Triple Play in Europe

TIME Europe Magazine writes:

As digital technology enables more customers to bypass traditional paid services, telecoms are scrambling to introduce services that combine telephone, broadband and subscription television into a single package that can be piped into every home and eventually to mobile devices. So far only 5% of Europeans have “triple-play” services voice, video and data in their home, but 35% say they are interested, according to technology consultants Forrester Research. That’s a huge potential market. “There’s a race now among all the operators to arrive first,” says Luigi Pugliese, a telecom consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton in Milan. “The world of triple play will soon close. It’s growing rapidly and the first to get a customer will not lose him.”

If it works, multiplay would be a huge departure from the traditional structure of Europe’s telecom industry, and the product both of deregulation and technological progress. And the bets are large: BT, long the dominant telephone provider in Britain, is spending $17.4 billion upgrading its network to provide triple-play services over a single line.

Mobile Data Killer App

Russell Beattie thinks it is browsing (building on a Nokia survey):

The key takeaway for me was that browsing is the number one (by far) mobile application that uses data, and interestingly, carrier decks only account for 50% of the traffic. Thats great! That means people are actually going outside the gardens and hitting other sites. I think this trend is only going to continue as mobile browsers get better, screens get higher resolution, and network speeds get faster. Ive seen demos of Nokias upcoming Webkit based browser, and its very impressive. Lots of people have even used their mobile browser to access their email via a webmail account. Thats very cool – and points to the idea that people continue to fall into similar patterns. They *could* set up their phone to access email directly, but theyre most likely used to getting their mail via a web interface.

I personally think there is a massive vacuum right now in mobile-focused web sites. The numbers are clearly showing theres a growing trend for people to access sites remotely, sites need to really get up to speed in making their existing content more mobile friendly, and to do something innovative and compelling for those mobile browser users who may have different use cases for the information theyre trying to retrieve.

Why We Don’t Innovate

Dave Pollard writes:

We soon found that it was useful (for keeping people in line) that many of the artifacts of civilization were addictive, physically and psychologically. We found that, in hierarchical systems, the bigger the better — more slaves at the bottom to leverage, more built-in redundancy, and less competition. We found, too, that this strange, man-made construct, so different from everything in nature, gave us an evolutionary advantage — it appeared to support more people per square mile than ‘natural’ systems, and power brought more power and wealth brought more wealth, to the point we really believed we had ‘improved’ on nature. And after a few generations, the essential survival skills for self-sufficient living had been lost, so we could not go back to a pre-civilization self-regulating lifestyle even if we wanted to — we were prisoners of our own invention.

It is not surprising, then, that as our economy evolved, economic organizations used as their model not the ‘anarchic’ self-regulating model of nature but the hierarchical, command-and-control specialization model of the political state.

I doubt that we have either the time or, with our current massive numbers, and our civilization’s huge momentum in some areas and inertia in others, the adaptability, to evolve our political system (forward, not back) to a self-regulating, networked, natural model. I am less certain that the economic system we have developed cannot evolve forward to such a model.

TECH TALK: India Rising: Finally

India has been the flavour of the year internationally in 2005 and that looks likely to continue in 2006. The past year has seen very favourable write-ups in many international publications. Outsourcing to Indian companies continues to grow rapidly in software and other areas. Many companies are expanding their presence in India. Indian companies themselves are looking to grow globally. The Indian stock market performed spectacularly.

The Economist summed up it up nicely as it looked ahead to 2006: In the coming year India will enjoy greater international prestige than at any time since independence in 1947. With an economy that could grow at more than 7% for the fourth year in succession, that prestige is based in part on sheer clout. Over the next half-century India will emerge as one of the worlds biggest economies and great powers. But Indias standing also reflects its greatest achievement: the almost uninterrupted preservation of democratic rule in a poor country of 1.1 billion people.

Yet, there are some areas of concern. Infrastructure both physical and digital continues to be a big bottleneck. The political tug-of-war between the Congress and the Communists continues to hold up key reforms. Rural areas still lag behind despite the myriad schemes and investments being announced. Energy prices are rising and there doesnt seem to be enough focus on alternatives.

Fortune captured this dual-faced reality in a story on India last October: This bipolar development model is reflected in the crazy-quilt of wealth and squalor in cities like Mumbai, where billboards touting Mallya’s Kingfisher beer and Standard Chartered Bank’s investment-planning experts tower above sprawling slums, and urchins approach cars at gridlocked intersections hawking copies of Harvard Business Review. In Bangalore, executives visiting the immaculate campuses of software firms like Infosys and Wipro marvel that while their data can travel to the other side of the earth at the speed of thought, they must crawl along in bumper-to-bumper traffic for more than an hour to get back to their hotels.

In this Tech Talk series, I will share my impressions as an Indian resident. There is visible change all around. But there is also frustration that things now should be moving a lot faster. Let me begin with the things that are going well in India.

India on Global Map

Almost every investor and senior executive has started to think about India. For some, it is about leveraging Indias cheaper skilled labor. For some others, it is about capitalising on Indias growing domestic consumption. And for investors, it is about Indias attractive returns on investments.

Whether it be the steady stream of investment announcements in India as companies grow their operations or the flow of visitors seeking to discover the new India, there is now little doubt that India is starting to get factored into the plans that companies are making.

The outsourcing and services story is well-known. But as incomes start to rise (and salaries are indeed rising rapidly in the white-collar sector), domestic consumption is starting to take off. (These two factors are the principal drivers behind the real estate boom in Indian cities.)

Tomorrow: Consumer Power