Friday, May 28, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I just concluded a whirlwind tour down-under. It was my first time visiting Australia and New Zealand, and both countries certainly were beautiful. And, mobile services and smartphones are exploding in popularity there, just like in the US, Europe and Asia.
It turns out there is quite a bit of overlap in the work day between Kineto's home office in California and Sydney, so much so that I found myself making and receiving numerous calls throughout the day. Like many international travelers, I rely on email from my smartphone. However, history has taught me that roaming, particularly for data, can be very costly.
I found myself relying heavily on Wi-Fi to stay connected. Fortunately, office buildings, hotels and airports and even ferry terminals all had Wi-Fi coverage.
Yet the best tool I had was Kineto's own Smart Wi-Fi application for Android devices. The application, that I'm testing, works on my Android smartphone in conjunction with my mobile operator's services in the US to provide me a virtual connection over Wi-Fi anywhere in the world.
When my phone was on Wi-Fi and the Smart Wi-Fi application was attached, I had a virtual local connection in the US. No international roaming bills; I paid standard rates for all the calls I made to the US. That saved me a bundle.
For international traveling, I found the benefits really add up quickly.
Now that I'm back in the US, as always I'm still using Wi-Fi for better indoor coverage, faster data access and more reliable 3G services.
T-Mobile offers this as a service -- Wi-Fi Calling. It's based on UMA/GAN technology and is available on a range of BlackBerries today. There's no additional cost for Wi-Fi Calling, and many corporate customers have used it to significantly reduce their phone bills.
The service is also available from other operators in other countries, like Rogers in Canada, as well as Orange in the UK and France, to name a few.
I strongly recommend T-Mobile's Wi-Fi Calling service, especially for anyone traveling internationally. We use it extensively and it has saved us huge amounts on roaming costs for both data and voice.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Google tracks user interest in features/capabilities on Android. Item number 6242 is "UMA enabled Android OS". Click on this link to get to this screen:
Now do two things:
First, make sure to 'Star' the feature. This is simply clicking on the grey star in the top left to make it yellow.
Second, take a moment to add your comment and write up how much you love UMA. Tell Google that UMA/GAN support should be native in the OS.
Companies like Kineto are already working with individual handset manufacturers to add UMA/GAN support into their individual platforms, but native support in Android would dramatically increase the availability of handsets supporting Smarter Wi-Fi.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Gartner released some figures on the mobile phone market, and smartphones in general. The information was covered in this article in Total Telecoms.
Last year we picked up a report by RBS projecting a full 50% of all handsets sold in the world in 2014 would be smartphones. They projected something like 1.6b units, and 800m are predicted to be smartphones.
Along comes this report to show that the world is well on it's way. While Gartner is projecting the global handset market to grow 11-13% in 2010, they are reporting 49% year over year actual growth for smartphones. With 54.3m smartphones shipped in the first quarter of 2010, it's easy to project 325m units in 2010, easily extrapolated to 800m units in 2014.
However, consider the implications of 800m smartphones shipped in 2014. Today networks are groaning under the impact of a tiny fraction of that many smartphones. And one trend which I haven't seen reported, but seems to be true in my focus group of one, is that the longer people have smartphones, the more data they use.
I think consumers become confortable with email, then venture into different elements of the smartphone experience, moving pictures, recording videos, hitting Facebook, watching YouTube videos and streaming Pandora. These last two are particular new favorites of mine.
I don't listen to the radio in the car anymore, I just start Pandora and let my smartphone deliver internet radio to my car. And YouTube has become a very easy way to kill time when I'm waiting... for the kids at soccer practice or at the airport or whereever.
The need for Smart Wi-Fi is growing as fast as the shipment of smartphones.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
In my mailbox this week are several emails from Ovum touting their new report "Mobile Operator Response to VOIP: the six steps". We don't have an Ovum account, so I don't know what the six steps are, but there are several steps operators can take, using their existing infrastructure and a Smart Wi-Fi solution based on 3GPP GAN, to address mobile VoIP.
1. Turn Mobile Voice into Mobile VoIP. Mobile operators have a huge technical, market and competitive advantage with their existing circuit voice service. The 3GPP GAN specification enables operators to turn Mobile Voice into Mobile VoIP. The existing voice service is transformed into a new, cutting edge VoIP service... and the best part is that it doesn't require a massive new infrastructure upgrade. With Smart Wi-Fi, mobile voice becomes a Mobile VoIP icon/application which can be distributed far beyond the confines of the mobile phone.
