Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Warning: Zone Alarm Pro Not Compatible with Norton Anti-Virus 2009

Other users--and now me--have discovered that Norton AntiVirus 2009 is incompatible with ZoneAlarm Pro. on a Windows XP (SP3) machine. Try to load Norton AntiVirus and it will crash your operating system, requiring you to do a system restore. You also will find that you must remove the power cord and battery (if on a lap top) to shut the system down, as the incompatibility also prevents you from using the power button to shut down. No matter what you do, the Norton software will lock up the machine if you try to install it. 

Apparently these two companies don't like each other very much because it isn't the first time I've had issues with Norton and ZoneAlarm causing me to remove one or both from my machines. It is quite annoying. 


47% of Cable Subs Might Be Willing to Switch

About 47 percent of cable company video subscribers say they are willing to consider switching their video service from cable to an IPTV service, say researchers at CFI Group. That level of interest occurs when customers are presented with a 100-plus channel menu and monthly prices in the $40 to $50 range.

At that level of retail prices, the upside for telcos is not gross revenue nor margin. The upside lies in reducing churn and preserving both unit sales and profit margin for legacy voice and data services. At the moment, bundle customers are about twice as likely to be cable customers as telco customers. One reason for that is the fact that telcos have not had the ability to provide video entertainment services until recently. 

If telecom companies are able to provide fiber services to new access areas quickly, and market them effectively, the split of new bundled customers between telecom and  cable could widen to 63 percent and 29 percent respectively, CFI argues.

Fluid Cable-Telco Marketing Battles

Nearly 60 percent of surveyed households now have bundled services (telecommunication, internet, and video services), a 13 percent increase since 2007, according to new research by CFI Group. So far, though, cable companies are much more likely to serve bundle buyers, compared to telecom companies. Cable companies subscribe twice as many customers to bundled services as telecoms do, CFI Group says. 

And telcos have some work to do: Digital subscriber line services appear to be losing ground, compared to cable modem alternatives. Still, the battleground is fluid: customers increasingly asensitive to rising rates and poor customer service coming from cable providers, CFI suggests. 

Some 70 percent of customers cite high rates as one reason for canceling cable TV service, while poor customer service accounts for 40 percent of churn from cable TV service.

Of customers who will switch carriers, 40 percent say that the competition offers better rates and plans. 
Customers also seem to be more willing to switch wireless carriers than they were in 2007. Verizon leads all wireless carriers in customer satisfaction and Verizon customers are the least likely to switch carriers. Sprint/Nextel customers are the least satisfied and the most likely to switch.

Nearly 50 percent of households are interested in VoIP and IPTV, but awareness for either has changed little over the past year.

Bundling preferences are likely to change as telcos turn up new video services. Despite cable’s current lead, customers would prefer to bundle communications services with telecommunication companies over cable companies by a two to one margin, CFI Group says. However, 29 percent of customers have no intention of bundling at all, preferring instead to pick and choose the services that best meet their needs.

And though consumers often say "convenience" is why they buy bundles, lower costs probably are the primary driver. The vast majority of customers who choose bundled services make the decision based on price, CFI Group says. Still, 46 percent of customers say they chose a bundled plan because it simplifies billing. Most customers who intend to switch carriers will also choose better pricing and a simplified bill, CFI Group says. 

The predicted growth rate for bundling is nine to 17 percent over the next 12 months, slowing slightly over previous years. The greatest opportunity is in meeting the growing market demand for video services provided by telcos. If telecoms are able to provide fiber services to new access areas quickly, and market them effectively, the split of new bundled customers between telecom and  cable could widen to 63 percent and 29 percent respectively, reversing the present pattern. 

Monday, September 29, 2008

Xohm Launches in Baltimore

Sprint Nextel Corp.has  launched its Xohm WiMAX-powered service for mobile customers in Baltimore. Contract-free service options include a $10 day pass, $25 monthly home Internet service and $30 monthly laptop service. Xohm modems cost $60 for a laptop card, an $80 home modem and has average downlink speeds of 2 to 4 megabits per second.

“This is truly an historic day with the birth of a completely new Internet-based business model that alters the dynamics of the traditional telecom industry,” says Barry West, Xohm president. 

Xohm hasn't yet achieved that with the launch; it couldn't have done so. It has created a new packaging for mobile access pricing. The day pass, reminiscent of Wi-Fi day pass pricing, is helpful. The $30 card or dongle pricing does undercut rival pricing from other providers. Prices for tethered service are roughly in line with what Clearwire already was offering. 

So far, though, Xohm does not appear to differ much from fixed broadband service, save for the pricing level. Where it clearly hopes to pose a challenge is to contract-based voice service, but Clearwire isn't promising it is going to make that its battleground. Right now, it mostly looks like a less-expensive, contract-free version of 3G mobility service, with better throughput. 

That's not a bad thing by any means. Still, Xohm's rhetoric is ahead of its vision, at the the moment. There are lots of reasons. One business model Xohm really wants to create is a simple, low-cost, casual use model beyond the day pass. That will require the ability to discover and authenticate new devices registering to the network. That means creating means to deal with MAC addresses and IP addresses not already registered in its authentication servers as a "current customer."

Supporting the typical user input operations on smaller devices other than PCs is an issue, but probably not so much as the authentication of new MAC and IP addresses whose users want to register for some relatively-casual use of the Xohm network. That means processes for 
discovery, certification, and management of new devices on the WiMax network, when network usage might be quite episodic. Right now it probably just means supporting WiMAX modems, whatever the form factor. 

What Xohm really wants is the ability to authenticate and provide service to MP3 players, electronic book readers and other devices mobile networks have not had to deal with in the past. We might be a year away from that. 

And that's when Xohm will start to fulfill its promise.

People Now Text More than Talk

The typical U.S. mobile subscriber sends and receives more SMS text messages than telephone calls, according to new research conducted byNielsen Mobile. 

During the second quarter of 2008, a typical U.S. mobile subscriber placed or received 204 phone calls each month.  In comparison, the average mobile customer sent or received 357 text messages per month, a 450 percent increase over the number of text messages circulated monthly during the same period in 2006.

U.S. teens (ages 13 to 17) had the highest levels of text messaging in the second quarter 2008, sending and receiving an average of 1,742 text messages per month. In comparison, teens took part in an average of 231 mobile phone calls per month, during the same time period.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Access Restrictions Will Hand Verizon a Marketing Advantage

Some U.S. communications executives say that service providers may have to implement tiered pricing to deal with the massive explosion in streaming video. Video might be growing even faster than most project, Lisa Guillaume Level 3 Communications VP. But Verizon Communications obviously thinks it will have an advantage if that happens. 

