Friday, February 21, 2014

Deutsche Telekom fleshes its Smart City credentials

ENGLAND, UK: Deutsche Telekom has announced a series of smart city initiatives ahead of the start of Mobile World Congress.

Emeka Obiodu, principal analyst at Ovum comments: “The standout initiative is its pilot project to provide a parking guide system for motorists in the Italian city of Pisa. Deutsche Telekom will integrate a number of parking spaces within a sensor-based parking management system in Piazza Carrara in the city center.

"The co-operation also includes a big data service, which analyzes historical traffic data to optimize the flow of traffic. Similarly, Deutsche Telekom will present the Smart Stadium solution, a connected and integrated concept for large events. The solution aims to create a more intense fan experience and simplify operational processes for major events.

“These announcements show the intensity of developments in the smart city ecosystem and we expect many more solutions to be on show in Barcelona. In our report, “Smart City Case Study: Santander, Spain”, Ovum drew attention to the plurality of available business models, especially with either the city council itself, or a service provider (such as a telco) as the prime customer for a "smart city as a service" solution.

“Deutsche Telekom clearly sees its role as the ‘service provider’ who is helping to nurture the smart city ecosystem. Yet, Ovum believes that there is scope for more, complex and nuanced, business models, especially in those environments where local governments have neither the budget nor the degree of centralized authority to be the ringmaster in a smart city implementation.”

Orange liberates Libon
Orange has announced the next phase in the evolution of Libon, the OTT communications service developed by Orange VallĂ©e that  offers VoIP, SMS and voicemail.

Eden Zoller, principal analyst, comments: “Orange has leveraged its patented OpenChat technology to introduce a new instant messaging (IM) feature to Libon that allows users to IM all their contacts including those with rival messaging services.  All that is required to support a Libon chat session is for contacts to have a mobile phone, tablet or PC with an HTML5 browser.

"Libon users send contacts a chat link that the contact opens to commence an IM session. The chat link is locked to the Libon user’s device. The new version of Libon is available now for iOS devices, with an Android version due for release by the end of March. Orange says the new IM feature signals that the next phase of Libon’s development is all about messaging, and going forward it expects to add video capabilities to the mix. 

"Libon has been in development since 2011, with the first iteration (2012) focused on voicemail while the major innovation in 2013 was on VoIP in the shape of Libon-to-Libon calling, and Libon-out. The introduction of messaging will aim to make the service stickier with the consumer, will complete the communication service and will also help it to grow organically across a large potential subscriber base. Even though Libon’s service offers interoperability across social messaging players and provides a value added VoIP proposition to their users, gaining market share will still remain a challenge in a market inundated with social messaging players with constantly evolving suite of services.

“Libon is available in over 100 countries for iOS and Android devices and its user base is growing , although it is tiny compared to OTT rival WhatsApp that has around 430 million users worldwide. OTT social messaging services are experiencing rapid growth – Ovum’s forecasts show that during 2013 there were a total of 1.2 billion OTT social messaging subscribers generating a total of  27.4 trillion messages. But this growth in OTT social messaging is at the expense of mobile operator offered SMS messaging.

"Ovum estimates that mobile operators have lost $32.5 billion from SMS revenue in 2013. Orange argues that the benefits Libon brings to operators can off-set the cannibalisation impact it might have on network based communication services. Libon will also aim to grow revenue through mobile broadband access subscriptions and grow its presence in the OTT communications space. 

"Orange evidences  the benefits Libon can bring by  pointing  to Sosh, its low cost fixed and mobile brand that includes an international calling plan that incorporates Libon. Orange says Libon has increased Sosh’s in-bound international call traffic by 21 percent, and increased Average Use Per User (AUPU) by 250 minutes, while use of competing services all declined (from less 10 percent for Skype to less 79 percent for Viber) .

“Going forward, Orange is aiming to license Libon to other operators outside of the Orange group that do not have the resources of time to develop their own OTT communications service. Orange says it will be announcing operator partnerships of this kind during 2014. Orange has also announced that it is positioning Libon as the group’s consumer application for all Joyn enabled services across the Orange footprint.
"Orange plans to launch Joyn across its operations and is currently running Joyn trials in Luxembourg, Poland, Romania and Slovakia with more countries to follow in 2014. Libon will replace the ‘Joyn by Orange’ applications available in France and in Spain today. This step allows Orange to continue with their commitments to the RCS platform as well as grow their foot print in the OTT communications space.”

NFC based cloud payments a further boost by card scheme support for HCE
Visa and MasterCard have formally thrown their weight behind Hosted Card Emulation (HCE), a technology for hosting m-payment and digital wallet capabilities in the cloud rather than on the Secure Element (SE) in a device, an approach that is highly disruptive to the SIM centric NFC model favoured by operators.

Eden Zoller, principal analyst at Ovum comments: “MasterCard has announced that it will publish a specification for HCE NFC payments, while separately (but on the same day -19/02) Visa said it will incorporate support for HCE payments into the Visa Ready program.

“The build up to Mobile World Congress is also seeing technology providers announce their support for HCE based cloud payments, including a solution developed by m-commerce platform provider Proxama and security specialist Cryptomathic. We expect to see further HCE related announcements at main event next week.

“The backing of Visa and MasterCard is a significant endorsement for HCE that without the support of the major card schemes would not be able to flourish.  The technology received another major boost last November when it Google revealed that HCE had been baked into the latest version of the Android OS (Android 4.4, or KitKat). This is highly significant for the future of cloud based digital payment implementations enabled by HCE, as Android based devices now dominate smartphone shipments. 

"Both Visa and MasterCard have readily acknowledged that support integration of HCE into Android was a key motivation in their decision to embrace the technology.  However, even the rise of HCE does not necessarily mean that the future of NFC is guaranteed, as there are wider issues for NFC related to consumer and merchant acceptance. For more details please see the Ovum report Mobile Proximity Payments and the Prospects for NFC.

“The prospect of a mobile proximity landscape dominated by cloud based deployments is not a scenario that operators relish. Mobile operators are driving NFC implementations based on the SE embedded in SIM cards, because this gives them maximum control over service provisioning, the m-commerce business model and revenue flows. The model and terms imposed by operators can be restrictive for third parties, notably the SIM rental model adopted by some operators.

"Under the SIM rental model third parties gain access to operator NFC SIMs in return for a “rental fee”, but have limited control over service provisioning, the user experience or  the customer relationship. The lack of flexibility with models of this kind do not sit well with other m-commerce stakeholders such as banks, application developers, merchants and OTT players, which all want control over their own service destiny. It is a key reason why an increasing number of merchants are shunning operator controlled wallets and are seeking m-commerce solutions that bypass operators.

“This is where HCE come into play. HCE effectively severs the dependency of NFC payments on an SE embedded in an NFC device or SIM card, in preference for a virtual SE on remote servers in the cloud. This implementation supports a more open model for NFC deployments and makes service provisioning much easier for banks, issuers, developers and other third parties. This has the potential to open up the NFC market up to more innovation and competition, but at the expense of mobile operators.”