Mon, 23 Oct 2000

Telephone to compete with mobile technology

JAKARTA (JP): It is the era of mobile Internet and people are carrying cellular phones which function not only as a device for communication, but much more in accordance with the vast developments in information technology (IT).

One of the most popular buzzwords in information technology now is "mobile", not only "electronic" as we are seeing the era of the "e" world, with most terms having an "e" prefix, to likely lose out and be replaced by an "m" world.

Here is what people are talking about: m-commerce -- mobile commerce, instead of the popular e-commerce -- to make account transactions or payments over their mobile phone.

As the Internet has come down to being held in one's palm, we are now encountering the mobile world and everyone is carrying their "m-Ouija".

It is estimated that by 2003, the world will have some one billion wireless Internet users. The wireless technology will allow transmissions to work at 14.4 kbps. Later, they will feature bandwidths of up to 2Mbps and allow transmissions of voice, data and multimedia.

In terms of expense, traditional telephone service also faces stiffer challenge from cellular providers. In Indonesia, for instance, cellular phone users may set their own operational region, thus allowing them to set a rate arrangement based on the area. In some cases, the rate will be cheaper than long-distance rates set by fixed-line operator PT Telkom.

What will happen to fixed lines? How will telephone service survive in this wireless, "distanceless" era?

As a preliminary effort, Telkom has introduced several features previously offered by cellular operators. These are caller identification, which allows subscribers to know the number of a caller; call waiting, allowing subscribers to receive a second call while putting a first call on hold; and conference calling, a facility which allows subscribers to speak with more than two other callers during the same call.

However, this is only about features. Traditional telephone service needs to improve to face the public demand for higher speed.

New technology and services are among the major growth areas in the telecommunications industry's future. Companies are competing to provide facilities like value-added services and technology, to facilitate electronic data interchanges and multimedia services, Internet content and access services.

Telkom plans to deploy an asymmetric digital subscriber line (ASDL) a technology which will allow the old copper line accommodating higher speed.

The Research and Information Technology department (RisTi) of Telkom has undertaken a pilot project of this technology in Bandung, West Java. When completed and proven feasible, telephone subscribers will likely enjoy a higher speed on their lines at home or office.

Telecommunications player Siemens has also developed a related technology called Surpass. This technology will help network operators to provide integrated convergence services for future use. This is becoming possible through the smooth migration toward Surpass technology. The main function of Surpass is combining the two largest networks in the world, namely the circuit-switch voice network and the packet-oriented data network.

Surpass is Voice-over-IP/ATM technology for the convergence of voice and data networks, which is tailored to the needs of carriers and service providers. Based on an open architecture, it brings to data networks the high quality and voice-service versatility of real-time voice networks. Conversely, it also makes it possible to use IP applications on the voice network.

Some of the benefits telephone users will have include, receiving a call while they are browsing the Internet at the same time and making a call to some one by phone while he or she is browsing the Internet.

Other benefits are Internet users can transfer data faster and users can listen to their e-mails.

It is not clear yet how significant data transfer will be and if it will replace voice services in the future. Some believe that despite the increasing importance of data networks in terms of "traffic volume", operator revenues are still dominated by voice services.

Companies offering new technology suggest that combining the economy of scale and flexibility of the data network with voice revenues will be perfectly positioned to benefit from the two worlds of voice and data. (icn)