Freitag, 27. Mai 2011

I've Got a Wallet, and You've Got One, Too

The comments and battles about Googles new service - see Globe and Mail, for instance - for 0.0001% of the world's population (Nexus S 4G owners with a Citibank Mastercard, rough guess) may teach us a few things:
  1. It's not telco operators versus banks any more in online payment. 10 years of inertia have sent operators on the road to be bit shifters, and banks to be currency shifters - apart from the banks' betting and gambling business dubbed investment banking.
  2. Telcos invest big time in marketing to put themselves out of business. For 20 years they had an online authentication device called SIM card on each and every one of the 3.5 billion mobile devices, and merchants would have loved to use it for customer identification. Instead, telcos go to Mobile World Congress to tell the world that it should use a new device available in a few million mobiles so far. That is fair - the SIM card was accessible for the operator only while the NFC device is accessible for Google, PayPal, Apple and Amazon, too.
  3. Talking about accessibility: NFC is a great technology, but that does not mean it's the best choice in every situation. A good stone-age bar code sticker on my mobile can be read by any merchant without investment into NFC readers, and by no one else as long as the mobile is in my pocket. I would not feel good to carry a NFC enabled wallet with me in a crowded area. How stupid should we be to led into thinking that suddenly NFC is the only way for mobile payment?
  4. Monopolists are not easy with their likes. So the business outlook for professional journalism isn't so bad after all - plenty of wrestling to cover.

We can send letters to everyone in the world and pay at our postal office. We can phone everybody in the world and pay our local operator. On some continents, you even can transfer money to every other account holder and pay your local bank.

Do we really need to register with 4 or more would-be monopolists to buy online?
Solution left to the reader.

Mittwoch, 27. April 2011

Conjecture about the iPhone's consolidated.db

There are some obvious assumptions about how Apple's collection of WLAN Access Point and mobile cell data in a recently publicized database on the iPhone might be good for.

For instance, improvement of location based services by Ap and cell location data. This might be useful for indoor navigation where GPS does not work.

Let me give you another guess:
A few months ago, there were rumours about Apple coming up with SIM functionality built into the iPhone. This would make Apple a global Mobile Virtual Network Operator and bring back the ability to negotiate cut-throat deals with Mobile Network Operators as they had get it with revenue sharing back in the iPhone 2 introduction times.

As we know, data flat rates are rarely profitable these days. This isn't Apple's problem, the quote "New Yorkers like expensive things" applies to all of their customers. However, if you are clever, charging high prices doesn't keep you from cutting cost. So Apple might look at deals with large WLAN access point operators to get their bytes across a little cheaper, if possible. When you have statistics on all WLAN AP MAC addresses an iPhone user has seen, you could get a list of their MAC addresses from WLAN operators, correlate those and estimate the advantage you would have from a deal.

The case against my guess is that there is the database does not store the number of times I came a across a specific Access Point.
Enjoy, and entertain yourself with a guess of your own!

Montag, 30. August 2010

Tax Google! - Give the Winner's Money to the Losers

In the last few months, it has become a fashion trend among telecoms and media to ask for Google's money. We may have a bit of pity on the journalists who risk their lives to bring us thoroughly researched first hand news, only to find the product of their work squandered for free on the Internet while they are asked to feed their families with shrinking salaries.
The pity turns to doubt when the state threatens to take over funding of the independent press (just quoting the land of liberty and the revolution here).
Doubt turns into amusement when I read that Deutsche Telekom's René Obermann (German or English) has followed César Alierta of Telefónica (Spanish or English) in identifying Google as telecoms' next source of revenue.

First, how do they want to motivate Google in paying extra for traffic generated as an answer to requests issued by Deutsche Telekom's subscribers? Block access to Google's  services for Telekom's subscribers? Chances are that customers would exchange Telekom's high quality network for Vodafone's full content network. If Telekom does that in November, Vodafone and all the other Telekom competitors will have a merry Christmas.

