China’s Telecom Vendors

WSJ writes how China’s telecom vendors now face their next challenges in tapping developed markets:

In the past three months, Chinese vendors have signed deals in Ethiopia, Libya, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Brazil, Russia, Romania, Mali, Afghanistan — and even Iraq, where ZTE was awarded a $5 million reconstruction deal in February. The world’s newest third-generation, or 3G, cellular network began operation on Feb. 15, built by Huawei. It is located in the United Arab Emirates. Chinese telecom vendors often undercut their competitors by 20% to 30%.

Huawei is by far the biggest and best known, but the list of vendors includes others, such as ZTE and UTStarcom Inc. — which have both grown faster than Huawei in recent years based on lower-cost technologies.

“The Chinese have been filling the vacuum from vendors who are having tough times. Huawei pops up and takes the contract out from under them,” says Duncan Clark, managing director of BDA China, a Beijing-based telecoms consulting firm. “They’re more aggressive in financing. They’re doing well in developing markets and getting some business in developed markets, where the commissions will be higher.”

But a day of reckoning may be coming for China’s telecom vendors. On one hand, they are in the same boat as the rest of the world’s telecom-equipment makers, waiting for the haze to clear on which direction the industry is heading. On the other, their foray into developed markets will test their technological and service capabilities.

Competitors’ cutbacks have made it easier for Chinese companies to build international operations, says Cui Yi, ZTE’s vice president in charge of international marketing. In the developing world, he says, “Alcatel, Siemens — they close their offices or cut their employees. So we recruit them.”

But if maintaining margins is the daily battle, the greater fight is over technology, and in a sense over the character of many of these firms, which may have to change as they open to international partnerships and listings.

Hong Kong’s Electronic Money Card

WSJ writes about the spreading tentacles and increasing success of Octopus:

the payment method, known as the Octopus card, has done more than just replace pocket change on the bus. It has become a widely accepted electronic currency, used to buy a newspaper at 7-Eleven, a meal at a fast-food restaurant, even coffee at Starbucks.

In all, more than 12,000 locations across Hong Kong accept the card, including parking meters, municipal swimming pools and the popular horse-racing tracks.

About 1% to 2% of all cash transactions in the city are made with the card, says Octopus Card Ltd.

Octopus is a stored-value card and behaves like a debit card. Money is subtracted when the card is held over a reading device, which is a low-range radio transmitter that can be incorporated into doors, turnstiles and countertops. Because reading devices can detect a card through leather and plastic, many people never remove their card but rather wave their purse or wallet over the reader.

Mailblocks for Battling Spam

Walter Mossberg recommends Mailblocks for a spam-free mailbox:

Mailblocks is a Web-based e-mail service, like Yahoo Mail or Hotmail, that works on both Windows and Macintosh computers. But it is slicker and cleaner than Yahoo or Hotmail, with a very good, uncluttered interface that responds to commands quickly. If you’d rather use a traditional e-mail program, you can read Mailblocks e-mail using Outlook, Outlook Express or Eudora on Windows, or Apple Mail or Entourage on the Macintosh.

You can divert e-mail from up to 10 of your current e-mail accounts to Mailblocks, and Mailblocks will apply its antispam system to all, including popular services like EarthLink, AOL, MSN, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail. You can also import address books from Outlook or Outlook Express and other programs, though you may have to go through several steps to do so.

Mailblocks uses a spam-control system called challenge/response. It’s designed to stop all e-mail from the automated mass-mailing programs spammers use, while letting in e-mail from humans. Mailblocks isn’t the first program to use challenge/response, but it does a very nice job with it.

There are some downsides. It doesn’t scan e-mail attachments for viruses. It lacks a “preview pane,” so you can see what’s in a message without opening it. It can’t auto-complete e-mail addresses you start to type in. And there’s no easy way to designate an entire domain — a whole company, for instance — as immune from challenges. The company says it plans to remedy some of these shortcomings in a new release due this summer that will also include a calendar function.

Overall, Mailblocks is a very good system for eliminating spam. And it will only get better.

Bandwidth or Compression

AlwaysOn Network asks: “Instead of trying to make the infrastructure bigger (with the resultant massive cost that this generally incurs), why dont we focus on making the files smaller?”

