February I 2009

12 February 2009

Fredric Morris, Editor-In-Chief, Connect-World
Fredric Morris
Editor-In-Chief
Connect-World

The need magnet and fixed-mobile convergence

There is a big need magnet in the sky pulling services to a digital point. Networks are migrating to all-IP architectures, and the devices that access them are merging into multipurpose communications, photographic, agenda, GPS and whatever-else-electronic-that-fits in a device that slips into a shirt pocket.

One of the most promising sorts of convergence from technological, subscriber service and commercial viewpoints is fixed-mobile convergence (FMC). Some see FMC as the future and as the salvation of many fixed access operators.

Now there is a secret of sorts – no one tries to hide it, but few seem to know it – there is no mobile service without fixed backhaul connections. These connections are not just bits of string that tie mobile phones to fixed, these are major, high-speed, broadband connections that literally hold mobile networks together; without fixed links there are no mobile networks. From the user’s point of view, though, this convergence is invisible. For a user, fixed-mobile convergence means having your cake and eating it too. The mobile phone is, increasingly, the communications device of choice or, as in many developing regions, the only choice for most of the world’s subscribers. The phone is more than a communications device, it is a lifestyle, an electronic wallet – banking and credit card services for the world’s unbanked population, a game machine, a camera, a mobile TV, the social network interface … on and one with no end in sight. The mobile is more than a device; to users, it is their connection to their world, businesses and friends – it is always with them and it brings many advantages that fixed phones do not.

FMC ‘s most basic version is a voice service that gives one the best of both the fixed and mobile world by moving seamlessly to the best available network, be it fixed or mobile.

Mobile users with fixed service want to take advantage of their mobile in the home, but without paying the premium for mobile service. FMC lets subscribers use their mobiles at home; they keep their mobile number, but pay fixed-service rates. By installing tiny ‘femto’ cells, a mobile operator can seamlessly hand-off calls to and from the mobile phone to the broadband Internet connection at the home – or office, for that matter. Since the call travels to the backbone network via the user’s own broadband connection, the traffic on the mobile operator’s access network is reduced.

Business users see FMC as a way to extend home office PBX services into the field, to seamlessly and transparently reach employees through a single number no matter where they are – at the office or in the field. PBX manufacturers are, of course, each working on their own super version of FMC and piling on as many features as they can – instant messaging, voice mail -even visual voice mail, all sorts of directory-driven services and more. By integrating text, voice and images FMC can even evolve into unified communication, but that is another story with its own set of advantages and problems.

FMC usually uses dual mode cell phones with WiFi handsets to connect to the fixed network using the office WLAN or the home’s own broadband Internet connection. The dual-mode phones are still somewhat expensive and run through batteries rapidly, but they should get better and cheaper in the near future. The WiFi version makes sense in companies with an extensive office WLAN and at homes with WiFi networks for broadband Internet and home entertainment access.

There is also cell-based FMC that uses existing GSM or CDMA handsets. These 3G mobile-based versions uses licensed spectrum and can offer a number of advantages including better quality, cost savings, better battery life and a host of other benefits. Although I have heard more talk about the WiFi, dual-mode handset, version, I expect the cell-based versions will eventually take over for many applications.

Although there is a lot of fuss about FMC at home, the big equipment companies seem to be betting on the office market. I haven’t got a field team at my beck and call to check this, but my impression, based on the very limited figures I’ve seen, is that although companies are interested, maybe very interested, few have committed big bucks to FMC projects. The economic downturn makes it likely that few companies will rush into FMC until business starts picking up and the economy is heading firmly upward.

The operator’s business case for FMC will depend upon weighing and balancing a great number of factors including the capital expense to roll it out, the availability of credit including vendor financing, current backhaul costs compared to the cost of off-loading backhaul via the home or business broadband connection, the difference between FMC rates and current mobile rates. There are a good many other factors, including competitive pressures, as well, but that gives a good idea.

I wonder if, even after thoroughly crunching the numbers and massaging the data, many operators will feel comfortable with the results – positive or negative. At least they will think long and hard before giving up mobile minutes for unknown FMC gains at home. The situation in the enterprise market will be demand driven; large companies that see real internal synergies, cost savings or even income enhancements will pressure their communications service providers until they get their way or until the competition offers what they want.

I expect many companies will be in for a surprise. It sounds easy: just link your WLAN to your PBX and get dual mode handsets. There are other variations, but they all have a simple sounding, simplistic, ‘just add hot water and serve’, description. The problems will come when the WLAN – a data-centric network has to be re- dimensioned and re-engineered for voice. This costs money, and managing the new voice centric network is likely to be a trying experience. Putting in a big business FMC network, even if it is not a full unified-communications (UC) effort – no, FMC and UC are not the same thing – is bound to be a complicated, nerve wracking, experience.

Still, FMC lets companies integrate all their voice communications including all the mobile devices their employees use, control and track mobile costs, and provide a single point of contact, a single number, for each employee’s communications. There are problems with any new technology; so until the sector matures and stabilises, users will have to deal with the problems, hitches, glitches, bugs and costs pioneering brings.

OBusinesses are sure to move to FMC – and eventually UC as well – over time because of the efficiencies, cost savings, customer satisfaction and productivity gains they generate on a day-to-day basis. Today, FMC is relatively new, the full cost of FMC is falling, but still high, so the return on investment is bound to be a bit slow for most companies. Over the next few years, both fixed and mobile operators will complete the transition to all-IP backbones and the boundaries between the core systems of the fixed and mobile networks disappear; FMC systems will also increasingly become plug and play propositions.

The unified fixed/mobile core networks will help operators accelerate the move to FMC since the administration and operation of FMC becomes simpler and more cost effective with merged networks. The network transition will probably be substantially complete within three to four years, even with the economic downturn.

____________________________________________________

Masdar City is the most ambitious sustainable development in the world today – it will be the world’s first zero carbon, zero waste, car-free city powered entirely by renewable energy sources. It is part of the Masdar Initiative; a long-term strategic endeavour by Abu Dhabi to accelerate the development and deployment of clean future energy solutions. By taking sustainable development and living to a new level, Masdar City will lead the world in understanding how all future cities should be built. The City is a free zone cleantech cluster, which is already attracting the world’s best in all areas of sustainability, from renewable energy to biomass. All types of companies including innovators, incubators, research and development, pioneers and solution providers will be part of the journey to create, work and live in Masdar City.

Masdar City is more than a concept – it is happening. Phase One of Masdar City has now begun – The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is underway and Masdar City will be home to 100 students and faculty by fall 2009. Masdar is embarking on a global drive to attract industry partners in the field of ICT to achieve this important objective.

Your expertise in ICT solutions will contribute to the development of a blueprint for the cities of the future.

To find out how to become a partner please visit us at http://www.masdaruae.com

____________________________________________________

The next issue of Connect-World India will be published early next month. This edition of Connect-World will be widely distributed to our reader base and, as well, at shows such as: Convergence India, New Delhi, (19-21 March 2009).

The theme of this issue of Connect-Word India will be – It’s more than outsourcing.

The growth of India’s economy, driven by ICT and business process outsourcing has inspired comment and imitation the world over. The credit given to outsourcing is deserved, but the government policies, astute entrepreneurs a vast number of well educated and prepared professionals that made India’s success in this field are often overlooked. India’s growing ability to source new service and products, not just outsource the operations of others, and its ability to move ahead by its own efforts are also overlooked by those not familiar with the country’s vast pool of talent and potential.

This issue of Connect-World India will examine India’s growing strength and look a bit down the road it is travelling.

This issue of Connect-World India will explore the influence of information and communication technology upon the transformation of India, and how India, itself, is transforming technology and processes and helping create a seamless world.

