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Articles in this Series
Anne Lindner

Q & A: David Cotter, Alatto - Part 1

15 November 2001

David Cotter is director of technology at Alatto, a Dublin-based consulting firm that provides services for companies with wireless products. For almost a year, Alatto has been working with license holders for 3G mobile phones to develop wireless gambling technology. IGN spoke with Cotter about Alatto and the future of wireless gaming.

IGN: Who is Alatto?

DC: We are primarily a consultancy, and so what we're trying to do is work with 3G operators and other wireless operators, but our focus is on 3G, to help them find ways to generate revenue, especially in Europe at the moment, especially in the U.K. 3G license holders--which is the next generation mobile phones that are coming out here probably next year--the licenses cost about 5 billion U.K. sterling pounds, which is a lot of money. So they definitely need to find ways to get that money back. That's where we come in.

Some of us here, our history is in gambling on the Internet. Some of us were in a company called, which was the first international person-to-person gaming platform, which we launched last year. But unfortunately because of the economy and various other things, we didn't get our second-round funding, so that wasn't a success at the end. . . People were able to bet with one another on different events, for real money too. And we were very much a kind of market maker. So that's kind of our background, and we have a lot of expertise therefore in wireless gaming because that actually was, as far as we're concerned, the world's first wireless betting platform, because we offered it on the Internet but you could also access it on your mobile phone using WAP (wireless application protocol) or SMS (short message service). When we did that, SMS wasn't as big as it is now.

IGN: How many users did you have for

DC: I think we had about 5,000 registrations or so, as far as I remember. And then of active users, you'd be talking about 10 percent, so we had 500, which isn't huge, but this was before we did any kind of marketing or anything like that. It never got to that stage unfortunately. But it was very successful; we were very happy with it. We were able to produce that from concept to launch in less than six months, to have a fully transactional Web service. That's our background; we decided to change and become consultants, because of our expertise and also because of the opportunities there for us. So that's definitely our focus now. But we don't just do gambling, we do a number of different things. But gambling is definitely one of them, and one of the things that the operators are looking very seriously at. Everyone's trying to charge for things, but there are certain things that people won't pay for. Gambling is one of the things that people will pay for because that's the very nature of it. So that's what we do.

IGN: Who are the 3G license holders?

DC: We can't really say, because there's a lot of contractual constrictions and so on. Basically they don't want their competitors to know what they're doing. But the ones that we're looking at are in the U.K., and we're also working with some that are going to be bidding for 3G licenses in the future, in Europe and places like that.

IGN: At the wireless gaming presentation at the World Gaming Congress, an Alatto representative explained the differences between 2G, 2.5G and 3G. Can you go over that again?

DC: At the moment what we have--if you're familiar with GSM (global system for mobile communications), some parts of the U.S. have GSM. In Europe GSM is Europe-wide, and that's referred to as 2G, the second-generation mobile phones.

The first generation would have been the older analog devices from a few years ago. Then they came up with this GSM standard for the current system that we have now. It's just a name--2G--it's not really an official thing. The thing called 2.5G--it's kind of halfway between the two, there are different ways of doing it; one is GPRS (general packet radio service).

The big difference between 2G and 2.5G is that, as far as the user is concerned, 2.5G is packet switched, which means that the user is charged for the actual amount of data that they download and not the time that they're on. So that if, for example, they were on a gaming site, and they were just making different choices on the screen of what they wanted to do--they're doing various interactions--they would not be charged for the time that they're looking at the screen, which is what it is with the older 2G, because you're dialed in and you're being charged per minute. Here you'd only be charged if you go and access the network to get some kind of data. The way that works out in practice is that, for example if you're reading something, you download it and it costs you. It's a very small amount to download it to the phone, and you can spend 10 minutes reading it but that's not costing you anything. With 2G, if you spend 10 minutes reading something, it would cost you a certain amount per minute; in fact it's so prohibitive that nobody uses the Internet on their 2G phones, really. Some do, but it just hasn't taken off at all. That's one of the reasons that SMS is so popular, because you can send a message to somebody else and that's a fixed charge to send a message. You're not being charged for the time. For example if it takes you five minutes to write the message, you haven't been charged for that. It's only when you send the actual data that you're charged per message, and so it just works out better. That's the key difference from a user point of view. And 3G is the same in terms of being packet switched, but 3G has higher bandwidth, and that's the main advantage of 3G.

IGN: Meaning it processes things faster?

DC: It means you can download a lot faster. In fact, one of the reasons 3G has come about is that we're reaching a limit on the number of voice calls that the network can handle. Voice calls are still driving it, but data is probably going to become more important. If you want to sit down and load something, for example, it could be a game. You could be interested in things like blackjack or slot machines; you can download those things very quickly. Actually one of the other key differences is that because of the way technology is going, around the same time as the 2.5G and 3G devices are coming out, we're also seeing that these devices are much better. They have very large color screens that allow you to do a lot more. That's also going to really change the user experience. The screens allow you to have a very rich user experience, in terms of you, as a blackjack player, you can be one of three players playing against the dealer, and the screen is big enough to represent that in a meaningful way.

Click here to view Part 2 of the David Cotter interview.

Q & A: David Cotter, Alatto - Part 1 is republished from
Articles in this Series
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner