Getting the message
Two great advances have materialized as a result. The world is smaller-you can reach almost anyone anytime anywhere. And the messages are bigger-you can send encyclopedias of data, even real-time video.
Now, the history of human communications has come down to this single point: that mobile Internet device you hold in your hand.
This year, North American business will watch as the science-fiction vision of the all-in-one communications device becomes everyday reality.
“These are not daydreams; this is happening now,” says Mark Henderson, president and CEO of Ericsson Canada, Inc. “Our technology is helping our phone operator customers become powerful companies. And they help their business customers become drivers of overall business productivity.”
Henderson says businesses that fail to “rethink” their value propositions in light of these new products and services will find themselves falling behind in the year ahead.
It starts easily enough with SMS—short messaging service. Your phone already permits two-way text messaging. Someone can send you a short text message. You can reply from your phone.
“SMS is at the core of it,” says James Israel, Ericsson’s director of product development for mobile Internet products. “Being able to send data from a device you can tuck in your pocket is the heart of the revolution.”
Israel says SMS has been wildly popular in Europe and Asia. “I was in Europe recently and people are shooting messages all over the place.” The first SMS phones were one-way. The message sender had to be sitting at a computer. The receiver couldn’t reply back from the handset. Then came two-way messaging. People could send text messages back and forth wherever they were. But, in North America, you could transmit only to subscribers of the same carrier. Rogers’ technology was different from Bell’s, and so on.
“That was great news because Americans only wish they had this kind of co-operation,” says Bill Clarke, sales director for Sony Ericsson. “Canada could achieve this breakthrough because we’re a smaller country without as many operators. Now Canada will be able to market SMS.”
“It’ll greatly strengthen the Canadian text messaging market,” says Peter Barnes, president and CEO of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. “It continues the long tradition of Canadian operators being at the forefront of North American wireless technology and enables participating carriers to launch new mobile applications and services that will reach the entire Canadian market.” Since the introduction of SMS service two years ago, the number of SMS messages has ballooned to about 16 billion a month worldwide. Analysts expect that volume to grow. “One reason it will grow is the improvement in the message itself,” Israel says. In particular, the depth of data is increasing. The reason, Clarke says, is that SMS is being
The history of human communications has come down to the mobile Internet device.
Phones in Europe work off the same platform—GSM. North America has three mobile phone standards-GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) and CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access). This patchwork of standards made messaging services difficult to market and dramatically slowed messaging growth in Canada and the US.
But for Canadians, that situation is finally changing. In November, Canada’s four wireless communications providers-Rogers AT&T Wireless, Microcell Connexions, Bell Mobility and TELUS Mobility-announced a joint initiative to permit inter-carrier messaging. The network to which you subscribe will no longer matter-you will simply click in the text and fire off the message to the recipient’s phone number.
improved with Enhanced Messaging Service (EMS).
“That’s where you can send animated graphics and music with your message,” Clarke says. “These changes are exciting because we know from the Japanese I-Mode experience this will be big. I know cultures can be different, but teens are teens and they are heavily into this.”
EMS builds on simple text messaging by adding various pre-fabricated “files” to “enhance” the user experience. Users can swap these little additions and even make their own. For instance, you can send a “Happy Birthday” text message and include a graphic of a birthday candle, or the message can play the Happy Birthday tune.
EMS runs on the same network as SMS, so operators aren’t faced with significant upgrading issues and costs. But EMS just sets the stage for what lies around the corner-MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service).
The network to which you subscribe will no longer matter— you will simply click in the text and fire off the message
MMS lets the user send messages comprising a combination of text, sounds, images and video to MMS capable handsets. You could use it to create messages that resemble a multi-slide presentation, using as many slides as you like.
“Expect MMS to come into play in late 2002,” Clarke says. “It requires more equipment on the carrier’s side and the volume of info carried is heavier. But it is expected to impact business more than EMS.”
Clarke says there are untold numbers of creative business applications of multimedia and messaging. For instance, Sony Ericsson markets a new digital camera that snaps on the bottom of a phone. “It stores five photos. You can send pictures off, via the phone, to any email address. That little advance alone can bring great changes in things like real estate. Agents don’t have to drag buyers around. Agents could visit properties and send off photos to prospective buyers at their work desks.”
The Next Generation
These kinds of messaging improvements are being powered by advances toward “third generation” networks-also referred to as 3G. Some say 3G represents a technology shift as important as the introduction of mobile phones two decades ago. It brings the data side of wireless communication into its own. Data traffic is expected to surpass voice traffic by 2003.
Data transmission speeds are much higherabout 50 times faster than current Internet phone today-in part because those non-voice bits of information you want to send across the country are now packet-switched, not circuit-switched.
