Masud Reza's Blog on the Internet

November 2007


View of Islamabad from my Office after rainfall today


Olivier Laurus, Country Manager, Alcatel-Lucent Pakistan

Alcatel-Lucent Committed to Pakistan’s Broadband Market

Oliver Laurus is Alcatel-Lucent’s new country manager and replaces Sid Taylor who has returned to the US. So we managed to catch Olivier at lunch to congratulate him on his elevated position. He was overlooking Commercial Operations before being made Country head.

Alcatel-Lucent is committed to the Pakistan market. Having just signed an MoU with Mobilink for depolyment of Wimax in Pakistan, Alcatel-Lucent also powers Micronet Broadband’s as well as Nayatel‘s FTTU Access networks.

Commercial Wimax deployments in the Pakistan market from Mobilink (powered by Alcatel-Lucent) and Wateen (powered by Motorola) will take off in the next six to eight months. Wimax does not require the PTCL Local Loop. So Mobilink and Wateen will be able to deliver services bypassing the PTCL last mile infrastructure that haunts the DSL service providers. (PTCL haunts them, that is 🙂 )

Wimax will mainly target Home DSL market customers using 256Kbps or 512Kbps volume-based services from DSL Service Providers. Mobilink and Wateen would also like to grab some of the PTCL fixed-line telephony customers. The Wimax CPEs provide POTS interface as well. However, Wimax will not be able to provide high quality Television. Corporate Customers requiring high-bandwidth circuits (typically 10Mbps and above) are likely to stick with FTTU.

Mobilink and Wateen both are in a position to bundle the Wimax with their existing Cellular services in order to come up with Attractive packages for the customer. Both are also expected to heavily subsidize the Wimax CPE cost to the customer. I expect the Wimax installation cost (including the CPE) to be in the 100 usd – 150 usd range. They are unlikely to give unlimited internet packages since the cost for Internet bandwidth is still a bit expensive in this part of the world with an STM-4 (622Mbps) costing around 70,000 usd per month.

PTCL meanwhile will continue switching it’s traditional telephony service to the new ZTE ONUs ensuring that no DSL operater will be able to provide services to its customers (sick!). So Wimax will be a boon for Internet users requiring upto a Megabit of bandwidth.

The Wimax CPEs provided by Wateen and Mobilink in the first phase would be fixed i.e. the terminals won’t be mobile. So, if you get the CPE installed at home, you cannot take it with you across the city.

Interesting times ahead i guess. By end 2008-9, Wimax might shrink the DSL user base. It depends on how well the Wimax players play their cards. The DSL users would be left probably with only one choice … the incumbent PTCL. Only the companies with their own Last-Mile infrastructure like Nayatel are expected to be alive in the next round of broadband offerings. Other DSL Players are likely to kick to bucket by then.

Juniper’s High Performance Networking Seminar

Juniper recently held a seminar on High Performance Networking at Marriott Islamabad. I usually skip seminars but what the heck. Seemed like a good way to stay away from the usual Operations stuff and bask a moment or two in serenity.

The Carrier Grade Metro Network session which I went to attend never took off since the Guest speaker could’nt make it to Pakistan because of the Emergency, courtesy of our mortal Maharaja-COAS-President-god Musharraf.

It was the usual yada-yada with Juniper talking about it’s Firewalls and Routers. Guys from TWA1, Mobilink, Burraq Telecom, PTCL, Dancom et al were there.

Anyway. The seminar was not very informative but lunch was good :-).

Walking into Marriott Islamabad makes one revisit memories of all the blasts that have taken place inside, outside and around Marriott. Surrounded by gun-totting security guards, it made me feel uncomfortable, as I walked briskly across the main entrance into the Lobby.

The Green RickShaw

If you haven’t seen the city of Lahore, as Punjabi folklore goes, you aren’t born yet. Quite a bold statement,eh, wouldn’t you say :-). The wisdom of Punjabi sages aside, if you visit Lahore and haven’t taken a ride on a Rickshaw, then surely, you’ve missed lots of fun. On a short visit to Lahore today, I was able to spot one of these beauties. Islamabad, as you know, has no rickshaws, as the Baboos in Islamabad probably find it insulting that a vehicle as beautiful as a Rickshaw would adorn the roads of the Capital. The Green Rickshaw caught my eye today as it was in non-standard color (Rickshaws are all painted Blue. The backs of rickshaws usually have pictures or poetry on them!)

For my non-Lahorite friends, might I elaborate that a Rickshaw is this three-wheel thingy that you see in the Picture above. No sir, it is not Rick Shaw and is in no way related to George Bernard Shaw. By the way, odd at it may seem, I know gentlemen who delight at calling George Bernard ‘Shah Ji’. Idiots.

Rickshaw, Ruckshaw, RackSha are all used to pronounce the word though I like the first way of pronunciation. The standard way to stop a RICKshaw is to wave your hand. In extreme cases, like all hooligans do, you may want to yell Oye Ruckshayaaaaaa although Miss Manners will be quite upset if you do so. But then you know that Miss Manners and Bhaati and Lohari don’t mix well 🙂

Riding a Rickshaw is an unforgettable experience. I remember the first time i sat in a rickshaw, it was like sitting in a giant massaging machine. I just closed my eyes and thought of being with a masseuse. Dil kay khush rakhnay ko Ghalib yay khyal acha hay…:-)

While i haven’t taken a Rickshaw ride in years, the good thing about the Green rickshaw is that it’s non-petrol (less emissions) and I swear that I had to slide the car window open to hear it!…. So thumbs up for the Government for making the Rickshaw green!

Slippery When Wet?

Yes, baby, you guessed it right!. The Motorway :-). Had to stop and take this one snapshot while Dad scolded me for pulling the car aside. Hmmm. Enjoy the ride!

Wateen Opens Sales Office in Islamabad

Wateen Telecom’s Wimax has been delayed for almost two years now. Other than flashy ads, last mile services of Wateen Telecom are non-existent, zero, zilch! Add to that poor RF planning and the fact that the current Wimax APs cannot deliver the type of bandwidth that the Corporate customer is demanding. 100Mbps full duplex? On Wimax? Who are you kidding man!

So imagine my surprise when strolling down an Islamabad Road I actually was able to locate a new Wateen Office. A quick call to a Wateen insider revealed that this was the office of a Franchisee and not Wateen itself. Well, we’ll find out in a couple of days.

Nota Bene My views of Wateen’s Wimax service here are based on my own experience of Wimax installation at my house in Islamabad where signal strength was barely enough for a 256Kbps connection. So I never opted for it. However, some of my friends have Wimax and it is working fine. I’ll be doing a major post on Wimax soon. The 8 Mbps per sector planning for RF in Islamabad is not enough IMHO. Posts herein represent my own ideas and thoughts and not necessarily those of my employer 🙂

Quest for the Best Cell Phone

Well the quest for the perfect converged device in a cell-phone form factor is over for the time being anyway for me that is. I ditched my faithful old Nokia 9300i Communicator for the Nokia E90 communicator. Communicators are not unlike a woman. You like holding them, feeling them, touching them, caressing them and pressing all the buttons :-). The E90 lacks the curves of the 9300i but ups the ante by including so many extras. The E90 will put a 1000 usd dent in your pocket if you buy it now. I think over the next three to four months it might come down to Rs 45k-50k. The E90 lot in the market now does not have the defects that made Nokia delay the Communicator by almost a month. Users had reported microphone issues and the fact that when the Keyboard was closed, the keys used to touch the Screen ruining the surface in a month or two of use. These have now been removed by Nokia and the current model of E90 in the Pakistan market is E90-1. Well, this set is not manufactured in China or India or even the US. It’s only manufactured in Finland!

Ditching the 9300i was tough. I literally grew up on a Commodore 64. So the Graphical Environment Operating System (GEOS) used to be the standard back then. At least on the Commodore 64. And the Nokia 9300i was a nostalgic piece of kit for me. The IBM PC in those days was primarily geared for Office use. The 1541C disk drive used to have such immense capacity 170KBytes… not to mention the size of the disks … 5.25″……. whoever said small is beautiful? :-). The Nokia 9300i’s Platform, S80 had roots in GEOS. I still wonder how the geniuses used to make the 6502/6510 Processor do wonders. I think the term bloatware came into existence once Windows Operating System appeared. And Intel and Microsoft seem to have an unholy alliance. One keeps on churning new higher speed CPUs and the other keeps on producing bloated code to make the programs run slower 🙂 wanking us all in the process.

I think one should be able to use a phone single-handedly… keeping one hand free for other important tasks :-). All touchscreen phones fail this one simple attribute. Windows Mobile Phones are what I call Dinosaurs… in terms of the resources they use. And Windows mobiles have such hefty dimensions. Slim is in baby. And it’s ok to love fatties once in a while too eh. Holding a stylus and touching the screen might make you a fashion icon but for people like myself it’s a big turn-off. And SMS and Emails require a QWERTY keyboard. Period.

The E90 includes a 3.2Mpixel camera and a GPS. Although, I’m unlikely to use the GPS unless travelling out of city. I was able to test drive the GPS, however, while travelling on the Motorway en route Islamabad. A 140 km/h on the speedometer translated to roughly the same speed on the GPS. The GPS co-ordinates of my house showed an error of 27.5 meters! I haven’t been able to confirm that by using my Garmin GPS though.

The best thing I like about the E90 is the speed. At last I can open pdf, Microsft Word and Excel files in a jiffy. On the 9300i, it used to take ages. The CPU does not let you lag even for a second. Another thing i’ve noticed is that switching from an active call to a call on hold takes split second…. as compared to almost a second on my old 9300i.

For Instant Messaging, Windows Live Messenger is available free of cost although for the E90-1 model released in Pakistan, it is not available officially. You can use IM+ from Shape Services, one of my favorite IM applications. It allows you to use MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Google Chat and then some.

Trying to use the E90 for video is sort of well… stupid. You would have to hold the phone horizontally for shooting a video. A 2.5 minutes worth of MPEG4 video on the E90 resulted in a 50Mbyte file. Uploading it to Blogger Video took a mere four minutes on my home FTTU connection. Blogger then ‘processed’ the video and the results were as worse as they could be. Blogger cannot be used for any serious video hosting. The MPEG4 video made on the cell was excellent. But what Blogger did to it was horrible. So, I took the video off since it wouldn’t give you a tad bit of idea of how good the videos from an E90 can be.

The Blackberry Connect 4.0 software is much better than the Blackberry software on the 9300i. It is just more stable. So far i’ve not had any issues in recieving mails over the Blackberry Mobilink service.

So if you can live with the size and a single device which has it all, the E90 has no competition. Uh Puhleeez. NO windows mobile phones please. Be serious.