Daniel Lam Chun named as interim head of Urban Renewal Authority

A veteran buildings surveyor has been appointed interim managing director of the Urban Renewal Authority following the abrupt resignation of the previous incumbent amid a split in the statutory body’s top management.

Daniel Lam ChunDaniel Lam Chun, a non-executive director of the authority since 2008, will begin his 10-month stint on Monday, taking over from Iris Tam Siu-ying who quit last month.

Tam cited “fundamental differences” with chairman Victor So Hing-woh on the URA’s direction and warned the body against acting like a profit-hungry developer and sidelining its responsibility to benefit society.

While an open recruitment exercise will be launched, the government yesterday announced that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had appointed Lam, 69, temporarily until a new managing director is found.

“Lam has indicated that he will not apply for the position of managing director and will not join the URA board as non-executive director again after cessation of the current appointment,” the announcement read.

Until recently Lam was the executive director of Recas Strategic Development Investment Management. While Company Registry public records as of yesterday showed Lam was a director of seven companies, he said he had already resigned from those positions and was waiting for the records to be updated.

Wu Chi-wai, a URA non-executive director, said Lam’s pledge not to put his name forward as a candidate in the open recruitment exercise would help dispel any public concern over unfairness in the selection process.

“However, the government needs to explain why it had decided against appointing one of the managing director’s two deputies, which would be the usual practice,” Wu added.

Another non-executive director, Alice Mak Mei-kuen, said she hoped Lam would not just act as a caretaker and leave thorny issues for his successor to deal with.

“There are controversial projects such as Central Market revitalisation and he should avoid dragging them on,” said Mak, referring to one high-profile project that is likely to have its budget cut.

Lam was property director of railway operator KCR between 2000 and its merger into the MTR Corporation in 2007. He was Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors president from 1986 to 1987.

Solar Impulse craft inspires solar train for Indian Railways

India may soon be able showcase to the world a solar train, which uses a mix of thermal power and solar energy generated from panels on its roof.

Science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan said he was inspired by Switzerland’s Solar Impulse project. “I got the inspiration when the Solar Impulse, the Swiss long range experimental solar powered aircraft landed in India,” he said.

The minister described the project as the government’s bid to have a moving solar power plant. “We are looking into the project plan and once the demos are done we will collaborate with other concerned ministries,” he said.

To start with, the government will do a pilot on a goods train and if successful it will be replicated to other trains.

The train will meet 15% of the energy requirement when on the move from the solar energy. National solar energy expert tasked with engineering the project Gon Chaudhuri told HT, “A unique feature would be that when the train is stationary, 100% of the power will be exported to the grid. So it is like a mobile solar power plant”.

When the solar radiation falls on a solar cell, direct current is generated which gets converted into an alternating current with a high efficient inverter. This is then synchronised with the grid. Since the train will be moving less dust will accumulate on the panels — a factor that reduces efficiency of solar rooftop systems, Chaudhuri explained.

An average train would be able to generate 150kWh of power resulting in substantial revenue generation for the train operator.  “This would be the first such initiative when a standing body is generating electricity and pushing it to the grid,” Chaudhuri said. “On a long run solar planes may not be commercially viable. But the solar trains have ample scope.”

Generating power from renewable energy is high on the Narendra Modi government’s agenda, with solar generation target for next eight years hiked by five times to 100 Gegawatts. Of this, the generation capacity for 40,000 MW will be from roof-tops. The solar train, with its rooftop solar generation, could help the government achieve its goals in the green energy sector.

Here’s how WhatsApp, Viber can help address call drop woes

One of the ways to address call drop is to seek alternate methods like OTT. Telcos should forgo conventions and come forward to build constructive partnerships with OTT providers.

With over 952 million mobile subscribers and a gargantuan 319 million and above untapped, India has been one of the hottest destinations for telecom investment. Despite the several challenges the industry faces today, we see there is no cutback in the investment in this sector; there is no decline in ARPU among major telcos either. However, contrary to the expectation of the users, there is sharp decline in the Quality of Service (QoS), especially in terms of connectivity and customer experience. Customers continue to bear the brunt as operators and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) continue their blame game over what causes call drops in India.

Man holding a smartphone with WhatsApp on the screen. (Image: Shutterstock)

The real issue for call drops in India is lack of infrastructure, for which both service providers and the government are responsible. While operators cry there is lack of spectrum to deliver the service, government warns them to improve the existing infrastructure, else face dare consequences. Concerns over mobile tower radiation pose another major obstacle for operators who are willing to invest in their infrastructure in order to boost service quality.

