did Lars Magnus Ericsson know that when he started repairing telegraph machines
back in Stockholm in 1876, that 125 years later, his tiny firm would grow to be
one of the finest telecommunication companies in the world. Ericsson, who was
basically the Swedish Alexander Graham Bell, introduced telephones to his
country, and the rest, well, is history.
|But his company also has a very interesting history in Thailand. It has been doing business here for close to a century now, as it introduced the first manual switchboard to the country back in 1908, at a site close to the Royal Palace. And although its Thai roots lie in fixed switching telephone exchanges it has been involved in various projects over the years including installing electro-mechanical systems for the Telephone Organization of Thailand, the armed forces and private companies.|
his company also has a very interesting history in Thailand. It has been doing
business here for close to a century now, as it introduced the first manual
switchboard to the country back in 1908, at a site close to the Royal Palace.
And although its Thai roots lie in fixed switching telephone exchanges it has
been involved in various projects over the years including installing
electro-mechanical systems for the Telephone Organization of Thailand, the armed
forces and private companies.
the mid 1980s, the company changed its focus; continuing to prove it was at the
forefront of market trends as it introduced the first cellular system, the NMT,
to Thailand. This originally only took up a small portion of the company but
today the infrastructure and terminals of its cellular system make up the bulk
of its business here.
Murray recently interviewed the outgoing President of Ericsson (Thailand) Mr.
Jan Kemvall about his company, the evolution of mobile phones and mobile phone
your company first introduced mobile phones, did you have any idea that they
would become as popular as they are? “When cellular phones were first
introduced, people thought they would just fill a small niche and only be used
by journalists and salespeople. But, globally, by next year, or the year after,
there will be more cellular users than fixed users. We were optimistic when they
were introduced, but no one would have believed this fantastic growth back then.
interesting to note that the world now has approximately one billion fixed
users, and soon it will have one billion cellular users and one billion Internet
users. But it took over 130 years to have one billion landlines; about twenty
years to reach a billion cellular subscribers; and now only about ten years to
reach a billion Internet users. (Mr. Kemvall also notes that by 2003, the
majority of cellulars will be WAP enabled.)”
about the threat of radiation caused by mobile phones?
“We try and stick with the facts. We don’t have our own research
facility studying this, but we are cooperating with a number of institutes,
universities and the UN to really find out what the facts and figures are about
this issue, and not just deal with the speculation. We need to take this very
seriously though, because many people are very concerned about it.”
there any research going on in Thailand about this particular issue?
“No, not that I’m aware of.”
name game: what’s the difference between a mobile, a handset and a terminal?
“They are all synonyms. Phones, or mobiles, used to relate to something you
just talked into, but now they have evolved into much more than that, so people
starting calling them handsets, or terminals. But maybe we should call them
mobile terminals. Our official name is Sony Ericsson mobile communication. Or
maybe we should just call them telephone devices to keep it simple.”
about mobile phone etiquette? “I, myself, get extremely irritated when
I’m in a cinema and someone’s phone goes off, or if I’m on the putting
green and someone’s phone goes off. But the facilities are available today;
you can make choices, so that you can receive a call without bothering people by
simply turning off your ring signal and receiving a vibration instead. I know
the president of our company, Kurt Hellström,
gets extremely agitated when a phone goes off during an important
people’s awareness as to how to fully optimize the functions of their phones
is very important as well. For example, if I’m in a meeting and don’t want
to receive a call, I could simply forward the call to an answering service, or I
could use the `divert call’ function on my phone and have the call sent to my
secretary. Then, if she wanted to get back in touch with me, without calling me,
she could use `SMS’ and send me a short message instead. And this is working.
I think you’ll notice that more and more people are sending short messages
now, whereas before they would have called people to relay that same message.”
it’s still true that many people buy phones and only use a fraction of the
technology available that the phone offers. So how can people make the best use
of an Ericsson phone? “First I recommend to read the manual, which is an
option. Then, all the information is also posted on our website, www.ericsson.co.th.
