Thursday, August 10, 2006

LMT to test the HSDPA "snake" & some secret history

Why the weird title and why has HSDPA become a "snake"? No, Latvian readers who notice the hemp plants (kaņepes) of this summer standing tall, that is not the reason.
HSDPA becomes a snake in any mobile operator's garden for the simple reason that once you have HSDPA and Skype and other HSDPA or WiFi enabled laptops and phones on the network, voice calls with simply by-pass the GSM/UMTS pay per minute networks.
This, of course, can be technologically hampered, but that is the sort of thing that will simply anger customers and propagate various hacks of whatever it is that HSDPA connections do to prevent VOIP from working.
Clearly, it is every customer's dream and every operator's nightmare that using HSDPA or a Wi-Fi enabled phone, people will be able to Skype from mobile to mobile "free" just the way they do using Skype and other VOIP technologies through broadband providers who don't go apeshit over VOIP or haven't realized that they should.
So Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT), apparently getting the jump on Bite (which is launching HSDPA in September) has just announced it is "testing HSDPA" and that HSDPA cards will be available with its iBirojs (iOffice) laptop plus mobile internet package.
Well, good morning axehandle, as the Swedes would say (god morgon yxskaft). Now let's see whether Tele2 will also try to preempt any first mover advantage that Bite would have had going fully commercial with HSDPA in few weeks.
But my warning to all, if you do that, the snake is loose...

Old history
The neverending tale of whether anyone is out to get the remarkable Mr. Nils Melngailis (no allusion to the Remarkable Mr. Ripley is intended) continues. It now seems that the half-mother TeliaSonera was angered by Nils insisting that MicroLink (now Lattelecom technology) be divided among all the children and half-children. The half-mother, well aware long ago that monkeys would dance on the rings of Saturn before the Latvian government allowed it to buy both Lattelecom and LMT, wanted Elion, its more that 50 % owned Estonian telco, to buy all of Microlink. That would have left Lattelecom with almost jack shit in terms of IT implementation and consulting resources (Verdi having quietly gone to an obscure grave).
OK, as it turned out, according to some versions of what happened, Lattelecom did nearly end up with jack shit anyway after many MicroLink folks saw their trans-Baltic teams and other good stuff torn apart into three pieces. But now TietoEnator Latvia honcho Maris Ozolins has come aboard to put Humpty-Lattelecom-technology-Dumpty back together again, or at least mend some of the bigger cracks (since I don't think the big egg was totally shattered).
But aside from that, Melngailis was actually acting as a my-corporation-first manager, no matter what the shareholders said, since they would get the best value from a strong Lattelecom, both in terms of dividends and, when the time came for the half-mother to give it up, a high barter value for the rest of LMT.
Also, as I have written earlier, Melngailis has the vision of moving Lattelecom far beyond just a fixed voice operator, a description better written on a tombstone of f**ked companies rather than as a modern telco mission statement.


Bleveland said...

True, true. However the snake might not be as evil as it looks like on the first sight.

To begin with HSDPA for mobile networks is about the same as (A)DSL was and is for fixed landline network providers. Several of them managed to deal quite well with "the snake", others got bitten still suffering from paralysis and some even died. I have no proven facts, but it is my feeling that many of those who early became friends with the DSL-snake or at least managed to deal with it are today (w)healthy internet providers. Those who were fighting the snake ended soon up fighting several more; cable TV networks offering internet access, internet by satellite and local wireless providers.
In other words I believe LMT is doing the right thing (as well as Bite and Triatel). "Time to market" might BTW be a key issue here.

Then again everything will depend on pricing. If Bite and LMT will target at Triatel and charge a 20-25 Ls fee per month I think this snake can be a beneficial one. Keep in mind that many customers probably never generate a mobile telephone bill that even comes close to 25 Ls / month and assuming they are prepared to pay a few Lats for internet access... well for sure LMT might get a few bucks less on speech, but on the other hand they might gain it back on more customers and a possible higher revenue per customer.
Many 3G (UMTS) providers initially charged their "1 Ls+/MB" which scared people away from using any data demanding service. True, this was mainly done to avoid the need for more network capacity and since the 3G providers were competing with GSM networks they competed about speech customers so coverage was the main goal. In 2004 data services were just a few percent of the total revenue for 3G providers. About 75% was speech (!), over 20% messaging (mainly SMS) and the rest was data traffic and some other sh*t! I am sure this worried some people at Nokia and Ericsson :-)
Now things have changed in terms of cash flow, network coverage and other terminology in a positive way, so maybe - just maybe – we will see a pricelist that is affordable for “Janis-just-over-Average” :-)

Then there are a few more things to say about Skype and other VoIP services in mobile networks: latency and “best effort services”.
Latency with VoIP is already an issue in fixed internet connections, but things really do get worse in mobile networks. I have been trying Skype over UMTS (not HSDPA though) were both users had a laptop with a PCMIA-card modem. For those of you who have been messing with CB on 27 Mc in their young years (today only used by truckers I guess), you might remember the so called "roger beeps" that were available or optional on some of the more advanced CB-units. They just avoided that you needed to say "roger" or "over" every time you handed over the mike to your speaking partner in the other end. Well, at one of the occasions when we were running Skype to Skype through UMTS we both wished we'd had such a roger beep generator since the delay due to latency was so long that the call became totally f*cked up. Things got even worse when one of us switched to a different 3G provider.
There are – thank you Lord - providers who claim that latency will not be an issue anymore with HSDPA, but so far we have to wait and see. Let’s also remember that Skype and similar services as Woize, Google talk, Voipbuster, Voipdiscount (once you have used them you’d call them Voipscam :-) ) until now have been so called best effort services. One Beta release follows the other and even though they charge you for their services these guys tend to have a we-do-what-we-can-or-want-and-if-it-doesn’t-fit-you-f*ck-off!-mentality :-))

About Melngailis I have nothing to say. Don’t know the guy. Just have my doubts that his fight with the half-mother is very wise since fights tend to take a tremendous amount of energy – usually one h*ll of a waste since there is not always a winner. So nothing about Melngailis then, but wasn’t the CEO of the half-mother, Anders Igel, one of those l**sers (in good company of other l**sers like Kurt Hellström and crooks like Lars Ramqvist) who declared somewhere in ’96-97 at a management conference (organized by these fellows’ former employer) that “internet was a hype that would be dead latest by the year 2005”. Well, whether this really happened or not, who will tell: rumors say that people found T-shirts from that conference with the statement above on it. All managers attending wore such a T-shirt during the event including Igel (some even afterwards) :-) . Yeah, I know and admit it; like the Swedes say “det är lätt att vara efterklok” (it is easy to be smart afterwards), or maybe even more suitable, as the wise Forrest Gump used to say: “My mom always says life is like a box of chocolate; you never know what you’re gonna get”.

Music this evening: The Snake – Shane MacGowan and the Popes, The Best – Tina Turner, The Wall – Pink Floyd.

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