Friday, December 31, 2010

Singapore salary benchmark 2009


Here is a link to benchmark your 2009 salary. Please note the title suggests 2010, but the information is based on 2009 data. So it's essentially 2009. You just need to enter your monthly gross (your total income before cpf, tax divided by 12).

This is not 100% accurate as the data is compiled based on CPF submissions. So the Employment Pass holders, businessman who doesnt contribute to CPF are not captured here. Still, this is by far the best available tool to benchmark the pay as well as to get an idea.

Attached a result.

Historical GDP - India world's richest nation for 1600 years+

It's kinda sad to see how well India was and how badly she was exploited during the colonial rule. India has been the richest nation since before christ and till 17th century.  In 17th century, China became the largest economy. Till 20th century India maintained it's 2nd position. However in 1913 the situation changed and India dropped to 7th position and first time the GDP is less than UK GDP. By 1950 the situation worsened and thanks to our politicians and people we are still in poverty.

a nation which has been the largest economy in the world for almost 1600 years, now watches 60% of its children living with less than $2 a day. The change need to start from the people first.

Source: Economist

Politicians pay - percentage of GDP

Source: Economist

We are just less than 24 hours to say good by to 2010 and welcome 2011. Economist published their top 10 charts and no surprise here. The number one is the politicians pay as a percentage of their nations GDP.

Kenya occupies the top spot followed by Singapore. I am not quite sure about Kenya and it's national politics but in Singapore, it's really a talking point. I saw another article somewhere ranking the top 20 politicians pay and I think almost half of them from Singapore. Singapore PM salary is 40x of the average GDP per person of Singapore. Ofcourse in Singapore, politians can have their own businesses and sit in boards of profit making companies. The good side is normally the parties lure succesful businessmans, beurocrats to politics so they are highly qualified and experienced to run a nation (Some may argue that the downside is they run the nation like a company).

Our dear Singh ji is in the bottom of the list with $ 4,106. This is the irony in India where politians are paid such a paltry sums. In relative, the entry level software engineer can demand easily $ 10,000.

Another point to note is the chart only shows the basic pay. If we can count the "Cost to Nation" just like "Cost to company" in case of employees, I am confidant that this will be entirely different. I mean the accommodation costs, security costs, pentions, etc..

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Skype launches video calls on iPhone

It's just three days back I've mentioned about Skype Video calls on Phones. Now they've announced on iPhone. Great job guys and eagerly waiting for Android.

Now this is not going to be a good news for Mobile Operators. In Singapore I don't think the impact would be great but in Europe and developing countries this is going to affect a lot of operators. Given the small size of Singapore the main user group of Skype would be expats/foreigners. So I'd expect most of the calls happening from home/residential rather than over mobile phone. So the primary device still a notebook/pc while mobile can be used as an emergency device or backup device.

Source: Skype

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kindergarten in Singapore

My daughter is 2 years and we started to look for kindergartens around our home. Basically I won't believe in kindergarten kind of education at such an young age, but being in a foreign country with limited interaction with her own age kids forced me to look for schools.

MOE website has wonderful info with detailed information. But I couldn't find any kindergarten with Hindi, Telugu as primary languages. What I understand from our friends is Ramakrishna Mishan has some classes in Hindi. Also another kindergarten in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 offers in Hindi. Finally we've shortlisted one which is just across the road. This is associated with a religious organization but I was told by the friends/neighbours that the curriculam and teachers are much better than the rest. Also during our search I realized the exorbitant fees charged by these kindergartens. Irony is primary & secondary schools the fee's are just a fraction of kg fees. Below is a summary of major kg providers.

My First Skool --> 6,240
PAP Community Foundation --> 7,200
Etonhouse --> ~20,000
Pat's schoolhouse --> 16,000
Learning Vision --> ~12,840 (depending on the area this may vary)
Ramakrishna Mission/
Sarada Kindergarten --> 6,500 (term feex 4times + misc charges)

Channel News Asia Poll on new year resolution

Here goes the screenshot from channelnewsasia survey on 2011 goals. You wouldn't be surprised to see the usual goals like "Loose weight or quit smoking or get out of debt". But in Uniquely Singapore, we can see the top goal is "get a good job". It shows that many people are looking for a change. There was a study done by SBR  and the results are quite inline.

I think it's due to the way people are managed here and for the last couple of years the wage increase was minimal (2007=6.2%; 2008=5.4% & 2009= -2.6%). But considering the inflation rates the real income growth is almost close to Zero.

This holiday period seems to be a good time for updating the resume and start searching for jobs. In Singapore the best bet would be go through the company websites for entry/mid level jobs, and consult a professional for senior level jobs. Best of luck and wish you all a wonderful year ahead.

Resume Score

We all know "The first impression is the best impression". So when it comes to job search, application the single most important element would be the Resume or CV.

Two two A4 papers or 100KB word document is the first meeting with your prospective employer and it needs to represent your 16 years of education, years of working experience and your achivements, as well as who you are as a person.

