Jim Machi : Industry Insight
Jim Machi

Amazon Fire Phone Should be a Laptop

I’ve written a lot of headlines in my life but this one is among the oddest. Why on earth does a phone...

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Apple Pay Vs. Google Wallet

Replacing credit cards can likely only be done if the new system is dead-easy to use and it moreover has to be...

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Signaling Offers Great Differentiation for Mobile Value-Added Service Offerings

We’ve all heard that some Value Added Services (VAS) revenue such as Short Message Service (SMS) are starting to decline in...

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Birdstep Improves Wireless User Experience, Reduces Churn

A smartphone user can get tripped up easily when in motion as today’s smartphones look for WiFi networks to connect to and...

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Sonos BOOST, For Music in Tough to Reach Places

I’ve been using Sonos as an in-home streaming solution for many years and since it relies on WiFi it provides infinite levels...

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IOT tests do NOT tell the whole story

Service providers typically have infrastructure from multiple vendors installed in their networks.  Mostly this is by design since they don’t want...

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Notes from Connections 2014 Part Deux

More notes from BSFT Connections 2014 in the desert by friends of my at the show. These notes are from ANPI's...

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Everything Everywhere Except...3G and HD Voice and...

September 8, 2010

As some of you may know, Everything Everywhere is a merger of the UK Orange and UK T-Mobile. The EU took a hard look at it since it would be the UK's largest mobile operator and approved the deal in March
  Everything Everywhere just announced the first tangible benefit of the deal is free roaming between networks. This makes sense as it's the easiest thing to do. A September 6th press release actually claims though this is the "single, biggest improvement of network coverage since the birth of mobile". As a marketing guy, I love how bombastic this is, but really? 
  To me, the network coverage is exactly the same. There are no extra towers being built. It's just a first step in a single network. But this is only for 2G services. Why? I don't know. Is it because most people are on 3G now and that won't be free if you happen to roam between networks?  I hope there is a technical reason as opposed to that since only a 2G benefit is specious.
  Given Orange UK just announced HD Voice coverage in the UK, HD Voice calls also can't be switched between networks at this time since T-Mobile UK would need to have that implemented, including having HD capable phones. So it's not quite everything everywhere yet, except as a vision. A good vision at that, but the everything and everywhere part still has some ground to plow.


A Mobile HD Voice Update

September 1, 2010

As readers of this blog know, I periodically write about HD Voice. And I've written about Orange being a leader with mobile HD Voice. On their website, they claim that "by the end of the summer 2010, their 3G network will be 100% HD voice." (Note: you can click the Google translate bar if you don't read French!). And today, they have announced that they are the first operator to launch mobile HD Voice in the UK. This is indeed good news and it's good to see that Orange is sticking to their commitments regarding HD Voice on their network.
  While we know mobile HD Voice is a known quantity in Europe, and is known in the US (though more on the enterprise side), it's also good to see that HD Voice is getting a voice in Asia. Here is an excellent article written by John Tanner in Telecom Asia. Remember that there are 5 pages in this article, so you need to click to go to pages 2, 3, 4 and 5.
  If you want to hear more about HD Voice, you can come to my panel in the Mobile Communication track at IT Expo in Los Angeles in early October.

Who is Really Benefiting from the Stimulus Packages?

August 25, 2010

In July, Rasmussen Reports indicated a US voter split between whether the economic stimulus packages helped or hurt the economy.   I was kind of split myself on that topic, but I now have a clear position.   Because when I think of economic stimulus packages, this is now what I think of.   Recently, I drove from New Jersey to Michigan, and then all the way to the top of Michigan and then back to NJ. I saw the roadway economic stimulus packages in action! I literally saw thousands of these reflective portable barriers during this trip - I snapped this picture somewhere in Pennsylvania, or was it Ohio. It doesn't really matter since these things are EVERYWHERE! Oh yeah, I saw about 10 workers too. I literally I saw just 10. So I think the real beneficiaries of these economic stimulus packages are whoever is making these barriers!   I did, however, see some results of the broadband stimulus package. In a remote part of Michigan, 5 of these 10 workers I saw were, I think, putting in fiber. Without any houses around for miles, we drove past a group of workers putting non-water carrying tubes into the ground and sticking wires through them. I'm guessing they were bringing broadband to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. So there were at least some tangible results from that package.