India 2009 Media Pack; Click here

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January II 2009

29 January 2009

Fredric Morris, Editor-In-Chief, Connect-World
Fredric Morris
Editor-In-Chief
Connect-World

eGovernment? What’s that?

Ask almost anyone, I just tried, about eGovernment and, if my experience is any guide, ten out of ten will say, “Huh? What’s that?” Of course, I didn’t ask any experts, just casual acquaintances, sales people and a few unlucky souls at the gym where I work out. Nevertheless, I was astonished to find that this important development in digital democracy was almost unknown. By explaining a bit and coaxing answers, two people replied, “voting machines?”, and another spoke of paying taxes online. Perhaps in other parts of the world the response would have been different – perhaps, but I suspect in most places the responses would have been roughly the same.

Ok, then, what is eGoverment about, what does it do, how does it do it and what is expected of it? eGovernment, or electronic government, simply put, uses information and communication technology (ICT) of all sorts to provide public services.

Although, eGovernment is known primarily for the access to information and to government services it gives citizens, it also refers to the internal use of information and communication technology to facilitate the workings of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and their agencies. There are, in fact, several recognised forms of eGovernment including government-to-citizen (G2C), government-to-government (G2G), government-to-business (G2B) and government-to-employees.

eGovernment can facilitate the delivery of public services, cut costs and improve efficiency throughout the government, increase government transparency and help insure that a government is working effectively and honestly on behalf of its citizens. In many respects, it is not much different than the way businesses use ICTs for marketing and sales, customer support or for internal operations of all sorts.

The introduction of ICTs changes the way businesses operate, it changes more than the processes; just as often it changes the outlook and the vision of where the business is going and of the mission it has to accomplish. Just as ICTs can set in motion the reinvention of a company, it can be expected to do the same for many governments.

A fully connected government – with fully connected governance – is a different government. It is not only more efficient internally, it is more responsive to the needs of its citizens and much better able because of information sharing to support the country’s economic development, provide disaster relief and coordinate instantly between all the agencies involved in responding to a crisis. The ability to share information between agencies and branches of government also makes it possible to coordinate policymaking and the implementation of cross-agency programmes.

Among the most important benefits of a fully connected government is the platform it provides for citizen participation. Is there a new project, an economic policy, a need to engage a great number of citizens to support grand programmes? A fully connected government makes all this easier; it not only gives citizens a way to get involved and express their opinions; importantly, it also makes it hard for governments to ignore them.

Nevertheless, despite all the advantages of eGovernment, a number of studies, including by the United Nations, have shown that where online public services are common, but traditional channels are still available, citizens prefer to have both available. There are times it is more comforting, and more effective, to speak with – or satisfying to harangue – a person instead of a machine.

Clearly, though, eGovernment programmes can improve the management of government activity, increase efficiency and the speed of government reaction, provide more accountability and transparency and offer quicker, better, channels for public services. The biggest advantages of eGovernments, of fully connected eeeeeeeeGovernments, though, are the degree and types of interactions they make possible.

Generally, as a first step governments begin by making information available online – laws, regulations, legal notices, holiday closings of offices, public hearings, agricultural information and the like. The second step offers interactive communications; citizens can ask questions, send comments regarding proposed regulation, lodge complaints and so forth. In the next phase, one can file tax returns, request documents, renew licenses, request services, do business with the government or participate in government tenders for goods and services.

In more advanced phases, good governance is the goal.

Governance is a not an easy idea to define; it has many different definitions according to its context. For businesses and organisations, good governance often means establishing policies and consistent procedures for corporate control, accounting and decision making that guarantee the rights of shareholders and the ethical behaviour of corporate officers.

For governments, some of the same elements apply, but the emphasis is upon the transparency of government operations, the rights of citizens to access information regarding government decisions and operations, upon properly directing the use of political power and public resources to administer social and economic problems and affairs. The main focus of governance, as related to government, then, has to do with the proper use and monitoring of political power and public resources in behalf of its citizens.

There is even a mashup between political science and the open source/ open content movements called Open Source Governance that wants to use the principles behind the Wikipedia to let citizens – anyone, really – insert their ideas into policy documents. This variant of the eDemocracy philosophy opens policy and, perhaps, legislative development processes to the wisdom of society as a whole by providing online interactive tools.

Open Source Governance substitutes electronic iteration for the open forum of Greek democracy. Democracy was first conceived about 500 BC when the world’s entire population numbered around 100 thousand people; the population of Athens, the city-state where first democracy first developed was tiny by today’s standards and, even then, not everyone was entitled to vote. Open Source governance and eVoting, using the power of ICTs are the only way we might one day develop a system capable of making fully participative democracy possible in today’s overcrowded world.

An online direct democracy calls for the use of the Internet and other communications technologies to create electronic forums and otherwise use ICT to make wide ranging, universal, deliberative process possible. Online voting – which would raise a series of profound security, privacy and identity authentication issues – is an essential part of an online direct democracy. In an online direct democracy, citizens would propose, comment upon, modify and vote on legislation.

Ross Perot, twice an independent candidate for President of the United States (1992-1996) and the founder of Electronic Data Systems (EDS), a data processing powerhouse, proposed electronic town halls during his presidential campaigns. No country or government has yet adopted online democracy. Although ICT has been used for voting, it has been tightly controlled and used only at traditional polling places; it is still far from being an everyday, log-on-to-the-Internet-and-vote affair. No government that I am aware of has yet adopted full-scale electronic town halls where citizens, not legislatures, debate the affairs of state.

eGovernments are coming; you can already find varying degrees, greatly varying degrees, of eGovernment in countries throughout the world. The United Nations evaluated the state of eGovernment readiness and of the extent of eParticipation of each of its 19 its member nations and created an index to rate them based of an assessment of their websites, their telecommunications infrastructure and their human resources.

The first five countries had readiness ratings between 0.91 and 0.86. In contrast, the world average, at 0.4514, is less than half that of the leading countries. Parts of Africa hold the tail light at an average of 0.2110, and a number of countries there barely pass the mark of 0.11

Rank       Country                   Index
1              Sweden                   0.9157
2              Denmark                 0.9134
3              Norway                   0.8921
4              United States         0.8644
5              Netherlands           0.8631

eGovernment and the social, economic, health, educational and other service it can provide will have a big impact on the world, especially the developing economies, in the coming years. Indeed, it must.

If governments do not take the lead, especially through eGovernment programmes of all types, there is little hope that the digital revolution, the Information society, will flourish in many of the world’s developing regions.

____________________________________________________

Masdar City is the most ambitious sustainable development in the world today – it will be the world’s first zero carbon, zero waste, car-free city powered entirely by renewable energy sources. It is part of the Masdar Initiative; a long-term strategic endeavour by Abu Dhabi to accelerate the development and deployment of clean future energy solutions. By taking sustainable development and living to a new level, Masdar City will lead the world in understanding how all future cities should be built. The City is a free zone cleantech cluster, which is already attracting the world’s best in all areas of sustainability, from renewable energy to biomass. All types of companies including innovators, incubators, research and development, pioneers and solution providers will be part of the journey to create, work and live in Masdar City.

Masdar City is more than a concept – it is happening. Phase One of Masdar City has now begun – The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is underway and Masdar City will be home to 100 students and faculty by fall 2009. Masdar is embarking on a global drive to attract industry partners in the field of ICT to achieve this important objective.

Your expertise in ICT solutions will contribute to the development of a blueprint for the cities of the future.