Now how do you prepare the resume? There are few very good sites that tells a lot on what to enter and what not to enter in the document but the question on how good is my resume always there.

So the folks at "rezscore" did a good job trying to provide a simple front end and (consultancy services if you are interested).

It shows how good is the resume overall, provides the scores for Brevity, Impact & Depth; and the strongest words inside the resume.

If you need some help, you can engage their services too.

 I've submitted my resume and here goes the result. By the way their privacy policy states that they will not be sharing the information with third parties. But use at your own risk.. What I've done is change my personal information and contact details before uploading to the website.

Skype credit voucher received

We all know Skype was down recently for more than 24 hours. I am quite sure it'd caused inconvenience to lot of users.

When I saw the update where Mr. Tony Bates mentioned that they will offer free credit voucher, I thought just another marketing talk and in reality this not going to be practical. (I was thinking along the lines, first you need to find how many people affected etc..see this is the problem with telco world, we always think we know a lot and doesnt accept that what we know is very little)

I didn't expect that Skype wouldn't bothered to go along the lines and simply offers the credit to all it's customers. This morning it's a sweet surprise to me. They had offered me $1 credit voucher. While I certainly agree that this is not a huge amount, can any of we guys remember that any of our TELCO's or ISP's offering rebates or discounts voluntarily? 

A big thanks to Skype for hearing your Customers.... Keep it up..

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Net neutrality in Singapore

CNA published that local telco's are not in support to publish the "average speeds" but prefer to use "max speeds".  While I tend to agree with the argument that it's quite difficult to provide average speeds in an objective manner I am surprised to see the replies from our three telco's. The way they responded gives me a very bad impression on them.

They say the market is highly competitive, they are transparent, they don't block or discriminate unwanted traffic & IDA should spend tax payers money to educate Customers so they won't complain (then result in more profits to TELCO's because even 100Mbps plan can give 1Kbps and Customer is 'educated' to accept it).

The new entrant Super internet reply is not that detailed by they shared the fact that the international bandwidth for 100Mbps costs $3,000+ and residential charges by ISP's are less than 100 so there is no way end customer can get 100Mbps from US. This answer is quite straight forward.

Anyways there are multitude of factors that an end customer cannot get the speed he/she is subscribed to. If it's wired broadband,

* PC/Notebook issues
* Home wi-fi coverage issues
* Home wiring issues (like powerline etc)
* Last mile cabling issues
* ISP Servers/Routers congestion
* ISP uplink congestion
* International issues (e.g. submarine cable failure etc)

Wireless broadband or Mobile broadband the issues are similar but on top of it being a shared network,

* Number of people using the specific base station.

But all of the issues does have a solution. This is to invest more in the network. Today our TELCO's margins are in very healthy ranges (here). If they want to accept lower margins they can invest in the network. Also they can invest in removing process wastage so they can reduce their operating costs. Anyway i'll wait for IDA decision and meanwhile, I've pasted the replies from our three telco's + super internet (because these guys are the first one's in NG-NBN)

Furthermore, SingTel submits that bespoke regulation in the Internet services market in Singapore is necessary for the following reason:

- The Internet services market is highly competitive in Singapore;
- Existing  levels  of  regulation  are  sufficient  to  address  potential  anti-competitive conduct;
- Services  providers  should  be  free  to  manage  the  efficiency  of  their  networks, improve customer experience and innovate to facilitate high-quality applications;
- SingTel  complies  with  prevailing  to  publish  service  information  and  network management practices; and
- SingTel  already  complies  with  minimum  QoS  standards  and  is  transparent  in terms of its network management techniques;
- The publication of average or expected speeds is counter-productive and likely to confuse consumers.


StarHub submits that developments in the local internet access service market have been healthy and that concerns over blocking or discriminatory treatment of internet traffic and content are unfounded

StarHub is concerned over IDA's proposal to provide added transparency to end-users by requiring ISPs and telecom network operators to publish an "expected average internet access speed" indicator. The inclusion of an expected average internet access speed is very subjective and cannot be estimated with a fair degree of accuracy. We would instead propose the continuation of IDA's residential broadband speed tests.


In summary, M1 proposes:
* No change to existing policy position or approach on net neutrality;
* No  publication  of  misleading  information  such  as  “average  Internet  access  speed”  or “expected Internet access speed”; and
* Improve public education on broadband internet  services, thereby  raising the level of understanding on factors affecting the provision such telecommunication services. 

Super Internet

International IP Transit pricing today for 1Gbps out of Singapore is approximately US$20/Mbps/mth. Furthermore, trunk link pricing works out to S$4.10/Mbps/mth. With consumer pricing for “100Mbps” services at a level far below $3,110/mth, it is undeniable that there is oversubscription and therefore potential, if not actual, congestion in all networks. It therefore remains to be considered what measures ought to be allowable for management of this congestion.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Skype videocall on Android, iPhone - Still waiting..