"There are choices that can be made in the home broadband market," says Doug Pasko, Verizon Communications principal member of technical staff . "It's not like video is a surprise -- we all saw it coming." If tiered pricing, bandwidth caps, traffic shaping and other bandwidth management techniques become an "industry standard" issue, Verizon will have a marketing advantage handed to it, as its FiOS access network simply has way more bandwidth than any of the other competitors. 

DirecTV to Stream to DVRs

DirecTV is betting that the Web will serve as a major technological ally as it tries to match cable in delivering on-demand video content.

The top U.S. satellite-TV provider now says DirecTV On Demand will deliver content over broadband Internet connections The service provides more than 4,000 standard-definition and HDTV titles through a DirecTV PlusHD DVR or R22 DVR receiver.

The service allows customers to download programming to their digital video recorders. 

Ditch the PBX?

Though it might not seem an approach very-large enterprises will want to take, at least not now, all sorts of smaller organizations might well find they do not need to buy new IP-based phone systems to take advantage of most of the features most users at most smaller organizations or branch offices will need. They might find it makes more sense to equip users with smart phones and then map hosted PBX features to those mobiles. In other cases it probably will make more sense to map hosted PBX features to both desk and mobile phones. 

The BroadSoft MobileMax Enterprise Edition Mobile Client is a software application that resides in the mobile user’s device and extends the functionality of a BroadSoft powered hosted solution to the mobile device, replicating desk phone functions. Among the features possible are "single number" service for both inbound and outbound calls, single voicemail, least cost routing, short code dialing,  transfer, redial, hold, conference, record, call waiting, simultaneous ring, conference calling, email and synchronization to PCs. 

Though it might seem an improbable choice, here's a scenario that is more likely by the day. An enterprise issues its employees a smart phone of their choice, and then maps phone system features to those mobiles, positioning the move as an employee benefit. Given the right companywide plan, users then can use the smart phones they want, for business and personal use, without having to worry about submitting reimbursement claims.

The other conceivable benefit is that employees can be issued new models periodically, as another benefit. Older users might need to get used to such things. Younger workers might find the deal appealing. Desk phones are hard to position as any sort of employee benefit. 

Use of a smart phone costing $400 to $700, with periodic replacement and ability to use the device for personal and business use can be positioned as a company benefit. 

Cloud Computing Changing Markets

Cloud computing today includes contestants in multiple markets, arguably based on existing segments that are reforming into one vast new and broad business, in much the same way that the "global telecom business" might be thought of as a single economic category, though it is composed of many distinct segments. 

There are myths, though, says Frank E. Gillett, Forrester Research analyst. One myth is that cloud service offerings are one large market. So far, as has been the case with other potential markets such as IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), providers have rushed to rebrand existing offerings as "IMS compatible." The same thing is happening with cloud computing. 

Other misconceptions are that cloud computing mostly is synonymous with "virtualization" of servers or that cloud computing applications and services will compete on price. It is more than either of those trends, says Gillett.

In fact, one might distinguish at least five separate markets within the broader cloud computing universe. Two of these markets, Web-based services such as Google and software-as-a-service offerings such as salesforce.com, are known markets delivered from the cloud. In that sense, most consumers now use cloud computing applications. 

But there are business-to-business markets emerging as well, including the notion of  app-components-as-a-service, software-platform-as-a-service, and virtual-infrastructure-as-a-service. Those segments essentially provide building blocks for application and service providers to create retail offerings. 

So why might this be important for telecom or cable service providers? Cloud computing should change the way enterprises build their computing infrastructures, deemphasizing on-premises, "build your own" data centers and increasing demand for remotely-sited data centers. That should lead to a reconfiguration of the hosting business, at the very least, increasing the role for service providers and decreasing the role for smaller independent providers. 

Roughly the same thing is happening in the enterprise and consumer software businesses, shifting delivery from physical media to networked, online access. That likewise creates new demand for networking services, especially quality-assured networking services. 

Australian ISPs Say U.S. Pricing Plans Are Wrong

There is no need for network neutrality rules, say executives of Australian Internet service providers. U.S. ISPs simply need to stop offering "unlimited" access and switch to metered usage, argues Justin Milne, Telstra Media group managing director. The only problem is the business model," argues Simon Hackett, Internode managing director, reports ZDNet.com.

"The U.S. problem isn't about running out of capacity," says Simon Hackett, the managing director of Adelaide-based ISP Internode. "It's a business model that's about to explode due to stress."

The problem with an "unlimited access" plan is that it devalues what a megabyte is worth, they argue. U.S. ISPs have a couple basic options, they argue: absorb the costs, stop offering unlimited access plans or charge business partners for quality-ensured delivery of video and other high-value traffic.

Malone says that when users are offered truly unlimited access to download as much as they want, three per cent of customers use over 50 per cent of all the downloads. Download quotas can eradicate that problem and have no impact on 95 percent of users.

The Australian model gives ISP's predictability about income and network costs, and is self correcting: users trade up to higher-cost plans when they need to, the Australian ISPs argue.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wal-Mart Gets its Own Geek Squad

Wal-Mart and Dell are testing the Solution Station by Dell in 15 Dallas stores, creating a service and support operation along the lines of the Best Buy Geek Squad, the Circuit City Firedog or AT&T Tech Support 360. Solution Station will repair PCs and set up home entertainment and wireless networking gear sold by Wal-Mart.

The move shows the increasing need for end user support, in the small business and consumer markets, as more complex digital technology sales now require more set-up, training and configuration services.

The AT&T service allows customers to receive live help for everything from setting up and configuring their computer to setting up Wi-Fi networks and hooking up printers, scanners and routers via the Internet. Subscription plans range from $19 to $28 a month, per computer, with an $89 initial setup cost.

As IP technology becomes the dominant way service providers deliver services to customers, it no longer is possible to terminate services cleanly at some demarcation point. Increasingly, support must be provided for end user devices as an integral part of the customer experience. 

T-Mobile Sells out G1 Stock

T-Mobile USA apparently has sold out all of their pre-sale stock of the Android-powered G1 smart phone, according to TmoNews.com. Current T-Mobile customers were offered a chance to buy the device early, before the actual mass market launch on October 22. The site says T-Mobile planned on offering 60,000 pre-sale devices.

