Thursday, April 24, 2014

Trai to soon fix minimum internet speed for mobiles

NEW DELHI: Sick of dead slow internet connection on mobile? Relief is on the way as regulator Trai will soon fix the minimum download speed the telecom operators will have to deliver for wireless data services. 

"The Authority (Trai) has been receiving a number of complaints from consumers regarding the poor download speed experienced by them. The Authority after examining the issue felt that there is now a need to mandate the 'minimum download speed' for the wireless data services," Trai said in its latest consultation process. 

At present, there is no binding regulation on telecom operators to deliver wireless service at a particular minimum speed. 

3G operators promise mobile Internet speed in the range of 7.1 megabit per second (mbps) to 21 mbps. At 7.1 mbps speed, a mobile user should be able to download a full-length movie in around 12-14 minutes. 

But invariable, it takes around 40 minutes to download a a file size equivalent to that of a movie on the best network. 

The minimum speed reported by operators to Trai lies in the range of 399 kbps (minimum broadband speed is 512 kbps) to 2.48 mbps. 

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has found the minimum speed delivered by an operators doesn't even qualify to be called broadband. 

The wireless data services include mobile internet and broadband services like 2G, 3G and those offered using dongles. 

The regulator is of the view that the minimum download speed for 3G and CDMA EVDO service should be 1 megabit per second with 95% success rate. For GSM and CDMA 2G the minimum speed should be at 56 kilobit per second and for CDMA high speed data it is 512 kbps. 

Trai has sought public views on its consultation by May 5 and counter comments on it by May 12

Monday, April 21, 2014

How brands are leveraging Facebook's 100 million users in India

MobiKwik , a Gurgaon-based start-up that offers mobile payment services, has been on Facebook for two years. About a year back MobiKwik started paid advertising on Facebook targeting Android phone users, the most popular operating system on smartphones. Besides, a lot of the new users of MobiKwik coming on Android devices were in the 25 to 30 age group, and MobiKwik found that Facebook enabled it to target ads at this group. Says Sachin Gupta, digital marketing specialist, MobiKwik: "Being on Facebook helped us drive traffic to our app and get new users."

From start-ups like MobiKwik to Pigtails and Ponys, a Bangalore-based hair accessory label, more and more brands are finding it difficult to resist the lure of the world's largest social network in their bid to connect with customers. Facebook now boasts 100 million users, a base the likes of HDFC Bank, PepsiCo India, Lufthansa, Tata Docomo, Nokia, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Pernod Ricard have woken up to.

Around end of 2013, Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 3 on Facebook, using a different creative to target men and women. And last year, through Facebook , Nokia was able to target feature phone users for its Nokia 205 entry-level smartphone model. Last month the Nokia X (Android phone) campaign on Facebook resulted in two lakh conversations, not just creating awareness for the brand but also resulting in the Finnish handset maker getting some muchneeded consumer feedback.

Says Kirthiga Reddy, head, Facebook India: "There are over a million advertisers globally on Facebook. We are conscious that every dollar spent on Facebook is a dollar that advertisers can spend anywhere else. Our USP is the ability to do effective and efficient targeted ads." While companies have multiple social media platforms to advertise on, including Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ besides banner ads across popular websites, what makes Facebook attractive is the 100 million milestone it reached on March 31.

Says Kartik Jain, head of marketing, HDFC Bank: "It [the user base] reflects Facebook's increasing role in online social chatter." Agrees Jitender Miglani, social media analyst at Forrester Research: "100 million Facebook users are valuable for any marketer. It will attract a lot of share of internet market spending." It is particularly valuable for those brands that are following, what Rishi Dogra, head of digital marketing at PepsiCo India calls, a "consumerled strategy" .

Facebook for feedback

While for start-ups the Facebook user base is a quick access to customers and, hence business growth, for large companies it's a multi-step platform, starting with using Facebook as a listening board before any business can be transacted . Says Jain: "We use Facebook to listen to our customers, build our image and crosslink across social media platforms." For example HDFC Bank has 90 videos on YouTube that talk about aspects of banking in simple terms (simplifying fixed deposits, mortgages and the like), which it promotes on Facebook.