It's been quite a while Skype introduced video call on a mobile. This was part of the PR1.2 firmware on a Nokia N900 device during May 2010. I was hoping for a X'mas release on Android but my wish didn't realized :|

LTE Commercial availability in the world

Source: Light Reading

Below is a table I've copied from Light Reading. I've added another column which is Cost/GB. While I agree this is not the best way to measure, I opted for it due to the relatively easy way to get some feel.

For unlimited plans I used 20GB which is the 70 percentile of typical HSDPA plan. Also the price plan is dependent on the actual throughput and the coverage. So please take the values with a perspective

* Verizon offers @ 8/GB
* TeliaSonera offers @ 2.99/GB in Sweden.

In Singapore we can subscribe to the 14.4 Mbps plan ~ SGD 50.00 or USD 38.53. If I apply the same ratio as above,

* Cost is @ 1.92/GB.

Of course if we compare the GPRS speeds from Malaysia or some other developing world the cost / GB will be much more lower. But what I am trying to compare is the cost / GB between similar technologies. Note that the commercially available networks can go a maximum of 80 Mbps theoretically, but in reality offers less than 10Mbps. In Singapore we can safely get 5 Mbps average throughput on a laptop which is pretty decent in my experience. 

As usual comments are welcome.

Skype introduces low bandwidth version for United Nations (UNHCR)

From Skype Blog (
Skype developed a bespoke, low-bandwidth version of Skype for use in 120 hardship locations served by UNHCR staff members around the world. Aid workers in these locations are typically separated from their families for months at a time, sometimes with very little notice, and have limited opportunities for communication.

I saw few replies to the original post asking for beta release of the low bandwidth version to public. While I don't really need the low bandwidth version , I guess the request is for the developing world and it makes a difference if it can be bundled with mobile phones and uses mobile broadband. This can change the way people communicate in developing world like India where fixed broadband penetration is still 0.8% while mobile penetration is ~ 63%. With most of the operators in India launching/planning to launch 3G services which can give ~500/100 Kbps in downlink/uplink easily can work very well with Skype low bandwidth version. 

Anyways the engineer in me tried to understand the interesting point which is how does this low bandwidth works?. To start below is a slidepack showing how Skype works.

A detailed presentation can be found here (

* The required (basic minimum) bandwidth for skype call is 30Kbps downlink / 30Kbps uplink. This can be achievable with a typical dial-up modem or a good gprs connection. 
* Skype protocol does a great job with jitter so this may not be a big problem

The biggest challenge will be to ensure that the skype client in UN closed group doesn't connect to a supernode which is far far away. This can be easily overcome by putting a super node in every nation with some good internet connectivity and availability. Skype always claim that they provide service with bare minimum infrastructure and the network is self sustainable with super nodes automatically selected. For the UN scenario they might have invested in some servers. But whatever it may be end of the day this is for one good purpose so well done skype.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

SingTel sues subscriber for not paying "Zero" dollar in subscription charges

Shows how "automation" makes life more difficult if the developed/analyst ignored the 'common sense' element.

The summary of the text is below.

Demand For Payment Of S$0 (as at 12/12/2010) owing by you to SINGAPORE TELECOMMUNICATIONS LIMITED.

We are instructed that you are indebted to our clients in the sum of S$0 being charges arising out of the use of telecommunications services provided by our clients to you at your request, full particulars of which have been rendered to you.

Full details here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bharti Airtel will open its first underground terrestrial fibre optic cable with China Telecom

If this is true, then it'll be a moment to remember in internet history in sub continent. I'll see this as a potential game changer in India. So far Indian telco's rely on Singapore or Dubai for the connectivity to tier1 operators even when they own substantial submarine capacity. With more and more Chinese firms operating in India and Indian firms looking in to China this is a timely move. By the way some interesting stuff,
* I was told Youku has more indian (hindi, telugu) content than in Youtube ( Reason is copy right restrictions in youtube)
* There are more than 10,000 students from india in China studying MBBS (no comments!!!!I guess they are not qualified to get a seat in India)
* Recent PM meeting resulted in billions of dollars contracts between two countries

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Telco's EBITDA comparison

I was reading a wonderful article at fellow blogger (I learned few points from his blog on investments) on Telefonica and then it made me curious to see what is the EBITDA for the TELCO's around the world. Ok, let me confess I have not spend a lot of time finding the data but basically I checked the annual reports of major Telco's I know from emerging markets as well as developed world (with the exception of US). You'd be surprised to see the margins.

Below is the graph showing the margins. The top 3 from emerging markets are,

* Telkomsel - Indonedia (66%)
* Djezzy - Algeria (57.1%)
* Globe - Philippines (54%)

In the above markets one common item is relatively high revenue from "voice" & "sms" or basic services. Moving forward it'll be interesting to see whether these operations can maintain their high ebitda when they move to data business or the data revenue % increases. My belief is the margins will erode when the % of data revenue increases. Which means indirectly smart phones coupled with dongles affecting telco margins.

The table showing the details is given as well. I excluded US and south america completely as I am not very familiar with the region. 

However in the emerging markets, the cost of operations and annual capital expenditure will be relatively high as the focus is on growth. In the developed/matured markets the costs will be relatively low.

