Indiantelevision.com's interview with Sydus president Saumil Nanavati
 
'Wireless data bandwidth one of the incredible challenges faced by any technology firm'
Posted on 6 March 2006
 

As the mobile continues growing as a source of entertainment, companies are looking at ways in which they can enhance the value that this medium provides. One such firm is the Singapore based Sydus which specialises in creating music-to-mobile lifestyle expressions.

Founded in 2002, Sydus has attracted technology experts interested in advancing the distribution of digital entertainment to consumers. Last year the company, in partnership with Virgin Radio, introduced MobileRadio, claimed to be the world's first 3G radio. Indiantelevision.com's Ashwin Pinto caught up with Sydus president Saumil Nanavati to find out more.

Excerpts:

 

How do you create music-to-mobile lifestyle expressions?
Sydus has three ways to express mobile music lifestyles:

- MobileRadio - This we believe is setting the trend radio broadcast for global mobile services with the universal language of music. MobileRadio breaks geographical limitations and, eliminates restrains of the home and office environment, crossing boundaries only imaginable before

On the advertising front MobileRadio presents radio advertisers a global reach. It also gives telecom service providers the chance to monetise their infrastructure investments through increased use of data services. It also empowers brands to communicate to their consumers no matter where they maybe through branded radio services

- OnDemand - This is the only streaming service in the world that packages a consumer's favourite audio content on their mobile phones. It allows consumers to instantly stream from more than unlimited songs. It delivers audio in near CD-quality and gives consumers the flexibility to tap into an extensive catalogue from any place that is connected via mobile phones. The Phone Jockey feature customises recommendations and mobile music channels for the consumer

Live - This offers operators and sponsors an option. It breaks the challenges of venue capacity and geographic reach, bringing sponsors a global audience and revenues. Sponsors get borderless reach. Live creates more intimacy between fans and their favourite artistes.

 

What were the challenges faced by Sydus in developing audio streaming technology for the mobile?
There are two incredible challenges faced by any technology firm. The first is wireless data bandwidth. Consumers today are used to a high degree of music quality in the digital lifestyle consumption. Delivering music through a mobile medium is no exception. Sydus is the only firm who can deliver high quality in near-CD-quality audio over GPRS networks, which is similar to dial-up modem with a greater degree of volatility.

The second challenge is making the technology easy-to-use. Using any service or application on an incredibly tiny mobile screen is/always will be a challenge for all. Sydus' challenge was to make the user interface very innovative, attractive and yet very simple to use.

 

Could you give me an idea of the way in which the mobile is evolving as a source for listening to music and consuming media in Asia?
There is tremendous growth potential in the mobile content area. This is allied to the sharp increase in 2.5G and 3G handset adaptation and will combine to deliver global mobile entertainment revenues of more than $ 59 billion by 2009, 16 per cent of which will be generated through music, according to a study by Juniper Research.

According to a recent study, The Future of Mobile Music, which studies the growth of the mobile music market in 28 countries the mobile music market is the most valuable mobile content market globally, generating gross revenues of $4.4 billion in 2005, rising to nearly $6 billion in 2006. Mobile, it is said, now accounts for nearly 15 per cent of the entire music market globally.

The Asia Pacific region will be no different from the rest of the world. For one, there is tremendous growth in mobile adoption in the region. Data from Wireless World Forum's Indian Mobile Market 2006 statistical handbook, for instance, reveals that mobile ownership in India will pass 100 million in 2007. This will only encourage the rapid growth and demand of mobile content, with mobile music being one of the key requirements.

Also, with the growth in demand of mobile music, the popularity for mobile radio services that reach global audiences - like those by Sydus - will also increase. With Virgin Radio UK, for instance, we have noted that there is a large demand for free content made available in mobile phones. In Asia, Thailand, India and Turkey are the three major markets for Virgin Radio's MobileRadio service.

This might also influence the adaptation rates of 3G technology. A report by TelecomView projects that 3G will have more than 300 million subscribers and generate more than $200 billion in revenue in 2009.