Wines and spirits maker Pernod Ricard has Facebook pages to do surrogate messaging like promoting the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour. At the other end of the spectrum, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), which has a mandate to skill 150 million people by 2022, uses Facebook as a communication platform. And Pepsi has been on Facebook since 2009 and uses it to engage with brands and fans. Says Dogra: "It's a continuous engagement model. We have created and executed campaigns including Pepsi T20 and launched our 'Oh Yes Abhi' positioning. The Pepsi brand page has 31 million users." Adds Ronita Mitra, senior vice-president , brand communication and insights,

Vodafone India, which has brought back the Zoozoos for the Indian Premier League (IPL) that began on Wednesday: "We have 17.8 million fans on the Vodafone Zoozoos page. Facebook allows us high measurability and targeting and we aim to use the medium in line with its strengths."

Facebook knows the user

The USP of social media and Facebook lie in their ability to know the user — age, city location, what device she is using, what she likes and so on. For instance Nokia targets the 18-24 year olds routinely with its new launches. Says Viral Oza, marketing director, Nokia India: "From a creative and engagement perspective this is our target audience. Social media and Facebook are high-involvement platforms, where youth converge. Ability to target helps get the message to right people, while scale creates the impact." That ability to know the user enables Facebook to customize ads. For instance, Facebook has a custom audience feature, where a company's data base of emails can be matched with those of Facebook users and messages can be sent out on the social network to the targeted user base. Another tool, generate a 'look alike audience' , helps companies on

Facebook finds people with a similar profile to its existing customers. Explains Gupta of MobiKwik: "If I want to target 25-30 year olds in Pune who drink vodka and use an Android phone, I can get such a user base from Facebook." About 40% of MobiKwik's ad spend is on Facebook, 10% on Twitter, 20% on banner ads across websites, and the rest on traditional media.

Online marketplaces are also using Facebook to drive traffic to their sites. For example, online fashion retailer Myntra uses Facebook logout ads — the ad that a user sees on logging out from Facebook . Says Vikas Ahuja, chief marketing officer , Myntra: "Facebook can help do age segmentation — we target 18-27 year olds, as that's the internet-savvy population and key contributor to our business. We can do gender-specific targeting and by location as well. Around 35% of our business comes from women."

Facebook controls the algorithm and hence has the power to target users. Says Senthil Anand, head of account management at KRDS, a Paris-headquartered social media agency: "Half of the Facebook user base comprises 18-24 year-olds and 30% are 25-34 year-olds . On Facebook, companies can target people who have their birthdays on a particular day. And videos go viral via Facebook. It gives more visibility to brands." KRDS started operations in India three years back, in Chennai.

A young user base is attractive not just to internet startups and brands like Nokia and Pepsi, but for brands in more traditional categories, too. Like banking, for instance. Says HDFC Bank's Jain: "Our follower profile on Facebook is similar to the user base of Facebook — a large number are below 25 and may have just started banking. The idea is to engage with them. We use Facebook to listen to customers and build our image." For a brand like HDFC, being on Facebook helps in listening to customer issues, complaints and resolving them.

However if the strategy is to only target fans, then companies are really missing the point, insists Facebook. Says Reddy: "We have studies that show fans buy 1.9 times more than non-fans . But fans are a small percentage of the target audience. Fan engagement is valuable in itself, but brands can do a lot more than that."

Start-ups see a great return on investment (RoI) on Facebook — like MobiKwik has seen cost of customer acquisition reduce and new user sign up increase via Facebook. For the bigger companies returns are slower to come by. Says Mitra of Vodafone: "A lot of the best practices for Facebook are still evolving and that makes it challenging to put a definite RoI on our spends." KRDS believes its early days and at present its more about engagement than RoI.

From users to buyers

Engaging with the user base is what attracted companies to Facebook, but now they are keen to know RoI as well. Says Jain of HDFC, "RoI on social media is tough. It started as a listening board and the next step is lead generation. Our objective this year is to look at RoI from social media."

RoI essentially involves converting Facebook subscribers into buyers. Say for instance a bank launches a home loan product, can it sell it to users of the social network? With no easy answers on that front yet, despite their presence on social media, most brands still dedicate a bulk of their advertising budgets to traditional media. Says Jain: "As of now, 1-2 % of our total marketing spend is on social media. Bulk of the spend goes into direct marketing, onground efforts and digital campaigns."

For Pepsi, RoI is an ongoing calculation. Says Dogra: "If you create an engaged community RoI will continue to accrue over the years whereas the investment on customer [or follower] acquisition is a one-time spend." Facebook argues that the platform's ability to target ads in itself creates better RoI than on any other platform. Says Reddy: "It's the ability to drive a message in a particular way with zero-spillage that drives RoI. We are results-focussed. We are measured on business objectives and what we deliver fuels the next stage of growth."

In the expanding world of internet — India has over 200 million users, expected to triple by 2016 to 600 million — Facebook dominates the social media play. Most of the online population (around 84 million) uses the Net via their handsets, and these mobile users may not find the ad intrusions on Facebook a pleasurable experience. Also, when it comes to mobile internet, advertisers have Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms to pick from. Says KRDS' Anand: "Brands want to invest in YouTube as well. Video content grabs better attention. That's why Facebook now allows videos. At present YouTube is second most popular for advertisers after Facebook."

Adds Dogra of Pepsi: "Organic reach [on Facebook] has been consistently dropping over the past three years. While this is a function of the larger network effect, it limits the ability to sustain a continuous engagement model as reliance on paid reach increases." Organic reach is the number of people who would see anything you post without any paid media push.

Facebook's 100 million users will have the brands following it, as that's where the young consumers are. Even as companies search for RoI, Facebook will look to monetise that user base fast given that the social media platform gets just $40-50 million (according to Forrester Research) of its $7.87 billion global business from its second largest user market after the US.

Source: Times Of India

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bend it, charge it, dunk it: Graphene, the material of tomorrow

Graphene is the strongest, thinnest material known to exist. A form of carbon, it can conduct electricity and heat better than anything else. And get ready for this: It is not only the hardest material in the world, but also one of the most pliable.

Only a single atom thick, it has been called the wonder material.

Graphene could change the electronics industry, ushering in flexible devices, supercharged quantum computers, electronic clothing and computers that can interface with the cells in your body.

While the material was discovered a decade ago, it started to gain attention in 2010 when two physicists at the University of Manchester were awarded the Nobel Prize for their experiments with it. More recently, researchers have zeroed in on how to commercially produce graphene.

The American Chemical Society said in 2012 that graphene was discovered to be 200 times stronger than steel and so thin that a single ounce of it could cover 28 football fields. Chinese scientists have created a graphene aerogel, an ultralight material derived from a gel, that is one-seventh the weight of air. A cubic inch of the material could balance on one blade of grass.

"Graphene is one of the few materials in the world that is transparent, conductive and flexible — all at the same time," said Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan, a lecturer in nanomaterials at the University of Manchester. "All of these properties together are extremely rare to find in one material."

So what do you do with graphene? Physicists and researchers say that we will soon be able to make electronics that are thinner, faster and cheaper than anything based on silicon, with the option of making them clear and flexible. Long-lasting batteries that can be submerged in water are another possibility.

In 2011, researchers at Northwestern University built a battery that incorporated graphene and silicon, which the university said could lead to a cellphone that "stayed charged for more than a week and recharged in just 15 minutes." In 2012, the American Chemical Society said that advancements in graphene were leading to touch-screen electronics that "could make cellphones as thin as a piece of paper and foldable enough to slip into a pocket."

Vijayaraghavan is building an array of sensors out of graphene — including gas sensors, biosensors and light sensors — that are far smaller than what has come before.

