Category Archives: Society

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Key Trends at CTIA Wireless 2009

CTIA 2009 - Mobile LifeI attended the CTIA Wireless 2009 show in Las Vegas, April 1st – 3rd, 2009. The attendance was reported to be down 10%-15% compared to last year, which was 40K. I could feel the cut back in attendance, especially on the 1st and the 3rd days of the show. There were less exhibiting booths, much smaller booths, and felt like, only LG had a good size booth! Since CTIA is so close to MWC in Barcelona, held just 6 weeks ago, CTIA is turning into a North American regional show. iPhone is a major leader in wireless industry, but Apple was not at CTIA. Nor was Google, despite their huge Android and G1 initiatives. Cisco was also absent. So, there were some major no shows.

The key take aways from CTIA 2009 were:

LTE is the next major investment industry will be making. With Verizon’s recent announcements, U.S. market seems to be now leading on the LTE front.
It is the Apps and in particular, App Stores that garner the most interest, especially with RIM launching, and others such as Microsoft and Nokia are expected soon; but all far behind the iPhone / iTunes leadership Mobile adverting & mobile marketing, despite (and maybe because of) a large number of smaller players, the progress being made is painfully slow. This portion of the industry is still in its infancy; not clear what direction it is going to take. There were several interesting developments in WiMAX, Femtocells, Healthcare, Smartphones, messaging / twittering, music and video services, and Al Gore’s closing keynote! First, some interesting numbers that reflect the state of the wireless industry:

Globally, we had 3.6B mobile subscribers in 2008, increasing to 4B this year, and targeting 4.9B by end of 2009. Wireless operator revenues were $700B last year, and will grow to $855B by 2012. Handset sales will decline briefly, from 1.22B to 1.2B this year, but expected to reach 1.4B by 2012. Industry capital spending will also decline briefly from $51.2B in 2008 to $50.7B in 2009, and stay around $50B for the next 4 years, and finally U.S. market reached 270 Million mobile users, with the 14 Million adds in 2008.

It looks like the global economic problems are not significantly affecting the wireless industry; in fact wireless may become an engine or core element of the global recovery.

Verizon’s LTE supplier decisions generated significant presentations, discussions and demonstrations. The winners such as AlcaLu and Ericsson were displaying a lot on LTE, including Evolved Packet Core (EPC). It looks like AlcaLu will play a more evolutionary role with Verizon, since they can provide the “transition from CDMA to LTE”, while Ericsson’s approach might be more Greenfield.

On the App Store front, Research in Motion (RIM) was the talk of the town! Their Blackberry App World was the subject of the Keynote on April 1st, starting with 1000 apps in the store, covering both enterprise and consumer apps. During the exhibits, Blackberry booth was one of the liveliest, with lots of interest. However, 1K apps is no comparison to 25K apps that iTunes has. Also, it was revealed that RIM will be keeping about 20% of the App revenues, the rest will be shared between the operators and the developers. In iTunes case, Apple gets 30%, and the rest goes to the developers. Nokia’s Ovi and Microsoft’s App Store are also on the way. However, there is also a major cost factor for app developers.

According to MTV, it cost $5K to $20K to develop an iPhone app that runs on 17M iPhones and iPods around the world, whereas $100’s K is needed for Java or BREW apps. That is a huge difference!

Skype app was made available on iPhone and on Blackberry in the beginning of CTIA. It had more than 1 Million downloads in 2 days, just for iPhone. There were lots of people trying out Skype calls with these two devices on Wi-Fi environment (it is not supported on the cellular networks!), with mostly positive feedback. However, there may be some operator / regulator push backs, both in the U.S. and in Europe, in the coming days!

Mobile advertising / mobile marketing is taking the center stage for the new business models being pursued for mobile services, apps and content delivery. There are a large number of young companies involved in different parts of the mobile advertising eco-system. There is a clear shift of ad budgets from traditional marketing media to more focused & more personal mobile user environment. However, value chain is still complicated and requires a significant amount of coordination & cooperation. The four major U.S. operators have recently reached an agreement, through Mobile Marketing Association, on standards for mobile marketing practices, which should improve significantly the operational efficiency and time-to-market for mobile marketing campaigns. However, this segment of the wireless industry is still in its infancy, and we should expect some consolidations / re-structuring in the eco-system.

