Thursday, July 31, 2008

13% Mobile Handset Growth in 2008

In the second quarter of 2008, tier one handset vendors enjoyed year-over-year unit shipment growth of between 15 and 22 percent, says ABI Research. ABI estimates that 301 million units were shipped during the quarter.

The mobile device market will deliver 13 percent growth to take 2008 annual shipments to 1.3 billion units.

“If there is an economic slowdown, no one bothered to tell the mobile device buying public,” says ABI Research vice president Jake Saunders. “In particular, consumers in emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America shrugged off inflation fears to sign up as mobile phone users.

These healthy gains in net subscriber additions are stimulating replacement and upgrade sales. In developed markets handset purchases tended to be flat, but those consumers who did purchase dug deeper and paid out more for coveted higher-end handsets and smart-phones.”

In terms of market share, Nokia has passed the 40 percent threshold for the first time (40.3 percent). Samsung secured second place with 15.2 percent, while Motorola barely managed to keep ahead of LG with its 9.3 percent versus LG’s 9.2 percent, and both edged out Sony Ericsson (8.3 percent). There is a distinct possibility that LG might overtake Motorola by the end of 3Q 2008, putting Motorola into fourth place, ABI researchers say.

Social Networking Might be Key to Mobile Advertising

Social networkers also are much heavier consumers of digital content including text messages, mobile email, photos, music, games and mobile TV, say researchers at ABI Research.

“The fact that online social networkers consume more mobile content and media than mobile subscribers who aren’t into online networking may not be really surprising,” says principal analyst Nick Holland. “However, what we have long suspected is now confirmed by the numbers: for most kinds of mobile content, online social networkers consume about twice as much as their non-networked peers.”

What drives online social networkers towards consumption of mobile media? They are on average younger and more tech-savvy for a start. Also, many social networking networks are organized around a specific media-related interest such as photography or music.

“Advertising on social networks isn’t working particularly well, so promotion of mobile content on online social network sites should be a high priority for mobile operators, content distributors, media companies, and advertisers," says Holland.

Send a Text Message, Carriers Say

The earthquake that hit Southern California on Tuesday almost by definition was going to lead to a temporary spike in call volume and temporary blocking of many dial attempts. The perhaps interesting angle was advice by AT&T to "try text messaging on a mobile" as a way of getting messages such as "are you okay?" or "I'm okay" through the congestion. Good advice.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Always Connected" Downside

Never-ending "to do" lists might be forcing people to manage their time rather than their attention, says consultant Linda Stone. She argues that managing time increasingly is counter-productive. The problem is that to-do lists have a way of expanding, leaving the list-makers feeling burned out.

Managing one's attention might be more important, Stone argues. The issue is what is meant by managing attention. "Each evening or morning before you start your day, make a short list of your intentions (the result and feeling of something you want) for the day and by each, write the related to do's for that day," she says. "Try to keep your list to five intentions."

"Consciously choose what you will do and what you will not do," she notes. "Keep a different list of what you will review for inclusion on other days."

"List only what you really expect to do that day," she says, not a list of all things you want to do for a longer period. "As other things come to mind, write them on a separate list," she says. That keeps you focused on only those things which must be done today, rather than creating anxieties about "all the things that must be done."

One of the more difficult--but perhaps most important pieces of advice is to "give yourself meaningful blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on each intention," she says. "Turn off technology each day during those blocks and focus on your intentions."

Lots of you immediately--and rightly--will note that much of your "to do" list is not under effective control. That especially will be true in staff and line organizations where departmental requests, inbound customer support volume and software or hardware failures are the drivers of immediate "to do" lists. In such cases the original items on a daily "to do" list simply will be pushed over to the "do later" list.

But all of that is reason for creating better methods for screening and filtering communications and messages that really can be avoided.

Verizon Earnings Show Material Shift

Commentators have been noting heavy telephone company loss of voice lines for some years. These days, the commentary has shifted to gains in broadband, video and wireless data services. For good reason. Though it takes a longish while to materially shift revenue and cost structures at entities as large as tier one service providers, that shift is happening.

It is not simply that carriers know they must change their business models. They are changing them. And Denny Strigl, Verizon COO, hints of coming convergence between the FiOS and wireles service, as one would expect. In the future, there will be little end user distinction between wireless and wired network fabrics, in terms of ability to invoke and use services.

Verizon Communications reported second quarter wireless revenues up nearly 12 percent, with mobile data revenues growing more than 45 percent. Broadband and video revenues earned from end user customers (excluding wholesale) grew 52.9 percent year-over-year, and penetration rates for both FiOS Internet and FiOS TV were up. Penetration rates for FiOS Internet averaged 23.5 percent across all markets, up from 18.7 percent from last year, while FiOS TV penetration averaged 19.7 percent, up from 13.3 percent.

In fact, growing revenue from its broadband and video services help boost consumer average revenue per unit in Verizon’s otherwise stagnant wireline markets. APRU climbed to $63.76, up 10.4 percent from the same period last year. FiOS figures were even better, with FiOS customer figures coming in at more than $130 a month.

Verizon Business had revenue of $5.3 billion in the second quarter, up .9 percent from a year ago. Global enterprise revenue was up 1.7 percent to $4 billion. Revenue from IP, managed services, Ethernet and optical ring services grew at an 18.7 percent clip.

If new services revenue are not yet a "flood," they are more than a "trickle." And though analysts sometimes focus on consumer revenues, Verizon operates in enterprise and smaller business segments as well. In that regard, relatively robust enterprise revenues seems to have been matched with somewhat "weak" small business revenue.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Time to Get a Life? Media Consumption Still Climbing?

The adage to "get a life" might apply to some users of media, who report they continue to increase their time spent with a variety of media ranging from Internet and TV to video gaming. According to a recent survey by E-Poll, 31 percent of respondents said they had increased their use of the Internet over the past six months.

About 17 percent reported they had watched more television over the past half year, while another 17 percent reported they had increased viewing of DVDs.

Some 13 percent reported more use of videogames and an equal percentage reported watching more video online while another 13 percent said they had increased viewing of primetime network TV. About 11 percent said they had watched more time-shifted or DVR programming over the last six months

Game play grew nearly equally for both genders according to a March 2008 survey by E-Poll; 14 percent of female respondents ages 18 to 34 said their gaming had increased in the previous six months, compared with 19 percent of 18-to-34-year-old males.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

AT&T Wireless Data Revenues up 52%

AT&T wireless data revenues grew 52 percent compared to the same quarter last year, to $2.5 billion. If the U.S. market is anything like the European market, a large portion of that growth now comes from sales of wireless data cards for PCs, though no doubt the iPhone has kicked mobile Internet and mobile email revenues into a higher orbit as well.

Wireless Internet access revenues more than doubled in the latest quarter, compared to the same quarter of 2007. Mobile email and messaging delivered greater than 50 percent revenue growth, while text messaging volumes tripled, compared to the same quarter last year.

Multimedia message volumes increased more than 170 percent.

At the end of the second quarter, 18 percent of AT&T’s postpaid wireless subscribers had smart phones, up from eight percent one year earlier. These subscribers have average revenue per user metrics roughly double the typical level.

In the mobility segment, wireless data revenue growth now is the key, as IPTV and video are on the wired access side of the business.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Web TV for FiOS?

Verizon currently is currently beta testing Web video on their set-top boxes, using content provided by Veoh,,, and YouTube.

Sites are indexed on a regular basis and when a video is selected from the DVR, the PC software automatically transcodes and streams content on the fly. Media Manager software also makes possible transmission of any video podcast to a user DVR as well.

In principle, Verizon ought to be able to add Real Simple Syndication feeds to its DVR.

These features will be offered as part of Verizon’s top tier DVR package, perhaps later this year or early in 2009. That package also is likely to include PC photo sharing and multi-room DVR playback.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Consumers Don't Might Ads, If Content is Professional

Ipsos MediaCT says most consumers would find it “reasonable” for advertising to be included in the free digital distribution of full-length TV shows and movies, while around two-thirds say the inclusion of advertising would be reasonable with free access to music videos, short news or sports clips.

There are some major exceptions, however. “As might be expected, digital video consumers generally find it more acceptable to have advertising included within longer, professionally produced video offerings such as full-length movies or TV shows, should this content be available for free online," says Adam Wright, Director at Ipsos MediaCT.

"Fewer are ready to accept this ‘price of admission’ for shorter-form content or less-professional polished content," he adds.

Still, for most video content types, the majority of these consumers find the trade-off between free video content with advertising to be a fair value proposition.”

