An electronic payment story today: The credit card industry has been through quite some pain in Germany the past couple of weeks with a year 2010 bug hampering transactions at teller machines and in shops. But here's some good news I wanted to post long before but forgot:
For many years electronic payment in France was a pain for me as the chip on my German EC/maestro card didn't work there. I always had to tell shop assistants not to use the chip but to swipe the card through to read the magnetic stripe. I got so frustrated that I reverted to paying with cash or with a credit card that did not yet have a chip.
So after another little glitch late last year when credit card information was supposedly stolen in Spain, credit card companies around the world replaced affected cards in a hurry. Probably due to having been at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona I was one those customers getting a replacement card. This time it contained a chip and this one now works in France as well. Great, at least from this perspective the credit card industry finally gets their act together. Now I can blend in again...
Let's hope the 2010 bug doesn't ruin it again... Just makes me wonder where we are with mobile payment in Europe these days. Probably still nowhere.
I'm back at home after a short visit to Norway this week to give a talk at the 2nd anniversary meeting of MoMo Oslo on Monday. It's been a great trip and a great MoMo with about 150-200 people showing up for the event. With Steinar Svalesen, Ajit Jaokar, Tomi Ahonen, Andrew Grill and Karine Storaker Braaten I think we offered a diverse program and despite the long program of over 3 hours the hall was still packed at the end. Thanks very much to Shaun Thanki for making it happen! Thanks also to all the people taking the time to talk to me after the presentation I learnt a lot about life and mobile in Norway!
No need to take it from me though, all presentations, the video and pictures can be found online:
I'd say that's excellent online coverage of the event!
And I learnt a couple of mobile things while walking a bit through Oslo: Two things are hard to find: Mobile phone stores from network operators and base station antennas. Both are very well hidden and you have to look closely :-) Also, I didn't see or hear anything of the LTE network supposedly running in Oslo!?
In my latest book I have not only described how IMS works in mobile networks in Chapter 4 but I also gave a short introduction to the fixed line counterpart which was initially specified by TISPAN before the activities were merged in 3GPP. I've been wondering a bit lately if it's going to be easier to implement IMS in fixed line networks compared to mobile networks. Here's what I think is much easier:
Legacy Device Reuse: In mobile networks, IMS requires mobile phones with IMS clients and a sophisticated packet switched radio network. In fixed line, things are much simpler. Customers just keep the analog phones they have today and either plug them into an analog to SIP converter that is part of their DSL or cable modem at home. If the analog to SIP converter is in the next street cabinet, the user doesn't have to do anything. To him IMS will be completely transparent.
No interworking with a legacy network from a user point of view: Once a line is physically connected to the IMS system, it's just using that system. Period. In wireless, mobile phones often fall back to GSM where IMS is not available. In that case the legacy circuit switched system has to be used or at least a circuit bearer next to the IMS packet switched signaling. Not pretty and very complicated.
No handovers to CS: A fixed line is a fixed line, no handover of an ongoing call to a circuit switched channel is required as a fixed line device never leaves it's place and network of origin. Compare that to wireless IMS where a mobile can leave the UMTS or LTE coverage area and has to be switched to a circuit switched bearer before contact is lost. A nightmare in practice.
Different Mindset: In wireless, IMS is the IP MULTIMEDIA subsystem and many see voice telephony as just one service to run over it. In the fixed line world, I have the impression that for most people the IMS is there to put voice calls on an IP bearer (PSTN and ISDN emulation service) but that's pretty much it. No big dreams of IMS as the universal service platform for everyone and everything.
These days I see a lot of talk in the press about rising wireless data consumption. To make things more spectacular, things don't double, no they rise by 100% (or by 200% or by 400% [insert your own % here]). Sounds much more dramatic, no? But what's even worse is that without a base from which the rise is calculated, it's completely meaningless. And usually that base is not given.
Here's an example: Let's say network use was 1%. Doubling that brings the network use to 2%. That's a lot isn't it? 100% more but the network is still sitting around doing pretty much nothing. But 100% more...(Note: Agreed, I've selected the other extreme for my example here...)