2. Compete where the competition is. Most mobile VoIP occurs over Wi-Fi. Subscribers have access to Wi-Fi in the home and at the office. With Smart Wi-Fi, the mobile operator can create a low cost calling service that's available only when the mobile phone is attached to Wi-Fi. The advantage? Mobile operators don't have to drop prices when the user is in their car or traveling, only in the same places where there is actual mVoIP competition, when there is Wi-Fi available.
3. Bundle your mobile VoIP service with USB dongles. USB dongles have been a tremendous success for mobile operators. The mobile operator now has a platform on the subscriber's 'other' device, their laptop. And yet operators haven't chosen to embed a mobile VoIP client into the USB dongle. With Smart Wi-Fi, a mobile VoIP client using the existing mobile voice network can easily be embedded with the USB dongle. This is certainly better than giving subscribers high-speed mobile data service, and then leaving a gaping hole for voice that requires a quick download from Skype.
4. Embed mobile VoIP onto the iPad. While launched here in the US, the iPad 3G is about to take off in Europe. Guess what's missing? Any type of voice service, operator-based or otherwise. With Smart Wi-Fi, operators could easily have their own mVoIP app pre-loaded onto the iPad. Sure, users may still choose to download Skype, but at least they have the option to use the operator's service.
5. Extend mobile VoIP to non-cellular devices. Once the stodgie old 'mobile voice' service has been transformed into a shiny new Mobile VoIP service with Smart Wi-Fi, it can be used on non-mobile devices. It can be downloaded to laptops, desktops, iPads without 3G, the list goes on and on.
6. Address the ILD disparity. This is the most controversial decision to make. Kineto Wireless conducted a survey several months ago and found that the primary use for a third party mobile VoIP application is to place (outbound) international long-distance (IDL) calls. I have a colleague who only turns on Wi-Fi on his iPhone to place Skype calls to relatives around the world. As long as there is a tremendous arbitrage opportunity, subscribers will jump through the hoops to use alternative mVoIP services. This is immensely profitable for operators, so there is no hurry to collapse the market.
But I think everyone sees the same evolution which transpired in the fixed network coming to the mobile network. Today calls to fixed lines in most developed markets are about $0.02/minute. As mobile termination rates continue to decline, mobile ILD will continue to decline as well.
It's clear to me that there are two major trends occuring in the mobile voice market. One is that the revenue per minute is declining, and will continue to decline for some time.
The second trend, which I think is coming faster than people realize, is that the total number of minutes served will begin to decline. There is a new generation of subscribers who talk less. They view the mobile phone as a text, email, IM, Facebook tool. Making a voice call is distinctly secondary. We can see it in the network trends (Ericsson: data overtake voice traffic), in Smartphone UIs (Blur, Sense, ...), in the service plans (Vodafone: £15/month gets 300 min voice, unlimited texts).
The implications are profound for mobile operators. Less revenue per minutes, less minutes overall, sounds a lot like the fixed line voice world.
To conclude, mobile operators have tremendous influence in the market, they have spent billions to create brand awareness, and now with Smart Wi-Fi, they can leverage their most valuable service, voice, beyond a mobile phone.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Two articles showed up yesterday, one on the Android Guys blog, and covered again on Electronista. The comments to the Android Guys post were pretty funny. There are still a lot of people who love their UMA. I don't think T-Mobile helped the situation by changing names of different products because it does get pretty confusing.
"Wi-Fi Calling" is the name of the original UMA service. The original name from T-Mobile was HotSpot@Home, but that got changed to Wi-Fi Calling.
Then they launched their fixed line VoIP product called "@Home". But HotSpot@Home and @Home are not the same things.
As for the $10/month all you can call plan, I'm not 100% sure, but I think they dropped new sales of that. When T-Mobile dropped prices aggressively on unlimited plans in early 2009, it was difficult to charge extra for unlimited Wi-Fi Calling.
We have been saying for a while that T-Mobile should just make calls over Wi-Fi free, like nights and weekends. No fee, just free!
This is something available to enterprise customers today.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Last week there was a great article by Peggy Albright covering 25 years of Wi-Fi. I guess 25 years ago, the FCC made a decision to open up three spectrum bands, 900 mHz, 2.4 gHz, and 5.8 gHz with little oversite other than to suggest that devices 'play nice with others'. These three sandboxes were opened up for entrepreneurs to create the future.
Wi-Fi, Cordless phones, Bluetooth and certainly many other products/technologies have flourished in the unlicensed playspace. Entire industries have formed based on the availability of the spectrum, and organizations have developed specifically to sheppard the tenant of 'playing nice with others' into an impressive range of innovations and specifications that have resulted in products that actually work together.
I could wax on about the wonders of Wi-Fi or the importance of local wireless networks, but it dawns on me that perhaps the most important lesson to take away from this is that, given the right set of circumstances, human creativity is nearly unstoppable.