How long should we wait for a standard to emerge and what is the cost of doing so?

waiting for a standard.JPG

Recently, I have been thinking that We need to innovate standards but not standardize innovation

Over the last few weeks, I have been busy both with the Web and the Telecoms side – with publishing, conferences etc; and often you see the same issue of standardization reform across different domains.

In a nutshell, I am saying that it’s easy to standardise simple communications protocols(and that’s where standards efforts should be focussed) but it is very hard to standardise more complex elements globally within a decent timeframe.

Here are two examples: The question is – How long should we wait for a standard to emerge and what is the cost of doing so?


HTML5 is the next major revision of HTML and it covers important areas like offline browsing. Work on HTML5 started in 2003 and it was expected to be completed in 2012 (which is bad enough) but now it is expected to be completed in 2022(19 years!)

Some more comments HERE and HERE

and also some strong language in this last link HERE.. but still worth a read including it’s 105 comments!

VOLGA(not the river!)

This second example comes from the domain of mobile telecoms. As the world of mobility comes to an all IP world through LTE , we realise that the handling of phone calls over IP (especially in the mobile domain) is non trivial. Normally, call handling is session based. With IP, that’s not easily achieved(or at least needs more management in the mobile domain). Martin Sauter explains this issue in detail in his blog

There is a (non) standardised solution called VOLGA (Voice over LTE via Generic Access) which was a topic of discussion at the LTE world summit in Berlin last week where I was speaking.

However, here, the standardization body (3gpp ) seems to be taking a short sighted view (in my opinion). A problem exists for voice in an all IP world. Everyone acknowledges that. The solution is cs-fallback (clunky) (i.e. going to circuit switched for voice and using a packet switched network for data) or fully IMS IMS (is distant). VOLGA is a more pragmatic solution – but 3gpp explicitly commented that don’t endorse VOLGA!

And what’s the standardised solution?

ALL Telecom Operators should go to IMS(i.e. support IP) AND that IMS must seamlessly interconnect AND furthur more, devices supporting IMS must exist. ONLY THEN can a solution be created for voice over IP. Note that voice on mobile devices is certainly a bearer aware application – so no matter how you look at it we need a proper network layer IP solution for voice

So, the options are between a pragmatic immediate solution(VOLGA) to a distant standardized solution

In a recession, we have to be pragmatic – waiting for a standard to emerge cannot be indefinate.

There are no easy answers to these questions, but certainly a discussion is necessary ..

Image source:

My views of the LTE world summit – Berlin: Beyond 3G in an all IP, femtocellls, HSDPA, home gateways and next generation mobile services

LTE world summit.jpg

Here are my impressions of the LTE world summit where I was an analyst – speaker.

This may be a longish blog on account of the significance of LTE (i.e. beyond 3G) and to the Operator momentum for LTE.

Also, I am doing some interesting work in this space and am happy to speak to vendors, operators device manufacturers etc about the topics and trends discussed. I am specifically interested in the innovation aspects of LTE and next generation services within a wider ecosystem i.e. covering telecoms and the web. So please email me at ajit.jaokar at with any comments. Also, I am not adding too many links here. The Informa LTE world summit conference has the links, profiles etc in detail – so you can pick it up from there

Overall impressions

The LTE summit was one of the best conferences I attended this year and there was lots to learn. Many publications have covered the key announcements so I won’t add to them. Femtocells and home gateways were also covered in detail – so Herr Sauter will be pleased So, I will focus my own views on this event and LTE in general from a more holistic perspective.

The conference had a feeling of Deja-vu from the mindset of the Operators. Voice and SMS are simple, global and are Operator cash cows. Apart from Voice and SMS, it has not been easy to create globally interconnected systems especially as complexity increases (MMS) and the ecosystem provides options (The Web)

We saw this with 3G and with IMS. Operators deploy a network. They are most comfortable with the network elements. They struggle to deploy services OR the services they deploy are closely coupled with the network. Such services ignore interconnectivity, the Web etc and are generally not successful.

Then one Operator breaks the traditional way of thinking (3 with HSDPA) and the whole industry follows.

Hence, I think there are two sides to LTE:

a) The basics which everyone is talking of and will implement (voice, home gateways) but also

b) The innovative / differentiating strategies which some Operators will implement and others will follow.