To find out how to become a partner please visit us at http://www.masdaruae.com

____________________________________________________

The next issue of Connect-World Europe will be published early next month. This edition of Connect-World will be widely distributed to our reader base and, as well, at shows such as: Mobile World Congress, (Barcelona, 16-19 February), CeBIT 2009 (Hanover, 3-8 March), and IPTV World Forum, (Olympia, London 25-27 March 2009).

The theme of this issue of Connect-Word Europe will be – Mobile and wireless – much more than voice and entertainment.

Wireless, both mobile and fixed, is rapidly growing in importance throughout the world. The boarders between mobile and fixed wireless are blurring with the advent of the femtocell and the use of mobile networks for fixed broadband access in regions not reached by fixed broadband infrastructure. Either LTE or WiMAX, depending upon the region and the local operators, will soon bring true wireless broadband to many with no other access. The advent of inexpensive smartphones will stimulate demand from businesses and individuals alike for a wide variety of more sophisticated services and applications. Internet services, Web 2.0 applications, location-based technologies, unified access (a single phone number for everything) and of course an increasing variety of high-level entertainment services – both time and place-shifted – are all going mobile. Web-based social communities are going mobile as well.

Device size and capacity limitations, user-friendliness and quality of experience considerations, especially those associated with mobile communications, will stimulate the use of cloud computing – using the Internet itself for the services once available only on a computer – and should propel the growth of SaaS (software as a service) as well. The almost unlimited functionality that cloud computing and SaaS bring will also accelerate the trend towards more versatile user equipment – especially touch screen and two-way camera phones.

The growth of wireless communications, especially wireless broadband, is driving fierce competition among operators, service providers, network equipment vendors, end-user equipment suppliers, software developers, applications developers and content providers. Outsiders, such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others are entering the market with their own platforms and applications and changing the rules of the game.

Everyone is after a piece of the market, but the market has its limits, so new business models, some advertising-driven, are emerging.

This issue of Connect-World Europe will explore how the changes brought by this wireless revolution will affect the sector and the region’s businesses and citizens.

Europe I 2009 Media Pack; Click here


January I 2009

15 January 2009

Fredric Morris, Editor-In-Chief, Connect-World
Fredric Morris
Editor-In-Chief
Connect-World

Gadget heaven and the octopus syndrome
CES 2009

Big shows like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)in Las Vegas, or SuperComm and CeBit at their peaks, are hard to describe. Where do you start? What is important, what is flashy, have you missed anything important (of course you have, the show’s too big)?

After the first thousand exhibitors, everything merges and blurs, so you try to be more selective. It’s like greeting an octopus; which hands (tentacles) do you shake first?

I’ll take the easy way and start with statistics. The show’s organisers, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reportedly expected 130 thousand people this year – there were 141 thousand last year, but the preliminary numbers in the latest CES press release put the number of attendees at 110 thousand. Although they claim to be pleased, a 22 percent drop in attendance is not normally an occasion for joy.

Really? Well, according to the CEA the level, if not the number, of the visitors has risen and more business is being done than ever before. This may well be so; when money is short, companies only send the real decision maker, the real buyers, to shows. I have seen this before, and some of the show goers comments seem to bear this out. If this is so, the networking – always a CES strong point – might have been better than ever.

Even 110 thousand attendees in the midst of an economic crisis is quite a feat and – again from the CEA press release – “more than 2,700 global companies, including 300 new exhibitors, unveiled an estimated 20,000 new technology products across 1.7 million net square feet of exhibit space this week…helping lead the way to economic recovery.”

Despite the CEA’s enthusiastic prose, I wonder just how much the economy will recover – even with the help of the 2009 CES. The economy was far stronger when most companies made their plans for the show. I wonder if the show will fare as well in 2010.

This year, at least, since the big companies all set their budgets, book their space and make their plans as much as a year in advance the major companies were all there. Name a big company that makes TVs, cell phones, computers, photo equipment, gaming, audio, video, automotive technology, GPS and more – they were almost certainly at the CES. A lot of smaller companies were there too; CES is, after all, the best stage in the sector, the place to be seen and recognised, to make a mark.

The CES is a gadget freak’s heaven, but it also has some really interesting top-notch industry leading keynoters. This year Dr. Craig Barrett from Intel and Cisco’s John Chambers spoke on behalf of the Technology and Emerging Countries program. Other keynoters included Steve Ballmer, of Microsoft, Sir Howard Stringer from Sony and Ford’s Allan Mulally. Great crew, all interesting and good speakers: consensus view – not much said of note. I suppose they will do better next time.

Organising such an diverse event is almost like shovelling smoke into a wire basket. Ok, it does give the event some sort of superficial order and I have to give them credit for trying. Still, an array of 18 ‘Tech Zones’ ranging from Advanced Digital Displays to ZigBees and passing through Digital Health, Greener Gadgets, Robotics, Stevie Wonder and Friends (sponsored by National Federation of the Blind and the Sendero Group), not to mention a slew of expected technologies like mobile broadband is a hard scheme to follow.

As if that weren’t enough, the Tech Zones are just one of the 12 ‘CE Spotlights’, that (try to) define the show’s overall organization. Other Spotlights cover content, digital imaging, gaming, international Gateways’ for international exhibitors, location-based services, wireless, ‘Sustainable Planet’, an ‘Innovations Showcase’ and a ‘Kids@Play Summit.

Another CE Spotlight, ‘Experience CEA’, featured the CEA’s own institutional agenda including: free trade, energy conservation/recycling the transition to digital television, market research, standards, ‘CEknowhow’ and DigitalTips from CEA’s consumer sites such as Great Audio, Digital Driver, TechHome and myGreenElectronics.

The ‘Silvers Summit’ is the CEA’s nod to the affluent baby-boomer market – 78 million just in the USA and some 450 million around the world – now in their sixties and waiting (the CEA hopes) to spend their cash on electronics.

Okay, I know, you just wanted to hear about the gadgets. There was no lack of them. Once again back to the octopus. Where do I start?

Once again – this is a consumer electronics show, after all – the emphasis was upon putting more great things than you can possibly use in smaller, shinier, cheaper packages. Especially for cell phones / smartphones, the show is more about ingenious convergence and consumer mashups than about electronics per se.

The mainstream plasma and LCD sets are getting thinner, bigger and cheaper instead of smaller so televisions are also doing more for less; unless, of course they are pioneering new technology.

With new technology, it is often a case of paying a lot more today for technologies that promise more, but only in the future. Among new and expensive TV technologies are LED TV – that is LED, light emitting diode and not the more familiar LCD, liquid crystal display – super thin OLED (organic LED) displays. Other new TV technologies grabbing the attention of the early adopters are the Toshiba/Sony/IBM ‘cell processor’ chip TV that uses the chip developed for the Sony PlayStation to provide a range of interactive high-end recording and playback options, and the laser TV.

There is also the WhereverTV Receiver, a small US$200 box, that works with a standard TV and a broadband Internet connection to delivers many hundreds of free channels via IPTV from more than 100 countries. A great idea, but I just checked this via their site and could only tune into a small number of the channels they list – the ratio of ‘currently unavailable, try again later’ notices to viewable channels was better than 10 to one. Would their box do better?

There is too much to talk about – in fact it would take days just to skim quickly through the descriptions of everything at the show, so let’s just look at one or two highlights.

I was pleased to see the Palm, the PDA pioneer, earn the best in show award for its Palm Pre after a few years as an also ran. Although touted as an iPhone killer, it’s got a slick touch screen, but it also has a slide out full keyboard. My first reaction was it could be a BlackBerry killer, but I admit I haven’t had a chance to play with one yet. It seems like a good well thought out bit of hardware – its got all the usual smartphone stuff – 8GB of storage, a camera GPs, WiFi connectivity and lots more.