Video seems to be major mobile app, with mobile video downloads increasing significantly. MTV was quoted with 25M downloads in 2006, 50M in 2007 and 100M in 2008, i.e. 100% y/y growth! Also, Nielson was quoted as 11M American watched video on their mobile handsets in 2008, spending average 3 hr 42 min per month. On the Mobile TV front, Digital TV (DTV), based on ATSC, will start to be deployed later this year. I saw some excellent quality LG handsets that receive DTV video broadcasts. Qualcomm’s MediaFLO is not shying away from the competition; in fact, MediaFLO is expanding to new cities, now offering service in 68 markets across the U.S.

Some people in the industry think that WiMAX is dead, due to the economic downturn we are facing. I don’t believe so, because of three reasons. First, Clearwire had a strong presence at this show, reiterating their commitments to national deployment, emphasizing that the key issue is capacity for the U.S. market, and they’ve got huge 120 MHz of spectrum across major markets. Second, recently issued U.S. government’s economic stimulus package dedicates $7.2B for new broadband deployment across the rural U.S., which will be dominated by WiMAX solutions. There were a few rural U.S. WiMAX deployment announcements during the show, and some suppliers are promoting WiMAX as “shovel-ready” technology, meaning that it is ideal to stimulate the U.S. economy! Finally, there are lots of WiMAX deployment opportunities in the developing world, such as India, and I have heard a target of 100 new WiMAX operators this year.

Femtocells are maturing and getting ready to be deployed by major operators. Verizon, Sprint and AT&T are completing their Femto trials. Show floor had several Femtocell suppliers and demonstrations of collaborations across the industry, primarily focusing on fixed mobile convergence (FMC) theme. There were 3G, WiMAX as well as LTE versions of the Femtocells. In my mind, pricing / cost is still the major issue!

In the handset space , the most exciting things happening are with the Smartphones . Even though only 13% of the new phones were Smartphones in 2008, this number is expected to be 23% of the new phones in 2013 (which is 300M Smartphones); this represents a 95% growth over 4 years. iPhone was, no doubt, the star of the show, being mentioned by some speakers as stealing the show, or being compared to as the reference Smartphone of the industry. However there were few other interesting Smartphone developments. Palm’s Pre, which will be launched by Sprint in the coming months, looks very exciting, with its touch screen and iPhone like UI. I was told that Palm and Sprint were demonstrating Pre’s many apps to a friendly audience behind closed doors! It will be Sprint’s major opportunity to compete with AT&T’s iPhone, provided that it is offered at a reasonable price. Incidentally, Nokia was displaying the thinnest Smartphone, e71x, that is similar to Blackberry, and will be launched on AT&T network next month.

LG booth, which was one of the best booths at CTIA, had several interesting handsets, but the most elegant was the 3G touch-screen wristwatch phone GD910, with its video conferencing capability (007 style!), expected to be available later this year. Price is unknown, or secret!

One of the most interesting presentations was given by Dr. Eric Topal on how wireless technology is completely making over the way the healthcare industry operates. First, he demonstrated how wasteful and inefficient U.S. healthcare system is, and what wireless technology can / should do to personalize delivery of healthcare. He quoted wireless wrist monitors, video transmissions from ambulances to ER rooms, wireless sensors placed in the bottom of shoes, pills with wireless technology that can deposit the medicine in the specific areas of the body & activated at the prescribed times. Interestingly enough, healthcare is one of the industries that is receiving U.S. government’s economic stimulus money, and thus one of the economic bright spots in the industry.

Mobile messaging continues to be a major traffic growth area. I have heard that we have surpassed 2 Trillion mobile messages per day, globally. In the U.S., where texting was not popular until recently, over 1 Trillion text messages were sent during 2008, an unthinkable number just a few years ago! Lots of messaging companies are focusing on new applications such as mobile payments / banking, M2M apps, LBS apps, etc. However, mobile messaging is taking a new direction in the light of Facebook, MySpace, IM, Twittering, etc. I was tweeting during the CTIA show! By the way, social networking continues to be a major area of interest for mobile Internet users. Currently about 16% of most active social networking users are accessing via mobile, and this number is expected to mushroom in the coming years.