While the public eagerly waits for the implementation of TRAI’s “service quality benchmarks,” operator community has expressed strong contention citing lack of robust telecom policies to address the current mess. The hue and cry over providing infrastructure status for telecom has fallen on deaf years. Operators face several obstacles including objections from individuals and RWAs while setting up cell towers. Lack of a single-window clearance system for erecting a mobile tower causes the delay, they argue.
Telcos should breach norms to address the issue

Is imposing penalty a permanent solution to address this issue? No. Unless the industry takes up the challenge upfront and initiates a massive campaign to create awareness and seek support from both the government and the public to find out alternate ways, the issue is not going to settle anytime soon. Operators, public, government bodies as well as industry associations like COAI should join hands to find a viable alternative to the current methods of service delivery.

A ray of hope for the industry that is grappling with infrastructure challenges comes from mobile technologies. Alternate telecom technologies are redefining the communications, setting new standards of call quality and costs for incumbent telcos. Emergence of Over-The-Top (OTT) services such as WhatsApp and Nimbuzz has, to an extent, helped offload mobile traffic from traditional networks, offering cheap calling, including international calling, to mobile users.

All these years, operator community in India has viewed OTT as a threat to their service. However, the trend is changing globally. Most global operators, after realising that OTT could emerge as a threat to their service, is choosing to partner with OTT providers to gain a share of their service delivered through the operator. In a rapidly evolving telecom markets like India, such partnerships could foster the growth of revolutionary business models beneficial to both parties. Worldwide more such collaborations are taking shape resulting in the merger of traditional communications products and the evolving digital services and content.

While OTT services ensure service quality, they also come with associated challenges. The overdependence of call and messaging apps like WhatsApp could bring in another set of problems including spam calls and security issues. Spammers are increasingly using mobile networks to tap potential victims. This apart, such platforms have become the common playground for telemarketers and call centers engaged in click-to-call campaigns. However, good news is that the industry ecosystem has now evolved to combat this menace. Companies like Facebook and Nimbuzz have come out with apps that help callers stop spam calls instantly. Facebook’s Hello and Nimbuzz’s Holaa are some of the latest innovations in spam blocking. They both include features like caller identification and caller tracking, offering a proactive approach to spam blocking.
Stop blame game, act now!

It’s time the telecom industry in India accept the reality that resources are depleting but demand is soaring. The heated debates and blame games are not going to address either side of the issue. The industry should take a pragmatic approach to support the emerging needs and push it forward successfully for the generations to come. While profitability is a concern for telcos, QoS is the right of the customers. Unless the industry addresses the QoS concerns, its whole existence will be questioned in the near future. Campaigns like #NoCallDrops is a wake-up call for the industry and the government bodies. They cannot ignore that.

Now, Call STD Mobile Numbers Without Adding ‘0’ or ‘+91’ Prefix


A major roadblock to implementing full mobile number portability (MNP) across the country has been removed. Several telecom operators have begun simplifying the process of dialling STD mobile numbers in the country. Until now, calling mobile numbers registered and situated outside one’s home network would require adding ‘0’ or ‘+91’ as a prefix. That is not true any longer.

Customers of most telecom operators can now call any mobile number in the country without adding any prefix. We tested this with various numbers on Airtel, Vodafone and MTNL’s networks and can confirm that the prefix is no longer necessary. There’s a small chance that some operators haven’t yet implemented the simplified dialling pattern and their numbers may still require a prefix. But that is likely to change before July, when the full MNP deadline comes into effect.

(Also See: National Roaming Costs Slashed by Up to 75 Percent in India)

Earlier the Department of Telecom (DoT) had extended the deadline to fully implement MNP to July, two months more than the May 3 deadline. MNP allows subscribers to change their telecom operator without changing their mobile number. In its current form, MNP allows people to change their operators as long as they’re in the same circle as where the number was registered. However, full MNP would allow people to change their operator across circles. It will allow you to move from Delhi to Bengaluru and port your mobile number from a Delhi-based operator to one based in Bengaluru.

Telecom industry body COAI had earlier sought extension of the government’s May 3 deadline for MNP, citing the need to make technical changes to networks. This involved changing the national numbering plan (NNP), which COAI said could take two months. Changes to the NNP are what have led to the removal of the prefix required to dial outstation mobile numbers. While previously operators would distinguish between local and STD numbers, now all numbers have the same dialling pattern.

The DoT had approved the recommendations of Trai on full MNP on November 3 last year and the original May 3 deadline was set after the regulatory body gave operators six months to implement those recommendations.

