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