Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is there a future for IPTV in China?

I visited my aunt in Tianjin during the Chinese New Year. To my surprise, her home is already equipped with three television sets, one carried with satellite channels, and the other two are equipped with digital channels.Pretty advanced among all Chinese families, however, my uncle still complained on the channles the family have.

"The satellite one has a lot of nonsense channels such as channels from Middle East or Europe and we couldn't understand even a single word, while we have to pay as much as 20 yuan per month each to the two other sets". My uncle said he will be pretty confused on if he should add another set some day to watch the nonsense satellite TV or pay another 20 yuan per month to add it into the digital channel as required.

With hundreds of TV channels available, we still ended up at watching CCTV 1 together, the general channel you could see even in the most distant corner of China. I couldn't watch Bloomberg though the satellite provides it because none of my other family member could understand it. That's called compromise.

In China, the tradition is still for families to watch TV together after the dinner. I couldn't imagine three or four family members(the normal number for a single family) to watch TV in eachone's bedroom. You could choose not to watch TV, but watching a different one in the different room will be considered as unloyal to the family.

That's exactly what I did. I will watch the "national geography" with my father though I don't really like it. I just enjoy the feeling of watching and talking together. That's why family means.

A bit out of the track. Here back to IPTV, transfering the TV through the telecom network. The technial working theory is the same, but the culture is different. A family could own one single TV, but it is rare that a family could own one mobile handset or talk on the fixed-line phone together. So it leads to the different business operation practices. Telecom operators couldn't just copy their business practice in telecom industry to the TV industry.

Reuters reported today that "BesTV, a Web TV joint service between China's largest fixed-line company China Telecom Corp. and Shanghai Media Group, is talking to potential foreign media partners as it eyes a three-fold rise in viewers by year-end." It is not new, in fact; it was reported earlier that an Australian software provider would invest $7 million to set up a channel on the BesTV on the health development. On one hand, it shows the shortage of content for Chinese operators; on the other hand, it tells that the market need more specialised professionals to provide the best content suited to IPTV. IPTV's advantage is its capability to personalize the content as well as watch any program any time. However, the content itself is much more valuable. And researching on what kind of content will attract the family audience will be much more useful.

TV is public, telecom is private; IPTV, the co-product between the "public" TV and "private" telecom, is yet to position itself properly.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The latest figure on SMS, 14 billion

14 billion pieces, this is the latest figure for the number of short messages in the Spring Festival. It means China Mobile and China Unicom will at least make the revenue of over 1.4 billion yuan in one night.(at least 0.1 yuan for one piece)

The latest figure from Ministry of Information Industry, the regulator of telecom sector:
The mobile users sent over 430 billion pieces of SMS in 2006, rose by 41 percent from last year.

Seems SMS is still the most popular telecom services now. The market needs something new. Standing in the view of mobile users, people will need something more customized and characteristic than a common SMS. And text is not the only way to show the wishes too.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Happy the new year of Pig

Here, I want to send my best wishes to readers of this blog, since I couldn't send the wishes one by one(neither do I know how many there are).

It is the year of the pig in China. and everyone is happy about it because pig is a lovely animal. You could hear Golden Pig all the time, which means you will have great fortune and luck this year.

I am back to the hometown, one of the few times since I started my career in Hong Kong. Yesterday I watched the traditional Spring Festival Show held by CCTV in home, which is really not that bad this time.(Maybe because I have a lower standard towards the show now). Plus, it is quite related to the telecom and IT companies. China Unicom is the sponsor for the call center, while you could send the SMS to either China Mobile or China Unicom to vote your favorite programme. Baidu.com is also one of the sponsors to help vote for the best Chunlian, the couplets written on red papers posted on each side of the front door to get good luck. Even many of the songs got the opportunities to join the show just because they are the most popular rings downloaded to the mobile handsets.

Besides the show, there are plenty of advertisements on the value-added services such as "Color Ring" and songs downloading.

