Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mobile broadband : War of the worlds

It looks like a battle field where the battle has just began. Mobile Broadband is the field and no one wants to be left behind. All the big brothers in the telecom world are getting ready for it. No one wants to be left behind. More interestingly, no one wants to follow the other.

Sprint-Clearwire: In my previous blogs I have already covered the Sprint-Clearwire story. Both of them together holds the largest chunk of 2.5 GHz bandwidth on which they will deploy WiMAX, countrywide. If things go fine, by the end of 2008 they will hold around 100 million subscriber base in US. They have shown tremendous tenacity, so far, to go with WiMAX deployment. Specially after the resignation of the main power house behind the deal, Gary Forsee, the ex Sprint CEO. Sprint is also having plans of enhancing it to mobile WiMAX.

AT&T: While AT&T also wants to catch the train, it is not taking the same path. AT&T bought Aloha Partners on this October 9. Aloha Partners was the owner of largest 700 MHz licenses in US. This 700 MHz, also termed as "Beachfront property" for its high propagation and penetration properties, is a interesting spectrum. In a metropolitan area, a transmission site using 700 MHz can replace many 2.5 GHz transmitting sites. Thus, by acquiring Aloha, AT&T assured that it is not going to scratch its head on WiMAX.

Verizon: Qualcomm always has been one of the major infrastructure providers of Verizon Wireless. Qualcomm has its own answer to cheap-cost, high-bandwidth, mobile broadband technologies. Its called Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB). But in today's businessweek I saw "Verizon Wireless is considering switching its technology allegiance." for broadband. Bad luck Qualcomm. Looks like Verizon is interested in the LTE (Long Term Evolution). This is the 4G technology of the European GSM operators.

So that is the story of the ongoing technology battle of the service providers in US.
Who wins it, will also decide which of these technologies proliferates more in years to come.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Padmashree Warrior Blog

This is by far my best find this month (Thanks to my friend Raju who pointed me to this). The blog of Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Motorola. Meet one of the most admirable and charismatic woman of current time. If you already don't know her, read her biography here (Motorola) and here (Wikipedia).

I was amazed to find that this lady manages time to write blogs out of her understandably busy schedule! (I mean, imagine how busy a day-to-day schedule the Motorola CTO is supposed to have!) And such wonderful ones.

As I went through her blogs, my admiration for her only grew higher. Her characteristic sharpness and sense of humor was clearly evident in the crisply narrated articles. Apart from this, I loved her blogs because of two reasons:
  1. Her blogs don't cover only technologies. Although the technology coverage, I found, is very exhaustive and matured (Of course!).
  2. It has a very subtle personal touch. And when it comes to blogs, I love this quality.
I recommend this to all the technology fans and of course, to the fans of miss Warrior.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

MoMo : My first visit

Yesterday I visited this wonderful event. My friend Rajiv, who is also a budding entrepreneur, was insisting me for quite some time to visit the MoMo meetings. He is one of the organizers of this monthly event. Thanks to some pre-planning of my works, yesterday I could manage enough time to attend that. It was conducted in the cafeteria of the Aztecsoft Ltd building on inner ring road. Me, Rajiv and Bhav reached there around 6:15. It was raining outside, and we entered the beautiful building like three walking swimming pools.

The event started little late since people were delayed because of the downpour. But quite surprisingly, in spite of the rain, by 6:30, a convincing 30 to 35 people crowd was gathered. I found three of my friends (Nikhil, Anand and Hone) from Envio (My company) as well.

The ambiance got interesting as Pradeep Malhotra (MD of Vanu, India) started the talk on Software Defined Radio. He explained the technology and also what exactly Vanu, as a company, is doing in this field. His slides explained various components of a radio device and how they are replacing the entire DSP module from rigid hardware platforms to flexible, configurable software cores. However, he openly accepted its current drawbacks and explained why its not yet a big success in the commercial telecom networks. Of course it is being used by US defense for last few years. He also expressed his optimism in future commercial success of Vanu products in the domain of hybrid heterogeneous and shared networks. Throughout his presentation he was kept busy by the audience with lots of quality questions. Most of the questions were on the possibility of commercial success, optimization, efficiency of the product. There were couple of core technical questions like, how they do buffer management for real-time response and what are the OS optimizations they have done. Couple of questions were from his slides on the platform requirements for the product. According to him a BSC using their technology can run on any general purpose sun/solaris machine. There were couple of doubts from the audience on the scalability of such a software based product, to which he admitted that these are certain limitations still existing.

The session was very informative for me since I didn't have much knowledge of the technology before. It was followed by a demonstration session by Ram Prakash from Tachyon Technologies. His demo was about their product which enables fast, predictive and intuitive typing in local languages using normal computer keyboards and as well as using mobile phone keypads. Their demonstration was using a mobile phone which the presenter brought with him. I myself used it to get a hands-on and was really impressed by the smoothness and accuracy of it. I used it in Hindi language. Currently supported languages include Kanada, Tamil, Bengali and some more Indian languages. They are working on increasing the language support.

The event ended with a networking session with snacks. I liked both. I talked with Pradeep and came to know that he also worked in C-DOT, but before my joining. He was also a colleague of Chinay (My colleague in Envio) in Trillium. Met some people from Motorola, my previous company. And of course the interesting organizers.

I simply loved the event. It was informative, it was fun. To all those who are interested in discussions on wireless, telecommunication, mobile technologies, I recommend you regularly attend the MoMo events. For more information you can visit their site or you can contact Rajiv.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Resignation of an Idea

In recent times, the telecom world saw a series of high-profile resignations. AT&T chief Ed Whitacre resigned last June. Then there were Sony Ericson's CEO Miles Flint, HTC's USA head, AT&T CEO Stan Stigman. But probably the most talked about of those was the resignation of Gary Forsee from the post of CEO of Sprint. Its not only because it has left Sprint with "finding the CEO" as one of their major activities, but it has left the future mass deployment of WiMAX in US doubtful.

This resignation came at a time when Spring and Clearwire jointly took up a project of mass deployment of WiMAX broadband solution across the US, on a spectrum sharing basis. It is a 7 billion dollar highly ambitious project. Both of them together projected a plan of having a subscriber base of 100 million by the end of 2008. I have explained the details of the deal in my one previous blog. Forsee was the major driving force behind the planned project from Sprint side.

From 2003, since his taking over as the CEO of Sprint, Forsee had razor sharp vision of taking Sprint on the wireless line. This visionary and hardworking leader finally took up WiMAX as his tool and made the deal with Clearwire after Clearwire and Spring won most of the spectrum in the 2.5 GHz domain in the last bidding. Forsee also wanted to promote this WiMAX broadband solution to revolutionary mobile WiMAX solution.

Just when the deal was in nascent state, his resignation came as a big surprise. But from Forsee or Sprint point of view, its not a sudden decision taken. In spite of all his leadership qualities that this man is known for, Sprint was going through a tough time under him. Sprint subscriber base reduced considerably. Share prices dropped. Plus it was paying high prices to the AT&T and Verizon for using their fiber-optic networks. Sprint was also struggling in melding Nextel into its working framework since its merger in 2005. So there was no surprise that Sprint's board was searching for a new CEO already, to replace Forsee.

  1. We will soon see a new permanent CEO of Sprint who may or may not revive Sprint from its current troubles. But what will happen to its WiMAX plan?
    • The situation is not very promising for the project. Its an ambitious project, costly project and very very risky project. It needs a passionate leader to take it to success, which it may not find in the new CEO. Even if the new CEO is interested, Sprint board may no longer be interested. Slowly, the project may get an immature death.
  2. How is it going to affect Clearwire?
    • I don't think Clearwire will back-off. They will definitely continue their broadband deployment overcoming the indirect damage they received by Forsee's resignation.
So the ball is now on the hands of Sprint board. Next few months is going to decisive in the WiMAX future of US and no one is going to watch it more eagerly and closely than Clearwire.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Open Source IMS : Is it a myth?

