Archives for November 2003
November 30, 2003
Rival public payphones in Australia may be given a last breath of life with the addition of text-messaging capabilities and email-capable payphones, reports The Age.
Telstra has blamed declining numbers of payphones - 1373 were removed last year - on the increasing use of mobile phones but other research shows that two-thirds of payphone callers who have a mobile phone with them, will use a payphone to save costs".
Parents of absent South Australian students could receive SMS text messages informing them of their child's absence under a $1 million package to reduce truancy, according to ninemsn.
"South Australian Premier Mike Rann outlined the package - aimed at lowering the state's student absenteeism rate. Student absenteeism rate was currently 7.9 per cent, compared to 8.9 per cent last year."
Similar programs have been set up in other countries:
-- In the UK, Ferryhill Business and Enterprise College set up a system to bring down unattendence by texting parents, asking whether there is a good reason for their child not being in class. cf Schools text students, parents
-- Two Irish schools are conducting a text experience as a disuasive way for skipping class. cf Parents alerted by SMS when children skip school
-- A government endorsed experience to lower absentee rates of students has been implemented since last November in 400 Lycées throughout France. cf Parents receive a text message from The Lycée
Cell phones that dial only 911 will be given free to seniors in unincorporated Palm Beach County from next week, according to the Sun Sentinel.
"Distribution is on a first-come, first-served basis. The phones allow seniors to call the Sheriff's Office or other 911 agencies in emergencies. The phones will be free to use".
Helen Algar believes her teenage son died after being on the receiving end of a silent but potent form of bullying - text messaging. She talked to Sue Bramwell from the Sunday Star Times.
"Some time that night he made and received a number of text messages that caused him to leave the house and go to the top of that cliff. My son is dead and those text messages were a significant factor in that. Text messaging can be a potent weapon."
Bullying by SMS is a serious concern and some countries, like the UK, have officially taken measures to put an end to such behaviour. The Department of Education and Skills issued a guidance on bullying in school last September, recommending that students caught bullying be expelled.
A previous trajic incidence occured in Norway in 2001, where a young man committed suicide after receiving a threatening SMS saying: "You will die this year. We know where you live". He was suffering from a depression.
For more incidents reported around the world on bullying by SMS, check out this category in Textually.org
November 29, 2003
The Italian State Police has created a new text messaging service to allow citizens to now whether a car was stolen, according to AGI online.
"The databanks of the security forces can now be checked by text message, enabling citizens to find out whether a plate belongs to a stolen car, whose theft was reported to the police. After a few seconds a message from the Interior Ministry will say whether the car was stolen or not".
Joi Ito via Gizmodo describes a new report written for Motorola by social theorist Sadie Plant - well known for her study on the "thumb generation", which asserted that children who grow up using mobile phones and gaming consoles are changing the shape and dexterity of their fingers and thumbs".
This new report is entitled "The Effects of Mobile Telephones on Social and Individual Life" and describes the different stances people adopt when they're speaking on their phones. How they hold their cell phones, with a firm grip or a light touch. Their different bodily postures; a speakeasy pose which exudes confidence whereas a spacemaker pose is more introverted, closing around oneself to seek privacy when making a call.
There are also variations in the ways in which people's eyes respond to a mobile call. Some mobile users adopt the scan, "in which the eyes tend to be lively, darting around, perhaps making fleeting contact with people in the vicinity. Others adopt the gaze, "the eyes tend to focus on a single point, or else to gaze into the distance".
Gizmodo picked up on research done in London found that if a man and a woman were sitting together in a public place like a restaurant or bar, 32 percent of men were likely to have their phone on display (like by placing it on a table) while only ten percent of women did so, but when two women are sitting together, 38 percent of the time both women would have their cellphones out.
November 28, 2003
European mobile operators' profit bonanza from text messaging is at risk from a consumer backlash on price that is bringing increased regulatory scrutiny, repors the WSJ.
"Complaints about their price are increasing in France, Italy, Spain and the U.K. If successful, consumer campaigns could take billions of euros of revenue from the mobile industry.
According to consulting company Idate, person-to-person text messages generated €11.7 billion of revenue in Europe during 2002.
If margin cuts similar to those demanded in France are replicated across Europe, the loss in revenue would be billions of euros a year".
Related article: Consumer Advocate Group in France fights to bring down price of SMS
European Telecoms have a history of overcharging. In 1998, cyber groups mobilised across Europe to protest against their high tarifs for connecting onto the Internet. On this n/e/tsurf page from my archives, you will find a listing of the different websites that called for action at that time. Most links today lead on to some other destination, but it gives an idea of the amplitude of the protest and the countries who cried out.
And this brings to mind yesterday's story where a senior Nokia executive warned Europeans that they may be in danger of falling behind the US, where you can get all the GPRS you can use for $20 a month. cf Europe falling behind the US on wireless says Nokia.
