Friday, December 22, 2006

Low-cost laptops

Reaching already Christmas and New Year’s time, while everybody rushes to big shopping malls to buy the last-minute presents, we can take a look to this news about a laptop that will be sold for 100$!

As you can see in the article, they’re called the ‘green computer’, and it can be used as a normal laptop or as an electronic book. First models are expected to be manufactured in February. MIT and United Nations are supporting the project, and also several high tech companies showed interest on it. Some different questions come to my mind at this moment: after the manufacturing, how do you make that these laptops reach the places that need this? Is all this initiative just a tactic that some companies carry out to get people’s attention? Here comes the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility that refers to corporate activities that respond to their responsibility towards the society and how they can contribute to social actions based on their capabilities. So ho much commitment can we expect from all the organizations involved in this project?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Back to the communications future

Push to Talk (PTT) is a wireless technology that enables peer to peer communications similarly to a walkie-talkie. Do you remember or ever used one? Personally, I remember it as a toy when you receive the walkie-talkie for Christmas for example. Actually they’re initial wireless communications, replacing the rudimentary system made of two plastic glasses and a thread, which could represent our wired communications toy.

PTT is normally a half-duplex (one way) system that allows instant communications between systems, using the carrier’s packet network (actually a VoIP solution is one of the alternatives). It means that you’re only allowed to talk when no one else is doing so, and while pressing the button of your terminal. After all the fancy cell phones with new capabilities that flood the market, don’t you think that this service is like coming back some years ago to ages where you couldn’t contact your friends when they were out of their homes? Anyway PTT is working and it has already been launched in different countries.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Today's library of Alexandria

One of the biggest undertakings of Google is to digitize the books and documents from the most important libraries around the world. This is in accordance with their vision of organizing all the information in the world and making it accessible. Today, only 15 % of the information worldwide is available on the internet, less than what you expected?

The application behind this is called “Google Book Search”. However this is a huge task and not free of complications. Imagine taking ancient printings and manage to scan and convert them into digital documents. But this is also an initiative that aims to give people in less developed countries the possibility to accede to information that maybe otherwise couldn’t because they don’t have a library close to them. And with a computer and a click, you can do it now. But you may think: how Google does business out of this, and are they entering traditional book sellers business? More than that, they’re re-directing traffic to their sites and all this is just quite aligned with their vision stated above. What is next for Google?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pay wireless

Why mobile commerce (m-commerce) is not boosting and is not being adopted by most users? Cell phone penetration is being very high, sometimes over 100%. So, why users don't really trust on using it instead of credit or debit cards? Well, is it a matter of trust? Security is one of the reasons, but today's mobile networks are quite secure at least like a credit card payment system. Another issue is the amount of places where you can pay with the phone, still not very extended... Also we can talk about the ease of use of this payment method. Is it really easy for not tech-friendly users?

But actually I'd say that one of the main problems is the small involvement of the companies in the sector. There are the shops and the banks, as well as card issuers, and apart from this we have the service enablers. Maybe there are too many players? The key question: would you be eager to pay using your phone, and why?

Friday, November 24, 2006

The TechIE fellowship

This week, I have a more 'personal' post. I'll talk about the Instituto de Empresa Business School, where I'm studying Telecom Management since two months ago. IE is one of the top Business Schools in Spain and Europe, present in the best rankings worldwide. We have decided to start a "Tech Club" there. This is mainly aimed to promote the networking and interchange of ideas about IT and the Digital Business.

One of my friends told me once that he couldn't understand our Engineering, talking about waves that he cannot touch, see,... like the bridges that he may design. Well, that's not magic, that's physics enabling human communication. And around IT there's a lot of business and inter-relation with very different aspects of our life nowadays. As what I try to do in this blog, if you want to know more and understand this world in a simpler way, join the 'community'! Do you dare?

Friday, November 17, 2006


Today’s post might be a reflection in a loud voice. We know wealth is not equally distributed. And Africa is the main point everybody can look at. It might sound a little futile to talk about internet access in Africa, when lots of people are starving, not having basic Maslow’s pyramid needs covered…

But that’s what I read in this article, and just the first phrase shows us the great digital divide: African users must pay 90 times more than US ones! Not fair at all, in that way for example, how could they be able to access online education? Maybe that’s still a too far objective… but education is basic for the progress of these nations and to confront the evils that happen there. And that doesn’t mean that a bad usage of internet could bring more evils… Although the primary task is to ease accessibility to people, after they get more food first…

Friday, November 10, 2006

Users rule the web

Probably, if you’re reading this, you ever used Second Life, or LinkedIn, or MySpace… Also you may know that then you’re part of the web 2.0. Basically, we could consider that web 1.0 is the way we used internet since its beginning, being a passive receiver of information, while now we can become a very active part of the web.

