Un­tan­gled Web

How close is global con­nec­tiv­ity and what’s next?

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mag­gie Squires

Since the in­cep­tion of the World Wide Web a quar­ter of a century ago, about 2.7 bil­lion people have gained In­ter­net ac­cess. This con­nec­tiv­ity has rein­vented life on the road for the busi­ness trav­eler. We can quickly con­nect with our co-work­ers back home re­gard­ing up­dates and new de­vel­op­ments and, per­haps more im­por­tantly, we can stay closely con­nected with our loved ones.

Data from the World Bank pulled to­gether by Esri, the in­ter­na­tional providers of geo­database anal­y­sis and man­age­ment, shows that 82 coun­tries got In­ter­net ac­cess be­tween 1993 and 1998. In con­trast, as of 2012, 203 coun­tries had ac­cess and al­most 80 of those coun­tries have reached 50 per­cent con­nec­tiv­ity. That means you can make a phone call from the Maram­bio Base in Antarc­tica and get data ser­vice in re­mote lo­ca­tions such as the Cook Is­lands and Guinea Bis­sau.

Al­though this might make con­nec­tiv­ity sound ubiq­ui­tous, we’re still not fully con­nected every­where. Only one third of the world has In­ter­net ac­cess.

In­ter­net.org, a non-profit group founded by some big names in con­nec­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing Face­book, Sam­sung and Nokia, is work­ing to level the play­ing field. Al­though spec­u­la­tion swirls that these com­pa­nies have vested in­ter­ests given most of the found­ing part­ners ben­e­fit from more people be­ing on­line, the or­ga­ni­za­tion still brings to light a global prob­lem.

Con­nec­tiv­ity on the Ground

For­get­ting these is­sues is easy for us in con­nected re­gions, but they can af­fect global busi­ness trav­el­ers. Ac­cord­ing to a Deloitte study spon­sored by In­ter­net.org, North Amer­ica leads In­ter­net pen­e­tra­tion with 82 per­cent. Sec­ond to North Amer­ica is Europe with 68 per­cent, a 14 per­cent drop. China and Latin Amer­ica are at 45 per­cent. South­east Asia and Africa hover at 21 per­cent and 20 per­cent re­spec­tively. In last place falls In­dia at just 13 per­cent, a 69 per­cent drop from the lev­els in North Amer­ica.

The MasterCard Global Des­ti­na­tion Cities In­dex found in 2013 that travel to the global south was on the rise. Eleven of the top 12 cities that saw the fastest in­crease in air travel are east and south of Is­tan­bul, a global re­gion with low con­nec­tiv­ity. In­dia, which has the low­est pen­e­tra­tion, is ex­pected to see a 53 per­cent in­crease in busi­ness travel book­ings in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Man­age­ment study.

Leav­ing aside for the mo­ment the ques­tion of con­ve­nience for busi­ness trav­el­ers, con­nec­tiv­ity could bring out­stand­ing eco­nomic ben­e­fits. Ac­cord­ing to In­ter­net.org’s study from Deloitte, as many as 44 mil­lion jobs in Africa and nearly 65 mil­lion jobs in In­dia could be gen­er­ated by ex­tend­ing In­ter­net ac­cess to lev­els seen in de­vel­oped economies to­day.

A clear an­swer to con­nect­ing the world doesn’t ex­ist. “More anal­y­sis will be re­quired to iden­tify rapid ways whereby gov­ern­ments, in­dus­try and the wider ecosys­tem across the eco­nomic, busi­ness, and so­cial sec­tors can part­ner to re­duce some of these con­straints, ”says the Deloitte re­port.

How­ever, the anal­y­sis points to op­por­tu­ni­ties open to pub­lic pol­icy mak­ers, in­ter­na­tional and re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tions and the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try.

“Co­or­di­nated [pub­lic] pol­icy ef­forts are ef­fec­tive: coun­tries with a Na­tional Broad­band Plan ben­e­fit from mo­bile broad­band pen­e­tra­tion some 7.4 per­cent higher than coun­tries with­out plans, once the po­ten­tial im­pact of fac­tors like higher aver­age in­come per capita, mar­ket con­cen­tra­tion and ur­ban­iza­tion are dis­counted, ”states the re­port. “In­ter­na­tional and re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tions, as well NGOs op­er­at­ing in these re­gions, have an op­por­tu­nity to drive the de­bate on how to best em­ploy In­ter­net ac­cess to deliver

life-chang­ing health­care and ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices, and en­able so­cial co­he­sion.”

