Uber is much more than a taxi firm

To most people, Uber is just a cheap and convenient way to get home after a few drinks, but the scope of the business is extraordinary.

While the inclusion of Uber at a broadband conference might have raised a few eyebrows, the overview given by Global Head of Connectivity Rahul Vijay demonstrated the creativity, innovation and stubborn drive which has ensured Silicon Valley and its residents are some of the most influential in the world.

First and foremost, no-one should consider Uber as a taxi company anymore, at least not in the traditional sense. The taxi’s might still account for the majority of annual revenues, but the team is expanding into so many different areas it is difficult to sum up the business in a single sentence.

Aside from the taxi business we all know and love, Uber has a commercial business working with the travel teams at large corporations, the food delivery business unit is solidly position in a fast-growing segment, the team also work with insurance companies to make sure patients make it to their hospital appointments and it is also making promising moves into the freight world. In markets in south east Asia, the team has launched a 2G-compatible app and is also applying the same business model to mopeds and scooters. In Croatia, Uber has launched a boat taxi service.

These are the ideas which are up-and-running or currently being live trialled, though the R&D unit is also playing around with some interesting ideas. Autonomous vehicles, flying taxis and drone delivery initiatives are just some of the blue-thinking projects. This is a company where a lot is going on.

The interesting aspect of the autonomous vehicles is not just the technology but the supporting connectivity landscape.

“Without mobility there is no Uber,” Vijay said at Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam.

Some have suggested that Uber will never be profitable until autonomous vehicles are commonplace through the fleet, though it doesn’t seem to be the technology which is worrying Vijay; connectivity is too expensive today.

The test vehicles which are currently purring around the highways of North America transmit as much as 2 TB of data a day. This is not only a monstrous amount of information to store and analyse, but the economics of taking this data from the car to the data centres is not there. Vijay said it is still by far and away cheaper to transmit this data through optical cables than over the air, which is not practical. Until 5G arrives, and is scaled throughout the transportation infrastructure, autonomous vehicles are not a commercially viable concept for Uber.

This also opens the door up to another very useful revenue stream for Uber. With more than 110 million users around the world, 200 new trips are started every second. These vehicles are travelling through cities, countryside’s and down highways. The amount of information on mobile signal strength or the performance of mobile handoff between cell sites is boggling. These are only two areas, but Vijay suggested there could be hordes of valuable information which could be collected by the vehicles as they fulfil the core primary business objective.

For telcos, regulators, governments or cloud companies, this insight could be incredibly valuable. It could inform investment strategies or encourage policy changes. If data is the new oil, Uber is sitting on a very significant reserve.

As it stands, the company brings in a lot of money, but the prospect of profits are questionable. In the three months ending June 30, Uber revenues attributable to bookings stood at $15.756 billion. The loss from these operations was $5.485 billion. The transportation game operates on very fine margins. Share price has declined by 28% since this earnings call, though there is hope on the horizon.

If Uber can gain traction in the new markets it is pushing aggressively into there will be increased revenues, though in monetizing assets which it creates organically, the data collected from taxi trips, there could be some interesting developments.

Etisalat, Singtel, SoftBank and Telefónica become security superheroes

Etisalat, Singtel, SoftBank and Telefónica have teamed up to form the Global Cyber Security Alliance, patrolling the shadowy information highway to protect innocent punters from the evils of Malwareman and Dastardly DDoS.

By pooling resources the new crime-fighting cohorts hope to address one of the biggest challenges in the industry; underinvestment and underappreciation. The new alliance will have more than 1.2 billion customers in 60 countries, 20 Security Operation Centres and more than 6,000 security professionals. Crime won’t stand a chance.

Security is one of those topics which constantly gets mentioned, though prioritization seems to be an issue. This is true for both buyers and sellers, as there are simply more interesting revenue generating or efficiency increasing areas which attract the attention. Looking at it purely from a commercial perspective, security won’t make positive impacts on the accountants spreadsheets therefore is not considered a priority. Some might call this a cynical view on the industry, but we think it is simply realistic.

Pop Art Style Typography“With digital technologies gaining widespread adoption and driving innovation across industry verticals, the security landscape has evolved. Organizations now face a new breed of threats and need to manage digital risks in their environments. Today’s strategic alliance will give us a unique opportunity to work hand in hand with our telecom counterparts and deliver innovative security services for digital risk management.”

Francisco Salcedo, SVP at Etisalat Digital

Comic page template“We need swift and coordinated global responses to defend enterprises that operate across transnational borders as cyber threats are increasing in frequency, scale and sophistication. Singtel and its US-based subsidiary Trustwave are both well-established security leaders across the Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas. The group’s resources, combined with those of its alliance partners, will provide a robust cyber security platform to protect our global customers, allowing them to thrive in the digital economy.”

Art Wong, CEO of Global Cyber Security at Singtel

Pow comic book bubble text retro style“Hackers have well-established and organized communities where they cooperate to produce cyber threats – it’s time that the world’s largest network of operators formed a global alliance to strengthen our defence against these attacks. SoftBank is excited to join the initial alliance partners including Singtel, Telefonica and Etisalat, to offer enhanced security to our customers and advance our cyber defence.”

Andrew Schwabecher, Head of the Cloud & Cyber Security Division at SoftBank

Comic colorful page concept“The Security Alliance will help all its members to deliver disruptive innovation to secure our customers’ digital lives. For Telefónica, it’s a major step ahead in complementing our ability to develop as an intelligent Managed Security Service Provider and to continue to deliver outstanding growth.”

Pedro Pablo Pérez, VP Security at Telefónica and CEO of Telefonica’s cybersecurity unit ElevenPaths

One of the big problems facing security is the complexity of the task. Hackers and nefarious actors are becoming increasingly complex, with new types of threats emerging every single day. This is where such an alliance, with an incredibly large pool of customers becomes an interesting idea. If a new threat is detected on one customers network, it can be identified and nullified, before the insight is passed through the rest of the alliance. Scale and the sharing of insight allows new threats to be minimized.

The attitude towards security is perhaps the biggest challenge organizations are facing today. Most companies will try to keep any breaches or hacks as quiet as possible, however this means the threat is still potent. Should there be greater transparency when an attack has occurred, security parameters can be adapted to ensure potential vulnerabilities are addressed. While this idea of transparency might be unrealistic in a world which is dictated by share price, the alliance means knowledge can be disseminated without executives worrying about huge backlash in the public domain.

Cyber criminals beware, your days are numbered as the wheezy crime fighting alliance of telcos is on your tail, just let them finish this round of Dungeons and Dragons.