And all this is creating a wave for new businesses and new models. Most of them have online advertisement as one of the main source of income. And they are also looking for other sources of revenue. Or course some are asking for membership fees, or special services charges. Would you be willing to pay for one of these online social networks and what is the extra value you get from this decision?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wide Wireless World

What do you want wires for? It’s not only that they occupy a space in our room, house, etc, neither that they are not the most fashionable way of decorating your house… It’s also that you can go to spend the afternoon to the park and have connectivity to anywhere in the world with your laptop and your phone for example.

Doesn’t that sound great? Well, it’s still in developing process. The reliability and speed of today’s fixed lines (DSL, cable, etc.) cannot be comparable to the wireless ones. But soon wireless technologies such as ‘Beyond 3G’ and WiMAX (although still to be proven their feasibility) will hit the ground.

A new technology has appeared into the scene: xG, a low power and long range system. It’s said that it transmits data 3 times faster than other technologies, at the same power and frequency. As WiMAX, it needs still to be proven… Have you heard of other broadband technologies apart from the standardized ones?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Spread knowledge and share

Did you ever dream of spreading the world's knowledge to every corner where connectivity is available? If people learn the basics of computers and web browsing, then they would be able to access to the largest 'library' ever. Actually, Google is trying since some time ago to scan all the books from important libraries around the world. An outstanding project.

And what about on-line education? If you ever took an online course or online studies, you can realize the strong and weak points of it. However, it should be a good option to work in this field to enhance the alphabetization of developing countries, don't you think so?

Apart from the well-known wikipedia, the Google guys are challenging this world with an outstanding inititative ("The Literacy Project") to fight against analphabetism and improve the inter-relation between the different organizations inside this movement. Another ‘bravo!’ for Google!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Innovation: wanted!

Which is the maximum ‘megabits per second’ speed? (When) are the advances going to stop, when is it enough? The continuous technology change and advances are going sometimes faster than what people can ‘absorb’. So what is the future here?

Usability is one of the key factors today. Make gadgets and technologies accessible to all the people, whatever group, culture or factor. Make things simple for some of these groups could be a successful idea. Personalization will be a good marketing tool.

And of course, last but not least, let’s mention the famous ‘killer application’ (see one idea from Cisco) that will star the next telecom future? Or is not worth looking for it like the ‘search for the lost treasure’, as it has become a mixture of different services or ideas?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Converge to win

One of the main movements within the telecommunications sector is the convergence . One of the examples is seen in the different functionalities included in one mobile terminal: music, video games, agenda, photo camera, etc. Don’t you prefer to have your gadgets 'all-in-one'?

Another example for this convergence is that of large operators, who are integrating the mobile subsidiaries into their structure. And which concept could we relate to that…? Triple-play, or better said, quadruple-play (named ‘grand slam’ as well). That is the combination in one unique offer of a bundle of services: phone calls, television, internet, and also mobile phone calls. Also we talked before about VoIP: having voice over packtes is another form of convergence to achieve to transmit everything through data networks (all-IP). What other examples of convergence can you think about?

Paradoxically, it has been recently alerted that the internet is experiencing a kind of ‘divergence’, based on the idea that different ‘nets’ could arise soon. For example, Asia is going to become one of the biggest markets, but their users will prefer to visit pages in their language rather than with Latin characters. This issue is as well related to the ‘net neutrality’ phenomenon that we wrote about in the last post, as the keeping the neutrality of the internet is a way of not diverging it. Do you dare to predict the future of the ‘global internet’?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Knocking down the 'digital divide' wall

One of the main challenges for today's global telecommunications is to 'bridge' the digital divide between different countries, cultural groups, etc. Sometimes we hear statistics about the penetration of information technologies such as internet, and gadgets such as the mobile telephones.

Tackling that is one initiative promoted by Intel, with its 'Intel World Ahead Program'. By facilitating the access of less favored people to personal computers, they want to create a technological infrastructure that can be later on capable of connecting people, where before there was perhaps just an old telephone cabin...

There are other private companies that put their efforts in recycling terminals and equipment. With the synergies and summoning ability of big high-tech multinationals and similar foundations altogether, the results could be really sensitive. A good organization and collaboration from host countries, as well as a strict non-corruption policy, should be essential ingredients for the formula. Do you think that big corporations could at least agree on such matters?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Neutrality or Net-reality

The debate is already burning in the internet world. Telecom operators are already asking to charge more to customer’s whose use of their network is intensive. Today peer to peer file sharing, content downloads, etc. are loading the networks with high traffic volumes. This issue is known as Net Neutrality.

So operators claim that companies such us Google, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, etc. are making business from internet use that is allowed by their networks. Actually it’s clear that the operators make networks and connectivity possible, but they already get paid for it. And contents, which give the value to the networks, are provided by groups like the mentioned ones before. What is the best solution to this dilemma?

Also, this can be related to the idea of free content and services within internet. We’re used to have free email, free instant messaging, free voice calls over IP, etc. This is making people getting used to no cost as well as is one of the keys of the success of the internet. How can business get done then, will users become keener to pay for high value web services?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Do you VoIP?

It's already becoming something even 'old' to talk about it, but VoIP is involving some remarkable changes in communications. Using programmes such as Skype, users are getting used to make phone calls for free. VoIP is one of the causes that fixed telephone call rates are decreasing even to very low limits, so they're now focusing on broadband services like ADSL. But how much traffic do operators lose due to these new VoIP applications? Or maybe there's more traffic because they're for free... We have to say that VoIP is especially helpful for long distance calls.

Then we get to the point of measuring the value of money and how much are users ready to pay for telecom services, or better: how much are they used to pay? For instance, we're 'used' to have email for free since it was born, and that's one of the reasons for its success. But for example SMS are not for free... So telecoms are facing the fight for revenue. If users are generating a monthly ARPU, what can you offer them so they become convinced that they can pay more for high value added services? Which is the limit for this ARPU? Users tend to switch to cheaper applications, and that's normal, but how will this affect the IT business, the revenues and the expense in innovation?

Returning to voice, the combination of VoIP with WiFi is what threatens the current model. Having voice with mobility is what turned to be the success of technologies such as GSM. But full mobility is not easy to achieve, that's why current voice operators and their massive network deployments have still much to say. What can arise from this competition of technologies is new business models such as the flat rate for mobile calls as it is today for fixed communications.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Is roaming cheaper ?!

The EU Commission has proposed to cut the roaming tariffs that mobile operators were charging to their customers when traveling within the EU territory. This has created controversial reactions from different sides. Logically, mobile operators are showing their opposition to this initiative as it reduces significantly this type of income. National regulators have also taken part in the issue claiming their involvement in these cases. For example the Spanish regulator was in favour of the operators arguing that they have to invest to give coverage to the increase of customers in tourist zones of the country, that become very populated specially in summer.

So by one side the EU Commission wanted to reduce to the minimum these roaming rates, to ideally being similar to the ones for calls inside the country of origin. In the opposite side, groups as the GSM Association defended the operators' view and stated that these measures were unfair.

Certainly, the roaming charges that the European users 'suffer' are quite high, multiplying by several times the ones that they have at their home countries. Which is your case for the roaming tariffs in other parts of the world?

Actually, if we think that in Europe GSM standard is widely used and it uses a centralized user locating system with VLR and HLR registers, why should it be so difficult to route these calls (apart from traffic interconnection between the two operators involved)? What do you think?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Share your bandwidth and roam the world!

Wireless is becoming the preferred option for today's telecommunications. Although their deployment and operation are not an easy task, its advantages are huge: communication anywhere and anytime, and each time with better speed and reliability.

One of the interesting projects that is using WiFi as base technology is the Spanish-based start-up FON. Their aim is to create a wireless network from the personal WiFi connections that users have at their homes, offices, etc., mainly aiming at residential users. They have two main types of users, basically speaking: those who share part of their bandwidth in exchange of being able to use other subscriber's hot spot, and those who share their bandwidth in exchange of a charge (part of it for the company itself). So the more subscribers that join FON, the more gain for them, as they can get braodband wireless in more sites. For more information please check the FON blog link in the section in the right. The idea is remarkable and seems to be likely to be expanded more each time. Here you have some reflections about it, what do you think?:

- The mobility is limited because the coverage is not widely spread
- By now there's no possibility to roam between access points as each one is independent and maybe from different service providers
- The core network is owned by the service providers and they won't respond on any issues and queries from users
- Quality of service is not guaranteed
- Security can be a vulnerable point

Please share with us if you know of any other innitiatives around the world similar to FON, or let us know your comments regarding any of the ideas displayed here!
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