"The Tampa company, which processes 80 percent of the number-switching orders, had predicted orders would number in the "hundreds of thousands".
November 27, 2003
According to Peter Olson, a member of Ericsson's strategy and product management team, who was discussing the evolution and growth of mobile telephony at Ericsson's “Telecoms Evolution for Africa” event, held in Illovo this week and reported by ITWeb:
"Africa is in a unique position in that it has a far higher penetration of cellular telephony than it does of fixed-line telephony. Mobile subscribers in Africa should more than double inside the next five years, growing from around 28 million subscribers today to around 60 million by 2008.
“Africa is very much going to be the focus for telecoms service providers over the next few years, as the potential for revenue growth is huge,” he says.
Hey, that title is quite a shocker. That's Europe's claim to fame, being way ahead of the US with their cell phone technology, though they lagged behind with the Internet.
According to a senior Nokia executive, Europe looks set to lose the lead it currently holds over the US, reports TechWorld.
"The US has seen a revolution in both wireless technology and more importantly pricing, according to Bob Brace, VP of mobile solutions at Nokia Internet Communications, speaking at IDC's Mobility Conference in London. "We are in danger of falling behind the US, where you can get all the GPRS you can use for $20 a month," he said.
"Europe has been the leader and the US largely fragmented, but there's a been a huge growth in GSM and GPRS in the US," Brace added. "And AT&T just deployed EDGE into all its GSM networks so it can provide 64kbps to all its users."
He noted that US mobile networks initially ignored SMS in favour of wireless email, a decision which he thinks was probably accidental but which is now paying off thanks to email's ability to cross networks and reach non-mobile users too.
"We laughed at their pagers, but e-mail is what's become ubiquitous. It wasn't a planned thing though," he says.
Filipino soldiers can now be assured that someone would be there to attend to their grievances: a presidential adviser has been appointed to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Feliciano Commission, which investigated the July 27 Oakwood mutiny, reports abs-cbnnews.
"Appointed Carolina Hernandez said she will establish a “text-a-complaint” brigade for soldiers to inform her office of their problems in the service and corruption-related issues in the military".
“We need to feel the pulse of the soldiers in the field and consult with them. They could inform us of the problems or dishonesty by their superiors they are encountering and keep their anonymity by just texting us,” Hernandez said.
November 26, 2003
Miranda Devine for smh.com writes a thoughtful article on introspection or more accurately, the lack-therof - "bombarded as we are by noise and information 24/7, swept from event to event in a switched-on digital clatter of mobile phones, SMSs, games, interactivity, 24-hour global news, TV, radio - you name it.
And Devine worries that, "without introspection we lose much of what makes us human, because we need to know ourselves in order to develop a conscience, a moral compass, a sense of right and wrong. Without the humility that comes from knowledge of yourself and your own failings, everyone else's behaviour will seem intolerable.
Lack of introspection leads people to take on hatreds and dimly understood positions without thinking through what they mean, only that perhaps: "War is bad", "Bush is stupid". It leads to the ascendance of meaningless street politics in which hordes of what Lenin called "useful idiots" protest against McDonald's or globalisation or war" and Devine conveys Iranian author Amir Taheri thoughts on the frenzied anti-Bush demonstrations in London last week.
"What else could it be that makes so many such easy prey for propagandists preaching moral equivalence, but a loss of the collective conscience".
Something to stop and think about.
Related thoughts on losing introspection by journalist Steve Chapman.
A consumer advocates group, l'Union Fédéral des Consommateurs, UFC, is going after French mobile operators - Orange France, SFR and Bouygues Telecom - accusing them of maintaining text messaging prices at an unfairly high level.
As of today, UFS is launching a petition which will be sent in February to the French government, the Secrétariat d'Etat à la Consommation, the European Commission as well as the ART (Telecom governing body).
According to UFC, a mobile user pays between 0.11 and 0,15 euro ($ 0,13 and $ 0,18) to send a single text message, whereas it only cost the operator 0,02 euro ($ 0.024), allowing him to realise a 80,2% profit margin.
UFC is not demanding that operators charge text messages at cost, but says a fairer price would be between 0,03 and 0,05 euro. At 0,05 euro per SMS, UFC estimes operators would have a profit margin of 47%. And as a point of comparison, UFC claims that Orange's profit margins on voice calls is 37%, which is already a very lucrative deal.
Julien Dourgnon a directeur at UFC is asking the 3 operators to "return the 350 to 400'000 euros earned off the back of teenagers last year". It is estimated that 8 to 24-year-olds are responsible for 75 percent of the SMS traffic in France.
Elsewhere in Europe (outrageous) prices per SMS.
