Google signs deal with AirTel for GPRS users attention

Why would Google India sign a deal with AirTel to share advertising revenue for data applications?

Bharti Airtel Ltd, India’s largest mobile service provider with nearly 53 million customers, plans to tie up with leading Internet portals for sharing advertising revenue when Airtel’s subscribers visit those websites through mobile Internet.

Fring de! India

VOIP for mobile happens to be one of my top predictions for fastest growing markets in India. Fring is the application making it happen. It is already the most frequently used application on my Nokia E61i. I use Fring for Skype International calls, chat on GTalk, MSN and other networks. The only drawback is that it seems to suck out your mobile battery faster than you can imagine. I end up having to restrict its use to only when I am traveling.

The people behind Fring seem to acknowledge the huge interest and potential and have dedicated a blog to India. The blog is a great addition to help their customers, announce features and new phones compatible with Fring.

Now if only AirTel, Vodafone and the other big Mobile boys wake up and learn to walk their customers through enabling wireless data on their handsets.

Another product riding the mobile wave in India is Mowser who claim to receive more than twice as many mobile requests from India alone. Rajan attributes that interest primarily to dial-up users from India who use Mowser and other content adaptation engines for mobiles to surf the web.

SysInclude == Remarkable

I’m trying to keep only the best Startups from India in focus here. In order to get listed, a product has to be Remarkable, early stage, in sync with our times, and address a significant need which many people have.

SysInclude is a social network dedicated to IT professionals in India (and elsewhere) who work with the top IT shops.

Why does the idea rock? In our turbulent and confusing times, when everyone is vying to be a Facebook, SysInclude is a refreshing idea. They are focused on identifying and solving the needs of a large (enough) niche. They have wisely selected an audience with growing requirements.

They have restricted their registration to folks with a working e-mail address from a recognized IT shop. All other registrations are blocked. Their aim is to keep their resources and targets focused on their target audience.

Monetization should not be very hard for SysInclude. IT professionals are obvious targets for advertisers who wants to reach out to a high-spend, technology-savvy class of youth making anything from Rs. 5 lakhs p.a to the insane. Advertisers and sponsors will definitely include companies that recruit for IT, Startups looking for talent and advertisers from the retail, travel, automobile and real estate sectors.

The devil is definitely in the details. The team at SysInclude is geared to execute the idea with passion and perfection. They will need to work hard and innovate features that stretch beyond the ordinary. I am yet to see how they intend to make the idea compelling enough to draw in the audience through word of mouth. One possibility is to focus on answering the many questions that IT pros have including housing, services, work conditions, local information and networking.

What can they do better? I’d suggest that they open up a little to include professionals who aspire to either work in IT and are currently placed abroad (and have been invited to join by a friend). I get a number of requests from returning Indians every year with questions about jobs and companies.

I have not been able to gain access to screenshots of features for Sukshma. You can get a peek at a few shots on WebYantra here.

RIM is Research in Motion

This reporter thinks that the new BlackBerry 8800 from AirTel is somehow connected to Reliance?

New Delhi: There’s good news for the Reliance phone users.

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel on Wednesday launched a new model of RIM’s business phone Blackberry in the Indian market at a price of Rs 31,990.

Can’t blame him, RIM in India is also Reliance India Mobile.

Here is the full article – AirTel launches BlackBerry 8800 in India (CNN-IBN).

3G auction skewed in favor of CDMA

Two professors from MDI, Gurgaon assert that the rules behind the 3G auction do not foster fair competition between CDMA and GSM technologies. The last I heard, the 3G spectrum will be auctioned off some time at the end of 2007 or early 2008.

The ramifications for the end-consumer are deep. Due to the lack of competition, operators won’t be incentivized to market innovative pricing schemes in favor of growth over price-hoarding.

Economic Times – “TRAI must try again“.

What is 3G? (Wikipedia).

Will Seven APAC get lucky with mobile e-mail?

Siddharth Mahajan, CEO of Seven thinks so.

From the article,

“We believe it’s going to be mobile e-mail’s year,” said Siddharth Mahajan, vice president and general manager of Seven Asia-Pacific. “We are putting all the right structures in place to help the market grow and hopefully we’ll see the results coming in Q3 or Q4 this year.”


“We see an evolution of the [mobile] e-mail market starting with enterprises,” Mahajan said. “But at the same time, we also see a growing trend where a growing number of users would like to get access to their IMAP and POP e-mail accounts from the mobile phone.”

Like previous versions, the Consumer Edition push e-mail application will allow users to send and receive e-mail on handsets from different vendors, said Mahajan. Users will also be able to read, edit, re-send e-mail attachments, and maintain always-on access to their calendar and contacts when on the move, he added.

