Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Convergence in modern telecommunications

Kenro Seishima receives a short message on his cellular phone. It contains not only words and letters but also a small bar code. Out of curiosity, Seishima, a young executive, scans the bar code and, through the application in his cell phone, the screen features an advertisement of a car plus complete details about it.

The details give not only specifications and price information but also pictures of the car from various angles plus a contact person. In no time does Seishima contact this person and talk to him like in a video conference through his cellular phone.

Seishima's experience is like a scene in a James Bond film or in Mission Impossible but it is actually quite common in Japan. As the standard of cell telecommunications has reached the third generation (3G) in Japan, this standard has introduced many novel things. The 3G technology, released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) through its IMT-2000 package, has indeed transformed the business map of cell phones. You can use a cell phone not only for conversations but also for virtual meetings, location-based services (LBS) streaming and downloading of video and music, including TV programs, peer to peer messaging such as instant messaging, MMS or e-mailing.

Of course, Indonesians will also soon have this Japanese experience in modern telecommunications, especially because 3G development in Indonesia, affiliated to the GSM group, is just a matter of time. Three operators (PT Telkomsel, PT Excelcomindo and PT Indosat) have already acquired licenses.

Meanwhile, vendors have also been competing to launch the most sophisticated 3G cell phones. Motorola has launched its superior Motorola RAZR V3x. This clamshell cell phone, which combines design and technology, was named the "Best 3GSM Handset 2006" in the 3GSM World Congress 2006 early this year in Barcelona, Spain.

Besides the RAZR V3X, the U.S. company has also launched several other 3G cell phones, including Motorolla E1000, Motorolla A1000, Motorolla C975.

Meanwhile, Sony Ericsson has introduced its M600i, which is dedicated to complete e-mailing communications with touch-screen capability and handwriting identification. This Swedish-Japanese joint venture has also introduced its P990i series with a push e-mail facility, which allows communications with the Internet through the 3G network.

Of course, 3G cell phones must be smartphones because they have to handle various multimedia applications. A mobile television is now the talk of the town. The 3G technology makes it possible for the application of this high-speed feature.

Nokia has been highly aggressive in introducing its mobile TV. It has introduced its N92 series. Meanwhile, Samsung has launched its SGH-P900 series. With a DVB-H TV broadcaster receiver, these cell phones can receive television broadcasts.

Indeed, Nokia and Samsung do not automatically introduce all their systems to Indonesia. Nokia, a Finnish company that is the main supporter of DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast for Handheld) technology, is still trying to identify the character of cell phones in Indonesia. For this reason, it will launch limited edition cell phones this year.

In Germany, four cell phone operators (T-Mobile, Vodafone, O2 and E-Plus) provided live broadcast of the recent 2006 World Cup soccer matches through cell phones. Meanwhile, in Indonesia GSM operators like PT Execelcomindo Pratama are trying to grab this opportunity by offering cell phones that can receive television broadcasts. However, these cell phones are more specifically intended for XL subscribers, ranging from pre-paid Jempol subscribers to post-paid Xplor Powerplan subscribers.

In fact, the system of reception in mobile TV is digital. Like a cell system, the digital TV system is based on signal beaming from an antenna such as BTS. However, what XL is offering is the same as ordinary television reception in that it is still analog. Therefore, it is more appropriate that it is called a TV cell phone.

A folded cell phone called i-mobile TV 901 comes complete with an ordinary TV tuner so a user far away from a broadcasting antenna will find it difficult to receive TV broadcasts. Uniquely, this compact TV can record any program desired in an MPEG4 format to be later replayed, either through the cell phone or other electronic devices supporting this system.

This special product can also serve as a useful mass storage device when connected to a computer that is USB compatible. This removable disk can store files that can be displayed through the computer.

As it is, a cell phone is now an inseparable part of modern man. It is not just a device for telecommunications but is also an instrument with various functions. The days of the cell phone being a device just for conversation or for SMS is over. The function of a cell phone is augmented today in line with enhanced capability of transplanting various kinds of technology into it.

The most standard features of a cell phone are SMS, a phone book and an organizer. The next features to be added included the MMS, small note, ringtone download or wallpaper, bank account balance checking and banking transactions, SMS news service, Internet connection as well as dispatching and receiving e-mails.

As more features are added to the cell phone in line with the rapid progress in technology, there will soon come a time when we can no longer distinguish a cell phone from a personal digital assistant (PDA) or even a computer, for example. This is a phenomenon known as the convergence of information communication technology capable of combining various technological capabilities in one unit.

This unifying convergence has at least been found in a PDA as smart phones and PDAs complete with a cell phone receiver are being increasingly developed today. These two devices have almost the same features and have been improved in such a way that they are close to being notebooks. Still, they maintain their identity as practical, stylish and portable devices.

The presence of an ultra mobile PC, pioneered by Microsoft, for example, also illustrates this trend of convergence. The expansion made by this computer giant shows a stronger combination between telecommunications and information technology.

A new product in the form of a PC tablet measuring half a foolscap-sized piece of paper with a touch screen has further improved the notebook. However, to produce this device, Microsoft has teamed up with telecommunications vendors, like Samsung, for example, with a strong basis in cell phone technology.

Like it or not, cell phone manufacturers must immediately evaluate their products even faster. They can introduce improvements by adding the capability of accessing the 3G network now rapidly developing, for example. This situation demands that world cell phone producers should not only be more creative in design and provide more facilities but that they should be able to produce an intuitive modern device that keeps up with the development of communications technology. (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post, August 29, 2006

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