Palm has been concentrating its efforts, lately, on Microsoft’s mobile OS. This phone, however, uses Palm’s WebOS operating system. The phone reportedly has a ‘card’ system to handle multiple open windows and uses a multi-touch screen with capabilities similar to the iPhone. I would bet that Palm will have more to announce at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month.

Last, after all these wonders, let’s talk a bit about a scenario that must be keeping a lot of operators up at night. Skype’s disruptive potential has been steadily growing in a number of areas. Fixed operators, if they are smart, will start worrying about their VoIP business networks. Digium, the company that created Asterisk, the most important open source telephony software including for IP PBX software, has been running a beta test for several months with Skype; it will let corporate users access Skype via the Asterisk IP PBX. Today, businesses generate roughly 30 per cent of Skype’s traffic. Connecting Skype to the Asterisk switchboard should boost Skype’s business traffic considerably and get the PBX sector thinking about the shape of the future.

The switchboard connection, important in itself, but together with Skype announcements at CES – Skype Lite for Android and Java Mobil phones, the Skype screen sharing software announced for their new 2.8 beta software for Mac and Skype’s plans for an interactive connection with TV, Skype faxing and others – the highly disruptive nature of an anywhere, everywhere Skype becomes obvious. Skype is working to get its applications pre-loaded in mobiles in several emerging markets and, to complete the picture, Skype also signed an agreement with Boingo for worldwide access to any of the 100 thousand Boingo WiFi hotspots at airports, hotels and cafes around the world. No signup, just a reasonable, fixed, US$ 0.19 per minute, anywhere.

Operator beware! Skype is working hard to make both business and personal use simple, and inexpensive, no matter where you are or the device you use. Is Skype building the ultimate disruptive service offering?

____________________________________________________

Masdar City is the most ambitious sustainable development in the world today – it will be the world’s first zero carbon, zero waste, car-free city powered entirely by renewable energy sources. It is part of the Masdar Initiative; a long-term strategic endeavour by Abu Dhabi to accelerate the development and deployment of clean future energy solutions. By taking sustainable development and living to a new level, Masdar City will lead the world in understanding how all future cities should be built. The City is a free zone cleantech cluster, which is already attracting the world’s best in all areas of sustainability, from renewable energy to biomass. All types of companies including innovators, incubators, research and development, pioneers and solution providers will be part of the journey to create, work and live in Masdar City.

Masdar City is more than a concept – it is happening. Phase One of Masdar City has now begun – The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is underway and Masdar City will be home to 100 students and faculty by fall 2009. Masdar is embarking on a global drive to attract industry partners in the field of ICT to achieve this important objective.

Your expertise in ICT solutions will contribute to the development of a blueprint for the cities of the future.

To find out how to become a partner please visit us at http://www.masdaruae.com

____________________________________________________

The next issue of Connect-World Asia-Pacific will be published later this month. This edition of Connect-World will be widely distributed to our reader base and, as well, at shows such as: PTC, Hawaii (18-21 January 2009) and Carriers World Asia, Hong Kong (16-19 March 2009).

The theme of this issue of Connect-Word Asia Pacific will be – Convergence, communications and business innovation.

Communications with customers, suppliers, service providers, financial institutions and the like are the lifeline of any business. Today’s converged networks, converged devices and applications that take advantage of the possibilities a converged environment brings are revolutionizing the office – or the home in the case of tele-workers/ telecommuters – to deliver a seamless work environment to workers wherever they may be. The converged environment has stimulated a wide variety of innovative applications for large and small businesses alike. Many of these applications are not just new ways of doing the same things, but are real changes in the way we do business or are new businesses in their own right. Interaction is facilitated, costs are eliminated or drastically cut, and collaboration with colleagues, clients and suppliers anywhere at any time is enhanced. By minimizing the need to travel, applications such as video-presence are also starting to reduce business travel – and the user’s carbon footprint.

This sort of convergence offers a powerful way to simplify business processes, and its implications are far reaching and complex. Cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS) special applications, Swiss knife communications and computing devices, innovative applications and a host of storage, communications and network equipment will be needed to make this work efficiently and cost effectively.

This issue of Connect-World Asia-Pacific 2009 will examine the implications of these far-reaching converged systems and the impact they have not only upon users, but upon the complex ecosystem that will make these innovative communications systems possible – the networks, communications equipment, user devices, software and business applications.

Asia-Pacific I 2009 Media Pack; Click here


December II 2008

22 December 2008

Fredric Morris, Editor-In-Chief, Connect-World
Fredric Morris
Editor-In-Chief
Connect-World

Mobile broadband, competing technologies and user interfaces

I asked a few people about mobile broadband. One, while queuing at the bank, must have thought I was a bit weird, but research is research. The others I asked, friends, family and acquaintances – well, they already know I get a bit weird when I am talking about technology. Still, no matter how I put it, except to my co-directors at the local telecom association, almost no one had a clue. A few that recently bought phones and were pitched about 3G by a smartphone-pushing salesperson, a Crackberry addict or two and one proud owner of a mobile-phone laptop modem had some notion of its benefits – oh, yeah, fast photos, email, Google and one or two other common applications.

Mobile broadband is a revolution, but it’s got such a great disguise no one knows it’s there – that is no one except Intel, Microsoft, Google, all the big operators, equipment manufacturers, service providers, content providers, applications developers and a long , long, list of other interested parties all waiting for the big bucks to flow.

Mobile broadband is not only a revolution and an opportunity; it is a technological race and a competitive challenge

Google – you know, the guys that own the Internet – is so interested it has developed its own open platform (with lots of Google apps stuck in – really stuck in – for free) operating system (OS) for mobile phones. The OS called Android, and the Open Handset Alliance that supports it is rapidly gaining support from handset manufacturers – at least, as an alternative.

Android backers are celebrating the steady growth of the alliance supporting Google’s technology, and they are especially pleased by Vodafone’s adhesion to the group. Vodefone is the mobile operator with the most – the most revenues, and the most clout with cell phone manufacturers; what Vodafone wants, it gets. Until recently, Vodafone has been a great mobile Linux supporter.

Google is happy. If you haven’t counted them, Google now offers 59 services in addition to search; and many of those that aren’t yet ready for mobile are like to go mobile shortly. Many are already bundled with Android.

Google, together with a number of other companies, plans to launch 16 satellites that will circle the globe above the equator. The idea is to offer cheap high-speed Internet access by the end of 2010 to the poorer, developing, regions of the world. In these regions, many more people have mobile phones than PCs, so mobile phones will be their main form of Internet access.

Google, with a number of other investors, have put some US$60 million into O3b Networks, a startup that proposes to offer Internet services in developing regions that now have little or no connections with Internet backbones. O3b’s motto is, “Connecting the other 3 billion” – O3b. Of course, it will take much more than US$60 million; initial estimates put the total cost at close to US$650 million.

The system is not directly aimed at the final user. The plan is to sell bandwidth and backhaul to local mobile operators, WiMAX services, ISPs, and fixed-line telcos. Google surely plans to use O3b to increase the already astounding penetration of its services and applications. About 710 million people search Google each month. Worldwide, Google handles 60 per cent of the world’s search traffic; in some countries they handle more than 90 per cent and they want to extend that dominion to the furthest reaches of our world – not just search, but for all their applications. Backhaul for mobile broadband fits Google’s plans well.

Google isn’t alone in its search for ways to provide inexpensive or free, mobile broadband access. They have even joined with archrival Microsoft, among others top-tier players, in the White Spaces Coalition to plead for the use of ‘white space’ spectrum – the unused frequencies between analogue television channels. Anything that Microsoft and Google agree upon has to be important.