Skype is down.

Skype is down due to some problem with their software which killed some of the supernodes. Now the engineers are trying to configure and bring live some Meganodes.
Here is the link

I managed to login this morning (0900 hrs Singapore time), and I saw none online. Skypeout calls are not working either.

This is the first time Skype is not available for such a long duration. :|

Hope organizations who rely extensively on Skype have some form of BCM in place. It can be simple, e.g. use Google Talk or Yahoo. but it has to be prepared.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

top singapore salaries / pay scale

Below is a screenshot(copied from of the reported salaries from Singapore . Reported means, this list is compiled by those who voluntarely shared their pay.
So don't take the list as an exhaustive list of singapore salary summary.

It can be a good way to know the expected pay for potential applicants or to know just how much companies are paying for the talent :)

No surprises and most of the firms are from Financials arena.
* IT in Financial sector seems to be the 'in' thing now
* 11 out of the 40 are from non financial sector.
* singtel is in the list and the only telecom firm (salaries from nokia, ericsson, starhub, m1 not available )
* Consultancy firms have a fair share in the list
Wish there is a comprehensive list available so the employees are in a better position to negotiate :)

For more details, have a look at This is a great website to benchmark as well as to see the top professions etc.

TELCO's asking Content providers (Google, Apple, Facebook) to pay for network investments

There is an article in Business week, where by the Operators are asking big players like Google, Apple, facebook to pay for the network investments. The rationale given by Operators is, service providers are flooding networks with no incentive to cut costs'. Also there is another comment 'Companies such as Google and Yahoo use operator networks for free, which is good news for them and a tragedy for us'.

Though I am with operators most of my career I would never agree with this rationale. The way I see TELCO's are just like a transport company like SingPost and the job SingPost does is to carry the items from "point-A" to "point-B" and they charge "sender-A" to provide this service. Yes, SingPost can charge basic charges for basic services and premium charge for registered or faster delivery. There is no way I'd agree if SingPost wants to charge twice because the content inside my parcel can make my parcel recipient rich

TELCO's are quite similar in my opinion as they charge "subscriber" and deliver the content from Point-A to Point-B. The entire frustration, negative impression of TELCO's is mainly due to the fact that TELCO's wants to meddle with the flow.

Work for yourself, work for company or work for the nation

Lately I've been working more and more with the Chinese vendors. When I first worked with them in early 3G days, they're still in learning phase and technically they are perceived no match to established European players. 8 years later, they are technically strong and offer better features than their counterparts.

There is one interesting concept "work for yourself or work for company or work for the nation".
Basically this is about the working culture where by the staff  see themselves "work for the nation" & put their interests behind "national" & "company" interests. Info here & here

I'd say this is quite good for the company and nation but is it the same for the Customer?

* How can a customer trust a company when their priority is "National Interest"?
* Knowing the Chinese beliefs and their strategies how can any nation trust their products?

If I think deep in to the potential consequences it really makes me nervous.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Singapore telecoms - challenges/priorities for the CEO's

This morning I saw the article in Today's news paper "Calling loyal customers - telco's biggest challenge". In summary the strategic options of the three local telco's are,

* SingTel - be a multimedia player (betting on content, apps and local/customized services)
* StarHub - betting on NG-NBN. Not given much info but I guess the focus right now is still in bundling (Hubbing) strategy which is one of the best success stories in the market.
* M1 - Going to be a triple play player. In essence follow bundling option.

In my humble opinion, the options are not very strategic but more tactical. When all players in the market opt for similar plans and without a tangible or intangible differentiation among themselves the outcome would be more likely on the 'cost differentiation'. I am sure none of the stakeholders would like to see eroding margins and a 'price war' in the small local market.

I believe there is no silver bullet for the challenges, but if I've a place in the board ;), I'd love to hear what are the strategies/priorities for next few years. While there is substantial difference between the three operators, the commonality is mobile (which is contributing the most to the bottom line), and I'd say below are the top 8 challenges/priorities for the CEO's,

1. Google, Apple, Facebook bypassing Ops from value chain
2. Consistent Strategy/goals with organization values
3. Excellence in Execution
4. Customer Loyalty/Retention
5. Stimulating Innovation/Creativity/Enabling Entrepreneurship
6. Maintain Profit
7. Evaluate and prepare funding for Future technologies (LTE, 4G etc)
8. Recruit/retain skilled workforce/management

1. Google, Apple, Facebook bypassing Ops from value chain.

With more and more innovative services coming from these giants, I started to believe that one day the business model as we know today will shift radically. We've seen how Apple changed the game with their iPhone and I strongly believe this is only the beginning.

