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Sunday, April 17, 2005

ICE: The Telecom / Technology story!

Communication and Technology revolution has flummoxed many in the so-called "real" world. On one side, more people are comfortable in downloading ring-tones and watching movie trailers. On the other, there are others who are still wondering about what happened to the future when the refrigerator would talk to the online grocer and order groceries. In the business world the top management is scared that their ERP solution will become obsolete even as they roll it out. But will it actually happen is a question to which there is yet no answer.

I am as confused as everyone else. Yet, in the following these are a series of articles detailing some aspects of these issues that may provide an answer. I have read some literature on these issues from various sources and Telecosm by Gilder is something that I would like to recommend. Yet the views expressed in the following articles are my own and may be wrong. I invite you to please provide me valuable feedback and opinions on these.

The Issues with Communications Revolution
We all expected that communication revolution that started with the Internet to invade every aspect of our professional and personal life would hit us soon. We all waited but it hasn’t come yet. There are reasons that are apparent in the hindsight. Some of the prominent ones were:
1) Lack of Cheap bandwidth
2) Lack of last-mile access Infrastructure
3) Lack of Ideas.

Bandwidth Problem
The applications thought possible, during the peak of the 2001 tech bubble were conventional applications. Like “movies-on-demand”, a lot of these applications required bandwidth that is simply not available. Some applications like Internet based real-time ERP faltered because bandwidth across international borders was absent. This connectivity was essential as the businesses became more and more globalized.

But as of now, a lot of band has come up. There is a lot of fiber very close to where you are sitting and reading this article now. A significant gain has also been because of the price discovery of the fiber bandwidth by the service providers. Service providers now see fiber-optic cables as information pipes and are focusing on capacity utilization. This seems to be common sense wisdom and they were focusing on these earlier. But there is a key difference. I will highlight it as we come to it.

Last Mile Access Infrastructure
Last mile access was unavailable. By this I do not mean that we had no solution to last mile connectivity, but that it was expensive.
Often the accessing equipment could be used for little else. The desire was never urged on by a need. This is exactly what mobile-phone revolution has done. The coming of age of 3-G mobiles has given the mobile users different ways and means to be connected. The revolution has changed the lifestyle of people making them comfortable carrying a device with them 24X7.
Only two other devices in human history have created such a powerful change, first being wristwatches and second being the Walkman. Yet the key aspect of the mobile revolution is that now people carry with them in the form of a mobile phone, a processor, memory and a modem. And they carry it 24X7.
This has subsidized (mentally) the cost of getting the last-mile-access device with you.

Lack of Ideas
The foremost problem was the lack of ideas. Of course business has a way of weeding out the bad ideas sooner or later. But there are a lot of things that are starkly visible. Like for example, what Gilder says in Telecosm, we have voice networks (Telephones) carrying data (Fax) and we also have data networks (Internet) carrying voice (Internet Telephony).
Similarly we have different business models running on same “bandwidth”. Like we pay per minute for calls on mobile phones, but FM radio on the same device is free. Some of the data (voicemail) is stored on remote server, some on device (SMS, voicemail). Some data (PIM data) that ideally should be on a remote server is replicated on different devices; where as some data that should ideally be on the device we need to download (MP3, Songs).

Problems are solved…
But all these problems are getting sorted out. And a new reality we all were anticipating is emerging. But it is not something that we envisaged. The new reality is mix of partly things that we anticipated and partly of something totally different. So what is the new reality?
In the next article we will examine the future gadgets that can exploit these developments. We will also examine which gadgets can succeed and what infrastructure can profitably come up to serve the new information applications that will thrive in the new world.
Please let me know what you think on this. Your feedback is critical and will enlighten me. And do check back again to read about the new devices and the future of ICE.

Monday, April 11, 2005

India China Agreements

India and China are signing various memoranda of understanding today. I am interpreting these in the light of the few things I have heard and know about India and China. These things make me think really hard about the implications of the interest both countries have shown in coming together. If I can read correctly this is a major "joining of forces" of India and China.

Here are somethings that, if they pan out well for both the countries, should make the world sit up and take notice. Are the current development being undertaken keeping in mind these things or are they simply a matter of chance. That question has a great bearing on the outcome of this "joining of forces". In the case of former there is a very high chance that things will hot up in Asia in the coming decades. In the case of latter, well its a far stretch.

Please let me know your views.

  1. Roughly 50% of India's GDP comes from the services sector, whereas roughly 50% of China's comes from manufacturing.
  2. India has a large english speaking (fluently) population. China is facing that challange.
  3. Indian development is spear-headed by private players, givernment is acting as a facilitator (or a hindrance) whereas Chinese development is more government sponsored and private players enjoy a comparatively marginal role.
  4. Currently China has got more people in the working age-group than India, however India will have more people in the working age-group than China over the next 30 years.
  5. If you look at Indian manufacturing its geared towards more of short-run multiple variety products. China on the other hand is very large runs and few variety products.
  6. China has well established infrastructure whereas India is facing that challange.
  7. Indian Banking (Development Funding) System is the best in the world whereas China is sorely lacking in that department.
  8. China has a structured sports program compared to a nearly non-existent one in India.
  9. All said and done China has better regulation and possibly implementation than India which lacks in both adequate "appropriate" regulation (with abundance of "inappropriate" regulation) and a lack of enforcement (and enthusiastic enforcement of "inappropriate" ones)
  10. India has the potential to be the kitchen and office of the world. China has the potential or almost is the factory of the world.


  1. India and China each have nearly a billion people.
  2. Both have ambitious space programs, military programs, missile programs.
  3. Both have strong traditions that have a similar psyche.
  4. Tea! (May be China does not have "cutting" yet!)
  5. Both have a similar inclination towards saving v/s spending.
  6. Strong Family systems are seen in both cultures.
  7. Corruption is a rampant problem in both the countries.
  8. Strong tradition has given a strong art, crafts and culture possibilities. Chinese have marketed those very well but yoga and aurveda could well change the face of art and culture like what tai chi and feng sui have done for China.


  1. Religion and the sheer multiplicity and co-existance of many religions and beliefs. (Dis-regarding Modi's and other politically motivated rioteers)
  2. Movies and by far the greatest movie producing machinery ever put in motion (again disregarding some of the overused furniture like "couch" and "beds" and also "make-up vans")
  3. Cricket or its existance as an industry that drives the global cricket economy (Forget the lack of vision seen in under-representation at the ICC, or the "arranged" Indo-Pak affairs that go around)
  4. Tourism and abundance of the "tourist potential" places.
  5. The variety of Cuisines of India, I am not sure if China (or the world) have as much variety.


  • Language (Its difficult for each other to grasp the other language however India could have an advantage in swiftness to learn new language whether or not we exploit it is other matter) Bring a udipi guy (or a Punjabi or a Gujrati or anyone else for that matter) into remote chinese village and soon you will know how soon Indians can learn any language in the world.