However, Mahajan noted that while the mobile e-mail is immensely popular North America, it still ranks a distant second behind text-based short messaging (SMS) applications in Asia.

He conceded that it is probably due to the fact that “text messaging is a popular messaging application across Asia”, though he expects mobile e-mail to strike a chord with the business crowd.

“As far as business communication goes, your e-mail is important,” Mahajan explained. “You can’t close business deals using SMS. The moment you want to get into a formal type of communication, you need to use e-mail.”

The senior Seven executive was also bullish about mobile e-mail’s chances in developing countries like India and China. Citing India as an example, Mahajan noted that the number of e-mail users outnumber the number of PCs in the country, which could give operators an opportunity to showcase the virtues of mobile e-mail.

“We believe there is going to be a huge demand for mobile e-mail in this segment. India has probably an estimated 150 million email users but only 50 million computers,” observed Mahajan. “That clearly shows that a lot of the e-mail users are actually using Internet cafes or office PCs to access their email accounts.”

Mahajan said for this group of consumers without access to a PC, the ability to communicate and type e-mail messages using the mobile phone will be an “attractive factor”.

ZDNet Asia – “Seven: This will be mobile e-mails year“.

Sounds like his reasoning is way off target. So far my own bet has been not on mobile e-mail, but on mobile entertainment.

When you take a serious look at the 100 million users of the internet that Mr. Mahajan talks about, a few assumptions come to light.

The typical westernized solution that companies like Seven could offer through carriers includes a typical monthly service fee at around USD 20 per month. This includes unlimited e-mail access and the ability to add one or more POP and IMAP accounts. On the move, the consumer can get access to either a push-based e-mail solution or an on-demand e-mail solution. Personally, to me such a price wouldn’t seem very right – until and unless Seven had a creative model and a cheap solution to change that in India.

What problem can mobile e-mail solve for that user segment?According to him, they don’t own a PC, and yet they have access to their e-mail through work, and cyber-cafes. In other words, these users answer their personal e-mail when they would like to. It wouldn’t hurt if they went a few days without answering their e-mail.

E-mail happens to be a relatively formal activity when compared to SMS. However, they both thrive on the network effect. In the USA, all my friends had active e-mail lives. I knew I could count on near instant replies. In contrast, My friends here in India, who have limited access to the Internet don’t expect me to reply to e-mails in an instant. SMS on the other hand is a totally different culture. I am almost always expected to reply. Even if I could compose an e-mail to my friends while on the move, I know that they would not reply immediately. Turning behaviour around would be Seven’s (and other personal e-mail providers’) greatest challenge.

I think e-mail is a great feature to have if you have already subscribed to mobile data, I can’t be sure if many folks like me will want it turned on just for e-mail’s sake. In any case, I could still get a custom solution from my e-mail provider rather than rely on Seven.

Asia disconnected

The boxing day earthquake off the cost of Taiwan impacted India’s connectivity in a drastic way. Latencies to every major US web site nearly doubled and remained at ~800ms for every round-trip.

Business Week Asia is covering the impact of the quake on the India, Taiwan, China and other South East asian countries. The story also covers how telecom operators began to gear up to re-route traffic and what difficulties they face.

Traditionally, since hosting services and bandwidth are cheaper and more reliable in the US compared to the rest of the world – Indian businesses picked data centers in the US over India.

The lesson drawn from the aftermath of the earthquake is of course that the Internet is fragile. If your target market is here in India, you ought to think about locating your content near here, or at least introduce enough redundancy in your systems to prevent such a freak accident from disabling your online access points.

After the earthquake off Taiwan’s southern tip at 8.30 pm on Boxing Day, the shifting seabed began to stretch some of the dozens of cable segment that run through it.

By lunch the following day, eight international cables had been severed in 16 places. As every Asian Internet user now knows, the prime role of those cables was to connect across the Pacific to the US, the largest single source of Internet content.

The result was Asia’s biggest ever loss of Internet capacity. Users were unable to access major US sites such as Google, Yahoo, YouTube and CNN.

Echoing a universally-held view, VSNL vice president of global transmission services Byron Clutterbuck said it was fortunate that the event occurred in one of the quietest periods of the year.

The disruption was less drastic for Indian-based VSNL, one of the world’s biggest owners of subsea capacity, which opened up a “back-route” to the US via Europe.

“We are fortunate we own a lot of capacity on other systems. The cost side is more internal – the opportunity cost,” said Clutterbuck.

He also dispelled the idea that satellite was a potential source of diversity, noting the latency on a 60,000-kilometer roundtrip and the much higher costs of satellite bandwidth.

But he complained that some carriers were exploiting the situation “to make a quick dollar,” charging up to five times more than the regular prices for bandwidth.

Broken Connections in Asia” – Business Week Asia.