Perhaps the principal reason this hasnt been done is that it is just too difficult. Sure, we have the familiar compression standards such as JPEG, Zip and MP3, and now the next generation of JPEG2000 and MPEG-4. These improvements hardly register, however, given the exponential growth of the average size of the files used in daily life.

Now a new company based in Singapore may be about to change our thinking. MatrixView has developed a methodology called Adaptive Binary Optimization (ABO) that promises a paradigm shift in the way we address compression and security. Unlike transformation-based compressions like JPEG, ABO utilizes a radically new bit-plane architecture that does not eliminate any data during compression. As such, not only does ABO generate significantly higher compression standards, but it does so in a mathematically lossless fashion. Additionally, this bit-plane architecture promises extraordinarily effective encryption.

There were various industries which will benefit from this: medical industry, mobile data, movies.

Enterprise Portals on a Budget

Line56 has some suggestions:

A good place to start your portal implementation is within your divisions. Seek out areas within your company where daily collaboration between divisions or external audiences (channel partners, vendors, even customers) is required. Portals can help lower the friction in the exchange of information between these groups, which leads to lowered administrative costs. Some suggestions for small-scale portal projects include:

  • Improving the way your sales, purchasing and legal departments store, manage and distribute contracts
  • Creating a single repository for all of your marketing materials and extending access to your channel partners
  • Pulling all of your call center applications into a portal “composite” application and improving the efficiency of your customer service representatives.
  • Linking all your internal websites into a single “super” portal with search capabilities

  • TECH TALK: Rajasthan Ruminations: Rural Development and Entrepreneurship

    Good Governance is one of the pillars for rural development. The second needs to capitalise on Entrepreneurship. Indians are a naturally enterprising lot. But they have been constrained by the shackles that have been imposed by state control and corrupt officials. The government needs to create an environment where entrepreneurship can flourish.

    There are still too many hurdles for starting and running small businesses honestly. There is a lot one can learn from how Americas founding fathers laid our the principles of good and efficient governance, and were complemented by the efforts of entrepreneurships who together built out the physical and social infrastructure that the world looks at in awe.

    There are three areas where entrepreneurs can make a difference in Rajasthan:

    Artisans Marketplace: How can rural incomes be increased? One of the first steps that can be taken is to leverage the skills that the local Rajasthani people have in arts and crafts. This is an art that has been handed down from generation to generation. By providing a mechanism via the Internet for the artisans to sell globally (and also into an increasingly prosperous urban India), the Artisans Marketplace can help reduce the intermediaries in the chain and increase their incomes.

    Renewable Energy: Given Indias perennial power shortage, it is surprising that not enough attention has been paid to developing alternative sources of energy. Rajasthan offers two options in the form of solar and wind power. If the best scientific minds can address these problems and come out with solutions, we can not only bridge the power gap but also build leadership in an increasingly important area of global concern.

    Tourism: Rajasthans heritage has not been appropriately leveraged. What is missing is the packaging and the local infrastructure. Wrote Malvika Singh in the Financial Express recently: Travel and tourism should be freed from bureaucratic clutchesAn autonomous body should be initiated and established public and private partnership, with the same goal to make life easy, to make travel fun, to show all the great strengths of the state and the people and to allow and endorse private entrepreneurship to set up the infrastructure that is in their purview, for the visitor. It has to be hassle free. Incentives must be given to people to restore their havelis etc, some for reuse, others as examples of styles of living. Those wanting to set up museums should be given tax exemptions on their grants and donations. Each city, as a start, should have a museum run by the private sector. We all know how the public sector has maintained museums in this country of fine treasures. Eventually every district should have a museum that houses its special strength, or skill. That is what will generate pride in the people of their legacy.

    Technology can be an important ally of the entrepreneurs and the government in their odyssey to transform the state. Affordable computing solutions (thin clients and open-source software) and broadband wireless technologies (WiFi) can help in the leapfrog efforts.

    In many ways, Rajasthan is a proxy for rural India. Given Indias 700 million people in its 600,000 villages, developing the rural areas of India has to be a national priority if the feel-good factor in urban and semi-urban India has to sustain and the India Shining message has to penetrate deep into the heartlands of India. To bring back the glorious era of the past, Rajasthan and Rural India needs the right mix of governance , entrepreneurship and technology to put it on the road to economic development and prosperity.

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