Also, such numbers kind of suggest that things will continue to grow at the same rate or even faster and the numbers are set in a light that suggests operators are in real trouble in the very near future. But that's also a wrong assumption. At some point everybody has 5 phones, several 3G dongles, etc. and bandwidth needs will mainly grow with more use from the same number of people and devices. And how much growth that requires is a different story again.
But one thing is clear, mobile operators need to increase the capacity of their networks over time to keep up with the demand. But then that's not much different from what fixed line operators do to keep up with the demand for high speed Internet connections. Maybe they have to do even more with digging up roads, putting new fibers in, etc. From a different point of view they are even doing the ground work for wireless network capacity extensions as they will also benefit from the fibers in the ground.
Changes over time tend to blend in into everyday work unless you really think about them. Just recently, I came across a list of network vendors I wrote down in 2005 to give readers examples of big wireless network infrastructure vendors. The list read:
Siemens, Nortel, Ericsson, Alcatel and Nokia
Obviously the list is not exhaustive and not in a particular order. Powerhouses in 2005, no?
Now it's 2010 and four out of those five no longer exist in that form or shape. Today the list would read:
Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent
I can still remember the days when 3GPP Release 99 was the latest and greatest with the introduction of UMTS and data rates of 384 kbit/s. It's not that long ago really, and it's incredible how much has changed since then. As I went through the feature descriptions I drew up a list of which features I personally think are the most important ones in each release:
Even today, Release 4 is still synonymous with the definition of the Bearer Independent Core Network (BICN) or, in other words, the virtualization of the circuit switched network.
Introduction of the IMS which has continued to be developed throughout all following releases
The specification of High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA). I think this is one of the single most important features ever specified. Without it, UMTS would look entirely different today.
Introduction of High Speed Packet Uplink (HSUPA)
Specification of HSPA+ with 64QAM and MIMO
Enhancements to conserve battery power and to make state changes quicker for a better browsing experience. Also referred to as Continued Packet Connectivity
HSUPA 16QAM for a faster uplink
Extended Cell Range. Wasn't that done for Australia?
The LTE baseline release
Definition of Dual Carrier HSDPA
Simultaneous use of 64QAM and MIMO on a single carrier
Single Radio Voice Call Continuity to hand-over voice calls from a packet to a circuit switched bearer
Femtocell definition (Home NodeBs)
Small but Important: ICE (In Case of Emergency) information storage on the SIM card and retrieval in a standardized way to help first responders to contact your family and friends in case something has happened to you.
Separate dual carriers to simultaneously transmit downlink data in the 900 and 2100 MHz band.
Dual carrier in the uplink
Inclusion of the European Digital Dividend band
Information on the content of Release 10 is still sketchy at this time. The one thing that is clear at this point that it will contain the baseline for LTE Advanced.
Agreed, a very very short list considering the dozens and dozens of features in each release. So, what have I been missing that will really make an impact? Do you have other favorites?
While waiting out in the open for the tram on my daily commute I like browsing the web and reading my favourite blogs on the mobile phone. Not so these days, however, it's just not a lot of fun in sub-zero temperatures. So I prefer wearing gloves and keeping my hands in my pockets. In noticed, though, that the battery gets a bit warm while surfing if I can't resist which at least helps a bit. So what about a little built in heating at the back of the mobile? Yes, the battery would drain faster but it would be usable in sub-zero temperatures. Yes, I am only half joking here, but I am not quite convinced it's just a stupid idea. I wonder why Nokia, coming from a Nordic country never had the idea. Well, maybe with the temperatures there even heatable mobiles wouldn't help in winter :-)
Here's a link to an interesting video produced by 3GPP during the September 2009 plenary meeting in Seville, Spain. In the video the plenary chairmen of Service Architecture (SA), GERAN (GSM/GPRS/EDGE radio access), RAN (UMTS and LTE radio access) and CT (Core Network and Terminals) give their opinion on the state of the industry, where 3GPP is heading and the main features currently discussed for Release 9. And from a procedural point of view you get short insights in how 3GPP meetings a run and how many people attend.