Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Combining the perks of a mobile, Internet-ready PC

By Dennis D. Estopace, Manila Times Reporter

NINE-month-old Filipino-owned company D3 Systems Inc. may yet become the darling of “texters” as it plans to cut global text-based communication via handheld phone to half a dime through its recently launched mobile application.

Speaking before reporters and officials of the Philippine Long Distance Co.’s Internet-based firm ePLDT, former PLDT executive Wilfredo A. de la Cruz said his company’s product will cost a handheld phone user just seven centavos for sending the character “k.”

“K” is the most widely used character and is the short form for “OK” among mobile-phone owners using their short message sending (SMS) feature. The Philippines, considered the SMS—or “tex­ting”—capital of the world, has nearly 40 million owners of mobile phones using three major networks. These networks are owned and run by telecommunication firms Smart Communications Inc. of PLDT, Ayala-owned Globe Telecomm Inc. and Sun Cellular of Digitel Communications Inc.

Each mobile user spends P1 for every message sent, especially for someone sending messages across different network service providers.

De la Cruz, D3 Systems’s president and chief executive, said based on their tests, sending 1,000 characters using the company’s application called YehBA* would cost only 25 centavos. Sending a message via GPRS (for general packet radio service) would also cost that much for every kilobyte, he added.

De la Cruz said based on their tests, a message with 160 characters would only cost 14 centavos.

Hence, forming part of D3 Systems’s target market are land-based and sea-based overseas Filipino workers using the text-messaging feature of their mobile phones regardless of mobile operator.

The technology won’t cost the user anything, de la Cruz said, since the software to be installed on the mobile phone is free—at the moment. The user just needs one of 11 mobile-phone units manufactured by Nokia to install the YehBA* software.

The software’s beta—or trial—version and instructions for its installation can be downloaded from the company’s website www.yehba.com or from a mobile phone already containing it.

De la Cruz’s partner and D3 Systems’s vice president for technical operations, Roger C. Delgado, said the software is 230 kilobytes in size and can be installed in 60 seconds.

D3 Systems’s technology uses the “chat” technology of the Internet. A mobile phone installed with YehBA*, as Delgado tested during the launch early May, was able to exchange messages with another person via Yahoo!, MicroSoft Network, ICQ and Jabber messaging networks.

“YehBA* combines the advantage of a mobile device and an Internet-connected computer,” de la Cruz said. “It has the same look and feel of an Internet connection.”

After installing the software, the phone owner registers as a YehBA* user, types his or her message on the phone’s keyboard or pad and sends it to another YehBA* user. Or, the user can access an Internet-based “chat” application, say Yahoo!’s Instant Messenger, and send his or her message, allowing the YehBA* user the option to go online or use his or her phone to reply.

According to Puneet Gupta of Bell Labs, an SMS “is a mechanism of delivery of short messages over the mobile networks.”

In his article for web-based wirelessdevnet.com titled “Short Message Service: What, How and Where?” the service “is a store and forward way of transmitting messages to and from mobiles.”

“The message [text only] from the sending mobile is stored in a central short message center [SMS] which then forwards it to the destination mobile,” Gupta said.

SMS, Gupta added, supports national and international roaming.

“This means that you can send short messages to any other GSM mobile user around the world,” he said, adding that with the communications technology support it has, “SMS is more or less a universal mobile data service.”

“With YehBA*, my phone says ‘YehBA*’ to let me know there’s a message waiting for me to read,” de la Cruz said. “So, there’s no need to stay online to wait for the other guy to reply. I can be far away from my computer and still be in touch with someone at a cheaper price.”

He added that the software is composed of the extensible messaging and presence protocol (XMMP) and ZIP platforms: the first for text presence and the second for video and voice.

De la Cruz declined to disclose if YehBA* is positioning itself to cut down the costs of voice-based communication currently ranging from P4 to P6 a minute.

He doesn’t see the need for registering with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) since the software is using the Internet.

The NTC, which regulates telecommunication platforms and charges, has recently favored the voice-over Internet protocol (VOIP) that some say would cut down the cost of communication.

When asked how his company would earn, de la Cruz said they are eyeing revenues which they hope would buy their bluetooth technology-based equipment to create a “Blue Zone.” Sending messages via YehBA* wouldn’t cost anything to a user within a “Blue Zone,” he said.

With a “Blue Zone,” these places can send mobile-phone users within 100 meters with streaming advertisement. D3 Systems’s 3x4 bluetooth instrument is for wireless communication that recognizes YehBA* users from non-YehBA* users. De la Cruz said they are looking for manufacturers to bring down this equipment’s current cost at P30,000 each.

“Our cell phones today are still like cable television where there’re no commercials,” he said. “We see cell phones becoming more like broadcast TVs where users receive advertisement in-between use.”

So while YehBA* is still limited to text, the company is currently working on image-based messages as well as games.

While YehBA* can only work with Nokia phones, Delgado said they have tested it with Sony Ericcson models, but only one worked well with the software.

“We’re still developing models with telecommunications companies,” de la Cruz said.

And for this, he said the company has a “small” capital stock in its registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission