Monday, November 20, 2006

TiVo the FPN enabler

TiVo has been the leader in the digiital video recorder space long before Sky gave you Sky+

It's of varying success in the UK but in an effort to keep current in the times of SlingBox and Orb and place shifting partnerships with 3 UK they have announced the ability to share and invite users to shared content from your TiVo.

For those of you that use Flikr or Picasa Web you will be used to sending invitations to your photo archive. TiVo what this to be true of TV content, one of their ideas is a YouTube type video share with the Grandparents. This form of Family Private Network may be successful in some of the transitory nations (Sweden and Finland spring to mind) and given the slow uptake of DVD cam corders and the increasing difficulties to source VHS media for the family video this might be a good use.

The sharing is performed by uploading your video to One True Media in a classic publishe/subscriber model. At least one side needs to be a TiVo series 2 or series 3 owner, they hope to increase sales of TiVo ultimately.

I wonder if there is a market for having some form of TiVo lite that you can install on your home PC and get the most out of technologies in a single device.


TiVo home page

One True Media

X marks the spot

The recent announcement from 3 UK to partner with Google, MSN and Skype caused some noise.

Many pundits are musing over the partnership with Skype and it's disruptive "the whole world can talkk for free" which is targetted directly at 3 and it's usual suspect of associates. You've got to figure that the expansion of municpal networks (Norwich and Milton Keynes stlye) combined with more dual mode handsets appearing on the market that Skype is going to make some real in-roads into the mobile space. 3 are probably thinking that the timing is right to be a partner and not a target if the domain is going to change anyway.

What was of lesser visibility was the time and place shifting that is also planned to be part of the X-series phone kit. The platform also includes Orb and Sling for viewing your TV choices over the 3G wireless network.

Given the Skypers next disruptive project is the Venice project and their idea for TV 2.0 I'm not sure how the TV part of the partnership will evolve.


BBC Business News

Dean Bubley

Saturday, October 14, 2006

InternetCity 125

After a recent article about Virgin deploying WiFi on their trains in the UK I was very surprised to find that ye olde GNER network already had it installed.

Blogging from Coach B of the Edinburgh to Peterbrough service.

All in all not too bad, apart from the price of GBP 2.95 for 30 minutes (plus 5 minutes free). They add the free minutes to allow for the predicted degradation of speed.

Having flown Easy Jet from Luton to Edinburgh I thought I would take the train back. For close travel dates the train was actually have price, plus I can take liquid on board and as my luggage as I want (Easy Jet let you have one piece and then every bag after that is GBP 10).

Total travel time, if you include the drive to the airport and the mandatory wait at the terminal, means the journey is about the same.

Anyway don't want to sound like a "spotter" so on to the point. At my seat I have power to compensate the poor battery on my company laptop :( and the ability to walk around freely, with it being a train an' all.

This has been a space that has been long overdue some form of connectivity like this. I was thinking the other day a nice addition to something like London --> Edinburgh would be a coach with meeting rooms on board. Have your war meeting on the train on the way to the client site.

If they could bring the price down for access, ideally to zero, and we'd be there.

** if you have the First Class I think it's free so thumbs up there

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Do you Yahoo! Beta?....I do now

Just got my invite to Yahoo! Mail Beta.

It's got some nice new usability features that I welcome in my email client.

  1. Preview Pane for advance reading
  2. Drag and Drop support for organizing your mail into your folders (a big thumbs up for someone like me that likes to compartmentalize my mail)
  3. Multi non-contiguous select using CTRL+Click
  4. Multi coniguous select using SHIFT+Click

3 and 4 are what we are used to in spreadsheet tools so no steep learning curve there.

I like to general feel of the new interface, it's more akin to a traditional email client on your PC (Outlook Express et al) than the online mail readers.

I am a very big user of Gmail, I would welcome some development in this direction from the Google Dome.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Couped up at home...but you can't keep a blogger down

Last night as events unfolded here in Bangkok the military coup targeted mobile phone, international gateway and TV operations in effort to keep some control.

I was talking to a friend in the UK when the phone went dead. I thought nothing of it then around one hour later I got the sniff of tanks rolling down the streets of the city.

Thai TV was on a loop of pictures of HM the King and the occasional message from the coup leaders.

The military took control of at least one TV station that was repeatedly playing a message from the fallen leader and the telecoms gazilliionare's building (HQ of his mobile phone giant and TV station) were put under guard. I thought that the mobile networks had been locked down but then realised it was just another repeat performance of the years of under-investment in interconnection routes between the now overly busy operators.

Next to go was the satellite feed, also owned by the now ex-Prime Minister. This lost me access to CNN and BBC World, however my ADSL connection came to the fore as I spun up TVU and got the low down from the low quality (but perfectly acceptable) IPTV feed.

Also thanks to RSS and online news service such as Reuters and the like I was able to keep up to date as events played out.

What comes out of this are the problems that occur when business and politics meet. Yesterdays caretaker Prime Minister and today's ex-Prime Minister built their fortune (and platform into politics) on the back of their telecoms business. The corruption claims on this very business that led ultimately to the coup were then directly targeted in an effort to take his voice away.

The lesson for all of us always, always spread your communication assets around so when the flusher gets pulled the whole country doesn't go down the toilet with you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Stamping out the licking habit

I was just catching up on some news and I came across this from the BBC.

In summary the Royal Mail allow you to print a barcode that represents the stamp value and pay for it online.

Think of it as prepaid franking....

They are targeting the work from home and eBayers to try and assist them and to try and reduce queues in the post office.

Given that the letter business has been unraveled and that the distribution side of the Royal Mail, according to the BBC, made an annual profit of ~350M with the post office counters business losing 2M per week I would like to see more granularity behind the costs.

The actual distribution costs don't change because of this model but the cost of sale for consumable does. I don't know how much they pay for paper, glue, ink etc. for the stamps but based on some analysis I have done here the printing and postage costs of today's large operations, say a telco, make up the bulk of the cost and it is fairly fixed. There's not a lot of meat on the bone to pare away, you have to send the bills out somehow.

The solution for me then was the equivalent of the Royal Mail's idea, get the customer to pay for the paper and the ink. For me it was a fax server and fax them or email them the bill. They can print it off and take the hard copy for reference or to pay against. For the Royal Mail it's get the sender to print a bar code to fix to their package or letter.

It's not a new idea, this has been a growing trend in cinemas for some time. Showcase cinemas in the UK allow you [for some theatres] to print the ticket off and bring with you once you've successfully been through their online payment system.

I wonder what will be next, go to McDonalds and cook your own burger. Based on my most recent experiences here in Thailand that would be a good thing, at least you'd get it all at the same time :)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

How Blockbuster could WiMaximise their distribution

I last wrote about the developing business cases for WiMax, on of the favourites in TV over WiMax.

The bandwidth and transmission distances make this technology, in many peoples eyes, a good platform for IPTV. The UK is in the stages of going digital anyway so most people will have to get used to the idea of some form of set top box, might as well be some form of WLAN modem.

The pressure that Cinema is facing, see the plea from Mark Cuban, to try and get some form of ROI in the film business is in large part down to the challenge that home entertainment lays down. The convenience factor of being in your home with your widescreen TV, DVD player and Home Theatre with full Dolby support means that the effort required to pull people out of their LazyBoys and head in to the cinema is large. As Mark mentions during a first weekend a typical distributor can end up paying $12 per head in advertising to get them to come and buy a $5 cinema ticket.

One of the leaders in the home entertainment enablement has long been Blockbuster. With operations in US, UK and Australia to name a few there are already re-engineering their business model as they come to terms with the inconvenience people feel on heading down to the shop, getting the rental and having to return it to the shop on time.

Their unlimited buffet of movies allows you to order online, build a queue of films that you would like to see and sends the media to your door. You can then return it to them in a postage paid envelope.

To me it would seem to be a simple step to adopt WiMax technology to transmit the film over wireless broadband and save the media costs.

