Jim Machi : Industry Insight
Jim Machi

Why is the PSTN Long Tail So Long?

Even though VoIP and IP communications in general is now dominating all landline communications, why is the PSTN still there?  Why doesn’t...

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Cloudstudio with Your UCaaS, Would You Like Fries With That?

McDonald's is famous for asking customers if they want fries with their order and as a result, over the years, they have...

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Martello Offers Unique SD-WAN Solutions

Martello Technologies has become one of the more interesting players in the SD-WAN space - by purchasing Elfiq - one of the first...

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New Rev.io REST API Helps Carriers Reduce Leakage, Improve ROI

Revenue leakage among carriers is close to a billion dollars and as new services come on line, the complexity of managing various...

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As an enterprise, why you should care about 5G

As an enterprise, why should you care about 5G?  I mean, after all, it means new phones, new bring your own...

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New VTech Devices Bring SIP and Key System Functionality to Business

Sometimes you need to go backward to go forward is what we thought when we met for an exclusive interview with...

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Jenne Becomes Leading UCaaS Value-Added Distributor

As resellers evolve from selling telecom hardware like PBXs to UCaaS, they often need help to figure out how to do it...

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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.  

"Wireless Inside" Inside Japan

July 7, 2010

Japan has always been at the forefront of mobility and the use of mobile phones. It's always an interesting place to go to see how people are using mobile phones. In the land of Pok√©mon, it's not surprising this was one of the first places I remember seeing the equivalent of emoticons (emoji) built into the phones as a way to more easily get your point across when texting.    Wireless Japan is next week in Tokyo and with femtocells being at the forefront of news in Japan right now, I thought I'd write about that a bit. A femtocell is essentially a way to bring the wireless connection indoors, or in other words a way to create FMC.   A femtocell device would connect to a broadband connection on one end (your home or office DSL or cable broadband router for instance, or potentially in the future a WiMax one), which then through an IMS or IMS-like architecture gets back to the wireless or PSTN networks, and on the other end has a 3G (or other) connection to talk to your phone that's inside the building.    In places like Tokyo, where there are dense building structures, this is important as the 3G networks are not always able to penetrate the buildings. And in places like Tokyo, where people use their mobile phones a lot for texting, gaming, chatting, Facebooking, viewing videos, etc, keeping the connection going when going indoors is important.    One obvious issue with femtocells involves already having a WiFi connection in your house.   With many smartphones having both 3G and WiFi (4G) connectivity (see my June 30th blog about AT&T offloading users to WiFi services), why would you need to do this? Well, all phones are not smartphones for one thing. And all use cases are not the same, especially as I've said regarding Tokyo where the mobile phone use case is different from the US. But, it is an issue worth mentioning. And another issue is the business case - the ROI of paying for this benefit.   Two weeks ago, Ubiquisys, which makes femtocells, announced that Softbank would offer free femtocells. Softbank, which by the way is the exclusive iPhone carrier in Japan, has long been a femtocell supporter. I guess they are coming to the realization that people, while they "like" a service like that, do not like it enough to pay for that service. And this is also a way for mobile operators to keep their subscribers on their networks longer as opposed to switching to a WiFi network. Given KDDI rolled out femtocell services on July 1st, we'll see if this is successful in Japan. People are watching this closely

Oh to Solve those Mobile Bandwidth Problems!

June 30, 2010

Back 6 or so months ago, there was a BusinessWeek article titled "Can AT&T Tame the iHogs". At the time, there were issues surfacing publicly about outages on the wireless networks, with AT&T and other network operators such as O2 in the UK. AT&T said  that 3% of users accounted for 40% of the data traffic, kind of setting up the scenario of tiered pricing models. So what has happened since then?   Well, first of all, we've indeed seen the rise of tiered pricing in the data world, as AT&T announced on June 2nd that they would revamp their plans.  The pricing has been reasonable as I see no key outbursts of unfairness. This should definitely help stop people from continually streaming Pandora or whatever to their phones. But it won't by itself solve the problem.    When looking at the Cisco Visual Networking Index, mobile data is expected to grow at over 100% CAGR through 2014. This is nearly double 3G+ subscriber growth. So people are going to continue to access the Internet through their mobile broadband connection, so other measures need to be taken as well.   That AT&T tiered pricing release also talked about WiFi. Another part of the strategy relating to solving the mobile bandwidth problems is to offload data to WiFi. While at one time the network carriers were not embracing WiFi, for fear of competition, WiFi is now a key part of their strategy as a way to offload the network. My smartphone has a WiFi connection and a 3G connection. Offloading to WiFi can really free up the network. And it better with the expected growth. While that release gave a hint of the offload strategy, in May AT&T actually announced an offload trial in New York City, in Times Square no less.     But still, that won't solve the problem either. Even 4G networks, while offering better bandwidth that will help, won't solve the problem. There needs to be bandwidth optimization solutions in the network as well, which I'll write about in some future blogs.   And then even when we get there, there will be more work to do. Because within that Cisco report, when looking through the data, you see that Video as part of mobile data is actually growing even faster than anything and represents about 2/3 of all mobile data traffic by 2014. All this means in the context of this blog is that there will be more and more and more and more complex stuff passing through the mobile networks. This is an ever evolving and interesting problem to solve.

HD Voice: What's Not to Like?

June 25, 2010

  A few days ago I wrote about the growth path of HD voice and how some people think it's growing faster than expected, and some people think it's growing slower than expected.  There is definitely a lot of hype about HD Voice, which leads me to believe it is growing pretty fast.    Orange UK recently announced that they will be trialing HD voice across several major UK cities.  Their initial trails, which were done in Moldova, had positive feedback. People claimed that the new HD service was clearer, eliminating background noise and making voices more distinct and more natural sounding - like being in the same room as the person you're on the phone with!  I can only imagine how HD voice will improve business processes.  It will be great for long conference calls, and for calls that have several participants with different accents.

LTE and Germany

June 23, 2010

Back on April 15th, I wrote about Germany's spectrum auction for the spectrum beyond 3G, likely to be used for LTE. The auction ended a couple of weeks ago netting a price tag of 4.38B Euros, much less than the recent $14.5B auction of 3G spectrum in India and much less than the 50B Euro 3G auction in Germany from the year 2000.
  The price tag is seen a sign of the times. $50B was a lot for the operators to pay for 3G. Given that, and given the state of the world and European economy right now, 4.38B is what was netted. Still, that low a number was a bit of a surprise to some in EMEA and the feeling is that the LTE winners will clearly be able to monetize this. How will they monetize this - well the mobile broadband will create many opportunities for data, video and voice. And likely we'll see very innovative apps be created with this awesome mobile broadband power available.
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