There were several Green initiatives that were in display; solar panel or fuel cell powered base stations, handsets made from recycled material, biodegradable packaging, handset recycling programs, or solar-powered chargers, etc. There were presentations from major manufacturers and operators articulating their environment-friendly green programs. However, one of the interesting award winners in the Green category was a Smartphone application from ViralMesh, called ShopGreen, that tracks and logs your eco-friendly activities. You should try it!

Finally, Al Gore was the closing day keynote speaker; as expected, it drew a large audience. His theme was smarter planet, and he emphasized that wireless industry holds the key to climate change, and could be a core element of smart grid. He acknowledged the environment-friendly steps wireless industry is taking, but ask that a lot more needs to be done. He finished with an African proverb: “if you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. We need to go far… Quickly.”

1 billion mobile broadband subscribers by 2013

Earlier this week, comScore reported that daily web usage on mobile devices had doubled in the last 12 months, with nearly 22.4 million U.S. mobile users using their devices to go on the web.

Today, another research firm, Infonetics Research reported that despite the global economic downturn, the demand for mobile broadband is only going increase. They expect that there will be more than 1 billion mobile broadband users by 2013 vs. 210.5 million at the end of 2008. These are connections that use 3G technologies such as W-CDMA, HSPA, CDMA 2000 and EVDO. The sales of mobile broadband PC cards (and embedded 3G modules) were around $4.1 billion in 2008 and show no signs of slowing down.

Mobile Broadband Development 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013

Net-net, this is good news for mobile carriers, which raked in $49.8 billion in mobile broadband revenues in 2008. Infonetics predicts that these revenues will grow, percentage-wise, in the double digits over the next 5 years. In-Stat says that at the end of 2008 there were only 11% of worldwide wireless subscriptions were 3G but by the end of 2013, the percentage of 3G and 4G subscriptions will reach 30%.

If that is the case, then companies like AT&T need to improve their network quality. Right now, buying a 3G from AT&T is like buying a confiscated car in an auction lot: You just don’t know what you’re going to get.

Wireline versus Wireless or Mobile

This mobile broadband growth is creating lot of opportunities for the entire wireless food chain, from interesting applications for Apple’s iPhone to backhaul equipment providers to equipment makers like Cisco Systems and Ericsson.

According to In-Stat, there were 132 announced deployments in the fourth quarter of 2008, consisting of 95 HSPA, 18 WCDMA, 12 mobile WiMAX, six CDMA EV-DO, and one TD SCDMA.

4.1 Billion Mobile Phone Subscribers Worldwide

Mobile Subsribers 200860% of the world’s citizens have access to mobile phones. This is according to a recently released UN report. Pakistan is mentioned as one of the fastest growing country for telecommunications.

The conclusion is that mobile phones help poor countries to improve their economy. That is a well established fact by now. However the more relevant question is how the governments can either support this growth or cause it to slowdown by a) excessive taxes b) poor regulation and c) policies which do not help with foreign investment and d) infrastructure issues. Of course political stability and lack of security is the overriding factor above all.

Mobile Phone Subsribers

Overall the magnitude of the global digital divide remains unchanged between 2002 and 2007. Despite significant improvements in the developing world, the gap between the ICT haves and have-nots remains.

When dividing the world into four groups of countries based on different ICT levels, a slight decrease of the digital divide can be observed between countries in the “high” ICT group and those in the other groups. This could be due to an increase in mobile cellular penetration levels in many countries that are part of the lower ICT groups. On the other hand, results also show that the digital divide between countries with “upper” and those with “medium” and “low” ICT levels is increasing slightly. This suggests that as information societies become more mature, ICT levels flatten out. Less mature, but reasonably advanced information societies grow strongly, thereby leaving behind those at the lower end of the scale.

The Report also presents the latest, end-2008 figures for key ICT indicators. There has been a clear shift from fixed to mobile cellular telephony and by the end of 2008, there were over three times more mobile cellular subscriptions than fixed telephone lines globally. Two thirds of those are now in the developing world compared with less than half in 2002.
The report notes that digital divide is still a issue to be resolved.

Mobile Health : Are there serious Health Benefits from Mobile Phones?

Mobile Health - Future of Mobile 2020The use of mobile technology in healthcare is on the increase, there is a steady shift towards acceptance of health care applications targeted to mobiles. Currently healthcare systems around the globe are experiencing a multitude of challenges, in addition the obvious problem of cost of providing healthcare, there are also other challenges such as prevalence of life-style related conditions, identifying tools for empowering patients with information for better decision making, providing tools for self-care, and creating applications for managing health conditions.

Wikipedia: mHealth (also written as m-health or sometimes mobile health) is a recent term for medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, PDAs, and other wireless devices. mHealth applications include the use of mobile devices in collecting community and clinical health data, delivery of healthcare information to practitioners, researchers, and patients, real-time monitoring of patient vital signs, and direct provision of care.

Mobile devices can provide seamless and secure access to health care services via the internet enabled mobile devices and this will hopefully reduce some of the cost of providing healthcare if the right applications are correctly implemented. In the USA, President Obama has earmarked a significant sum to Health Information Technology (HIT). The implementation teams should consider the benefits that could be achieved if they invested some of these funds in consumer health applications that concentrate on health education and behavior changes customized for mobile phones. ‘Prevention is better that cure’…. and it is also much cheaper in the long run.

Mobile Health (M-Health) contains three important components. The first component is the availability of a reliable mobile or wireless architecture; the second component is the integration of medical sensor or wearable devices for monitoring; the final component is a robust application and services infrastructure. Typically M-Health relates to custom designed applications and systems such as telemedicine, telehealth, e-health and biomedical sensing systems. With the rapid advances in Information Communication Technology (ICT), nanotechnology, bio monitoring, mobile networks, pervasive computing, wearable systems, and drug delivery approaches; the boundaries of M-health are shifting and there is the expectation that with appropriate technology choice we could transform the healthcare sector to generally link their systems with mobile devices. This possibility is fueling the M-health phenomenon. M-Health aims to make healthcare accessible to anyone, anytime, and anywhere by elimination constraints such as time, location in addition to increasing both the coverage and quality of healthcare.
Mobile and wireless concepts in healthcare are typically related to bio-monitoring and home monitoring, however more recently the trend to incorporate mobile technology has become more prevalent across almost the whole of the healthcare performing a variety of data acquisition tasks. Bio monitoring using mobile networks includes physiological monitoring of parameters such as heart rate, electrocardiogram (ECG), electroencephalogram, (EEG) monitoring, blood pressure, blood oximetry, and other physiological signals. Alternative uses include physical activity monitoring of parameters such as movement, gastrointestinal telemetry fall detection, and location tracking. Using mobile technology, patient records can be accessed by health-care professionals from any given location by connection to the institution’s internal network. Physicians now have ubiquitous access to patient history, laboratory results, pharmaceutical data, insurance information, and medical resources. These mobile healthcare applications improve the quality of patient care. Handheld devices can also be used in home health care, for example, to fight diabetes through effective monitoring. A comprehensive overview of some of these mobile health applications and research will be presented in new book titled Mobile Health Solutions for Biomedical Applications.

What the book doesn’t talk about but I believe it is important to mention is the role that mobiles could potentially have reaching the marginalized population around the world. There have been a multitude of reports that discuss the high rates of mobile phone diffusion in minority groups within the USA and in developing countries. For example, the Reducing Health Disparities project identified the mobiles as a key resource for Reducing Health Disparities. The report suggests that mobile phone use is exploding by lower income households, and that the use of mobile phones for health applications is just beginning to grow and will likely become significant.

