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.

PodCast
SkypeCast
Video Logging (Vlogging)
Blogging

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.