This push to use white space frequencies has, obviously, called down the wrath of TV broadcasters, ISP’s and cell phone operators who rightly see the plan to use these unlicensed frequencies to provide free broadband access as a threat to their businesses. Nevertheless, the FCC approved this spectrum for, despite tests that found significant interference in the adjacent licensed spectrum. Once the US TV broadcasting becomes totally digital, this unlicensed spectrum will become increasingly valuable.

While the White Spaces Coalition celebrates its victory, and is gloating over the prospect of free – maybe just cheap in some instances – mobile broadband, companies with big investments in 3G and 4G rollouts must be looking on in dismay. No mistake, this is an all out street fight. If the US experiment works, it is likely to spread around the world.

The mobile broadband for cell phones will grow rapidly in the coming years, but its use with data cards (laptop modems for broadband mobile phone networks), laptops with built-in WiFi, WiMAX or even whitespace connectivity, eBooks, gaming consoles and a wide range of special purpose devices will all use one form or another of mobile broadband. It is said that within five years, these devices will drive between US$80 to 110 billion in operator revenues around the world.

Intel’s decision to include WiFi capability in its PC chips gave a major, perhaps most the important, push to WiFi acceptance. Intel is now a major WiMAX and white space supporter. Its recently displayed ‘Moorestown’ chips support 3G, Bluetooth, WiMAX, WiFi, GPS and mobile TV broadband. Given Intel’s support of white space technology, can a white space chip be far behind?

The move to mobile wireless, whether cell phone-based, 3G, 4G (WiMAX or LTE) white space – whatever the technology – will strain the ability of existing networks to handle the backhaul traffic these high-speed technologies generate. Traditionally, backhaul is a significant cost factor. Since mobile broadband providers must continually reduce the prices they charges users to remain competitive, finding ways to reduce the cost of backhaul is essential. Still, like the search for the Holy Grail – passionately sought for salvation, ways to cut backhaul costs are often tantalisingly just out of reach. Nevertheless, equipment providers will spare no effort and miss no trick to reduce this cost; it can become a matter of life or death for their customers. The need to economically deal with broader coverage, increased base station deployment and rising backhaul requirements will challenge the sector for some time to come.

The competition between WiMAX and LTE – essentially the same technology cooked with different sauces – will provide some interesting moments, but over the next few years, as both of these standards mature, the differences between them from a consumer’s perspective should practically disappear.
Advanced Wireless Services, or AWS-1, spectrum is used in the USA for mobile voice and data services, video, and messaging. The AWS frequencies, originally used for MMDS and wireless cable service were sold by the FCC for mobile voice, data, video, and messaging services. Exit MMDS, an unmourned death. Understandably, T-Mobile, which bought most of the available AWS-1frequencies for its 3G wireless network is now aggressively fighting a proposal by the FCC to auction spectrum called AWS-3 for a nationwide network; the proposal calls for using much of the AWS-3 spectrum for free Internet access. A vote on the proposal scheduled earlier this month was cancelled. It is unlikely to be considered until next year, after a new FCC Chairman is appointed by the Obama administration.

Despite the great advances in technology, the real revolution of mobile broadband will be the applications it makes possible, many of which have yet to be deployed or even invented. The impact will be profound everywhere, but nowhere more so than in the developing regions of the world.

I have no idea how the applications will shape up, but I am willing to bet that the combination of high-power, high-speed, anywhere/anytime access and really small screens will spark a significant revolution in user interfaces. The more today’s screens put a lid on innovation, the harder people will work to invent better interfaces to overcome its limitations. I don’t know what the new user interfaces will look like or how they will work, but they will be better than an iPhone, more useful and far more exciting.

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Masdar City is the most ambitious sustainable development in the world today – it will be the world’s first zero carbon, zero waste, car-free city powered entirely by renewable energy sources. It is part of the Masdar Initiative; a long-term strategic endeavour by Abu Dhabi to accelerate the development and deployment of clean future energy solutions. By taking sustainable development and living to a new level, Masdar City will lead the world in understanding how all future cities should be built. The City is a free zone cleantech cluster, which is already attracting the world’s best in all areas of sustainability, from renewable energy to biomass. All types of companies including innovators, incubators, research and development, pioneers and solution providers will be part of the journey to create, work and live in Masdar City.

Masdar City is more than a concept – it is happening. Phase One of Masdar City has now begun – The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is underway and Masdar City will be home to 100 students and faculty by fall 2009. Masdar is embarking on a global drive to attract industry partners in the field of ICT to achieve this important objective.

Your expertise in ICT solutions will contribute to the development of a blueprint for the cities of the future.

To find out how to become a partner please visit us at http://www.masdaruae.com

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The next issue of Connect-World Asia-Pacific will be published early next month. This edition of Connect-World will be widely distributed to our reader base and, as well, at shows such as: PTC, Hawaii (18-21 January 2009) and Carriers World Asia, Hong Kong (16-19 March 2009).

The theme of this issue of Connect-Word Asia Pacific will be – Convergence, communications and business innovation.

Communications with customers, suppliers, service providers, financial institutions and the like are the lifeline of any business. Today’s converged networks, converged devices and applications that take advantage of the possibilities a converged environment brings are revolutionizing the office – or the home in the case of tele-workers/ telecommuters – to deliver a seamless work environment to workers wherever they may be. The converged environment has stimulated a wide variety of innovative applications for large and small businesses alike. Many of these applications are not just new ways of doing the same things, but are real changes in the way we do business or are new businesses in their own right. Interaction is facilitated, costs are eliminated or drastically cut, and collaboration with colleagues, clients and suppliers anywhere at any time is enhanced. By minimizing the need to travel, applications such as video-presence are also starting to reduce business travel – and the user’s carbon footprint.

This sort of convergence offers a powerful way to simplify business processes, and its implications are far reaching and complex. Cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS) special applications, Swiss knife communications and computing devices, innovative applications and a host of storage, communications and network equipment will be needed to make this work efficiently and cost effectively.

This issue of Connect-World Asia-Pacific 2009 will examine the implications of these far-reaching converged systems and the impact they have not only upon users, but upon the complex ecosystem that will make these innovative communications systems possible – the networks, communications equipment, user devices, software and business applications.

Asia-Pacific I 2009 Media Pack; Click here


December I 2008

11 December 2008

Fredric Morris, Editor-In-Chief, Connect-World
Fredric Morris
Editor-In-Chief
Connect-World

Talking business – inclusion through the ‘cloud’Including the digitally un-includable – this could be the biggest untapped ICT market in the world

My last eLetter ended by stating:
The mobile phone is rapidly becoming – by default – the device most of the world’s people will use to access the Internet. The mobile phone is affordable and easy to use, limited in many ways, but not as limited as many of the people who use it. Sadly, a great percentage of the world’s population can barely read and write – if they can read at all. Windows, Explorer, Firefox, in fact almost every application many of us use regularly, are as beyond the grasp of non-readers as rocket science. Cloud applications tailored for the mobile phone, with visual and voice interfaces that can meet the needs of these people might well be a worldwide ‘killer app’ for cloud computing.
That is, it could be the next killer app – if the sector would just wake up.

Last week, I spoke about this at the CITEL Technology Forum held in coordination with AHCIET (Asociación Iberoamericana de Centros de Investigación y Empresas de Telecomunicaciones) and the ITU in Costa Rica. CITEL, the Inter-American Telecommunications Commission – is an entity of the Organization of American States. It is there that governments and the private sector work to coordinate regional efforts to develop the Global Information Society.

I have written in several eLetters in the last year or two about one of the great failures of current digital inclusion programmes. Digital inclusion programmes, as such, are not entirely failures; they are relatively successful at including the includable – those that can read and write (or can easily learn to) and are interested in using information and communication technology (ICT) for more than games and Hi Mom-emails. More often than not, though, a great percentage of those in these inclusion programmes – like the majority of people in the developing world – are functionally illiterate.

