Qualcomm. Factors such as total throughput, single frequency network (SFN), network acquisition, channel switching time, layered modulation and video codec performance were all evaluated.
The trial aimed to test various technical performance claims for the MediaFLO system and perform comparative analysis against DVB-H. To this end all comparative laboratory measurements were based on common test equipment for MediaFLO and DVB-H, while drive test routes for DVB-H and MediaFLO were nominally the same. The result was a thorough technical analysis of FLO technology’s capabilities, confirming pervious performance claims about the MediaFLO system.
From a technical perspective the trial showed that the FLO physical layer performs as well as or better than previously claimed, with laboratory and field performance results in substantial agreement. Comparatively, whether in the laboratory or in the field, the DVB-H physical layer underperformed the FLO physical layer by around 4.5dB.
Results At A Glance:
• MediaFLO physical layer field performance was around 4.5 dB overall better for non-layered modes with comparable bit per second per hertz capacity
• dB advantage could allow a MediaFLO network to either cover twice the geographical area per transmitter when applying modes of equal capacity - resulting in a substantial reduction in network expense - or provide double the service offering on a channel count basis for a constant cell size with the same spectrum and transmitter deployment
• Testing demonstrated that MediaFLO is capable of supporting 20 channels of QVGA video and stereo audio in a single 5MHz spectrum allocation. This can be scaled for an 8MHz UHF channel. This performance represents a 20 per cent increase in channels relative to prior performance claims of 20 video channels per 6 MHz channel
Great changes are afoot in the telecoms industry – offering considerable potential to industry players, while current achievements deserve to be celebrated now. Lynd Morley looks back at TMW Nice
It was a year of ‘firsts’ for the TM Forum in Nice this Spring. The theme of the show, for instance, moved away, for the first time, from a purely telecoms focus to one that not only recognised, but actively embraced, the massive changes which are bringing communications, information and entertainment services together into a huge pot of convergence.
Commenting on these development, TM Forum President, Martin Creaner, noted: “The pace of change is such that it is becoming hard to define the ‘telecom’ industry any more, and it’s just as hard to define the cable or media industries either. I think we are truly witnessing the birth of a telecom/cable/media/web ecosystem.” Certainly the range of companies from these various industries attending the event – including Time-Warner, Virgin Media, UPC Broadband and Disney, in addition to the usual suspects from the telecom OSS/BSS world – underlined the expansion of the TM Forum’s remit, while the keynote speakers, including MIT Media Lab’s Nicholas Negroponte, discussing his One Laptop Per Child initiative, and Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group UK pointing to the changes in the advertising industry which are being brought about by online advertising, underlined the event’s breadth of vision.
The atmosphere of collaboration was also emphasised by the TM Forum’s own new collaborative ventures. Following the OSS through Java Initiative’s (OSS/J) decision in early 2006 to join with the TM Forum, the organisation’s determination to expand its scope and reach was further emphasised at TMW by the announcement that it would be merging with two more organisations – the Global Billing Association (GBA) and the Internet Protocol Detail Record Organisation (IPDR). Commenting on the announcement, Alex Leslie, GBA CEO, noted: “We seemed to be looking at the same kind of issues from different angles. Given that the BSS and OSS industries really need to converge, it makes enormous sense for us to work together.”
Collaboration was undoubtedly the ‘plat du jour’ in Nice where, among the many conference sessions – covering the six broad topics of Business Transformation, Convergence, Customer and Services, IT and Operations, Systems and Software, and Billing and Revenue Management – not to mention the many hospitality events and the two exhibition halls, senior executives from many of the world’s largest providers of telecom and cable services, network operators and content providers managed to get together to discuss how best to collaborate to drive down the integration tax.
Another ‘first’ this year, were the TM Forum Awards, presented at an evening ceremony – complete with formal dinner and attendees looking resplendent in black tie and evening dress. Steve Fratini of Telcordia was presented with the rarely conferred honour of distinguished fellow of the TM Forum, while BT was the first winner of an award noting exceptional contribution to the organisation. Given the youth of the awards, and the obvious delight of the recipients, here is a list of the winning companies:
Best practice award for a service provider – Korea Telecom
Best practice award for a supplier – Progress Software
Prosspero award for TM Forum standards adoption by a supplier – Hewlett-Packard
Prosspero award for TM Forum standards adoption by a service provider – BT
Best Catalyst for TM World 2007 – the Product and Services Assembly Project
Most innovative supplier – Highdeal
Best new OSS or BSS product – Arantech.
Outsourcing hardware developments to technology consultants can give the best chance of success, and could help to avoid many sleepless nights, according to Tim Fergus
The world of electronic hardware and product development is a challenging environment. From small start up companies right through to large multinationals, the need to meet ever changing user requirements and launch products in a timely, cost effective fashion is key to long term success. The drive for the latest function or increased performance drives the development process with unrelenting urgency. With such pressures the need to succeed is paramount and may well dictate the future of the company.
This has to be balanced with the need to keep staff costs down and often companies will find they are resource limited and need to look for assistance outside. This can take many forms but the most common is to use external short-term employees or contractors to cope with excessive peaks of demand. In some instances the complete outsourcing of a work package of complete development itself may make sense. This can be an effective method for a very targeted work package.
The challenge in contracting work is to ensure that the quality and delivery of the work package or complete development is done in timely fashion. This will ultimately depend on the contractor chosen, how they interact with the client organisation and the level of responsibility they offer.
This begs the question – how to ensure that contracting out work results in the greatest chance for success with the least intervention?
By taking ownership and responsibility for your hardware development, technology consultants (TC) can offer the best chance of success while delivering value beyond that expected.
For effective outsourcing of development work, the TC needs to possess key skills and abilities in addition to focus and drive. These can be highly effective at delivering results in short timescale.
By understanding not only the work to be done, but also the clients’ requirements and future needs, the TC is ideally placed to drive progress where it matters. Such an understanding drives the project forward to completion in a controlled and rapid way. This breeds confidence and ensures that the job is delivered in a short time as possible while minimising costs.
Consultants are sometimes visualised as being removed from the action; report writing and advisory in nature rather than actually doing the work. TCs are, however, more practically focused. Effectively, they are professional contract engineering services at the sharp end of development. Their wide breath of knowledge allows them to go from top-level system definition to implementing hardware, often working directly on the bench with a soldering iron.
Whereas individual may focus on specific tasks, TCs can take a much higher level of responsibility, in both their time management and the product development. Effectively they take ownership of the project until completion. This becomes much more important when the work to be done is a discrete package or even a complete product development. TCs can also provide direction to other sub-contractors/short-term individuals employed by the client, or even direct to client staff. This frees up the client and removes the burden of day-to-day resource management.
Consultants are generally broad in their experience and understanding. They may not be familiar with your product or technology, but the ability to learn rapidly will result in them delivering insight and value in a short time. Such flexibility is the key for the consultant’s survival in a rapidly changing world, which benefits the client. A larger consulting firm will offer many talented individuals – something the client will appreciate. This removes the need for careful and painstaking contractor selection; this has already been done by the TC company. They are that rare breed of excellent engineers with the business acumen and drive to succeed.
TC’s are keen to ask questions and take a view from outside and above the project. They don’t accept what they are told without questioning the reasoning behind the decision process. Such insight can be invaluable on projects and gives a helicopter view of how everything fits in – or does not! In many cases the simple questions are the one to ask. They know the bounds on what is possible and will flag up unreasonable assumptions.
