Abhi 2.0 on Technology

Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan’s Tech Archive: Columns, reports and video

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Mobile in Macau

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First published in the Hindustan Times (Mumbai edition)

Column in HT Cafe

Column in HT Cafe

After nearly 24 hours of travel on a plane, ferry and bus, I thought it would be wise to ask the hotel to give me a wake-up call lest I get up too late to attend the keynote sessions at the Mobile Asia Congress in Macau. I needn’t have bothered. At precisely 6:30 in the morning I woke up to a loud sound that was something of a mixture between a boom and a buzz. I floundered out of bed and opened the wide windows of my room only to witness a grand scene. The Macau Grand Prix test drives had begun and Formula-3 cars were screaming along the ridge of a mountain outside my window – the same mountain I was cursing the night before for ruining my view of the riot of neon from the casinos in the distance. High speed mobility suddenly took on a whole new meaning as I enjoyed my ringside view with early morning tea.


The first day’s keynote sessions were beginning to depress me. NTT DoCoMo’s CEO was talking about 4G trials in Japan while China Mobile’s Chairman announced that 8 cities would be trialling 3G by the end of the year and Beijing would have complete 3G connectivity in time for next year’s Olympic Games. On the other hand Bharti’s CEO was forced to showcase how his company was innovating to provide 3G like apps on 2G networks. Geniune mobile broadband, it seemed was just not in our “kismat”. As if almost on divine cue, I got a “mobile alert” news flash that the DoT had just announced the new 3G policy. I thanked the Lord and for the first time in a conference, actually bothered paying attention in the sessions discussing 3G.


The speaker line-up at the opening keynote that I just talked about, is the best evidence possible of the peculiarity of the mobile phone industry. The operator – the guy who provides you an easily commoditized, utility like service – has the biggest clout in the industry. Imagine the premier global conference for …umm… ‘Home Appliances’ having the CEOs of the electricity companies as the big draws. Or say, a high-powered internet conference with the ISPs stealing the limelight! The outlook for operators though, will definitely get less rosy as standards like WiMax catch on and data becomes a carrier for voice as well. If my entire city is WiMax-ed, all I need to do is install Skype on my laptop or PDA and enjoy blazing fast internet and super cheap calls without even having a telephone number.


The other thing thats different in the mobile world is that Google isn’t all powerful … yet! I asked an executive from JumpTap – which competes directly with Google to provide a mobile ad platform – why his company was even bothering to be in business ever since Google’s dominant online ad system got ported to the mobile. He said that many of his clients did in fact switch to Google, but quickly came back to him saying “You guys make Google look like Microsoft”. A compliment indeed. Google’s wireless business chief for Asia was himself gracious enough to admit to me that, in China, HE’s the tiny startup and Baidu.com is the overpowering giant with nearly 70% of the mobile search market share. But the G seems to have a bigger masterplan. It’s bidding for wireless spectrum in the US and seems intent on putting an end to the fractured world of mobile applications with its new development platform called Android. Watch this space!


Written by Abhi 2.0

November 19, 2007 at 1:48 am