While 3G networks will roll out in Canada over the next couple of years, Canadians do not have to wait to get the advantages of packet-switching for data devices. 2G networks can be enhanced by an overlay technology called GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). GPRS is sometimes called 2.5G. It isn’t as fast as 3G, but it permits “always on” devices. Ericsson is the only supplier for all 2G and 3G mobile standards.
“Network operators can evolve their deployed technology any way they wish,” Israel says. “We provide evolution paths from 2G to 2.5G and 3G systems covering CDMA, TDMA and GSM technology.” Worldwide, only North American service providers opted for TDMA and CDMA standards. Europe, Asia and the Pacific Rim had adopted GSM/GPRS standards. Because there are so many more GSM/GPRS networks around the world, more products had been developed for that standard - greater varieties of phone and other data devices and greater numbers of applications. Recognizing that the future pointed toward this unified standard and its faster speeds, Rogers deployed a new GSM/GPRS network to augment its former TDMA network.
Ericsson was the sole supplier. “We did that, end-to-end, the first 25 markets were completed in just 21 weeks,” says Andy Swainson, vice-president of Ericsson’s services business unit in Canada. Ericsson was also a major component in Microcell’s deployment of GPRS last April.
In these next-generation networks, data devices are “always on.” Most computers currently connect to the Internet through a dedicated line. This “pipe” must stay open during the time you are connected, regardless of whether you are actually using the Internet or not. Therefore, you pay for each second. But with packetswitched networks, you pay only for the actual use.
The savings can be substantial. Many business functions-like checking orders or sales statisticsactually contain very low data volumes.
Ericsson plans, builds and manages operator networks. “There are two core functions for us-roll-out and support,” says Swainson. “Roll-out involves project management, engineering, the actual design and implementation. Support means being the people to call if there are problems.”
Swainson’s unit also provides other services
critical to operators. “There’s integration—where we take products that aren’t necessarily Ericsson and integrate them into existent networks. There’s telecom management services—those products that actually manage your network, monitor faults, change configuration, etcetera. And there’s mobile Internet solutions-designing portal pages for our operator customers so their own customers can customize the little Web browsers on their phones.”
Swainson says he expects Ericsson to see an increase in another kind of operator service-managed services. “That’s the complete outsourcing of operator networks. It’s already happening in Europe. It’s a global trend.” He says the service appeals to both new and established carriers. New operators benefit from services such as “build, operate and transfer”—where the service provider constructs a system and operates it until the new operator is ready to take it over.
But established and experienced operators are also interested, Swainson says. “They are looking to do what they do best-sell and market their products, which are air time, data services and phones. They Ericsson Response
Part of the reason the mobile dream is finally becoming reality is the growing number of application developers. As more developers make useful applications for business and consumers, users get more value out of the product -and attract other users.
That's why Ericsson promotes developers through projects such as the Mobility World Web site. "We started it to stimulate developer growth in the mobility environment," says Nikos Katinakis, vice-president of technology for Ericsson's mobile Internet division. "We recognize that Ericsson can't do everything. We're not in the application development world. Besides, we know the best applications are often born in someone's garage."
The Internet itself was largely built by distributed networks of "garage hackers" creating small applications that cumulatively added to its power and popularity. Katinakis says it will be no different in the mobility world.
"We want to stimulate the market, to get developers together, let them talk about applications, even test them. Mobility World lets people ask questions. They come in and say, 'Hey, how does this work in the mobile environment?' Or, 'Will this idea even work?' Or, 'Can my Web-based application function properly if a mobile device goes into a tunnel?' They need our advice. And we need them."
To diminish distant suffering, relief organizations must often move rapidly on the ground. The ability to move rapidly and effectively has evolved with communications technology.
"The first 12 to 24 hours of a crisis are most critical for saving lives," says Dag Nielsen, program director for Ericsson Response in Stockholm.
"Food, transportation and medical aid has to be co-ordinated, but communications are often knocked out in crisis areas. Mobile and satellite communications can help relief teams."
Ericsson Response was launched in the spring of 2000. It is designed to enhance the speed and effectiveness of reactions to disaster in order to reduce human suffering. In times of disaster, Ericsson provides communications equipment, expertise and volunteers to leading disaster response organizations so that food and other supplies can get to people in hard-hit areas experiencing flood, famine or political upheaval.
"We believe there should be faster, more effective responses to disasters," says Helen Simpson, Ericsson's corporate citizenship program manager. "In Canada, Ericsson has partnered with the Canadian Red Cross as their prime communications supplier in the event of a disaster."
Simpson says companies need to work with experts in the field to make an effective contribution to disaster preparedness. That's why, in forming Ericsson Response, Ericsson partnered with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the United Nations. The global initiative has already seen action in places like Algeria, Pakistan and El Salvador. Most recently, the World Food Program, a United Nations organization, has asked Ericsson Response to send a team to Kabul.
"This is part of Ericsson's global corporate citizenship platform," Simpson says. "Our belief is, when there is a human need to communicate, Ericsson is there."
