Michiel Verhoeven is the General Manager, Asia Pacific and Japan of Microsoft’s Communications Sector. Verhoeven brings more than 20 years of industry experience to Microsoft. Before joining Microsoft, Verhoeven held several executive positions at webMethods, a business integration software company, most recently serving as vice president for Asia. Prior to webMethods, Verhoeven was Chief Operating Officer with Asia Net Media, and held consulting positions at both Booz Allen & Hamilton and KPMG Consulting. He also served in a business management capacity at Papeteries de Clairefontaine. He received an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor's degree in Accountancy from the Haagse Hogeschool in the Netherlands.
Most networks in the future will use Internet protocol (IP) technology. Voice over IP (VoIP) is now a mainstream service and a catalyst for growth and competition in India’s telecommunications industry. Despite offering an ever-widening range of advanced services, service providers in India are facing a decline in revenues from traditional voice and data services due to increased competition. Applications resident on IP Telephony platforms promise a vast improvement in the communications efficiency of Indian enterprises and service providers.
It is widely accepted that today’s networks, and indeed future networks, will be built using Internet protocol (IP) technology. Over the past few years, voice over IP (VoIP) has made the transition into mainstream deployment and this has become a catalyst for growth and competition in the telecommunications industry. India – a hotbed of opportunities The size of the IP telephony market in India in 2005 reached US$54 million. Within the market for enterprise IPT (IP telephony) applications alone, which accounted for US$2 million in 2004, are expected to grow strongly at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 52.3 per cent between 2004 and 2011, to reach US$38.8 million by 2011 (source: Frost & Sullivan). There are already strong signs that the multi-billion dollar Indian telecom market is poised to expand at an exponential rate. Several leading global telecommunications players are partnering to gain entry into the lucrative Indian telecom market. Following the Indian government’s decision in November 2005 to simplify and streamline the licence structure, new services will now be more affordable and this will drive India’s competitiveness as a destination for Information Technology (IT) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). Coupled with the relaxation in foreign direct investment limits (FDI) to 74 per cent, these initiatives will enable global operators to expand their investments significantly in the Indian telecoms and IT market. The likely result will be greater competition, and the market will see the introduction and implementation of the latest technology as competition grows. The need for innovation At the same time, service providers in India are facing a decline in revenues from traditional voice and data services due to increased competition, despite offering a diverse set of services such as fixed-line, IP and wireless telephony, high-speed wired and wireless Internet services and Web storage. Applications resident on the IPT platform promise a vast improvement in the communications efficiency of Indian enterprises. The adoption of such applications will open newer communication channels for one of the most populated nations in the world. Service providers in India are already tapping into fresh ways to take advantage of these new opportunities. Many have already embarked on the road by building next-generation networks (NGNs). The NGNs will allow service providers to quickly create new services or roll out new service bundles to enhance the subscriber’s experience. In addition, service providers today are being more creative and ingenuous about micro marketing these services. Subscriber decisions about service offerings may have as much to do with the packaging and marketing as they will with actual services offered. Based on my discussions with many senior executives of service providers in Asia Pacific, it is clear that these providers must create and leverage opportunities to increase customer loyalty and grow revenue streams. With the advent of triple play technology that drives voice, video and data convergence, service providers can take advantage of their core competencies to find innovative ways to retain and/or attract subscribers. Most, if not all, of the service providers I have met are striving to differentiate themselves within this converging landscape by branding and bundling new services, achieve operational cost reduction and strategically position themselves in relation to their competitors. Delivering value-added services cost-effectively From my experience, it is services over IP or, more specifically, the aggregation of services over IP, which will give providers an edge to differentiate themselves. To gain a market advantage, service providers need to create and package innovative services for delivery to specific target audiences. The primary goal is to enable users to get the information they want, in any media or format, over any facility, any time and anywhere. The service network layer is the framework for building and managing ser-vices using a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and web service interfaces. Not only will such a framework allow providers to bring together third party applications rapidly and with ease, but it will also facilitate the creation of operator-developed services and content that target specific customer segments. For example, this is where triple play services can be integrated with powerful web services such as Amazon, PayPal and Ebay. The amalgamation of these web services with traditional telecommunications offerings will really redefine how service providers compete in this market and present carriers with significant opportunities to drive new revenue streams. These are but some of the services that reside on the service layer: Multimedia services; Unified messaging; Information brokering; E-commerce; Call centre services; Interactive gaming. To fully appreciate the myriad possibilities for aggregated services and value in the new software-powered service network, picture the following scenarios: – While you are watching a cricket match on your IPTV, you noticed via your messenger client that your friend has turned on his IPTV services and is also watching the same cricket match. You decide to discuss the match with your friend, and launch a voice over IP (VoIP) call to your friend from the on-screen TV menu. As you discuss the performance of your team, there is a lull period in the match, and you decide to launch your favourite online video game. All this while, you continue to keep tabs on the match in a small picture-in-picture (PIP) in the corner of the screen. All it takes are a few clicks to make a VoIP call, play a game over an IP connection and watch IPTV. Past games statistics can also be made available to complete the viewing experience; – Another consumer may decide to catch the latest Bollywood movie. She uses her mobile phone to call a movie ticket service, and finds the closest cinema based on the location information provided by her mobile phone. She can then quickly completes the transaction, buy a ticket, and go to the movie later on in the evening. During the movie, she receives an SMS message that gives her the option to buy the ring tone of the movie soundtrack theme or download the entire soundtrack to her PC or portable device; – An office worker in Mumbai needs to discuss a presentation with a colleague in Chennai. Using Outlook, he checks for her ‘presence’ information to see if she is online. Upon verifying that she is, he emails a link to her so she can join a ‘live meeting’ session. He clicks her contact information to establish a VoIP call and both of them use the web conference function to collaborate on the presentation. During the session, he receives an email that some relevant information will be featured on a TV news programme starting in five minutes. They both launch an IPTV session on their desktops and watch the news report together. Using the information gained from the news session, they collaborate to complete the presentation. Real potential, today These may seem like next-generation services, but the technology is ready – it is available today. By leveraging new and innovative platforms, service providers can create and combine profitable services offerings, expand their subscriber base, and gain a critical time-to-market advantage. I am encouraged by the positive changes I have seen in the Indian telecommunications space and believe that the industry will continue to innovate and achieve its full potential in the coming years.