Holland : 0,22 euro ($ 0.26)
When I tell my teenage son (we are in Switzerland) that there are offers in the UK for "900 free SMS per month" (Vodafone) or that US Cingular offers 750 SMS for 8,.40 euros, he stares at me in bewildered awe.
As allowance, he's entitled to a prepaid phone card which cost 19 euros, which allows him to send 100 text messages. It lasts all of 3 days.
Taska Manzaroli of Dow Jones Newswires published on Yahoo, describes how European fixed-line operators are reinventing home phones to compete with the popularity of cell phones, by adding popular features such as SMS and picture messaging.
-- BT this month produced a corded phone capable of sending and receiving text messages
-- Deutsche Telekom unit T-Com is launching its first color screen handset with message capability in two weeks and is set to showcase a device with a built-in camera next year
-- France Telecom said last week it will market fixed picture messaging in the second half of 2004.
"But there are still technology issues to resolve. In Germany, a message to a fixed-line phone without SMS capability is delivered as a voice message, which can sometimes be difficult to discern. In the U.K., the message disappears unless it is sent to a compatible device. And with picture messaging, operators still have to ensure there is a uniform standard. "
The Gadget Shop is claiming to have increased the average transaction value by 50% after it became the first high street retailer to run a mobile coupon campaign - developped by m-bar-go, according to Revolution Magazine.
"Shoppers on Oxford Street were sent an SMS message with an embedded barcode, offering 10% discount, redeemable at three of The Gadget Shops stores.
The message read 'Christmas has come early @ The Gadget Shop. Save 10% until 31/10/03 with this SMS. Pass it on'. Recipients were asked to present their SMS at point-of-purchase, where the barcodes were read by The Gadget Shop's standard barcode reader.
A distrubing piece in North Dakota online news, GrandForks.com, on the limitations of pinpointing the exact location of someone making a cell phone call.
It won't be until 2005 that by law, all 911 call centers will be equiped with upgraded software needed to localise someone precisely.
And trying to locate someone just by the last calls they made (not if they dialled 911) will not be as accurate.
"According to cell phone companies, precise locations of non emergency calls won't be available. For instance, at Sprint, the GPS information is sent to the company only when a 911 call is made".
Representatives at Verizon and Western Wireless, a company that owns and operates wireless phone systems marketed primarily under the Cellular One brand name, confirmed that the location would not be available if the call was not a 911 call".
Government and private agencies around the world are waking up to text messaging as a useful and effective way of to collect money, by sending out SMS reminders for overdue rent, fines, payments or even tuition.
-- In New Zealand, the Justice Ministry collections centre staff are now sending text message reminders to people who continue to avoid paying overdue reparation and fines. [Press Release: New Zealand Government ]
-- In a South African High School, late paying parents receive the following SMS: "A wonderful spring day to you. But please pay your child's outstanding school fees. If you have already done so, thank you." A few days after the messages go out, the school receives a lot of outstanding fees. [News24.com]
-- Officials at Fife Council Scotland are hailing as a success, an experiment in which tenants behind on their rent payments were sent reminders by text messaging. Out of the 200 tenants sent SMS messages adivising them their rent was overdue, the response rate was of 40%, with five responses arriving within 10 minutes of being sent. [Textually.org]
Political parties have hit a hi-tech campaign in the December 1st assembly election in Delhi seeking votes through SMS and e-mail, reports Sify News.
"The mobile phone has come handy for candidates to reach executives, managers, bureaucrats, homemakers and senior citizens at a personal level.
''Seeking vote through an SMS is like paying a visit as today the cell phone has almost become a part of one's body,'' says Delhi Congress' campaign committee chairman Vishwa Bandhu Gupta".
Some innovative ideas on how out to campaign by SMS:
-- A party symbol 'hand' as a screen saver in a mobile phone in a last-minute effort to get the voter's attention.
-- The photo of a candidate can also accompany a 'vote for me' plea, with MMS.
Lycos UK has launched a service to help users compare their existing financial products with others on the market, in conjunction with the personal finance site Moneysupermarket.com, reports Revolution Magazine-
"The service, called Lycos My Accounts, is based on View My Accounts, moneysupermarket.com's comparative account aggregation system, which lets users compare their own financial accounts against the best products on the market and apply online".
November 25, 2003
In Malaysia, travellers unhappy with the services of express bus operators can now lodge complaints with the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board by text messaging, according to The Star.
"The new avenues for complaints were aimed at curbing unhealthy practices among express bus operators, especially during the balik kampung exodus - the annual pilgrimage of city folk to their respective hometowns during festive seasons.
Some passengers may not be able to board their buses simply because there are no buses picking them up although they had bought tickets for the journey".
Based on 2003 market value estimates, Nokia believes that the combined markets of voice-optimized devices, imaging, games, media, and enterprise mobility and mobile networks represent a US$238 billion addressable market for the company, reports Cellular News.
