Posted by evolvingwheel on February 21, 2008
So everyone went gaga about femtocell at the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona couple of weeks back. It appeared everyone almost overwhelmingly accepted femtocell to be the next big thing in mobile communication. So first, what is a femtocell?
Femtocells are tiny 3G base stations that could allow cheaper calls in homes and businesses over mobiles by routing that signal over the fixed line broadband network. Hooked up to a home’s broadband-internet connection, femtocells provide solid indoor coverage and allow residents to make cheap calls using their existing handsets. Leave the house while chatting, and your call is automatically handed over to the wider mobile-phone network. The competing feature of femtocell is that it doesn’t need a dualmode handset that can take voice over wireless network as well as over wifi data network. A regular cell phone can take advantage of the 3G just like a regular cell call inside the home. The cheap conversion takes place past the miniature base station that routes the call through a data network originating from a cable or a DSL/ADSL modem.
Now, my question is, ‘Is Femtocell that disruptive a technology – or rather a disruptive innovation with a potential of changing the format of the industry?’ Well, this is definitely a convergence technology that just takes one step ahead of VOIP – a disruptive innovation that shook the conventional wisdom around voice communication. But what is Femtocell delivering? And to who? What is the WOW factor here? Well, the marketing engines of big cellular networks and other similar providers figured out that majority of voice calls are made from inside the building/house. So, if the voice traffic can be bypassed through the data route, that will significantly save cost and traffic bottleneck over the cellular networks during prime hours – thereby freeing up bandwidth for more data/media etc. Well, obviously something gotta give and that would be the data pipes. So high speed data channel is the key element for a successful FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence). However, with WIMAX on the horizon, this convergence to fixed line may again end up a not-so-great innovation since the entire communication traffic will go over the WIMAX channel (wireless). Read some discussions below:
My final concern is the pricing structure of the FMC service along with Femtocell devices. For 2-4 phones accessing the base station, how will the service feature drive profit margin from the usage/hour/primetime aspect? Next, if the base station costs $100 a piece, will there be a model similar to VOIP service with free routers for a limited time contract? One other thing – if you have cell phone through VOIP technology, why need a home phone at all? BUT – ubiquity of the system will depend on the penetration of broadband service from the cable/telco/and other data connection providers.
The whole convergence concept is indeed very challenging and exciting!
Picture: Barcelona, Mobile Congress
Posted in broadband, Communication, Innovation, wireless | Tagged: base station, cellphone | Leave a Comment »
Posted by evolvingwheel on February 1, 2008
Recent news article from NY Times talks about the cable breakdown.
This post has germinated from sheer curiosity. Early this week, you all may have read the news about how Internet traffic came to a standstill in the Middle East and Asia after a pair of undersea fiber optic cable broke in the South Eastern Mediterranean. The story goes that some ship while waiting to cross the Suez Canal, anchored along the Egyptian coast, and in doing so breached the undersea cable. Result: the entire Internet backbone connecting Egypt, Dubai, India tanked!
Often, wrongly enough, we are under the impression that majority of our Internet/voice/data traffic goes wireless or satellite. When, on the contrary, we are still significantly dependent on the conventional infrastructure of long undersea cables that traverses across continents. It’s a global infrastructure in reality. Then comes the traffic management complexities through this mesh of cable networks. When U.A.E and India got hosed, they started redirecting traffic through the Pacific, but the switching took time and the rerouting created a little longer wait due to a roundabout path. I even found a link to a map of undersea cables across the continents. Take a look and you will be amazed.
As the Internet traffic grows exponentially, you may seriously consider investing in cable management companies. I wonder if one day these cables get as critical as inter-continental oil/gas lines. Well, noting the real-time dependency of our day-to-day activities, we in fact are surprisingly unaware of this incredible traffic network laid out on our sea-beds – or at least I am!
See the link [here] for more details.
Posted in broadband, Communication, Innovation | 2 Comments »
Posted by evolvingwheel on January 30, 2008
This thing totally missed my sight. The more I read about Meraki, a start-up based out of Mountain View delivering hardware and firmware to connect people through a community wide wi-fi network, the more I got excited about the potential of social innovation at the bottom of the pyramid [CK Prahalad]. Sanjit Biswas, the CEO of the emerging company, talks about hooking the next billion to the Internet at a very very affordable price. The viral nature of his business model foresees creating a organic and somewhat self-sustainable network of wi-fi distributors who connect into a community wide mesh by becoming an individual distributor of broadband. Read more about the concept [here].
Meraki proposes to bridge the digital divide where the less fortunate can log in over a mesh of broadband percolated through hundreds of repeaters that keep on extending the physical reach of a wi-fi originator node. What I perceive is that the model is meant to extend the physical reach of a simple router by cumulatively building it’s penetration through an asymptotic network of broadband resellers. First, let me ask two basic questions:
- How would a repeater, or for that the originator, sign a legal contract with broadband providers like COMCAST, ATT, etc., who are strictly prohibiting reselling of their bandwidth?
- If an individual repeater promotes the bandwidth and tries to make money out of it, how is the revenue kicked back to the originator node? How is the revenue model built around the service distribution hierarchy? Does it sound like a replication of a pyramid model? And, is there a loss in intensity of the signal if a repeater resides at the end of a long chain of hundreds of repeaters ahead of it? In that case, will the revenue kickback be tied up with attenuation factors?
Here’s my idea of true social innovation among the demographics at the bottom of the pyramid. Let’s talk about India in the mid 80’s (since I come from there :). During that time, people back there had to reserve a trunc-line to talk to someone in another city or country. Accessibility to long-distance phone was a remote possibility. At that time, Sam Pitroda, the telecom adviser to Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, brought revolution by launching ubiquitous, yellow-signed Public Call Offices (PCO) that quickly brought cheap and easy domestic and international public telephones all over the country. The theme of subscriber trunc dialing (STD) at a very high density and accessibility led to the emergence of public phone booths across the country. This helped the staggering unemployment of the country by driving millions as entrepreneurs opening PCO services all around.
What if Meraki brings a similar revolution in near future where individual entrepreneurs can sign up as broadband repeaters and resell bandwidth across a mesh network. Ofcourse there has to be policies in place for driving the revenue share and the opening of the last mile node from the big telecoms for resale. But, imagine the prospect. In a small town 100 miles from a big city, just one node will bring the fat conduit to a meshed network. The network will then grow organically as more people hop in. The service penetration will expand in geometric progression and the structure can shape like a small-scale industry. However, the bothering question would be the infrastructure-cost-density factor. 100 ft/500 ft is still too low. With new protocols, if the density denominator increases to atleast 100/500 mts, then the feasibility of becoming a reseller from a profitability as well as a social empowerment perspective will be worth it.
May be this is one small step towards a big change in underserved communities.
Another Meraki news link: http://www.wi-fiplanet.com/news/article.php/3663591
Picture: Sanjit Biswas, CEO of Meraki.
More about Sanjit Biswas.
Posted in broadband, Communication, Innovation, wireless | 2 Comments »