Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bite's and Triatel's plans

Back from Cannes, time to blog again:

Bite bids to bite a bit of the Latvian market

Bite Mobile
, the recently founded new (third, if you buy that) mobile operator will kick off on the Latvian market by selling prepaid cards and by pushing hard to get national roaming while its network coverage is built out.
The cards will probably be modeled on the Lithuanian Labas (meaning Hi or Hello) card sold by parent company Bite GSM. These come with a started kit loaded with 3 litas of calling time, and can be recharged in amounts ranging from 20 to 99 litas. Calls with Labas start at 0.24 litas per minute within the Bite GSM network.
For business travelers, Bite Mobile hopes to offer more or less the same deal with Vodafone and its partners as Bite GSM in Lithuania. Lithuanian customers can automatically roam with the Vodafone International or Vodafone Eurocall tariff plans, which offer unified tariffs by calling regions.
This may be a relief for travelers from the appearance of an unknown operator when switching on their phones at a foreign airport, then making a few calls only to get a SMS from the home operating showing that the particular roaming operator is the most expensive for calling home. Lithuanian customers also enjoy all their domestic services – mobile internet, calls with short numbers, etc., while roaming abroad.
Bite Mobile sees national roaming – using the networks of Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) and Tele2 until its own network is built out – as essential to a quick start. However, the Public Utilities Regulation Commission has not yet received a request for a ruling in this regard.
If a cursory look at some matters that Britain's OFCOM is handling regarding national roaming for 3 is any indication, then the Latvian regulator could be walking into a minefield, even if the decision to promote competition by this means is correct. There appear to be constant disputes over whether 3 is building out its network or continuing to get a partly free ride on investments (in GSM networks) made by others.
As far as competition on international roaming, Tele2 seems better poised to offer a "one Europe" package than LMT, since the Swedish owned group has mobile operations in several European countries, though perhaps not as extensive a network as Vodafone.
LMT has a whole zoo of roaming partners around the world, but some kind of unified scheme only with its Baltic partners (Omnitel and EMT) and, perhaps, with TeliaSonera's mobile units in Scandinavia. It is, however, rightly pointed out that roaming is of concern mainly to business customers.
(Most of this will be published in a certain business newspaper on May 26 :) )
Now as for what didn't make the paper, namely, that Bite Mobile will roll out, at some point, all of the services it has at its Lithuanian parent (with Danish "grandparent" TDC), including GPRS and EDGE. UMTS and 3G services are somewhat on the back burned - the company wants to get a solid customer base in GSM and to see some more takeup of UMTS handsets and services before moving ahead with this technology, although, ultimately, it is supposed to be the most cost efficient for carrying voice.

Triatel your watchman and PBX?

Triatel's video experiment, described earlier here, is actually a clever hack by some of the company's own customers. They found that by attaching a web-cam to a Triatel (probably fixed wireless) phone on the wireless internet, you could have a video-surveillance system. The idea is to put this up in bars and restaurants, where drinking (i.e.pilferage in kind) by the staff seems to be widespread. There are still problems with resolution (is that vodka or water the bartender is sipping?), but the experiments show the possibility for a "plug and play" videosurveillance system using off-the shelf webcams and out of the box Triatel phones.
Another product being developed by the company itself is a software based virtual PBX for small businesses. This will allow the function keys of the desktop phones to be used to reroute calls internally. The system will also allow free "intraoffice" calls (even across town, but not between domestic calling regions).
Look for this to be launched in July. Also, there will probably be a formal announcement that some kind of deal has been reached with China's HuaWei for the further buildout of Triatel's network.
Also look for the company getting more stylish video/photo camera equipped handsets that are more suitable for entertainment and information services. One of the first could be news agency LETA's webcast style Latvian-language news service (also carried on cable TV, it rolls news headlines and sometimes the talking head of a newsreader)
Maybe more on Triatel later.

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