It has been several years since the term IMS has become more than familiar in the Telecom domain. By now it has its own critics and fans in the world. I was curious to know whether there are any open source efforts and investments going on in this technology. The result was bit surprising. I could figure out only one prominent open source project for IMS core. The project is from Fraunhofer Institute and called FOCUS.

But unfortunately they don't claim this can be used for direct commercial deployment. Their IMS, as they say, is for IMS oriented research and also for testing conformance of existing IMS systems.

So there is still this void in the space of open source IMS systems. Lets see what happened to other technological domains which were successful as open source projects. Lets take SIP(Session Initiation Protocol) for example. In march 17, 1999, the first RFC of SIP (RFC 2543) came into existence. By the year 2004, there were already a number of open source SIP stack implementations in the market. That also included SIP call simulators, SIP testing tools (SIPP), SoftPhone implementations using these SIP stacks. For IMS, The concept was originally defined by 3G.IP forum back in 1999. Even then, now in 2007, we are still lacking in availability of open source IMS implementations.

Its actually tough to expect a company to build an entire commercial IMS solution as an open source project. Because its enormous and complex, unlike SIP. But I would have certainly liked to see some open source HSS, open source I-CSCF/P-CSCF solutions. If not, at least I expected to see a huge number of open source IMS Application Servers.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Motorola : Spotted dying by hyenas?

In yesterday's news I read that Carl Icahn thinks Motorola, the American multinational communications company, should be split up. He also mentioned, in that interview given to CNBC, that the company's mobile devision worth $10 billion. Which, according to him, is next to nothing.
"Motorola has great value. If you really split Motorola up, which I still think should happen ... you're buying that handheld business for only $10 billion, which is next to nothing."

Who is this Carl Icahn? A little research gave me this results about him.. "A great Corporate Raider famous for hostile takeovers.". This is a man who takes over very large stakes in major companies, changes their management to gain short term profits.. which, as some people say, comes at the cost of long term good of the company. His infamous deal of TWA (Trans World Airlines) made him famous as an "Imperial Shareholder" to the wold. The legendary airlines company got sold to its competitors after Icahn bought it in 1985. Nevertheless, Icahn made huge profit out of it.

So now when he talks of splitting Motorola into two parts, one can easily see his intentions. But when an hyena's eye falls on you, does that mean you are dying? The lately troubled mobile company has to answer it himself.

Links to Read:


My phone is not iPhone

Its funny! You see some one in the market using a fascinating multi-touch screen, floating his fingers over the surface of the phone to move from one colorful page to other, effortlessly. You ask him if his phone is the legendary iPhone and feel that you already know the answer. But he answers you "No".

Well! don't be surprised. Since a number of iPhone clones are already on the go. Take the case of M8, designed by the Chinese firm Meizu. Its rumored to hit the market in January 2008. Looks astonishingly similar to the Apple eye-candy and it has a smaller screen but a resolution(720x480) which is much higher than that of iPhone(320x480). M8 flaunts two cameras, one in back (3.0-megapixel) and one in the from (0.3-megapixel). The current price set is $788.50, which is actually the pre-order price. Its a WIN CE6.0 based phone.

Lets take the other culprit. CECT P168. Again from China. Specially for this one, "Clone" is not a good word. Its a blatant copy. Even the wallpapers!. It has two slots for SIM cards.. but wait, only one can be used at a time.

HTC Touch is another touch screen based iPhone clone. I am sure there are/will be more such around and I wish I could put my bet on which country most of them will come from. But no. International players like Samsung, Nokia, LG are also in the process of producing their own iPhone clones. Probably by the end of 2008 consumers will have iPhone and its numerous clones to choose from.

So here is one question I put in front of the reader..

"Cloning of technologies and designs - is it good or bad for the consumers? Considering some of them will be superior clones and some of them will be inferior clones."