Saturday, July 28, 2007

Video Behavior Changes After FTTH

This will not come as any great surprise, but the three top applications customers use when they get fiber to the home service are watching full-length video, online gaming and video on demand. If one looks at the top four activities, video represents three of four applications. Of the top seven apps, five are video apps. So suggests a survey conducted by the Fiber to the Home Council.

Voice Continues Wireless Shift

Wireless access "lines" not only outnumber wired lines by a three to one margin, wireless accounts now blow away wired lines in terms of growth, say researchers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Which explains the attention now paid to seamless experiences in either the voice or Web realms. If so many people are going to spend so much time in mobile settings, then the things they might do on a PC or desktop phone have to be available on their mobile devices. Ideally, the context a user expects in a stationary or tethered experience also would be replicated in the mobile context as well. Price, while always a factor in a buying decision, is a matter of "hygiene."

If the price is wrong, no sale occurs. But price is not something that can make a user happy. Think of price as something that instead prevents a user from being "unhappy."

But even the right price makes a user "happy." The things that make users happy are on a different plane, entirely. Coolness, features, form factor, user interface and lots of other things people find they can do with a service and device are the essential parameters for driving "happiness." And the attempt to find "happiness" is what drives the purchase.

If you want people to buy something you make, you have to remember that "happiness" and "hygiene" are not on the same continuum. There are two different scales, and you have to be on the right side of each scale.

Friday, July 27, 2007

TeleBlend: More Steps to Ensure SunRocket Transition

In an effort to ensure it has the resources in place to manage a fairly sizable inflow of former SunRocket customers, should that occur, TeleBlend executives have signed an agreement with Sherwood Partners, the entity winding down SunRocket, for hardware and software assets that will make any customer transition seamless.

TeleBlend, a “preferred” provider for former SunRocket customers, is offering these customers a heavily discounted monthly subscription rate of $12.95 for the duration of their previous annual contract with SunRocket.

We won't know more until this afternoon, but it seems logical to assume the deal gives TeleBlend ensured access to in-service analog terminal adapters and the provisioning and operating systems used to keep them in service, at least through any transition period where customers are moved over the existing TeleBlend back office and network.

The agreeement does not seem to affect the earlier "preferred supplier" deals Sherwood struck with Packet8 and TeleBlend.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Verizon Bends on Net Neutrality

Lowell McAdam, chief executive of Verizon Wireless, says the company would agree to 700 MHz spectrum auction rules requiring the network operator who wins a portion of the spectrum to allow any device onto its network.

Such a nod to the wireless equivalent of "Carterfone" suggests Verizon now believes some such requirement will be part of license rules for the 700 MHz frequencies. The compromise won't go far enough to satisfy contestants who think a mandatory wholesale regime is needed.

But the move would for the first time allow users to buy and use virtually any device of their choosing on the network. As much as wireless carriers might like to preserve their ability to lock all devices used on their networks, device independence would be quite helpful for end users, application developers and device manufacturers, since it would allow some degree of innovation without the direct cooperation of the network services provider.

Verizon draws the line at guarantees that all games, video and the Web applications on the new phones or devices will work on anything other than a best effort basis, in essence, however. Verizon also said it would reserve the right to continue blocking certain applications and features for phones it sells, if it were to operate networks under such rules.

at&t earlier had signaled that it wasn't going to stand in the way of such rules. Some people might not think half a loaf is worth having. But Carterphone was a very important advance, as this also would be. Verizon arguably would not be shifting its stance were it not convinced the move is inevitable in any case.

SunRocket, Vonage Not the Whole Story

As much as people think VoIP providers (other than cable) have got traction problems in the U.S. market, that is far from the case elsewhere. In western Europe, for example, independent VoIP providers are not only the market share leaders, but their share of market might actually be increasing, even though major incumbent telcos are actively in the market as well.

And where U.S. cable providers including Comcast, Cox, Time Warner and Cablevision are the new driving force for VoIP-driven POTS replacement, that is hardly the case in western Europe, where cable operators still have relatively slight market share.

Still, there is no denying the traction problem. According to analysts at TeleGeography, VoIP growth already has hit a plateau in the U.S. market. In western Europe growth rates not only have accelerated but might not hit a peak until 2008, says TeleGeography.

Hence the interest in VoIP 2.0, the integration of voice services with Web and enterprise applications, portals, email, documents, gaming and other end user experiences.

EarthLink, Helio, Muni WiFi


Given that Earthlink essentially admits it now is more than a bit unfocused, and that something has to be done about it, it is pretty easy to predict that Helio and the municipal WiFi initiatives have to go. Earthlink will keep dial-up as a cash cow. It does just fine in the Digital Subscriber Line business and VoIP is not bleeding either. That pretty much leaves losses at Helio, which doesn't appear poised to make major subscriber gains any time soon, or the municipal WiFi business, which is in roughly the same position.

And one has to assume Earthlink will ultimately be set up for a sale. In such scenarios, long-term investments that drain cash are a no-no.

Something has to go. EarthLink now expects a loss of $110 million to $140 million for the year on revenue of $1.23 billion to $1.24 billion. Back out municipal WiFi and Helio losses and that problem takes care of itself.