 

Which are the top three countries that use your services the most?
Based on our experience with Virgin Radio UK, the top ten countries in the world that use Sydus' MobileRadio service are the Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Italy, USA, Thailand, India, Sweden, Czech Republic, Turkey and Finland.

 

'There is tremendous growth potential in the mobile content area. This is allied to the sharp increase in 2.5G and 3G handset adaptation and will combine to deliver global mobile entertainment revenues of more than $59 billion by 2009'

 

You earlier mentioned the deal with Virgin Radio. What does a mobile phone need to have for the user to enjoy this service?
Consumers require either a Symbian, or Microsoft Windows handset. To-date, there are over 189 handset models and variants, with a footprint of over 65 million handsets, that are compatible with Sydus' MobileRadio technology.

With a Sydus-compatible handset, users have to simply download the application for their mobile phones from Sydus' WAP site.

 
Which are the other radio stations Sydus is talking to regarding tie-ups?
There are number of content publishers, which include radio stations and lifestyle brands that Sydus is talking to with regards to partnerships. At this stage, however, we are unable to disclose any details.
 

In what way does this enable the advertiser to better engage with the user compared to traditional radio?
Unlike traditional radio, users of Sydus' MobileRadio service are not geographically bound to enjoy the radio experience. This means that an advertiser can reach out to an audience all around the world.

 

How does the revenue sharing arrangement with Virgin mobile and the advertisers work?
Sydus has built a new business model for content publishers such as Virgin Radio UK, by creating a favourable situation for the content publisher (radio station), advertiser, mobile operator and the end-user. Ultimately, it's a win-win situation for all.

Content publishers benefit as they have access global audience with minimal costs. They can Refresh campaigns/promotions (on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis) to keep the brand active.
They can put the brand in the consumers' eyes on a daily or hourly basis. Actively track impressions and locations of the consumers. It offers them a platform to launch aural and visual campaigns.

 

'Unlike traditional radio, users of Sydus' MobileRadio service are not geographically bound to enjoy the radio experience'

 
Do you also have deals with music companies regarding customised playlists?
Customised playlists are one of the options that music companies can consider while addressing the lifestyles of the consumer on the go. Sydus is currently talking to music companies regarding customised playlists.
 

How long do you feel it will be before the phenomenon of listening to FM radio on the mobile comes to India?
Indian users are early adopters of mobile phone-related technologies and the phenomenon of listening to radio on mobile phones has already been tried and is on the rise in the country. In fact, Indian users are amongst the top six users of Sydus' MobileRadio technology for Virgin Radio UK's service.

 

Are you in talks with mobile operators in India regarding incorporating the FM radio service as part of their offerings?
As part of Sydus' new business model, we work directly with content publishers and not with specific mobile operators.

 

Apart from music, which are the other areas where your audio technology comes in handy?
Sydus recently partnered with Immedia Broadcasting, the UK's leading provider of live tailored radio for retailers. With Sydus' technology, Immedia can now offer their clients the flexibility of customised radio with global reach and allow them to communicate effectively with their staff and consumers, regardless of geographical location. Thus, Sydus' technology can come in handy for internal communication within multinational companies, especially.

Sydus' technology can also come in handy in times of natural disasters or national emergencies, when specific emergency-related messages need to be communicated over large geographies and when people are not bound to a geographical area.

 

Could you talk about the ways in which Indian television channels and radio stations can benefit from Sydus' technology?
With Sydus' technology, radio stations can reach out to both regional and global, active audiences, tapping into markets such as, Non-Resident Indians or Indian-content-loving users, that have never been explored before.

Advertisers, on the other hand, will have access to a larger audience base. They can choose to advertise with a radio station using Sydus' technology, and send out key messages to many more people at one particular time.

Sydus' technology can enable Indian television channels to extend the experience beyond the particular channel. Television shows, like Indian Idol, for instance, can now link up with Sydus and produce content that is accessible from anywhere in the world.

Television channels can benefit from advertisers that would like to associate themselves with certain shows to reach out to their target audiences, all around the world.