In general large TC firms have expertise outside the technology or industry in which they normally work. For example a consultant doing hardware development may be able to access experts in IT, project management, change management, strategy and planning. It is best to use a TC that has a department or practice that fits with the technology to be developed. In some instances a TC firm will have its own specialist test equipment which may be available for use on client site or for use on the client project.
In some instances a complete development of software, hardware, industrial design and product fabrication, test and approvals can be conducted by a single TC firm. The ability to work in an integrated multi-disciplinary team is key to delivering quality product designs. Even smaller firms can offer these services when subcontracted out to partners, however, if possible, it is best to keep all skills in one place. Co-location is the key for team dynamics to be optimum.
On paper at least, TC firms can seem more expensive than contractors from other sources. This is however not true if you consider the value added to the project. Often the use of TCs can shorten development timescales, free up other members of client staff, or help with strategy and vision. When you consider such benefits, the true value can be
Tim Fergus is a Principal Consultant with PA Consulting’s Wireless Technology Practice, and can be contacted via: tel +44 1763 267492;
e-mail: innovation @paconsulting.com
Inline and out-of-band LAN security appliances offer different levels of functionality. Understanding these differences is key to selecting the right product for your organisation, says Jeff Prince
The local-area network (LAN) has emerged as a security risk, subject to insider misuse, as well as external attacks. Threats can arise from a number of aspects including rogue hosts on wireless, guests plugging into open ports in a conference room, contractors or partners needing access to corporate resources and the continued movement of laptops between the corporate LAN and the Internet. At the same time, malware is escalating because attacks are easier to build, faster to spread and motivated by financial gain.
The IT department finds itself providing more points of access into the LAN without compromising systems and data. In response to these challenges, vendors have developed a variety of LAN security devices. Enterprises looking to secure their LANs will find these platforms readily available and easy to deploy within an existing network infrastructure.
LAN security devices fall into two broad classes - those that operate inline and those that operate out-of-band. Inline platforms are deployed between the wiring closet switch and the network core and are distributed throughout a network, close to users. They function as both a policy decision point and an enforcement device, because they sit in the stream of network traffic.
Out-of-band LAN security appliances are centrally located and typically connect to a switch in the core. They are not directly in the flow of traffic and therefore act as a policy decision point, with enforcement being delegated to other infrastructure devices, usually the wiring closet switch in the distribution layer.
Inline and out-of-band LAN security devices differ in terms of their interoperability with existing infrastructure, the security services they support, and the operational issues they pose.
A LAN security device must protect the LAN from both internal and external risks. To be effective, the platform should support key functions including network admission control (NAC), traffic visibility, post-admission control, and malware control.
NAC includes authentication and host posture check. It allows the IT department to verify that users are who they say they are and the machine they are using complies with corporate standards (for example, running an approved operating system with current patches and fixes and an updated anti-virus program). The best devices incorporate NAC that:
- Supports both active and passive authentication
- Influences existing identity stores for authentication
- Identifies a user’s role as part of authentication, which is essential for applying control policies to that user following admission to the network
- Provides ubiquitous host posture check that applies to all classes of users, including employees, contractors and visitors - without burdening IT
- Works with multiple host agents
- Supports hosts not under enterprise control
Traffic visibility is a pre-requisite for access control and auditing, because devices cannot control what they cannot see. Look for the level of visibility granularity that will deliver the level of control your business needs. For granular control, a LAN security platform must:
- Tie all LAN traffic to the user and not simply to IP or MAC addresses
- Provide key user data, including login/logout time, applications run and resources reached
- Perform deep packet inspection on all flows and not just sampled traffic
- Retain statistics about all flows for regulatory compliance and accounting purposes
- Track security incidents, including those relating to host posture checks, policy violations, authentication failures and malware events
- Provide real-time and historical data
- Provide an aggregated view of the LAN's security health
In terms of traffic visibility, inline and out-of-band LAN security appliances offer significantly different capabilities. Inline devices have the capacity to see everything that goes by because they sit in the flow of traffic and out-of-band appliances have no visibility into ongoing LAN traffic.
Post-admission policies provide control over where users go and what resources they can access once they are admitted onto the network. For the most granular security, a LAN security platform should provide post-admission control functionality that:
- Ties all LAN activity back to specific users – this link enables the IT department to define rights and permissions, as well as control and enforcement actions, based on a user’s role in the organisation
- Supports universal access control – this architecture ensures the correct rights and permissions are applied to all users, regardless of the access method used, or location from which they attach to the LAN
Post-admission control capabilities of inline versus out-of-band security appliances vary greatly. If designed with comprehensive traffic visibility, an inline device can apply per-flow packet handling, allowing for granular control based on user, group, and application, even layer 7 content. Since enforcement is built in, the platform is able to inspect user traffic and apply controls at LAN speed.
Lacking traffic visibility, out-of-band appliances are limited in their access control capabilities. In addition, since out-of-band appliances are dependent on distribution switches for policy enforcement, they have limited enforcement control over user traffic.
Malware detection and blocking provides the IT department another tool for protecting the LAN. Worms, viruses, bots, spyware and other malware can wreak havoc with network availability. Comprehensive post-admission traffic visibility and control is required to contain malware. When evaluating a LAN security appliance for malware control, look for devices that:
- Granularly block bad traffic. For example, giving the IT department the flexibility to block all traffic from an infected user or just the infected application
- Recognise and contain ‘zero-hour’ attacks
- Operate close to the host to limit the spread of malware and minimise system and network damage
Inline LAN security platforms can scan for malware and therefore have the ability to continuously monitor traffic in real-time. Operating inline enables this class of device to respond quickly and directly apply enforcement actions.
Out-of-band appliances cannot perform malware control, as they have no traffic visibility once a user has been admitted onto the LAN.
It is important to evaluate a LAN security appliance for its potential impact on network and IT operations, specifically whether it impacts LAN performance, or the IT departments’ ability to troubleshoot the network.
Out-of-band LAN security appliances generally don’t affect LAN performance.
In contrast, inline devices must have high performance characteristics to keep up with LAN traffic at line speed and perform functions such as deep packet inspection and continuous real-time monitoring and enforcement.
Inline devices that rely on off-the-shelf processors will not be able to sustain gigabit speeds and are likely to negatively impact LAN performance.
In terms of troubleshooting, inline platforms have the advantage of being simpler to manage and troubleshoot than out-of-band devices, because they combine policy decision and enforcement functions in a single box. With out-of-band appliances, the IT department must determine which device, the LAN security appliance or switch, is the source of a problem.
In selecting a LAN security appliance, IT and security personnel need to consider the range of internal and external threats their LAN faces, along with the specific requirements of their organisation. Which appliance is best will depend on a number of factors, including the set of security services desired, the granularity of traffic visibility and control needed and where in the network IT prefers to implement their LAN security.
Organisations that want only admission control will find good options among both out-of-band and inline. Businesses that want to implement more post-admission controls should focus on inline devices, since out-of-band appliances are much more limited in these functions.
Regardless of architectural approach, the IT department needs to move quickly to protect against LAN security risks.
Jeff Prince is CTO, ConSentry Networks
From its roots as a broadcast technology conference and exhibition, IBC has evolved to become a leading event focussed on the creation, management and delivery of content for the entertainment industry. Ian Volans takes a look at what will be on offer at the show this year
Like telecommunications, the broadcast television sector is living through a period of rapid change. Audiences are fragmenting as the handful of national channels that originally broadcast on analogue migrate to digital terrestrial transmitters, and accommodate new services. At the same time, high definition is increasing the quality expectations of viewers and changing production techniques.