Earthlink had a second-quarter loss, due to mounting losses at its Helio wireless joint venture and lower revenue from dial-up services. Earthlink says its Helio cellphone business exceeded the 100,000 subscriber milestone in the quarter, but the unit's losses mounted. Helio, a joint venture with South Koreas' SK Telecom, posted a loss of $83.8 million on revenue of $33.2 million.

Earthlink had a loss of $16.3 million, or 13 cents a share, compared with a profit of $16.6 million, or 12 cents, a year earlier. Earthlink said revenue for the quarter fell 6% to $312.2 million from $332.1 million a year ago.

Sure, there were continued losses in the dial-up area, but that's expected. At the end of June, the company had 4.3 million dial-up and broadband subscribers, down from 5.3 million a year ago.

Earthlink is a profitable Internet access company if the wireless and muni WiFi iniatives are abandoned. If you assume the assets are positioned for ultimate sale, that's a clean story.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

BroadSoft Aastra: Man Bites Dog


Aastra Intecom, a provider of PBX-BASED enterprise communications and contact center solutions for large enterprises, now has a strategic alliance with BroadSoft. Aastra, which supports hundreds of thousands of enterprise voice systems, will use BroadSoft’s carrier-grade BroadWorks VoIP platform as the foundation for new next-generation IP-PBX solutions it will deliver directly to large enterprises.

So here's the "man bites dog" angle: in the past, enterprise suppliers have offered a richer menu of features than a large enterprise could buy from a communications service provider. To my knowledge, this is the first time a major PBX supplier has turned to a carrier platform to enrich its enterprise offering.

Joost Chooses Level 3


Level 3 Communications has been selected by Joost to provide content delivery services for the new Internet television service. Under the terms of the agreement, Level 3 will provide Joost with network solutions including high speed Internet access and colocation services in North America and Europe. Level 3 has made a big commitment to providing CDN services and can claim, by means of its (former Vyvx)broadcast video services unit, to be supplying top U.S. cable and over-the-air broadcasters with a significant part of their overall backhaul and studio feed operations. The Joost deal will not make or break Level 3's CDN business or strategy. But it is a nice customer to have.

Both 40 and 100 Gbps Ethernet, It Appears

It appears the IEEE is going to proceed with 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps Ethernet standards. Which strongly suggests there also someday will be a 120 Gbps standard, since it maps nicely with the 40 Gbps standard server vendors prefer for short distance connections between switches and servers.

The next logical step for the 100 Gbps suppliers, which tend to favor that standard for long haul and wide area network transport, isn't so clear. Following the 1, 10, 100 paradigm would suggest 1,000 Gbps, but nobody is talking about that right now. Bandwidth in the 400 Gbps up to 500 Gbps range is the sort of "next step."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Growth By Acquisition Works for at&t


Growth by acquisition clearly has been working for at&t, which is probably why executives there will stay on course with the strategy. The company reported a whopping 61 percent increase in second-quarter profit after $140 billion in acquisitions almost doubled revenue. This is an old strategy many competitive local exchange carriers attempted in the early 2000s, largely without success. Of course, CLECs had different problems. Investors were pushing them to grow fast, and organic growth obviously wasn't going to work. There also were more providers than customers (that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one).

It remains to be seen how well the contrasting Verizon and at&t strategies work out. Verizon essentially is betting its future on the superiority of its wired assets, while not neglecting its wireless assets. at&t arguably is investing in acquisitions that lean in the direction of wireless while economizing on its wireless upgrades.

Growth By Acquisition Works for at&t

Growth by acquisition clearly has been working for at&t, which is probably why executives there will stay on course with the strategy. The company reported a whopping 61 percent increase in second-quarter profit after $140 billion in acquisitions almost doubled revenue. This is an old strategy many competitive local exchange carriers attempted in the early 2000s, largely without success. Of course, CLECs had different problems. Investors were pushing them to grow fast, and organic growth obviously wasn't going to work. There also were more providers than customers (that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one).

Amp'd Customers Were a Collections Nightmare


Amp'd customers were heavy data consumers. Unfortunately, they also tended not to pay their bills. Amp'd apparently experienced an unprecedented growth of subscribers between November 2006, and February 2007 after running ads on MTV about the wireless phone company's lineup of mobile music and video content.

"Approximately 90 percent of the debtor's customers were on 18-month service contracts," according to Amp'd. By May this year, the number of nonpaying customers reached 80,000. That's nearly half of Amp'd's current customer base of 175,000 subscribers.

The filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, which says the company owes more than $100 million to creditors, including Verizon Wireless. Since Verizon is one of the largest creditors, it might make sense for Verizon to salvage something out of the mess, and acquire the 50 percent of customers who actually do pay their bills, and exhibit behavior Verizon wants to encourage.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Allo Goes Dark


Allo.com, a small independent VoIP provider based in British Columbia, went live in February. It apparently now is going dark. Five months.

One Reason why Skype is Not Growing So Fast


Jaxtr allows free international calls using mobile phones. Jaxtr says its membership has doubled to 500,000 users in the past month, and is signing up new users on the Web at a rate of more than 12,000 a day.

And then there are Jajah, Jangl, Rebtel and GrandCentral as well.

"No download is required, and our direct numbers can be dialed from any type of mobile phone or even ordinary landline phones," Jaxtr CEO Executive Konstantin Guericke said, contrasting its Web-based approach to certain complexities of other services.