* Apple has facetime which is developed based on existing open standards but the key is execution and packaging. Apple managed to succeed where TELCO's failed with "Video Call". I don't remember I ever used 3G video call before though it's more closely integrated with my hand phone. Apple can enable the 'voice' addition to the Facetime and they have plans to release it to the public. That's when things will be more interesting as we can expect third party app's integrating with Windows Laptops & Potentially android :). Result will be less voice minutes in mobile networks (assuming people will use VoIP with SIP be it video or without video)

* E-sim, softsim coming in the next few releases of iPhone (More details in my previous post here)

* Android launching with NFC & trying to get a pie from Payment market. This will seriously impact the hopes of operators "m-commerce" services. If I've a choice to buy using Google checkout & credit card I'd definitely go for it rather than asking my mobile operator to charge as part of my monthly bill. As of now I've problems understanding the operator bill with unnecessary details and missing necessary details.

2. Consistent Strategy/goals with organization values

3. Excellence in Execution

No need to explain but we've seen with MIO TV, Starhub new billing system & M1 fiber plans. All our telco's seems to improve a lot on the execution. I am sure they've wonderful management, skilled engineers & great marketing folks but somehow all these different parties couldn't do what Apple, Facebook or Google did.

4. Customer Loyalty/Retention

Honestly this is one area where our operators are doing a good job in 'numbers' perspective but failed to meet the expectations due to various reasons. The first touch point which is the shops itself needs lots of improvement. Today's Customer is technically savvy and they knows the technologies very well. However our service departments are relatively under developed and still consists of mostly entry level service staff. Thanks to outsourcing(if it's done proper ways I don't see an issue but most of the times service providers outsource because it's CHEAP), sometimes the officer doesn't even understand what we are talking about. Need lot of improvement overall in this aspect

5. Stimulating Innovation/Creativity/Enabling Entrepreneurship
Some how we end up became the followers. We've Telephone just after four years of it's invention and our incumbent boasts over 125 years of history and one of the largest telco in the world. However when we look in to the contribution portion there is hardly anything to be proud of. Is it because organizations tend to focus on $ or other reasons. I don't know but I wish our telco's too cultivate an environment where we can show to the world that we've got talent. Singapore being one of the most advanced nation in terms of infra, coupled with savvy customers can be an unique nation which can be used as a technology hub. We can quickly introduce something with relatively low investment or do advanced technology trials. This can be bring lot of 'value add' to the nation as well as company. IP plays a critical role in knowledge society.

6. Maintain Profit

Nil. I've nothing much to say here as the leaders knows very much about this.

7. Evaluate and prepare funding for Future technologies (LTE, 4G etc)

Same as in item no.5, but this poses a different challenge to the CEO's. They need to invest lots of money to buy 'spectrum', invest in networks and people. But the bottom line of LTE or 4G is it offers higher speed to end customers with a relatively cheap prices (i.e. the cost to serve 10Mbps is cheaper with the LTE

8. Recruit/retain skilled workforce/management

I remember sometime back SIA used to be preferred employer and even people like to join technology firms. but today the focus seems to be going to Financial sector which means the best of breed is no longer going to be in technology sector anymore. Only Philips is in the top 10 and SingTel managed to get 85th position and the only telco in top 100(Link Here). If Operator need to head on or be in a respectable position at negotiation table they need to have best brains working with them.

In conclusion, the road ahead going to be very bumpy and only the toughest and smartest will reap the benefits while the rest will remain as the 'dumb pipes' providers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Marina Bay Sands and Marina bay area.

We went there yesterday for a seminar and while we're there one of our friend wanted to go over to the Sky Deck. So we all went to that place. (It was shown in Discovery , Build it bigger series. Info here)

The view is good but the best part is the infinity swimming pool. Sadly I couldn't take the snaps as the sun is directly opposite us making any picture taking highly impossible. Please note that swimming pool is strictly for hotel guests. If you are public you are allowed to the extended part and you've to pay $20 for the access which in my opinion not worth :|
Here are some snaps..

This is the view from swimming pool edge (what is visible is the place open for public). 

This is the view towards the pool. In the background is the Singapore port which will be shifted to jurong (??) area in the next ten years :|

This one showing the Marina reservoir and east coast part. Singapore eye can be seen too. Next one is the view of Marina Barrage and the crowded singapore straits. Final picture showing the work in progress Gardens By the Bay. This one will be the crown jewel of Singapore. What Sentosa did to singapore for more than a decade will be the job of Gardens by the Bay for the next few decades.

Overall there is lot of construction activity going on around the marina bay area. There is a new express way in parallel to the barrage (of course underground/undersea). Gossips are abuzz with new condo's in the open golf area after the new express way.. Within next five years I bet Singapore skyline would be completely different than it today.

Why people resist change ???

Just finished a hour long meeting to conclude one of the issues raised last week. Basically it's about productivity vs new technology.

The idea is to "Simplify the existing process" for a specific department. Lets call it Dept A. However the user's of Dept A resources are mainly from Dept B. Manager B observed that many of the tasks that went through Dept A delayed and often had impact on Dept B schedule. So he took the initiative to study and address the root cause. The entire problem started some time back when Web2.0, Collaboration, Team work etc are the hot words. So Dept A opted for WIKI based content management system (+Document Mgmt System) and replaced the Network drive.

Problem: People taking time to update WIKI.
Solution: Go back to X drive mode.