A functionally illiterate person can often read and write, but not well enough to understand any but the most basic – this is a cat – text. Without applications they can use, without fully supportive technological ecosystems, these people will never reap more than marginal benefits from ICT and the hoped for economic and social inclusion will not occur. For these people, and for the microenterprises where most work, digital inclusion has failed.

How can someone who can barely read and write benefit from the Internet? Can they benefit from basic applications – let’s say MS Office? Of course not! What use is MSWord to someone who can barely read or write or Excel to someone who has only the barest ability to deal with the simplest arithmetic operations? These applications, physics, biology, engineering and just plain reading are equally incomprehensible to more than half the world’s workers.

Illiterate is not synonymous with unintelligent; most illiterate people have had little schooling, little opportunity to practice or have little talent for reading and writing. Reading and writing talent, like mechanical talent or artistic talent often has little to do with intelligence. There are PhDs with no artistic or mechanical talent whatsoever and brilliant, talented and inventive mechanics and artists with no talent for reading.

This story is quite a bit more complicated than it seems at first glance, but let us leave it at that for now. Functional illiteracy is extremely high throughout the world – over 40 per cent, in even the most developed regions such as the USA and the EU. Look up functional illiteracy in the Wikipedia and prepare yourself for a shock. This is not only a question of schools! After five-thousand years, this is the best the schools can do. Many people are just not properly equipped from birth to deal with reading and writing.

If we want to promote social and economic inclusion, we need to offer this enormous mass of workers digital devices and applications they need and can use. Only then will we achieve the hoped for economic and social impact. This is a killer app – and a lifesaver app at the same time.

Imagine the impact of mobile phone systems and applications that eliminate the written word and use voice, graphics and video to handle the tasks the small (micro) businesses where most of the functionally illiterate population works.

There is no education better than real-time on-the-job training. To be productive, even university graduates must learn on the job. If a worker can access a manual built upon symbols and photos, get video instructions for any task or procedure, get real-time spoken or visual diagnostics to handle difficult repairs, verbally handle accounting or get practical business advice or get help with hundreds of common business and practical problems – all on their mobile phones – their productivity, their earnings and social inclusion all grow. Multiply this by hundreds, thousands or millions of workers and local, national and regional economies grow. This creates jobs and economic inclusion. Workers that earn enough can let their children go to school and get a better start in life. This is social inclusion. This is digital inclusion.

Today, we have the technology we need for a good start, if not yet for a great finish. We have voice, voice recognition and response, graphics, video, augmented reality (aviation ‘heads-up’ displays, for example), databases and knowledge bases, hardware of all sorts and much more. Cloud computing offers a hassle-free infrastructure to reliably, simply and economically deliver the applications and content to users’ handsets. Cloud computing hides the true complexity of the supporting systems, infrastructure and applications from the user.

Nevertheless, there are some very real problems. First, there are no business applications or content today not based upon the written word. In addition, there are no applications and content especially designed to meet the needs of the functionally illiterate micro-enterprise worker. Worse, we do not even know what they, and the small businesses they work at, really need to be more productive! This is an area where partnerships between businesses and academia, with universities the world over, might be uncommonly productive.

Next, there is no ICT/social ‘ecosystem’ to support the development of such an ambitious and, yes, costly, programme. I have spoken with many people in many companies, governments and organisations concerning the need for such a programme. Everyone agrees but no one does anything; in truth, no one can do anything – that is, no one can do anything alone.

Yes, there are problems, but this can be good, incredibly good, business. It is a new market, made up (just as a start) of more than half the world’s workers – workers who now use little if any, except voice, ICT products or services. It can be a win/win proposition for the sector – manufacturers, software, applications and content developers, service providers, operators suffering from bit-pipe disease – and for society as a whole.

Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I will move the world”. The problem with developing a programme, with developing the tools, for true digital inclusion is the lack of a place to stand – a base, a platform. Alone no one person – so far, me – no one company, no one country or organisation has the resources to develop everything needed to effectively resolve the problem. There is no business model that will survive without a broad base of support, without a true industry-wide technological base, without a wide reaching set of accepted standards and without ample support from governments and international institutions.

I called my presentation at CITEL, ‘Talking Business’. ‘Talking business’, means talking seriously. A ‘talking business’, is a business based upon the spoken – not written – word.
I strongly believe there is a need for a broad-based organisation dedicated to creating a viable talking business ecosystem; let’s say a Talking Business Forum. It should be comprised of thought leaders, ICT sector players (manufacturers -chips, data centers, network equipment, etc., software and application developers, content providers, service providers, telcos – fixed and wireless) governments, universities and international institutions. Anyone that can contribute to the vision is welcome.

It is going to be a battle to move ahead, to get a critical mass of companies and institutions to sign on to the vision and create a working, officialised, organisation and real tools for digital inclusion, but the battle matters; it can be won.

Would you like to help me make some waves? Rock the boat? Shake the world? Do you think your company or organisation might be interested in helping setup or participate in an industry-wide, a worldwide, forum? Get in touch with me (fredric.morris@connect-world.com) let’s chat and exchange ideas – we can make a difference.

If we don’t try, something terrible will happen – nothing!

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The next issue of Connect-World Asia-Pacific will be published early next month. This edition of Connect-World will be widely distributed to our reader base and, as well, at shows such as: PTC, Hawaii (18-21 January 2009) and Carriers World Asia, Hong Kong (16-19 March 2009).

The theme of this issue of Connect-Word Asia Pacific will be – Convergence, communications and business innovation.

Communications with customers, suppliers, service providers, financial institutions and the like are the lifeline of any business. Today’s converged networks, converged devices and applications that take advantage of the possibilities a converged environment brings are revolutionizing the office – or the home in the case of tele-workers/ telecommuters – to deliver a seamless work environment to workers wherever they may be. The converged environment has stimulated a wide variety of innovative applications for large and small businesses alike. Many of these applications are not just new ways of doing the same things, but are real changes in the way we do business or are new businesses in their own right. Interaction is facilitated, costs are eliminated or drastically cut, and collaboration with colleagues, clients and suppliers anywhere at any time is enhanced. By minimizing the need to travel, applications such as video-presence are also starting to reduce business travel – and the user’s carbon footprint.

This sort of convergence offers a powerful way to simplify business processes, and its implications are far reaching and complex. Cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS) special applications, Swiss knife communications and computing devices, innovative applications and a host of storage, communications and network equipment will be needed to make this work efficiently and cost effectively.

This issue of Connect-World Asia-Pacific 2009 will examine the implications of these far-reaching converged systems and the impact they have not only upon users, but upon the complex ecosystem that will make these innovative communications systems possible – the networks, communications equipment, user devices, software and business applications.

Asia-Pacific I 2009 Media Pack; Click here


November II 2008

27 November 2008

Fredric Morris, Editor-In-Chief, Connect-World
Fredric Morris
Editor-In-Chief
Connect-World

Heads in the clouds, doves, pigeons and cybermeters
Cloud computing, sky-hy-hype, data centres, cellphones and digital inclusion

Cloud computing, refers to the use of Internet (the ‘cloud’) not as a communications system, but as a way to access computing services one – most often – does not own, control or even understand. The information and the applications reside somewhere in the Internet cloud. Users access the applications they need and, using a simplified interface – Web browsers for example, request the services and data they need. Cloud computing really refers to a series of separate, but related concepts including Software as a Service (SaaS) and utility computing where one pays for usage as for electricity; a sort of ‘cybermeter’ measures the computing resources used. Most often, the computing resources that provide the cloud’s virtualised services and data storage are housed in vast data centres. This has made cloud computing a viable alternative for many users.

Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, Salesforce, IBM, Sun and Microsoft are among the best-known providers of cloud computing resources for individual users and large companies alike.

Cloud computing pops up with increasing regularity at industry events, emails, newsletters, newspapers, on the Net, discussions with cyber-geek friends. OK, I don’t deny it has great potential, but the awe and reverence with which some treat it – let’s face it we are not being showered with blessings from above – really puts me off.

There are pigeons and doves in this cloud. Doves are the good guys, the aristocrats of the family. Doves get the good jobs, they carry olive branches for the United Nations, they are the harbingers of peace and good tidings and they get to coo for lovers. Pigeon, on the other hand, are the bums of the family. Pigeons, sometimes called feathered rats, just get to sit on – and mess- statues, windowsills and unlucky passersby.

First, as it befits their rank, let’s talk about some of the ‘doves’ of cloud computing.

For some, cloud computing (let’s call it CC for now) is a great way to handle heavy peak traffic without investing too heavily in computing infrastructure that is idle most of the time. CC is also an effective way to obtain emergency backup. By maintaining a ‘mirror image’ of its systems and data at a data centre in the cloud, a company can often resume full operation within minutes of a major system outage.

By using CC resources, by paying for service only if and when needed, the costs for building and maintaining extra capacity are shared with many other users. CC applications can also greatly reduce the investment tied up in software and applications development. The large centrally managed CC data centres generally have staff dedicated to security and have effective, massive, backup for everything – hardware, software, applications, communications and data.

Major data centres also tend to be ‘greener’ than individual computing facilities, if for no other reason than they must work constantly to reduce their operational costs, especially energy consumption. Google, for example has one of the biggest solar panel installations in the United States. Data centres are looking seriously into alternate sources of energy including wind power to reduce both their cost and their carbon footprint. Then too, companies that use the cloud for peak demand or for backup tend to have smaller installations, use less energy and have smaller carbon footprints than they otherwise would.

All these uses are very important and they will grow. In the years to come, I believe there is another use which will eventually surpass these applications, but I will leave that for the end.

Let’s move on to the pigeons.

Despite the generally high level of security and backup, even the best and biggest operations can go down. Even Google’s enormous operation went down for 90 minutes earlier this year. Security, although the big centres have a good record, will still be a problem. Big centres are a tempting target for both terrorists and hackers – and they are sure to win a battle or two.

I like cloud computing but, in a sense, it reverses the personal computing revolution. The idea of putting complete control in the hands of users is more satisfying. Cloud computing takes away control and makes the user dependant on others. I can rationalise this in many ways – still, it doesn’t feel right. The more one uses the cloud, the more one depends upon data in someone else’s hands, upon applications picked and spoon-fed by a third party, the less freedom one has to pack up and move on to another supplier. I don’t like having to depend upon third party decision.

What happens if your personal cloud moves with the wind to another applications supplier, to another version – with another cost structure? What if your cloud supplier keels over and dies – what happens to your data? The economy goes bust; you have no job and can’t pay the rainmaker in the cloud – where do you stand then? How do you work? What happens to your data? What if your connection goes? Earlier this year several undersea cables were cut almost simultaneously; it has been convincingly denied, but some still suspect terrorists. What if terrorists or hackers strike, take out the system you use, and it is off the air for days or weeks?

I stopped writing this for a moment to take a call on Skype. I am a Skype fan. Every day, I speak with – and see -family and friends thousands of miles away and use it to keep in touch with my office, but the quality varies from great to downright rotten. This call was close to the rotten end of the range. It reminded me just how much cloud computing depends upon connections and servers – and how undependable and easily overloaded these both are. Performance and risk – in many respects, not all – are a lot easier to manage on a PC or at your own computing centre.

All considered, the best arguments for the cloud might be cost related, but without flat-rate subscriptions one can get ‘nickeled and dimed to death’. Micropayments for every little service or access, unless controlled, capped and predictable, can get out of hand. If you could have affordable access to everything you want in your own little box, why would you use the cloud?

Enough pigeons! The mobile phone is rapidly becoming – by default – the device most of the world’s people will use to access the Internet. The mobile phone is affordable and easy to use, limited in many ways, but not as limited as many of the people who use it. Sadly, a great percentage of the world’s population can barely read and write – if they can read at all. Windows, Explorer, Firefox, in fact almost every application many of us use regularly, are as beyond the grasp of non-readers as rocket science. Cloud applications tailored for the mobile phone, with visual and voice interfaces that can meet the needs of these people might well be a worldwide ‘killer app’ for cloud computing, but that’s a story for the next eLetter.

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The next issue of Connect-World Global will be published later this month. This edition of Connect-World will be widely distributed to our reader base and, as well, at shows such as: Mobile World Congress (16-19 February 2009, Barcelona)and CTIA Wireless (April 1-3, 2009 Las Vegas)

The theme for this issue will be The information society 2015 – corporate responsibility and digital access for sustainable development..

The World Summit on the Information Society, WSIS, established a number of goals for the year 2015. Providing the world’s peoples with access – to connect the world’s people in even the remotest regions, its schools, governments, research centres, libraries hospitals and health centres, cultural centres, museums, post offices and archives – was the primary goal. One of the most important goals set by the WSIS calls for a world where, “more than half the world’s inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach,” by 2015. The WSIS also called for, “ensuring that all of the world’s population have access to television and radio services”.

Providing digital access, as a way to achieve sustainable development, to half the world’s population within a decade is a grand ambition. It will take a mighty effort. Governments, international organizations and non-governmental organisations – NGOs, can do part of the job, but far from all of it. Much of this mighty effort will depend upon the world’s business enterprises. To complete this mission, new technologies, new hardware and software, new applications and content, manufacturing genius, financial resources and logistics that only private enterprise can efficiently provide, develop, deploy and manage will be needed.

What is corporate responsibility in this context? What can, and should, corporations do, then, to help achieve the ambitious WSIS goals? What are they already doing? How can businesses participate? Why should they participate? What will be the rewards and the costs? Is corporate responsibility – corporate participation in the building of the Information Society – good business? These are the questions Connect-World will ask global leaders.

Global 2008 Media Pack; Click here


November I 2008

13 November 2008

Fredric Morris, Editor-In-Chief, Connect-World
Fredric Morris
Editor-In-Chief
Connect-World

The once and Future Com

The FutureCom show is like none other I have seen. Sure, it has stands for all the top-name exhibitors and a very good conference but, unless you look closely, it easily passes for any one of the many regional telecom shows around the world. In truth, once every year FutureCom is the true power centre of Brazil’s telecom sector.

The FutureCom show (October 27-30, 2008, Transamérica Expocenter, São Paulo) is the telecom event of the year, of every year, in Brazil. This year – having run out of space in the smaller cities, such as Florianópolis – a charming beach city in the south of Brazil where it has been held in recent years – it moved to the São Paulo megalopolis. The move doubled the attendance, but generated enough subdued grumbling to guarantee its move back to Florianópolis next year. I approve, FutureCom has no business being a show for technicians, students and interested passersby. It has always been something of an elite show, a show for the sector’s leaders, and it should stay that way; that is part of its unique value.

Unlike most shows, having more people roaming the corridors does not necessarily bring joy to the exhibitors. One of the reasons FutureCom has hidden in smaller cities, until now, is to keep swarms of telecom technicians away. FutureCom has always been a show for the decision makers, the leaders of the industry and, of course, everyone that wants to do business with them, so exhibitors don’t want to be distracted, don’t want to keep the buyers waiting while they answer questions from low-level, non-buyer, techies.