SME VoIP: 30 Percent Annual Growth


IP Lines being installed into small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) will grow 30 percent a year over the next five years, according to the Dell'Oro Group. IP lines will grow from slightly less than 20 percent of lines shipments into SME locations in 2006 to almost 60 percent in 2011.

In contrast, digital and analog line shipments will decline at an average of 10 percent a year through 2011. Traditional systems will fair even worse, declining to less that 5 percent of the total market by 2011, Dell'Oro says.

This might be the least controversial forecast it is possible to make. Once analog-to-digital transitions really get going, it is hard to buy the older technology even if one really wants it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Perhaps Google Can't Lose in 700 MHz Auction

If Google succeeds in getting a mandatory wholesale access requirement for the C block of spectrum, it wins. Whether Google itself wins the spectrum (probably not) or not, somebody will, so Google and Google can lease spectrum directly, or work with somebody else who will lease spectrum on its behalf.

Even if it entirely fails to win a mandatory wholesale clause, Google is no worse off than it used to be, because existing provisions for the 700-MHz equivalent of "Carterfone" will still make it easier for Google and its ecosystem to create features, devices and applications optimized for mobility.

One fact seems certain: as hard as it is to build a "wholesale-only" national infrastructure play, if mandatory access conditions are attached to the C block of frequencies, the business case will be harder for owners of retail spectrum in the other two blocks. The pricing umbrella of course will be set by the C block providers.

Clearwire and Sprint will face some issues because the radio propagation characteristics of the 700 MHz spectrum are much better than those for the 2.5 GHz blocks Clearwire and Sprint will be using to build their national 4G network. Like the old UHF broadcast stations who used the 700 MHz frequencies, signals got through walls pretty easily, even to "rabbit ears" antennae. Digital propagation should be better, since today's signal processing chips can reconstruct a signal from weaker or more refracted signal sources.

In fact, he 700 MHz signals should provide the "best" "through the walls" performance of any wireless networks, period. The higher frequencies conceivably will offer higher raw bandwidth potential (for reasons related to the more rapid oscillations of the radio signals at higher frequencies).

And there remains the possibility that the auction rules might emerge in final form someplace between formal wholesale access for the C block and hard-to-enforce "Carterfone" principles. In any event, Google's odds of winning are higher than its odds of simply being no worse off than it currently is.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sprint, Clearwire to Create One National Network

Sprint Nextel and Clearwire say they will combine their efforts and spectrum to create a national mobile WiMAX network covering the entire United States. Sprint Nextel's network would cover 185 million people while Clearwire's would cover 115 million.

Services would be sold under a common brand. The two firms have set a target of 100 million potential customers initually, by the end of 2008. There is no word on what becomes of Clearwire's VoIP deal with BCE. As part of the deal, Clearwire will have the ability to offer Sprint Nextel’s third generation voice and data services as part of a bundle or on a stand-alone basis to Clearwire’s customers, which will also allow Clearwire to provide dual-mode services to its customers.

Sprint Nextel will take the lead in establishing relationships with national distributors and other potential strategic partners, including wholesale or mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) arrangements. The initial term of the arrangement is 20 years, with three 10-year renewal periods.

Nobody has excess capital to throw into a new national broadband access network, it certainly appears.

SunRocket, Ooma, Verizon, Vodafone, at&t


So the VoIP blogging community is talking about almost nothing but Ooma this morning. But as I mentioned on my other blog (www.ipbusinessmag.com), focusing so much energy on SunRocket's travails, which was the other recent item everybody was talking about, though obviously of high interest, has almost no strategic implications for the broader communications industry. Rumors that first had Vodafone pondering buying Verizon, though almost certainly an investment banker's trial balloon, are something else.

Today Andy Abramson says his sources say it actually is at&t that is talking about buying Vodafone. Now that would be quite a deal. And while this particular rumor also could be the result of an investment banker's strategy, it does fit quite well what new at&t CEO Randall Stephenson has been saying about at&t. It is a "wireless company" that has no intentions of abandoning its grow by acquisition strategy.

Ooma is interesting. What happened to SunRocket also is a high interest event. But neither is going to have truly strategic direct implications for the global VoIP industry. Whatever one might say about the particularities of the U.S. VoIP industry, VoIP continues to grow on a global basis, almost mechanically.

Wireless increasingly is the way voice gets done. Social networking portals, instant messaging and enterprise apps also are emerging ways voice and communications gets done. All of that is a really big deal.

David Beckemeyer on Ooma

David Beckemeyer, Televolution CEO, is the one guy I think is in position to evaluate Ooma's business prospects. This is what he says: "As some may know, I have been aware of this effort and provided some early guidance for their project (VERY EARLY - I have not been involved for a LONG time).

They could have launched the idea on top of the PhoneGnome platform and been in market years ago, but they wanted to build hardware - that was a bigger driver than anything else (bigger than whether the business made any sense).

I give their stated vision/business plan no chance at all, for the exact reasons I told Ooma in 2004:

1. solving a problem (call costs) that is going away (already going to zero)

2. people won't open their wallet for a large upfront purchase, as shown by Tivo etc. and especially not for "phone stufff" which is perceived as should be cheap

3. regulatory troubles - like FON, you are asking users to violate their terms of use with their provider

4. privacy/legal/CALEA trouble - do I want to let people I don't know use my phone and get wiretapped using my number plotting their dastardly deeds?