Even in countries where multi-channel satellite pay-TV and cable add to the competitive mix, broadband is challenging the status quo with the introduction of a new distribution channel for television and video entertainment. And with virtually every European adolescent and adult carrying a mobile, the concept of watching television on the “fourth screen” is beginning to gain traction, if more slowly than the mobile industry would like.
In the face of this changing landscape, the IBC 2007 conference and exhibition continues to advance, reflecting new technologies and commercial realities.
Broadcasting by broadband
Mobile has been a recurring theme in IBC’s conference in recent years. In 2007, the growing importance of IPTV and the distribution of video content over the Internet will be reflected in the opening theme day of the conference, Broadcasting by Broadband on Thursday 6th September.
After several false dawns, broadband now offers a delivery channel that offers an alternative to the traditional television and radio broadcast business model. Broadcasting by Broadband will explore how broadband providers, which are more closely aligned to telcos than to broadcasters, will affect the broadcast landscape.
Regulators, equipment manufacturers, service providers and content owners are all stakeholders in this developing new world of interactive multimedia, but the rules are not yet fully understood. Each technology has its proponents, but they are more focussed on competition than co-operation. The end users – consumers - have a desire for the content they want, at the quality they want, in the place they want, at the time they want it.
The opening theme day for IBC2007 will begin with a jargon-free technical description and analysis of DSL, WiFi, WiMax, Powerline, ultra wide band, digital terrestrial, digital satellite and mobile TV to provide a comprehensive understanding of the technologies, their capabilities and their role in a business plan.
A business environment session will look at regulation and finance; at the implications of telcos and ISPs being successful in challenging for spectrum released as terrestrial services go digital; and how the regulation of content developed for broadcast may be applied to broadband delivery. The day will conclude with case studies from organisations already providing a mix of services, including broadcast radio and television, over various broadband-enabled platforms.
The latest developments in mobile TV and video consumption will be a central strand in the Digital Lifestyles - media to your home or on the move conference theme day on Saturday 8th September.
As the communications and media industries converge, opportunities to serve the digital home expand. This is just part of a broader trend towards a digital lifestyle, characterised by media on the move, digital delivery of media to the home and accessible media storage within the home.
Whether it is broadcast, webcast or user-generated, all content is increasingly contributing to the growth phenomenon of social networking. This presents new challenges to the traditional business models of broadcasters and advertisers. The interplay of the four screens – cinema, television, computer and mobile - demands cross-platform media solutions.
The Digital Lifestyle theme day brings together case studies and guidance that address the options for repurposing content for different networks, consumption environments and storage; the DRM challenges of cross-platform delivery; the potential impact of the one billion mobile phones shipped in 2006 - and again in 2007 - on media capture and delivery; and the growth of a possible fifth screen – in-car navigation devices.
As well as exploring new media opportunities and challenges within the conference, mobile and IPTV technologies also feature strongly in the exhibition.
In 2005, a dedicated Mobile Zone was created within the IBC exhibition to provide an opportunity for application developers, content providers and technology companies to showcase their capabilities at the centre of the broadcast industry's leading international event. It doubled in size in 2006, and will be bigger again in 2007.
Mobile Zone exhibitors are diverse and drawn from across the ecosystem that is rapidly growing up around mobile TV and video. This year’s exhibitors range from designers and turnkey suppliers of end-to-end mobile TV broadcast networks such as ENENSYS Technologies and LARCAN to weComm, the company that developed the Sky Anytime on Mobile solution that enables users of 120 different mobile devices to access the UK satellite broadcaster’s content. Frontier Silicon, expects to use IBC to unveil a multi-standard RF & baseband system-on-a-chip that will be vital to delivering economies of scale in mobile TV handsets when the addressable market is fragmented with a variety of broadcast standards deployed in different countries.
Qualcomm will be present in the Mobile Zone for the third year running. While in much of Europe deployment of broadcast mobile TV is stalled pending the release of digital dividend spectrum, Qualcomm is progressively rolling-out its MediaFLO network across the US. At a mobile TV conference in March, Jeff Brown, Head of Global Strategy and Development for Qualcomm cited forecasts from Wall Street analysts Bernstein Research that suggest that MediaFLO could become the world’s largest single multi-channel pay TV platform within five years. By the time of IBC in September, Qualcomm may be in a position to provide a progress report on its US venture.
New in 2007, the IPTV Zone will provide an opportunity to explore the technologies and developments that are allowing broadband providers to compete with traditional broadcast distribution. Exhibitors in the inaugural IPTV Zone encompass big broadcast names such as Grass Valley; global technology players like Texas Instruments; middleware specialists such as MHP software solutions provider Osmosys; and HD set-top-box specialists ADB and Vidanti.
Some Zone exhibitors have relevance across mobile and IPTV. Snell & Willcox, renowned for its image processing conversion and compression technologies, is adapting its expertise to improve image quality or increase channel capacity across wireless, IPTV and Internet delivery platforms. For broadcasters or carrier providers who need to repurpose content for multiple distribution methods, the company’s iCR automated content repurposing workstation can simultaneously create separate outputs optimised for IPTV and mobile TV.
Conceived to complement the peer-reviewed IBC Conference, a programme of Business Briefings provides an opportunity for companies exhibiting in the two Zones to share their experiences with any IBC delegate, visitor or exhibitor. Each day of the free-admission Business Briefings begins with a presentation from an independent analyst on the current state-of-play to provide context for the Briefings that follow.
M:Metrics, a pioneer in the study of consumer consumption of multimedia content on mobile devices, will introduce the Mobile Business Briefings, while Decipher, one of Europe’s brightest new digital media consultancies will introduce the IPTV Business Briefings.
IBC 2007, RAI Amsterdam: Conference 6-10 September; Exhibition 7-11 September. More information: www.ibc.org
Ian Volans is Mobile Consultant to IBC
As the Mobile Digital TV (MDTV) market begins to ramp up, numerous new broadcast standards and technologies have emerged, creating a highly fragmented market. The subject of whether mobile TV will become a reality is no longer in question, but the issues of ‘how’ and ‘where’ this will happen remain to be seen. Will Europe eventually emerge as a unified mobile TV zone, or will it be split among several different technologies? Alon Ironi takes a look
There are currently more than ten competing broadcast MDTV technologies worldwide, including those under development. These are DVB-T, DVB-H, DVB-SH, MediaFLO, DAB, T-DMB, DAB-IP, TMMB, ISDB-T, CMMB and DMBT – which are deployed over multiple spectrum bands – VHF, UHF and at least two slices of “L” band and the “S” band for satellite broadcasting.
The implications of the multi-standard reality mean that operators and handset manufacturers require maximum flexibility. In a traditional cellular communications market, operators are in charge of the entire operation from A to Z – the network, the infrastructure and everything required for delivering services to the consumer. The MDTV market operates differently. Cellular operators do not build the networks and infrastructure but instead follow a TV service provider model, where broadcasters such as T-Systems, Swisscom Broadcast and Mediaset install the mobile TV network, including infrastructure, towers and content aggregation. Operators will then buy the service from the TV service provider to bring it to the end user as a commercial service. Even though operators each have a preference for standards, they need the flexibility to work with two or more different MDTV service providers to create competition and get a better deal. Phone manufacturers also want the ability to sell their phones in multiple countries or in countries where there is more than one MDTV standard – requiring a multi-standard phone supported by a multi-standard receiver chips. For handset manufacturers, multi-standard chips present an opportunity to streamline hardware and software design while reducing the overall design cycle and R&D costs. With a multi-standard chip, manufacturers can invest in one platform, which can then yield several commercial models for different standards.
Therefore how Europe’s fragmented MDTV market will evolve in the next few years will ultimately impact the strategy of local operators and handset manufacturers. Taking a look at the current and recent European MDTV rollout – conclusions can be drawn about which direction Europe is moving in vis-à-vis unification of MDTV broadcasting standards.
European MDTV overview
Telecom Italia’s introduction of commercial MDTV services, together with the birth of free-to-air DTV within Europe, firmly kick-started Europe’s MDTV efforts in 2006.
The DVB-H standard made a moderately successful debut in Italy during the 2006 soccer world cup event, achieving over half a million users in a period of nine months. Telecom Italia currently offers DVB-H mobile TV services in over 2500 towns and cities across Italy and is aiming for over 1 million subscribers by the end of 2008. H3 is also competing for customers in Italy, again offering MDTV over the DVB-H network. Three leading handset manufacturers, LG, Samsung and ZTE are enabling end-users in Italy to receive the DVB-H signal, and a range of new consumer handheld devices are emerging in Italy, already integrated with the relevant DVB-H receiver chips ready to support local MDTV. However, outside of Italy different countries within Europe are dabbling with various other standards.
British Telecom had developed a new broadcasting standard called DAB-IP, a derivative of the DAB family. However, it’s commercial rollout in the UK with Virgin Mobile in October 2006 turned out to be a failure, with limited reception and poor picture quality resulting in disgruntled consumers. But the UK was already exploring other opportunities, having trialled DVB-H with O2 in early 2006 and teaming up with Qualcomm and BSkyB to trial MediaFLO across certain towns in the UK in the latter half of the year. Results were positive across the board, with 85 per cent of 375 users satisfied with the DVB-H service (providing around 16 channels) – and 72 per cent indicating willingness to start paying for it. The MediaFLO trial also achieved promising results – showing superior channel switching time to DVB-H.
Germany presents a slightly unique picture within the European framework. Enjoying around 82 per cent DAB coverage nationwide, T-DMB commercial rollout began in time for the FIFA World Cup in June 2006 through operators Debitel, Mobilcom, Vodafone, E-Plus and O2 and handset providers Samsung. Although user adoption was disappointing (only 3000 handsets sold), a second stage is planned that will use additional channels and more devices to entice users. Like a few other countries within Europe with strong deployment of DAB radio, such as the UK, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland and Denmark, the existing DAB infrastructure in Germany makes it easier, and cheaper, to deploy T-DMB or DAB-IP. Despite this, Germany is still poised to become a DVB-H country with leading German operator, T-Systems, opting to trial DVB-H also during the FIFA world cup in 2006. With strong indoor and outdoor coverage, a wide selection of channels and devices from BenQ, Sagem, Nokia and Motorola, the trial was a great success. A consortium led by Vodafone plans to commercially rollout a DVB-H network by the end of 2007, meeting consumer demand ahead of the European Cup in 2008. But it isn’t just football matches that are shaping the MDTV market across Germany and Europe.
Other countries following suit with DVB-H include Austria and Finland. The latter has DVB-H since end of 2006, but still lacks content and operator support, while the first enjoys state financing and free offering of the service by 3Austria and MobilKom.
Additional European countries expected to commercially deploy DVB-H services in 2007, indicating the beginning of DVB-H domination in Europe, include the Czech Republic, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland the Ukraine and Russia.
Europe – the case for DVB-H
The expected evolution of Europe into a DVB-H zone is a conclusion that is currently shaped by a combination of technological, economic and political influences.
In March 2007 the EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Redding filed a recommendation for a single uniform MDTV standard across the EU that favourably backed DVB-H. There is also a new EU law being developed that will allow broadcasters to operate under their own national law and sell mobile TV broadcasts through the 25-nation union, again strengthening the case for a unified single standard across the EU.
On the technological front, analogue switch-off throughout Europe in the next decade has resulted in DVB-T deployment in homes in more than 20 countries in the continent, but until recently, power consumption and reception quality did not permit mobile usage. However, the availability of advanced receiver chips, and the debut (in Q1 2007) of the world's first DVB-T mobile phone by Taiwanese maker Gigabyte led manufacturers to view DVB-T as a practical, effective MDTV technology. This has not won support from mobile operators, since most DVB-T content today is free of charge. Technically speaking, there is nothing that prevents subscriber-based DVB-T services, so this is a one viable direction for MDTV in Europe. However, the extensive deployment of DVB-T networks actually supports the case for DVB-H in the future, as DVB-H can operate on existing DVB-T networks. Thus it is most likely – given the current DVB-H trials and the existing DVB-T infrastructure - that this will lead to the natural evolution of DVB-H in Europe.
Although DVB-H can operate on existing DVB-T networks, the infrastructure must be significantly expanded for mobile devices, costing a few hundred million dollars for a sizeable country like Germany or France – a negative factor for broadcasters and operators. It is also worth nothing that there are additional challenges for the adoption of DVB-H – and mobile TV across Europe as a whole. These include regulation, protection of IP rights of the content owners, aggregation of content at low prices and consumer preferences. Surprisingly, recent polls have found out that mobile TV end users enjoy watching mobile TV at home. This calls for deep indoor coverage, which might increase the cost of the broadcasting infrastructure. The challenge partially falls on the terminal and component makers – high sensitivity of the antennae and the receiver chips and careful design of the terminals may reduce the required network density, thus the infrastructure expenses.
Despite competition and market challenges, the political and technological factors still weigh in favour of DVB-H. However, with a range of additional standards and alternative MDTV broadcasting infrastructure in places such as the UK and Germany, what advantages does DVB-H offer?
DVB-H exhibits benefits such as extra error correction to allow for reception in poor conditions and a time slicing mechanism to reduce power consumption. In effect this means that consumers can watch mobile TV on various portable devices, without loss of battery power, for longer than other standards. In addition, DVB-H offers strong spectral efficiency, allowing up to 15 channels including radio and data channels. For full nation-wide MDTV schemes, DVB-H is complemented by DVB-SH (still under development), which is capable of covering out-of-town zones directly via satellite, thus reducing infrastructure overheads. The only other standard that is comparable in performance to DVB-H is Qualcomm’s MediaFLO, which offers better channel switching time but inferior power consumption.
Thus the anticipated regional segmentation points towards Europe becoming a DVB-H zone, supported by the above factors. Economies of scale strengthen this argument, as rising costs of alternative MDTV standards within the EU will be eradicated by a single uniform standard. Perhaps DAB-IP and T-DMB may prevail in the UK and Germany respectively, but ultimately we are likely to witness urban and rural consolidation of DVB-H, the highest performing standard on the market.
Alon Ironi is CEO of Siano Mobile Silicon, and can be contacted via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ;
Mobile television is one of the most discussed topics in the telecoms industry today and destined to provide new opportunities for many organisations within the sector. The technology promises to provide a brand new platform for media companies that want to extend their content into the mobile space, and new revenue for operators faced with falling voice ARPU. Kamil Grajski discusses the issues in developing mobile television, and provides an overview of regulatory, technical and economic challenges in bringing this opportunity to market
The catalyst for this new market is a thriving mobile communications sector. Third generation (3G) mobile technology is taking off, with new subscriptions now outstripping second generation (2G) technology in many European markets. This, in turn, has generated a rapid increase in consumer expectations of services and functionality from the mobile phone. Meanwhile, content owners and broadcasters see an exciting opportunity to extend their brands into the mobile space, reaching new consumers and pushing content to a far-reaching platform. Yet there are challenges faced by those developing the technology in delivering a high-quality product, making the business model work, and standardising.
The opportunity is born of the inherent popularity of television – almost everyone in European markets owns a set. Moreover, around 1bn mobile handsets will be sold globally in the next 12 months, which illustrates the huge potential for mobile TV to become a truly mass-market technology.