FutureCom started as government-run show back in the days when the government’s monopoly, Telebrás, was the only game in town. In those days, the show was called Semint, and everyone who was anyone in the Telebrás system and the Ministry of Communications went there – so did everyone that wanted to do business with the system.

Things changed when Telebrás was privatised, but not much. The government’s Semint show was privatised and re-named – this year was its tenth anniversary as FutureCom, a bigger, happier and better-organised event – but in many respects, the more things changed the more they remained the same. The show is now a family affair. Laudálio Veiga, who has run the show since the beginning, has enlisted the help of his wife and sons. They all pitch in to make sure everything runs smoothly for exhibitors and attendees alike; this is one of the secrets of the show’s success. It is hard to find anyone who does not like them and is not pleased with their efforts to smooth the inevitable glitches.

The rainmakers, the top decision makers of all the privatised companies are still there and so are all the companies that want to sell to them. Even the government, as always, is there.

This year, once again, the Minister of Communications, the President of Anatel, Brazil’s telecom regulatory agency, senators, deputados, the chief telecom advisors from the President of Brazil’s staff are always at the event. This year, the vice-governor of the State of São Paulo, the Mayor of São Paulo, the European Commission’s General Director for the Information Society, the Ambassador from Canada, the presidents of all the telecom-related trade associations among others were also there.

Yes, this is an important event, but what makes it important are not only the officials – it is the presence of every president of every operating company and the country or regional president of just about every major supplier. Users are there as well – not just any users, but the heads of the big users, the buyers that carry corporate check books in their pockets.

Most of these people are not just there for a quick pro forma appearance; they spend time there speaking at the conference, meeting and greeting customers and suppliers, delivering veiled and not so veiled messages to one another, supplier to buyer, everyone to the government and the government to all.

Following long-established tradition, Brazil’s Minister of Communications, Hélio Costa, spoke at the opening ceremony. At the cocktail before the opening ceremony there was quite a bit of good natured speculation and mock betting among the assembled VIPs – How late would the ceremony start? Would the Minister make any significant announcement? Would he speak about the taxes Brazil applies to telecommunications – among the world’s highest? The answers? – It started only half an hour late (often, it is quite a bit later); there were no significant announcements from the Minister, but he did mention taxes and the need to reduce prices. Once again there was a good deal of disappointed laughter at the government’s refusal to seriously consider or even mention reducing taxes; the Minister spoke only about competition as a way to reduce prices. One of the telco presidents – no names to protect the guilty – derided the government’s apparent wish to reduce margins to razor thin levels. The government, by far, profits most from the telco business in Brazil; the people and the economy suffer most from the tax inflated prices

The stands are where business is done, but everyone pays attention to the auditoriums where the sector’s leaders send their messages to the market and to the government. The largest auditorium, called Brasil, is always full; at times even standing room is difficult to find. It is there the President of Anatel, the regulatory agency, and the Presidents of all the fixed and mobile operators speak.

Smaller auditoriums – often packed as well – hosted the talks of other important first rank, but less exalted, industry figures. These rooms also served as the setting for an impressive series of roundtables featuring some of the industry’s most respected experts and chaired by some of Brazil’s best-known journalists.

Most of the executives staffing the stands, the directors of marketing and the like, at least for public consumption kept insisting that Brazil’s telecom sector, if not crisis-proof, was strong enough not to be severely affected. The keynotes in the Brasil auditorium, starting with the President of Anatel, ex-Ambassador Ronaldo Sardenberg, spoke more realistically of the economic situation. Although calm in their evaluations, each spoke in his own manner of the need to be alert and proactive to move smoothly through the upcoming turbulence in the world’s markets.

Anatel plans to, “stop reacting and become proactive”. They plan, “a full-scale review and update of Brazil’s telecom regulations… to make investors more secure facing the international crisis we are awaiting”. This will not be a quick fix; according to the Ambassador, the new regulations should guide the agency and the sector for the next ten years. It has been a bit more than ten years since Brazil’s General Telecommunications Law was passed and the sector was privatised. Almost US$200 millions have been invested in the sector since; the government expects this investment to double during the next ten years.

The heads of the major telcos – Antonio Carlos Valente of Telefonica, José Formoso Martinez of Embratel; e Luiz Eduardo Falco of Oi (fixed and mobile) – and the other major mobile operators – João Cox Neto of Claro, Roberto Lima of Vivo, and Mário Cesar de Araújo, of TIM all spoke of the economic turmoil – some as economists, others as engineers and still others somewhat philosophically. They all made good sense and spoke well, but there was little that we haven’t heard many times over during the last weeks and months on our TVs, newspapers, radios, magazines and on the ‘net’ – either about the crisis or new services. All, one way or another, emphasised that the market would eventually stabilise either towards the end of next year or during 2010. They might even believe it. The analyses and the presentation.

Perhaps the best analysis of all, the one that covered the most territory, was that of João Cox, President of the mobile operator Claro – part of Mexico’s América Móvel. Greatly simplified, he predicts that the decline in usage resulting from the drop in family income and falling company profits would make things more difficult for the operators.

The repatriation of capital will grow, perhaps as much as one third of the capital in the local stock exchanges, to cover cash flow problems of foreign owners. Brasil will increasingly depend upon international demand for its mining and agricultural commodities. The short-term value of the Real, converted into dollars on the balance sheets of foreign owner, will fall. The weaker Real will also affect the importation of electronic equipment.

Despite this, since the fixed-service operators have little competition and prices are among the world’s highest (taxes are mostly responsible), telecommunications will still push Brazil’s economy, although at a somewhat slower pace. Mobile service margins are quite low despite high prices – those taxes again. Capital costs are also high given the need to keep up with the rapid changes in technology – 3G mobile broadband introduced one year ago has grown incredibly.

FutureCom is a direct descendant of Brazil’s previously government dominated telecom sector. It is, at the same time, the most complete representation possible of the sector today and of the days soon to come. Although there were participants from 40 countries, it is hard to imagine a more intensely regional, more wholly Brazilian event. Despite the lack of surprises and the move to São Paulo, it is still quite a show.

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The next issue of Connect-World Global will be published later this month. This edition of Connect-World will be widely distributed to our reader base and, as well, at shows such as: Mobile World Congress (16-19 February 2009, Barcelona)and CTIA Wireless (April 1-3, 2009 Las Vegas)

The theme for this issue will be The information society 2015 – corporate responsibility and digital access for sustainable development..

The World Summit on the Information Society, WSIS, established a number of goals for the year 2015. Providing the world’s peoples with access – to connect the world’s people in even the remotest regions, its schools, governments, research centres, libraries hospitals and health centres, cultural centres, museums, post offices and archives – was the primary goal. One of the most important goals set by the WSIS calls for a world where, “more than half the world’s inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach,” by 2015. The WSIS also called for, “ensuring that all of the world’s population have access to television and radio services”.

Providing digital access, as a way to achieve sustainable development, to half the world’s population within a decade is a grand ambition. It will take a mighty effort. Governments, international organizations and non-governmental organisations – NGOs, can do part of the job, but far from all of it. Much of this mighty effort will depend upon the world’s business enterprises. To complete this mission, new technologies, new hardware and software, new applications and content, manufacturing genius, financial resources and logistics that only private enterprise can efficiently provide, develop, deploy and manage will be needed.

What is corporate responsibility in this context? What can, and should, corporations do, then, to help achieve the ambitious WSIS goals? What are they already doing? How can businesses participate? Why should they participate? What will be the rewards and the costs? Is corporate responsibility – corporate participation in the building of the Information Society – good business? These are the questions Connect-World will ask global leaders.

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