Business Week is also running another story profiling the Bandwidth consumption trends in India. Most of it appears to be international – driven by Indian businesses which sell their services to the rest of the world. It does not appear as if any reduction in the cost of bandwidth can be passed back to the end-consumers at home. Indians will continue to pay the some of the highest rates for internet bandwidth. The trans-atlantic and trans-pacific routes are already at a premium.

Since early 2006, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been pushing for amendments to the international long distance licenses so that more operators could enter the market. In mid-December the Indian government accepted the recommendations for the re-sale of bandwidth, allowing other players to access the cable landing stations owned largely by VSNL/Tata as well as Bharti and Reliance, which have smaller operations.

“There will be a price reduction in the cost of bandwidth, which will not only help bandwidth-dependent companies like call centers, business process outsourcing [BPO] firms, telecom and media companies compete with the global majors, but also make India one of the most bandwidth-competitive countries in the world,” says Amitabh Singhal, CEO of Telxess Consulting Services, a telecom analyst firm based in New Delhi.

Current bandwidth prices are as much as five times higher than on some international routes, according to industry sources, who add that once the directive comes into force, bandwidth prices could drop by 20%-25%.

“This will enhance competition in international private leased circuits through the entry of resellers, who will be non-facility based operators,” TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra, said while lobbying the government for a more liberalized approach.

India’s coming Bandwidth Boom” – Business Week Asia.

I wonder if the TRAI will at some point enforce a difference in cost for domestic bandwidth consumption (of which we have plenty) and international bandwidth consumption (not for the end-consumer, but for businesses)? Although cumbersome, but not impossible to implement, the hope is that the cost benefit will pass on from the local web businesses to consumers who will grow to be a sizeable segment in the future.

In retrospect, this thought looks a lot like a step in the wrong direction. The Internet by its very nature is independent of the geography and we must keep it that way. The real sore point is the lack of infrastructure, maturity, and expertise in the domestic bandwidth and hosting business. The fact that Indian internet consumers pay more for bandwidth overall, since most of the content the country (businesses and end-consumers) consumes is in the USA – is only collateral. An international bandwidth consumption tax cannot help sort this area out.

Bomb Scare in Boston


Adult Swim Ad in South Boston

Originally uploaded by Vanderlin.
The tiny LED sign below the overhead bridge in the picture caused a huge bomb scare in Boston on the 31st. The LED signs were promoting a Cartoon Network Show – “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and had been put up in several cities including Los Angeles and Boston.

In the subsequent hours, the police issued bomb warnings, without evidence or an investigation, and shut down parts of the city. The warnings also resulted in wide-spread panic and chaos as major roadways were blocked.

On understanding the intent of these devices, the authorities began prosecuting the artists and the Cartoon Network.

Such are the times we live in! I don’t think anyone in Mumbai would have taken much notice of the device. I could be wrong.

BlackBerry Internet Service is a hit with T-Mobile

Trends are clearly indicating a device with data (connectivity) is just as precious as a device with voice for many different reasons!

T-Mobile customers in the US are trading up from ordinary phones to the BlackBerry pearl. The BlackBerry Internet Service is a primary driver of this trend. It allows users to receive their personal e-mail instantaneously on their handhelds. It is very easy to setup and works well with GMail, Yahoo! and other free e-mail providers.

How repeatable is this trend in India? Yesterday, as I walked with the crowds in Mumbai, I could not help notice the number of folks who were carrying data-enabled handsets, for example – the Nokia 6030, 6230 and so on. I promise more on that later. It looks like there is a sizeable customer segment just waiting for the right spark to flip the demand for mobile data services.

At the Dadar ST bus stand – vendors (street) were selling cheap versions of mobile FM receivers with headsets. This is an oh-so obvious prediction – Mobile Entertainment, Television, Movies will be the next big wave to carry mobile data services into India. Perhaps not e-mail.

Bollywood films are now a click-away.

Regional content to drive rural mobile market.

3G GSM Summit Held in Mumbai with a Focus on Ecosystem around Mobile Value Added Services.

BlackBerry pearl proves consumers want smartphones – Fast Company.

T-Mobile has this to report about it’s BlackBerry Pearl users:

  • Nearly 3 out of 4 T-Mobile customers who upgraded to a BlackBerry Pearl traded up from a regular phone, rather than another converged device.
  • The majority of T-Mobile customers using the BlackBerry Pearl are using it for personal e-mail rather than staying connected to corporate servers.
  • Approximately 80% of all T-Mobile Blackberry Pearl customers to date have signed up for BlackBerry Internet Service only, to take advantage of personal e-mail accounts like gmail, Yahoo! mail, etc. (rather than Blackberry Enterprise Service for corporate e-mail).
  • 96% of T-Mobile Pearl customers send personal e-mail from their device weekly.

More trends on Sukshma.