Mobile operators, however, need to deliver mobile television without the prohibitive costs associated with transporting data over 3G networks, which is inherently ‘success limited’ for the mass market. Broadcast overlay technologies such as FLO – and competing standards like DVB-H, ISDB-T and DMB – support the delivery of high quality streaming live video and audio to the mass market at a low cost per user per bit. FLO, for example, enables, in a typical 8mhz UHF European channel, more than 30 QVGA linear video channels, 10 high quality audio channels and hundreds of minutes of ‘Clipcast’ (file-based) short format cached content per day.
Mobile TV business model
DVB-H, DMB and ISDB-T also envision an overlay network for multimedia broadcasting services, but the FLO advantage lies, in part, in the support for advanced multiplexing schemes that promise greater coverage with fewer transmitters and a broader service package. The real market advantage is the successful pay TV model that can be followed closely with a ‘large channel’ package, made up of a base-level service and premium channels that earn the broadcaster a higher margin on their content. For a network operator, lower capex and more capacity means a greater channel package to offer to customers, generating a higher rate of return. As a financial model this is the difference between profitability or not.
Technology is only one part of this picture – one of the key debates in the past year has been the establishment of a sustainable business model for mobile TV. In Korea, for example, during 2006, the T-DMB free-to-air platform saw more than two million devices sold. While raw user numbers point to successful deployment, advertising revenues from T-DMB broadcasts are below initially forecasted levels. Moreover, network build out costs for T-DBM have been a drain on the resources of free-to-air broadcasters and handset OEMs, with return on investment now in doubt.
There have been other issues with deployments too. In Finland, home of one of the major proponents of DVB-H technology, Nokia, the promised live commercial mobile TV service is yet to materialise. Issues with rights for content have stalled a fully commercial service, with further delays likely. The problem: a free-to-air business model that disincentivises too many of the key players and hinders the development of innovative and compelling services.
Meanwhile, in Japan the deployment of One-Seg, launched in April 2006, has encountered a number of teething problems. The service, which is based on ISDB-T technology, is currently offered to consumers on a free-to-air basis with a mobile contract. The free-to-air nature of the service initially led consumers to sign up, but to cancel the phone contract, thus obtaining TV on their phones for free. If mobile TV is to be the revenue generator that many operators anticipate it to be, then such anomalies must be ironed out.
There is, however, a positive case study in the United States where Verizon Wireless launched its pay TV V-CAST mobile TV service on March 1, 2007 in approximately 25 selected markets. The service, priced at $15 and initially offering eight live channels of content, is operated on the MediaFLO USA broadcast network. FLO Forum member MediaFLO USA promises to create the world’s largest TV market. This is an argument that was underscored by the announcement in March 2007 that the country’s largest operator – AT&T Wireless – will deploy a MediaFLO-based mobile TV service in late 2007. The incentives created by a paid-for, premium content mobile TV service means that all members of the value chain – technology providers, network operators, content owners and broadcasters – stand to benefit.
Technology licensing remains a crucial question to be answered in the coming months. In some cases licensing terms for mobile television technologies remain unclear. Indeed, a number of industry players have questioned how much they will be called upon to pay DVB-H essential patent holders for the technology. There is yet to be a definitive proposal and the exact terms of the negotiations are not known, which has caused a number of major broadcasting players in Europe to express concern about the risk of “patent ambush” – where technology is deployed and the cost is only known at a later date. It is this uncertainty surrounding licensing for mobile television that could delay the commercial implementation of networks in Europe.
FLO, on the other hand, is licensed under a broad-based licensing program that enables the development, manufacture and sale of FLO-enabled handsets. The program is designed to encourage existing CDMA chip licensees to develop and market CDMA/FLO multi-mode chips without increase in the standard royalty rate for CDMA-based handsets. CDMA includes CDMA2000 and/or WCDMA/UMTS.
Standardisation and spectrum
Standardisation is another important consideration for industry. The FLO Forum, which now boasts 80 members from all parts of the mobile TV value chain, has moved rapidly towards global technology standardisation. In August 2006 the Air Interface Specification was published by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) as TIA-1099. There then followed TIA-1102, 1103, 1104 and 1120 which cover minimum performance standards for transmitters and handsets, and the FLO transport layer. In parallel, the ITU-R Study Group 6, in a recently approved New Recommendation relating to broadcast multimedia services and applications, included FLO as a referenced technology with the designation ITU-R Multimedia System M. Last, ETSI has undertaken initial efforts in the area of FLO standardization with the recent approval of a New Work Item in the ETSI Broadcast Committee.
Standardisation of mobile television technology is important for global and European markets, in particular, because it drives down both component and development costs, speeds up time to market for devices and ensures that carriers’ requirements are obtained first-hand. Standardisation also ensures interoperability and lowers operational costs for FLO-related products and services.
The nationwide 700mhz spectrum footprint acquired by Qualcomm at FCC auction 49 in 2003 in the United States ultimately led to the launch of a full commercial FLO-based mobile TV service in the US in 2007. In Europe the picture is different and the availability of spectrum will play a pivotal role in the rollout of services. A number of regulators across the continent are predicting analogue switchover as late as 2012 – and only then freeing up UHF spectrum for new broadcast services. However, in certain markets there appears to be a realistic path to commercialisation over the next 18 months. There are, for example, ‘L band’ spectrum auctions planned in UK and other European territories may follow suit in the next year. It is the harmonisation of UHF spectrum that will prove to be the catalyst for widespread deployment of mobile television technologies.
Yet there are technical and commercial challenges to be met by all those engaged in the business of broadcast mobile television services. While the many competing technologies are now at either commercial or pre-commercial stages of deployment, market forces will select the winners. The prevailing view is that there will not be a single dominant global standard for mobile broadcast. Each global region will present a unique combination of regulatory, technology, business and legislative conditions. Today, FLO Forum member companies are planning accordingly. Indeed, many FLO Forum member companies that have previously announced support for other mobile broadcast technologies have publicly announced support for FLO technology as well.
2007 and beyond is a critical period for mobile television – one in which commercial deployments will grow and mass market subscription services offered over the first truly large-scale nationwide network in the United States will be closely scrutinised. The market is set to absorb copious amounts of data relating to how consumers use mobile television, what content is most compelling and what further challenges lay ahead. One thing is certain– mobile television will remain at the forefront of debate in our industry for the foreseeable future.
Dr. Kamil A. Grajski is President of the FLO Forum, and can be contacted via e-mail: email@example.com
Eric Lemarechal looks at how the barriers to mobile application development can be broken down
It's becoming increasingly obvious that it's possible to reach both employees and customers through a feature-rich communications device that they carry around all day. That device is the mobile phone. There are major obstacles to the development of mobile apps since the market is seen as being totally fragmented. The facilities a handset can offer vary enormously not just between mobile phones made by different manufacturers but within each manufacturer's own model range.
In the USA, for example, there's a degree of uniformity provided by the fact that Qualcomm's Brew has established itself as the premier development environment. In Europe, however, there's only one common factor - Java. Virtually all handsets – from the very basic, prepay entry level phones right up to the very latest smartphones – are capable of running the mobile version of Java, J2ME. Hence the ability to build mobile-aware applications using Java has enormous potential.
Wouldn't it be great if you could write just the one piece of code and run it on exactly the sort of mobile phones that everybody already possesses? That's exactly what vendors of conversion engines aim to provide. These packages enable fast and efficient porting of Java apps to hundreds of different mobile phones.