Also as the technology improves, the phone simply becomes easier to use. We also
have training courses for the people who sell our phones, for they are our most
common interface with our customers, so the more they know, the better. But
let’s be honest, it will always be the children that will teach the parents.
They are the biggest teachers.”
Big three mobile phone companies are obviously Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson,
with Nokia usually grabbing the lead and Motorola and Ericsson fighting it for
spot number two. But what gives you a competitive advantage over your two
rivals? “We now are the only ones using GPRS (General Packing Radio
Systems) which is more convenient because it easier to connect to data services,
thereby enabling it to connect to information faster.”
What’s the difference between this and WAP? “WAP is for handling content in the old traditional way, which is rather slow and more complicated, because you have to dial up to access the content. But if you combine the WAP with the GPRS, you don’t have to dial up, you are always connected to the Internet.
GPRS does is allow you to access information on your mobile as quickly as you
could if you were surfing the Net on your computer. You can also send pictures
by attaching a digital camera to your cellular. You cannot send video yet, that
will be too slow, but that will probably be the next generation.”
the will the GPRS be available here in Thailand and how much will it cost
approximately? “The GPRS
service is already on the market here in Thailand. Since the GPRS service uses
new technology, a new phone capable of providing GPRS is required. Ericsson
launched T39 in early November, which holds GPRS functionality.”
does GPRS Network cover? “In the beginning, the GPRS network will cover
Bangkok and some other provinces, but will be quickly expanded to cover all
will international roaming be available?
Where can I get a GPRS phone?
will the billing system work for the GPRS?
How did the September 11 attacks affect your business? “Immediately after September 11, there was a huge demand to get in touch with people, so yes, the need for having telecommunications increased, because it reminded us of how important it is to be able to contact people.”
many have cellular phones in Thailand? “We know that this year alone the
number of mobile phone users in Thailand will increase 100%, from
three-and-a-half million to seven million subscribers, or about twelve percent
of the population. Then, next year, we expect another three to four million more
people to purchase mobiles, so that will bring us to between ten and eleven
million cellular users, or fifteen percent of the population.”
about making cellulars more accessible to those not making so much money?
doing any charity work?
we are sponsoring a number of events and are sending a number of students to
study in the US through a scholarship program we support.”
universities are you working with to help further IT studies in Thailand?
to produce an excellent IT knowledge-based human resource for Thailand, the
foundation is opened to all Thai people and students to apply for the
scholarship to fund their further study for a Master's degree or doctorate's
degree in Infocom, Finance and Economics.”
many people want to keep up with the latest technology, they are constantly
buying new phones, so isn’t there an environmental concern about what happens
to their old mobiles?
this point, Mr. Monthon Chumnong, the Vice-President of the mobile phone
division, joins the interview so I ask him to tell us about Ericsson’s merger
with Sony and how it will affect the branding of the company’s products?
”The new company will create a new and powerful brand for its range of future products. The first joint products will be announced in the third quarter of 2002; however both companies' product lines will remain on the market through 2001 and will continue to be sold in 2002.
the combined brand strengths of Sony and Ericsson and by being responsive to the
market, consumer behavior and competitors, our goal is to become the number one
player in mobile multimedia products.”
thought from Mr. Kemvall? “Well, we’ve gone from fixed lines to the
cellular network, starting with purely voice transmissions. Then we added more
facilities like short messages, WAP and GPRS. And we assume that there will be a
continuing growth of ways to use cellular phones and the cellular network. But
cellular phones will not take over, as the old traditional fixed network will
always be there, because it still provides the fastest phone communication.
we will continue to come up with new solutions for our cellular systems, phones
and infrastructure in co-ordination with our new partner Sony.”
Information Ericsson Ltd. (Thailand):
02) 299 7385
2) 299 7007