The strength in the business model today is the knowledge that they have of the customer. They have a wish list of films, they have the customers history of not only genre of film and/or actor but spending patterns as well. This is the sort of knowledge that the telco's are going to have mine in order to transition their businesses successfully in the new emerging technologies, but more of that later.

The ability to browse, select, order and watch a film in my home over one technology is a real pull for many end users and will put Blockbuster in the same domain as cable operators.

The other benefit for them would be the softening of the impact on technology choice. They will soon face the same problem they had in the Betamax and VHS days. The different and conflicting formats of HD DVD will mean the will have to double on stock or be ready to upset some customers. Going to wireless delivery will mitigate the risk as IP is IP. There are different technologies and vendors in the WiMax loop but the packet based streamed delivery is the bit that Blockbuster have to worry about.

Monday, September 11, 2006

WhyMax? what is the business case and/or killer app...

The most hyped, most promising technology to really be tested gets another push from the Rupe.

Rupert Murdoch is looking for life after (or during) satellite and he seems to think that TV over WiMax is it.

It leads to an interesting discussion that is still ongoing, what is the business case for 802.16?

Not surprisingly many people are still convinced that VoIP or VoWLAN will be the real use for the technology. This is because of the super-sized cell that potentially can be created, the super-hotspot could be a real challenger for GSM and CDMA due to the typical usage habits of the average subscriber. So with that said do we already have the killer application for WiMax. Skype was an early disruptor to voice reveune and it's portability across many platforms does it make the ideal choice for the VoIP application. Gizmo is also a strong candidate for me, it has already been trialled on GoogleNet in Mountain View by Team OM, and I like the fact that it does run on the Nokia 770.

Others are talking about IPTV and the promised last mile bandwidth ability of 802.16. I'm not convinced that it's really a killer application. The whole TV Industry is up for change anyway and I'm not so sure that this is a necessary change anyway. I feel that the average couch potato is happy with ADSL and cable modem delivery.

One strong case, but no killer app, is backbone provision. There has been predictions of Cellular Back-haul. Here in Thailand the imminent changes for Interconnection and the years of concession to TOT and CAT forces other operators to use the duopoly owned copper. For an operator like TT&T that are solely rural this causes them some problems transiting a call on their own network. Combine their packet based NGN with WiMax and they could stop the un-necessary revenue leakage between regions.

As Paul alludes to the poor performance of the multi-billion pound 3G specturm sales is down to the lack of a justifiable application for the speed. We never found the elusive SMS for 3G that was the key behind the 2G and 2.5G explosion for GSM.

A like the turn of phrase from here "it's not the killer application, it's the kiiler environment"

Accepting that the technology is simply a pipe/tube the providers will have to be a lot more inventive on their revenue streams, paying for access won't cut it anymore as the buffet of conectivity options grows the pricing model has to change.

Blog Ping Echoes for this article

Rupert Murdoch and TV over WiMax from Om Malik

Is TV the killer app also from GigaOm

The developing business case for WiMax from TelecomAsia

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Really, I'm one :O

It's been one year since I tried this blogging thing.

I've had to learn a lot along the way and it's quite difficult to maintain the motivation to go out and find the supporting articles and links that I like to try and use.

In the short time that I've been doing this I have noticed a shift in the way that the blogosphere pulses with stories and where the scoops come from.

I know that not a lot of people read this but it's best not to know, there is a blogger who was getting a LOT of traffic but when she realised the volume of readers out there she stopped writing. The pressure of getting it right got to her.

To get her going again she was given a very simple piece of advice "imagine you are writing for just one person" and this got her back in on track.

So to the one person out there that reads this blog, I thank you.

Taking the "paper" out of newspaper

In previous postings I have rambled about disruption in two popular media.

  1. Television - the concept of broadcasting will change to accommodate IPTV, VDO on demand and subscriber specific content
  2. Books - book readers will continue to grow in usage

Well there is a long overdue overhaul for the newspaper. Forget the movies like Minority Report and their vision of a dynamically updating newspaper headline, news is already disrupted.

Look over a colleagues shoulder and check out what they have on their RSS feeds. My habits have changed since being in Thailand where there is a limited supply of English language newspapers. The Nation and The Bangkok Post both do a good job but I need more. TV based news is Thai, unless you want to pay large amounts of money to the UBC monopoly, in which case you can get BBC World.

So with these restrictions I went out and found a decent RSS reader and subscribe to varying forms of news inputs.

For UK and International news I get a feed from the BBC, as close to current as you can get. I will also get a feed from other countries to get a balanced perspective, something that you can't always get from a newspaper.

Not a big sports fan so doesn't matter too much, I have a series of feeds from bloggers and websites on trends in the area I work in.

I'm basically building my own news sheet, tuning it to put the weighting into the things I care about and [for now] it's free. I pay for the ADSL anyway to be able to get Internet access.

As mobile devices getter smarter and more feature reach with dual mode capabilities; the day of the offline news is coming to an end. As the pace life continues to increase exponentially yesterdays news is no good for anyone. The media companies face a challenging transition on how to bring that journalism expertise into today's world of PDA's, book readers and RSS.

Blog Ping Echoes

TechDirt on the challenge ahead

Steve Outing (via Seth Godin) using Seth's "small is the new big" for context

James Seng and his ongoing discussion on what is a media

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

UMA gets Danish Nationality

Almost 1 year ago Paul in his usual tongue-in-cheek approach blogged about the foresight of Uma Thurman's parents

Well in a shock exposure she has decided to become a Danish National !!

The Baltic trader that is TeliaSonera, with presence in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, is the first mobile operator to release [publicly] UMA into it's network.

Unlicensed Mobile Access or UMA is the technology that allows more traditional mobile operators to create a pire into their GSM network to allow people to start make use of some of the IP and dual mode feature on their phones.

It, in theory, allows mobile subscribers to use VoWiFi features but this then gets routed through onto the GSM network. It is one of the real enablers for one form of fixed mobile convergence (FMC) that opens up the mobile handset to be used for home based telephony, using SIP phone.

The key benefits for the subscriber are that they have the convenience of their contacts at their fingertips when using their phone in home telephone mode but combined with something closer to VoIP rates, therefore a lower price point.

The main benefit for the Telco is that it should in theory help minimize the long foreseen disruption to their revenues that VoIP and VoWLAN will bring to the mobile markets. It could help reduce the churn away from their businesses.

Blog Ping Echoes for this story

Cellular news via Andy Abrmason



Monday, August 28, 2006

Trying to use Live Writer as Blogger editor

I thought I'd have a go at using the Windows Live Writer to add blog entries.

The configuration to be able to blog to blogger from here is pretty easy, we'll see if it works as well as it would imply.

I have tried this with Writely, now Goolgelized, and it work from time to time but was not consistent.

I have the same (if not more) options for editing in Live Writer.

I want to see if I can unlink myself from having to log in to Blogger all the time, of course as you can expect the toolbar that includes folio and the blog tools is only visible in IE as far as I can tell.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On WiMax and concrete cows

Milton Keynes is famous for two, maybe three things:

  1. Lots and lots and lots of roundabouts
  2. Concrete Cows
  3. XScape -indoor snow zone amongst other things
Now it is set to become the site of the first commercial use of WiMax in the UK (as far as I can see).

There's been a lot of buzz about this so here are a few of the blog ping echoes:

Pretty upbeat news off the back of the Sprint announcements that it's 4G network will be mobile WiMax based. A recent article in Telecom Asia here lays out the developing business case for WiMax depsite the pessimism from the old school (but no surprises there).

An Alexalent listing......

At the weekend I sat down and took some time to go through Seth Godin's Web 2.0 list to see what was out there.

The usual suspects are at the top but I wasn't looking for the volume but the movement that shows increasing; albeit brief maybe, popularity.

After a long trawl a couple caught my eye for further research and some I went as far as registering.

More than a cursory glance:

In the might go back later category:
There was the usual mixture of URL not found errors that come with this hit and miss approach :(

What comes out of my walk about is the niche of it all. Some of the sites look good but are obviously meant for a very small number of people. Still it's good to see that in many cases the internet is becoming easy to use that some of these groups and sites exist at all.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Other Network.... Revisited

Paul Jardine once coined the phrase "the other network" when talking about the mobile operators in the UK spending vast amounts of money to build out their networks when there was already a network that could (with some thought) have been used. By this he meant the slowly decaying Public Phone network.

Now I am working with a fixed line operator here in Thailand that still maintain a pay phone infrastructure, this is barely used due to the proliferation of mobile phones; a trend that is bound to be repeated in countries all over the world. So what can the Telco's do about it?

In my converging ideas posting I highlighted the innovation that I had long been thinking of that New Zealand Telecom are driving forward with. This was the natural expansion of two previous ideas that I had expanded on and is a WiFi twist on the other network idea of Paul.

The basic concept is that the pay phone becomes a node in the MuniNet (Municipal Network). This could equally be using WiMax technology (still working on a Sprint and WiMax spin) and could even help provide back haul for cellular over WiMax as the nodes are pretty well mapped out.

In an interesting mirror to this use this aroused my suspicion via Andy Abramson over on VoIP Watch.

The idea to have the pay phone as a user of the Municipal network itself is unexpected but it looks like that it also acts as a repeater, i.e. expanding the network at the same time. This sounds on the point of realizing a mesh network for WiFi.

The other add ons and in fact the more likely use of the kiosk is the internet browser and the dual mode as a sales point for prepaid top ups and ringtone downloads.

I'll keep an eye on it as I'm really interested to see how well the idea flies in the real world.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Fax of life .... Fax over ADSL

I've been looking into getting a Fax setup at home, I know what you're thinking why? The truth of it is here in Thailand faxing is still very popular. You cannot assume that any of your business partners have an internet connection (other than dialup) due to the low penetration of broadband outside of Bangkok, so....?

Normally you would say get a Fax modem and use some sort of fax software.

Problem: It took almost 1 year to get one telephone line put into the house, I can't afford to wait that long for a second analog line.

Other options include the online services such as MBox, which looks good but I would still like to find a solution.

Well I think I have two options:

  1. A pure old school hardware solution: Andy Abramson over at VoIP Watch put me onto this with his posting which led me to the Engadget page for the Sharp Broadband fax machine. The UX-B800SE provides the usual fax machine features that you would expect from an analog machine, it also has an Ethernet connection and hosts the same software that you would normally put on your PC hosting a fax machine. Something like this is long overdue. If the cube is the Fidel Castro of office furniture then the fax machine is definitely the Fidel Castro of office machines.....Let's start the revolution
  2. A SoftPBX with fax options: I have talked about Asterisk before now it has been joined by SIPCat. You can find some more information about it on Om and Andy, but I went and had a look. It looks like a pretty good alternative in the new target for disruptive technology in a tried and tested arena. SIPCat has a fax server as standard, only last week while I was searching around for real options I stumbled upon the AsterFax plugin for Asterisk. At some point in the near future I am going to do a parallel run of both and do a compare and contrast.
The test for both will be the platform of install. I have an old Dell laptop that is beyond upgrade due to the SDRAM on board. I have found a likely light Linux candidate; it would be interesting to see if I can get either of these products to install on it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Three Things Series.... 3 Things I would like to use

In the second part of my three things series I would like to focus on three things that I would like to own to add to my current toolkit.

  1. Nokia 770
  2. Nokia E60
  3. Jabra SP500 Bluetooth speaker phone.

Nokia 770: apart from the fact that it looks cool :) there is a real use for this sort of device. Now that it has significantly improved and new applications are creeping into the domain I can see me using it in one of two modes; and not necessarily exclusively
  1. Communication: Gizmo phone and the ability to use Gmail and GoogleTalk mean that I have a means of communicating in my palm. This becomes useful when I am on a client site; like today where I need to be on their network to get to their servers but I need to use an external wireless network because their firewall and proxy doesn't allow me to use some sites. In this mode I can leave the 770 connected to the external network and still have my laptop connected to their LAN. The size lends itself to being used on the hoof and at airport lounges to catch up on email.
  2. Reference: one of the best parts is the screen. The resolution is great and it is very clear. This makes me think it would be a great book reader and reference media (be it stored locally or browsed from the web). The 770 has swappable memory in the form of Reduced Size MMC, a common feature on Nokia phones. This means that you can group reference material together on a set of RS-MMC cards. Like all flash media the capacity is increasing. A quick Google finds this 1Gb card, with adapter than still allows me to use and share the content on my SD adapter.
Nokia E60: despite the debate about dual mode phones, I still believe that there is a use for them. The E60 comes with a SIP Phone which gives you a lot of ability when combined with Asterisk. The WLAN interface is very clunky, a feature that will need to change if dual mode handsets are going to take off. Even if you don't plan to use the WiFi capabilities the fact that the phone is EU and US GSM as well as CDMA (Japan et al) makes the phone and ideal choice for the frequent traveler.

If the WiFi connectivity options are tidied up, with the increasing number of public WiFi networks (Philly, Oulu, Norwich to name but a few) and with UMA and WiFi starting to converge [finally] a dual mode handset will become the personal device of choice, I hope.

Jabra SP500: firstly what is it? The Jabra SP500 is a Bluetooth speakerphone.

That means wireless microphone and speaker combined. Because it's bluetooth I can use it with my laptop or my mobile phone. The blurb on the Jabra website has an image of a screen mount in a car. This saves all of the wiring normally involved with a car installation, and it means that when I'm traveling I can easily install it in a hire car.

All-in-all I think it would be a great addition to my toolkit as the ability to have a quick Skype based conference around a table would be enormously beneficial.

Three Things Series.... 3 Things I couldn't do without

I am finding myself increasingly dependent on a couple of things that I now leave in my toolkit.

  1. My USB adapter for SD cards
  2. My external USB hard drive
  3. My Bluetooth headset
SD cards: when was the last time you saw a laptop with a 1.44" drive; quite a long time I wager. However as I drop in and out of client sites I am faced with a series of connectivity problems which sometimes aren't worth solving given the duration of stay. More often than not this is around printing of documents.

I started out using the normal USB or thumb drive but as I changed cameras I found that the SD card I had was no longer usable with my new camera. Also given that SD card storage size it increasing I looked for an alternative that gave me the flexibility of floppy disks without the expense.

I adopted this guy, or at least something similar. I find it incredibly useful and I can carry more, smaller, SD cards around to give me extra capacity and flexibility without having to have lots of USB drives hanging around in my bag. The vendors see this as a good market for them and they have now started to combined the technologies directly.

I'm not sure how popular they will become and if the combined device will evolve (in terms of capacity) as quickly as the simple SD card.

USB Drive: I first starting using an external, USB powered, hard drive when I first came to Asia. Mostly because the laptop that I was provided with didn't have enough space for the data I needed when moving around the region and the VPN wasn't built out or reliable enough such that I could get to the data on the company Intranet. Laptop drives are bigger but I also use several machines now, I have a laptop at work, one at home, a Linux server etc so this device is even better for me now. As well as work data I am also to have music and photos stored on a highly portable media.

I recently invested in a second, 70Gb, disk that I use for backups of the first one and less volatile data; for example ISO images for SuSe etc that I can also burn a new CD from if required.

Again the capacity is for ever increasing on this kind of device.

Bluetooth Headset: Bluetooth as a real connection protocol needs some more work, but the basic headset function has become central to the way I communicate. I use a Nokia HDW-3 to connect to my current handset. After some googling and downloads I finally bypassed the poor driver delivered by Microsoft in XP and got a working headset and audio gateway working on my laptop.