The objective with any conversion engine is to take the pain out of ensuring that an application will run on an ordinary handset in exactly the way its author expects. The conversion process doesn't just cover obvious features like keypad mapping; it also covers sound, graphics and connectivity – such as Http, Bluetooth, SMS and NFC (Near Field Communication).
The first sector to pick up on the advantages of conversion engines was the mobile games industry, while those in mobile marketing have quickly appreciated the potential offered by application conversion. However, many believe that this technology is just as relevant to ordinary, everyday business enterprises as it is to companies with an existing mobile focus. It's particularly suitable for rolling out CRM style applications, for example. By harnessing the power of the mobile phone, corporations can reach out directly to their customers with their applications, not solely to their own workforces.
Those companies connected with transportation are amongst the obvious potential customers, for instance. A good example of a transport-orientated application is one that utilises a mobile phone's NFC capability. Such an application could enable handset owners to purchase a train or bus ticket simply by touching the phones against a ticket barrier. More impressively, the conversion process could be employed by a car rental firm to create an application that enables customers to open the hire car's doors via the mobile phone. That very same app would then load a planned route into the phone's built-in mapping and navigation software module.
Mobile apps don't have to look dull and boring, either. Using conversion engines, it is possible to create the kind of 'feature rich' applications that companies are accustomed to building on the web. One capability, which has, until now, been missing from mobile applications, is the ability to mimic Adobe's Flash environment. One problem is that there are not many handsets with sufficient processing power and available memory to run Adobe's FlashLite offering – which is produced specifically for mobile phones. One solution is a facility called Flashlike Forms. Forms enable designers to utilise pull-down menus, text fields, radar buttons which can all be mixed with animated graphics for example. Once the user makes a particular selection via the keypad, the menus are then correctly populated with text. The chief benefit with Flashlike Forms is that it can run on very basic mobile phones – not merely on powerful smartphones.
The most popular way of distributing mobile apps is via an OTA (Over-The-Air) download. The drawback is that such apps are restricted to a maximum of around 1 MB. An alternative method of rolling out a feature-rich application to low level handsets is therefore to take advantage of a product from SIM card specialist manufacturer, Gemalto. This company produces the Multimedia SIM card, which can offer up to 1 Gigabyte of storage. The advantage here is that high resolution images, for example, can be stored on the SIM card along with the Java code that enables the handset to read the data. The Multimedia SIM card could then be swapped from phone to phone and still function regardless of the type of handset into which it has been inserted. Loading applications and data onto a SIM card also opens up the possibility of distributing applications via a broader range of outlets. Instead of requiring customers to download an application themselves over the Internet, apps could be loaded onto the SIM via existing mobile phone sales outlets.
To date, many IT departments are wary of venturing outside a very tightly controlled software development environment, which is heavily dominated by Microsoft. The reality is, however, that there are very few opportunities to create a 'consistent Windows-based experience' in the mobile world. It's been estimated that less than one per cent of existing handsets run Windows - let alone support the very latest version, Windows Mobile 6.0. By contrast, taking the Java approach enables an IT department to roll out an application to the kind of phones which employees and customers already own. Given that conversion engines offer support for hundreds of phones, there isn't even any real necessity to carry out an audit to discover what make and model of phones users already possess.
Companies have already learnt from the WAP experience and appreciate that mobile applications have to work perfectly when they're rolled out. Otherwise, if they don't, you probably won't get a second chance. The typical customer for a conversion engine won't select the entire base of supported phones but will pick a subset of, say, around 220 handsets. Out of those, normally it's only necessary to thoroughly test some 60 to 70 handsets to ensure the application works exactly as intended. Plus there's flexibility. It's also quite common for users to customise parts of the conversion process – by selecting a specific level of graphics resolution to run on a particular mobile phone, for example.
While those involved in producing mobile phone games formed the first wave of conversion engine users, those involved in supplying financial services will almost certainly form the next wave of mobile apps adopters. As an example, mobile phone apps will provide a highly convenient way for banks to inform their customers that they have sufficient credit to make a purchase when they're standing at the point of sale. Previously consumers had to return home to their PCs to discover if they had sufficient credit or were forced to accept the finance package being offered by the sales outlet itself.
As a final point, more and more mobile handsets are now capable of accessing the conventional web – not just WAP sites. Mobile apps can tap into this capability, too. A Java app can be designed to send a request to a web server to download an image or text. This effectively means that mobile phones can tap into the many web-based applications which corporates have already spent time and energy building.
For those businesses whose IT departments are already over-stretched, there's also good news. Conversion engine vendors are rapidly building relationships with established systems integrators who can readily take on the necessary development work rather than requiring the work to be done in-house.
Eric Lemarechal is co-founder, Mobile Distillery
The mobile marketing industry is growing at a rapid rate with new innovations and business models being developed and deployed at an increasing pace. This makes for a dynamic and fast moving industry, says Laura Marriott, but also one that needs to adhere to a common set of best practice guidelines in order to grow responsibly and protect the consumer experience
To ensure that as the mobile marketing industry develops, consumers not only have a positive mobile experience but are also treated fairly by all in the value chain, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and the mobile industry, have developed and adhere to the MMAâÂÂs Consumer Best Practices (CBP) Guidelines. Best practices also help to create simplicity and commonality for the industry and enable all players to operate according to a common set of criteria - ultimately, growing the mobile platform as a new business channel.
The CBP guidelines are published every six months and highlight important areas in regards to cross wireless carrier mobile content services to help ensure a sustainable mobile channel. The guidelines have been integrated into carrier and aggregator contractual agreements with brands and content providers and, as such, are adhered to by all players in the ecosystem.
The guidelines are built upon the MMAâÂÂs Code of Conduct for Mobile Marketing, which was first ratified by the MMA board in 2003. The code of conduct itself is organised around six main themes:
âÂ¢ Choice. The consumer must âÂÂopt-inâÂÂ to a mobile marketing programme
âÂ¢ Control. Consumers must be allowed to easily terminate or âÂÂopt-outâÂÂ of a programme
âÂ¢ Customisation. Any data supplied by the consumer must be used to personalise content (e.g. restricting communications to those categories specifically requested by the consumer.)
âÂ¢ Consideration. The consumer must receive or be offered something in return for receiving the communication (product and service enhancements, entry into competitions etc.)
âÂ¢ Constraint. The marketer must effectively manage and limit mobile messaging programmes to a reasonable number of programmes - defaulted to a maximum of two new campaigns per week - unless the consumer opts in for further information.
âÂ¢ Confidentiality. Commitment to not sharing consumer information with non-affiliated third-parties (unless given permission to do so by consumer)
Best practice in action
The following demonstrates how the code of conduct principals are used in the âÂÂreal-worldâÂÂ by showing examples of shortcode programmes as defined in the best practice guidelines. The over arching guideline is that the consumer is in control of their interaction with the programme.
There are basically two kinds of shortcode programmes: standard rate SMS and premium rate SMS, the former requiring single opt-in and the latter requiring double opt-in. Regardless of type, the goal is to ensure that the consumer opt in is clearly communicated to the subscriber, along with the obligation they will incur by participating in the programme.
For standard rate programmes, subscribers should indicate their willingness to participate in a programme and receive messages from the programme as follows:
- Subscriber sends a Mobile Originated (MO) message to the shortcode.
- Programme responds with pertinent phone, programme, and contact information via a Web/WAP/handset application-based form. This opt-in applies only to the specific programme a consumer is subscribed to and should not be used as a blanket approval to promote other programmes, products, and services. However, after the subscriber has been given the complete details about the opt-in scope, the subscriber may specifically agree via their handset to receive other messages (this would be referred to as a double opt in).