The innovative/differentiating strategies are of interest to me i.e. I am interested in studying who takes a more innovation oriented strategy

So, with that in mind – here are the my impressions of the LTE summit conference

1) LTE is increasingly seen as the only game in town beyond 3g and into an all IP world. So there was no talk of wimax integration etc. The focus was more practical and implementation based and less abstract.

2) Both the lack of WIMAX (I.e. options) and the recession have led to a more pragmatic view point as regards to implementations

3) Having said that, different operators are pursuing different strategies towards LTE – and overall the direction is clear but the operator timescales may be staggered.

4) Voice. – VOLGA – was a discussion point. Here, standardization (3gpp) seems to be taking a myopic view (in my opinion). A problem exists for voice in an all IP world. The solution is cs-fallback (clunky) or all IMS(distant). Volga is a more pragmatic solution – but 3gpp explicitly commented that don’t endorse volga!

And what is the solution? Wait for all operators to have IMS.

Note that voice on mobile devices is certainly a bearer aware application – so no matter how you look at it we need a proper network

layer IP solution for voice

5) I found that the vendors(especially Alcatel lucent and Motorola) are driving innovation. Vendors have always driven (some may say hyped!) innovation – difference here being – some early adopter operators are actually implementing these solutions. And the ecosystem is also complete. With HSDPA, there is a precedence of making money on data. Overall this is a good development and it’s nice to see.

6) In contrast, most operators are taking the more familiar position i.e. the reduction of cost per bit – agreement. This is also good but predictable. So many operators had the same slide (revenue is dropping – costs are increasing!) that Informa analyst Thomas Wehmeier presenting on the last day – included it almost as a joke so as not to be left out!

7) The operators define the ecosystem very narrowly and in their minds exclude the Web, Google, Microsoft. Skype etc. I asked this question to a speaker. In my view, this is a big mistake! Dave Marutiak(Microsoft) , Ed candy(3), Paul Steinberg(Motorola) and Doug Wolff (Alcatel Lucent) were only a handful of players that bucked the trend and talked of more interesting services

8) My overall impression is: Operators follow a herd mentality and once one demonstrates a revenue model – the others follow. We saw that with 3(HSDPA). I think as the ecosystem gets mature and there is a precedence of paying for data and we are going to see more operators(like 3) break ranks and become successful with new services.

9) ‘Chasing the traffic hotspots‘ seemed to be a key theme as well i.e. use LTE at cell hotspots to gain initial leverage especially in high density urban areas

10) Emerging markets – Chile, Kuwait(zain) and Brazil were interesting. There is definitely a case for LTE in these markets based on the presentations.

11) Do operators want to innovate? On one hand – no. Most thinking goes on protecting cash cow and reducing costs. This leaves them vulnerable to new players who may completely bypass them. On the other hand there are many instances of Operators (both in advanced and emerging markets). I also think that the recession and the LTE voice quagmire will mean that operators will start to think of differentiation. I am somewhat disappointed with standards bodies like 3gpp and I think that bodies like OMTP, NGMN forum etc are taking a more pragmatic step forward

12) Ericsson LTE demo – We(analysts and invited experts) had a demo from Ericsson for LTE. Interesting but I need to know more – especially the LTE component i.e. what’s new in comparison to existing (IMS)

13) Met some great friends Dean Bubley , Zahid Ghadialy

and Moray Rumney(Agilent). All clued on folk.

14) It’s interesting that of a group of about 12 analysts invited to discuss LTE and by Ericsson to see LTE – 4g demo; three were forumoxford members(Sean Zahid and me) fourth Moray Rumney played a prominent part in the conference. I co-chair forumoxford -so this is good to know!

Finally, I summarise the most interesting LTE services as follows

- Advanced services(ex ngconnect)

- HSDPA like services

- Deep integration services: Deep integration between device, service and network) and the bursty traffic nature and also appstores

- Home gateways – femtocells etc to extend to home and management of home devices

- Non phone devices

- Cloud services – (Google – Android, MSFT Cloud etc)

- MVNOs and smaller Operators like METRO PCS

- Operators who will go for voice only in an LTE world including VOLGA

- Rural deployment of LTE

Interesting people/speakers

So, that’s it. The following speakers were interesting and will be very likely topics of separate blogs