This now means I can use both Skype and Gizmo with my headset and not have to be wired to my laptop. Works fine, the only thing I would change is the headset itself. As I mentioned in my other posting about Bluetooth the HDW-3 is completely spoiled by a cheap plastic clip that frequently breaks. I would swap it for this HS-11W also by Nokia.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Root Kit vs Sukhumvit... DIP Stick

I have just had an absoulte shock :O

Living in Thailand (particularly Bangkok) you get used to the fact that Copyright really means the right to copy stuff and that IP is more likely to mean Internet Protocol (although even that's a leap) rather than Intellectual Property.

I have just paid full price for three CD's of Thai artists distributed in Thailand.

The distributors are GMM Grammy and More Music.

Like a lot of people today I listen to music at work, this generally means MP3. Unlike most people I don't like to be bound to Windows Media Player (the evil empire) and often spend a lot of time on Linux (be it Ubuntu or SuSe) which don't have Windows Media Player [obviously!].

So imagine my surprise to go through my usual routine of using AudioGrabber to convert my purchases to MP3 so that I can listen at work from my hard drive or play on my MP3 player during the many hours I spend on planes and the less hours that I spend in the gym (more's the pity me) to find that here of all places they've resorted to using root kits.

Many people might not realise it but there is the DIP here, the Department of Intellectual Property, you can go to their "website" here. At first I thought the blank void was the usual Thai preference of a single browser (IE) but even using IE 6.0 doesn't change the professionalism of this website design.

I have often thought that if companies are committed to stopping piracy they should do more for thier end users:

  1. Lower the price point of the pucker product. I don't condone pirated goods but where is the economic logic in being able to watch a film on "DVD" for less money then it costs me to go to the cinema
  2. Films: keep them in the theatre longer. I get a two week window of opportunity to watch a blockbuster in Thailand. This is usually a hectic period where the cinemas are over full as everyone rushes to watch the film. If the two weeks is a period where I am out of the country on business I miss out. If the film is really popular I can never get a seat and I miss out. All round pretty poor planning on the part of the distributors.
  3. Music: why should I pay the full price for a CD of my favourite artists and only be able to listen to the music at home on my CD player. Many of the CD's don't play in the car and as can be seen from my latest experience I can't now listen at work either. To put it into perspective I am at work 10 to 11 hours per day. I am at home and free for maybe 1.5 to 2 hours in the evening. If they want to get serious then make it as easy as possible for me to enjoy my full price product.
All in all I'm pretty upset. Maybe next time I should head to Sukhumvit Raod and buy the (substantially) less than full price for a less than legal copy of the media. At least I would get to use it. But then that would be proliferating the piracy and encouraging the bad behaviour.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Unwiring Linux

I am a firm believer in Linux, or at least the idea of Linux. I have used Red Hat at work; I then favoured Ubuntu as an all in desktop with good server support as well. I have now installed SuSe 10.1 on my server at home.

All of these platforms have a common flaw, the lack of or at least the general lack of WiFi support.

Part of the problem is the slow adoption of WPA-PSK on Linux. Until very recently WEP was the only security (other than MAC address filtering) but this is old and so the move to WPA is essential if Linux is to move up to XP again.

Ubuntu Dapper and SuSe 10.1 are very good replacement desktops and I would easily jump across permanently if only we could solve the WiFi issue.

With SuSe the D-Link card I have is potentially supportable with Madwifi or Ndiswrapper. I couldn't get either to work at all. Then some more googling later I [finally] discovered that version C of the PCI card was not Atheros but Ralink. A quick trip to the site (via my laptop and trusty USB/SD stick) got me the driver make files. However the make didn't work.

This is also part of the problem with OS. The community aspect that is a strength (and nice to be part of) is also the biggest weakness. I found six postings on how to configure my card with SuSe, all of them were different and although I appreciate the time and effort people have taken to try and let others know all of them fall a part if it doesn't go exactly 100% as planned.

In the end I tried 4 out of 6 and none of them worked :(

I'm not completely techdense (TM) "the opposite of tech savvy" but while it's down to the user to build the drivers yourself WiFi; and in fact a lot of Linux, will remain the realm of the geek.

But.... there is hope on the horizon. Both Belkin and Linksys produce Wireless Ethernet bridge products that allow me to use the Ethernet interface on my Linux (or XBox, PS2, Tivo et al) hardware to wire to the bridge and then connect to my wireless network this way.

This bypasses the need for drivers and other software on my hardware, it's all on the network element.

So I've found the options, nominally, I am now faced with the usual challenge to try and find someone in Thailand or Singapore that can provide me with one.

If Linksys or Belkin are listening I am more than willing to help you distribute these products to fill a big gap in the OpenSource and home user market in Thailand.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Web 2.0 in action

or should that be using Web 2.0 to get some action.

Damien Mulley has laid it all out in his 11 step guide to "using google to find girls and get laid", you can find it here.

Typically the early adopters of new technology has been the porn industry, I have had to mask by country location in Skype as I was getting random connect requests from less than desirables.

Damien has a very scary insight on how you can use the array of free tools and move from networking to neckworking the Google way.

Flash ahaa...The save-ier of the universe

Flash memory has been dominated by two things of recent times:

  1. Capacity goes up
  2. Price goes down
We now have a 4Gb SD card, that's the same size as a DVD and how well were they lauded when they arrived?

There are prototypes that use magnetic charge (like a traditional hard drive) opposed to the [volatile] electric charge.

But what does this really mean?

It means that we are very close to having a non moving part PC. The average size of a hard drive in a laptop today is somewhere between 20 and 40 Gb (although this is trending up) so imagine being able to have 10 such SD cards creating a logical drive. This would take up much less space than a normal hard drive and would give the ability to swap out parts of the storage.

Think of it as SD raid.

Friday, July 21, 2006

One small step for Maemo.....One giant leap for Maemo users

Not long after Nokia announced it's plans to release a non-phone I was keeping my eye on the project.

Living in neither the UK or US I haven't been able to buy one yet but a good friend did buy one whilst on a trip in November.

I played with it for a bit as was mostly disappointed. The screen is amazingly clear but there was limited functionality and the WiFi connection was clunky and unreliable.

Now with the release and installation of Maemo 2.0 the tablet has really come into it's own. The connection is far more reliable and the new range of applications makes it a truly useful piece of hardware rather than just a play thing.

The inclusion of Gizmo for 770 is a nice addition and the ability to use GoogleTalk would now give me a full range of communication options.

Even when outside the range of a WiFi hot-spot with a suitable phone (something like the E60, which I am still waiting to buy) I can pair it up and use the GPRS connection over a bluetooth bridge to stay connected.

Two things now need to happy:

  1. We need to get a headset profile so I can use my bluetooth headset for VoIP
  2. I need to find a Telco in Thailand that can give me a large buffet of GPRS, my current provider (DTAC) has the closest name to DATA of all the Thai Telco's yet their Data policy is almost non-existent
Next time I go back to the UK or find myself in the US I think the little device has evolved far enough to warrant the price :)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Why IT Departments should allow Skype...Your Network Sniffer

I've been having frequent problems with my ADSL connections recently. I have the same provider both at home and at work.

On both connections I get intermittent; seemingly random, outages on the pipe. The service provider has a "help desk" that are typical in Telco environments and IT Companies you know the routine:

  • restart your computer
  • check the cables
  • restart your modem
  • "are you sure you've got the password right? is caps lock on?"
Anyway the problem at home was initially a broken modem after 4 months of use and the problem at work was initially a broken splitter after about 2 weeks of use :(

Anyway getting to the point (finally), how did I know there was a problem with the network in the first place? not just the usual random web page not available (aka someone's turned the server off)

I knew because my trusty network sniffer couldn't find a way out; what is the sniffer I hear you ask?

The answer is Skype!

Wherever I am, inside or outside of a firewall, I know if there is at least one way out to the internet if I see this in the bottom right hand corner
Due to the way that Skype transits the network, generally speaking if it can't create a connection then this means that there isn't one.

If IT departments allowed people to install Skype they would empower the user to alert them very early to a broken network connection. The other benefit, for me, is that inside the firewall I can't use Yahoo or MSN messenger. Again Skype comes up trumps for me as I can use Skype Chat. A big up for Google as well as due to the way that GoogleTalk, a jabber based IM opposed to SIP, is integrated with Gmail I can also use their IM as well.

I'm sure it's a coincidence that both SIP IM's can't get out but Jabber and the Skype propiretary IM's can.

So you know you've got network problems when you see this guy

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

IM Mobile

Or should that be I am mobile, I never was very good at grammar.

I have been made aware of Mxit recently. I downloaded it onto my phone to have a play.

Mxit is an Instant Messaging platform for small clients, handsets, that connects you to your list of online contacts in your messenger of choice through GPRS or CDMA (3G) networks.

The interface is good considering the size of the phone screen and pretty intuitive to use. It could certainly become popular here with some minor tweaking. Localization would be a plus for the app to make it easy for non-English speakers to use the service.

One of the things I like about it is the ability it gives me to see across many IM's who is available. I use YIM and MSN and more and more I am using GoogleTalk as me network starts to move into the Googlesphere. In windows world this generally means many IM clients, Mxit acts as a mobile IM aggregator.

Agile is also out there but not an option for me as it doesn't support GoogleTalk. The list seems to be a SIP service so 'snaps' to Mxit for getting jabber support into their client :)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Loki Planet Guide

The mighty Om thinks that WiFi location based services will be the next kickstart in the industry.

I agree that this could be the killer app, the SMS of WiFi/Max, that could really be a key integration point for Muni nets, FON networks and the newest WiFi enabled handsets.

He mentions Loki so I went off to have a quick look. It seems pretty interesting and it made me revisit a previous idea for book readers. Combining LBS with a brand like The Lonely Planet would be a pretty powerful partnership; apply the whole thing in a PDA or some other WiFi enabled device that makes book reading easy (something like Nokia's 770) and you have your own tour guide in your pocket that is as close to being smart as you can get. It will be able to know which country you're in and allow you to subscribe to the guide for that country, or mini-guide for that city. Once walking around the LBS granularity would enable a smart book mark to move you to the section of the guide for where you are.

I think the possibilities for LBS are good and an already think of some of the players that would be smart to start looking into it. As a bit of a Starbucks addict it would be good to know where the nearest branch is, hospitals, dentists, Police Stations would be another good use for the service.

Some years back a pilot was launched in Cambridge, UK that provided LBS service based on GSM cell sites for trinagulation. It was limited to a map for shopping and the limiting factor was the size of the screen on the handset. Many of those limitations are diminishing with big screen mobiles, PDA's and rotating screen orientation (such as the Nokia E60) make this a real choice in today's digital community.

Thursday, June 29, 2006's here and growing

The last week has presented a raft of operators in Thailand jumping on the IPTV bandwagon.

Recent announcements by

And discoveries of a Shingapore Telecom service shows that there is a Thai foray into the delivery of TV over broadband.

The numbers of subscribers are limited by the lack of infrastructure in the Kingdom but True seem to understand what is required and TT&T have a license (under TTT Broadband) that allows them to roll out services in Bangkok as well as their traditional stomping ground of upcountry (rural) areas.

I wonder if the intention had been to try and open up the service in readiness for the world cup, I hope they succeed in getting at least some subscribers to the final as it will be a good test of the service and scalability.

I wish them every success in their endeavours, I already use many services from True; and would be willing to look at some of the TT&T offerings as both of these companies are really trying to make an effort to shift from the voice revenue market, and pushing hard to morph their companies to adapt to the new reality of Telco today.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Upside Downism

Like many people out there I started my blog by commenting on things that I had found on the News feeds, I try not to recycle other peoples blog entries but this is a common practice as well.

For me the blogosphere was an echo of the traditional press, akin to the thunder clap after the lightning bolt.

Over the past few months I have noticed that the storm is getting nearer; I now hear the thunder very quickly after seeing the lightning.

In some sectors the blogosphere is now very much the lightning generator and there is often a delay before the old guard (BBC et al) feel the pulse. More interestingly there seems to be a higher form of intelligence in the bloggers. On many occasions people are authoring in isolation on the same (at least very similar) ideas and concepts.

The pace of idea forming is increasing exponentially as the seed of the idea is shared across the blogosphere and extrapolated in follow up postings.

To quote the BBC yesterday

If you believe the hype, blogs are as significant as the invention of the printing press for their ability to change the way the world will be seen. If on the other hand you believe the counter-hype, blogs are a self-indulgence which pander to dull people's misguided beliefs that they have something interesting to say
I know which category I fit into :) but I do see the shift that is turning traditional Journalism, upside down, where the breaking news is being broken in the blogosphere first.

Pump my Pipe...It's Convenient

Once more I find convergence, and I don't mean FMC or any of those other Telco terms, I have found Idea Convergence.

Some time ago Paul Jardine talked about "the Other network" an idea he had many years ago, now we have NZ Telecom doing just that. On this blog I have extended the ideas of the Wifi Lightpost and fixed wireless access and Paul raised the idea of TescoMax.

Right now WiFi access in Bangkok is far from prolific but with the license given to TTT Broadband they could use some of these ideas to broaden the access to their network. Throughout this sprawling city you can rely on finding one of two things:

  1. A petrol station - PTT, Caltex, Shell, Green Leaf etc
  2. 7-Eleven - the ubiquitous convenience store
And in many locations you can find both i.e. a 7-Eleven at a petrol station.

Tie in to these two infrastructure nodes and you have a pretty good grid for your network nodes. Both places by default are in built up urban areas with homes greedy for internet access.

PTT and DTAC have a partnership that gives them an EDGE Modem on the DTAC network that makes it cheap for electronic payment methods to be used opposed to the high prices charged by the domestic arm of the TOT/CAT duopoly. So PTT at least are used to business benefits of wireless access, it's time to create the same benefit for the customers.

I'm sure 7-Eleven face similar high charges for telephony so giving them free access in return for hosting your WiMax infrastructure would be welcomed. They are also a known brand that has is an efficient supply chain for your pre-paid cards (assuming that you are going to charge for access) and a payment mechanism as they offer the PayPoint service.

TT&T themselves have a lot of phone booths so could easily roll out WiFi on "their other network"

There is a glitch though. I also happen to think that 7-Eleven and ideally placed to be an MVNO for the same reasons, they are everywhere, people know who they are and a wireless extension of their PayPoint service would be a service I would sign up for. However there is no reason why the partnership could still be a productive one.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Meeting Room in a box....Conference 2.0

I've reached that point in my life/career where I feel the need to attend the occasional conference. There are a couple that interested me here in Bangkok, Thailand Telco Forum, and the other is the Revenue Assurance Summit 2006.

However the costs of both are too high for me to justify at this point. Although I have to say that I did receive a phone call from IQPC to see if there was anything that could be done to help with the price which as nice follow up on the CS front.

Still what are the benefits of conferences:

  • Networking - shaking hands and exchanging details
  • Workshops - facilitated discussion with presentations
  • Coffee or Watercooler chats - sidebar discussion with peers
  • Presentations and case studies - slideware and demos
Now given the advances in technology and delivery options do we need to spend many thousands of US$ to get these today?

Paul and myself conceptualized the idea of a meeting room in a box when we worked in the same company.

In essence it was all of the equipment plus branding material that could be delivered to the client site and installed very easily in a room on their premises. The theory being that in the large region with many customers in many countries in different timezones the differentiator for the company would be the ease with which the client could connect and discuss real issues in real time without the need to get lots of people on planes.

So what would that kit look like today? there would be a lot of Web 2.o tools in there and some tried and tested favourites:
  • Writely - collaborative word processing
  • Google Spreadsheets - say no more but with collaboration
  • Thumbstacks - online presentations
  • Skype 2.5 - Telephone Conferencing VoIP -> VoIP and/or VoIP -> PSTN vice versa plus Web Cam suport
  • LearnLinc - demo and training software
  • Blog - a real time (as close as we can) blog feed with back channel (but you already knew as you've got this far already)
  • Podcast
  • LinkedIn
Conference 2.0 would use this toolkit to enable participants to be "at" the conference at a fraction of the cost and with the convenience of being at home to help with the Work-Life balance.