Research by Nielsen Mobile (Telephia), a leading provider of performance measurement information to the mobile industry reported that the underserved communities in the U.S. were the largest users of cell phone voice minutes per person. Cell phones have reached a point in technology diffusion where African American and Hispanic groups have become the largest per capita users of basic cell phone usage. If the mobile health applications are developed, the drive for low-cost handsets as well as the growth of cheap or free wireless services provides evidence that they can be accessed. Build them and they will be used.

Mobile phone based health applications are already available for recording and reinforcing nutrition, testing glucose, and managing diabetes. In addition, mobile phones are integral tools for delivering audio, text, and video messages including games that reinforce healthy behavior. Mobile phones are also increasingly becoming important internet access devices. There is a need to take the mobile health applications out of the research labs and deploy them into the community to support health care systems and help with digital inclusion. This approach to addressing the digital inclusion is based on the assumption that the digital divide is lower in cell phones than other areas of technology. Mobile phone applications could help community health workers provide early warning of disease, provide real time monitoring of conditions, reinforcing effective treatment, and reinforce healthier behavior in culturally appropriate ways .

The key to success is providing health applications for the cell phone that take into consideration, culture, language and ethnicity, and the applications must be developed in collaboration with the local community and health professionals.

Will mobile internet overtakes PC based internet use?

According to IBM more than 50 per cent of consumers would substitute their PC based internet connection for their mobile. As the majority of new phones come with internet access as standard we predict that more people will access the internet from their mobile than their PC by the end of 2009. According to T-Mobile Germany, browsing on iPhones was 30 times more than on other handsets, and at Vodafone Germany 45% of data ARPU already is mobile internet, due to partnerships with Google, YouTube and MySpace and using widgets.

Trend description by Timo Ahomäki is Chief Scientist & VP Product Management at Airwide Solution, a leading messaging company.

Will mobile media be driven out of emerging markets (like China, India etc.)?

During the last 15 years, the real innovation on the internet in terms of applications, technology, and business model have primarily come out of the US. It’s not surprising that’s the case, as the Internet was started there and the US had more internet users than any other country in the world. (Although China recently passed the US in terms of internet users in 2008)

However, for the mobile internet and mobile media in general, the US is far from being the key source of innovation the way it has been on the internet. It was a fairly late comer in terms of 3G and MVAS adoption compared to many parts of Asia and Europe. In fact, I might hypothesized that the widespread availability of computers and broadband made Americans less interested/dependent on mobile that other markets.

Some people will ask me if I think China or India will be driving mobile media going forward given they are the fastest growing markets in the world and China having about 3x the number of mobile users of the US and 6X of Japan. My long term answer is maybe, after about 6-10 years, but my short term answer is definitely not. Most new fundamental innovation happens when a critical mass of conditions exists between the maturity of network, user scale, advanced devices and willingness of users to pay.

The Chinese and Indian network infrastructure is WAY behind Japan, much of EU and even the US. 3G licenses just got issued in China this year…and widespread adoption of the new network and 3G devices won’t happen for 3-5 years. There are three 3G networks and 3 2-2.5G networks in the market and lots of legacy handsets to support (over 3000 active models in China). The wide gap in income ranges also means that there will need to be a wide range of price range and capabilities of phones in the market for a long time to come. This also means that the newest/latest technologies and devices won’t be able to get broadly adopted on a ubiquitous basis as other wealthier and smaller countries.

Lastly, there will continue to be an issue with Chinese users paying a high price for mobile content/apps. There was a real abuse of mobile value added services in the past by service providers who took advantage of users and the government/carriers have really cracked down on them in the last few years with polices that makes it very difficult for any company to survive, let alone thrive in the current mobile SP industry environment. Chinese entrepreneurs have also been trained to be very practical and limit cost of long term research but instead opt for winning via faster execution than competitors. So there is no real advantage to being innovative…the real winners are those that copy and get to scale first.

This type of management philosophy is not conducive to creating some revolutionary innovation. I wish I could be more optimistic, but the current state of the Chinese (and Indian) markets just don’t support it. However this could all change in 5+ years as the network matures, the 3G users grow, smart phones become the norm, and buying power rises with the strong overall growth of these markets (relative to western markets). So the future is bright, but don’t expect too much leadership or innovation from the emerging markets in the near term in terms.