Bandwidth Caps Inevitable

T-Mobile USA's swift retraction of a 1 Gbyte monthly cap on 3G data access to G1 Android phones was wise. The cap was paltry, compared to competing offers available from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Granted, T-Mobile probably wanted to avoid taxing its brand-new 3G network, and likely was aware that five class action lawsuits filed against AT&T for misrepresentation suggest legal liability if 3G performance was compromised by excessive demand. 

That said, bandwidth caps are inevitable for mobile users, and likely inevitable for fixed broadband access as well, as video becomes a more-common application. The reason is simple: video consumes an order of magnitude, or in some cases two orders of magnitude, more bandwidth than anything Internet service providers yet have encountered.

Anybody who has followed the cost of fiber-to-home construction knows how expensive access to core bandwidth actually is. In fact, the business case is quite difficult, under nearly all circumstances. 

User expectations aside, when demand jumps that much, one can expect either bandwidth caps, or metered usage or new higher-priced tiers of service that better match the underlying cost of providing service. For some of us, Internet access, using broadband, is as much a utility as water, electricity, wastewater services, heating or cooling. 

And it simply does not make, long term, to provide most of those services on a "flat fee, irrespective of usage." There are real costs (carbon footprint, drilling, refining, construction, maintenance) for providing clean water, water removal or electrrical services. It would not make sense to provide them on a flat rate basis for all customers, as well as that might work for most customers, most of the time. 

Friday, September 26, 2008

At Work Social Media Overblown?

Researchers at the Pew Internet & American Life Project recently found that very few workers actually create or read blogs while at work. About 11 percent of respondents who have Internet access at work say they have read blogs while at work.

Reading is most prevalent among younger generations of employed Internet users. About 33 percent of Iinternet-using employees say they have read someone else’s blog or online journal, either at home or at work.

Among young working adults, 46 percent are blog readers, compared with 33 percent of 30-49 year olds and
25 percent of employed Internet users ages 50-64. At-work blog reading is equally prevalent among all of these groups, though. 

Some might seize on that finding as an example of workers not taking advantage of all the information-bathering and communication tools they now have at their disposal.

Some will leap to the conclusion that workers are doing themselves a disservice by avoiding blog readership or creation while they are at work. That might be true. But there is another way to look at matters. 

Those of us who have done journalism for any length of time sometimes believe--apparently incorrectly--that most people in a business or profession "need" to read news and other information sources to do their jobs. But hang around in the mailroom at any organization. What you will find is that after the "C" titles, very few people who work in organizations actually read publications of any kind related to their industry verticals or horizontal job responsibilities.

It simply is not true that most people "need" to know what is happening at a high level in their industries to do their actual jobs. If it were true, then almost everybody would be reading and acquiring such information at work. But most people do not. 

One can argue that "most" people thereby are harming their careers. To be sure, there is no way to prove or disprove such a thesis. But it has not been my experience, as somebody who has picked up mail in the mailroom, that most people actually think they "must" know what is happening in an industry at a high level, in order to do their actual jobs. "C" titles obviously have greater incentive to monitor industry trends, as they must raise and allocate capital. Marketing staffs often have higher incentive to know what's going on because they must create and manage a wide variety of sales-related and product development tasks. 

Information technology managers typically spend more time than most staying "up to date" on technology trends. But most people simply do not, because they don't have to. 

Media publishers and content providers of all sorts have a vested interest in persuading people that a particular product is a "must read" for most people who "matter." That just isn't true, in most cases. Most people not only have no such need, they have no such habit, either.

Ping Patent, Ding Providers

Google has filed a patent application that essentially would allow end users of communications services to conduct real-time auctions and then select the best deal. 

Think of it as an application of "on demand" bandwidth to virtually any voice, video or data session a user wants to create "right now."

Customers like this sort of thing, carriers typically don't, as prices tend to drop when there is real-time transparency into cost and quality parameters of available access and transport options. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cisco Makes Big Move into Cloud Computing

Cisco has undertaken a major new initiative in the unified communications space, introducing a new architecture for its former WebEx Connect service, making Cisco a provider of Web-based productivity applications including email, instant messaging, voice, calendaring and virtual whiteboards.

The offering is part of Cisco’s Software as a Service (SaaS) platform and is part of a vision Cisco now has for "everything as a service." Predictably, the initiative has pundits touting Cisco's new move to compete with the likes of Google and Microsoft in Web-based services and applications. The strategy has elements of that, to be sure. But that's almost a by-product of the larger move towards cloud computing services that use a browser front end as the portal to services and applications of all sorts that once were delivered using physical media and local storage. 

Cisco says Verizon Communications is an initial partner, and that further deals are expected with European and Asia-based service providers as well. Cisco executives say business models might vary from carrier to carrier, but that subscription fees will drive the retail offerings and carriers will share in that revenue. 

Though initially services are expected to be consumed by PC users, the service also will be made available to "most" mobile platforms by the first quarter of 2009, including support for Symbian, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile
operating systems.

EC Wants to Slash Texting Rates 60%

The European Commission, as expected, has proposed a new law slashing international text messaging rates by 60 percent by the summer of 2009. Specifically, the EC has proposed a retail cap of €0.11 (about 16 cents), excluding value-added tax, on roaming text messages, combined with a €0.04 cap at wholesale level, to be introduced by July 1, 2009. 

Tracfone Plumbs a Niche

TracFone Wireless Inc. has launched a program in Florida that provides low-income households with phone service. SafeLink Wireless will operate as part of Lifeline, a U.S. government-supported program providing phone service for low-income households.

It provides households a free mobile phone, mobile access to emergency services and 68 minutes of free monthly air time for a year. The cell phone offers in-demand features like voicemail, text messaging, call waiting, international calling to over 60 destinations and caller ID.

Families may qualify for SafeLink Wireless service if their household income is not above 135 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines, or if they receive government assistance that including Medicaid, food stamps and other programs.

The program is yet another example of a niche voice service that does not fit the classic definition of a "commodity." That is to say, this particular voice application is not a functional substitute for other voice products, but rather a particular implementation of voice that is the foundation for a vertical revenue segment within the broader market. 

Some providers of voice services for retailers would probably note that very little outbound traffic or features typically are used in such settings. Most of the value is provided by inbound calling features such as automated attendant and call transfer, for example. Low-cost mobile service might be part of the reason. But part of the reason for this use pattern is simply that many retailers do no outbound telesales. They simply wait for customers to walk in the front door or call. 