Marc Fossier, Group CTO, France Telecom Group, France

Klaus-Jurgen Krath, EVP Radio Networks Engineering & Quality , T-Mobile International,

Mauricio Cascao, CTO, Innovation Technology , TIM Brasil, Brazil

Ulf Ewaldsson, Vice President and Head of Product Area Radio, Ericsson

Alex Sinclair, CTO GSMA

Ed Candy, CTO, 3 UK

Mauricio Cascao, CTO,Innovation Technology, TIM Brasil, Brazil

Alan Hadden,, President,GSA, UK

Dave Marutiak, MCB Business Development,Microsoft, USA

Enrico Salvatori, SVP and GM, Qualcomm Europe

Jörgen Lantto, Vice President Mobile Platforms and CTO of ST-Ericsson

Sami Jokinen, Nokia Devices R&D,

Michael Lemke, Huawei Technologies, Germany

Adrian Scrase, Vice President International Partnership Projects, 3GPP, France

Hans Erik Karsten, VP Network Technologies – Telenor R&I , Telenor, Norway

Julius Robson, Chairman, Proof of Concept Group,, LSTI and Nortel, France

Paul Steinberg,Fellow and Chief Architect – Telecommunications Wireless Infrastructure, Motorola

Doug Wolff, Vice President End-to-End LTE Product Management,

Moray Rumney, Lead Technologist, Agilent, UK

Dr Shahram G Niri,, Director of Global LTE/SAE Strategy & Solution, NEC Europe

Johan Wickman,,SVP Mobility R&D, TeliaSonera, Sweden

Rodrigo Cárdenas, Deputy Director of Technological Evolution,Entel PCS, Chile

Rick Keith, Director of Global Strategy – Broadband Access Solutions, Motorola

Javier Sanchez, Strategy & CEO Support Director, Zain, Kuwait

Prof Simon Saunders, Chairman,, FemtoForum, UK

Thomas Wehmeier Informa

And aricnet (exhibitor)

Many thanks to Informa/Sabah Hussain for inviting me to this event

All comments welcome.

If you want to be included in my future LTE related research, please contact me at ajit.jaokar at

Carnival of the mobilists No 174 at the Mobile Broadband Blog ..

Posting later due to travels at LTE world summit(more on that soon). Carnival of the mobilists no 174 at Mobile Broadband Blog

LTE world summit – an excellent conference ..

I am in Berlin most of this week attending the LTE world summit in Berlin. From first impressions – this is an excellent conference. In a time of recession, attendance is great. Content and discussions are high quality. Lots of Operator participation. Many interesting analyst viewpoints. And two more days to go.

I have supported many conferences through my blog since this is a time of recession and many are struggling. But its so good to see a conference do well in this climate

More to come over next two days

The myth of mobile design


I must admit that I have not got the exact title for this blog .. I even thought of calling it Intelligent design for mobile devices but gave up on that idea ;)

Anyway ..

I hope I can covey what I want to say accurately

Most discussions on ‘Mobile design’ start with the aesthetics and the user interface. They focus on the specifics like buttons, icons, screen size, camera etc. These factors are important but in my view commoditised and any new features in this realm are likely to be quickly copied. The device itself also grows more complex and hence also the design

However, if you take a big picture view – then you would come to these features only AFTER considerations similar to below

What I am trying to say is:

a) Mobile design is more about how it works than just about how it looks. This principle comes from Steve Jobs(Inside 5teve’s brain leander kahney)

b) If we accept the above premise, then we need a different starting point for designing mobile devices

c) Depending on the starting point – it may never be possible to accurately ‘design’ the device in advance – because the ratio of predictable use cases vs. unpredictable and uncontrolled use cases are increasing as I discuss below.

Note that the operative word is ‘design in advance” – and hence what I call as the myth of mobile design. So the design of a mobile device may be a ‘platform’ and the goal should be to allow it to evolve

Starting with three types of mobile devices based on how they work

I see three types of devices based on how they work:

a). The consumer electronics device(ex Sony walkman) which cannot be modified by the user at all

In this case, all use cases are predictable

b). The consumption device with an API which can extend the functionality. The device has an API (application programming interface) but the device itself does not (mainly) create and share content. Ex the PC and to a certain extent – the iPhone. Here, the number of unpredicted use cases increase but complexity is managed

c) The creation and communication device – this type of device is intended to primarily create and share content. Here, developers can extend the device and the users themselves can create and share content. This scenario has some predictable use cases but will have many more unpredictable use cases