The following table is an example of a standard rate mobile marketing campaign for âÂÂThe Sandwich Shop Health Alerts.âÂÂ
By contrast, premium subscribers must positively acknowledge the acceptance of a premium charge before premium charges are applied to their account. This is why the first time a subscriber participates in any premium programme, they will be asked to confirm their participation and accept the rate charges, hence the âÂÂdouble opt-in.âÂÂ
This requirement should apply the first time a subscriber participates in a specific programme on a specific shortcode. Separate programmes, even if they are offered on the same shortcode, will require a separate opt-in and the content provider/aggregator is responsible for tracking the programme opt-in information by subscriber.
There are two mechanisms acceptable for opt-in activity: web-based, and handset-based. In all instances, however, the subscriber must take affirmative action to signify acceptance of the programme criteria. Within the double opt-in flow, the following information (at a minimum) must be provided to the subscriber:
âÂ¢ Identity of programme sponsor: Defined as the organisation that markets the programme.
âÂ¢ Contact details for the programme sponsor: Either a toll-free number or a website address.
âÂ¢ Short description of the programme: e.g. âÂÂFun StuffâÂÂ; âÂÂPremium ChatâÂÂ.
âÂ¢ Pricing terms for the programme: e.g. $0.99 per mobile originated message; $3.99 per month; whether standard messaging charges apply in addition to premium charges.
âÂ¢ Notice that the charge will be billed on the subscriberâÂÂs postpaid phone bill or deducted from their prepaid balance.
âÂ¢ Opt-out information
The following table is an example of a one-time premium weather message (transactional programme):
The following table is an example of charges the next time the same subscriber tries the same programme:
Many consumers prefer to provision and interact with SMS programmes from the Internet. If the second opt-in is from the Internet, the content provider must positively confirm that the authorised subscriber is acknowledging the opt-in. This can be done using a web-based PIN or phone MO message. This message must also include programme pricing and terms, and opt-out information. In addition, the content provider should use this channel to provide more detailed information about the programme. Regardless of the web opt-in details, the goal is that the entire terms of the offer must be clear to the subscriber throughout the process.
The following table is an example of a subscription programme with web sign-up:
It is important for subscribers to understand and be in control of their participation in shortcode programmes, and programme information should be easy to interpret. Regardless of manner of entry for a subscriber, help messaging commands, phone numbers, URLs, and e-mail addresses should result in the subscriber receiving help with their issue. Dead ends that do not result in the ability for subscribers to resolve their issues are not acceptable.
If the shortcode has multiple programmes (keywords) on the same code, the application should respond in one of two ways:
âÂ¢ If the subscriber has opted in to only one programme, the application should supply the information for the programme the subscriber is opted-in to.
âÂ¢ If the subscriber is opted-in to multiple programmes, the application should present a multiple-choice question asking the subscriber what programme they would like help on.
These messages should not result in premium charges to the subscriberâÂÂs bill and should be available to anyone who requests help information from the shortcode via SMS.
To help subscribers understand their participation, each programme should respond with the programme details listed earlier (contact details, description codes, opt-out information, pricing terms etc) when the subscriber sends the keyword HELP to the programme shortcode.
Should there be multiple programmes running on the shortcode, the subscriber can be directed to a Web site, WAP site, SMS quiz session, or toll-free number that provides an enhanced customer care experience, as long as basic information about the programme is in the help reply message.
Building on best practice
The above is just a sample of what is covered in the MMAâÂÂs Consumer Best Practices guidelines. Best practices are a first step in building an industry and reflect its sustainability and maturity. The industry must monitor and enforce against these best practices to ensure the success and integrity of the mobile content business - as well as adherence to the best practices guidelines. Most carriers and aggregators today perform a version of their own monitoring, with enforcement at the discretion of the carrier. Collectively, the industry will soon launch a new industry-wide monitoring initiative.
Best practices help ensure a level playing field and consistent consumer expectations in all mobile data services. Best practices are important not only to grow the industry but also to ensure a positive consumer experience. Understanding and adhering to industry best practices, therefore, are key to everyone's success. So make sure you understand the rules we play by!
Laura Marriott is president of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)
David Knox examines the potential of GPS mobile phones and how real time charging and control systems can help the innovation successfully map the future of the mobile phone business as a new marketing device for consumers
This is the year of the GPS revolution, a technical achievement that hasn't stirred this much industry excitement since the launch of 3G phones. Every major mobile maker around the world is scrambling to become the first to launch the most efficient and user-friendly satellite navigation system for their new handsets. No longer confined to the dashboard of your car, the GPS technology will be available in many new handsets and will not only tell us where we are, but also give us tips on where to dine, shop, or see a film.
The concept of GPS navigation software for phones has been around for a while and has made some significant progress in the US market, where it is currently used as an enhanced emergency system that enables emergency operators to work out the location of someone calling from a mobile phone to help them out of trouble.
In Europe, however, the success has been minimal. Despite its general availability, mobile GPS has never hit the mainstream jackpot – primarily because of fussy, user-unfriendly gadget requirements (i.e. a separate GPS module) and GPS's unsuitability for
pedestrians trying to get from point A to point B
without a car.
This is all about to change with a range of innovative new handsets, complete with integrated GPS receivers, offering a useful and more relevant piece of navigational technology for any user. Leading the pack of new phones is Nokia's N95, which has already gone on sale in the UK and other markets. Boasting excellent, computer style graphics, owners will be able to use the handset as a full-blown navigation device, whether in their vehicle or on foot.
GPS also promises greater customised service as well, enabling mobile users to combine calendar and contact functionality with navigation. For example, the user can tell the device to navigate them to their next appointment, which may be a friend's birthday party, and also navigate via a shop or outlet selling whatever they may need to pick up en route.
This level of mapping sophistication opens many doors for both the consumer and the mobile operators. The GPS phone can help users make lifestyle choices by not only telling people where they or going but, with the help of advertising campaigns, letting them know what can be enjoyed along the way. Imagine turning on a GPS phone outside Bond Street tube station and trying to find the best route to the nearest park. The phone will not only be able to tell you how to get to Green Park but also inform you of relevant special offers at the Fenwicks department store- which you need to pass to get to the park.
Indeed, mobile GPS will not just be about helping users get to a location, but will also present an opportunity to enhance their lifestyles though location-based marketing. This raises the question of whether customers will be willing to accept mobile marketing with their GPS handsets, as well as the privacy issues that go along with them.
Blogging and GPS
The blogging phenomenon suggests that many customers are ready for a customised approach to marketing and social networking. In Japan, for example, car company Honda has already introduced a GPS device that allows drivers to make comments on points of interest along their route. Whether it is providing a review of a restaurant or a description of a museum exhibit, the navigation system offers a social-networking opportunity that allows drivers to make information available to other GPS users in real-time.
What has emerged in the Internet world is indisputable evidence that users rely heavily upon the word of like minded individuals when making choices on which restaurant to eat at, which hotel to stay at and so on. Combining navigation functionality with instant access to reviews and tips along the way will provide the mobile user with a truly mobile Internet experience.
Mobile GPS has the potential to fine-tune this method of networking, by allowing each subscriber to specify their interests and subsequently receive customised itineraries, targeted advertisements and other useful information based on their destination- without the need for them to trawl the Internet to find what they are looking for. This could be the latest new restaurant located close to the theatre which the GPS system is helping the mobile user find on the map, or the nearest toyshop on the way to attending the birthday of a friend's child. Combining mobile GPS and marketing is not merely a possibility but inevitable as people become more engaged with the technology and want to enjoy as many new experiences as possible.