The IoT will be as fundamental as the Internet itself


If you did a Google search for “IoT” in 2012, the top results would have included “Illuminates of Thanateros” and “International Oceanic Travel Organization.” A search for “Internet of Things” would have produced a results page with a list of academic papers at the top, but with no advertisements — a strong indicator, if ever there was one, that in 2012, few people spent marketing dollars on the IoT. Two years on, and this had changed dramatically. In 2014, the IoT was one of the most hyped buzzwords in the IT industry. IT analysts everywhere tried to outdo each other’s growth projections for 2020, from Cisco’s 50 billion connected devices to Gartner’s economic value add of $1.9 trillion.

Until we have reached this point in the future, no one can tell just how realistic these predictions are. However, the excitement generated around these growth numbers is significant, not least because it highlights a general industry trend, while also creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. We saw something similar happening with the auctioning of new mobile spectrum in the early 2000s. Literally billions were invested in the mobile Internet. And although it took longer than expected (remember the WAP protocol?), the mobile Internet eventually took off with the launch of Apple’s iPhone, and has since exceeded market expectations.

Meanwhile, Google — another major player in the mobile Internet sphere — has bet heavily on the IoT with its acquisition of Nest and Nest’s subsequent acquisition of DropCam. 2014 also saw many large IT vendors, such as PTC with its acquisitions of ThingWorx and Axeda, pushing themselves into pole position in the race for IoT supremacy. On the industry side of things, many central European manufacturers and engineering companies rallied around the Industry 4.0 initiative, which promotes the use of IoT concepts in manufacturing. GE heavily promoted the Industrial Internet and spearheaded the establishment of the Industrial Internet Consortium. Many industrial companies began implementing IT strategies and launching IoT pilot programs. And slowly, the first real results emerged.

Thus, at the time of writing, it seems that the final verdict on the significance of the IoT is still out. However, it looks as though industry is determined to seize the opportunities promised by the IoT. The authors of this book believe that the IoT (or whatever it will be called five to 10 years from now) will become as fundamental as the Internet itself. It took the Internet about 25 years to become as ubiquitous as television and the telephone system, and to transform a large number of industries. The situation in 2014 is reminiscent of the climate in the early 1990s, when we had our first exposure to Mosaic and later Netscape, and the promises they stood for. Just think what a long way we have come since then, and where we stand with the IoT at the present time.

Customer perspective: Value-added services

From the customer’s point of view, the main benefit offered by the IoT will be new services enabled by connected products and (potentially) back-end services based on big data. Within different ecosystems (we call them Subnets of Things, or SoTs), assets (or devices that are part of an asset) are connected to a cloud or enterprise back end. New services are emerging with software running both on the asset and in the back end. For example, the Connected Horizon is a technology that has been developed by Bosch. It provides a back end that combines traditional map data with additional data, such as traffic signs and road conditions, and then uses this data in the car to provide the driver and the vehicle’s various control devices with important advance information that enables safer driving. This is a good example of an SoT that already integrates a multitude of devices and external data sources. Integration between different SoTs can occur at multiple levels. Assets can communicate with each other directly, for instance in Car2Car, Car2X, etc. Alternatively, integration can take place in the back end, with examples such as Cloud2Cloud, Cloud2Enterprise, and so on.

For the end user, the advantages are value-added services based on connected assets and devices. Big data can provide contextual information, as seen in the Connected Horizon example. Furthermore, big data analytics can be used to initiate additional customer services, such as recommendations based on customer profile and current location. There is no shortage of ideas for new business models based on these new technological capabilities.

Manufacturer perspective: Connected asset lifecycle management

From the manufacturer’s point of view, the potential impact of the IoT is equally as vast. Most manufacturers today hear very little about their products once they leave the factory. In fact, this was traditionally seen as the best possible outcome, the most likely alternative being a costly product recall. The ability to connect (almost) any kind of product to the IoT has the potential to fundamentally transform the value chain of product manufacturers. The traditionally disconnected asset lifecycle will become a fully connected asset lifecycle.

As we discuss throughout this book, the capabilities provided by the IoT require a new appraisal of product design. How can new products leverage these new capabilities? How can value-added IoT services be created based on existing physical products? How can data received from connected products be used to optimize product design? How can we reconcile the different development times typically found in the worlds of physical products and software services? How can we align diverging development models — for instance, a waterfall model for physical products and an agile model for software services?

New real-time and long-term analytics of usage data from connected products on the demands and behavior of product users will also have a dramatic impact on sales and marketing, as it provides new insights into usage patterns and value creation. Moreover, the IoT also has the potential to fundamentally change business models and value propositions, by moving from an asset-centric transactional sales model to a relationship-oriented service model, for example. In turn, this will require new organizational capabilities in sales and marketing. More than anything else, the combination of physical products and digital services has the potential to generate significant revenue after the sale of the initial product or service. Consider, for example, a service that allows the customer to upgrade their car’s engine performance for a weekend trip by temporarily reconfiguring the engine software.