Knowing this classification, then the next step would be

a) To decide the customer segment the device serves

b) To decide a series of processes that the user undertakes

c) And most importantly, to make a conscious decision about how many use cases are predictable and controllable and how many are not controllable and therefore not predictable. This needs deep technical knowledge of the whole ecosystem and not just the UI. Specifically, it needs an understanding of the device stack, the integration within the stack, the network , the business models and the ‘friction’ within the ecosystem for the user which creates unpredictability for the user experience

This approach forces us to think away for buttons and widgets and specific technology like location based services in isolation – and to work with the user(who has a choice)

The designer can ‘design’ most accurately in case (a). In case (b) the designer can set out a design but the APIs can extend it to a certain extent in a controlled manner but note that the customer’s experience is still controlled because the device is primarily designed to consume content

Case (c) is different because – two things change – developers can add functionality and users can create and share content. So the designers goal in this case is to still work with use cases but the ratio of predicted use cases vs. unpredicted(and uncontrolled use cases) is relatively lower

Some examples of the above ideas

Let’s look at some examples:

a) the iphone is a case of excellent design – but leaning to consumer electronics rather than creation and sharing. Ex – initially the iphone did not support mms. So iphone is case (b)

b) Nokia on the other hand genuinely tries to enable the content creation and sharing process. So case (c). But increasingly such a device is hard to ‘design’ in advance

c) Android is a brilliant case of integrating the software stack – hence could lead to better design in general

d) facebook applications like ‘throwing sheep’ are unpredictable use cases. They are adopted by users but the proliferation of applications on facebook make the service lean towards case (c) i.e. its primary function is communication

e) The predicament of ignoring integrated design comes from that (in)famous statement I once heard – ‘yes 80 percent of out customers have sent an MMS message – but how many have sent two!’ To design the process of sending and receiving mms messages – you must be able to manage many aspects(which are mostly not in your control) – price plans, device capabilities etc etc

f) LTE will create a whole new group of non phone devices – with different design paradigms

g) I am a big fan of the blackberry which is a well designed device for a specific purpose. In fact, a lot of this blog was written on the blackberry – drinking pints of apple juice :) having

said that -

The blackberry device I use is wifi enabled. When I am browsing at home, I want to us wifi. However, I don’t know if the device will choose the wifi connection(which is free) or the cellular(very expensive for browsing). So I disconnect the cellular connection.

Which is a behaviour pattern that designers will never know. In other words, applications are not bearer aware, there is no clear way to know which bearer will be chosen(especially since there are cost implications) and the choice is not communicated to the user.

h) Like many people who start from a Unix background, I started working on the vi editor . If you have never known what it is – vi takes design to new levels of minimalism. When you start it – a cursor blinks at you. You think its loading or something .. And after a few mins – you realise that ‘this is it’!

You then press a few keys(F1 for help!) And you realise that they don’t work either. Then you make a decision to either abandon it or to explore it. If you stick with it – you find that it is an incredibly powerful editor designed for relatively advanced users and it is designed to evolve through its powerful set of features like macros

i) The LG versa is also a device designed for a unique set of features including a 3D user interface and haptic feedback. So, it takes a ‘maximalist approach’ i.e. provide the best of everything and a richest possible experience to the user – also a valid philosophy which starts with consumer electronics but blends in other elements as well

k) Tomi Ahonen discusses an example of an SMS oriented phone – also a good example of a communication oriented device

l) The issue is complex since the designer does not REALLY know what software the device is running. For example – the user’s entire mobile experience could be based on Opera Mini which they downloaded. Capability exchange software would help here(ex use of XMPP for Android)

k) RIM Co-CEO calls the new reality for Blackberry storm

To conclude

So, to conclude – to me there is a myth of mobile design since many of the factors which constitute a truly excellent design are currently not in the control of the designer. This can be mitigated somewhat by making an upfront choice about the type of device, minimizing and by choosing a niche customer segment.

The minimalist alternative is also valid. But whichever way we look at it, design has to extend far beyond the existing emphasis on UI and has to consider deep integration especially going forward when devices will be more complex with LTE and beyond and services will be deeply integrated into devices

When we look at Mobile design – we often work with one or two extremes: Either that it’s all about the UI or that the ‘designer’ can control/influence the user in most cases.