 

What has research conducted by Sydus thrown up about the way in which mobile users consume music?
After the launching the Virgin Radio UK service, our research has shown that even people in Botswana use the service on their handsets. The data from the availability of such services preserves some of our assumptions about consumer behaviours whilst dispelling others. We ruthlessly review all data poured on to us by our services.

Also with service data, our team has personally spent time watching youth and young people at popular places like Starbucks at various locations in the world, to see how they communicate and use their phones. This allowed us to understand that there is a need for free mobile content.

 

'Mobile TV has severe limitations and according to a recent report by Northern Sky Research, the mobile TV market is expected to reach 107 million subscribers by 2010 - this versus the 65 milion Sydus can serve today'

 
The next step is consuming television on the mobile. What plans does Sydus have in this regard?
We are constantly looking for ways to deliver lifestyle content on the handset, and will continue to watch and plan as the industry evolves.
 
Could you talk about the new technologies emerging that are allowing a smooth flow of visual data?
According to a recent report by Northern Sky Research (NSR), it is believed that new technologies such as the Multimedia Broadcast and Multicast Standard (MBMS) and High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) will be critical to the growth and projected rollout of mobile TV over 3G networks.

MBMS is an IP-based technology designed to more efficiently deliver multimedia (video, audio and text) content over 3G radio and network resources. It offers a way for 3G network operators to offer multimedia content over their GPRS/Edge or WCDMA 3G networks without unnecessarily consuming capacity for voice communications.

HSDA is a packet-based data service in WCDMA downlink with data transmission up to 8-10 Mbps over a 5MHz bandwidth in WCDMA downlink. In 3G partnership project standards, Release 5 specifications focus on HSDPA to provide data rates up to approximately 10 Mbps to support packet-based multimedia services.

 

When computers got more sophisticated the virus threat grew. Is the mobile going to face a similar threat in terms of security?
According to a study released by McAfee Avert Labs, mobile security threats are expected to triple in 2006 as smart phones and other mobile devices become more prevalent. The number of malicious software programs created for mobile devices is expected to reach 726 by the end of 2006, according to McAfee.

However, just like how computers are now installed with anti-virus solutions, mobile phones will have mobile security standards to curb security threats. For example, BlackBerry phones are equipped the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution, which uses Data Encryption Standard (Triple-DES) or Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption methods to encrypt data in transit.

Most recently, Nokia announced in Europe that F-Secure Mobile Anti-Virus will be available through Nokia to the users of four recently announced devices based on S60 3rd Edition - Nokia N71, Nokia E60, Nokia E61 and Nokia E70.

This proves that handset manufacturers are increasingly developing new solutions to keep mobile phones secure, as they are, after all, the most personal devices.

 

Is movies being streamed for mobile something that will grow in popularity given the small size of the mobile screen?
Mobile TV has severe limitations and according to a recent report by Northern Sky Research (NSR), the mobile TV market is expected to reach 107 million subscribers by 2010 - this versus the 65 milion Sydus can serve today. However NSR president Christopher Baugh, who is also the report's author, also points out that several business and technical issues are still not resolved, and the resolution of these critical issues is vital to ultimate market success.

It is also estimated, as per this report, that it will take time for broadcast networks to be deployed and handsets made available, therefore many 3G carriers are now searching for ways to make their existing networks more efficient for carrying video. In view of this, we believe that it has yet to be seen whether mobile TV will grow in popularity. However, we believe that content that is created especially for the small screen format i.e. music and that keeps the consumers' attention for a few minutes, is the best option.

 

Now there is talk about the advent of 5G. What do you think that will bring in terms of offering a multimedia experience for mobile users?
The evolution of 5G will form a real wireless world, make an important difference and add more services and benefits to the world over. For mobile users, it will make mobile content more accessible and enjoyable.

However, we will have to wait and see how the industry evolves. Sydus will, nevertheless, take advantage of new technologies available and continue to develop innovative technologies in line with the user's demands to do what they want, on the move.

 
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