Telcos, TV and Internet

The Economist writes:

…Sooner or later IPTV will happen, if only because telecoms companies all over the world are betting on it. And when it does it will be controversial…That is because IPTV forms part of a larger, and quite desperate, defensive strategy now being adopted by telecoms firms against fierce attacks on multiple fronts. On one front are cable giants, such as America’s Comcast, which are luring customers with an enticing triple-play bundle of TV, broadband and telephony services. On a second front are mobile-phone operators, which young customers in particular are increasingly using to cut the cord from their fixed-line company.

But arguably most dangerous of all is the third front, where traditional telecoms firms are under attack from voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) providers, which use the internet to carry conversations that would previously have taken place via a conventional phone.

Motorola’s New Products

Barron’s has a positive story on Motorola and discusses some of its forthcoming products after the Razr and the PEBL:

More new products are expected this year — including a phone called the Scalpel, which is expected to be just a quarter-inch thick and shaped like a candy bar. Motorola is expected to aim the phone directly at Nokia’s overseas strongholds, where the shape is most popular. It could be in stores across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia by next year, according to Crain’s Chicago Business, which quoted an analyst who had seen the product.

Another gadget on the way has a telling nickname: RAZRBerry. It’s expected to be just as thin as the RAZR but wide enough to include a keyboard for e-mail messaging, which points it directly at the heart of Research in Motion’s popular BlackBerry PDA.

Its music-playing Rocker phones, meanwhile, are about to get a new addition: A phone with a music player that’s compatible with Apple’s super-hot iTunes system for downloading, organizing and playing music. It’s essentially a cellphone with music portability on a par with Apple’s must-have iPod.

Software Goes Free

Phil Wainewright writes: “The price of software is inexorably grinding towards zero. Software is becoming infrastructure, and that infrastructure is progressively becoming commoditized. A key part of this evolution is the abstraction of application logic out of software and into standards-compliant XML documents. Once all of the identities and rules that define a set of processes (ie an application) can be expressed as XML, then creating or modifying an application becomes an editing task rather than a programming job. That editing task will still have to paid for, and it might well accumulate intellectual property of some value but the money will not go to software developers. Some software experts will earn a living from operating the infrastructure that processes the XML documents. But the infrastructure itself will be built with open-source software.”

Ajax and Live Apps

Alex Bosworth writes:

One thing that Ajax has really done to web applications is pushed them much closer to real-time interaction.

For a long time the tradition has been that if you want to code something that deals with real-time data flows, you have to do it with a clunky java applet or embedded flash object.

As we eliminate the barrier between javascript and live internet data, there is no reason that we won’t start seeing pages that are more dynamic not only visually but also have highly dynamic and ‘real-time’ data.

Attention Driven Advertising

Jon Husband writes:

We want respect, choice and control.

The issues Doc has highlighted, and the rise in importance of *attention*, make the notion of ‘sell-side’ advertising both more real (because – eventually – it won’t be tolerated much, and more importantly won’t perform effectively as advertising unless it’s honest and pertinent) and more feasible. I believe that there are applications appearing that will make this do-able; will make the publishers able to have much more choice and control, and stay closer to their audience so as to get a better sense of what is useful and effective.

Sell-side means this thought in an advertising target’s head … “I’ll use advertising if it actually means something to me and offers me something useful”.

This emerging dynamic very much begs the issue of how advertisers will also get increasingly granular feedback from bloggers about the *what’s-my-experience-and-what-do-I-want-to-know* aspects of the inventory offered by advertisors.. Increasingly granular feedback will begin occurring as contextual advertising gets better and more versatile.

TECH TALK: Next-Generation Networks: Services and Business Models

by Ninad Mehta

You can divide the traditional voice telephony world into two large buckets: The developed countries characterized by high tele-density and the developing countries characterized by low tele-density. For the high tele-density countries, the number of fixed lines have been either stagnant or declining at an accelerated pace for last five years. This decline can be attributed to several factors, including the customer dropping the 2nd line for dial-up Internet, migrating from fixed to Cellular completely (cutting the chord), migrating to Voice over BB using the cable operator, migrating to VoBB using VNO such as Vonage, Skype or others. This erosion has two impacts: The revenue is staying more or less flat due to the limited number of services being offered on the traditional voice/data lines AND the costs of operating broadband networks is going up as more traffic migrates from fixed wireline to mobile and broadband. When the SP in a developed country has a fully depreciated network, there will be some level of natural migration to the next generation networks but due to various regulatory constraints, we havent seen massive investments going into building these new broadband networks like USA. In countries like Japan, South Korea and some Scandinavian nations, it is the government policy that enables the massive infrastructure investments for NGN.

The traditional business models that have worked for years are now breaking down. These SPs need to somehow increase their revenue and the solution they have found is in building NGN using the IMS framework. IMS promises the convergence of wireless and wireline networks and services. The SPs will be able to move up the value chain by offering a lot more than just raw bandwidth. In fact, the SPs who choose to stay on their current networks risk the possibility of being just bit pipe providers on whose networks, other application service providers can ride.

New business models will emerge based on new capabilities built around the IMS framework. In the past, the SP provided service bundles where network access & transport, call features and applications were all bundled together as part of a service. For example, your telephone company provided you with basic telephony (dialtone), calling features (caller ID, 3-way calling, speed dialing, etc.) and applications such as network voice mail. But, there are a lot of new, innovative and life enhancing applications that we have not even conceived yet. How will we get these services delivered? One option is for the SP to develop these applications and provide it over time. But this is a very slow approach. Another approach is IN based, which seemed to be the nirvana back in the mid 80s. With the applications, endpoints, access networks and core networks all converging, it makes a lot of logical sense for the SP to use IMS as the framework for service delivery. IMS enables a distributed ecosystem where application developers, application service providers and network providers can all come together.

IMS enables new applications and services in consumer as well as enterprise space. For Consumer Applications & Services will use Presence and Location information servers for real-time service enhancements. Enterprise Services Fixed/Mobile convergence will enable an employee to have full PBX functionality available on his personal cellphone. This would include abilities such as abbreviated dialing, employee directory access and the traditional PBX features like call park, call forwarding on busy, etc.

Going back to our classification between low and high tele-density countries, low tele-density countries are mostly developing countries of the world where the primary government objective is to increase tele-density at the lowest costs. For these countries, the markets may not be fully ready for adopting the next generation services. Yet, it makes a lot of sense to invest in the next generation infrastructure that will enable these services in the near future.

Tomorrow, we will discuss some of the options available to us for building the next generation service delivery architectures.

Tomorrow: Building It Out

[Ninad Mehta works at Lucent in New Jersey. The views expressed in this column are his own.]

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