The first is a common fallacy. The second is a myth.

At the moment – the designer has limited influence on many factors – as I list above. Hence a deeper understanding (and indeed evolution) of mobile applications is needed – ex Capability exchange, Bearer aware apps etc etc.

So, we will need to take the idea of Mobile design to higher standards than we see now

As usual, comments welcome

IMS, LTE and evolution of networks

IMS strategies: Synopsis from IMS 2.0 world forum

Mobile web 20: Re-engineering the digital ecosystem with converged digital processes in a Post IMS/Quad play world

IMS strategies: Synopsis from IMS 2.0 world forum

A case for phone book 2.0? Part Two : FMC (Fixed to mobile convergence) cannot live by ‘cost savings’ alone!

A case for phone book 2.0? Part One : FMC (Fixed to mobile convergence) cannot live by ‘cost savings’ alone!

The iPhone is extraordinary not because of it’s UI but because it’s the tail wagging the dog ..

Mobile Web 2.0, Mobile data, Mobile Ajax, Mobile Widgets

The four holy cows of the Mobile Data industry

Of Web 2.0, Mobile Web 2.0 , Blue chairs, Blind men and Elephants

What is the relationship between Mobile Ajax and Mobile Widgets?

Mobile Social software and (multiple) community affiliations?

Mobile Youth is a fundamentally flawed strategy!

The Long tail and Mobile Web 2.0 applications

iPhone: A catalyst for Mobile Ajax

Mobile web 2.0: AJAX for mobile devices – why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development – Part two

Mobile web 2.0: AJAX for mobile devices – why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development


Blog tag: About me ..

Society, technology and social transformation

Safaricom: The power of mobile phones to foster social transformation in Africa ..

siigh .. when will our industry learn?

The mobile Internet will do more for Africa than live 8!

The Mobile Web Phone: A gedankenexperiment ..

Mobile Ajax – more than a pretty face

Pipes are so Mobile Web 1.0 … because in a user generated content world, there is no ‘un pipe’

Blogging: Of Tom and Jerry and craving the friction of a human being ..

Salt, Pepper and Social networking?

Naked SIP is more likely to succeed than IMS ..

Of Sith lords and the dark side of IMS

The mobile phone network is the computer

The three characteristics of mobile web 2.0

A web 2.0 FAQ

Tim O’ Reilly’s seven principles of web 2.0 make a lot more sense if you change the order

The red cockatoo ..

web 2.0, blind men and the elephant ..

Open systems, Information technology and blossoming (or not) of Civilizations.

What to do if your pagerank suddenly drops to zero?

I hope someone will find this useful

As a blog, the OpenGardens blog has been running since May 2005 and the blog is a pragmatic and respected voice in the Open debate – having been rated highly in many surveys, ratings etc

Historically, we have had a page rank ranging from 5 to 7

Then, in early April 2009, the page rank dropped to zero.

At first, I thought it was a Google change – so I ignored it thinking it will come back.

It persisted for about 20 days ..

Oddly enough, the main site futuretext had a high page rank. Only the blog(which is a subdomain of the main site) lost it’s page rank

This is very odd since majority of the traffic goes to the blog

What did I do?

I contacted Google through Google web master tools and it page rank was fixed in a matter of hours

I am pleased about this and a month has passed with no other problems

I thought this may be useful for someone else if you encountered the same

Are you at LTE summit in Berlin next week?

LTE world summit.jpg

The LTE summit in Berlin is one of the most important conferences I am attending/speaking this year and I will be there for all the days

Who else is there? I know Dean Bubley, Moray Rumney, Martin Sauter, Zahid Ghadialy – all clued on folk in this space and good friends are there

Anyone else?

Happy to catch up

email me at ajit.jaokar at if you are attending

kind rgds


Pineapple juice ..

A pint of apple juice.jpg

Travelling globally and living in airport lounges and hotels has it’s share of humour :)

I was in Portugal this week .. and I asked for a pineapple juice ..

The lady looked at me a bit perplexed but went on to get the drink ..

When it turned up .. it looked very different from what I expected ..

‘What’s this’ I asked her?

It’s a ‘pint of apple juice’ as you requested .. she says ..

What are your travel stories? :)