I’ve know Liew Kong Nam for many years, since he was in the Singaporean start-up Line Fusion (that name and website is lost to the mists of time), which was bought by Dilithium Networks. His new venture, Nano Equipment (I’ll use the acronym NE as the name is a legacy issue), is a mobile video service provider that has also built its own platform, which is available to other mobile VAS (Value Added Service) providers. But my focus in this article is to explain why NE has achieved mobile video service success when so many have failed.
NE offer 3G video services commercially in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, mainly 3G circuit-switched video telephony services. The reasons their current services use CS (Circuit Switched) video are:
- A phone number-based service, as oppose to using mobile browser or on-device client, ensures that the services reach all 3G customers;
- Fast connection set-up to video and fast switching from one video to another makes ‘channel-surfing’ possible, which customers expect in video services;
- Call duration based billing is understood by all customers; and
- The charge for a video call (airtime) is the same as a standard voice call in the region they operate, so customers are not inhibited by a cost premium.
Some of the services they offer are listed below, on their website you can play samples of these services.
- Virtual Audition. For the popular Live-the-dream talent contest, Mediacorp uses NE’s hosted service to let aspiring participants record their performance via a video call. The video clips are pushed to Mediacorp for assessment and selected participants are invited for the next round.
- Citizen Journalism. ChannelNews Asia is running the Yournews! Service that let the public capture and send in newsworthy video clips through our hosted service.
- Video News. NE works with Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad for the service. For news articles on The Star (a leading English-language newspaper in Malaysia) that have an associated video clip, a small tag is printed at the end of the article. Readers interested to view the video just make a video call to view the clip using their mobile phones.
- Traffic Monitoring. NE work with Telkomsel to offer the service which let users view live streams from selected traffic cameras using their mobile phone.
- 3G Radio Vision. NE work with Star RFM Sdn Bhd on the service NE terms “3G Radio Vision”. The service enables fans of the highly popular 988 radio station to view and listen to their radio DJs live in studio via a 3G video call. In addition, pre-recorded clips of celebrity interviews and other entertainment news clips can also be selected for viewing on the portal.
- Mobile TV. Following up on the popular “First Class on Mobile”, which is a mobile VOD (Video On Demand) service for spin-offs, behind-the-scenes, special interviews clips associated with Mediacorp TV comedy “First Class”, Mediacorp just started the mobile VOD run for their year-end Chinese blockbuster series “The Little Nonya.” The call rate jumped more than 3 times from the previous weekly average.
- Social-Networking. NE operate the Asia Video Club service, the first regional (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia) 3G video call based mobile social-networking service. Each user has their personal ‘portal’ where they record their video profile and video blogs. By ‘visiting’ others portals, members can view other profilee and blogs and leave video messages. Members can also upload their video profile or blogs to Youtube.
- 3G-to-TV or Participation TV. NE work with iPoint-Media, and the service has been deployed in live contest segments on Mediacorp’s variety shows.
- Legal Service. For the Subordinate Courts of Singapore this service allows lawyers and judges to collaborate over video (3G mobiles for the lawyers and PCs for the Judges), seeing each other is a legal requirement in Singapore hence phone calls are not adequate.
Setting this success in context. Many operators have struggled with video services. In my article on Carrier Video Services I highlight the challenge faced by mobile videotelephony and contrast that with the pervasiveness of video over the internet. The key to NE’s success is focus: that is focus on a region and focus on mobile video. Yet at the same time the entrepreneurial zeal to solve any problem in that region with their solution: Defocus? though I think of it as opening up the pipeline of opportunities/revenue.
Most operators can not afford the time to develop these niche markets, they’re just too small; and most operators do not have the zeal required to realize the opportunities. Most of the brands/content owners (Mediacorp, ChannelNews Asia) do not have the expertise or time to deliver the easy to use services. Hence, NE clearly satisfies an unmet need in the market. As operators open their networks to expose capabilities (Telco API), companies such as NE should be the target customers for those capabilities, through solving NE’s problems operators will be improving the engine of service innovation on their networks.