Item 4 above is different than the Skype-like P2P in that with Ooma, you're letting people use a highly-regulated instrument, with a lot of technology and history in wiretapping (vs. my computer and encrypted sessions).

I believe they would still also have a caller-ID problem in that my calls will not be delivered with my number as the calling number, but that of the Ooma box owver who's line is making the call (or the box blocks caller ID on outgoings calls so people I know won't accept my calls because they won't see that it is me calling).

But again, we should not underestimate the impact of a lot of money and backers that probably will not have much patience. Ooma could evolve into something viable.

With the fact that PhoneGnome is now free and needs no software, basically users can get most their calls free with no investment and no hardware at all.

Ooma, PhoneGnome

Ooma hopes it can make a business in the independent VoIP space without slugging it out with incumbents, cable companies, Vonage, Packet8 and others. Ooma uses peer-to-peer technology, it reminds me of nothing so much as PhoneGnome. A user can rely on broadband and Ooma, "cutting the cord," or can keep legacy POTS and integrate Ooma with a traditional landline (the easiest way to keep 911 service). All calls within the U.S. market are free, and off-network calls are billed at Skype-like rates.

Like PhoneGnome, the revenue model is "selling boxes," not recurring revenues from services. Ooma is betting that a $400 purchase of a base hub that functions like an analog terminal adapter will appeal more than a VoIP service account. Additional Ooma adapters can be bought to add service to other analog phones on other standard wall jacks.

Perhaps the longest-lasting impact, irrespective of what happens with Ooma, is the P2P approach it uses to create a network. As with all P2P networks, each end user's client becomes a node on the network to help terminate traffic. I don't know what technology platform Ooma uses. It seems logical that Session Initiation Protocol is not what Ooma is doing on the P2P side of its platform, but it seems SIP has to be there someplace for interface to the public network at some level. But David Beckemeyer seems best placed to noodle on that.

Alec Saunders (Iotum)asks an interesting question, however. Ooma says it will try to use member POTS access to essentially avoid paying termination charges. Presumably that means invoking user phone numbers in some way. If caller ID information cannot be spoofed from the POTS phone, but only from the trunk side of the network, does that mean a user's caller ID gets delivered even when it is just a transit node between a calling party and the called party? Details are scanty at this point so I'm not sure anybody outside Oomba knows the answer.

Or maybe there isn't even a problem. Presumably Ooma would try to "terminate" a call at a local Ooma "node" and then use the Ooma P2P to retransmit the bits using the public Internet to the terminating Ooma node with no need to deliver calling number ID information.

One wonders how much longer it will be until even Tier One service providers start to take a closer look at integrating P2P in some significant way with the existing public networks, especially as those networks are upgraded for IP Multimedia Subsystem and there's more broadband in the access network.

Not P2P as an "over the top" end user application. P2P as a part of the architecture of a managed network that simply uses multiple techniques to reach deeper into the environment sitting on the other side of the traditional "network termination" point. Making customers part of the network is starting to look like good business sense.

Lessons About Price from CLEC, DSL, VoIP


TeleGeography projects that nearly 30 million consumer VoIP lines will be in service across Europe by end of 2007, up from 6.5 million at the beginning of 2006. In France and some other countries, though growth is low, penetration is high. In others, penetration is low but growth high. Compare that to the U.S. market, where growth is slow and penetration relatively low.

So here's a drop-dead simple observation from what has happened in the U.S. market for new communication services: if you operate in a market with relatively affordable communications, then competing on "lower price" doesn't get you very far. If you compete in a market with expensive communications, "lower price" is just about all you need.

In markets where communications are affordable, blunting the attractiveness of the "lower price" platform, price still can be made to work if there are other attributes are emphasized, such as "pay the same price as you used to, but get free broadband."

"Pay the same price you used to, but get mobility." "Turn a variable cost into a fixed cost." "Make the whole cost more transparent." "Reduce real estate costs." "Work with people you actually know."

In the U.S. market, attackers have not yet succeeded when the incumbents decided they wanted to play; when lower prices were the primary marketing platform and the offering wasn't highly differentiated from what an incumbent offers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"S*** Happens, Even to Cisco, at&t and Apple


Duke University's campus Wi-Fi network reported was being flooded by Apple iPhone MAC address requests, temporarily knocking out anywhere from a dozen to 30 wireless access points at a time. Turns out that isn't the case. It was a powering issue. Good news for Apple, as the iPhone isn't the culprit at all. Still, the outages are a reminder.

For those of you who continue to think communications infrastructure is easy, this is a reminder that "stuff happens," all the time, in unexpected ways, to the "dumb pipes" we all depend on. I just got a new Linksys Wi-Fi router to hook up to my Covad T1, for example, and though the install wizard was really nicely put together, the Linksys would not talk to the Cisco router.

It is supposed to be so easy there is no indication anywhere in any of the documentation about what Web site to go to, or what support number to call, in case installation failed, which it did, repeatedly. I finally realized I was going to require tech support so figured out where to get that from Linksys. The IM support system worked fast, and well. The connection is up. But not before reinstalling the software load.

I recall remarking to the Best Buy salesperson that I didn't have any questions, and wouldn't need any help, because I expected the hardware choice and install to be "drop dead simple." That clearly is the way Linksys designed the system, and I suspect it almost always works. Unfortunately, in this case we had to reinstall the software.

The Covad install took "longer than expected" because we were getting unexpected packet loss. To make a moderately long story short, it was a physical media failure on a short jumper in the network interface unit. Go figure. That's the last thing one would expect from new wiring.

The point is, even well designed consumer interface procedures, such that put together by Linksys, Cisco, Apple and Covad, will fail on occasion, for all sorts of apparently odd reasons. Nothing is always drop dead simple, even when well-designed processes nearly always have that intention and result.

Just because we use "dumb pipes" to some extent does not mean the networks are not occasionally "surly" and prone to failure. Far from it.

Unified Communications Stll a Tough Sell...

...at least for many smaller and mid-sized businesses, say researchers at In-Stat. Of course, that's a good thing for newly-emerging providers (can you say Microsoft?). Some providers of IP business phone systems might also appreciate the perhaps longer window of usefulness for their systems as well. Independent suppliers of unified communications platforms might feel "conflicted." Slower adoption means less robust sales now, but also means most of the market remains untapped.

Worldwide unified messaging and unified messaging-capable client shipments will reach nearly 19.5 million in 2011, say researchers at In-Stat, while traditional voice mail port shipments will shrink to zero by the end of 2009.

Monday, July 16, 2007

DoCoMo 4G: 300 Mbps to your Mobile

NTT DoCoMo is about to embark on an ambitious project that provides cellphone users the ability to achieve speeds of up to 300 Mbps on their handsets by the time 2009 rolls around. That, plus at&t's new positioning as a wireless company with landline assets, plus the fact that global "voice account" installed base and growth are killing landlines, has to be disquieting for lots of us who grew up on the wireline side of the business. Wireless is going to keep changing things more than some might like.

SunRocket post mortem


Chris Koehncke, a former SunRocket excutive now back at BroadSoft, has this to say about what went wrong at SunRocket (I'm not so convinced the customer acquisition strategy was necessarily so doomed to failure, but more on that later): "It appears that SunRocket was indeed acquired and with it the vast majority of the remaining employees unceremoniously laid off sans a small group of 15-20 of the folks necessary to keep the network alive. SunRocket network suppliers were notified late Friday so they wouldn't turn them off.

With 200k subscribers and say a $40m revenue base, if they simply stop marketing, give crappy customer support and run it on a shoestring -- it's a nice little pocket business. Playing in the fringes.

In hindsight, it was kinda of crazy to spend $200+ to acquire a customer whose annual spend was only $200+. Hard to outrun the economics. The hopes, of course, was that if you reached a decent size, people would come to you and you could reduce your marketing costs. Vonage certainly hasn't seen this, so SunRocket wasn't going to be much better.

Customer service cost also can eat you alive. Anytime you call for customer service, figure it's costing that company between $0.75 and $1.00 PER MINUTE to talk to you. For a typical 10 minute call that's $8-10. Call twice in a month and for a SunRocket $17 a month revenue, they lost money on you. It's also amazing the number of people who buy cheap are also the same group who complain constantly. They want it all and they're willing to bitch about it.

Sprint's decision to whack 1000 customers who were constantly calling customer support (I suspect their initial list had 10k names on it) is wise. Perhaps, SunRocket simply should not have had telephony support at all and just offered email support.

Some folks have just crappy internet service and SunRocket was never going to fix that. Perhaps after 3 customer support calls, SunRocket should have pro-actively canceled the customer's account. Why keep a customer that will never be happy?

Perhaps rather than being a nationwide telephone service, SunRocket should have focused on a specific region or vertical consumer group. Better targeting their marketing spend and creating a reputation in a specific niche.

VC's are an inpatient lot. They give a start-up money and urge them to spend it as fast as possible and grow as quickly as they can. In doing that, the start-up makes mistakes, does stupid things, hires the wrong people, it's a wild ride for sure. VC's don't mind failures, that's the business they're in, but if it's going to fail, they want it fail fast so they can move on to the next hot idea. SunRocket had to build a complete telephone company literally overnight with hundreds of moving parts so it's not surprising mistakes were made.

The genesis of the idea of SunRocket is still valid, create something different that people will be loyal to and ultimately becomes virally marketed. But by buying off the shelf VoIP and traditional telecom products the ability to differentiate the service, other than with a pricing model, was nil. You can't buy innovation in a catalog."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Discovering Business Models


The problem with discovering business models is that what works for some does not work for all. Back in 1998 and 1999 the stock answer provided by just about any competitive local exchange carrier executive essentially was that the firm in question would get "one percent of a $250 billion market."

These days people ask how Facebook, messaging, collaboration, video or other portals will make any money. The most popular answer is some variant of the old CLEC standby. U.S. advertising currently is about a $153 billion a year business. Portal X will get one percent of that.

Look, it clearly works for four companies: Google, AOL, Yahoo! and MSN. The "four horsemen" get about 60 percent of all Internet advertising. It isn't going to work for most application, communications or portal providers, just as it never worked for most CLECs.

The biggest two "CLECs"--the former AT&T and WorldCom/MCI--threw in the towel in defeat. And those two had more than 40 percent of all "CLEC" revenues between them.

So people assume that fast-growing and useful sites such as Facebook will find some way to make money besides traditional advertising. And there is precedent for such discovery.