And last week, researchers at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, working with Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, said that Samsung had discovered how to create high-quality graphene on silicon wafers, which could be used for the production of graphene transistors. Samsung said in a statement that these advancements meant it could start making "flexible displays, wearables and other next-generation electronic devices."

Sebastian Anthony, a reporter at Extreme Tech, said that Samsung's breakthrough could end up being the "holy grail of commercial graphene production."

Samsung is not the only company working to develop graphene. Researchers at IBM, Nokia and SanDisk have been experimenting with the material to create sensors, transistors and memory storage.

When these electronics finally hit store shelves, they could look and feel like nothing we've ever seen.

James Hone, a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University, said research in his lab led to the discovery that graphene could stretch by 20% while remaining able to conduct electricity.

"You know what else you can stretch by 20%? Rubber," he said. "In comparison, silicon, which is in today's electronics, can only stretch by 1% before it cracks."

He continued, "That's just one of the crazy things about this material — there's really nothing else quite like it."

The real kicker? Graphene is inexpensive.

If you think of something in today's electronics industry, it can most likely be made better, smaller and cheaper with graphene.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley made graphene speakers last year that delivered sound at quality equal to or better than a pair of commercial Sennheiser earphones. And they were much smaller.

Another fascinating aspect of graphene is its ability to be submerged in liquids without oxidizing, unlike other conductive materials.

As a result, Vijayaraghavan said, graphene research is leading to experiments where electronics can integrate with biological systems. In other words, you could have a graphene gadget implanted in you that could read your nervous system or talk to your cells.

But while researchers believe graphene will be used in next-generation devices, there are entire industries that build electronics using traditional silicon chips and transistors, and they could be slow to adopt graphene counterparts.

If that is the case, graphene might end up being used in other industries before it becomes part of electronics. Last year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation paid for the development of a graphene-based condom that is thin, light and impenetrable. Carmakers are exploring building electronic cars with bodies made of graphene that are not only protective, but act as solar panels that charge the car's battery. Aircraft makers also hope to build planes out of graphene.

If all that isn't enough, an international team of researchers based at MIT has performed tests that could lead to the creation of quantum computers, which would be a big market of computing in the future.

So forget plastics. There's a great future in graphene. Think about it.

Source: Times of India

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Microsoft makes Windows free for small devices

In a surprise move, Microsoft on Wednesday announced at Build 2014 that it will offer Windows, including Windows Phone, for free to any computing device that has a screen size of less than 9 inches. This is a big change in the strategy for Microsoft, a company that pioneered the use of licensed software and has thrived due to the licence fee it collects from computer makers.

Terry Myerson, who heads the operating systems division in Microsoft, also said that Windows will be free for Internet of Things devices, the small gadgets that will have ability to connect to the web and process information.

With Apple and Google taking away the market share from Windows in the world of computers with iOS and Android devices, Microsoft was toying with the idea doing away with licence fee for Windows. Recently, industry sources in Indian phone market told TOI that Microsoft would offer Windows Phone free to Lava and Karbonn.

The Microsoft announcement also highlights that the operating system business has changed significantly in the last few years. The core Android code is free to use. Also, all Android updates are free for users. iOS, which is used only Apple devices, also offers free updates.

Last year when Apple announced OS X Mavericks it surprised the industry by announcing that the OS would be available to Mac users as a free download.

One important thing to note here is that Windows is not free for end users. The small screen devices — phones and tablets — come with the OS preinstalled. The OS is free for Microsoft's hardware partners. Consumers will not be able to obtain or download Windows for free and install on their computer, whether it has a screen of less than 9 inches or a 20-inch monitor.

While Windows is still the most-used operating system on personal computers by big margin, it is no longer the biggest computing platform. By giving away the Windows for free, especially for devices like phones and tablets that are still seeing big growth in the market, Microsoft hopes to negate the advantage of Android and iOS.

Source: TOI