Restocking functions might require some outbound calling, but in many cases local distributors supply that function, so "long distance" is not required. 

The point is that, in actual practice, there are all sorts of real-world use cases for voice communications that do not fit the classic definition of a "commodity," with the implications that typically has for pricing, conditions of use and packaging. 

Xohm Launch Slips to October

Sprint Nextel will launch its Xohm mobile WiMAX network Oct. 8 in Baltimore, the company says. But that doesn't mean we should expect a full commercial launch. Initially, the network will be used by "friendly" partners such as Intel and other Xohm partners who will seed the market with selected friendly users. 

Motorola, Nokia, Nokia-Siemens Networks, Samsung, ZTE, ZyXEL, Ciena, DragonWave and Mformation also will be providing software, hardware and applications during the test period. 

Future service will launch in Chicago and Washington, D.C. as well. Aside from the normal shakedown issues, backhaul has been a key issue, and carrier Ethernet is a key technology for solving those problems.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

T-Mobile Drops 1 Gbyte Monthly Cap for G1

Facing huge criticism about its 1 Gbyte monthly cap on 3G access for the G1 Android phone, T-Mobile has decided to lift the cap immediately and is reviewing its options for a permanent plan. But T-Mobile now is saying it has removed that limit while it reviews its plans and decides on new ones.

T-Mobile is likely to come up with a plan that still accomplishes the goal of shaping traffic, when necessary, to maintain reasonable end user experience at times of peak load, especially when some very-heavy users are placing unusual stress on the radio network.

Consumer pressure does work. T-Mobile knew it had a problem and is taking steps to ameliorate it.

U.K. VoIP Declines?

The number of U.K. VoIP users has fallen in 2008, according to research conducted by Ofcom, the U.K. communictions regulator. Ofcom suggests this is in part because of consumer resistance, and in part because the cost of using mobile or traditional fixed line services is falling.

The majority of broadband users still choose  not to use VoIP, perhaps because of issues over VoIP quality of service or
because of competition from low-priced fixed and mobile telecoms services, Ofcom says. 

Though VoIP often is marketed as a cheap way to make international calls, the cost per minute of making international calls over fixed and mobile connections continues to decline, while use continues to grow. With flat rate tariffs becoming an increasingly prevalent component of both fixed and mobile tariffs, the incentives to use VoIP services are decreasing.

Ofcom traditionally has included Skype and other "over the top" services in the VoIP category, so it isn't exactly clear what the findings might mean. It is doubtful what Ofcom means is that telco or cable-provided voice replacement services are declining. Most likely, Ofcom has found evidence of lower use of Skype and other IM-based calling apps. 

PC Buying Down, Outsourcing Up

Corporate PC purchasing continues to weaken, according to the latest ChangeWave survey, and will remain sluggish for the remainder of 2008. For the third-consecutive quarter, we're seeing a drop in corporate PC buying going forward. 

About 68 percent of IT executives surveyed  say their company plans on buying laptops next quarter. About 67 percent say their company plans to buy desktops. 

Applications and infrastructure outsourcing, though, is proving a stable element in an otherwise tough enterprise information technology environment this year. It appears hardware and software projects are bearing the brunt of the cutbacks, as "demand for services holds steady," says Forrester. 

About 45 percent of firms plan to increase their use of applications outsourcing, while 43 percent of firms are increasing their use of infrastructure outsourcing. About 43 percent of respondents said they are moving more work offshore.

 Infrastructure outsourcing also is on the rise, as convergent telecommunications and network management will be oursourced by 20 percent of firms this year, the survey finds.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Netflix Dives Deeper into Streaming

Netflix has signed deals with Disney/ABC and CBS (CBS) to stream television shows online a day after they air on television. Netflix also has done deals with Microsoft to distribute video on Xbox 360 and created a player by Roku to stream movies to customers who subscribe to monthly DVD rental plans.

The latest deal means Netflix will be able to stream current shows from CBS and Disney. As Hulu has shown, a recognized brand name or troves of branded content are big assets in the streaming business. 

In fact, though the "long tail" has gotten a lot of attention, there is some evidence that content viewing in the online world mirrors content viewing in the offline world to a great extent. That is to say, people mostly watch the "branded, professional" content they typically watch on television. Early experience with long tail content might have suggested otherwise, but as more people start to use online video, online viewing patterns might start to look more like offline viewing patterns. 

One study of music listening by Rhapsody customers shows that the top 10 percent of titles accounted for 78 percent of all plays, and the top one percent of titles for 32 percent of all plays. Of course, that is precisely what the "long tail" theory would predict. Popularly known as the "80/20" rule, the Pareto distribution predicts that roughly 80 percent of results are generated by 20 percent of the actions, or that 80 percent of sales volume, profit or margin are generated by 20 percent of products. 

Rhapsody's listeners follow that pattern. Just 10 percent of titles in the million-title catalog account for nearly 80 percent of the plays. 

New Comcast Bandwidth Management Plan Targets Heavy Use, Not Apps

Comcast says it plans to avoid throttling specific applications by throttling all high-volume subscribers instead. The new system would focus on users rather than content by temporarily giving bandwidth hogs lower priority status than that enjoyed by average users when local networks become congested. 

Comcast estimates the slowdowns would affect just one percent of its subscribers. The slowdown kicks in when subscribers run at 70 percent or more of their bandwidth allowance for at least 15 minutes.

“The system does not manage congestion based on the applications being used by customers," Comcast says. "It is content neutral, so it does not depend on the type of content that is generating traffic congestion."

Though Comcast also has instituted a 250 GByte monthly cap on total usage, a generous bucket compared to the 5 Gbyte caps some other wireless and wired Internet access providers have in place. 

Lehman Brothers Banruptcy Will Stick Vendors with Losses

Bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers owes a fair amount of money to a number of telecommunications and information technology firms. Among the tech companies with defaulted contracts are AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. 

IBM, EMC, HP, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems also are on the list of suppliers whose contracts now are in some state of default. Microsoft, for example, is owed $22,580,526. IBM is owed $8,995,892. Barclays Capital, which is buying Lehman, will have to pay up on those contracts, but not necessarily the full amounts. 

The proposed amount Verizon would have to be paid is listed as $325,000 but Verizon says it is owed $2,24 million.

AT&T, representing AT&T Wireless, SW Bell, Bell South, Cingular Wireless, says it is owed
more than $3 million, but would be paid $669,000 as part of the Barclays purchase of Lehman.

