2013 July


Predictive apps

Posted by on July 31, 2013  /  0 Comments

It was one thing for Gmail to ask “did you intend to attach a document to this email?” based on your use of the word “attached” in the email. But it moves things to a whole new level when an app analyzes your digital bread crumbs and tells you stuff that you haven’t even thought about. The services guess what you want to know based on the digital breadcrumbs you leave, like calendar entries, e-mails, social network activity and the places you take your phone. Many use outside services for things like coupons, news and traffic.
Myanmar has never been so shaky about getting disconnected before. It has happened after SEA-ME-WE3, Myanmar’s only submarine cable, was snapped at 13 kilometers south of the Irrawaddy Delta’s shore last week. “Works are being carried out to repair the fault as quick as possible in coordination with [a] Singapore-based underwater repair and maintenance team. It is expected to take about one month,” warned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), reports Irrawaddy. Douglas Maduray of Renesys Corp.
The South Asian Telecom Regulators’ Council (SATRC) is holding a policy workshop in Nagarkot, a scenic location about 90 minutes from Kathmandu. Sustainable broadband is one of their key focus areas. I was asked to do the lead presentation. My presentation was organized around the metaphor of chains. A chain is as strong as the weakest link.
Tablets are mobile devices. They may work off WiFi, but they also work off mobile networks when WiFi is not available. Their sales are expected to overtake those of notebooks this year. While sales of PCs to businesses remain steady, demand among consumers has plunged, largely because people are instead buying iPads, Kindle Fires and other tablets. Still, a reality check: more than 300 million PCs are expected to be shipped this year globally.
We’ve been placing our bets on wireless as the platform for connecting our people to the Internet. People like Eli Noam have criticized this as a neglect of Fiber. But consumers are communicating their preferences. The number of wireless-broadband subscriptions rose by 14% last year among the members of the OECD, a mut ainly rich-country club. At the end of 2012 these countries had an estimated 781m subscriptions, of which 85% were standard mobile broadband; satellite and fixed terrestrial wireless systems accounted for less than 1%.
Dimuthu was a computer science graduate from University of Peradeniya who came to us to learn economics. Learned a lot and made a massive contribution. Left after a few years; started his own company and all that. Next week he leaves for Houston with his family to start a Finance PhD. We’ve had people go off for Master’s degrees and fellowships, but Dimuthu is the first to set off for a PhD.
I saw this lament and my first thought was, she does not live in Kenya, but in backward New York. A truly mobile wallet — one that would let you easily pay for restaurant meals, subway rides or beers at a bar with a quick wave of your cellphone — has long been described as imminent. But it remains elusive. Some innovations have begun to bridge the gap, but most have been a disappointment or have not yet worked well enough for mainstream adoption. In 2012, Square, which makes a credit card reader that can be plugged into an iPhone or iPad, worked on a credit-cardless system that let people pay for goods without ever pulling out their wallets or phones.
I was thinking back to when our alternative narrative on mobile becoming the central platform started. I think it was when Divakar Goswami and I were invited chair some sessions at ITU Telecom World in Hong Kong in December 2006. I listened to the various talks on fiber to the cabinet and home and felt like I was on listening to Martians. Our demand-side work was telling a completely different story. Our alternative narrative went into the 2008-10 research proposal that was written shortly after that.
The perception is that 3G networks are not being rolled out rapidly in India. But it could be that the Indian consumer is ahead of the operators and regulators, as we saw in Thailand where smartphone sales picked up well before 3G frequencies were assigned. Global smartphone shipments jumped 47 per cent to 229.6 million in Q2 2013 from 156.5 million units in Q2 2012, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, with Samsung accounting for much of the growth.
Telecom operators know exactly how many smartphones are in use in their networks. Therefore, Wireless Intelligence will know. But Reuters appears to be relying on ITU estimates. This year, the number of mobile Internet users in the developing world will overtake those in the developed world for the first time – growing 27 times since 2007, compared to the developed world’s fourfold growth, according to estimates from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). “The centre of gravity in the mobile ecosystem is likely to shift from the United States and Western Europe toward Asia,” Mary Ellen Gordon, director at mobile advertiser Flurry Inc, said in an emailed interview.
Fiji follows Papua New Guinea in assigning 4G frequencies. It appears the auction is going well. Notices posted by the Department of Communications yesterday showed that of the three telecommunications providers, only Vodafone filled their 30 MHz quota and had left the ongoing 4G spectrum auction leaving TFL and Digicel to bid for the remaining frequencies. Each company had a quota of 30 MHz. In total, there were 20 lots of spectrum to bid for with bids ranging from $131,500 to $504,700 by the close of the auctions yesterday.
Facebook is about to announce the results of a major initiative to make its services accessible to those at the bottom of the pyramid who do not yet use smartphones. More than 100 million people, or roughly one out of eight of its mobile users worldwide, now regularly access the social network from more than 3,000 different models of feature phones, some costing as little as $20. Many of those users, who rank among the world’s poorest people, pay little or nothing to download their Facebook news feeds and photos, with the data usage subsidized by phone carriers and manufacturers. We saw this phenomenon back in 2011 when our researchers were in the field in Indonesia and heard them say they use Facebook, but not the Internet. I have also discussed the possible rationale for serving low-income users who may not be generating revenue at this time.
The Lankadeepa of 22 July 2013 carried report about the Leader of the Opposition arguing that electricity tariffs be adjusted to account for the larger contribution from low-cost hydroelectric generators to the overall supply mix of the Ceylon Electricity Board. This reflects a recommendation made by LIRNEasia in its submission made at the Public Hearing on the electricity tariff: The cost models that underlie the tariff proposal are based on assumptions of levels of use that may change because of the radical redesign of the tariff structure. If demand is lower than projected, especially at the peak, it is possible that the proposed tariff will yield excessive earnings. Therefore, the approved tariff should include provisions for monitoring revenue levels and for periodic adjustments and/or the return of excess earnings to consumers. These kinds of adjustment mechanisms are not difficult to embed within tariff decisions.
Now that the licensing is done, it’s time for post mortems on the failed bids. Here is one on Viettel’s failed bid: In 2012, Telenor reported the total turnover of $16.5 billion and the net profit of $1.4 billion. The group has committed to develop the mobile network in the market the next year with the nationwide coverage within five years.
The money comes from everyone with a telecom connection in the US. And the government has trouble pushing it through. Five billion USD is a lot of money to keep unspent. Here, we’ve been griping about India’s USD 4 billion and Brazil’s USD 4 billion plus. The E-Rate program has been faulted for inadequately allocating money in the fund, which is provided through a tax on consumers’ phone bills, a monthly charge between 50 cents and $1.
In 2011 I analyzed some earnings and employment data and initiated a debate on the health of the Sri Lanka IT and ITES sector. Links to the first and second columns. It appears that new data has come to light (though a source is not given and no reference is made to the sector study by the Export Development Board that I referred to in 2011). “As an industry, we made significant progress over the last five years. Our export revenue grew from $213m in 2007 to an estimated $600m in 2013 (182%).