So how will mobile GPS be transformed into a profitable, commercial success? Convincing customers to purchase GPS handsets, which are still relatively expensive is the first step. The second one is the delivery of the aforementioned marketing tools. A crucial element in launching a successful ad campaign is through effective consumer profiling, which has already been touched on. Simply put, in order for any mobile operator to make any money out of location based services, they must be able to have the potential to earn revenue from value added services such as mobile marketing and targeted information provision, as there will not be a charge for the mapping service itself.
Real time charging and control applications can help operators conduct effective advertising campaigns through their ability to store and access user profile information, and then use that information in combination with real-time location data to deliver relevant adverts to the mobile device.
Information about the brand tastes and interests of the mobile user can be gathered by the operator before the user agrees to subscribe to advertising. All this information can then be stored in the network and be accessible to the charging and control solution to ensure that advertising is targeting the right audience and will appear whenever a customer uses the GPS device to map out their journey. So, for example, if one mobile user is identified as a football fan and has turned on their GPS phone to find directions to the stadium where a match is being held, then the charging and control solution could access previously stored profile information in-real time and automatically check to see whether anything nearby the stadium would appeal to the mobile user. If it is a restaurant near the stadium offering a two for one lunch deal then an advert could appear letting the subscriber know about the offer.
A charging and control device can also identify that the user has viewed the advert and to subsequently check whether it has been followed or not. For example, if the user wants to avail himself of the offer, he request a promotional code by clicking a link on the advert, and then subsequently uses this code to validate the offer in the establishment. This potential method of monitoring not only helps to track the success of a particular campaign but also to determine revenue share that is generated as a result. For everyone that received the message and subsequently went to the restaurant, the charging and control device would be able to provide the operator with details on how many and which subscribers viewed the advert, and how many actually responded to the promotion. Most importantly, the charging and control device could calculate the revenue share from the campaign based on the agreement between the operator and the advertiser.
Handsets with GPS technology are ideally placed not only to enable navigation and true location based services, but also to combine this dynamic information with social networking and targeted marketing services.
The next step is creating the commercial models necessary to make GPS handsets a hit in the marketplace. So far the concept has had very few critics and everyone seems to be taking a 'wait and see approach' when determining the success of the pocket-size navigator. What is certain, however, is that the demand for social networking and the marketing it enables has already been proven by the blogging generation. Whether it will win mobile customers at the same phenomenal pace is anybody's guess, but perhaps the combination of GPS navigation capabilities and real-time access to targeted advertising and networking will finally deliver upon the promise of true location based services.
David Knox is Product Marketing Director at VoluBill
For 3G to be a success, Alon Barnea explains, users need to be motivated to use it and be given an easier way to adopt the technology
The introduction of 3G and video calls was not met with the fanfare response that was expected by the industry. Even now with over 100 million (and rapidly growing number of) subscribers, 3G mobile users still remain a rather small part of the overall two billion mobile subscribers worldwide and video usage within this video enabled community is still deemed as a disappointment. Point-to-point video calls are evidently not a big enough draw to encourage people to jump on the 3G bandwagon, and with an estimated one in ten mobile phone users actually owning a 3G phone, it seems unlikely that person to person video calling will be the phenomenon that SMS has become. Though most share the notion that video will become mainstream and a major revenue source, we still need to address the question of what then will make video communications a success?
The UMU factor
Much has been said about the limiting factor of 3G video, stemming from peoples’ reluctance to accept “intrusive surprise” video calls. That’s where the User Motivated Usage (UMU) factor comes in. The UMU factor is related to video applications where an entity is generated, at a given moment, to motivate users to make (rather then receive) a video call and is the key to elevating the level of video usage over mobile devices by taking out the “surprise call” element and the absolute necessity to be seen.
For 3G to be a success, users need to be motivated to use it and be given an easier way to adopt the technology; rather than having to wait for their friends to catch on too. With the UMU factor, 3G can be used by anybody today for an exciting experience that is independent of the 3G availability of other participants.
Naturally, “traditional” video communication is happening now. Take a group of female friends, for example, getting ready for a night out together. The advent of 3G mobile to PC communication opens up a new avenue for these women to get their friends’ opinions on how they look in a particular outfit. Using their 3G phones, or webcams on their PCs, the group of women can ‘meet’ in their own online community and compare clothes from their separate homes before meeting later in the evening.
Another example is that of a businessman who is travelling. While travelling through France on the TGV, he can still take part in a face-to-face briefing with a client based in Scotland using his 3G mobile phone to his client’s PC, while conferencing in his partner who is sat at her desk in Brussels.
But wouldn’t it be appealing to those avid sports fans to see and hear the Most Valuable Player right after a major basketball game? Members of the team’s fan club can call to see and hear what the MVP has to say, and maybe even be selected by a moderator to be seen by all of the viewers in the fan club community to ask a question. At the same time, someone sitting in their living room watching the game on their new HDTV can join the live video session as well because their cable STB is also a video-enabled client. It could be just your luck that you are stuck at work, but you can enjoy this live from your desktop PC.
The secrets of success
For 3G to be a success, operators and service providers need to answer the following questions:
1. Have we secured a strong enough trigger/interest for usage?
Without a reason to use 3G, why should users start paying out extra to make video calls on their 3G phones? Users need to be given something to inspire them to pick up their 3G phones and make a video call. No matter what the lifestyle, users need to know that 3G can benefit them; that it is there for everyone.
2. Is there a specific context/timing for when a service will be used (here and now)?
A 3G mobile device is always smaller, with lower quality and is more expensive than any other media (PC,TV, STB etc.) but it’s the only real mobile device and always available. An event or community that triggers a use at a specific time or context that motivates the user to join at that moment will create the need and reason to use a mobile device. If the service is timed with the end of a sporting event, and targeted to the viewers who are at that time mobile, then the usage trigger exists. When a service is geared for people on the move, then the user motivation is created.
3. What is the guaranteed success and completion rate?
Successful services must have high completion rates. The way to guarantee this is to deploy a service that is not dependent on a high ratio of other 3G enabled handsets – for example where participants and content can also originate from the IP. In this manner, those who do own 3G phones will be ensured a successful service, with a 100 per cent completion rate. Furthermore, a converged environment, including video-enabled PCs, expands the boundaries of the relevant communities, and increases the levels of participation thus increasing adoption rates.
The more limited or complicated a medium is, the more necessary it becomes to correctly understand the above factors” to ensure usage and success. In the context of video and the mobile handset, the success factors are definitely challenging, and given the low usage rates experienced by the industry today, it can safely be said that the answers as indicated, still need to be integrated into the 3G services provided by the operators.
Pulling the trigger (of usage)
Users need to be shown and delivered true benefits of what can be done with 3G and what advantages it has. What video over mobile has to offer, besides a small screen and limited quality, is unprecedented mobility and availability; no matter where you are and what you’re doing (within reason, of course) you can always see your friends and family, make that meeting, and enjoy video content. By taking advantage of the mobility and availability of 3G and considering the success factors, an interesting and promising future for mobile video can be seen.
If the UMU factor is put into effect, then the usage possibilities are endless. Even now, some of these possibilities have become reality.
Imagine how many such UMU “events” we are missing every day!
The options for 3G are infinite – imagine how much mobile video traffic can and should be generated when influenced by the UMU factor. Consumers just need a little push in the right direction and before you know it they will be saying: “I’m here, I’m interested and I’m ready to pay! And I will use the best device and access method that is available to me at any given moment.”
Alon Barnea is General Manager of RADVISION’s mobile business