More interestingly, I start to send SMS very frequently to send the New Year wishes, so does my parents. We sit together and send the messages, written by "professional SMS makers", to all the friends, and then enjoy the feeling when someone send back another different ones. There must be a good revenue generated during the period.

Then my father asked: "those SMS, in fact, are really boring, right? There really aren't many customized ones where you could read the sincere heart of others. " Exactly, maybe how to make those SMS more human-related and more characteric to individual people will be another wave of new revenue.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

be careful to your mobile, a risk to leak where you are

With the era of 3G coming, are u prepared for the era of leaking more of your privacy?

You may know that there will be more multimedia content in the 3G era, but do u know that 3G network could give the mobile operators a thorough picture on the location of mobile users anytime? Those information is attractive to many parties, including the advertisers, investigators, your friends or even your enemies? How to protect the privacy should be on the agenda of every country to protect the mobile users.

A South Korean media reported that the three largest mobile operators in South Korea(SK Telecom, KTF Telecom and LG Telecom) made a revenue of at least 230 billion S.Korean won by providing location information illegally from August 2005 to June 2006. (Chinese version of the story is here) The story said the three operators provided the location infomation of the mobile users to the third parties without the users' permission.

It should not be a problem in South Korea. In the 3G network, it is easier to get the location information in a dynamatic way. However, the location information should be the privacy of the mobile customers. You don't want to be followed all the time, isn't it?

Google is turning to cable TV?

Google is turning to cable TV to provide more service. This is undoubtfully, no matter whether the Reuters report quoted the exactly right words.

Since Google's successful experience in the searching service, its following moves, from email to blog, have leaded several rounds of revolution in the Internet world. This time, it jumped beyond the WWW world to the cable business.

It's good move in terms of basic concept to give different function to Internet and Cable. Internet will deliver text information, while cable will be still in charge of the transfer of multimedia info. However, the two have totally different character. Internet is a worldwide network, while cable is still based in different geography. Google may be right to lead the technology trends, but how to cooperate with cable to deliver the content is still a problem.

For cable TV operators, Google, to them, may become a threat that they may be reluctant to partner with. They are also carrying more cashes than Internet operators and telecom operators, so the incentives to cooperate with Google may not be that strong.

Anyway, unless Google could buy some cable TV to expand,(better with a controlling stake), things will turn around faster, maybe.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

one-way billing model

Major mobile operators in China annouced the one-way billing models from February this year, including China Mobile Beijing, China Unicom Beijing, China Mobile Guangdong, China Unicom Guangdong. I still remember last December when I first disclose this in our paper, many people were suspious of it, and even some analysts from investment banks called me to confirm. Now I could finally tell everyone that I am right and they should have trusted me at the first hand.

Speaking of this, two things I would like to expand a bit more. First, the power of media. The Internet really made the world flat. I remembered when my story was published that day, many mainland newspaper translated and republished again. Checking Sina.com, the best news website in China, you could find at least one hundred translated pieces in print media and online media citied our paper. That's amazing. No one could believe it ten years ago when a Hong Kong newspaper published something and the next day the whole story spread nationalwide. But today it is true. Even big financial media such as Bloomberg and Reuters even quoted some newspaper from nowhere on specific news. My question is how we could clairify the quality?

The next thing is whether mobile operators will suffer from this one-way billing model. Haven't really read some pieces thoroughly covering the whole effect brought by this new model. But I always believe the mobile operator stocks have changed from "fast growers" to "Stalwarts" in the past years. They could generate a lot of cash but not grow as fast as before. They are still good companies with strong cash flows to support, but don't expect it could add another 400 million users in five years. So the one way billing model to them may not be a good news at first, as it will immediately suffer from the loss of revenue from the receivers' side, but in the longer term, it will benefit because of more active calls and talking minutes. So better grade it as "sell" in one year, and then "buy" after that.

The thing I don't quite figure out is the China Mobile stock rose by 1 percent when my story on the introducing of one-way billing system was published that day. Come on, everyone knows it will be bad news. Sigh, the capital market is always hard to beat.