In the fall of 1999 at the Telecom 99 conference in Geneva, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked the high-technology and telecommunications sectors for help in disaster communications. He requested donations of products and expertise and followed up by challenging the corporate sector, NGOs and the UN to work together on the question.
In his Millennium Report, Annan formally recognized Ericsson's commitment towards supporting the issue of disaster response.
Simpson says the formal establishment of Ericsson Response was a natural evolution. "There was a history of disaster response from local Ericsson offices around the world," she says. The Taiwan office, for instance, responded with communication aid when a massive earthquake devastated the country in 1999.
"We knew that the most valuable thing we could contribute was our expertise and our technology," says Simpson. "In this age, information is power. Sharing our knowledge and expertise in the area of communications can help people around the world. We're already located in more than 140 countries, so we have a wide base of expertise to pull from.
As globalization of economies extends the presence of multinational corporations into numerous cultures and countries, the awareness of disasters and interest in providing assistance is on the rise. "Corporate citizenship has evolved over the past decade to become more than philanthropy, cheque cutting and equipment donation," says Simpson. "It means really being involved."
Find out more about Ericsson Response at: http://www.ericsson.com/ericssonresponse.
want to push out the management of the actual networks to someone else. That’s where we come in.”
While 80 per cent of Ericsson’s business worldwide is in the operator segment, the company knows the business market is a prime driver.
“Business typically adopts new telecommunications technology before the consumer market,” says Nicole Mumford, channel sales manager for Ericsson Enterprise. “We know how important the enterprise customers are-they make up about 50 per cent of subscriber revenues for operators-and we expect that to grow to 75 per cent quickly.”
She says Ericsson works closely with operator customers and channel partners to help their enterprise customers get these new, sophisticated 3Gtype services.
“We do that with technologies that can leverage any kind of carrier network,” Mumford says. “For example, on the infrastructure side, enterprises have numerous communications products from wireless LANs to distributed antenna systems. These would be physical infrastructure components deployed on a customer’s premises. Included in that mix is our PBX offering, the MD110. These products can interface with carrier networks and are enabled for the mobile enterprise. The key lies in the applications we can deliver for the Enterprise over this infrastructure, simply and seamlessly. What we are trying to do here is connect the Enterprise with the carrier to enable flexible communications.”
Freeing people from the desktop PC balland-chain is the ultimate aim of wireless. People should be able to receive any kind of message—anytime, anywhere, and in any form they want.
“Packet-switching accounts for much of the increase in speed on next-generation networks,” Israel says. “But businesses should realize it isn’t the bandwidth itself that they are really buying with next-generation networks. You are buying an increased number of services. People on the road can do almost anything they can do back in the office. They can run almost any application.”
In other words, freeing people from the desktop PC ball-and-chain is the ultimate aim of wireless. “People should be able to receive any kind of message-voice, email, fax, video,” Mumford says. “And they should get it anywhere they are, at any time they choose, in any form they want. You want an email sent to a fax machine? Done. You want that voicemail sent to email? Done.” That is the heart of the Mobile Enterprise, Mumford says.
“Telecom products provide core value proposition to businesses,” says Nikos Katinakis, vicepresident of technology for Ericsson’s mobile
Internet division. They offer immediate contact with and control over automated sales forces, asset management, work-order streamlining, truck fleets and repair personnel. “Instead of people having to go back to the office for the next order, instead of waiting to file expenses at the end of the week-all these tasks are done immediately,” says Katinakis.
The benefits are twofold. First, the speed at which information can be transmitted permits organizations to react to circumstances more efficiently—with results such as better customer service. Second, it removes a layer of unnecessary administrative labor. Instead of paying someone to take in those weekly reports, the mobile Internet does it continuously. That labor expenditure can then go toward more productive targets.
“Many people think the mobile Internet means being able to get information from our phone or other devices,” Katinakis says. “But that’s not the whole picture. It’s not about the user getting the information, it’s about enabling the information to find the user.”
It’s the ability of the user having time-sensitive, location-aware, personalized content-adapted to a mobile device.
“For instance,” says Katinakis, “if you walk into Nieman Marcus in New York, your locationaware phone would be detected. It would then be in the interests of the store to send you appropriate information. How ‘real’ is that? We’re half-way there. We’re waiting on the final piece-equipment that is truly location-aware.
That is just now being deployed.”
Ericsson’s goal is to maximize the efficiency of mobile professionals in the Enterprise, Mumford says. “You want to enable everyone to work-no matter where they are, using the tools they like, from any place. That is the mobile enterprise.”
Many of the mobile Internet tools are already in existence, such as mobile email and mobility enabled PBXs. “It’s going to happen faster in Canada than in the US,” Mumford says, “because we already have GSM/GPRS rolled out with CDMA2000 rollouts underway as well.” It will all come to fruition, she adds, in the next 12 months. ■