The one content type that may be the exception is amateur video content. Just over half (52 percent) of consumers age 12+ who have downloaded or streamed a video online say they would find it “not reasonable” to have advertising embedded within free amateur or homemade video offerings online.

Gen Y First Native Online Generation

Forrester Research says Gen Xers use technology when it supports a lifestyle need, while technology is so deeply embedded into everything Gen Yers do that they are truly the first native online population.

"Gen Y is the audience that most companies are struggling to understand right now because it's key to their future revenue growth," says Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Although Gen Y,18- to 28-year-olds, represent only 38 million U.S. adults, it sets the pace for technology adoption. Nine in 10 Gen Yers own a PC, and 82 percent own a mobile phone. But it's technology use that sets this generation apart: Gen Y spends more time online — for leisure or work — than watching TV.

Seventy-two percent of Gen Y mobile phone owners send or receive text messages, and 42 percent of online Gen Yers watch Internet video at least monthly.

In contrast, Gen X, which is comprised of 29- to 42-year-olds — 63 million US adults — uses technology when it intersects with a personal need or fulfills a desire. For example, 32 percent of Gen X households own an HDTV, and 29 percent have a DVR.

In the past three months, 69 percent of online Gen Xers shopped online, and 65 percent banked online, higher percentages than any other generation. Gen X is also ramping up its Internet and mobile activities, including reading blogs (21 percent of online Gen Xers do it at least monthly, up from 15 percent in 2007) and texting (61 percent of Gen X mobile subscribers do it today, up from 49 percent in 2007).

Most of the Money Still is in Legacy Media

PricewaterhouseCoopers reported in its Global Entertainment and Media Outlook that as of 2007, digital and mobile distribution made up only five percent of total spending on entertainment and media.

PWC projected that this percentage will increase to 11 percent by 2012. No doubt, digital media is growing, in some cases, growing fast.

But even with momentum, 11 percent is still a small percentage of the $2.2 trillion annual spending on media and entertainment, especially when market share is held by a wildly fragmented cast of contenders.

Sometimes, it makes sense for large providers to place bets on "legacy" video even when everybody acknowledges that the market is changing. That doesn't mean wisdom is not found in spreading a number of bets on legacy and emerging media. It does mean that a rational investor with the ability to attack the existing revenue streams would be rational to do so.

A small percentage of a big number is a big number. A small percentage of a small number is, well, a smallish number. Large companies do not have the luxury of chasing small number markets. Small companies can, and do.

If recent AT&T quarterly results are an indication, it will ultimately prove to have been wise to invest heavily in "legacy" video, despite the coming shift of much video to alternate delivery methods. The issue right now is that the emerging markets still represent small amounts of revenue.

That will change over time as revenue at stake shifts and the scale economics emerge. At that point, one would have to expect consolidation of the market to create some large distributors able to capitalize on the scale economics.

That does not mean that, in the interim, large returns from legacy services should be ignored.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vonage U.K. Launches Lower-Cost Plans for North America Calling

Vonage U.K. has launched two new "value" call packages for consumers concerned about their phone bills, as well as a new £6.99 plandesigned for the high percentage of Vonage consumers who call North America. The two new call plans offer Vonage’s lowest ever tariffs and are priced at £5.99 per month for unlimited calls to the U.K. and £6.99 per month for unlimited calls to the U.K., United States and Canada.

The £6.99 plan also includes an option that for £1 extra a month providing unlimited calls to mobile phones in the United States and Canada.

Vonage’s £7.99, £14.99 and £18.99 plans incorporating up to 45 countries remain unchanged.

Wireless Powers AT&T Results

As expected, AT&T wireless services revenues excluding handset and accessory sales, were up 14.5 percent to $10.9 billion for the quarter. Total wireless revenues were up 15.8 percent to $12 billion.

The company also continued to grow its AT&T U-verse TV subscriptions. AT&T had a second-quarter net gain of 170,000 customers for a total of 549,000 subscriptions in service. AT&T has a goal of connecting more than 1 million subscribers by year’s end.

Text Messaging Still Dominates Mobile Data Use

Voice continues to be the dominant application most mobile customers use on a daily basis. Text messaging remains the dominant data application, according to researchers at the Yankee Group.

Teenagers, as you would expect, are the one demographic that uses text just a bit more than voice. About 63 percent of teen users surveyed say they use text on a daily basis, while voice is used daily by 61 percent of users in that age group.

Growth rates for mobile Internet access, mobile video and mobile email are strong, but are growing from a relatively smaller base of users.

Mobile email use grew 71 percent between 2006 and 2007, for example, while mobile Internet use grew 57 percent.

Satellite Broadband Penetration Now a Bit over 10%

Satellite broadband now is the growth focus for providers such as Hughes Network Systems and WildBlue, and the stated opportunity often is said to be rural users as well as residents of suburban or urban areas not yet wired either for digital subscriber line or cable modem services.

According to data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, that might not be completely correct. Though 16 percent of respondents to a recent Pew survey reported they have satellite broadband, so did 10 percent of urban users as well as 10 percent of suburban users.

The usual assumption is that the remaining urban and suburban areas ultimately will be wired, with potential loss of nearly all the urban and suburban users, depending on the definition of "suburban" one uses.

In the separate video entertainment business, one can make a reasonable argument that availability of the wired alternatives is less an issue, as the satellite providers compete not only on "availability" but on image quality and program diversity.

Satellite broadband providers do not have that opportunity, as satellite generally offers speeds slower than DSL and cable modem services, for slightly to meaningfully higher prices. Satellite services clearly win when there is no other alternative but dial-up service.

Nor does satellite fare as well on price in wired areas. Both cable modem and DSL prices have dropped since 2004, Pew reports. The price drops arguably have been highest for "value" priced packages, as new "premium" services featuring more speed continually have been added at the high end.

Still, Pew researchers report that 62 percent of surveyed dial-up users say they "do not want" broadband. Overall, the remaining pool of dial-up users iucludes just about 36 percent of users who say they are willing to switch to broadband. One expects the base of resisters will continue to dwindle over time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

AT&T to Change Broadband Marketing Language

At the Federal Communications Commission Pittsburgh broadband hearing, AT&T Senior Federal Regulatory Vice President Robert Quinn is reported by Broadband Reports to have said the company would in the future stop advertising speeds "up to" a specified rate, and would instead "strive to provide service within the speed tier purchased by the customer."

When AT&T finds it is not providing service within the ordered speed tier, AT&T will take action either to bring the customer's service within the ordered tier or give the customer an option to move to a different tier," he said.

Today, customers can order service "up to 7Mbps" tier, while plant conditions limit them to lower real-world bandwidth. Under the new scheme, customers will be offered the expected speed the plant supports, and then supplied with the higher speeds actually possible on their chosen plans.

AT&T also says it will supply customers information about how much bandwidth various applications consume, so they can choose the right plans. To Broadband Reports, that sounds like a precursor to some form of usage-based billing. It may well be. AT&T has been pretty clear that usage will play a bigger role in future access plans. That is an issue many will argue about.

But giving users a better understanding of their bandwidth requirements is a good thing, as is the policy of selling actual service that matches the marketing claims.

Expect Continued Line Losses as Telcos Report Earnings

In the 12-month period between March 2007 and March 2008 U.S. telcos lost 8,647,000 access lines while cable companies added 4,508,400. That suggests the balance of lost telco lines either wound up in the "wireless" category, taken by independent VoIP providers or were part of business line contraction made possible, on the user side, by IP and broadband technologies that provide voice services over a broadband connection of some sort.

It is quite hard to avoid the conclusion that the lost lines taken by cable companies were solely due to "lower price," since cable digital voice normally has no new IP features, is provisioned in a "whole house" manner that mimics POTS, and differs mostly in its price, not its quality.

The drivers might be more complicated in the other cases. VoIP customers sometimes buy based on price, at other times because of the new IP features. Enterprise or business customers often simply substitute voice services delivered over broadband for "voice grade equivalents."

Make no mistake, telcos are behaving deliberately. They simply seem to conclude that losing lines is preferable to across-the-board price reductions. It wouldn't be the first time industry participants have decided that harvesting a declining business is the best course of action.

So long as that continues to be the case, there seems little prospect that the line losses will abate. That being the case, the metrics to watch for are how well broadband-based revenue streams are building. Wireless still will be a bright spot, of course. But telco wired network performance is all about broadband revenues.

Voice simply is being harvested.

Google Maps Adds Walking Directions

Starting today, July 22, 2008, you can tell Google Maps that you want walking directions, and Google will try to find you a route that's direct, flat, and uses pedestrian pathways when we know about them, says the Google Lat Long blog. Just get directions as you normally would, for distances of 10 km or less.