The SIP Trunk and the Border Element, as Opposed to the SIP Trunk and the Border Elephant

August 18, 2010

Recently, I was asked by a customer about the benefits of SIP Trunking. Before I respond to this, it's important to understand that SIP Trunking will put a dent in the concept of a classic VoIP gateway. The SIP Trunk term refers to the connection to the enterprise - it's a SIP-based Trunk coming in as opposed to a PSTN (T1 or E1) trunk. The border element concept will remain, but converting from TDM to IP won't be necessary. It's more about IP to IP - an IP to IP gateway if you will, with mediation / security services. This is what I've been referring to as a border element for quite a few years. In other words, the classic VoIP gateway evolves to be a different kind of border element. If you want to read more, the TMC website has a Global Online Community dedicated to SIP Trunking.   So with that in mind, the benefits of SIP Trunking really relate to cost. First of all, assuming the enterprise already has internet access, then you already have the physical connection and you are already paying for this. There just has to be a software based provision for the "voice" trunk. In the end, you are really just utilizing the internet bandwidth more efficiently for both voice and data services. That's what it comes down to.     Additionally, it's probably also easier as an IT manager to upgrade the number of users you support as your business grows. Not as much hardware required. And ultimately, this will enable enhanced unified communications since all the traffic is coming over the same line.

Don't Wallpaper Your House, Wallpaper Your Mobile Phone

August 11, 2010

Some time ago, I was giving a talk about "Challenges and Opportunities in the Mobile Value Added Service Space." I was talking about the ARPU, CAPEX, OPEX and competition challenges operators are facing, but I also talked about the opportunities out there to differentiate and to innovative, particularly with video applications. One area I drilled into a little bit was offering "personalization" to the consumer, that is, offering ring tones, video ring tones, different kinds of applications, and potentially more customized services/payment plans that made sense to the consumer.   After the talk, someone came to speak to me about mobile phone wallpapers, which would be what you see on your screen when it's inactive. Yes, downloading a wallpaper would be another type of video service. Think about a music ring tone. You only hear that when you make or receive a call. With a wallpaper, you see that much more - in fact, every time you look at your phone.   Many people I know (right now, myself included) either go with the basic wallpaper that the phone offers, or put one of their pictures taken by the mobile device up on the screen.    But there is a substantial market for downloaded (i.e. paid for) wallpapers for the right price (similar to music ring tones). Yes, there are many free wallpapers but there are also wallpapers that people would be willing to pay for, such as wallpapers of famous paintings or wallpapers related to movies, or wallpapers that behave like screen savers, animated wallpapers, and wallpapers that update automatically with information.  If every video-enabled phone downloaded a wallpaper and paid $1.00 for it, wow, that's a market...

The Quest for Telco Growth

August 4, 2010

Last week I attended a webinar from the Yankee Group called "How Can the Telecom Industry Start Growing Again?" Sort of a provocative title which got my attention, and since I had the hour open, I attended. I'm glad I did.    Basically, their message was to be innovative, both in business model and services offered. This makes total sense. I would say common sense. I'm sure though, that some people view what Yankee had to say as very radical.   Some of you are probably aware that it's somewhat fashionable right now for the telcos to ascribe for a "Google Tax," that is, since there are over-the-top services that use the telcos broadband networks, these over-the-top services used the most should pay more, directly to the telco. The webinar was the first time I had seen some kind of analysis relating to if Google shared some kind of revenue, how much would it impact the telcos. Well, according to the webinar and Yankee's analysis, whether you are a wireline or wireless telco, not much! They didn't go into detail on their calculations and I'm sure some calculations will conclude that it indeed does make sense, but let's give Yankee the benefit of the doubt and say they know what they're doing here and the analysis is correct. Given how much ink has been spent on this topic, I was surprised!   Instead of asking Google to pay a tax though, why don't the telcos themselves move to say raise data rates of the users? If they're not getting enough money to support continued infrastructure growth, why not put a "tax" on the user of the "service" that demands new infrastructure? Simple steps have been taken by AT&T for instance with regards to mobile data plans and making them more dynamic - i.e. you go over a cap you pay more. Are they worried that if they raise the rates, that people wouldn't pay and would stop? Or they would all go to the lowest cost provider? In free agency and sports, the owners claim they're not making any money, yet they continue to dole out huge contracts to the players? So when the collective bargaining agreements come up, and the owners claim "poverty" it doesn't quite wash. This kind of flashes through my head when I hear things like a "Google tax" is required. More people are using the telcos bandwidth since the people want to get to the Internet, or get to Google, or get to the Apple iStore. The telcos are getting more money since they have more subscribers. The problem is the pricing models apparently aren't making sense from the supply and demand point of view.   Another way to be innovative in the business model, and one thing I didn't hear about in the webinar, is ad insertion. After all, the greatest free content, the TV, at one time exclusively lived off advertising and now with cable networks, partially lives off advertising and partially off of users' monthly fees. So how about for data users, do the business models evolve to include advertisements? We'd be innovating the business model as per the Yankee webinar, and we'd be moving to business models that made sense.

