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US Silicon Valley headquartered Openwave Systems is a global telecom software company specializing in solutions in the areas of mediation and messaging that enable operators to monetize the growing demand for mobile data while optimizing their use of network resources. The company was formed in August 2000 when wireless Internet pioneer merged with messaging software provider… a fallout of the industry-wide convergence of broadband and mobile communications as traditional telecommunications intersected with the Internet. Openwave collaborates worldwide with Alcatel Lucent, IBM -- and Indian player, Tech Mahindra -- to bring our innovative mediation and messaging technologies to emerging markets.  OpenWave was responsible for the 1st Mobile Browsing deployment in the world (AT&T); the 1st WAP 1 deployment in the world (TeliaSonera) – and 1st fully integrated voice and video call answering system in the world.

IndiaTechOnline spoke to Christian Goswami, Director of Strategic Marketing, Openwave Systems and a 20-year veteran of the telecom industry, on some of the challenges facing the telecom industry in rapidly developing markets like India – and how tools like ecosystem monetization, context-aware and predictive messaging solutions and could provide the key to viability in markets which have to contend with large customer bases but very small average revenue per user.

Q: A distinction is being made in many fast growing markets between applications delivered directly to the mobile phone and those available within a browser environment. Do Openwave’s recent ecosystem monetization solutions like Amplicity, recognize this difference – or do you see the smartphone as a seamless platform for the delivery of tools and services by the best means?

A: With Amplicity, we leverage on HTML5 technology which allows application that can reside in the cloud to be executed within mobile browsers and this has many advantages for application developers, telcom providers and end-users. The first being that such apps can be used cross platform on any HTML5 enabled device. This means end-users are able to switch between phones with different OS’s, without losing the app they had previously purchased.
The second advantage is that it breaks away from traditional app store models, allowing developers to have multiple income streams. HTML5 allows developers to access cross-platform opportunities to develop apps that are more responsive, make use of the touch-sensitive canvas, and reside within the browsing session (i.e. no need to leave the browser to use the app).
Lastly, for telco providers, Amplicity allows them to access the mobile application ecosystem since they can determine where apps are offered, to whom, at which times, and from what app store.
However, we are not saying that browser-based apps (or web apps) will render on-device apps obsolete. Some apps (e.g. the hi-graphics, high CPU game) will work better when installed on a phone, but many others (e.g. based on information or facilities stored in the cloud such as translation or web look up or involving messaging or music streaming) actually work a lot better in the browser. On Feb 15, the Wall Street Journal discussed such “cloud apps” stating that they will be many times more numerous than on device apps. Similarly Sir Martin Sorrell (CEO of WPP) stated at Mobile World Congress this year that the head of the app curve will be facilitated by device apps, but the long tail has to be delivered using web-based apps.

Q. Content awareness is a central ‘mantra’ at Openwave. Is it possible to achieve such mediation in a market ( like India) where the vast majority of new mobile phone additions every month (currently 16-20 million per month) consist of fairly basic phone that the industry calls feature phones rather than the better equipped smart phone. Has Openwave a feel for how its service provider clients in India are in fact using such tools?
A. While India currently does have more of these feature phones, we expect two major trends to drastically increase mobile data traffic. The first is the increase of smartphones, particularly in India where a study by Canalys released in May 2011 showed that smartphone market growth was in triple digits. The second is that new feature phones are increasingly adopting internet enabled capability, thus increasing the phones reliance on mobile data. So while mobile traffic may be relatively lower in India than in other countries, this looks set to change in the coming years. To put it simply, smartphones are becoming cheaper and feature phones are becoming smarter – at an astonishing rate.
Moving to a related topic, another misconception that mobile operators may have is that some may feel that they do not need network congestion control solutions because their networks are not always congested. However, most operators in the world do actually have a congestion problem, but it may be only in the capital city, such as Delhi, at certain hours. When this problem hits, it hits hard, causing outages and huge loss of customer confidence.
So while our solutions helps optimise mobile data traffic, our content and congestion-aware optimisation only does this when it is needed and as long as it is needed, which in turn reduces the resources needed as compared to a system that is “always on”. Openwave’s video optimisation solution can automatically switch on optimisation exactly when needed and switch it off when it is not needed. This is important as optimisation is a hardware intensive process and because, quite frankly, many operators in emerging markets still charge data per MB and do not want optimisation to reduce their revenues if it is not needed.

Q. With 3G slowly but steadily becoming available to customers in India, where does Openwave see the opportunity for telecom providers to differentiate their offerings?
A. Within the mobile ecosystem, two key differentiating factors still available to telecom providers are the related paradigms of intimacy and simplicity;
Intimacy – end user engagement and customer intimacy – essentially, this is about who customers identify and ultimately trust as their service provider. For example, some users view content brands such as MTV, or over the top (OTT) players such as Apple or Google as their “service provider”. The telecom provider has almost disappeared from view and they need to find ways to re-establish and re-emphasise their role in the ecosystem. Openwave’s technology can help operators assert their own brand and presence in the ecosystem by exploiting this intense customer proximity in trafficking relevant apps, promotions, ads etc to users who are more likely to want them based on their known usage. This provides a major differentiator and is also known to reduce customer churn.
Simplicity – users need to be able to discover and use apps and services intuitively and at a price they understand. There has been a move over the past two years to try to make high end devices user friendly, but in practice the plethora of content available to users today tends to swamp most users and can cause a very unsatisfactory experience especially if viewed on a small screen, slower handset, etc.
For telco operators, “simplicity” translates to being able to provide smooth (optimised) data delivery to subscribers, while offering highly targeted apps, ads and custom tiered price plans based on their observed usage patterns. Price plans can appear very confusing as well as expensive. But what if you could offer a subscriber a simple yet economic, personalised price plan at the point of interest – e.g., “You’re viewing this Bollywood site frequently – would you like unmetered access for this week for just X Rupees?” This type of custom approach is particularly relevant in Asia, where we find that subscribers are extremely price sensitive and unwilling to commit to long term plans.

Q. What do you see as the key innovations that Asian mobile customers particularly in the emerging markets will experience in the future and is there some skill/experience/specialised knowledge that operators on the Indian subcontinent can bring into play?
Customers in emerging market will continue to benefit from falling prices in smartphones – especially Android, and this alone will drive up usage and knowledge of the internet. Along with this the VAS data market in these countries will move from being SMS and USSD (text) based to being HTTP (web) and app-based as in other markets. Smartphones are likely to be intensely utilised in emerging markets since most people will not have any alternative and I think this will drive new usage patterns that we don’t see in the west. The OTT players such as Apple and Google, have actually done operators a big favor in that they have educated people worldwide there is a premium for content on the mobile internet. The skill set operators, particularly in India, need to have now is the ability to think outside of the “dumb pipe” paradigm and start looking at how they can integrate themselves into other areas of the mobile ecosystem to differentiate themselves from the growing number of players from both the telco and web worlds.  Aug 1 2011

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