As is usual for a "perpetual beta," there are some refinements Google wants to make. Right now, walking directions work well for short trips in urban areas, but Google says it does not presently always know if a street has a sidewalk, or if there's actually a special pedestrian bridge for crossing a busy street. Or for those of you navigating certain parts of Chicago's downtown loop, whether there are elevated roadways in your path that have to be navigated.

Google says it is working on ways to improve those sorts of features. Very useful, though, for those of you who travel and will be walking to a destination instead of driving.

Where Enterprises Buy Internet Access

Enterprises buy Internet access where you would expect: mostly from larger service providers. About half of all buying is from the former Regional Bell Operating Companies and Sprint.

Level 3 Communications, TW Telecom and Savvis have notable shares as well. About 37 percent of ISP access services are bought from a variety of other service providers, say reseachers at BackChannel.

More Use of Open Source Mobile Web Browsers

It might not be the case that control of a mobile browser necessarily means control of the applications environment. It might, though, mean substantial upside in terms of software customization and enhancement of user experience. So mobile device manufacturers seem to be focusing on use of open-source browser platforms as a way to leverage creation of other applications that can lead to differentiation of user experience.

As consumers increasingly surf the Web on their mobile phones, handset vendors are looking toward open-source browsers such as WebKit – the browser engine at the heart of the iPhone’s Safari browser – as a way to bring it to them. However, despite growing interest in WebKit and Gecko (the engine for the Mozilla Corporation Firefox browser), commercial browser vendors such as Opera and ACCESS continue to see growth in their businesses.

According to ABI Research, overall growth in the mobile browser category will lead to a total pre-installed revenue of $492 million by 2013, driven by the trends of more complex HTML-based browser integration.

“Device manufacturers are interested in open-source solutions where there is a desire for increased control of their software footprint, and where they can bring internal programming resources to bear,” says research director Michael Wolf. “

Open-source offerings such as WebKit are experiencing adoption by vendors such as Apple, Nokia, and others. Google made WebKit its core browser and Web-rendering engine for the Android platform; and application framework vendors such as Trolltech have integrated WebKit into their development framework. Mozilla also continues to develop its version of mobile Firefox, and Nokia has integrated a Gecko-based browser on its N800 Internet tablet.

More Evidence of Cloud Computing, SaaS Trends

Coghead, which provides a platform for authoring applications that are "mashups" added to other existing business apps, now is selling its services on a usage-based basis, in addition to a per-user basis, Clint Boulton, eWeek staff writer, notes. That change allowsCoghead to price in a way more attractive for lighter users, and using a model similar to, the popular application sold as a service.

Coghead CEO Paul McNamara saysCoghead, to date, has charged per user—$49 per month for five users as a base plan—regardless of how much users were using its applications. That worked well for active users but not so well for infrequent users.

Coghead will continue to offer per-user pricing plans for full access to Coghead applications.

Coghead hopes the new pricing will help keep its current customers from jumping ship to, Bungee Labs or Google App Engine, while luring new users with the flexibility options.

The changes illustrate the growing importance of business-oriented software sold as a service and the simultaneous use of utility computing "in the cloud" to create and deliver the services.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Packet8 Launches IP Key System Service

8x8 has introduced new Packet8 hosted Internet Protocol telephony services designed to replace traditional premise-based telephone "key systems" typically used by companies whose size or structure dictates the sharing of multiple, common phone lines among employees, regardless of where the employees are located.

Note the key phrase "shared line appearance." Since one of the issues hosted IP telephony providers have faced is a bit of confusion about why to adopt, the new Packet 8 service goes about as far as one can to position a feature other than "saving money" as the reason for a particular buyer segment to dive in.

Driven by the new Packet8 675xi series of IP desktop phones and the addition of shared line appearance services to the Packet8 Virtual Office platform, the new hosted key system solution provides businesses an opportunity to migrate to VoIP without altering the features, functionality and user behavior they have traditionally relied upon.Packet8 Virtual Office hosted iPBX solution," said 8x8 Vice President of Sales & Marketing Huw Rees.

The system is said to be ideal for offices where multiple users require the ability to view and answer more than one shared phone line at their desk or anywhere in the business

The SIP busy line appearance function apparently is quite difficult to do, but is essential for customers that require the ability for somebody else to pick up an inbound call without parking, says Rees. "It seems like a small function but it is actually quite complicated to do."

Verizon Launches Wireless, Broadband Wholesale

The Verizon Wholesale Mobility Solutions suite of services is now part of the portfolio of products offered by Verizon Partner Solutions, a leading wholesale provider of networks and network services to competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) and other telecommunications providers based in the United States.

The move is important because mobility solutions are a more-important part of consumer and business communications spending. And if that is so, competitors will need to bundle wireless solutions.

The introduction of Verizon Wholesale Mobility Solutions means wholesale clients have the opportunity to bundle their full-service Verizon wholesale wireline services with wireless voice, text messaging and mobile broadband services to offer their retail end-users a single source for both fixed and mobile voice and broadband services.

Lightyear Network Solutions LLC is the first VPS client.

The Verizon Wholesale Mobility Solutions suite is comprised of two wireless service offerings: Verizon Wholesale Mobile Voice and Verizon Wholesale Mobile Broadband.

Verizon Wholesale Mobile Voice offers wireless calling plans with a choice of designated minutes of use allowances per month. Each plan includes Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, Three-Way Calling, No Answer/Busy Transfer, Caller ID and Basic Voice Mail at no additional monthly fee. Premium features, like Enhanced Voice Mail, monthly mobile-to-mobile minutes and directory assistance, are each available at an additional monthly charge.

In addition to voice plans, wholesale clients can offer text-messaging plans with a choice of designated message allowances per month to end-users that have also purchased wireless voice service. Optional international messaging and premium messaging packages are each available at an additional monthly charge.

Verizon Wholesale Mobile Broadband offers high-speed wireless Internet access via laptop computers with a choice of designated packet data transport MB allowances per month. This product can be sold as either a stand-alone service or as an addition to a voice calling plan. In addition to wireless network services, Verizon Wholesale Mobility Solutions provides wholesale clients with tools that enable them to become one-stop wireline and wireless services providers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jajah Adds Hosted PBX Functionality

Jajah has expanded its SMB Solution Suite to incorporate a managed service IP telephony solution, including a fully functional 'soft' PBX. The suite of services gives every small and medium business the ability to IP-enable their existing telephony systems and make VoIP calls to over 200 countries without any additional investment.

The Jajah SMB Solution Suite allows all devices: make or receive calls via mobile, landline and even softphone (PC-based telephone), with specific plug-ins for Blackberry and Windows Mobile phones available. Pre-paid and analog-only phones will also be supported.

Also included:are a suite of productivity tools providing the ability to embed telephony within Google Enterprise Apps and Microsoft Office. Features also include centralized address book, database and directory lookup services.

Presence features allow users to choose which phone to use to answer a call, whether on a mobile, landline or softphone, or even to divert the call to a voice mail, which will be converted to text and delivered as an email into the employee's inbox.

Employees can specify their location and availability, while the network will also make intelligent routing decisions based on last-call and office hours.

The system fully supports number portability. The Jajah SMB Suite also offers sophisticated dial-plans, call monitoring and limit-setting amongst other budget management tools.

The service also supports visual Voicemail (where voicemail is converted to text), universal messaging, SMS, conference calls, scheduled calls, call logging, and address book synchronization.

The SMB Solution Suite will be available directly at, with a global indirect channel partner to be announced in the third quarter of 2008.

Not Good Enough, Netherlands Regulators Say

The largest Dutch cable operator Ziggo has said it now reaches one million digital homes and is claiming to be the number one digital provider in the country. The figures means around 30% of all 3.3 million homes served is now digital.

Not good enough, Netherlands regulators believe. Coming: new rules giving alternate video providers access rights to cable plant. One wonders: will anybody want to do so?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Consumer Satellite Broadband to Overtake Commercial Revenue

Northern Sky Research Now Projects that HughesNet and WildBlue each will have about 50 percent share of the consumer satellite broadband market by the end of 2008.

In fact, aggregate industry revenue from consumer broadband will surpass commercial revenues by about 2013.

YouTube: Complete Dominance of UGC

TubeMogul allows content creators to post video clips to multiple sites at once and track aggregate views for the clip across sites.

So in a recent survey of over 200,000 clips and traffic over a 90 day period, YouTube blew every body else away.

The average clip got more views on YouTube in three months (3,092) than on the next eight video sites combined (2,092).

In principle such dominance should translate into meaningful positioning as an ad medium at some point, with one important caveat. Most user generated content is hard, if not impossible, to monetize in that way. Google executives themselves seem to think something on the order of four percent of YouTube's inventory is the primary inventory against which to sell advertising.

Good content is hard to create on a sustained basis.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wireless Milestone in 2009

Some mile markers are more important than others. One big change in 2009 is that, for the first time, U.S. customers will spend more money on wireless services than on wired services, according to forecasts from the Telecommunications Industry Association.

What's in an 8 Gbyte iPhone?

Not many iPhone owners will dissect it with the specific intent of determining all the components and estimating the manufacturing cost. But that's what iSuppli Corp. does, and did.

iSuppli estimates the 8 Gbyte version's component and manufacturing costs are $174.33, exclusive of other costs such as software development, shipping and distribution, packaging and miscellaneous accessories included with each phone.

At $174.33, the cost of the new iPhone is markedly less than the $227 that iSuppli estimated for the first-generation, 8Gbyte 2G iPhone in June 2007.

“iSuppli believes Apple aimed for a more cost-effective design for the 3G iPhone compared to the 2G, in order to lower the retail price—which will allow the company to seed adoption and to capture maximum market share now—while the company still has buzz and a perceived differentiation relative to its competitors," says Andrew Rassweiler, principal analyst at iSuppli.

Beyond the $174.33 bill of materials and manufacturing cost of the iPhone 3G, Apple is spending an estimated $50 on intellectual property royalties for each unit shipped. With the 8Gbyte version retail-priced at $199, and the estimated $300 subsidy paid by AT&T to Apple for each unit, Apple is selling the product at a price of $499, and spending $224.33 to produce each one. This gives Apple a BOM, manufacturing and royalty margin of 55 percent for each 8Gbyte iPhone 3G unit sold.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Netherlands to Mandate Cable Network Access

At some point, as cable operators become more substantial providers of voice and data services, they will find they start to come under the regulatory frameworks long established for other telecom providers. Cable operators in The Netherlands appear to be at the front of that trend.

The Netherlands regulatory authority OPTA is proposing mandatory access rules for cable operators very similar to rules governing wholesale access that apply to KPN, for example, but in the video services area.

OPTA says the emergence of terrestrial digital TV, satellite and IPTV platforms have failed to bring about a greater choice for buyers of multichannel video. OPTA says the option of imposing a freeze on prices is not a sustainable solution that would lead to greater competition.

So now it wants to create a wholesale access regime for video services. The actual text is not yet available, so it is difficult to assess the extent of the rules. It does seem reasonable that what OPTA is after is something more than the ability to resell the existing cable services. More likely, the rules will allow competing video packagers access through the local cable network for alternate providers offering differentiated fare.

Why Open is Good for Mobile Service Providers

Recent efforts by Apple and Google to reshape the wireless industry ultimately will help mobile operators and handset vendors, In-Stat argues. The reason is simple: in a business environment where partners and third-party developers now are essential for rapid development of new applications, the more-open and standardized frameworks will allow for faster rates of innovation, even if carriers find the change a bit unsettling.

The current telco-centered approach to developing Internet mobile applications has created an ecosystem for application developers that is complex, fragmented, difficult to enter, and offers a high risk of failure, the high-tech market research firm says.

Look for early examples in the location-aware advertising area, especially as revenue sharing models come into play.

Jajah, eMobile Launch IP Mobile Voice Service

Jajah and Japan-based eMobile have launched an IP-only mobile device, the EM-ONE, allowing users to make and receive voice-over-mobile-broadband calls without a traditional mobile phone connection.

The Jajah Mobile software uses the data channel, a HSDPA connection, to deliver voice services. In 2007 Jajah and eMobile released an outbound-only IP-mobile service, which attracted thousands of Japanses users. Now eMobile customers can not only use their device to make calls to more than 200 global destinations, but for the first time also to receive calls.

For about $5 a month, eMobile customers can purchase a Direct Inward Dialing number, for their Sharp EM·ONE Ultra Mobile Device running Windows Mobile 6, which turns their device into a fully functioning mobile phone, without a cellular connection, beginning August 1, 2008.

Analysts at Ovum predict that, by 2010, 77 percent of the voice connections in the Asia-Pacific region will be mobile and that the region will host over two billion fixed and mobile voice connections, 42 percent of the global total. Ovum’s annual voice service forecasts mobility to be the key growth technology in the voice market for the foreseeable future.

In addition to low cost long-distance and international calls, calls between eMobile customers are free and transmited over a pure SIP connection.

Digital Living Room Market Still a Bit of a Niche

While data-centric home networking is mainstream, the market for Internet-connected TV devices is still nascent. Early adopters of networked digital home services today are found, as you might expect, in higher-income homes.

The target connected digital living room consumer household has household income between $100,000 and $150,000, says MultiMedia Intelligence. These households typically have children and are located in a metropolitan area on the East or West Coast.

So Much for UGC Advertising

Would-be film makers hoping to make a little money creating content and posting that content on video sites will do exactly that" generate a little money.

Though user-generated video will continue to account for close to half of total online video streams between 2008 and 2013, UGC content will produce no more than four percent of ad-related online video revenue at any time during this period, according to The Diffusion Group.

In fact, UGV mostly will be an indirect way of drawing more viewers to professional online video sites capable of generating sustainable ad-related revenue, TDG says.

According to Mugs Buckley, UGV currently accounts for 42 percent of online video streams, yet generates less than four percent of video ad-related revenue. Conversely, professional online video (including both short-clip and long-form content) accounts for 58 percent of streams and 96 percent of ad-related revenue, a reality unlikely to change over the next five years.

So much for the unrealistic hope that amateurs are going to reshape the content business.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Why I Won't Be Defecting from the Windows Ecosystem

Windows Vista operating system has been a challenge for many of us. It is not a secret that lots of us prefer using XP, and will continue to do so for a while. That doesn't mean we aren't planning to switch.

To be sure, some Microsoft users will find they can switch to another operating system without losing much. But many of us will not find that appealing.

As somebody who gets asked to beta test new applications and services, I just find that running XP or Vista is a business requirement. If beta versions of new applications routinely are made available on some other operating system, that is a different story. If that does not happen, as the saying goes, "resistance is futile." One sticks with the operating system the rest of the ecosystem uses, and so far, in my case that means a Microsoft platform.

Many of the problems some of us encountered early on were incompatibilities with other devices and applications that worked fine using XP, and stopped working when Vista first launched. That doesn't mean we think those problems will not be fixed. They are being fixed. And the time will come when any application or device that worked with XP will work with Vista. Problem fixed. But it will take some time before that happens. How much time might be an issuse for some applications. But Microsoft's ecosystem will get all that fixed.

So everybody who remains on XP, sooner or later, will migrate to Vista. XP support will be discontinued, Vista support will be ubiquitous. It's a little like the reason end users are migrating to IP-based phone systems. All considerations of new features and lower costs aside, support for legacy TDM systems will some day end. So, going forward, everybody will move to IP-based systems.

Refreshingly, Microsoft owns up to the early issues. "We had an ambitious plan," says Brad Brooks, corporate vice president, Windows Consumer Product Marketing. "We made some significant investments around security in this product."

"And you know what, those investments, they broke some things," he says. "They broke a lot of things. We know that. "

Speaking to application partners, Brooks was honest and direct. "We know it caused you a lot of pain in front of your customers, in front of our customers."

"And it got a lot of customers thinking, and even yourselves and our partners thinking, “Hey, is Windows Vista a generation that I want to make an investment in?” he adds. So forget about the flash. Vista was designed around Internet security, and Brooks says it succeeded in that effort.

"There's been 20 percent fewer security problems on Windows Vista than XP in 2007," he says. "Windows Vista is the safest OS in terms of security vulnerabilities in its first year of operation, safer than any other commercial or Open Source OS in its launch."

"When you run Windows Vista you're 60 percent less likely to get malware on your machine than if you use Windows XP SP 2," he says.

"It is only getting better as we move forward, because Windows Vista, it's an investment in the long term," he says.

"The same architectural changes that we put in that caused the heartaches moving to Windows Vista are things that we are going to carry forward into Windows 7," he says. "And we are going to target roughly the same hardware specifications that we did when Windows Vista launched."

That means developers can invest in Windows Vista applications knowing they will run the same way in Windows 7.

That was the right thing to say, and I expect it is what Microsoft will do. Looking back on the specific incompatibility issues I encountered with Vista, it was those incompatibilities--now being fixed--that were the issue, not the particularities of Vista.

So despite the fact that I have chosen to run XP on my latest machines, not Vista, that does not mean I will not upgrade to Vista, or Windows 7. I might hope not to be in the first wave of adopters of Windows 7, but that's just a practice many of us have adopted over the years when a new OS is rolled out.

Microsoft does not have to worry about me defecting from the ecosystem. It does have to worry about its ecosystem defecting, though. So far, I detect no movement of that sort. For that reason, I am sure I'll be moving to Vista. The ecosystem is hard to ignore.

3G Smart Phone Battery Life: iPhone Leads

The battery life on Apple's new 3G iPhone isn't great, but it beats that of other 3G smartphones we've seen, say testers at PC World's Test Center. In the study's standard talk-time battery life test, an iPhone, on average, ran 5 hours and 38 minutes, a performance PC World deems "fair."

The original iPhone, which ran on AT&T's slower EDGE networ, lasted 10 hours of our test. But the 3G iPhone beat out the rest of the current 3G smartphone pack, most of which fell shy of the five-hour mark that's the cutoff between a word score of fair and poor in PC World's performance ratings.

The HTC Touch Dual had an average talk time of 5 hours, 18 minutes. The AT&T Tilt lasted 4 hours, 47 minutes, trailed by the Pantech Duo at 4:46; the Motorola Q9 Global at 4:43; and the Palm Treo 750 at an abysmal 3:53.

The iPhone 3G also beat out competitors on Sprint and Verizon's EVDO mobile broadband networks, including the Palm Centro (4:19) and the Samsung Instinct (5:33), PC World says.

1 Million 3G iPhones Sold in 3 Days

Apple sold a million 3G iPhones in three days after its launch on Friday, July 11. iPhone 3G is now available in 21 countries—Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and the US—and will go on sale in France on July 17.

The App Store also experienced more than 10 million application downloads in less than a week.

IPTV Subs Increase 53%

IPTV subscribers have more than doubled for the second year running with an increase of 53.14 percent in the 12 months to 31 March 2008, and now stand at 15 million, according to Point Topic.

The statistics also show that worldwide broadband subscribers have reached over 370 million with DSL remaining the most dominant access technology with 65 percent of the world’s subscribers. However, fiber subscriptions have risen by 33 percent since the beginning of 2007, with over 10 million people connected to a fiber network. This increase in fiber subscriptions may be attributed to the increased popularity of bandwidth hungry services such as IPTV. However, the leading technology delivering IPTV today is ADSL2plus, with 12,049,817 subscribers.

Europe has over 8.4 million subscribers, making it the strongest market in terms of growth and total subscriber numbers.

DSL continues to be the most popular access technology with close to 240 million of the world’s subscribers. Cable subscriptions rates have slowed to 18 percent growth rate, while subscribers on FTTx rose 33 percent in the last year.

Mobile Phone Sales Slow Globally

Mobile phone sales began to slow in the second quarter, causing Gartner analysts to lower growth forecasts. said it cut its forecast for cellphone market growth in 2008 to 10 percent to 11 percent. Gartner previously had expected 10 percent to 15 percent growth.

"In the last month however, the economic environment started to negatively impact emerging markets as well as mature," Carolina Milanesi, head of mobile device research at Gartner, says.

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's iPhone Day

The App Store seems to be getting raves. So the issue is whether Apple can do for third party mobile apps what iTunes has done for music. So far games seem to dominate interest. But if other apps start to get traction, lots of entities will benefit.

Carriers will sell lots more data plans. Third generation and fourth generation networks will have a shot at creating revenue models for mobile Internet services and investments. Open platforms will get a boost, though international mobile calling prices will start to fall faster.

Innovation requires small companies. It also appears to require sponsorship of big companies. Apple and Google come to mind. But in sometimes halting fashion, so too the likes of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.

ISPs Agree to Block Some Content

AT&T will purge all servers containing child pornography Web sites and block user access to newsgroups that center around pornographic material relating to children. AOL, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and Sprint also have signed agreements with the state of New York doing the same.
The agreements point to the complicated nature of "blocking," "filtering," "traffic shaping," even anti-virus and anti-spam measures. In principle, most people would likely say they are in favor of "free speech" and therefore "no blocking" of Internet content.

In practice, there are lots of reasons nearly everyone would block some traffic, especially when it is harmful. The carriers have agreed to block some content lots of people think justified. That illustrates the complexity of Internet or other freedoms.

In other cases, as on most college campuses, though most people would say they favor free speech, some expressions of clearly political speech are deemed so odious the claim is made that there is "no freedom" for the expression of the clearly-political ideas, even though the same people might loudly protest other real or imagined threats to "free speech."
More than 40 years ago, in 1964, a "free speech movement" started on the campus of University of California at Berkeley in response to a ban on political activities. We may debate the later consequences, but there's little doubt rights of free speech were involved.

And 40 years later we may wonder how well those concepts are honored. These days, it is not university administrators but students and faculty that sometimes actively move to suppress ideas they disagree with. It is quite a turn of events.
The point, I suppose, is that defending free speech takes different forms in different eras. The term "political correctness" describes the current context within which free speech has to be evaluated. It might be helpful to remember that threats to free speech, historically and currently, have both left-wing and a right-wing sources. I don't think most people think left-wing suppression is any better than right-wing suppression.

I suspect most people think the carriers are doing the right thing. It's a legitimate thing to debate what free speech means in the current era. Strict constructionists might argue the "speech" to be protected is directly political speech, not any utterance, of any sort.

Carriers might take some heat for compliance with New York's rules. But it is the right thing to do. Rights are one thing. Responsibilities are another. Protecting the vulnerable among us might conflict with some notions of freedom.

In Catholic philosophy, freedom is the right to do the right thing. Ability to make a free choice is the issue, not the nature of the choice. Sometimes it might be the right thing to limit some expressions.
That isn't the same thing as blocking specific applications, or classes of applications, necessarily. But that's what makes net neutrality such a difficult concept.

So That's Why Internet Access Vaporized Yesterday

Workaround to Sudden Loss of Internet Access Problem

Date Published : 8 July 2008

Date Last Revised : 9 July 2008

Overview : Microsoft Update KB951748 is known to cause loss of internet access for ZoneAlarm users on Windows XP/2000. Windows Vista users are not affected.

Impact : Sudden loss of internet access

Platforms Affected : ZoneAlarm Free, ZoneAlarm Pro, ZoneAlarm AntiVirus, ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware, and ZoneAlarm Security Suite

Where in Media Ecosystem does Google Sit?

There's absolutely no doubt that tier one communications service provider executives "fear" Google more than they fear competition from cable operators. For the most part, the concern is that Google (and other Web contestants) have the ability to "suck the air out of the room" as far as creating value for end users that translates into revenue and creates business models.

Nor is there much doubt that communications and media are ceasing to be two distinct businesses, already overlapping and in some cases destined to merge. Add in consumer electronics and you have a volatile and unstable business environment.

Volatile in many ways because traditional industry and segment boundaries are being erased. There's little argument to be made that Google is part of the media ecosystem, for example.

The tough part is figuring out the extent to which Google itself has become media. It's a hard question to answer because Google now has operations in the ad placement business (Web, newspapers, radio), which makes it part of the classic "ad agency" business, owns YouTube, which makes it part of the video business, and blog hosting, which makes it a distribution channel, akin to a magazine, radio or TV station or programing network.

If the definition of "media" is content supported in whole or part by advertising, then search now is "media." Where Google has stretched our notions is that it is a "non-traditional" form of media and also is part of the "advertising agency" business: it creates media and also places the ads.

That's the broader problem service providers grapple with as well. It is hard to see how far network-based businesses can move in the direction of becoming media. It is hard to foretell how much "over the top" distribution will displace any existing distribution method and business model. And it is hard to estimate how network services providers will be able to create new revenue out of relationships with Web-based services and applications.

The monetization issues Google is having with YouTube, and the relatively small sums it now generates in the newspaper and radio ad placement business, mirror the steps network service providers also are taking to capture space in adjacent markets such as video distribution.

This is more like a 10-year process than a five-year process, one suspects. And though advertising today represents a relatively small proportion of cable operator revenues, at about four percent of total revenue.

You might wonder why cable operators now are spending so much time on targeted advertising efforts, then. The thinking is that global ad spending is going to keep shifting, towards the Internet and mobile formats. Of the current $510 billion spent on advertising, there is general consensus that newspaper share, 15.9 percent or about $132 billion, is highly vulnerable, as share has been shrinking for more than a couple of decades. The other big bucket of spending is television, which gets 37.6 percent of all ad spending, or about $192 billion.