Will Near Field Communication (NFC) change the way we pay?

The leaders in mobile gathered this week at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. The technology available on mobile phones has rapidly evolved over the past years and many fascinating new devices, services and software has been shown at the international congress.

Looking on Trends and Innovations on the long-term, Near Field Communication (NFC) is one of the major driver for the next years and is a main topic of MOCOM 2020. The Technology is already available in the market. While NOKIA has launched its first NFC enabled phone, the NOKIA 6212, NTT Docomo has already over 50 million mobile phones in the japanese market.

Mobile phones with a NFC chip technology can be seen as a mobile payment device. But the 3G handsets are enabling users to wirelessly exchange all kind of information. The options to purchase goods and services, which previously were available on the internet, are now being made accessible on mobile phones. This has opened a window of opportunities for both businesses and consumers.

Mobile banking, mobile money transfer, mobile trading, mobile commerce, advertising and marketing, location based advertising and mapping services, and information and local news services are some of the areas to lead significant growth in the mobile payments market.

The following Video Interview is filmed at the NTT Docomo booth at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2009 in Barcelona. We had the chance to talk with an NFC Expert from Japan about the 5o+ million mobile phones with NFC functionality in the market.

Near Field Communication or NFC, is a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology which enables the exchange of data between devices over about a 10 centimetre distance. The technology is a simple extension of the ISO 14443 proximity-card standard (contactless card, RFID) that combines the interface of a smartcard and a reader into a single device. An NFC device can communicate with both existing ISO 14443 smartcards and readers, as well as with other NFC devices, and is thereby compatible with existing contactless infrastructure already in use for public transportation and payment. NFC is primarily aimed at usage in mobile phones. (Via Wikipedia)

MoSoSo & SNS, the future driver of the mobile internet?

There was a recent news from Comscore about how Mobile Social Software (MoSoSo) and Social Networking Services (SNS) drive the development of the mobile internet in Europe.

I also agree on the impact of mobile SNS as driver for the mobile internet. Therefore I want to share some of my thoughts and experiences about mobile SNS available in more mature markets like Japan.

Mobile Game Town - MOBAGE LogoLets have a quick look at two of the most successful mobile SNS platforms in Japan, Mixi and MobileGameTown (MoBaGe).

Mixi is (still) Japans most popular SNS service with around 15 million registered users, a quite impressive number achieved in less than 4 years.

Mixi started as a PC based SNS service and later also introduced a mobile version. The company for a long time put its main focus on the PC based site and mobile mixi was more considered an add-on or a quick access tool. But this changed quickly, as on average around 30% of mixis access came through the mobile phone. So mixi started to extend its mobile service adding more and more functions for mobile users.

Now mobile became the main platform of mixi: Over 55% of the access to the site is mobile access.

Other SNS companies even ignored the PC and started their service right on the mobile phone:

MobileGameTown (MoBaGe) by DeNA combines casual mobile games, avatars, and SNS services. Users can play free casual games create their own avatar, set up a virtual apartment, watch videos, write blogs and meet others in online communities. The platform also has its own virtual currency called Moba Gold.

Just within less than 6 month of the launch registrations surpassed 6.5 million and they are now at over 10.5 million and still growing. And different from Mixi, MoBaGe is only available on the mobile phone!

And despite this, it looks like it will overtake mixi in the long run because the whole service is tailored around the needs of mobile users and not just the mobile extension of a PC based service.

So even in Japan, the mobile SNS boom is still growing after over 4 years. Here people seem more apt to engage in social network services through their mobile phone than through their PC. And it makes sense because for many people around the globe their mobile phone is and extension of their social self.

I deeply believe SNS are drivers for the mobile internet. And this makes sense because -as I have already mentioned elsewhere- the mobile phones DNA is “social”. Very different from the PC which was not initially built for social interaction but for processing data

The mobile phone was built as a social device. Its main purpose was to to keep in touch, to connect, to communicate, Many functions of modern SNS have been core functions of the mobile phone for a long time so it is just natural to turn this device from a social hub into a mobile internet social network hub.