Servitization: The next logical step?

Taking things one step further, many people in the IoT community see “servitization” as the next logical progression in the evolution of the IoT. The concept of servitization has been around since the late 1980s, but is currently experiencing a boost thanks to new capabilities such as connected asset lifecycle management. The basic idea of servitization is that manufacturers move from a model based on selling assets toward a model in which they offer a service that utilizes those assets. For example, Hilti offers a service that guarantees customers access to required power tool capabilities for as long as they are needed, wherever they are needed. The monthly fee — which includes costs for tool provisioning, service, and repairs — makes financial planning much easier for customers. Similarly, Rolls-Royce, GE, and Pratt & Whitney offer aircraft engines as a service (for a fixed rate per flying hour). One immediate benefit of such models for customers is that instead of earning money for each repair, suppliers are now highly incentivized to reduce the need for repairs because they have to carry the costs themselves. And fewer repairs means greater uptime for customers. In addition, the customer can focus on their core competencies, such as running an airline. Finally, a recent study shows that servitization customers are reducing costs by up to 25-30%.

However, servitization does not come for free. Many manufacturers are focusing on product features and capabilities instead of taking a customer perspective focused on outcomes. Instead of focusing on products, the focal point of servitization must be solutions. Instead of emphasizing output, suppliers need to take a customer perspective and think about results. Single sales transactions are converted into long-standing customer relationships. All this requires numerous changes — from strategy and business models to technologies and organizational setup.

Prerequisite: Operator approach

All of the approaches discussed above — from connected asset lifecycle management to servitization — have a common prerequisite: manufacturers must adopt an operator approach in order to implement them successfully. This is something that should not be underestimated because it requires a completely different infrastructure, organizational setup, and set of processes from those found in a traditional manufacturing business. Operating an IoT-based service is not just a technical challenge; operational considerations can go far beyond the operation of an IT service infrastructure. An example is provided by the real-time car-sharing services that we will discuss in the next section. These services need an efficient fleet management process and service structure, which a manufacturer may not be able to establish and operate alone. For instance, it is no coincidence that BMW set up a joint venture with car rental company Sixt to operate the DriveNow service. It is clear that BMW is relying on Sixt’s experience in operating a very large fleet of rental cars and car rental stations, and in managing customer relationships. For companies striving to conquer the IoT, it will be vital to learn from these kinds of examples in their transition toward becoming service operators.

Impact: Disruption versus evolution

We believe that the IoT has the potential to disrupt many industries in the future, just as the Internet did over the last few decades. Take as an example real-time car-sharing services. A number of companies such as DriveNow, Car2Go, and ZipCar are now offering customers real-time car-sharing services. Instead of owning a car, customers can simply locate and reserve the nearest available car using an app on their smartphone, open the car with a chip card, use a specialized on-board unit in the car to manage the rental process, and simply lock and leave the car once they have reached their destination. Currently, these services are mainly limited to urban areas. However, with many young urban consumers no longer viewing a car as the ultimate status symbol, these kinds of services are becoming increasingly popular and have the potential to transform the entire automotive industry over the coming decades.

Another potential disruptive aspect of the IoT concerns data-driven business models in formerly asset-centric business areas. Google’s Nest giving away thermostats for free, and then earning money by means of house owners’ behavior profiles, would be one example. Another scenario goes back to the example of car-sharing. Imagine your service provider offering you 50% off the cost of a ride if you agree to listen to targeted advertisements while you drive. Combining your customer profile data with location-based information could be very attractive for local businesses eager to target you with special offers. In fact, this could even develop to the point where your local mall offers to sponsor your ride entirely, provided you use the car to drive to that specific mall. If we then add autonomous driving to the mix, the automotive industry will be changed beyond recognition, as it will truly have transformed into a transportation business.

Not all use cases supported by the IoT are necessarily disruptive. Many companies today are looking at more evolutionary use cases — including Remote Condition Monitoring (RCM), remote maintenance, and predictive maintenance as well as highly specialized service add-ons for existing assets, such as the eCall Service, which notifies emergency services in the event of a car accident. The important and potentially huge impact that these more evolutionary IoT-based servitization use cases will have on existing organizational structures should not be underestimated. Transforming a large service and support organization to make efficient use of remote services, such as remote condition monitoring and remote maintenance, will unquestionably require significant organizational change, and it may well take a number of years before the positive effects of these new capabilities are fully leveraged.

Critical: Security and data privacy

The excitement surrounding digital models of the physical world, including the collection of new customer usage data and product data, also creates concerns for many users — and rightly so. Security is one such concern. Not only do we need to ensure that all of this “big” data in the back end is managed in a secure fashion, in a distributed environment such as the IoT, we need to secure the connections between the different participants as well as the hardware and software running on the assets. Stuxnet and the hacking of the Tesla Model S electric car by Chinese students in 2014 illustrate just how important this issue will become. Imagine a hostage situation where criminals hacked into a pacemaker or seized control of an aircraft in flight.

The other side of the equation is less concerned with external intruders and hackers, and more focused on the corporate policies and governance processes regulating the newly obtained customer and product data. One aspect here is compliance with regulatory and legal requirements in different countries. Another aspect is transparency and respect for customer rights and preferences. Many users rely on social networking services such as Facebook and LinkedIn to use their social media data to generate relevant updates and recommendations. However, these same users are frequently frustrated by the complex and ever-changing data usage policies enforced by such companies.

Given the nature of the data that could potentially be acquired by IoT solutions — not just social data submitted more or less voluntarily, but data captured by possibly hidden sensors and vital systems — it will be absolutely essential for the IoT industry to handle security and data privacy efficiently. Otherwise, there is a huge risk that customers will not accept these new IoT solutions out of fear of an Orwellian dystopia.

Timing: Why now?

Finally, many people ask: why now? We have been waiting for hockey-stick growth curves in the M2M market for nearly a decade; why is the IoT taking off now? The answer to this question has partly to do with momentum, partly with business models, and partly with technology. In 2014, we could see that the IoT had gathered a momentum not shared by M2M. Business magazines like Forbes and Der Spiegel dedicated lengthy articles to the topic, creating a high level of visibility. Many large businesses have now instructed their strategy departments to devise IoT-based business models — even if we are still in the learning phase in this respect. Initial business successes can be seen, with examples such as ZipCar, DriveNow, and Car2Go. Most large IT players now offer dedicated IoT implementation services, IoT middleware, or IoT hardware (or a combination of all three). Finally, a combination of different technologies seems to have reached a point where managing the complexity of IoT solutions has now become more feasible and cost-efficient:

  1. Moore’s Law: Ever-increasing hardware performance enables new levels of abstraction in the embedded space, which provides the basis for semantically rich embedded applications and the decoupling of on-asset hardware and software life cycles. The app revolution for smartphones will soon be replicated in the embedded space.
  2. Wireless technology: From ZigBee to Bluetooth LE, and from LTE/4G to specialized Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) IoT communication networks — the foundation for “always-on” assets and devices is either already available or in the process of being put in place.
  3. Metcalfe’s Law: Information and its value grow exponentially as the number of nodes connected to the IoT increases. With more and more remote assets being connected, it looks like we are reaching a tipping point.
  4. Battery technology: Ever-improving battery quality enables new business models, from electric vehicles to battery-powered beacons.
  5. Sensor technology: Ever-smaller and more energy-efficient sensors integrated into multi-axis sensors and sensor clusters, an increasing number of which are pre-installed in devices and assets.
  6. Big data: Technology that is able to ingest, process, and analyze the massive amounts of sensor-generated data at affordable cost.
  7. The cloud: The scalable, global platform that delivers data-centric services to enable new IoT business models.

While nobody knows for sure exactly how many billions of devices will be connected by 2020, it looks as though the technical foundation for this growth is maturing rapidly, inspiring new business models, and making this an extremely exciting space to work in.

JunoTele’s direct operator billing works even when mobile user is offline

In 2012, JunoTele was founded by Sekhar Rao, Jana Balasubramaniam and Krishna Tammireddy. The company has been bootstrapped so far along with a few strategic investors. Now, the company has grown to the current team size of 35. JunoTele currently has presence in India, Sri Lanka, UAE, Thailand and Philippines. In late 2015, the footprint will grow into Malaysia, Indonesia, Germany, United Kingdom, South Africa, Oman, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Spain.

JunoTele’s patented solution offers seamless one-click authentication and payment experience for every mobile user for a wide range of payment mechanisms in any possible condition – when user is on 2G/3G/4G, Wi-Fi or even when offline from data network.

Jana Balasubramaniam, Krishna Tammireddy and Sekhar Rao (Photo courtesy: BusinessToday & Nilotpal Baruah )

Founders of JunoTele

Sekhar Rao, the CEO of JunoTele, has over 20 years of IT and telecom experience. In 2009, he quit his cushy job as a COO of MACH and started R&D on mobile. An IIT Madras graduate, Jana Balasubramaniam joined as a co-founder and  director with25 years of early stage investment experience and a decade in data analytics experience in the FMCG sector. In 2014, Krishna Tammireddy, who led BlackBerry’s sales and marketing of app store business in the Asia- Pacific, Africa and Middle East Regions joined them as a co-founder and CSO.