The re­port calls out spe­cific ap­proaches for the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try: “By shift­ing their busi­ness par­a­digms to con­sider the needs of cus­tomers in de­vel­op­ing mar­kets, the in­dus­try can pro­mote sus­tain­able hard­ware and soft­ware so­lu­tions that sup­port open source net­works, af­ford­able phones and data ef­fi­cient soft­ware.”

One com­pany in the space that is step­ping up ef­forts to boost con­nec­tiv­ity around the world is AT&T.

“AT&T is work­ing hard to bring additional con­nec­tiv­ity to our sub­scribers who travel in­ter­na­tion­ally, ”says JR Wil­son, vice pres­i­dent of part­ner­ships and al­liances at AT&T Mo­bil­ity. Ac­cord­ing to Wil­son, the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions gi­ant has a three-pronged ap­proach to bring­ing more des­ti­na­tions on­line.

First, it’s work­ing with car­ri­ers glob­ally to launch LTE net­works, which in­crease speed. AT&T was the first car­rier in the US to launch LTE roam­ing for cus­tomers trav­el­ing abroad.

Sec­ond, AT&T is ex­pand­ing its WiFi foot­print, which is cur­rently more than 1 mil­lion hotspots, mak­ing data roam­ing more seam­less and al­low­ing cus­tomers to bet­ter man­age costs when trav­el­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally.

AT&T’s third ini­tia­tive in­volves grow­ing the num­ber of car­ri­ers in coun­tries where AT&T might be the only roam­ing car­rier avail­able.

“Of­ten times [a cus­tomer’s] mo­bile de­vice is their only means of con­nec­tiv­ity to home, so cus­tomers rely on their mo­bile de­vice even more so when trav­el­ing,” con­cludes Wil­son. “As the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the de­vices evolve, and the speed and qual­ity of the net­works con­tinue to im­prove, cus­tomers’ ex­pec­ta­tions of what they can do with their mo­bile de­vices will con­tinue to grow.”

An­other telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany work­ing to­ward global con­nec­tiv­ity is Tru­phone, a world­wide mo­bile net­work founded in 2006 by James Tagg, who is a noted in­ven­tor with patents on touch­screen tech­nol­ogy.

Tagg was in a farm­house just an hour out­side of Lon­don, and no wire­less op­er­a­tor would give him cov­er­age. As a re­sult, he de­vel­oped the ini­tial Tru­phone app, which lets him make voice calls over WiFi, now known as voice-over-In­ter­net-pro­to­col or VoIP. Later through an ac­qui­si­tion, the com­pany moved into wire­less tech­nol­ogy, which is Tru­phone’s core fo­cus to­day. “That’s the evo­lu­tion of how our busi­ness came to be, ”says Pas­cal de Hes­selle, vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing in the US at

Tru­phone. “We still have voice-over-IP tech­nol­ogy, but with­out shar­ing any con­fi­den­tial se­crets, in our labs, we see great value in com­bin­ing those as­sets with our net­work as­sets.”

Tru­phone of­fers roam­ing ser­vice in 223 of the ap­prox­i­mate 240 coun­tries in the world. The “Tru­phone Zone, ”which of­fers stan­dard rates and data, con­sists of eight lo­ca­tions: the United King­dom, Ger­many, Spain, Poland, the Nether­lands, the US, Hong Kong and Aus­tralia.

This in­ter­na­tional sys­tem can be es­pe­cially valu­able to those trav­el­ing in Europe, where go­ing from coun­try to coun­try is like go­ing state to state in the US. In­stead of pay­ing roam­ing fees when go­ing one coun­try over, trav­el­ers in Europe pay their stan­dard, day-to-day rate, de Hes­selle ex­plains.

Its ben­e­fits aren’t limited to Europe, though, he continues. If you reg­u­larly do in­ter­na­tional busi­ness with any of the coun­tries in the Tru­phone Zone, then its net­work could yield sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings of around 40 to 50 per­cent.

Tru­phone also lets cus­tomers have more than one num­ber on their phones. For ex­am­ple, if you’re in a busi­ness that reg­u­larly works with the United King­dom, Hong Kong and Ger­many, you can have a num­ber in the UK, a Hong Kong num­ber and a num­ber in Ger­many. These num­bers mean col­leagues can call you at lo­cal rates.

Global businesses have taken no­tice of Tru­phone’s tech­nol­ogy. Three of the five largest global banks are among the com­pany’s cus­tomers.

If you’re work­ing with some coun­tries out­side of the Tru­phone Zone, don’t fret. “Our busi­ness is very scal­able, ”says de Hes­selle. “Much of what we’ve done in the past 24 months is in­vest in our net­work, sys­tems and tools, so we can scale the Tru­phone Zone quickly.”