Cable operators now are thinking they can grow a new ad format by taking share from newspaper and other TV media. As TV and newspapers between them represent $324 billion, or 64 percent of all advertising, you can see the attraction.

To the extent that network service providers more familiar with voice and data also are in the entertainment video game, and also have the same targeting opportunities as cable operators do, it is fairly easy to predict growth in targeted ad capabilities at some point.

Google is media. So, ultimately are telcos, in their roles as video and Internet service providers. the only issue is how much in that direction telcos will move.

Madison River, Comcast

So what does "Madison River" have in common with "Comcast"? Both might wind up being examples of Internet service providers formally punished for blocking Internet traffic.

There are reports Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin will recommend that Comcast be fined for previous traffic-shaping practices that delayed peer-to-peer traffic. The vote is scheduled for Aug. 1, 2008.

87% U.K. Multi-Channel Video Penetration

Multi-channel video entertainment service penetration in the U.K. hit 87.2 percent in March 2008, Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator, reports. To the extent there are differences between the U.S. and U.K. markets, it is the greater market share held by satellite services in the U.K. market, compared to the U.S., where cable is a more-important factor.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

RCN Will Boost Access to 50 Mbps

RCN Corp. plans to boost its consumer cable modem service up to 50 Mbps "by the end of next year," Jeff Baumgartner, Cable Digital News editor says. RCN CEO Peter Aquino promises RCN will remain competitive with Verizon, Time Warner or any other contestant in its markets.

Midband Ethernet to Grow 120% through 2011

Infonetics says worldwide Ethernet service revenue sequentially grew 33 percent to $12.5 billion in 2007, and IP MPLS VPN service revenue grew 20 percent to $13 billion.

Service revenue for mid-band Ethernet, which includes the 1-10 Mbps and 10 Mbps to 50 Mbps speed bands, will jump 120 percent from 2007 to 2011, Infonetics predicts.

Hazards of Connected Life

One of the hazards of modern life is the stability of one's broadband access infrastructure. Circuits and services go down, from time to time. For some of us, that means acting as our own personal system integrators, creating fail-safe mechanisms.

As sometimes happens, my Covad T1 line died yesterday morning, an apparent software corruption to my Windows operating system caused one of my PCs to crash, necessitating restoring the machine to an earlier software load, and requiring me now to ignore all messages to install the latest upgrade to the operating system.

Today the cable connection was fluttering in and out of service. So while the T1 was down and the primary PC inoperable, I reverted to the backup PC and the backup broadband connection (Verizon 3G).

Comcast got the connection restored without me having to call in a trouble ticket and Covad's tech support has been superb, as usual. One never wants to have a service go down, and this isn't the first time the T1 has died. What matters is how fast service gets restored, and how attentive tech support is. On that score, Covad continues to rank as the single best service provider I've ever had.

Experiencing problems isn't unusual these days. Having a service provider respond promptly, expeditiously and with great courtesy is the key. Well, that and making sure you have a way to keep working while things get sorted out.

Update: the technician was unable to get the third Cisco router to work, so we are switching to a Netopia router instead. He says he isn't sure what the issue is, but the Netopia works, and the Cisco box does not.

A Tongue-in-Cheek Proposal

As long as we are being obsessive about the weight of aircraft (US Airways is going to remove onboard in-flight entertainment systems), why not other measures? Removing the entertainment systems removes 550 pounds of weight.

Some other airlines had removed magazines for the same stated reason: to cut weight. We understand other weight-reducing measures, such as using lighter service carts, also are being looked at. The amount of water for the lavatories as well as the amount of fuel in plane tanks already have been optimized. Bag weight also now is an optimizable element in fuel consumption.

Each jet can save perhaps 400 pounds simply by avoiding paint on the fuselages.

Heck, why not base airline tickets on body weight as well as distance traveled, then?

$4.5 Billion Annual Data Center Power Bills

Data centers in the United States consume more than 60 billion kWh of energy each year, at an annual cost of $4.5 billion, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Energy consumption has doubled since 2000. Much of that spending is for cooling systems to deal with all the heat produced by the power-gobbling servers that are the muscle inside any data center.

Additional studies by many of today's largest corporations agree that a 10 percent to 20 percent reduction in power consumption from new IT equipment is required. That, and the inability of data centers to continue to scale operations using current technology virtually assures new generations of power-efficient servers.

Some data centers already are finding that the key constraint to further growth in hosting capacity is inability to get any more power from the grid at their current locations.

Much the same can be said for end user devices, especially mobiles. Broadband mobile applications require more power consumption. That means bigger or better batteries. Since device size is crucial these days, that means better batteries.

Of course, the problem is that processors and memory advance at much-faster rates than battery technology, for example.

Watch Fonolo

Lots of people think telcos are too "dinosaur-like" to keep up with the fast-paced world of IP communications. There's a logic there, to be sure. Large organizations with lots of regulatory and technological requirements act that way. Talk to any software developer working with really large systems and the danger of breaking something while fixing something else is obvious.

While nothing will change the need for some circumspection, it is a fallacy to think telcos are so hidebound they can't see where they must go. In fact, there's now widespread recognition that rapid software innovation is necessary, and cannot be done on an "in house" basis.

That means there is widespread recognition of the need for partnerships of all sorts. So consider Fonolo, an application intended for use by large communications providers. It is the sort of third party innovation carriers are looking for, and need, to create new value.

"Or mission is to help users deal with large companies over the phone, especially when interacting with interactive voice response systems," says Shai Berger, Fonolo cofounder and CEO.

"Our key innovation is a way for you to visually preview the IVR and take short cutswithout listening to all the prompts," he says. Essentially, the application works by sending out spiders, much as Google and other search engines send out spiders to find and index Internet content.

The Fonolo spiders crawl around, investigate IVRs and build maps. Based on that knowledge, Fonolo allows users to "click the spot you want to reach, then we ring your phone and "deep dial" you to where you want to go," says Berger. "It's just like deep linking in the Web world, where you can bookmark your spots so you can go right back," he says.

Another feature is intelligent call histories. "You can use any phone and all the call history is available to you as an end user. Fonolo also supports full call recording.

Say you have an interaction with a customer service agent about a billing, technical support or other issue. Those interactions can be recorded as a way of documenting the "trouble ticket."

Then, when a user interacts with the next agent for follow up, "you can play the recording back to the agent while you are on the phone, if you need to," he says.

And note: Fonolo was intentionally built as an application carriers can use. "The key for us is carrier partnerships," says Berger.

"Even non-tech-savvy users get it," Berger says. "IVR interactions are a major consumer pain point."

No downloads are required, by the way. As every provider likes to say, "it just works."

Fonolo now is in private beta and will move to public beta in a month.Berger expects to launch formally in the fourth quarter of 2008, with pilots beginning in the first quarter of 2009.

Asked where he thinks he'll get traction, Berger says that although Fonolo already has been contacted by carriers "all over the world," he thinks the intial deal or two will come from smaller providers that can move faster. He'll work up the food chain from there.

Fonolo is an excellent example of how application developers and carriers can work together to create and popularize new applications that enhance and change the communications experience. Granted, some developers will just want to build "over the top" apps. But what really will be interesting is the emergence of a class of developers that see what can be done working with carriers.

Margin Impact: Online Vs. DVD Distribution

Factoid: Video on demand “day and date” sales--when content is available on the same release day as the same content released on DVD--has gross profit margins of 60 to 70 percent. DVD sales sold on the same "day and date" window have margins of 20 to 30 percent."

Keep that in mind as more and more experimentation with highly-popular movie and TV programming occurs. Even though gross revenue might be lower for digital delivery, so are costs. And the margin for digital products beats physical delivery by a three to one ratio.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Senate Passes Immunity Bill

The U.S. Senate voted July 9, 2008 to grant retroactive immunity to telephone companies that participated in the White House's warrantless domestic surveillance program. The House of Representatives earlier had approved the bill, which now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign the bill.

Some people think "warrantless" means "unwarranted." I don't. Carriers acted in good faith in complying with government requests.

Has BT Bought Ribbit?

Lots of smart and experienced people think application developers will not find a warm reception in the tier one carrier community. I think that's dead wrong. Never have "telco" executives been more aware that they need partners to create compelling new applications.

So VentureBeat reports that BT has purchased Ribbit, a voice platform company playing in the "communications enable business processes" space. Think of the way voice gets integrated with

Techcrunch says Ribbit has been bought by BT for $55 million. But there's still some speculation that the deal isn't done yet.