Solving the challenges of carrier billing

JunoTele developed a patented solution to alleviate the problem of identifying mobile users, and helps carriers seamlessly bill mobile users for their purchases over Wi-Fi or offline. Integrating JunoTele’s services with a telecommunication network is extremely secure, simple and takes less than half the time current platforms do, the founders claim.

JunoTele provides new revenue streams, and monetisation opportunities for digital content owners, merchants and OTT (Over the top) players. It enables telecom operators to bill users in real-time, making it useful for services like in-app purchases, WAP billing, micro-payment for websites, on-demand billing for music and video streaming sites and much more. JunoTele’s solution has applicability across sectors and domains, including seamless one-click authenticated payment mechanism for any payment provider in the mobile commerce ecosystem. (USD 1 trillion market size)

Krishna points out two things they are doing well:

“No payment gateway in the world (credit cards, wallets, PayPal, carrier billing etc) has the ability to authenticate the validity of the mobile user or the transaction without the availability of an active data connection. JunoTele has the ability to do that as long as the voice network of the mobile user is enabled. This opens up significant possibilities for any payment mechanism in the world to complete a transaction even in remote areas or data offline areas.

“Content developers and telecom carriers around the world are losing a significant amount of potential revenue because of the inability to bill a customer while they are on Wi-Fi. During that time, the mobile number of the user is not captured seamlessly by the telecom carrier. JunoTele has the means to overcome that issue smoothly, and complete carrier billing.”

JunoTele competes with Fortumo, Bango and Boku in India. But it claims its two differentiating technologies, which enables it to bill Wi-Fi and offline users, sets it apart.

Why carrier billing?

Carrier billing gives access to two-to-four times the market size for content owners than traditional payment gateways, which rely on consumers having bank accounts/credit cards. In developing economies, the usage of cards for digital or micro transactions is lower than that of developed economies. Effectively only 10 per cent of the population use cards/bank accounts. Carrier billing on the other hand can be accessed by any mobile user.

Will carrier billing become the standard way to pay on mobile?

If you don’t have a credit card, can you still consume digital content on your phone? The answer is yes. To make that happen, Vodafone has launched a program to enable developers to integrate their apps with direct carrier billing. Because direct carrier billing incorporates two-factor authentication, it is secure by design, and the check out process is quite fast. The major hurdle so far was high fee cut up to 80per cent. Now, with Vodafone, the revenue sharing split is tilted to favour the developers. It starts at 50/50 and grows upto 70/30.

As much as carrier billing competes with other payments methods in developed markets, in developing markets, it could replace credit/debit cards with its sheer potential reach and scale.

The mobile payment trend

The entire payments ecosystem in the global arena is pouring billions of dollars to crack the holy grail of mobile payments successfully – From Facebook to Alibaba to Flipkart.

Krishna says the factors influencing a successful solution are: Ease of scalability; connects mobile users across different ecosystems (wallets, banks, carrier billing etc); secure authentication mechanism; and, importantly, seamless user experience and acceptance.

Every mobile payment solution now is spending money for scalability, building secure platforms and a seamless user experience. But not many are trying to cut across ecosystems to build a true global payment platform.

More on the technology trend

As the world is switching towards personal hand-held devices (smartphones) for their daily needs, replacing their needs to use desktops or laptops. Many e-commerce sites now support only mobile versions. Even today, 90 per cent of the revenue generated for content developers is from only two monetizing models – subscription packs (8-10 per cent of customers pay for) and selling space for ad network communities. The first model is good for long term, steady consumption and revenue. But the reach is limited, and customer acquisition costs are skyrocketing. The latter is good as long as the target audience scale is large enough.

Krishna adds, “There is no effective way to monetise based on actual consumption by user. The PUSH model is still enforced literally telling the consumer that it’s ‘My way or the Highway.’ The FMCG sector in emerging economies has proved that the PULL model is better suited for effective consumption resulting in higher sales in the long run. A pack of Rs 1 shampoo turned the tide for the FMCG sector by giving the ‘Power of Purchase’ to the end customer.

The digital economy also will benefit when the consumer has the power to buy what he wants, when he wants and in the quantity he wants. Micropayments are the key for that to happen. The platform to power the massive scale of micropayments, cutting across ecosystems, like mobile wallets/payment gateways, with easy access by every single mobile user under all conditions is the key for success.”