Google was equally clueless about its business model, but managed to discover one.
So just because a company has no idea how it will make money, doesn't mean it will not discover a means.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean it ALWAYS will find the answer. And though I'd have to say I am fairly confident Facebook will discover a model, as Google did, that doesn't mean thousands of other sites will be so lucky. Thousands of sites obviously cannot use the Internet advertising model, even if it is fast growing, because most fo the rewards will go a relative handful of companies.

More Enterprise Moves for Google


Google now is any tier one communications service provider's biggest fear, stated or unstated, and it mostly is stated. So Google's acquisition of Postini won't help clam any such fears. Google gains instant access to Postini’s client base of more than 35,000 businesses including many large businesses.

Postini will help Google further refine its "software as a service" architecture for critical business applications, moving Google further into the business services and software space.

Postini has offered managed email security services to corporate customers since 1999.

Jangl to Voice Enable Facebook


Jangl is getting ready to announce Phonebook for Facebook, which puts calling and voicemail right in a user profile and inbox on Facebook. The new feature will allow Facebook members who both have the application to call each other, visually manage voice mail messages in the Facebook inbox and show a current online presence. Voice is becoming an application available within a user's current context.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lights Out for SunRocket?

SunRocket appears to be refusing to accept new customers. Try calling the call center to sign up. Vonage apparently has offered to buy SunRocket for no cash, simply to provide continuity of service. No word on any response from SunRocket. A couple more bidders, said to be undercapitalized themselves, also are poking around. Not a happy day, at all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

25 Startup Commandments: Great Stuff!


1. Your idea isn't new. Pick an idea; at least 50 other people have thought of it. Get over your stunning brilliance and realize that execution matters more.

2. Stealth startups suck. You're not working on the Manhattan Project, Einstein. Get something out as quickly as possible and promote the hell out of it.

3. If you don't have scaling problems, you're not growing fast enough.

4. If you're successful, people will try to take advantage of you. Hope that you're in that position, and hope that you're smart enough to not fall for it.

5. People will tell you they know more than you do. If that's really the case, you shouldn't be doing your startup.

6. Your competition will inflate their numbers. Take any startup traffic number and slash it in half. At least.

7. Perfection is the enemy of good enough. Leonardo could paint the Mona Lisa only once. You, Bob Ross, can push a bug release every 5 minutes because you were at least smart enough to do a web app.

8. The size of your startup is not a reflection of your manhood. More employees does not make you more of a man (or woman as the case may be).

9. You don't need business development people. If you're successful, companies will come to you. The deals will still be distractions and not worth doing, but at least you're not spending any effort trying to get them.

10. You have to be wrong in the head to start a company. But we have all the fun.

11. Starting a company will teach you what it's like to be a manic depressive. They, at least, can take medication.

12. Your startup isn't succeeding? You have two options: go home with your tail between your legs or do something about it. What's it going to be?

13. If you don't pay attention to your competition, they will turn out to be geniuses and will crush you. If you do pay attention to them, they will turn out to be idiots and you will have wasted your time. Which would you prefer?

14. Startups are not a democracy. Want a democracy? Go run for class president, Bueller.

15. You're doing a web app, right? This isn't the 1980s. Your crummy, half-assed web app will still be more successful than your competitor's most polished software application.

+10 More Startup Commandments

1. You will have at least one catastrophe every three months.

2. Outsource effectively, or be effectively outsourced.

3. Do you thrive on stress and ambiguity? You'd better.

4. The best way to get outside funding is to be successful already. Stupid but true. But you, cheapskate, don't need money, right?

5. People will think your idea sucks. They're even probably right. The only way to prove them wrong is to succeed.

6. A startup will require your complete attention and devotion. Thought your first love in High School was clingy? You can't take out a restraining order on your startup.

7. Being an entrepreneur requires a healthy amount of ignorance. Note I did not say stupidity.

8. Your software sucks. So what. Everyone else's does also, and re-architecting is the kiss of death for a startup. Startups are no place for architecture astronauts.

9. You do have a public API, right?

10. Abject Terror. Overwhelming Joy. Monstrous Greed. Embrace and harness these emotions you must.

Provided by Mark Fletcher, http://www.startupping.com/

Business IM Use at 26 Percent


AOL’s third survey of instant messaging use shows IM in the workplace has grown. About 26 percent of surveyed businesspeople say they use IM at work.

At-work IM users now send IMs to communicate with colleagues (58 percent), to get answers and make business decisions (49 percent) and even to interact with clients or customers (28 percent). Twelve percent have used IM at work to avoid a difficult in-person conversation, AOL says.

Business and at-work users say they use IM because it “enables me to keep up with family and friends (47 percent). IM also “helps me to stay in touch with people I normally wouldn't be in regular contact with (43 percent).

About 38 percent say IM “helps me to get more done each business day.” About a quarter say IM is useful because it “enables me to check in on my children, providing peace of mind.”

For working moms and dads, IM’s impact is higher than the national average. In fact, 83 percent say that their day-to-day business lives have benefited from instant messaging, AOL says.

Some 11 percent say IM enhances productivity enough that they “leave the office earlier.”

Among those who use instant messaging for business purposes, 13 percent say they have their IM screen name printed on their business card, while six percent say they write it on the business cards they exchange. About 26 percent of polled New Yorkers have their IM screen names printed on their business cards.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Open Network for 700 MHz?