Nokia has said that it will be the largest digital camera vendor in the world in 2003.
The race to switch wireless carriers is on, but just how quickly people are running to change their providers or get rid of their home phones depends -- of course -- on perspective. Most assessments are finding that people are taking more time to make a switch than anticipated. [The Washington Post]
Nationwide, the Associated Press reported, about 100,000 cell phone users sought to change their service Monday. That's far less than the millions that some had predicted would change carriers.[SiliconValley.com]
Phone retailers and industry analysts said, most customers are biding their time following the introduction this week of cell-phone number portability in 100 urban areas. [Wired]
A record 1.8 billion text messages were sent in the UK last month across the four GSM networks, according to new figures from the Mobile Data Association (MDA).
The MDA forecast the total for 2003 will reach 20 billion. [Text.it]
Tokyo's teens are often given credit for creating Japan's multibillion dollar mobile content market. But sales in this sector are starting to saturate, leaving many companies looking for new markets. The unlikely new niche many have decided to try to go after is the antithesis of today's mobile user: Old People. The Japan Media Review via Mobile Media Japan.
"Targeting the over-40 crowd makes a certain amount of sense: Older people have more money than young people and so have more to spend on wireless products. According to a recent story from Bloomberg News , "Japan's 23 million retired people spend 25 trillion yen, $214 billion, a year."
The dwindling birth rate means about half of the adults here are 50 or older -- so the untapped market is vast.
Until now, most of the content on the wireless Web has been youth- and entertainment-oriented but Japan's mobile content vendors decided to try marketing "mature" content to see if they can get older people to pick up the mobile habit, by offering health, financial and educational services through mobile phones."
November 24, 2003
Mobile Operator MTN Uganda has embarked on a substantial project to improve access to communications services and thus reduce poverty and improve socio-economic conditions in rural Uganda, reports Cellular News.
Based on the successful Grameen Village Phone Programme - The "phone ladies" of Bangladesh -, MTN Uganda officially launched “MTN villagePhone” this week.
Men and women are encourage to take out a micro-loan - as little as US$230 to be repaid over a period of up to 12 months - for the MTN villagePhone equipment and use the cell phones to operate a business providing much needed communications services to their communities.
This is a country where the average villager travels up to two kilometers to make an call and the waiting list for access to a fixed line telephone is 3.6 years.
A study released Sunday found that 31 percent of Americans are "highly tech-savvy" people for whom the Internet, cell phones and handheld organizers are more indispensable than televisions and old-fashioned wired phones, according to DailyCamera.com.
"John Horrigan, author of the report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, said the size of this "tech elite" was somewhat surprising. And while this group is predominantly young, the Pew researchers found plenty of baby boomers and seniors who are equally ardent about using technology.
The difference, though, is that techies in their late teens and 20s are more likely to create online content, like Web logs, or "blogs." Generation Xers are more likely to pay for content on the Web, while wired boomers and seniors generally plumb the Internet for news or to do work-related research."
China's official news agency, People's Daily has reported that there are now more mobile phone users than there are landline phones in the country, according to
"The country now has 259.638 million cell phones compared to 255.139 million landlines.
"When customers receive an SMS via the fixed line, their telephones will ring in the same way as with a regular incoming call. When the customer answers the phone, a computerised voice automatically reads the message and specifies the sender's telephone number".
Mapminder has launched a mobile location service that enables anyone on the Orange network to be tracked down through his or her mobile phone, a service being aimed at parents to keep tabs on their kids, according to Netimperative.
"The service, called Mapaphone, uses network-based software to track the phone to its nearest mobile base station which means the service will be far more accurate in metropolitan areas where base stations are more prevalent.
Mapaphone can be "as accurate as 100 metres in urban areas but may be up to 1-2 km in rural parts," according to a statement by the company.
Related articles and similar services:
ARNnet reports on a demonstration by Caleb Sima, CTO and co-founder of Spi Dynamics, an Atlanta company that makes software for uncovering vulnerabilities in Web applications, on the growing handheld security threat.
"What Sima said he had learned dabbling with cell phone security was that nobody - not software developers, carriers, corporate network executives and certainly not end users - appeared to have looked seriously at this issue. This, despite the fact that millions of cell phones are now in the hands of corporate employees.
Sima recently began playing with Short Message Service as a way to launch a denial-of-service attack against cell phone users, using his own phone and those of co-workers.
"I can send 1000 SMS messages to your cell phone in the blink of an eye," he said. "And I can do it anonymously." Sima created an SMS flood, as he terms it, that rendered his cell phone unable to make or take calls."
Alarming, but one must bear in mind this is coming from a security company - scaring us and then selling us reassurance - is what they do for a living.