The State of Speech

July 28, 2010

In many circles, people say Speech Recognition has kind of "faded."  For instance, SpeechTEK is next week in New York and there are 42 exhibitors according to my last count, far down from years past.  Is this any indication of the state of speech?  Certainly it is, but maybe for different reasons than you think.  What it tells me is that speech recognition has now entered the mainstream as a kind of "expected" function.  It is a mature technology now.  For instance, it is fairly commonplace now that your car will come equipped to "talk" to you.  Much of this is in the form of navigation devices, and much of this happened because of stand-alone navigation devices.  We're all familiar by now with the "recalculating" phrase from one of these.  Love it or hate it, we all know that phrase!  And by now we're all familiar with IVRs that you "speak" to as opposed to hitting digits and interacting with via DTMF tones. 

 

This perceived "non-interest" in a technology is very common as technology matures.  There used to be many, many internet telephony focused shows but now that the technology is embedded in the overall solution architecture and the industry "understands" this technology now, those shows have dwindled.   The fact that there still is a SpeechTEK shows the power of this technology!  We see SpeechTEK now is also more about solutions as opposed to the enabling technology that powers them.  

 

And as new technology enters the fray, we see new shows and specific webinars about them since people have a desire to learn about them.  We're seeing that now with HD Voice and M2M for instance.

 

So what is the future of Speech?  Certainly SpeechTEK would be a great place to go learn.  But outside of that, I can see we still have work to do to get a better accuracy rate.  Compared to eons ago, it's worlds ahead today.  But I've also read that the average accuracy rate is about 80%, which can still be frustrating to some.  I'm sure we'll also start to see talking avatars.  We're all familiar with some "help" avatars on websites so I'm expecting we'll start to see them talking to us soon.   And I'm expecting that we can voice enable a lot of the social networking applications out there. 

 

I can also see that we can go from using "words" to using more of a natural speech, and for the system to start even understanding intonations, etc., which is something you certainly get when talking to someone (and you don't get from emails for instance!).   And beyond this, I've also read of more futuristic work regarding interactive dialogues with machines, including understanding the "user" and tailoring that understanding to how the interaction might occur.   So clearly speech is alive and well and will always have an interesting and vibrant future.

Value-Added Services on the Menu in Delhi

July 21, 2010

VAS Asia on July 9th was an exhilarating experience. The energy was amazing all around. Everyone expects mobile VAS (Value-Added Services) to grow in India. Is this a case of since everyone here is into VAS since the show is about VAS, that everyone comes together at this big VAS love-in type of event to collectively breathe their own VAS exhaust fumes? Could be. I mean I've seen it before.  But I don't think so given the Indian market has always been supporting VAS, from CRBT to mobile radio to horoscope readings for a long time. Adding video to the mix will spice things up even more and spur some VAS innovation for sure.   In the keynote, Arvind Rao, CEO of OnMobile, talked about 4 revolutions in history. The agricultural revolution, industrial revolution, internet revolution and VAS revolution. Yes, maybe a bit over the top, but he made his point. Point being that VAS is "discretionary" today, but will be a "way of life" and a "must have" in the future. You'll just make it part of your everyday life, like we have now made mobile phones part of our life. I remember just 15 years ago getting my first mobile phone and it was not clearly an everyday part of my life at that time like it is now. So why won't VAS just be a way of life in a few years!   I expected coming into the show that there would be "complaining" about the vast amounts of money ($14.5B) spent on the recent Indian 3G auction, thus hindering growth since the mobile carriers are tapped out. I actually heard none of that, at least to me. It was more of a matter of fact type of discussion - it is what it is. Some people though predicted that there would be consolidation fallout, which makes sense. As all markets mature, typically there are under 5 real players. The Indian market now has 16 mobile carriers according to the show organizers in a question asked to the audience.  

Video Research

July 20, 2010

Readers of this blog know that I'm very bullish on mobile video services. TMCnet.com has posted an article called "How Big Will Video Telephony Be? And For Whom?" and it sites ABI Research estimating mobile video services will be greater than $2B in 2013.   This is one of the first reports that attempts to monetize mobile video revenue. I've seen some reports that discuss MMS, and I've written about the Cisco Visual Networking Index which estimates mobile data growth, including the explosive mobile video data growth. But this one tries to estimate the entire market.   When you get down to it, there are a few factors. First and foremost, the 3G and beyond networks enable mobile video because of the mobile broadband experience. The capabilities of the phones now, with cameras on the front and back, and larger screen sizes also enable mobile video.  And with mobile operator competition, the pricing plans need to be competitive in order to keep you and me as a subscriber. The compelling applications available now, such as seeing interactive IVR menus visually instead of having to listen to them, also are a big factor.   Put all this together and you understand the growth and understand why Dialogic is behind this.

The Fight for my Phone in India

July 15, 2010

It started the moment I landed and turned on my phone. The fight for registering my phone that is. Last week, I was in Delhi, India for VAS Asia.   I gave a talk about utilizing 3G networks to create Video Value Added Service Applications.   The companies in India recently committed $14.6B for the right to utilize 3G networks in India.   Monetization will occur via data services, via utilizing 3G for "premium" voice, and through innovative value-added services such as video VAS. So my talk about enabling video value-added services on the 3G networks was hopefully timely. I saw an ad for instance on my way form the airport touting mobile banking - likely now via utilizing text on your phone. But utilizing a video IVR to do mobile banking would be an improvement. To me, that's the kind of video VAS that will come first to India - video enabling some existing voice or text application that's already in the Indian market.   As I said above though, what caught my eye the moment I landed was the fight for my phone. When I landed, I was not able to use the phone, even though I noticed people around me were able to. I went into the Network Connections part of my phone and noticed it was talking to the MTNL network, but I guess it was not able to register properly and authenticate with AT&T, so I couldn't make any calls or SMS's. Once I got inside the terminal, the phone moved to the Reliance network so while I was in the immigration line I was able to check emails.      I was also "privileged" to be in the first Monsoon Jam as they called it, a massive traffic jam caused in part by a monsoon rain that ended right before I landed.  Sure it ended, but the water was still everywhere!  So it took me a long, long time to get to my hotel.   And that is where the fight really raged between Reliance and Airtel for my phone. It was flip-flopping all over the place. And quite often I went from EDGE to GSM, which screwed up the ability to do data properly. Finally the phone settled on Airtel and that was that.   Until the morning. Soon after I woke up, I noticed my hotel lost power. It must have been at least for 5 minutes. Since I was in the middle of doing emails, and I couldn't do that anymore since the Internet went down too, I switched to using my mobile phone. Nope. See, the mobile network connection was down. I guess the power was out in the city sector, which meant no power to the cell tower I was talking to. While I was calculating how long it would take my hotel room to get to the outside temperature (not a welcome though), the power came back on. And soon after my phone registered again. And the fight ensued again, except this time with Vodaphone in the fray!   Once again, Airtel ultimately won out.   My thoughts about all this? Well, there must be quite a bit of traffic to cause the shift from EDGE to GSM. Seemingly everyone here is walking around with a cell phone. So with the coming 3G networks, I can definitely see some kind of "premium voice" option for those willing to pay more for a more stable connection. And I doubt the next time I return there will be any less fierce a fight for my mobile phone.  
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