It isn't clear whether the proposal will survive the inevitable challenges from established carriers who won't like the idea, but Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is said to be ready to propose an unusually "open" license for valuable 700 MHz spectrum being vacated by TV stations as they go digital.

Under Martin's proposal, mobile services in these airwaves would have to use of any compliant device and any application, with no restrictions, so long as the application is legal and doesn't harm the network.

As a platform for innovation, the new network would rival the Internet itself, moving far beyond "unlocked" phones and resembling nothing so much as a mobile version of the Internet, where any device can access any service.

Google would love it. So would most developers. So would Apple. A network of that sort basically obviates the walled garden approach the mobile industry has taken, and resembles the way any PC can access anybody or any application able to get onto the Internet.

Facebook, MySpace, Friendster Loyalty

Researchers at Parks Associates say social networking users are not loyal, citing stats showing that nearly 40 percent of MySpace users keep profiles on other social networking sites such as Friendster and Facebook. Loyalty among the smaller social networking sites is even lower, with more than 50 percent of all users actively maintaining multiple profiles.

These trends highlight a peculiar aspect of the market for social networking services, say Parks Associates researchers. Nearly half of all social networkers regularly use more than one site; one in six use three or more. The result is an increasingly interlinked environment tied together by links, widgets, and the users themselves.

I'm not sure I think this "lack of loyalty" is a problem. Communities aren't federated because the people you know are not all federated. It's just like IM systems. Not everybody uses the same client, so one is forced to use multiple clients, or a client that federates all the clients for you. Social networks are no different.

And of course smaller site users are on multiple sites. The problem with smaller sites is that no single smaller site has lots of people you want to stay in touch with as members. The point of registering with any smaller site is that somebody you might want to stay in touch with might join that particular site and not the others you are a member of.

Managed Security Shift: IPSec to SSL

border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5085539964711321346" /> The managed security service market is forecast to more than double between 2006 and
2010, when it will reach $12.1 billion, says Jeff Wilson, Infonetics Research principal analyst. But the composition of sales is changing, with more security being embedded directly into the MPLS infrastructure, says Wilson.
The managed encrypted VPN service market inched up four percent between 2005 and 2006 to $20.5 billion, but is expected to decline in coming years, says Wilson. In 2006, 49 percent of security service revenue comes from managed firewall services, 27 percent from content security and 24 pecent from other security services.

By 2010, SSL VPNs will outpace IPSec VPNs.

“Security and performance are the top driving factors when respondents are trying to decide between IPSec and SSL for VPN use, and user experience is at the bottom of the list. Many IT managers think strong security and a good user experience are mutually exclusive. It’s up to vendors to show this isn’t really the case any more,” says Wilson, principal analyst for VPNs and security at Infonetics Research.

In the managed services space; 35 percent of respondents overall (46 percent of federal government respondents) think it's critical that their provider offer SSL VPN services, says Wilson.

“MPLS services are really starting to steal business away from encrypted VPNs. This is having a significant impact on spending for managed IPSec site-to-site VPNs, especially among large organizations, who are starting to migrate from complex self-managed IPSec VPNs to simpler carrier-managed MPLS services,” Wilson says.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Google Buys Postini

Putting Google in a major position as a provider of enterprise managed email security services.

This has to be Good for 3G, 4G

According to a recent survey of about 1,000 enterprises by FreeForm Dynamics, mobile connectivity for PCs appears to be more "mission critical" than remote email access, at least in some markets. North Americans love their Blackbery and other mobile email access, to be sure. But mobile PC access arguably is more important. Forced to choose just one, I'd have to vote for mobile PC access as well, either 3G or 4G.

Enterprise IM Shift: What to Do with the PBX?


Though we take it for granted that businesses "must" use a business phone system, that might be quite so true in just several years. In fact, Gartner predicts that by the end of 2011, IM will be the de facto tool for voice, video and text chat at the largest global enterprises.

Gartner estimates that 95 percent of workers in leading global organizations will be using IM as their primary interface for real-time communications by 2013. If that proves correct, we may now be witnessing the last wave of business phone system upgrades, as lucrative as the IP phone business, in its managed, hosted and premises-based incarnations, now appears to be.

There are other possible changes in store. Voice has been a one-to-one sort of communications pattern; mostly real time but with an ever-increasing asynchronous format. But with wikis, blogs, Plaxo, Facebook and other tools with a social and "push" updating capability, more forms of communication shift to a one-to-many, asynchronous mode.

One sort of "broadcasts" what one is doing, working on or needing help with, and the network just sort of responds as appropriate. Not good for control freaks, the ego-obsessed, the self-absorbed or mildly incompetent. People who are more respected, more trusted, more helpful, more knowledgeable and open will get more help than those who are in some significant ways "non-social." Winners and losers will be produced by the shift of communication modes.

As AOL's third IM survey shows, "everybody" now uses IM in their "consumer" life roles. The issue is how that will play out in the business context.

And though one might not yet see the change in the small business market, IM systems have moved from the fringe to become a key part of an enterprise’s collaboration infrastructure and increasingly are displacing existing forms of communications from ad hoc telephone calls and emails to pre-planned meetings and video conferences, says Gartner.

For many knowledge workers, instant messaging (IM) is as critical as having access to a telephone or to e-mail and enterprises that haven’t already done so should start incorporating IM into their critical business processes immediately, say analysts at Gartner.

“Although consumer IM use has been predominant in business, we expect penetration levels for enterprise grade IM to rise from around 25 percent currently to nearly 100 percent by the end of the decade,” said David Mario Smith, Gartner research analyst.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Midband Ethernet, Everything Else is Growing...

It has been a good year for suppliers of midband Ethernet connectivity equipment and access services. Heck, it's arguably been a good year for access services, period. Where providers used to get asked for T1s, they now get asked for DS3s. Where they used to get asked for DS3s, now customers are asking for optical connectivity. It's the same story on the consumer access front: more bandwidth, more often. That's what video will do to a network.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

80% of Mobile Calls Go to Just 4 People


"Although mobile phones make it easier to keep in regular touch, a typical user spends 80 percent of his or her time communicating with just four other people," says Stefana Broadbent, an anthropologist with the User Adoption Lab at Swisscom. Think of it as the long tail of communications.
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Broadbent also says different channels get used for distinct reasons. Mobile calls are for last-minute coordination. Texting is for “intimacy, emotions and efficiency.” E-mail is to exchange pictures, documents and music. IM and VoIP calls are “continuous channels”, open in the background while people do other things.
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Also, you won't be surprised by this finding, but texting is on the increase. “Users are showing a growing preference for semi-synchronous writing over synchronous voice,” says Broadbent.

And though enterprise IT managers might not like the idea, private communications are invading the workplace. Workers expect to be plugged into their social networks while at work, whether by email, IM or mobile phone.
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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

iPhone Breaks Record

In case you were wondering, Apple over the weekend sold more than 700,000 iPhones to rocket past analyst predictions and shatter AT&T's record by selling more iPhones in three days than Motorola's RAZR did in its first month. Some say that isn't unexpected, and the real challenge is selling the next couple of million. So far, consumer behavior is in line with the hype and at&t's and Apple's expectations.

Google and GrandCentral

Some of you know I am a big fan of Google and GrandCentral. Well now Google owns GrandCentral. And while Google can not fairly be said to desire to be a communications service provider, that is precisely what GrandCentral is. A provider of a unified communications service, not a unified communications network, though. So count Google as among those firms now offering a unified communications service.

Some might see this as competition for Skype or Jajah (I use both), and there is some logic to that notion. For the most part, I don't see it that way. Google now is a provider of unified communications. That's the story.

Comcast says it Could; Not "Would"


“We’re not necessarily saying we want to offer 100 or 160 megabits” per second access speeds, says Comcast CTO Tony Werner, referring to the DOCSIS 3.0 upgrade Comcast is planning. Using channel bonding, DOCSIS allows a cable operator to support downstram bandwidth as high as 480 Mbps and upstream as high as 120 Mbps, on a shared basis.

And that’s the key. Two bonded TV channels (6 MHz each) will support that amount of bandwidth from a fiber node to customers served off that node, possibly an area of 500 or more homes in any given location. At 60 percent video penetration and 30 percent cable modem penetration, that implies a potential customer base of about 90 homes or businesses.

If three customers really wanted 150 Mbps downstream and 40 Mbps upstream, that would chew up 12 MHz of bandwidth, equivalent to two analog TV channels.

So unless a cable operator wants to reclaim a fairly significant amount of television bandwidth, it isn’t going to be able to provide such speeds to more than one or two customers in a fiber-served area.

The DOCSIS 3.0 upgrade is supposed to start in 2008.

iPhone Apparently Forces Helio Policy Change

Wireless service provider Helio recently announced a fee for access to YouTube video on its handsets. It just about as quickly rescinded the policy after it became clear iPhone handsets would be able to access YouTube content just like any other Web content. The switch shows just how easily a serious competitor can force a walled garden approach to crumble.

The Good News for SunRocket....

..could be that its recent round of layoffs was a prelude to a new round of funding. SunRocket has raised approximately $20 million in additional venture capital from existing investors since early spring, bringing the company's total capital raised to date to about $100 million, the company says.

The company is likely to close the new funding round by August with a total of $30 million to $40 million in new venture capital, says Jonathan Ebinger of BlueRun Ventures, one of SunRocket's investors.

Monday, July 2, 2007

SunRocket Axes Most of its "C" Titles


Andy Abramson says he also has gotten confirmation that SunRocket has laid off its gets CTO, CIO, CFO and CPO. The founders, including Paul Erickson, Joyce Dorris and Chris Koehncke all left in February. It's a shame. The founders had brought some of that old MCI marketing flair to the independent VoIP space.

Convergence Spells Opportunity for Managed Services | PodTech.net: Technology and Entertainment Video Network


Convergence Spells Opportunity for Managed Services | PodTech.net: Technology and Entertainment Video Network

Jajah for iPhone

First Jajah said to ditch your headset. Now Jajah says to "free your phone." Jajah earlier had optimized its site for smart phones, so it obviously works with the Apple iPhone. Yes, you can pay a monthly fee of $4 for the privilege of making 23 cents a minute calls to the United Kingdom. Or you can use Jajah for three cents a minute. The site is mobile.jajah.com.

5G Coverage Actually Will Not be a Problem, Even for Verizon

Many discussions of 5G spectrum seem to center on where all the capacity (or coverage) will come from. The confusion is understandable. If...