No matter. The important thing is that the deal illustrates a trend: telcos no longer have a "not invented here" attitude about applications and services invented by third parties.

There is lots of room for application developers to create interesting features service providers will want to offer.

For my friends at Qwest: talk to Fonolo.

WeFi One-Touch Wi-Fi for Windows Mobile Devices

WeFi Inc., creator of an open, community-based global Wi-Fi network, announced today the launch of a new ‘one-touch-internet’ feature for Windows Mobile, providing mobile users with seamless access to the best Wi-Fi connection relative to their location at the simple click of the touch-screen.

WeFi’s one-touch-internet feature gives the Windows Mobile user a convenient interface to launch any application or webpage from the “Today” screen, automatically finding the best Wi-Fi connection available when this application is launched.

In addition, each application can be configured in advance to use only Wi-Fi, or revert to 3G or 2.5G data connection if no Wi-Fi access point is available – so that a seamless connection is constantly maintained.

WeFi says its network now includes 1.5 million access points.

Windows Mobile users can also register the WeFi software on their personal computers.

Mobile Video Forecast

Consumers are demanding more personalization and entertainment content on their mobile phones, driving mobile video revenue to exceed $3.5 billion in 2008, according to recent research by MultiMedia Intelligence.

By 2012, the mobile video and mobile TV market will exceed $15 billion, including direct customer payments and advertising. But most of the money is in subscriber fees. Total Mobile TV and Video advertising revenue will exceed $1 billion by 2012.

Those numbers illustrate something about the relative importance of various revenue streams. Some observers think video, advertising and other related revenue streams ultimately will represent most network service provider revenue.

I'm a bit of a contrarian, perhaps, but I continue to believe voice and data services will constitute the clear majority of "legacy" telecom service provider revenues for the indefinite future. That doesn't mean "dumb pipe" or "simple access" services are the only revenue components former telcos will have.

It is to argue that most of the revenue will continue to come from access and the services that are built rather directly on access. I'd argue that will continue to be true on both wireless and wired networks.

With the combination of a large wireless subscriber base and free-to-air alternatives, Asia has the vast majority of mobile TV subscribers. By 2012, Asia will have two thirds of all mobile TV subscribers.

For that reason alone, mobile TV is unlikely to represent a very large revenue stream for network service providers. And what revenue there is will come in the form of recurring subscription payments or on-demand fees.

Harmonizing WiMAX and LTE

Participants from both the WiMAX and LTE camp and IEEE and ETSI 3GPP standards organizations seem to be of a mindset that a common air interface for both Long Term Evolution and WiMAX would be a good thing. Vodafone, for example, is calling for the merging of WiMAX and LTE.

Count Intel as a proponent of such harmonization as well.

These proposals point out a key fact about both WiMAX and LTE: they simply are wireless broadband platforms. The differentiation will come only as differentiated business models can be created. It probably is inevitable that in the early going the volume will be in "DSL and cable modem substitution" and "alternative to 3G mobile broadband."

LTE, though, is in a different strategic position. Its backers can assume they essentially are looking at a next-generation network that will, over time, port existing customers and business models over to the new platform.

WiMAX, in North America, has to create space for itself by stealing some share from other existing contestants. That's why the pressure to position on one hand as a fixed line alternative and on the other hand as "better 3G" will be irresistable. If that is all WiMAX does, it will not be as successful as many hope. The compellingly different positioning is "mobile Internet," with all that implies about openness, applications heterogeneity, pricing and packaging.

U.S., Italy Lead in Moble Internet

Mobile Internet has become a mass medium in the U.S. and Italian mobile markets, say researchers at Nielsen Mobile. As of May 2008, there were 40 million active users of the mobile Internet in the United States.

Perhaps more interesting is the fact that 95 million U.S. mobile users have subscribed to the service but do not necessarily use it.

According to Nielsen, 144 million (57 percent) of U.S. mobile subscribers were data users in the first quarter of 2008 (any data activity from text messaging to mobile Internet).

Some 95 million (37 percent) of U.S. mobile subscribers paid for access to the mobile Internet, either as part of a subscription or transactionally.

About 40 million subscribers (15.6 percent in May 2008) were active users of mobile Internet services, using those services at least once on a monthly basis.

It's a small point, but in recent days studies have shown that penetration of global positioning satellite services and now mobile Internet are highest in the U.S. market. Over time, that distinction means little. But it's worth keeping in mind that different services propagate at different rates in different countries and regions, often because of value drivers specific to each region, sometimes because of regulation, other times because of pricing and packaging policies.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Less Value from Linking?

Louis Gray of says he detects a decline in the effectiveness of "linking" as a driver of blog site traffic. Taking a look at traffic to his own site, he now finds "traffic from other blogs to be driving an ever-declining percentage of visits to my site, swamped by social media tools, aggregation sites, and of course, Google search."

People seem to be relying more on news aggregators and RSS feeds.

I'd have to agree. On this site, something like 68 percent of visitors arrive from a search engine site, about 23 percent from referring sites and about nine percent direct.

My personal interest in traffic drivers is as a professional journalist of more than 25 years. Since more of what we do is moving to online delivery, with more of the readership on a story by story basis, irrespective of the brand name packaging we used to emphasize, I'm always interested in how the craft of journalism is evolving.

I used to spend more time embedding links and tagging. These days I do so quite rarely. Mostly, I just put up the posts and am done with it. Of course, I've also stopped using instant messaging as well, Skype for calling and just about any other related applications as well.

I find I am too busy to keep testing many new applications; tired of having to adopt new behaviors. I'm even spending lots less time on Facebook.

Of the new things I've tried recently, Lypp, the Web-based conferencing tool, has proven most useful. It is even delightful. There's still a continuous stream of interesting tools. I just have gotten to the point where getting my work done matters more than exploring lots of new apps. Lypp actually helps me get my work done.

Microsoft ResponsePoint SIP Trunking Suppliers Named

Microsoft Corp. has selected Junction Networks as a preferred SIP trunking and gateway service provider for its Microsoft Response Point small business phone system. The Response Point Service Pack 1, generally available now, will feature services from Junction Networks pre-configured for simple account activation and maintenance.

Microsoft also has certified New Global Telecom, which now is accepting customer orders for NGT Digital Voice for Microsoft Response Point. In April, NGT became the first certified, Microsoft recommended service provider offering industry-standard SIP (session initiation protocol) phone services that works seamlessly with Response Point.

Hosted Business VoIP Seats: Long Ways to Go

Ike Elliott over at Telecosm has completed a partial survey of business VoIP seats now in service. It's a tough number to come up with and is not exhaustive. But it is instructive.

The issue some of us have raised is whether hosted VoIP ever will be a business bigger than legacy Centrex was, in which case market saturation could come at about 33 million seats in service.

Ike's respondents do not represent the whole universe, but are instructive. We have a long ways to go before we can answer the question of how big hosted business IP telephony will be.

Apple Yanks 3G iPhone in Canada

Apple has decided not to sell the iPhone 3G in its retail stores across Canada in protest of Rogers price plans, according to AppleInsider. A minimum three-year contract for $60-a-month buys 150 talk time minutes, 75 text messages and 400 megabytes of data downloads. It clearly is an awful deal.

Information Overload

Wall Street Journal contributor Gordon Crovitz, writing about the dangers of information overload, points out that knowledge workers change activities every three minutes, usually because they're distracted by email or a phone call. It then takes almost half an hour to get back to the task once attention is lost.

A decline in our ability to focus is a side effect of the otherwise powerful tools we use to gather and analyze information, Crovitz argues. That has enterprises experimenting with ways to limit interruptions, at least some days of the week, and at meetings.

He argues that "we humans can be slow, but eventually we catch up to the technologies we create and figure out how best to use them."

I have something of an advantage in that regard, as I have very little need for active internal collaboration. I have to spend lots of time doing research, but very little time coordinating with coworkers.

Still, upon reflection, I have taken some steps to limit interruptions. Sometimes I just turn my phones off. For perhaps six months, I have not opened any instant messaging clients, for any reason other than to place a global call using Skype. Even that function, though, now can be dispensed with as I have added VoIP clients for both my mobiles.

That won't be a viable option for lots of other workers for whom internal collaboration is much more important. Still, one reasonable response is simply not to respond to every inbound email. In my case, I simply delete most messages without reading much more than the headers, or sometimes, on my BlackBerry, fractions of headers. On the BlackBerry, just the few characters displayed on the first line of any message is as far as I'll get.

Perhaps that is a severe sorting mechanism, but it does allow for the time I need to think about things, which is the job I have. Overload might be a problem, but it is not a problem without a resolution.

In my particular case, it means RSS feeds always get checked, all day long. So are text messages. Email is fairly often checked, but with very heavy deletion policies. At least for the moment, IMs are not an issue. It simply is a tool I have decided not to use. Again, my concrete situation is different than that of most enterprise users. IM might actually save time in that scenario, because of the presence function.

Really High iPhone Costs in New Zealand

For those of you who tend to think U.S. prices for any broadband service are higher than anywhere else, consider what New Zealand customers will be paying for a 3G iPhone with a one-gigabyte data plan: $185 U.S. dollars a month.

That comes with 600 minutes of talk time and 600 text messages.

Buyers of the least-expensive data plan (costing about U.S. $59) will have to pay $406 to buy an 8 GByte iPhone or $517 U.S. to get a 16 Gbyte model.

AT&T's best pricing plans are reserved for mobile customers switching from other providers. Existing AT&T customers who are not currently eligible for an upgrade discount can purchase iPhone 3G for $399 for the 8 GB model or $499 for the 16 GB model. Both options require a new two-year service agreement. But the $30 a month data plan includes unlimited usage.

In the future, AT&T will offer a no-contract-required option for $599 (8GB) or $699 (16GB).

Users switching from other mobile providers can get an iPhone for either $199 (8 GB model) or $299 (16 GB model), with the monthly data plan of $30. U.S. users on any mobile provider's plan can qualify for the lower device prices if they buy before July 11, 2008.

For U.S. users not already customers of AT&T mobile services, or not eligible for an upgrade, both device and data plan prices are reasonable, compared to other plans offered in other countries.

Impatient at Broadband Adoption Pace? Don't Be

Americans are an impatient bunch, and pundits are even more unforgiving. We tend to want everything now, and seem to tire of complicated problems that take a while to solve. Consider broadband, which continues to be seen as a problem in some quarters. There still are calls to "national action" to fix the problem. History suggests there is no problem to be fixed.

Broadband reached 50 percent penetration of the consumer market in 10 years--faster than any number of other highly-popular consumer electronics innovations that do not seem to require "national action" to fix. The popular compact disk player took 10.5 years to reach 50-percent penetration. VCRs, another popular innovation in its day, took 14 years to reach half of homes.

Mobile phones took 15 years to reach half of homes.Color televisions took 18 years to reach 50 percent penetration. PCs took 18 years to reach half of homes. It is worthwhile to recall that prices for all these products initially were quite high, but dropped dramatically as volume rose.

Technology also seems to be the reason why any reasonable end user will tend to say their choices of devices, services, applications, as well as the prices they pay for those products and services, are measurably, sometimes dramatically lower these days than before the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which some contestants deem to be a failure.

Perhaps it is worth observing that end users--consumers and businesses--are far better off today than they were before the Act. That some contestants have fared better than others is undeniable. So perhaps another observation is in order. Despite any failures of the Act, users universally have more choices, more variety and lower prices in just about every segment of communications today, than they did in 1995.

So perhaps what has happened is that technology and open markets have outstripped all the particular policy regimes in a decisive way. It might be fair to say that success has occurred despite the Act. That there are many unhappy contestants is undeniable. But if the objective was an explosion of choices, better applications and lower prices, that has occurred.

That isn't to say a similar outcome couldn't have been obtained under some other set of policies. European regulators have pursed different courses. In a few cases, those different policies have resulted not only in higher broadband penetration, but also have provided higher bandwidth at lower prices. Japan and Korea come to mind.

Still, it probably also is worth noting that both those nations have domestic business cultures quite distinct from those of Europe, Africa, North America, South America and the rest of Asia. State-directed investment plays a significantly different role than elsewhere, and both nations are relatively compact and feature high-density housing. Both those factors, plus state-directed investment, mean both nations can do things that would be difficult elsewhere.

So it is true that U.S. broadband does not have the highest bandwidth or the lowest price among all nations. Those honors are held by small countries, generally with high-density populations (which means short access loops), or vigorous state-sponsored investment. In broadband, as elsewhere, scale makes a difference.

Wireless Bug is a Feature, But Not for Users

Sometimes "bugs" are "features;" the issue being "for whom" it is a feature. One end user "bug" is a bandwidth-saving feature for a mobile provider. Specifically, BlackBerry emails that strip out HTML links, saving as much as an order of magnitude (10 times) the bandwidth required if full HTML were displayed.

"If you are a Blackberry user, you are familiar with the fact that emails containing HTML links don’t display the graphics, but rather cause you to have to scroll down past that jibberish HTML text," says Seeking Alpha author Anton Wahlman. "It’s ugly and annoying, but those of us who are engineering-minded know the reason we have to suffer through this sub-optimal experience: bandwidth."

"By stripping each email of all of those colors and pictures, less bandwidth is utilized," says Wahlman.

This goes to the heart of Blackberry’s main argument to the carriers, such as T-Mobile USA and AT&T. Unlike other email-capable handhelds, Blackberries provide for a more predictable, and lower, bandwidth utilization.

Other devices, such as Apple's iPhone (AAPL), are making some people expect that email on the handheld will incorporate HTML just like it does on the PC.

Blackberry is supposed to be enabling that feature this summer. If there are more than 10 million U.S. Blackberry users, receiving probably 100 emails per day, or one billion emails, the amount of wireless bandwidth needed to support those emails will more than double the average size of the messages.

Fixing the "bug" will also mean eliminating a mobile network provider "feature."

IP VPN Prices Not a Commodity

IP VPN prices vary dramatically, by service provider, by country, and by class of service, TeleGeography finds. For example, while the median price of a 2 Mbps E-1 IP VPN port in London was USD 576 per month in Q1 2008, a comparable connection would cost USD 1,034 in Hong Kong, USD 2,871 in Beijing and USD 6,083 in La Paz, Bolivia.

The wide range of prices quoted by telecommunications companies for similar services within a given city suggests that telcos, too, are having a difficult time finding appropriate prices for their services. For example, in Beijing, prices for 2 Mbps VPN ports varied from just over USD 1,300 per month to nearly USD 5,000 per month.

The rate of price change also varies widely by market. The median monthly price of a 1.5 Mbps T-1 port in Atlanta fell 19 percent from USD 580 to USD 470 between the second quarter 2007 and first quarter 2008.

In contrast, the median E-1 port price in Dubai, one of the most expensive markets tracked by TeleGeography, fell only four percent, from USD 16,538 to USD 15,877.

"The tremendous range and variability of prices reflect that this market is neither transparent, nor commoditized," says TeleGeography analyst Gregory Bryan.

Monday, July 7, 2008

TW Telecom, AT&T Rebranding Costs

TW Telecom--formerly Time Warner Telecom--will have to spend between $6 million and $7 million to re-brand the 2,800-employee company. Of course, it could be worse. AT&T executives have not to my knowledge ever said what it actually cost to conduct a number of big rebranding exercises.

When SBC Communications was rebranded as AT&T, the cost was said to involve spending of about $1 billion. But that appears to be the most-affordable of recent efforts. When AT&T Wireless was rebranded as Cingular, the move is reported to have cost $4 billion. Some three years later, Cingular went back to AT&T, for possibly another $2 billion.

There have been other, arguably less-expensive rebranding efforts as well. There was the cost of rebranding BellSouth as AT&T, said to have cost as much as $2 billion. One has to assume the rebranding of Ameritech as SBC cost at least $1 billion. Add on the earlier rebranding of Pacific Telesis as SBC as well.

Add it up and rebranding probably has cost about $9 billion. Of course, some of that money would have been spent on the original brand names in any case, so it is not as though all of that was incremental spending.

Still, it's a huge expense. And then there's the brand equity partially represented on balance sheets in the form of good will. As they like to quip in the Congress, a billion here, a billion there; pretty soon it's real money.

T-Mobile 3G 20-City Launch in October?

CNet speculates that T-Mobile USA will include a Google Android phone as part of its nationwide 3G wireless network launch in perhaps 20 to 25 markets later this year, and perhaps as early as October.

T-Mobile reportedly plans to include the HTC Dream smartphone as one of its first 3G phones to launch with the network, according to reports.

T-Mobile started offering 3G service in New York City in May. And the company said at the launch that it would roll out the service in other top markets by the end of the year.

The Sony Ericsson Z780, a high-end Samsung cameraphone, and possibly the Motorola ZINE ZN5 also are reportedly to be offered.

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