The first three become my presentations.
Skype becomes the eyes and ears of the participant(s) and can go a long way to being the facilitation layer for the workshops.
LearnLinc is the workshop room where I can also hold my presentation or my demo.
Blog is the minutes of the meeting and my takeaway for future reference
Podcast is the multilingual voice presentation, Q&A, welcome and closing speeches and I can keep them for later.
LinkedIn is my networking and meet and greet tool that allows me to easily approve and contact people in the future.

Hi Kettle... I'm Pot.... You're Black

In an interesting twist I thought I would do some background reading on Wireless Facilities Inc, commonly (you could say Jargon) known as WIFI after yet another shameless act to grab a phrase in common practice, stick a trademark on it and see the $$'s roll in.

I wonder if they've ever thought of their abbreviated name, and how similar it seems to WiFi which is trademarked by the WiFi Alliance back in 2003......

This shameless practice should be stopped or before long every word in the Oxford English Dictionary will carry the sign.

I wonder who holds the trademark on sign???

Isn't it Ironic.....

There's been a lot of talk on Net Neutrality and it's all gone quiet.

I don't see why everyone is so surprised Net Neutrality is the Techno equivalent of "selective listening" something that we all learn from a very early age and continue to practice through life.

Working in a tricky project right now where I am employed to advise the client on how they should be implementing their chosen product to give them the best of functional match and easy maintenance and upgrade paths. However the client employs a lot of selective listening and it got me thinking of "Advice Neutrality"©™® and why baby Bell react the way they do.

Many decision have already been made before I joined the project and no amount of discussion and persuasion is going to change their minds as it might be more work upfront (short term pain, long term gain) or it might mean that they lose their position of power (they are the SI) as the real client won't have to go for them for changes and S&M later. This is no different from AT&T for example wanting to limit the traffic of VoIP providers that they see taking the revenues right out of their pipe.

I'm not saying I condone it but you've got to understand it.

Time will tell on both, but in terms of my project predicament just think of Alanis Morissette's Ironic "it's like to good advice that I just didn't take....."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Earlier I wrote about integrating the Gizmo VoIP client with Asterisk (open source PBX) .

Well I mostly use Skype and not Gizmo, for not other reason than familiarity and first come first serve adoption patterns on my part.

Skype is not a SIP based client. They wrote a proprietary protocol as they felt that SIP did not allow the navigation through the firewall that Skype clearly has.

Warning: an aside....
This is one of the advantages for Skype for me. I am frequently on site and very rarely can I get to any other of the Intranet or Extranet parts of the corporate network. Yahoo messenger sometimes works but mostly MSN is blocked. However with Skypes snakelike ability to transit the firewall I always have the options of Skype chat and encrypted file transfer.

People have been trying to get a SIP connection to Skype.... and succeeded for more information go and check TMC and the vendor RSDevs

So good news all round and it runs in Asterisk.

So could this be the first interconnect like system that allows VoIP users to transit between networks?

SIPly GizmAsterisktic

When I first starting reading up on the E series I thought I saw some mention of the ability to use the E60 within the company PBX with support for 4 digit (extension) dialling.

It seemed to disappear from the blurb on the Nokia site but as Mobile Burn have confirmed it is there.

This is good news as now it opens up a realm of possibilities. If you are using a PBX with wireless support; something like Asterisk, then you can configure the SIP settings so that when you are within range of the WAP your shiny new E60 can be used as your normal deskphone.

Impressive but so what? Asterisk 2.0 also supports Gizmo a SIP Softphone VoIP client similar to Vonage and Skype.

This now allows me to route calls from Gizmo to me mobile handset. That's pretty useful if you're on Gizmo which is very US centric but does support Call In in the UK and Spain. It comes with the usual Call Out and Gizmo->Gizmo free calls.

All very nice and relatively easy to do. Asterisk runs on Linux and so the whole platform supports the growing trend in OpenSource adoption in the SME market.

The final step in the chain is something that many people have talked about already. Using your WiFi router to host some of this stuff. I use Belkin at home and I'm very happy with it, I piggy back onto the ADSL modem so I can have an always on connection wherever I am in the house. Belkin is a supported provider in the openWRT forum

OpenWrt is a Linux distribution for wireless routers. Instead of trying to cram every possible feature into one firmware, OpenWrt provides only a minimal firmware with support for add-on packages. For users this means the ability to custom tune features, removing unwanted packages to make room for other packages and for developers this means being able to focus on packages without having to test and release an entire firmware.

So I can now change my firmware and run the a Linux distro on my router to host Asterisk*

The total solution is ideal for SME's as I get a very cost effective PBX for my business that can scale nicely if I build out the connectivity by adding some access points as well.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bluetooth needs an overbite

Bluetooth was once a bit of a gimmick and was hard to come by. It was toyed with by some of the gadget freaks but never really found a proper niche as they were very few devices that you could connect with.

The last couple of generations of handsets has seen Bluetooth have a pretty healthy comeback and now you can find the technology embedded into phones, thru headsets, stereo headphones and on to cameras.

However until very recently you were still limited to one channel, this gave you very little flxibility and the profiles are a bit clunky.

Again this is in a state of evolution and my future phone; the Nokia E60, comes with six bluetooth channels.

There is the usual banter about how WiFi enabled handsets will start to undo the handcuffs that the Mobile Operator has put on your wrists, although in reality the MNO will still own the pipe, but many people forget about Bluetooth. It is a complementary connectivity option as it to can be a route into the UMA and out on to the mobile network.

As Martin observed earlier this week many people are using some of the bridging capabilities of Bluetooth radio. This is allowing them to use their mobile handset as a over engineered Bluetooth headset.

So there is some work required to give the Bluetooth the bite it needs to really make it's mark but the market is ready for the new standard.

So there are more options for you to reveal the potential of Bluetooth. Although here's some free advice. If you're picking up a headset accessory for your Nokia stay away from this model, the Nokia HDW-3.

Here in Thailand it retails for just shy of 4,000 Baht (that's 60 of your British Pounds and pushing up and over 100 bucks) so it's not cheap. Unfortunately the quality and the usefulness of the unit is completely over turned by the plastic ear clip that costs around 3 Baht (5 pence) to manufacture. The clip ring frequently fails meaning that the headset can not be used in a hands free mode.

When I get round to changing my phone I'll spring for this guys newest brother, Nokia HS-26W. The clip is more of a rubberised affair that is more flexible and it lends itself to left or right usage much better.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thai Telcos could create a use for that SMS pipe

One of the weirdnesses of Thailand mobile patterns is the skewed use of SMS.

I don't know for sure but based on the calls I receive and how I watch people using their handset SMS is not as widely used as in the UK or Europe.

Why? two basic reasons

  1. The language itself; 44 consonants and 32 vowels
Hello: สวัสดี
SMS on a normal handset: 9 -> 8 (5 times) -> *(select a vowel) -> 9 -> 1(4 times) -> *(select a vowel) this is then 14 key presses to write hello

2. The people; Thais are very person centric and as such they would much rather speak to someone than conduct a conversation through remote control. IVR and CTI is used in Thailand but most people tend to go to "speak to a CSR" option as they want to have that one-to-one with a person and not a machine.

So the operators (DTAC, TrueMove fka Orange, AIS) have a lot of spare SMS capactity that they're not gettting revenue for.

DTAC have starting using a combination of PushMail and SMS as a work force managment aide.

Martin Geddes
of Telepocalypse has posted a possible revenue generating use for this SMS pipe that could become big if used the right way. It's an extension of the SMS voting that we see for Academy Fantasia and Big Brother.

The current crisis in Thailands North after the flash floods killed and injured, destroyed property and infrastructure have resulted in the usual outpouring of 'nam jai' where those who have freely donate to those who now don't. The items are all graetly received but cash is still king. Something like the buy a brick campaign could help a lot and the payment mechanism is already here.

