Thursday, August 27, 2015

The new drama about quality in Indian mobile space

Source: multiple (IBN, LR, COAI & TRAI..)

It is a known fact that most of the things in India are about Quantity rather than quality. I wouldn't blame anyone but it is more of cultural thing. People tend to talk 'big' things and 'large' stuff. So same way the telcom industry started to fight for numbers, and what they ignored is the 'quality' aspect. So while I can't tell if India offers the cheapest rates I can certainly tell that India offers the worst quality in emerging markets. Be it the voice quality (half codec), or Data (be it 4G, 3G, 2G or whatever), or consistent experience or billing.

So recently there is a fight between regulatory bodies and operators about Dropped Calls. Based on some surveys the DCR is > 12% vs Allowed rate of <3%. By the way did I mentioned that majority of nations follow a DCR of < 1% ? Singapore operators CDR/DCR is approx 0.3 (Source. IDA). Before one jump on to say that Singapore is a small country, I need to share that Singapore is far more complex than many large nations. The coverage quality, dense urban environment, and volume makes it far more complex.

Having said that, I must say the biggest problem in Indian industry is the basic infra. Be it the continuos power supply, fibre connectivity to the base station, quality labour and management.

  • Power: I better stop talking about as this is pretty common and known to the world. India has been talking about exponential growth in power production for the last twenty years. It will be the same even after 20 years (yeah, am a pessimist when it comes to some topics)
  • Fibre connectivity: Biggest problem with this is the chaotic situation at the ground. Who owns the duct or drainage or street poles in India. Everyone with a mouth and shoulder power. So the TELCO may get permission from the state government, but the local municipal / corporation authorities may well reject and cut the fibre. Or vice versa. Or even worse, the Corporation may approve but another department from the corporation may cut it off. During one of my recent meeting with a large operator, I was told that on average there are  8 intentional fibre cuts in a day in New Delhi alone. That's a huge issues.
  • Lastly the people who became less pragmatic. Very subjective topic to open but as long as the operators/leadership focusses on short term benefits and run the business as a profit generating machine without strong engineering/fundamental skills within, it is going to be a tough ride.
As long as the fundamental problems are not addressed, this issue going to be there for a long time. Hopefully either TRAI or GOV bodies will come up with some guidelines on duct usage (or passive infrastructure provisioning). 

Changi Automated Clearance System: What software it is using..

I am quite impressed with overall infrastructure in Singapore. The Government and some great guys planned it in that way, and the 'first impression' which is Changi Airport counts a lot. Recently I was a bit disappointed with the so called "random security checks(which are not really random in my experience)" and "random return security checks" but overall I am quite happy and I must say this is probably the best airport. Be it the ease of reaching/getting out, immigration/custom clearance, security checks, amenities, food (Ofcourse ,except the horrible, and super expensive indian one), crowd for takeoff/landing and the shopping options.

Out of all, the best part for me is the immigration. After the auto gates / automated clearance /  IACS/ eIACS/  deployed in 2011the whole experience is a breeze. I have never encountered any issues, and it works as it supposed to be.

Yesterday, for the first time I had an issue. After clearing the glass barrier with my passport, the system stuck. It's like you can't go back or forward. The officer came in seconds, and we noticed that the system started rebooting itself. So while waiting there, I saw the system OS. You wouldn't believe... and it's...

Now I seriously admire the developers, system integrators or programmers who executed it. They did an amazing job to go with Windows and the systems are running 24x7 with almost zero down time. I must say they are meeting the telco standard/grade availability as this is the first time in years I saw a system booting/hang. There were plenty of post logon scripts after the booting process and GUI and I guess the front end is a simple VB or HTML code with plenty of back end scripting.
After 3 minutes, the system is back and there goes it. Happy traveller, and a very disappointed looking officer who couldn't believe that Changi made a passenger wait for 3 min. Kudos Officers, you guys are really amazing to take it so personally and apologising as if this is even a 'delay'

Wish our American, Australian, EU friends or neighbours like Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai & Viet friends lean something. I love their job, especially sitting in a comfy chair on a raised platform and looking at the herd who are standing in front of them for hours. Unfortunately I always end up in the herd. Anyways, thanks to Changi once again.. the frustrations from the travel will be gone once you land up in Changi..

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Four of the cheapest travel destinations in South East Asia. Mumbai is a surprise addition in the lsit

Source: Tripadvisor

This is no surprise to see KL, Bangkok, Hanoi in the cheapest or value for money destinations in tripadvisor list. Couple of surprises though. One is missing Jakarta, and other is the Mumbai.

The rates seems not too far from the experienced rates which is quite an issue with the international surveys like cost of living surveys or expensive cities survey.

As you can see KL hotels are the cheapest at 92 per night and I have not found a hotel in Mumbai for 120. I think the tour activity in KL is the reason which is causing the KL rank to go down but if I eliminate I am sure this would be the valuest place in the world. Even the taxi rates are one of the lowest and considering the quality of ride, this would be much better than other places.

Most expensive places have the usual suspects and Singapore is in the bottom list but still the most expensive in south east asia, and second most expensive in Asia.

The problem with Singapore is mainly with hotels and dinner of 150/person is not really something I personally experienced. One could have a better dinner at less than $70 easily. Probably the Wine is the main reason for the price as Dinner includes a bottle of wine to share and if I eliminate that probably SG would go out of top-10.

In any case, I would still prefer south ease asia hotels for service. They are far better than any western hotel in EU/US given the value it offers. Be it the  comfort, room types, amenities and most importantly the service.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Five Star Hotels and cheap tactics to eat money. e.g. Paid Wi-Fi, cheap accessories

I am not sure when does the hotels around the world realized that Wi-Fi is probably the most basic need these days. With exorbitant roaming charges complimented by horrible speeds no wonder the first thing people does is to look for WiFi in any place.

What makes it frustrating is when you are on a business travel, and Hotels provide Wi-Fi for the sake of it but unusable options. i.e. Lack of speed or lack of stability or long user id, password combinations.

Places like Starbucks or Restaurants started to provide Free Wi-Fi and we can see how vastly it improved our experience. For myself, I will look for Starbucks when I need to send some e-mails or do some urgent work. Of course, some parts can be improved (especially in Thailand, where they will force you type 12 digit user id, similarly long but with special character password  to get on) but overall no complaints.

But paying couple of hundred dollars for a night stay, and going through the Bad WiFi experience really makes me annoyed. In the first place, why can't the property give Free Wi-Fi to all. Irrespective of one stays in the hotel or not, people need connectivity and it would be wonderful to have option to use WiFi. I love Shangri-La for that and Hyatt started to follow suit. I seriously hope Sheraton and other major groups start to follow.

Second thing is the 'free tooth brush' or 'coffee' they provide as part of the room. I guess most of the frequent travelers carry their own brush and daily stuff but why can't they spend a dollar to provide some acceptable quality stuff? Anyways, enough of complaining and I will stop here. But still, free Wi-Fi; It's a birth right of every individual :)