Manager B expected that Dept A would love to do that and he can overcome the problem. However it's exactly the opposite.

The problem is at times we tend to love the current situation (Status Quo) even if it's extremely complex, instead of change even if it's simple. Justifications given by Manager A are,

* Sunken cost/resources (spend a fair bit of time WIKIFying content)
* Now getting used to it. Do not change
* X drive is so lame

We managed to convince Manager A, by saying

* Files are simply uploaded and that doesn't really help much
* We can continue for knowledge sharing
* Do it in simple ways rather than making it complex.

Overall this is one of the example in work life where trivial things take a great deal of time. We've spend about 20 man hours trying to solve the issue which I believe can be avoidable.

Google Maps 5 for Android

One more reason to love android. Google released their Maps 5 for Android. Main features/new updates are,

* 3D Maps. (Watch here)
* Compass mode
* Offline (no need to worry about internet when roaming. Just download before touring out)
* Offline re routing
Great job guys. Finally the Offline mode which is the best feature to have.

Challenges to Mobile Operators

I was reading an article on Apple e-sim concept and I realized the big change happened. It was really dramatic and once it's highly skewed towards Mobile Operators where as now they are taken for granted. Ofcourse I won't blame the otp's (Like apple, google) or industry bodies (3gpp, gsma) but the blame goes to Operators themselves. Moving forward there are many challenges for an operator and below is a small summary from my point of view.

1. Innovation
Traditionally TELCO's are not good in innovating. They've been working within the stipulated standards set by ETSI or IEEE and the same thing continues in Mobile space. Some operators may be an exclusion but most of them look at 3GPP for 'guiding them to do a task'. In my interaction with the operators many a times I faced this question. "Is it endorsed by 3gpp?". Though I can understand the dependency on standard's compliance, I've to mention that innovation often started when the organization or person defy the existing rules/situation.

Today we see the innovation driven by OTP's &  App developer. If the Mobile operator continues the same way sooner or later they are going to at the mercy of them. We've seen how Apple draw the terms when iPhone was launched and it continues even now.

In a survey done by Total Telecom, 39% mobile operator answered "App developers" for the question "What sources of innovation do you think mobile operators should rely upon most over the next three years". Sadly it's not going to help operators.

2. Financials

2.1. Margins
Gone are the days when telco's enjoy >50% EBIDTA margins. Even when we look at the  operators in US or in Singapore the trend is clear. The margins are dropping and you can see from the graph here for Singapore largest telco.

2.2. High CAPEX

Most of the Operators are spending money right now or need to spend hefty amounts. The advanced network owners in developed nations need to spend money on LTE or expanding the 3G networks, and the developing nations on 3G or HSDPA networks. By any means this is not going to be a small amount. Added to that the big chunk kept aside for "Spectrum" it's going to be a lot of money out of operator pockets.

2.3. Increasing OPEX

Just look at the SingTel financials for last 3 years and you'd see a clear trend of increasing operating expenditure.
Here is the graph showing the increasing acquisition cost (Money spend to get a new subscriber on board)

One may say that with the revenue increase the costs tend to be higher. I agree but the ratio seems dropping. Below is the graph for revenue for the same period. As we can see,

* Revenue is growing but at much slower pace than expenditure
* Selling & Admin costs almost doubled
* Cost of sales almost doubled

3. Technology

Today's mobile operators combat zone is no longer restricted heavily by regulation and many disruptive technologies can hit them hard.

3.1. Disruptive Technologies

Technologies like VoIP, callback, Alternate roaming, Wi-Fi hitting them hard right now. In future expected technologies like soft-sim, e-sim & advertising can potentially hit the bottom lines. I'd focus on the softsim concept as I found it very interesting and the impact to operators can be quite hard.

Here is a presentation on this done by me.

3.1. Failure to capitalize on new technologies

We all talk about how Apple changed the game play with Apple. But I still remember their first foray which is with Motorola (Here). But Apple quickly learned the lesson and optimized the experience to masses. Apple became such a game changed because

* They are innovate and quick to conceptualize the ideas
* Excellent product packaging (if something doesnt work on Apple they would say it's a feature)
* Excellent distribution together with great support.

Sadly, our TELCO's fail in each and every aspect. I've seen in the past many TELCO's showing interest in VoIP. But they are too late in to the market. Even when the entered (StarHub did a great job with pFingo) the product packaging is bad and virtually zero support (try opening pFingo website or query on mediaring. you'd know what i am talking). In my observation, a typical life cycle of idea in TELCO's goes like this

So by that time the product is launched in the market either someone else took the lead or the idea is no longer fresh/disruptive.

Anohter dangerous sign I've seen is the "reducing importance on technology". With the exception of few respected operators (like NTT, Verizone, Voda etc) most of the operators are not investing in technology development. For any question the simple solution is "give a call to vendor". While I was talking at sidelines during a conference (Frost & Sullivan) in Singapore recently I realized none of the Mobile operators in this region invested in IPv6. They seems to be looking at the 3GPP & Vendors (e.g. Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei) to tell them what to do. Once operator loose the strong technical skills the next thing is to loose on the ability to offer innovative products leveraged on the technology.