Second, it is true without a doubt that data transport prices will increase once commercial reasoning sets in. I would not have any problem with a charge of one dollar per gigabyte above 5 GB monthly consumption on my DSL line. And nothing against throttling transmission speed at 100 MB a day or 1 GB a month on my mobile connection. Note that these are network and application neutral rules. A byte delivered is a byte delivered – I don't want my bytes policed and charged extra whenever my access operator thinks he will go unpunished for doing so.
And note, too, that QoS (quality of service) is a value added service. I am willing to pay a cent per minute extra for quality of service when this avoids the 5 second conversation gaps I experience in Skype calls, or the video freeze that happens just before my favorite soccer team marks a goal. But what I am paying for are bounds on delay and jitter for bytes delivered, not for an access operator infrastructure that wants to understand the application I am buying quality of service for.

So far, the money-making new services we are left with is refined transport that should earn established telecoms and ISPs a few bucks more than present flat rates. Still, this is not the story that drives the pension funds into buying telecom stock.

Telecoms have that story, and they are not even aware of it.
Let's revisit some of telecoms' differentiators:
  1. Unmatched market penetration: About half the world's population, more than 3 billion people are hooked up to the global telecom network.
  2. Fully interconnected network: With a few exceptions, you can dial each of the 3+ billion users directly. You do not have to own 5 different SIM cards to reach different parts of the user space like in the social networks world.
  3. Hardware independence: The network works between an incredible mix of hard and software. Remember, not all customers are apples nor will they ever be.
  4. Lowest transaction costs. Telecoms can charge you 1-10 cent items (voice calls, SMS, etc.) and make a profit on that. Banks, credit card companies, and online payment systems are far from that price point.
  5. Global account settlement. Ever tried to use a credit card in Iran? Or a PayPal account in North Corea? But you can place phone calls to these countries – that is you buy call termination services in Iran, without registering personally with any local termination service. The Iranian or North Corean operators don't even have to know you. As a simple AT&T, Bell, or Telmex customer your operator guarantees to pay the termination fee in Iran or North Corea.
  6. And the ultimate secret: Automatic network identification: Whenever your telephone or Internet capable device is active, your access operator knows you – your session is connected to your contract or network identification number and this in turn to your contract data. So your access operator could charge you for payable internet content, if you have told them you want this – without going through authentication and checkout pages. When you're talking about a 5 cent item, this is crucial. Would you want to place a phone call, if you would have to go through a lengthy authentication procedure every time you start to dial?

You see me getting at my example. Just one innovative use of the assets telecoms sit on would be to charge low price Internet content, not just calls and SMS. And they could deliver to 10 times more customers, make available 1000 times more content, and be fully hardware independent. This means more traffic (and more tiny transaction fees) than voice and SMS combined. Along with boosting their own balance sheet, telecoms could save the media industry as a side effect.

And that is just one additional high growth market telecoms could open up on their own activity. Others will find more business opportunities looking at the huge telecom assets listed above.

Conclusion for Telecom Execs
If you prefer tax to innovation, there is a better and safer workplace for you.
If you prefer innovation to tax, there are better ideas than an app store.

Conclusion for Politicians
Politicians, net neutrality is not just a technical term.

You can enforce it and motivate one of your largest industries to innovate and thrive. They have the assets and the competent workforce to do so, they are just missing the willpower.

Or you can tax Google and throw the money at your languishing telecom industry. But do it tenderly, don't wake them up.

About Me

I'm an old telecom hand - see my favorite residence in my profile photo. This gets you a living, but sometimes you wonder which services create a hype and which ones nobody ever cares to offer.
I'd like to share a few thoughts about the latter to share with you - comments welcome, of course!
What to expect here:
  • A few comments about services putting the cart before the horse (IMHO)
  • Blogs about services I miss - maybe we find the next killer app together
What not to expect:
  • Confidential information from my employers or clients
  • Discussions about shiny user interfaces. You got that on a thousand sites - I'm a network side man and I hope you will be surprised how much the network can do for your user experience.
Enjoy and honor me with your feedback!