Cisco Systems, Global Crossing, KDDI, NTT, PeopleSoft, Real Networks, Red Hat, Sybase and Vodafone also might be in similar positions. 

Google G1 Is No BlackBerry Killer

Whatever else it may be, the new Google G1 smart phone, to be sold by T-Mobile, is not a "BlackBerry killer." The reason is simple enough: the device does not synchronize automatically with Microsoft Outlook.  Unlike the iPhone, the G1 doesn’t work with Microsoft Exchange, and it can’t physically be synced with a PC-based calendar or contacts program, like Microsoft Outlook. 

Coverage will be an issue as well, as T-Mobile's 3G network is available in far fewer cities than those of its larger rivals, AT&T and Verizon.

Though the Apple iPhone might be positioned as something of a competitor to the Research in Motion BlackBerry, that really can't be said for the G1, as it does not sync with Microsoft Outlook, a virtual requirement for most BlackBerry users.

T-Mobile Launches Android Phone Today

T-Mobile USA launches today launches the first handset that uses Android's software stack: a smartphone built by HTC, which is known for manufacturing Windows Mobile portable devices.

T-Mobile G1 includes a touchscreen, slide-out keypad, accelerated 3D graphics, Wi-Fi and 3G support, GPS and accelerometer. Observers say the device won't be as easy to use as an iPhone, though. 

Android's marketplace will accept any applications without a preliminary review, so that users decide whether they're useful. That means third party applications will be accepted even when they compete directly with apps built in to the device.

Developers will be able to make their content available on an open service with a feedback and rating system similar to YouTube. 

T-Mobile will hold a news conference today to announce further details.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Big Shift Away from Frame Relay

Some 75 percent of respondents at Global 2000 companies recently surveyed by Research and Markets said that they were looking to get their international sites off frame relay technology, with much of the shift happening over the next three to five years.

Also, about 75 percent of respondents at Global 2000 companies have deployed IPsec VPNs to connect their international offices.

Euro VoIP Up 400 Percent Since 2005

Consumer VoIP subscribership in Europe was up more than 10 million lines in 2007, compared to 2006, say researchers at Telegeography. At year-end 2007, 25.3 million consumer VoIP lines were in service in Western Europe, up from 15 million in 2006, and nearly four times the 6.5 million VoIP subscribers in 2005.

The key driver of growth has been aggressively priced bundles of voice, broadband, and video service. While prices vary widely across Europe, many operators charge as little as €30 (U.S. $43) for all three services, including unlimited calling.

This strategy has been spectacularly successful: TeleGeography projects that western European VoIP subscribers will top 37 million and will account for 29 percent of western European fixed lines by year-end 2008.

The success of upstart service providers has forced legacy telcos to respond. Most European incumbent phone companies have introduced dual-play or triple-play bundles, which frequently include flat-rate IP telephone service. While their success has varied widely, France Telecom has emerged as the largest VoIP service provider in Europe, and incumbents now account for five of the 10 largest European VoIP service providers.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cloud Computing: The Next Disruption

There's something stirring out there in the computing world that will have large implications for communications service providers. Cloud computing is going to rip away the boundaries that have separated formerly-distinct business segments, realign value chains and bring massively large new players into fragmented, highly distributed businesses that are unaccumstomed to this level of competition. Consider recent moves by VMware, for example. 

VMware has unveiled infrastructure software that pools hardware resources, such as servers, storage and network, into an on-premise cloud-computing environment. At one level, this helps enterprises better manage data center resources. At another level it helps enterprises support remote or traveling users with all the applications they would expect to be able to use at their office desktops. The federation capability might be used in several ways, such as extending business partner access to enterprise resources for inventory tracking or supply chain management.

Okay, you say. It's a more efficient way to use computing resources, but so what? The "so what" is that cloud computing now means small Web hosting outfits are going to compete with Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others. That's a big deal

The Virtual Datacenter Operating System allocates resources to applications based on the workloads they're handling at a particular time. The VDC-OS also delivers a set of application services, such as security and scalability. These services are independent of the operating system, development frameworks or architecture on which the applications were built to run.

Cloud computing has become one of the dominant drivers in the IT sector over the last year or so. It generally it refers to hosting applications remotely and allowing local access using a browser.

The new platform will enable mid-market and low-end enterprise IT shops to build their own enterprise-grade external hosted clouds, and connect them with other clouds, if they so choose. 

VDC-OS shifts the center of server computing from individual operating systems to infrastructure software that spans many distributed servers, VMware said. In essence, the new technology serves as the operating system for the entire data center.
 
The VDC-OS expands virtual infrastructure along three dimensions. First, it seamlessly aggregates servers, storage and network as a pool of on-premise cloud resources and allocate them to applications that need them most. Second, it 

delivers a set of application services to guarantee the right levels of availability, security and scalability to all applications independent of the operating system, development frameworks or architecture on which they were built to run. 

Third, the VDC-OS federates compute capacity between the on-premise and off-premise clouds.  Unlike a traditional OS, which is optimized for a single server and supports only those applications written to its interfaces, the VDC-OS serves as the OS for the entire datacenter and supports the full diversity of any application written to any OS, from legacy Windows applications to modern distributed applications that run in mixed operating system environments. 

Tesco Cuts the Cord

UK supermarket chain Tesco is building its own GSM network, an unusual step for any enteprise to take. The retailer will construct a private GSM network to replace its existing fixed-line phones at about 1,500 locations, CommsDay reports. Cable & Wireless will provide the backhaul and Ericsson will design, build and manage the network for five years.

Inside buildings and on Tesco campuses, mobile handsets will act essentially as cordless phones. But those handsets also will roam to the public GSM network off campus or outside buildings.

In many ways, the Tesco network is one of the more significant enterprise fixed-mobile converged networks so far. Tesco will use its existing IP network for voice trunking, while replacing tethered phones with mobile handsets that double as traditional mobile phones when outside the office.

By doing so, Tesco eliminates desk phones and all the maintenance,moves, adds and changes associated with use of those phones. To the extent that unified communications and FMC are at least in part about reducing the number of devices or phone numbers or mail boxes any single user must interact with, Tesco's network eliminates all support requirements for one of the two voice services it used to support.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cisco Buys Jabber

Cisco Systems is acquiring open-source instant messaging software maker Jabber. Cisco will embed Jabber in its on-premise unified communications suite and and its WebEx Connect application.

Jabber provides integration of presence data across different devices, users and applications, allowing multiple instant messaging to communicate with each other, an obvious advantage for any unified communications service or application. 