IPv6 is one of the big thing going to happen.

M2M is another interesting concept but at this point of time it seems to be a big game changer.

4. Customers

Did we ever see a Gen Y chap wearing a SingTel or StarHub t-shirt? If there is what would be the expected comments from his/her friends? Well, excuse me for being so pessimistic but if we're to ask a question why people are perceived "Cool" when they are associated with Apple, Google but not with TELCO's?

Today's customer is no longer the customer from old days who is happy when a call is connected and sms is delivered within 2 minutes time. They are getting smarter and thanks to internet they even know how mobile networks work, and the technologies behind most of the service. Unfortunately the Operator call centers failed to evolve. They are still bound by the decades old SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and most of the times the first suggested solution to many of the problems is "please restart the phone".

Major issues in this category would be

* Loyalty
* Customer touch points/Call Center revamp
* Customer Experience
* SLA's

5. Others

There are plenty of other issues. But here I outline some of the issues which would have considerable impact in my opinion

5.1. Falling smartphone prices

Today people still sign contracts and Operators subsidize some of the cost of the expensive handphones. When the handphone prices drop to the threshold point it will be an interesting game play. Customer may choose to buy directly from the handphone manufacturer thus bypassing the operator from the value chain. It can be positive to the operator in terms of cash flow but can be very negative as the control goes to the handset manufacturer. For example Google can sell the handset and "offer" services from "network operator" which is quite opposed to today's dynamics.

5.2. Regulatory & Compliance risks

So far the regulatory aspects on Mobile operators are not as hard as on the traditional players. When things like Net Neutrality, Compliance requirements enforced strongly by regulators this would increase their costs/hurt their bottom lines.

6. Conclusion

In summary, the future is not going to be an easy ride for most of the operators. The time is now and the top management need to act now to ensure if they want to be an effective player in the next decade. They need to start invest in technology, adapt best practices, develop in-house expertise and accept the fact that there will be some impact to the bottom lines and find alternate ways to address the revenue drop. I'll be writing another article soon. Till then happy holidays.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nokia Situations. Good Idea but ...

I've come across a new toop/app from Nokia beta labs. It's called Nokia Situations and runs on selected hand phones. Basically the idea is "automate" certain tasks that can be leveraged on pre-defined triggers.

* Change profile from office to home when you are near Home
* When in a meeting send automatic SMS to all missed calls
* Sync with Outlook when connected to Free Wi-Fi (or home wi-fi)
There are quite a lot of possibilities on how we can customize the application. But the main problem I see is it runs on Symbian and on a selected handsets only.

Too bad it doesnt run on Nokia's workhorse E71.

Link is here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SingTel and Portugal Telecom sign collaboration

There is a news in CNA this morning (Here) and the interesting part is the collaboration on Procurement & other business areas. At first I was thinking what kind of synergy singtel can find in portugal as the markets re quite different. Also so far singtel overseas partnerships are mainly based on mobile and what makes our telco to go and partnership in iptv arena. After reading the press release and SingTel announcement I realized that the agreement is not simply on IPTV but it's much more to it.

They will also leverage joint scale and assets in wholesale procurement, leading to potential cost savings. They will also foster joint talent pools, which could result in employee secondment.As part of the agreement, both firms will tap into each other's proven expertise and partnership deals, in areas such as IPTV and FTTH, as well as the mobile and business markets.

Portual Telecom is the largest TELCO and operates mainly in Portugal & Brazil with with significant presence in some african nations & PRC. I can see some similarities between PT & ST which I tabulated below.

Is SingTel going to buy something in Europe again ? We dont know but IMO they should think twice or thrice. Other than Portugal, one lucrative thing is assets in Brazil. Singapore has significant interests in Brazil thanks to Temasek Holdings and TLC's but is it the right time to enter in latin america? Also does SingTel has the experience/expertise to be a global player? we don't know but its really interesting to watch out what will happen.

By the way one final point is I know the justification/rationale to partner with Portugal telecom. Do you know what's their IPTV service called?


Now I can see the "synergy" :)

How to select core router - Cisco, Juniper, Huawei, ZTE, ALU, Ericsson ??

Ok. Let me confess. The entry is written after my boss asked me to develop an evaluation criteria for a new tender. It's kind of putting the tacit knowledge in to black & white terms/spec which I've not done for quite some time. After talking to some of my ex colleagues (within the company of course) and going through the product spec I drafted the spec.

I went through various phases before coming up with the final spec.

