My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Telecom Providers and SMS - CoreTalk, Raiders of the Lost Ark

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Telecom Providers and SMS - CoreTalk, Raiders of the Lost Ark


“An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous”

Henry Ford, on the witness stand, 1919

Innovation is indeed the driving force behind technological development. Innovative people, or idealists as the world would christen such luminaries of the Tech World, look on the world around them and seek to make it better, sharing their vision of an alternative that most people are too busy to see.

People who are about their hum-drum daily existence, little interested or sparing a thought to take the time to read long winded articles – such as this one – instead more interested in Facebook and Twitter and its micro-miniaturization of our communication or micro-blogging, to be hip with the Twitter slang.
                       
And yet this was the vision of Jack Dorsey, Chairman and CEO of Twitter, who began his unique take on Social Networking using SMS (Simple Messaging Service), which has been exploding ever since Mobile Telecom Provider Networks have been springing up worldwide like poppies and just as addictive as the heroine that poppies are used to make.

Thus I was quite surprised to preview on my computer (I do not watch live TV, I record it and watch later!!!) what appears to be another hidden gem in the burgeoning SMS market, mainly in the form of a small, relatively unknown start-up that has been around for some time called CoreTalk Caribbean Limited.



A start-up so small that it only exists on the Internet as a webpage with no listing in the 2010 LIME Business Telephone Directory, may not necessarily have a brick-and-mortar presence and appears to have less employees than a micro-enterprise.

Which is usually seen as less than ten (10) persons as stated in the article “Small businesses post JA$96 billion sales decline – Firms borrowing more and commerce worsens”, published Sunday June 2010 by Avia Collinder, Business Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner.

And yet CoreTalk Caribbean Limited CEO Tyrone Wilson and Technical Officer Leighton Campbell, the CoreTalk Caribbean Limited prima donnas, exudes an air of confidence, panache and adroit cleverness in marketing and promoting their baby, drawing admiring smiles from Carlette DeLeon aka the Pet Tales chick of Television Jamaica fame and Gadgette (feminine descriptive noun for a “techie”…..that is a bit of Silicon Valley slang right there!!).

With her normally sugary smarm smirking contained for once as she surveys them, hands clasped and walk them through their presentation with her sly capybara eyes on Smile Jamaica, aired Thursday June 24, 2010, Television Jamaica.

So what is the nature of their business model and what reason have they to have such confidence? Gentle people, pull up a chair, as John Public takes you to Harvard Business School…………..

CoreTalk Caribbean Limited is what we in the Telecommunications World refer to as a Third Party VAS (Value Added Service). This differs significantly from a VAS provided by the Telecom Provider.

Or In-house VAS is that it is entrepreneur driven and can be seen as a case of Telecom Providers providing a “storefront” for rental of access to a start-up to port their services over the Telecom Provider’s Network state in the article “Mobile operators embrace App store mania”, published February 17, 2010 12:32 PM PST by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News- 3GSM blog.

As an aside, MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), such as Yardfone and the now defunct Carlos Hill operation Megafone, both of which offered overseas calling for JA$999.99 for 1000 Voice Minutes to United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America, are actually a special case of a VAS.

CoreTalk Caribbean Limited Business model is based on contract Subscription from Clients, who pay, according to the presentation on Smile Jamaica, aired Thursday June 24, 2010, Television Jamaica, approximately US$49.99 per month.

Effectively similar to an American Pre-Paid model (equivalent to monthly Postpaid in Jamaica on Telecom Provider LIME or Telecom Provider Digicel Network) to have access to the service, which used an API (Application Interface) that would make the eyes of Grace Silvera, Marketing Manager from Red Stripe and now JCDC (Jamaica Cultural Development Corporation) sparkle.

This as CoreTalk Caribbean Limited effectively leverages a concept that was one of her light bulb moments committed to paper, bereft of the technical details.

Once the Client has had their computer is installed with the API on a desired secure Internet Connected Computer and the desired settings are installed in the API’s software, inclusive of any Mobile Phone Number on any Telecom Provider’s Network that supports SMS.

The Client is able to receive and send SMS to their potential Customers and of greatest fascination to me, collect Statistical Information or Metrics as Marketing people like Grace Silvera term such mountains of Data in real-time, in terms of:

1.      The number of SMS received or sent by the Client
2.      A  breakdown of the incoming SMS Traffic using a user friendly GUI (Graphic User Interface), Statistical Analysis Tools pre-loaded in the UI (User Interface) to determine mathematical pertinent information such as the Mean, Median and Mode
3.      Identities of participants i.e. who “texted” in correct responses, say, to an ongoing promotion being put on by the Client

This of course the Client has advertised, taking care to mention their telephone number, which from the looks of it (and this bears repeating!!) can be ANY Mobile Phone Number from ANY Telecom Provider’s Network that supports SMS, effectively a Telecom Provider Agnostic Third Party VAS.

Additionally, this Platform can be used to create Two (2) way Subscription services where potential Customers can query a Database via SMS using a SQL (Structured Query Language) or even the implementation of a Mobile Social Network, somewhat reminiscent of Geo-Location site DodgeBall or micro-blogging site Twitter.

This opens up a myriad of business opportunities for young Jamaica Entrepreneurs who have always wanted to go into Telecommunications via the unique albeit not first-of-its-kind service being offered by the Third Party VAS CoreTalk Caribbean Limited, as the principals of the start-up emphasized with much alacrity.

Examples given most helpful in driving home a hitherto overlooked point: Real-time Two (2) Way Interactivity via SMS, not just One (1) Way Interactivity. Beginning to sound a lot like Twitter…………when they just started out.

What is most clever about this service is that the Client pays for the service of being able to send and receive SMS to the Client’s potential Customer base, but the potential Customer only pays JA$1.00 for each SMS.

Though I suspect with my bad hearing and the falling rain, I may have misheard the cost of the SMS, which nonetheless is possible, as CoreTalk Caribbean Limited CEO Tyrone Wilson made mention of “partnerships” with the Telecom Providers

Implicitly suggesting that the modicum of their business model involves subsidization of the Customer cost of sending SMS to the Client via the Telecom Provider’s Network via debt management as well as IP routing of the SMS over the Internet!

This as the SMS terminates on the Telecom Providers MGW (Media Gateway) or Router and then is routed unto the IP Gateway within their MGW, which is cheaper than sending the SMS to a devices that is a Mobile Handset, somewhat reminiscent of the business model of Chairman and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey business model.

Simply put, Telecom Provider Digicel, Telecom Provider LIME and Telecom Provider CLARO negotiate contracts with payment percentage from the Prepaid Subscription Revenue dependent on negotiation with each Telecom Provider.

This should come as no surprise, as business models are quite easily replicable with Telecom Providers, once you know the right people, have the correct, convincing proposals with Cost Analysis and Telecom Providers are willing to provide you gateway access as a Third Party VAS, once you have satisfied their criteria as it relates to Authentication and Identification, Abuse and Security on the Telecom Provider’s Network access.

More proof that there is nothing new under the Sun. Thus CoreTalk Caribbean Limited API Software installed on the Client’s Computers or Servers, which appears to be a standalone application or may be a Client-Server Implementation or even a Cloud-Based application.

It is most likely secured via the Phone Number, MAC Address of the NIC Card in case of Telecom Provider LIME ADSL or Triple Play Provider FLOW Cable modem access or the Phone Number, Modem IMEI or Modem SIM Card IMSI in the case of an EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution), 3G or 4G Modem.

All being registered at the time of the Client signing the contract using Government of Jamaica Identification i.e. Driver’s License, TRN, Passport or Birth Certificate and the login process being designed in such a manner that it prevents access if any of the registered elements mentioned do not correspond with that in CoreTalk Caribbean Limited’s Database.

This provides a secure means of alerting the Client whenever their thirty (30) day Subscription has ended and thus are required to renew their Subscription, most likely via a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Credit Card payment option.

Indeed, like I said, a start-up so small that it only exists on the Internet as a webpage and is not even listed in the current 2010 LIME Business Telephone Directory, may not necessarily have a brick-and-mortar presence and appears to have less employees than a micro-enterprise, which is usually seen as less than ten (10) persons, further reduction CoreTalk Caribbean Limited’s operating expenditure.

An even more interesting sign that they are on the right track, as their confidence and basic marketing savvy suggests, can be corroborated from reports coming from the United States of America indicating an increase in the number of Prepaid subscriptions as stated in the articles “Prepaid wireless outpaces contract services”, published April 5, 2010 3:35 PM PDT CNET News - Signal Strength by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News  and “Smart phones come prepaid wireless market”, published May 19, 2010 4:00 AM PDT by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News.

This is a temporary trend lemming-like reaction of people looking for deals but still wanting to have high-end phones, Contracts merely needing only minor adjusting to the ETF (Early Termination Fees) to make them more attractive after the Recession abates!

Statistical proof, however is provided by Gartner, who have compiled statistical data confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt that this Summer of 2010 will see a surge in the purchase of smart phones with Apple makers of the Apple iPhone, RIM makers of the Blackberry, also showing healthy signs of growth as stated by NPD in the article “RIM's strategy to stay on top in smart phones”, published May 12, 2010 4:00 AM PDT by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News.

Other smart phones that run Google Android OS leading the charge and confirming the shift towards Prepaid as stated in the article “Cell phone, smartphone sales surge”, published May 19, 2010 10:01 AM PDT by Lance Whitney, CNET News.

Already T-Mobile, aware of AT&T and Apple coming push of another twenty four million (24,000,000) of their iconic Apple iPhones running iPhone OS 4.0, now re-christened iOS 4.0 as stated in the “Report: Apple readying 24 million units of next iPhone”, published May 17, 2010 10:25 AM PDT by Erica Ogg, CNET News , Saturday June 19th 2010, gave away free smart phones on condition of renewed Two (2) year Postpaid Contract Subscriptions.

Signs of this coming smart phone storm can be seen from the crashing of the pre-order system for the Apple iPhone over AT&T’s Network as confirmed in the article “Apple, AT&T get record number of iPhone orders” published Thursday Jun 17, 12:19 am ET By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer, Yahoo! News.

Though worlds away, Silicon Valley and the purchasing habits of Americans influences the buying habits of Third World Countries, especially Jamaica, so emulative of American Culture yet not having nearly as much access to the technology as our Northern Neighbours.

Here in Jamaica, an adoption of smart phones is already beginning to occur. Ever since Jamaican Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider LIME launching the affordable and iconic Blackberry PIN Messenger cum email goddess-of-a-phone!

The RIM Blackberry and its trim line of smart phones, namely the BlackBerry Curve 8900 as stated in the article “LIME launches the Blackberry Curve 98900 smart phone with Free Service offer”, published Monday, 09 February 2009 by TechJamaica.com.

Meanwhile, Digicel introduced the Blackberry Bold as stated in the article “Digicel brings the Blackberry Storm to customers in 26 markets”, published Friday, 17 April 2009 by TechJamaica.com.

Telecom Provider Digicel also introduced the same Blackberry, such as the Blackberry Curve 8900 and the Blackberry Bold at the same time as stated in the article “Digicel introduces the New Blackberry Curve 8900 smartphone in the Caribbean”, published Monday, 09 February 2009 by TechJamaica.com, Jamaica has caught smart phone fever!

Jamaican Telecom Provider CLARO is not to be outdone, carrying the full lineup of Blackberrys and competitively priced Data Plans, namely:

1.      The Blackberry Pearl Flip 8220
2.      The Blackberry Curve 8900
3.      The Blackberry Gemini 8520
4.      The Blackberry Bold 9000
5.      The Blackberry Bold 9700 (finally they got rid of the trackball!!)
6.      Blackberry Storm 9500 (Apple iPhone imitator, its flattery most sincere!!)

Of course, the only “smart” phone in the line-up and definitely NOT a Blackberry is the Apple iPhone, my obvious bias towards Apple eruditely displayed for all to see.

Even feature phones, capable of just SMS alone and a lot less advanced than smart phones, such as the LG Neon, Xenon and Karma will be popular, all potential Customers along with the mobile phones already in the wild to which a Client of CoreTalk Caribbean Limited can market their products or services.

Chairman and CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey would have been proud that Jamaicans are adopting his business model so successfully, and at such a cut-rate PrePaid Subscription for Clients to offer promotional giveaways as well as Two (2) way Real-Time Interactivity.

Good for Database using SQL or even Social Networking Platforms with a Twitter-esque or DodgeBall-esque feel and a low rate for SMS to encourage user interactivity, much like Twitter, when they had originally started out in 2004 as a SMS based “micro-blogging” service.

DodgeBall started out as an SMS based geo-location service. CoreTalk Caribbean Limited’s business model will, by virtue of pursuing a low price model, revolutionize the SMS business in Jamaica by making SMS services available to potential clients as well as enable any phone to provide the service to its clients, be they on Telecom Provider Digicel, CLARO and LIME.

Much as Square app and sugar cube shaped Square Card Reader widget from Chairman and CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey shown on the YouTube posting “Welcome to Square”, and explained in brief in the article “Twitter co-founder launches new venture: Square”, published May 16 2010, Washington (AFP), The Jamaica Herald, and explained in detail on my blog entitled “CLARO and Square - the App of the Year 2010 and CLARO's Savior”.

A proposal for a partnership between CLARO Jamaica Ltd, the Big Three (3) Banks in Jamaica, namely BNS (Bank of Nova Scotia), NCB (National Commercial Bank) and RBTT (Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago) and Chairman and CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey to promote the usage of this free app on Apple iPhones via the Apple Apps Store.

Also on smart phones running Google Android OS from the Google Android MarketPlace would be beneficial. CoreTalk Caribbean Limited are truly Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), having found it being guarded by the God Anubis, Guardian of the Underworld, as show in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), lost an forgotten…………..until now…………


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