Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Latvia's LMT digging the grave for tariffed mobile voice?

Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) has announced a flat rate, unlimited useage mobile internet plan for LVL 19 a month. The iBirojs Open (iOffice Open) plan was made public May 7, a day before Triatel, a wireless internet and CDMA mobile services provider was to hold a press conference on having finished what it says was 95 % coverage of Latvia.
That, however, is not the point with the LMT plan (well, maybe one of them) nor the fact that LVL 19 undercuts the LVL 23 (?) price for Triatel (the speeds of both networks match at "up to 3.6 Mbps, with LMT saying it will jump to 14.4 Mbps "soon".). Even though iBirojs is a package for use with laptops and only for mobile data transmission, it effectively opens the way for "free"voice using Skype or other IP telephony services anywhere on the LMT network. While the iBirojs SIM card apparently comes installed in a HuaWei dongle modem, it can, theoretically, be removed and put in an HSDPA capable business class phone. Then you are ready and probably able to make free Skype calls to any other mobile phone on the internet (whether via HSDPA or WiFi). Once the phone is on a 14.4 Mbps link (or even one that is far slower), the way is open even for video calls from a mobile over the internet. It is a matter of time before white-hat Latvian hackers turn the iBirojs into a flat-raid based platform for mobile voice and video.


Solnyshok (Солнышок) said...

I have been using Unlimited Vodafone Connect plan (from Bite) on my smartphone for a year already, and I can tell that the time of unlimited calling over mVOIP with flat data plans is not going to become huge this or next year. The fact that you have ability to make such calls (and I remember calling my relatives via fring sitting on the shore of the Black Sea (with Ukrainian Life unlimited data plan)) still does not make it popular. There is no one to call, except for few freaky mobile gadget lovers. Other people are rarely sitting home by PC with skype open. Well, sometime they do, but it is still easier to call your local friends on their GSM numbers.

Juris Kaža said...

Thanks Solnyshok,
A valuable comment.

The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegroove said...

There is no need for a high speed internet connection to use VoIP. The GSM codec uses up to 13 kbps. Which is well into capabilities of 2G data transfer.
It boils down to pricing and VoIP traffic exit to other networks.
In other words, to run skype on mobile phone , there is no need for 3G network, you just need better data rates.

Bleveland said...

It is indeed still way easier to dial your friends phone number directly from you cell phone than to go through Skype or any other VoIP application. I have used Fring and it did work really well, but anyway my Skype palls were complaining about the poor voice quality (it is not hifi due to use of low bandwidth codecs) and there it practically ended. Only when there will be (cell) phones available that do support VoIP / Skype, but that also do appear as "normal cellphones" for average Joe and Jane, yes then and not earlier we can expect a real lift off for mVoIP. As long as you need to start a special application and do all the settings your self it is doomed for as far as average users are concerned.
I expect mobile providers to be be very reluctant to fully integrated VoIP cell phones and also cell phone manufacturers have not addressed this market yet.

At home I have just installed a VoIP interface to my PC (that is on most of the time). It connects to my PC by USB and it has a port for a fixed line as well (but I do not use it). In the other end it is connected to the fixed line port of a Siemens C450 IP wireless IP phone and I use my Skype-in number to be reached on that one with help of this €20 VoIP interface (it installs as a sound card and you let Skype use that sound card).

The VoIP provider I have programmed in the Siemens C450 IP itself is Voipbuster that provides me with low rates to Latvia and free calls to many other destinations (the US as well). The only requirement for those free calls is to charge your prepaid account every third month with at least € 11,50, but since the calls to Latvia are not totally for free (€ 0.02 / min) and we do make quite a few calls I practically always phone for free to these "free" destinations.

Finally a few words about bandwidth and data rate (Mr Lovegroove). We usually speak in terms of bit rate and forget about a key parameter for VoIP: latency / ping.
On a 2G mobile network like a GSM (GPRS) network the data rate can indeed be sufficient to run VoIP. At least the down link rate is usually OK. The up link rate for GPRS is often not sufficient for VoIP (depends on your provider). But even when both up link and down link are satisfactory for VoIP the latency in a GSM/GPRS/Edge network will be the real party pooper. Speeds are usually average speeds over a long time, but turn around times due to latency can be as high as seconds and that is really not acceptable for VoIP.

Curious said...

I am making a research on Latvian telecom market. Telecom market is new to me in general and Latvian market is small so there is not much public research on it so I am building my awareness of the market from various sources including this blog.

I am thinking if Juris or someone from blog readers pool can help me out and clarify few things. Thank you for comments of any kind in advance.

1. Blog from September 19, 2007 - Bite doubles HSDPA speed in Latvia. All mobile operators offering mobile internet are boasting their high speeds – e.g. Bite arguing to bring its HSDPA mobile broadband up to 14.4 Mbits.

1.1.Are these declared speeds refer to each particular user or to all users in covered areas? In the latter case the actual speed will be lower and will relate to a number of connected users in covered area. For example, Lattelecom WiMax technically offers 10 Mbits connectivity, but they state 1 MBits average speed on their website and guarantee a minimum speed of 200 Kbits per user taking into account that those 10 Mbits will be shared amongst all users.

1.2 In the case of HSDPA speeds are also shared (as the case of WIMax) can we then argue that mobile broadband services by Bite or LMT are NOT direct competitors of fixed DSL broadband internet (because DSL connectivity is only mine) and could NOT be a trigger for current DSL users to switch to mobile internet?

2. Blog from May 07, 2008 - Latvia's LMT digging the grave for tariffed mobile voice?

2.1. Are there companies in Latvia at the moment that provide flat-rate broadband internet to our MOBILE PHONES? There are iOffice from LMT for laptop usage at flat 19 LVL, there is Vodafone from Bite at flat 19 LVL and there is Triatel’s quasy-unlimited 19 LVL broadband internet. These are all internet services for laptops and still if I need to call Skype I need to open my laptop first, which is not very convenient. Juris mentioned that I can remove SIM card from iOffice modem and put into my HSDPA-enabled Nokia N95, but it is still a way around and not an actual product.

2.2. If we do not have this flat-rate mobile internet services for mobile voice in Latvia, when can we expect them to come here? E.g. I have bumped into the news the other day that Nokia on April 1st launched its N810 Internet Tablet WiMAX Edition phone in North American market. Taken into account that there are players in Latvia like Telecentrs or maybe Lattelecom in future rolling out its mobile WiMax network, can we expect flat-rate mobile broadband to our mobile phones soon in Latvia?