1Current utilization
Input: CACTI, NMS etc
Output: Find where to start and input to Item 2

2.Traffic Projections
Input: Item1, projections, trending and some scenario planning
Output: Define the required packet forwarding rates, Port matrix, scalability requirements

3.Service offerings
Input: Product Strategy plan, Industry predictions
Output: Define required services, features

4. Integration/Interoperability
Input: Network strategy, existing network features, node features
Output: Interoperability requirements

5. Standard HA features
Input: Industry best practices, Lessons learned
Output: HA requirements

6. Standard security features
Input: Industry best practices, Lessons learned
Output: Security requirements

7. Standard green features
Input: Industry best practices, Lessons learned
Output: Power, Footprint etc spec

In the end it looks like

* A router that can start at 20 Gbps and able to handle up to 100 Gbps packet forwarding;
* Supports cascading chassis
* Mixture of 1GE, 10GE and road map to 40GE/100GE
* MPLS, VPLS requirements
* Shall work with existing Cisco, Juniper boxes and features
* NSF, BFD, VRRP,  etc
* L2, L3 Access lists etc
* 6000watts limit, chassis size

It'd be great to hear from the rest and to know how do you guys come up with the specs?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

RGV Naa Ishtam

I started the day with Ram Gopal Varma book Naa Ishtam. I'd say the book is quite similar to his movies (i.e. he thinks he is the 3rd smartest man on the planet. He said his two friends are the smartest) but being an admirer of his courage and honesty I liked the autobiography pretty much.

Below are the quotes which are at the beginning of the book. This will give you the idea on what is the theme, how the book is going to be and makes your expectations clear.

"నీ కోసం నువ్వు బ్రతుకు..ఎవర్నీ నీకోసం బతకమని అడక్కు".. Ayan Ryands 
"నీ కళ్ళతో నువ్వు చూస్తున్నావు కాబట్టే ప్రపంచం అనేది ఒకటి వుందని నీకు తెలుస్తుంది. నువ్వు కళ్ళు మూసుకుంటే దానికి మనుగడే లేదు. అలా ప్రపంచం అన్నది నీ ఊహే కనకు నీ ఊహే ప్రంపంచం అనేది తెలుసుకో"... Arthur Schopenhauer

Its really a good reading after some gap. great work RGV.

P.S. If you want to borrow drop me a note..

Saturday, December 11, 2010

IPv6 in Singapore

Due to the fact that I am staying a country where technology is driven by CEO's & Mgmt, I couldn't get IPv6 or real broadband (my current subscription is USD 50 for a lame "Up to" 10 Mbps DSL plan). I've tried to get IPv6 mainly for the remote monitoring purposes of my home. The availability of home video from anywhere in the world is really something nice to have. DDNS was quite promising but in reality it failed to delivery due to various factors.
Wish the new broadband networks governments are building drive the implementation of advanced technologies to simplify the lives.

AXIS Bank service standards.

I am not a great fan of public sector banks in India but my recent experiences with private vs public sector makes me to rethink on the assumption.
I've savings accounts in SBI & AXIS Bank. Being out of India most of the time I depends a lot on the internet banking and this is where the problems started with Axis bank. At first I thought it was a technical glitch, but later on it became the norm. The issues it the system simply refuses my login attempts and goes to the home page.
* Open the Internet banking page (login page)
* Enter the credentials and wait for the next step (need to enter security token which is java based)
* It simply goes back the first page (login page). No errors shown.

I've called the Customer care few times just to get the standard reply that they are working on the problem . Below is the e-mail reply after 4 working days :)

Finally fallback to the trusted and experienced SBI bank. :)


Dear Sir/Madam,

Thanks for writing to us .
We regret the inconvenience caused.
Due to launch of new internet banking site, you must be facing some interim problem.
Please allow us some time to resolve the same.
Assuring of our best services and attention and looking forward to having you as one of our esteemed customers .
IT Help Desk 
Axis Bank 


VoIP, Cheap calling using Skype, Fring, Google Out or others

I've been a loyal user of Skype since it went mainstream. Lately I realized there are few other alternatives with similar features/simplicity.

1. Google Voice started offering Google Out or calling phones (not sure what's the standard name) and it works great. For USA the calls are free and for the rest of the world, the charges are similar/cheaper than Skype.
2. Fring. I've used Fring on my E71 couple of years due to the fact that there was no Skype support. But when Skype launched the official app I removed it. But when I was checking my emails I saw a promo from Fring on their Fring out rates. I am pretty surprised that the rates are far more cheaper than Skype/Google. So I gave it a try
3. Jumblo. This is basically from the same guys who offers VoIP Stune, VoIP Buster etc. So initially didn't considered but the rates are pretty comparable to Fring and realized that this is quite popular in South Korea due to the fact that it offers free calls to Korea :)

Below is a comparison of VoIP rates of the five options I've (on top of calling cards but I like to call direct instead of going through the options of selecting language, and waiting) and really surprised that Fring offering such competitive rates. But the sad portion is Fring doesnt have a Desktop client like Skype, Google or others. You need to use it on a mobile phone which is a big drawback.

The prices are in USD (Cents/Min)

After using the options, finally I decided to go with Google Voice for my direct calls as I can have the flexibility of using a browser to make calls, or use a standalone client rather than depending on Mobile phone. I still have some credt in Fring and it may come handly when I need to make calls to destinations like UK-Mobile where the difference is considerable (18c vs 0.8c per min)

Finally need to claim my blog @ technorati.