Al­though Tru­phone runs its own net­work, adding a new coun­try does re­quire in­te­grat­ing with lo­cal tier-one providers of ra­dio tow­ers while al­low­ing Tru­phone’s net­work to serve as an um­brella. “We have the abil­ity to do that very quickly. We’ve added three coun­tries in the past six months, ”says De­hes­selle.

Con­nec­tiv­ity in the Air

For the true busi­ness trav­eler, the progress of global con­nec­tiv­ity mat­ters as much at 30,000 feet as it does on terra firma.

“Since the launch of our first con­nected air­craft, there have been more than 50 mil­lion In­ter­net ses­sions on the Gogo net­work, ”notes Ash ElDifrawi, chief commercial of­fi­cer at Gogo, the in-flight In­ter­net provider.

Un­til re­cently, in­flight WiFi was limited to do­mes­tic flights. This year, Gogo launched in­flight WiFi on Delta’s in­ter­na­tional fleet. “Gogo also flipped the switch on our Cana­dian net­work, which will al­low us to pro­vide seam­less cov­er­age through­out the US on cross-bor­der flights and will ad­di­tion­ally al­low for ex­pan­sion in Canada, ”says ElDifrawi.

Gogo has plans to launch additional in­ter­na­tional part­ner­ships in 2014 with Aero Mex­ico and Ja­pan Air­lines.“This year Gogo will be launch­ing GTO (Ground to Or­bit) with Vir­gin Amer­ica, which will al­low peak speeds of up to 70 Mbps, ”says ElDifrawi. “We truly be­lieve this will be the best per­form­ing con­nec­tiv­ity so­lu­tion in the US. In Ham­burg, at the Air­craft In­te­ri­ors Expo, we an­nounced our plans to ex­tend a sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy glob­ally.”

Gogo has also an­nounced its text mes­sag­ing ser­vice, which lets pas­sen­gers send and re­ceive texts over Gogo’s WiFi with their own phone num­bers.

Con­nec­tiv­ity in the Fu­ture

We’re still work­ing to­ward to­tal global con­nec­tiv­ity on the ground and in the air. But how soon will the day come when we might be able to stay con­nected every­where we travel?

“People tend to want tech­nolo­gies im­me­di­ately, but it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that these tech­nolo­gies and sys­tems take time to de­ploy, ”says ElDifrawi “I can’t say the ex­act date of when people will be able to stay con­nected every­where they go. ”But, he adds,“I can say that as far as in­flight In­ter­net goes – Gogo will con­tinue to ex­pand our global op­er­a­tions as quickly and ef­fi­ciently as we can and will con­tinue de­ploy­ing.”

As more and more people get con­nected, a new phe­nom­e­non is aris­ing where not merely de­vices in your hand, but de­vices all around you are part of the global net­work.

“The con­nec­tiv­ity of all things, ”says AT&T’s Wil­son. “We’ve seen the world adopt wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity for things like home se­cu­rity, home ap­pli­ances, con­nected cars, and this trend will clearly con­tinue with more and more things people use hav­ing wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity.”

“The In­ter­net of Things is still in its in­fancy, but the ser­vices it will deliver are end­less, ”Tru­phone’s de Hes­selle says.“The abil­ity to con­nect ma­chines-to-ma­chines, busi­ness-to-busi­ness, in­for­ma­tion-to-ma­chines will have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on economies and ser­vices world­wide.”

So what could that im­pact look like? “In the fu­ture, the In­ter­net of Things could al­low you to use your smart­phone to change a flight from one coun­try to an­other, which then changes your Mar­riott ho­tel reser­va­tion to one in the new coun­try, ”says de Hes­selle. The change could cas­cade through your en­tire itin­er­ary, he says. “Can­cel your old taxi and get a new one to and from the air­port, change din­ner reser­va­tions based on ho­tel check in time, alert your credit card com­pany that any charges in the new coun­try are OK, and let the home of­fice and your fam­ily know about the change in plans.”

Al­though the In­ter­net of Things might sound like a dis­tant fu­ture in a sci­encefic­tion movie, the con­cept al­ready has its own con­sor­tium, which in­cludes ma­jor com­pa­nies such as Cisco, Gen­eral Elec­tric, IBM and In­tel along with AT&T. At the end of March, the con­sor­tium, which is for­mally known as the In­dus­trial In­ter­net Con­sor­tium, an­nounced it’s work­ing de­velop en­gi­neer­ing stan­dards so that ob­jects, com­put­ing sys­tems and sen­sors can con­nect.

In plain English, this dreamy fu­ture means that some­day, when you leave for a trip on busi­ness and can­not for the life of you re­mem­ber if you left the oven on, you will be able to turn that oven off from any­where in the world – and turn off the worry that goes along with it. BT

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