Mobile operators should atone users for dropped calls: Asus

A major issue faced by the Indian masses in the mobile age is “Call Drops”. This issue is now not only restricted to small towns and rural areas, but has emerged as a pan-India problem. Contradicting the circumstances, the service providers on the other hand, claim that the call drop rate is below the 2 percent benchmark given by TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India). Industry experts have sighted various reasons for such negative developments in the country. They are of the opinion that call drops happen because of inadequate coverage, quality of signal, including interference, network congestion and network failures. It has also been pointed out that the call drops take place not only in trains, but also if someone is moving from one tower to another for coverage. What adds to the situation are the mobile towers being overloaded with calls. Some calls have to be dropped to accommodate the others. The Indian consumers however suspect that this is a deliberate attempt by service providers to boost their call numbers. What triggers such thoughts amongst the consumers is the fact that there is no standard definition of a dropped call. What consumers consider a disconnection may not qualify as such for the mobile operator. Operators, therefore, manage to stay on the right side of the rules. In lieu of the present situation, the government of India plans to spend Rs 69,524 crore on various IT and Telecom projects under the Digital India Programme. However before taking any step, the authorities should first focus on defining the dropped call situation and then move towards a solution of having adequate number of mobile towers. Until then, the consumers should be compensated for the losses incurred by them. The authorities could draw inspiration from their neighbouring countries to reimburse the consumers. To counter the situation, the service providers in other countries are offering a minute of free talk time for every dropped call. Indian service providers could also go back in history and replicate the offer once initiated by Bharti Airtel in the year 2004. It offered money back to customers in Andhra Pradesh for dropped calls. Apart from these solutions, the Indian customers do not have much to lose with the payment per second cycle in India. The operators in India need more spectrums to improve quality of service, as the mobile network is one of the key growth pillars supporting Digital India. Bharti Airtel stock price On June 12, 2015, Bharti Airtel closed at Rs 414.45, up Rs 4.50, or 1.10 percent. The 52-week high of the share was Rs 434.70 and the 52-week low was Rs 326.75. The company’s trailing 12-month (TTM) EPS was at Rs 33.02 per share as per the quarter ended March 2015. The stock’s price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio was 12.55. The latest book value of the company is Rs 199.95 per share. At current value, the price-to-book value of the company is 2.07.

Reliance to launch Jio by Dec, set to kick off pricing war

Mukesh Ambani is set to launch his much-delayed telecom business under the brand name Reliance Jio by December. In what could cause some anxiety to Jio’s competitors, the Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) chairman & managing director said the price of the 4G smartphones could be less than Rs 4,000, and voice and data services could be offered for as low as Rs 300-500 a month.

Jio was well positioned to become a global Tier-I telecom operator, Ambani said at RIL’s 41st annual general meeting in Mumbai on Friday, describing it as “one of the largest transformational greenfield (new) digital initiatives anywhere in the world.”

All of this would be accompanied by a suite of digital music, payments, news and cloud storage services, including access to high-definition television and Bollywood movies.

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Ambani said RIL would invest at least Rs 2 lakh crore in the next 12 to 18 months, half of which would be in digital businesses under Reliance Jio and Reliance Retail.

Analysts were concerned the investment in telecom was going to be an expensive gamble for the company as it was not easy to penetrate the cream (top 30 per cent of customers, who account for an estimated 70 per cent of the industry’s revenue). But Ambani said he was confident that Jio would play a significant role in lifting India from its current 142nd rank in internet penetration and bringing it among the top 10 nations of the world. The crowd cheered these announcements, while Ambani’s wife, Nita, applauded from the stage.

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Analysts said the Jio launch, which was originally expected this month, had been delayed by six months. Jio will operate its network only in a ‘beta’ mode and upgrade to commercial operations around December 2015.

Currently, Jio is present in all 29 states, with direct physical presence in nearly 18,000 cities and towns; the wireless footprint covers 100,000 villages. Its road map is to have 100 per cent national coverage within three years.

Terming Jio more than just telecom services, Ambani said the integrated business strategy ensured Jio was capable of offering a unique combination of telecom, high-speed data, digital commerce, media and payment services.

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This April, Jio launched its first mobile application, ‘Jio Chat’, which integrates chat, voice, video calling, conferencing, file sharing and photo sharing, among other things. “In just the first few weeks of operations, Jio Chat now has one million active users, without any paid promotions or overpaid advertisements,” Ambani said.

RIL said Jio, by April next year, would have connected over one million homes through fibre optics, with a capability of scaling up in the top 50 cities of the country. Jio has deployed a network of nearly 250,000 route-kilometres of fibre optics and will more than double this in the last mile over the next three years. Jio is also working on its digital money and digital payment business. “Jio Money will play a crucial role in digitisation of payments in India by offering a platform for ubiquitous, affordable and secure digital payments.”

RIL had this February partnered with State Bank of India to apply for a payments bank licence. Investors, however, were not much impressed with what they heard. The shares of RIL closed 1.36 per cent higher than their previous close on BSE, while the benchmark Sensex rose 0.21 per cent.

Other businesses
Ambani said expansion in petrochemicals was on track and would deliver significant earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) growth in coming years. Domestic exploration and production business generated shareholder returns lower than the cost of capital, less than 12-16 per cent assured in other domestic infrastructure sectors like roads, fertilisers and power.

“It’s important to highlight that there is value yet to be unlocked from 5-6 tcf of resources discovered at various stages of development, appraisal and approval,” Ambani said. He added that RIL was “constructively engaged with the government to resolve legacy issues in a timely manner with regard to our rights to cost recovery, gas pricing and other issues to create value for the nation and our shareholders”.

After commissioning a fully automated polyester plant at Silvassa with a capacity of around 400,000 tonnes, RIL has brought on stream 1.15 million tonnes a year of PTA (purified terephthalic acid) capacity.

“We will be ready for start-up of another 1.15 million tonnes a year of PTA capacity at Dahej by October this year. With this, our total PTA capacity will be 4.5 million tonnes a year, making us the fifth-largest PTA producer in the world,” Ambani said.

On the retail business, Ambani said Reliance Retail would roll out a B2B digital marketplace that would enable kiranas to transact online. The fashion and lifestyle formats would roll out their e-commerce portals by the end of the year.

“This year will bring about disruptive shopping experience for consumers. With the advanced internet infrastructure built by Jio and a robust physical retail business built by Reliance Retail, we will create a differentiated e-commerce model for India,” Ambani said.

He also said Reliance would scale up retail presence across its formats from 200 cities to over 900 cities by next year.

  • RIL will spend Rs 2 lakh crore in fresh capacities over the next 12-18 months
  • Its Rs 1-lakh-crore investments in the previous financial year were the highest by any Indian firm in a year
  • Reliance Retail plans to expand retail business from 200 to 900 outlets over next year
  • RIL to roll out a differentiated e-commerce model, which will integrate online and offline retail
  • Combined retail and e-commerce business to grow 30-50% annually
  • The company will revive its entire fuel retail network by the end of FY16
  • Its exploration and production business has generated returns on capital lower than the cost of capital

Broadband customers can now ditch provider during contract

A couple both on their laptops are sitting in their living-room

Consumers hit by slow broadband internet access will be able to ditch their provider at any point during a contract under new rules due to be announced today by the communications watchdog.

Sharon White, the new chief executive of Ofcom, will toughen the industry code of practice to allow subscribers to switch broadband provider if they are not getting the minimum speed they were promised when they signed up.

Under the current code, frustrated households only have the right to tear up their broadband contract if the minimum is not delivered in the first three months. With deals now often lasting 18 months, it can leave people stuck in an internet slow lane for over a year.

The new measure is one of a series designed by Ofcom to increase the rate of switching in the broadband market, so consumers benefit more from competition between BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media. Vodafone also made a bid to join the broadband Big Four yesterday by launching its own packages.

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The latest official data shows that BT and TalkTalk subscribers complain about their broadband service more than three times as much as Sky and Virgin Media households. The industry average rate of complaints has improved slightly over the last year.

A new switching process will mean a household’s new chosen broadband provider will be able to demand the necessary technical information from their current provider. Under the current system subscribers often have to ask their current telecoms operator for the relevant details and then pass them on.

Ms White, a former senior Treasury official who took the helm at Ofcom in spring, said she would also extend such ‘gaining provider-led’ switching to the mobile market next month. Ofcom has sought the reform for years but faced protests from telecoms companies who argued the changes would be technically difficult or too expensive to implement.

In a speech at conference held by the consumer lobby group Which?, Ms White will say: “This will make a real difference for consumers and will encourage more people to take full advantage of competition in the sector.”

“Access to a reliable internet connection and mobile phone is essential to the functioning of the economy, to the way people work and live their lives.”

Competition in telecoms is due to undergo major upheaval over the next year as BT aims to complete a £12.5bn takeover of Britain’s biggest mobile operator, EE. Rivals O2 and Three are also due to merge in a £10.25bn deal.

Monopolies watchdogs announced a full investigation of the EE takeover this week, saying it posed a “real risk” to mobile competition.

Parallel to the merger mania, Ofcom is conducting a once-in-a-decade review of the industry.

BT’s rivals are calling for it to be stripped of ownership of the national telecoms infrastructure to improve repair and installation times, and protect competition. The former state monopoly argues that it is only able to invest in superfast broadband upgrades because it both retails broadband and owns the network.