More than 10 million users, including workers in AT&T, Bank of Ireland, BT, Department of Homeland Security, Earthlink, FedEx and JP Morgan, license software from Jabber.

300% Jump in Bandwidth Use by 3G iPhone Users

AT&T had expected about 500 percent growth in data consumption by 3G iPhone users, but has found bandwidth consumption jumped only 300 percent, according to AT&T CTO John Donovan.

It isn't clear whether this is because of end user behavior or some other element of the experience, such as users not being able to use their devices as much as they might have wanted to. Battery life issues, coverage issues or other impediments might have contributed. Nobody really knows, yet. 

What Convinces Cord Cutters to Buy Landline Voice?

Nielsen Mobile has found that about 17 percent of U.S. households say they have no landline voice service and rely on wireless services instead. But the Nielsen study also found that 10 percent of U.S. households are former wireless-only users who now have returned to wired voice service for one reason or another. 

About 17 percent they are required to have a landline voice connection in order to use some other important service, such as an alarm service, digital video recorder service, Internet or fax. 

About 12 percent say it was too expensive to make all their calls using a mobile.  

About 11 percent say the value and price of a bundle convinced them a landline voice account was worth having. Another 10 percent cited the convenience of a bundle as the reason to move back to buying landline voice. Basically, 22 percent said a bundle including voice was what got them to move back. 

Vodafone to Offer Dell Ultra-Mobile PC

Vodafone and Dell have announced that Dell’s Inspiron Mini 9 ultra-mobile device will be sold with built-in mobile broadband, exclusively through Vodafone stores and online, and directly from Dell, in key European markets.

Available from late September, the Inspiron Mini 9, featuring built-in mobile broadband from Vodafone. There is no word yet whether Vodafone plans to take the plan a step further and directly bundle the mobile PC with service in the same way that mobile phones are bundled with mobile service.

But that is a logical step, if EU regulators will allow it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

$40 billion private line services market

The $40 billion private line services market is posting solid growth for a third straight year, say researchers at Insight Research. 

Mobile Not Up to Emergency Tasks

"SMS is touted as being able to deliver critical information during disaster events, and such services have been purchased by universities and municipalities hoping to protect the general public," says industry association 3G Americas.

 "Unfortunately, such systems typically will not work as advertised." 
 
New research conducted for the association indicates that there are serious limitations in third party Emergency Alert Systems (EAS).

In particular, because of the general architecture of CDMA, TDMA and GSM cellular networks, such systems will not be able to deliver a high volume of emergency messages in a short period of time.

Current systems not only cannot widely disseminate such messages quickly, and the additional traffic created by third party EAS solutions may disrupt other traffic such as voice communications, including that of emergency responders or the public to 9-1-1 services, the analysis suggests.

Surprise! Teens are Heavy Videogame Players

You could have guessed this would be the case, but researchers at the Pew Internet & American Life Project say a recent survey confirms that video gaming is pervasive in the lives of American teens. When asked, half of all teens reported playing a video game “yesterday.” Those who play daily typically play for an hour or more.

Fully 97 percent of teens ages 12-17 play computer, web, portable, or console games. About 86 percent of teens play on a console like the Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii while 73 percent play games on a desktop or a laptop computer.
Some 60 percent use a portable gaming device like a Sony PlayStation Portable, a Nintendo DS, or a Game Boy.

About 48 percent  use a cell phone or handheld organizer to play games.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Further Enterprise IT Slowdown, Dell Says


When Dell announced its second quarter financial results on Aug. 28, 2008, it reported continued conservatism in IT spending in the United States, which had extended into Western Europe and several countries in Asia. The company now says it is seeing further softening in global end-user demand in the current quarter. Something must have happened over the last several weeks to change Dell's thinking, and one suspects the financial turmoil on Wall Street has at least a little to do with the new thinking. 

ChangeWave finds the same trend. 

Monday, September 15, 2008

Which Analogy for Satellite Radio?

It's hard to know precisely what to make of the recent plummeting of SiriusXM's stock to less than $1. In current circumstances, investors clearly are worried about the company's ability to refinance its debt. In a broader context, it is hard to figure out the size of the opportunity.  In February 2007 about 3.4 percent of radio listening was garnered by satellite radio.

In some ways, the value proposition is simple enough: "satellite radio will do for radio what cable TV did for television choice." These days, some appear not to be so sure, as Arbitron and Edison Media Research shows continued growth in usage and ownership of various forms of digital audio platforms, including online radio, iPod/MP3 players, and podcasting, for example. 
 
That study shows 13 percent of the U.S. population age 12 and older have listened to online radio in the past week; up from eleven percent in 2007.  On a weekly basis, online radio reaches more than 15 percent of 25- to 54-year olds.

But iPod and portable MP3 player ownership now is up to 37 percent of respondents. 

Audio podcasting usage continues to increase, with 18 percent of respondents reporting they have, at some point, listened to an audio podcast; up from 13 percent in 2007.  About nine percent say they have listened to an audio podcast in the past month.

Radio is more than music, but there is growing evidence that the Internet is gaining on radio as the medium to learn about new music. In 2008, radio is mentioned as the medium “you turn to first to learn about new music” by about half of consumers (49 percent), with Internet at 25 percent.  In 2002, radio was mentioned by 63 percent as they way they learned about new music, while only nine percent said the Internet provided that function.

So in a broad sense, the headwinds satellite radio is facing might include a change in the way people listen to music, something that has happened many times in the past. 

That still does not speak to the other major function of radio, which is news and other non-musical programming. It still does appear that satellite radio has an opportunity there. Today's satellite listeners are heavy listeners to radio in general including AM and FM radio. Satellite listeners spent an average of 33 hours a week with radio compared with the typical listener who listened approximately 19 hours a week to radio. Also, people who listened to satellite spent more time with AM or FM radio (14 hours) than they did with satellite radio (10 hours 45 minutes) or Internet (8 hours 15 minutes).

Still, one has a disquieting sense that some of the entertainment function once provided by radio now is supplied by other media, ranging from Internet-delivered radio, MP3 players or even non-music or non-news pursuits such as gaming, social networking and other diversions. 

The point is that the "satellite radio will do for radio what cable TV did for television" analogy might not be quite apt. The satellite radio analogy might instead be likened to a scenario where cable TV launched after Internet-delivered video already had begun to take hold in the market. The answer is not completely clear yet, but unlike cable TV, satellite radio has several other competitors for the music delivery portion of its business. 