Viral Marketing and the Long Tail

Geoff Long wrote in the the Bankok Posts, Database (every Wednesday) in the emergence of "the Long Tail" into a wider audience. He is predicting that the term will become more widely used that today.

The term was defined last year and the first cited example is that of a surge in the popularity of a book on climbing several years after it was written and referenced in a much more recently published book.

The long tail is ideally suited to many forms of content today. Examples are MPS downloads and Books (electronic and some printed) where you can easily develop the concept of a back catalogue that generates interest.

I know that I have 'discovered' a new author several books into their series and wanted to purchase and read everything else. This is certainly the case with Lee Child, David Baldacci and Stephen Leather.

This behavior leads me to the conclusion that the Long Tail is the ideal viral marketing technique. For me Skype was pretty viral. I have been using it for more than one year now but only a friend told me about it. As posted earlier this year this approach is still happening, many people are still finding out about Skype from friends and colleagues well into the growth and usage pattern.

So if you have a product that you you would like to market; forget the big release and grand openings create a very accessible portal (Web Page, Blog etc) tell some people and sit back and wait. Don't get disheartened when the hits are small keep the portal open and available and over time the Long Tail will allow people to find you.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Russian Doll VPN

I have been using LinkedIn for a long time but it has taken a new focus recently as I actively use it to build out my potential business contacts.

It has many good features that allow you to define your online profile and easily share this with would be partners, colleagues, customers.

There are many of these Social Networking tools available today and it allows a good depiction of the kind of people you know, who they know and out. LinkedIn also gives you a break down of what your network looks like as you build contacts and connect and you get to see the kind of people they are connected to.

This is a very powerful tool and it could be used in a very useful way if you were (or wanted to become a Telco 2.0).

Your average Telco 1.0 that serves Joe Public knows; and possibly cares, very little about you as a person. See Paul's posting on "you the ARPU" and see how different the Social Network view of your customer is from Name: Number: ARPU: We are so much more than that and we could become your most powerful marketing tool.....

I would like to see someone offer me a Russian Doll approach to Closed Calling Groups (aka Calling Circles, VPN's)

People who are directly connected to me I can call for free.

People who are friends of friends (2 degrees of separation) are not free but cheap rate.

As you go further out away from you and as the doll gets bigger the rate increases.

What does the Telco get? they get a more loyal subscriber base and they know more about you and who you are connected to. This becomes a good platform for upsell and cross-sell of services and content.

It would require a new approach to directory services. Rather than the traditional Operator centric helicopter view of the subscribers it could become an subscriber centric contact list out.

Much of the information is available in the would be Telco 2.0's that are out there today. Yahoo, Skype, Hotmail all use contact lists that are not as flat as a phone book (or contact list on your handset).

Is there a billing or mediation system that could do it though?.......

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mooo....said the subscriber

Three of my favourite bloggers have posted statements about quality, pricing and what the telco's need to do about it.

I particularly like Martin's phrase of Telco 2.0 and what this means for the current cash-cow approach that the average Telco 1.0 operator sees as their subscriber base.

Look back at Singlepoint (a Caudwell company). They set themselves up as an MVNO with a main differentiator being cost. Buy the MOU's from T-Mobile at a discount and sell cheaper than the original MNO. They then sold the shop to Vodafone for a huge profit. The main revenue stream for them wasn't voice or line rental but handset insurance.

Now look at the present situation here in Thailand. With increasingly poor first time connection success and diminishing completed call success across networks (interconnwhat?) and a similar story within the Number 1 mobile operator, AIS, when subscribers on the same network can't connect. The frustration is starting to build within the user base.

The main operator complains that this is due to the call patterns of the users that have changed due to the price war that is in full flow between the three main players.

But what is happening? what is AIS particularly doing about the QoS issue. Very little, in fact they count their billions of Baht in revenue gleaned from monthly charges and the international roamers that pay a 28 - 33% premium for the privilege (over and above the 1600 Baht deposit supported by passport, work permit and 6 months bank statements) and do nothing to invest in more interconnect infrastructure or discount the monthly fee for inconvenience of having a phone but not being able to use it most of the time.

Just say moo and eat some more grass!.....

As Paul suggests, maybe the time has come for free On-Net calls. More and more operators are offering packages that get existing members to attract their friends, family and colleagues onto the network. Piggy back the discounts and bonus schemes with free On-Net calling and you would see a mass exodus to the network.

Then what is the real differentiator, Customer Service. I know of at least one MVNO that is looking to compete on it's brand that is basically year-on-year winner of subscriber voted best customer service.

All the pieces are on the board it's just time to make the first move.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Slingapore Airlines....Your own in-flight entertainment

Flown Singapore Airlines recently? they were one of the first carriers that I knew of that had in-flight internet access; using the Boeing Connexion service.

OK so it's not cheap, I did hope that you would be allowed to use those accumulated airmiles as a payment method but it hasn't happened yet, but it could be a premium service people might want to use.

Heard of a SlingBox yet? got one? want one?

So you're on your flight from Singapore to London and you'd like to catch up with some TV programmes that you missed. Browse from your laptop via the Picocell connection (Connexion) and hook into your SlingBox feed.

Now slide over to Yahoo and re-programme your TiVo to get your favourite programs ready for the return flight.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Desktop killed the Radio Star....and others

Do you ever watch Click Online on BBC World? if you lived in the UK do you remember Tomorrow's World.

Both programmes that walk the average Joe through new and emerging technologies and they were scheduled and run by other people.

Today think about how I could sit in front of my PC and do something similar that is relevant to me and my community of like minded people.

Video Logging (Vlogging)

All powerful idea centric tools available to you that enable you to share (ramble) your suggestions and opinions.

A weekly show to demonstrate a gadget?
A weekend broadcast...?
Daily Blog?
Online conference?
All of the above or any combination that works for you and your audience.

We have more and more tools at our disposal to reach outside of physical location and have mass contact with others all over the world. A marketing man's dream.....!

It's a desktop publishing revolution and will start soon.

But..... there's always a but right. Reporters sans fontieres (Reporters Without Borders) has updated their list of countries that need to be watched in their attempts to control the internet and activities (like blogging)

But that's just technology and there's only so much a country can do within their sphere of influence.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Like a CAT in a bag..... waiting to drown

I am a frequent user of Skype. Living and working in Thailand I find it a very good and CHEAP service to call back to the UK for family and business contacts.

I'll correct that I found it good.

The last couple of weeks I have been suffering with extremely poor service quality, so bad that I have to revert to traditional PSTN technology. In of itself not bad but way too much money for the 3 hours I would spend on the phone talking to different parts of my UK family.

This isn't Skype itself. I am in and out of Taiwan and I never have the same problems there. I also have free in room broadband and WiFi. The Hotel allows me to make VoIP calls from their own infrastructure and I can us Skype for clear and cheaper yet calls from the room.

The problem I suspect lies in the incumbent duopoly of CAT (Communications Authority of Thailand) and TOT (Telecommunications Organization of Thailand). Both are starting to feel the pressure from trying to run profitable business in a [slowly] more competitive market after years of underfunded operations.

Reeling from a succession of bad news items such as Number Taxes, Cash payouts to competitors and new technology adoption rates increasing every month they are starting to feel the pinch and so I suspect (no hard reasons just a hunch) that they are doing their best to throttle the international gateway that they control to choke Skype at the source. The throttling of the pipe would not allow Skype to send out it's sniffer packets to get a sense for the fastest route, leaving me on one route and hence the knock on of service quality.

What Thailand needs a group of de-regulators not the current regulatory body the NTC, that are educated in the same school of "milk the cash cow" Increased, and soon, competition would force the end of the inefficient, underfunded and inward looking practices of today.

In an IPeal world

Discussion around IP is already steady and high, VoIP is popular and IPTV is a recent and so far has low volumes but still a reasonably consistently ranking in the blogosphere. There are all the same a method of access that is finding new uses all the time.

Living in a country of limited choice for television I welcome the dawn of IPTV as the low infrastructure cost (the customer buys most of it themselves) means that there should be more programming choice as the provider (publisher) can invest more in buying the programmes (content) and delivering to me (the subscriber)

I use the terms

  • publisher
  • content
  • subscriber
for the generic tone that it requires. We could equally be refering to games for your phone or ring tone, TV programmes, Pay Per View films the applications are fairly limitless the delivery framework is the same. The uses are personal and/or commercial and are centred around IP Access.

Having already mentioned the impact on non-traditional media channels with respect to the BBC it made me think on how the borders of coutries (and by default their control) is blurring and shrinking.

For instance SlingBox opens up non-US people [potentially and possibly not legally] to the US cable cloud, OK maybe not a nice thought but a thought. Now being a "brit abroad" I would probably like to choose to see some programmes from home, not necessarily the ones that Thailand's UBC wishes to show me.

That was IP ultimately allows me; choice. Choice of what, when and where. Channels as we see them should collapse, the niche media sectors (UK's Food Channel) will become more popular and dictated groups of schedules (e.g. BBC 2) should become less popular.

The revolution within the TV Media industry could be alikened to what we are starting to see in the MVNO trend. Strong brands packaging content (films, programmes, radio stations etc) and delivering through IP channels.

Deregulation needs to start, if necessary driven by the publishers themselves, if they are to survive. As the borders blur; and grey channels open up to meet the "it's available here if you want it now rather than wait for your network" demand, the players will have to accomodate the market that bitTorrent pushes the edge of every day.

The rollout will have to managed in order not to pressurize the current hardware out there today. Check out Paul Jardines ramble on the subject for more insight.

Friday, April 28, 2006


There is a lot of talk around MVNO's at present.

Plus: with the announcement in the UK of 11 (eleven) new GSM licencees in the low power model Dean Bubley of Disruptive Wireless has good dialogue on what this means for the market space around MVNO's. He follows up yesterday with his take on the right time for SME MVNO's, this has long been the case in the wireline market with companies like Energis but the space has already started to develop with players like Genesis.

Minus: Sprint Nextel have been very vocal this week in stating their desire to try and slow down the emergence of MVNO's by minmizing their part in the MVNE space. Sprint are one of the key providers of Minutes of Usage (MOU's) that allow some of the new MVNO's in the US to be able to offer the voice and data services that are bundled into their brand centric offering. They wish to observe how the current ones (ESPN, Disney, Helio etc) perform before adding anymore.

This in many ways makes sense as there is a theoretical maximum number of MOU's that they can provide and I guess they wish to ensure that the right volume gets to the successful MVNO's as a preference. It also would imply that they are worried about diluting their own brand as they get pushed further and further into the background. Time will tell and I will continue to watch with interest to see how this plays out.

The part of the message I would like to take away on the announcement of new licence holders in the UK is the use of low power cells and the recognition on usage patterns.

I have talked about the difference between truly mobile use and transitory use. Most people are the second category, they carry their phone from home to the office and back again as they appreciate the convenience of having the device close to hand. They occasionally make calls whilst moving (cars, trains, walking) but mostly we are static users of mobiles.

I can see a time when I actually become a partner of the Mobile Operator rather that just a simple subscriber. Take the evolution and direction of FON and how they are building a network of WiFi cells by getting people to plug in to the network and share their access point.

I know better than the operator where I want to use my mobile handset. With that in mind I could open my WiFi (or more likely WiMax or Picocell derivative) up to the network as one of my "home cells". When making calls from within the cell, integrated with UMA, I would get preferential rates (hopefully free). If other subscribers call within my cell I get credit back in minutes of usage or cash on account.

I benefit as I have signal where and when I need it most. The network operator benefits as they get free network expansion. The model is similar to individuals that run their own wind turbine. What they don't use they sell back to the electricity board.

It's part Mobile Virtual Network Operator and part FON. Let's call it FONlike Virtual Network Operator (FVNO)

Friday, April 21, 2006

When did we stop KISSing?

Throughout our lives we are surrounded by increasingly complex technology. This is true for Mobile Phones, Software and how services are offered.

What happen to the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle?

Not so long ago technology evolution was driven by need. As an industry the software development sector has created an environment where platforms change faster than the consumer (the coder) can keep up with the changes. This has left companies in a situation whereby they can no longer estimate how long it takes to produce something as the code and technology underneath the demand is constantly changing and the developers always want to be at the bleeding edge.

For example there is a company that has created a front end onto it's billing platform such that a CSR can perform their job. The complexity is reasonably low and could be written in Java Script. But this company has been ruled by the developers so we have Struts, Java web tiers, EJB's and all manner of code parts inside the user interface. This has left the company with very few subject matter experts that can actually implement and support the product. Also in a couple of months it will be old technology in it's own right.

The same situation is replicated in other objects that influence our lives, phones that are cameras, cameras that are music players, fridges with internet access. What's the point. I am a firm believer in the more basic a thing is the less things there are to go wrong. I have a phone that I make calls on, I have a camera that I take pictures with. They are designed for and fit for a purpose..... KISS.

The final note is on how companies try and sell us services. Paul Jardine has previously written about "when is free not good value". This same approach is used by way too many Mobile Operators. Send x SMS and get y minutes free when combined with z MB of download and umpteen Video Calls on your new 3G phone.

Convinced?? probably not... this is why I like the approach T-Mobile have taken with Flext. Pay x per month and get y back as a cash discount on a first come first served basis. One month I make a lot of voice calls early in the month, so I get more discounted calls. The next month I end a lot of SMS's, so I get more SMS's free. Ultimately it doesn't matter how my usage patterns change I always get $y's worth of events free.

KISS at it's best, what do I want free stuff. What is the stuff? whatever I happen to use that month.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A tale of two uses...Fixed Wireless Access

Having experienced two extremes recently it got me thinking about Fixed Wireless Access.

Not so many months ago I finally got my PSTN service connected to my house in Bangkok. This was after almost one year of waiting for someone to either cancel their service or for one of the two main providers to install more hardware to expand capacity. As you can imagine both scenarios are extremely unlikely and if a circuit did become available it was not guaranteed to be close enough to have good performance on ADSL service piggy backing on the same line.

So that's scenario 1: massive population with little incentive by the operators to expand and invest in copper wire.

Scenario 2: just go back from a two week holiday in New Zealand, awesome place, and scattered townships of small populations separated by hundreds of kilometers of scenery. Very nice for the camera, not so good for the telco.

Having said that NZ Telecom have made substantial investments in both wired and wireless access. I can use my phone most of the way up the Tongariro Volcano and all of the way into the Mount Cook National Park. All very commendable but is it sustainable.

No I'm sure that in their planning NZ Telecom have planned for network expansion and so there will be spare capacity on the drop points; but....

There is a large transient community in NZ based in camper vans, mostly foreigners but also locals. This got me thinking about a use to Fixed Wireless Access. Let's say that each community (or for the larger towns each sub-community) had a cell for fixed wireless. This was tried in the UK in the mid 90's by Ionica but they got their demographic a bit wrong so they folded. Now I can connect new homes very quickly by expanding the cell's footprint without laying large amounts of cable. I could also, in theory, add transceivers to the camper vans so they can connect to the PSTN network whilst based in the community.

The first scenario lends itself to the model as ongoing investment would be reduced as capacity grows in the cell. I don't need to make the already bad roads worse with more tarmac patches as I lay more copper in the group or string yet more cables from the already overloaded street poles (any visitors to Bangkok will understand what I'm talking about).

I guess the question mark for Bangkok would be how sensitive the system is to rain fall. In a country that has a 6 to 8 month rainy season more often than not the UBC Digital Satellite service suffers from signal loss in the rain, not a great solution as you can imagine. While you're at throw some WiMax hardware on those cell towers and feed me IPTV :)