Originally posted on,

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/companies/want-to-fix-mobile-internet-says-former-bell-labs-fellow/article7016113.ece

Alef Mobitech to crack hard economic problem so that ecosystem can profit

BENGALURU, MARCH 20

Jessu John

Having more than 50 patents to his credit arguably means he has earned the right to say it like that. Ganesh Sundaram has been a key member of the team that worked on 2G at Bell Laboratories, the R&D unit of Alcatel-Lucent, and was later named a Bell Labs Fellow. His patents are for his work in mobile data networking, architecture, security and resource and mobility management. When the early rollouts of 4G began, he left Bell Labs to kick-start Alef Mobitech, a “pioneer in mobile internet enhancement”.

“What we have now isn’t really mobile internet. There’s internet and there’s mobile access, they’re just stitched together,” he declares.

Sundaram claims trials have been on with a leading operator in India with about 10 over-the-top players on board. Hewlett Packard recently signed on with Alef Mobitech as a strategic partner for managed services.

Solving hard problemsTo understand Sundaram’s claim, we have to go back 10 or 15 years, when operators in the US, for example, were offering voice messaging, email and other services the modern world now takes for granted.

Wireless technology moved from 2G to 3G to 4G, while the emergence of operating systems like Android and iOS meant that network providers now sell bandwidth, not services.

There’s also the Wild West of applications, numbering more than a million on iTunes alone. What we have is a complex ecosystem with copious amounts of data going over the networks.

Sundaram’s point, then, is that while applications are booming, revenues are flat for many stakeholders.

The number of mobile users everywhere is on the increase, and advertisers are zooming in on the opportunity. But while some companies have the budgets to re-invent for a mobile reality, the average start-up that builds apps does not. Alef Mobitech wants to approach what it sees as a “hard economic problem” in a way that the entire mobile ecosystem of today profits.

“Given that there is no embedded base of internet technology specific to mobile, how do these apps get monetised?” he asks. “Applications, mobility and the mobile device have completely transformed the internet. It’s no longer the internet we knew, and if the economics isn’t working out, it’s because there are deep technology problems.”

India not an experimentSathya Athreyam, Research Manager, Wireless Network Infrastructure at IDC, shares: “What is broken is the business argument of how and why a mobile internet is delivered.

“The service delivery value chain that is currently in place within a mobile operator’s network is suited at best to provide connectivity to a consumer and not necessarily to solve a business problem.”

He also explains that stakeholders in a mobile internet ecosystem tend to operate in a mutually exclusive manner, leading to either business friction or technology friction or both. Alef Mobitech claims it is not here to solve a problem for a few players or stakeholders. Also India will not be just a test market.

“India is our business template,” says Sundaram.

If mobile networks have to become smarter and cost-effective, if the Indian consumer has to see a marked improvement in his/her efficiencies, operators can no longer be “pipes” that deliver connectivity, according to IDC’s Athreyam.

Even as technology innovators make moves to enhance mobile internet consumer experience, operators, too, need to be ready to change their approach.

Walls must come down between stakeholders so that technology can make a difference to those that matter.


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