Verizon Open Devices: Not What You Might Think

About 90 percent of the devices now in certification process for the Verizon Wireless network are intended to be used for "machine to machine" communication, not traditional voice or mobile data, reports Unstrung. That includes sensors, tracking devices, temperature monitors, and other devices of an "instrumentation" sort. The first two devices already approved are a storage tank-monitoring device from  and a prisoner-tracking electronic ankle bracelet, Verizon VP Tony Lewis says. 

Other devices close to final certification are a wireless router for the insurance industry and a $69 speech and texting device. Verizon thinks the reason is simply that there has been pent-up demand for such devices, but up to this point would-be providers likely have been deterred by uncertainty. 

"The promise of 'machine talking to machine' was always there, but the question for vendors was 'what network' and how to get on it quickly and cheaply," notes Lewis. In-home sensors and health care-related products, as well as in-home sensors for heat regulation, energy mangement or security are obvious areas of opportunity as well.

Lewis argues that Verizon's open network plan now offers vendors a straightforward and affordable way to do so.

That's one reason some observers and Verizon itself now believe "mobile penetration" ultimately could climb to the multiple hundreds of percent range, though current U.S. penetration is under 100 percent. 

Harvard Documents Media Bias

If you have been in the journalism business as long as I have (I was in a graduate journalism program in 1982 and have been writing professionally since 1983), a new report by Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government is no surprise. 

The study found that Democrats got more coverage than Republicans (49% of the stories vs. 31%). It also found the "tone" of the coverage was more positive for Democrats (35% to 26% for Republicans), reports Investors Business Daily.

"In other words," the authors say, "not only did the Republicans receive less coverage overall, the attention they did get tended to be more negative than that of Democrats. And in some specific media genres, the difference is particularly striking."

The problem has gotten worse over the past decade or so, it seems. Part of the training routinely reminded journalists that they should not join voluntary associations or even have investments under their own control in any companies they might write about. To be sure, the media environment has changed since the advent of 24-hour news channels, blogging and the Internet. Not in a good way, my professors would likely say.

Those "genres" include the most mainstream of media — newspapers and TV. Fully 59% of front-page stories about Democrats in 11 newspapers had a "clear, positive message vs. 11% that carried a negative tone."

For "top-tier" candidates, the difference was even more apparent: Barack Obama's coverage was 70% positive and 9% negative, and Hillary Clinton's was 61% positive and 13% negative.

By contrast, 40% of the stories on Republican candidates were negative and 26% positive.

On TV, evening network newscasts gave 49% of their campaign coverage to the Democrats and 28% to Republicans. As for tone, 39.5% of the Democratic coverage was positive vs. 17.1%, while 18.6% of the Republican coverage was positive and 37.2% negative.

Researchers have been studying such biases for quite a long time, since  the early 1970s at least. In 1972, "The News Twisters" by Edith Efron analyzed every prime-time network news show before the 1968 election and found coverage tilted 8 to 1 against Nixon on ABC, 10 to 1 on NBC and 16 to 1 on CBS.

In 1984, Public Opinion magazine found that Reagan got 7,230 seconds of negative coverage and just 730 seconds of positive; Mondale's positive press totaled 1,330 seconds, vs. 1,050 negative.

In 1986, "The Media Elite" surveyed 240 journalists at virtually every major media outlet and found that in presidential elections from 1964 to 1976, 86% of top journalists voted Democratic. A 2001 update found 76% voted for Dukakis in 1988 and 91% went for Clinton in 1992.

A 1992 Freedom Forum poll showed 89% of Washington reporters and bureau chiefs voting for Clinton in '92 and only 7% for George H.W. Bush.

A 2003 Pew survey found 34% of national journalists called themselves liberal and 7% conservative. By 7 to 1, they also felt they weren't critical enough of President Bush.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Euro Broadband Grow Rate Drops by an Order of Magnitude

It looks like the second quarter was sluggish for European broadband access providers, as it was for major U.S. telcos. European broadband providers added just over five million new subscribers, compared to nearly eight million in the prior quarter, say researchers at Strategy Analytics.

In the last 12 months, European broadband access providers added an about 30 million new subscribers, implying a quarter over quarter growth rate of 34 percent. In the second quarter, the top 10 providers, who account for just over 50 percent of the total European market, averaged a three percent sequential growth rate.

AT&T "Might" Target Ads in Future

Might AT&T monitor the Web-surfing habits of its customers to target advertising at them? Maybe, says Jeff Bounds, Dallas Business Journal staff writer. But not without giving customers control over their information, protecting their privacy, giving them value and ensuring “ransparency, AT&T says. Customers would have to opt in to the targeted ad program. 

AT&T made the remarks in a letter to the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which is looking into Internet advertising tailored to the viewing habits of specific customers. The letter from AT&T executive Dorothy Attwood, dated Aug. 13, says the company does not currently monitor the surfing habits of its users. But the company says it is considering that option.

It is fairly clear that incentives will have to be offered to users to gain their consent to be tracked online. Opt-in programs typically do not get high penetration without inducements of some sort, and one tactic that typically works is providing some clear sort of financial inducement. Users might be offered "no additional cost" access to desired content that otherwise would be purchased. 

And behaviorally-targeted ads would fit with that scenario, as one complaint most users have is that advertising they see is not relevant. Behavioral targeting would increase the likelihood that delivered ads have more relevance, reducing the irritation factor. 

Nobody knows yet how big targeted advertising will become, but just about everybody thinks it has nowhere to go but up. Still, lots of privacy and "control of data" issues must be resolved beforehand. 

Mobile Versus Fixed WiMAX?

Nobody yet knows what percentage of WiMAX customers will use the access technology in fixed mode, compared to mobile mode. If Motorola is right, about equal numbers of each, with a smaller percentage, perhaps up to 20 percent, operating in both fixed and mobile mode. 

Globally, it seems likely that fixed access will be much of the demand. In the U.S. market, though virtually all current users are in fixed mode, the new Clearwire operation should result in a growing percentage of mobile users. 

$8 Billion Connected Games Market Demands Low Latency

In 2013, online content and services for Internet-connected game consoles will generate over $8 billion in global revenue for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, the three console manufacturers, according to researchers at Parks Associates. For that to happen, users will rely on low-latency, high-bandwidth broadband connections. To sustain the low-latency response, it seems inevitable that some sort of packet prioritization will be necessary. 


Thursday, September 11, 2008

No Slowdown in IT Spending: Gartner

Despite current economic concerns, worldwide IT spending will exceed $3.4 trillion in 2008, an increase of 8 percent from 2007 spending, according to Gartner researchers. But analysts also note that much of this growth is based on the decline in the U.S. dollar. The estimated worldwide IT spending growth expressed in constant currency is forecast to be approximately 4.5 percent.

“The U.S.-led economic downturn shows no sign of causing a recession in IT spending,” said Jim Tully, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

“Organisations are switching from company-owned hardware and software assets to per-use service-based models. This will impact the industry in various ways,” Mr. Tully said. “The projected shift to cloud computing, for example, will result in dramatic growth in IT products in some areas and in significant reductions in other areas.

Worldwide software spending is on pace for the strongest growth rate in 2008 at more than 10 percent. IT services spending ranks a close second with more than 9.4 percent growth.

“Most companies updated their software systems during the period 1997 through 2001, so we are in the middle of an upgrade cycle that should extend past the end of this decade,” says Joanne Correia, managing vice president at Gartner.

IT spending is dominated by services rather than products. Together, IT services and telecom services account for 70 percent of total IT market spending. Gartner analysts said the telecom sector has a major effect on overall IT market performance, accounting for almost $2 trillion in 2008. 

“Legacy telecom services have a dampening effect on sector growth, and therefore on the overall IT market,” said William Hahn, principal research analyst at Gartner. “The dominant size of the telecom services market guarantees that even with the forecast for relatively slow growth, it will still comprise over 44 percent of the IT market in five years time.”

The outlook for IT services market growth has improved despite macroeconomic uncertainty. “Spending in IT services is being supported by two main factors,” says Kathryn Hale, research vice president at Gartner. “Businesses are investing in improvements to internal processes aimed at reducing costs, while often maintaining some of the prior interest in innovation. The second factor is that globalization allows IT services providers to mitigate the risk of weakening demand by operating in more markets.”

The main area of hardware growth activity is PCs, which represents 60 percent of total hardware spending. Growth in PCs is stronger than previously expected, with no signs of a slowdown. The U.S. forecast has increased marginally while forecasts elsewhere, particularly Asia/Pacific and Western Europe, have increased significantly.

Behavior Targeting Is Not DPI

Targeting advertising is seen by U.S. cable operators as a way to grow advertising revenue from $5 billion annually to about $15 billion annually. Mobile operators also have high hopes for targeted, location-aware ad targeting for mobile users.

At least for the moment, though, behavioral targeting is under a bit of a cloud. In the midst of Congressional pressure to assure user privacy, service providers seem to have suspended deployment of behavior targeting systems that allow them to target ads to specific users, at least until privacy compliance issues can be cleared up. 

Charter Communications, Embarq, CenturyTel, Knology and Wide Open West are said to be among service providers that had been testing or deploying behavioral advertising technology from NebuAD, for example.

So it isn't surprising that providers of deep packet inspection systems are getting asked lots of questions about the possible impact on DPI technology and uses. On the contrary, says Cam Cullen, Allot Communications director, DPI technology is more importand in an environment where service providers might have to demonstrate they are complying with bandwidth management or privacy rules. Blocking of child pornography sites are another example of a legal requirement that requires DPI. 

"You now must demonstrate you are behaving fairly" and DPI records will substantiate compliance, says Cullen. At the same time, Allot is seeing greater demand for the ability to assure priority for video and voice applications. 

And since any ad targeting capability will require clear opt-in and opt-out policies, DPI will be essential in that regard as well. 

Also, usage-based pricing requires counting packets on a per-user basis. A service provider might offer an unlimited VoIP plan, for example, with a data usage quota of 100 Gbytes a month. To avoid potential user ire, the service provider might want to separate those bits into different buckets, so VoIP packets do not come out of the 100-Gbyte quota.

Ed Markey, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, and other high-ranking Congressman have questioned whether ad targeting practices (without explicit and clear opt-in policies) run afoul of the US Communications Act of 1934, the Cable  Act of 1984, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and other wiretapping-related US statutes. 

Behavioral targeting has gotten lots of service provider and content provider attention because it provides the sort of end user activity that Google and Yahoo already largely have, says Yankee Group analyst Daniel Taylor, giving ISPs a shot at what some believe will be a $50 billion U.S. targeted advertising business. 

Behavioral targeting servers read the content of nearly every Web page that users visit, allowing unparalleled ability to discern user interests and activities. The problem is that targeting has generally has required an  "opt out" process (you get it unless you opt out) rather than an opt-in process (you are not targeted unless you agree). 

DPI, though, is not behavioral targeting. Behavioral targeting is used to analyze trends and identify Web page hits, site views and keywords. DPI is a tool used to provide granular inspection of IP packet headers and payloads for Layer 4 through Layer 7, destinations, application type and protocols, says Taylor.

DPI is a network monitoring and management tool that can be used to improve efficiency and provide quality of service.

DPI technologies can also be used in conjunction with advertising insertion servers, which is where the confusion between DPI and behavioral targeting occurs. In fact, Taylor thinks behavioral targeting raises so many issues it simply should be avoided, at least for the moment. 

U.S. Enterprise Ethernet Up 16% in 2008

U.S. business Ethernet ports in service grew more than 16 percent in the first six months of the year, according to Vertical Systems Group. 

AT&T accounted for 21 percent of total ports, followed by Verizon with 15 percent, TW Telecom with 13 percent and Cox with 10 percent.  Rounding out the top tier of Ethernet service providers with more than 5 percent share were Qwest (8 percent), Cogent (7 percent) and Time Warner Cable (6 percent).

XO, AboveNet, Level 3 and Reliance Globalcom (formerly Yipes) lead more than forty other companies delivering retail Ethernet services to business customers in the U.S.  Other Business Ethernet providers in alphabetical order include: American Fiber Systems, Alpheus Communications, American Telesis, Arialink, Balticore, Bright House Networks, Charter Business, CIFNet, Cincinnati Bell, Comcast Business, Embarq, Expedient, Exponential-e, Fibernet Telecom Group, FiberTower, Global Crossing, Integra, IP Networks, LS Networks, Masergy, Met-Net, Neopolitan Networks, NTELOS, NTT, One Communications, Optimum Lightpath, Orange Business, Paetec, RCN, Savvis, Spirit Telecom, Sprint, SuddenLink, Surewest, US Signal, Veroxity, Virtela, Windstream, and others.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Phweet Escalates Calls into Conferences

No one has measured the numbers of teams that work together virtually, but some estimate there are more than 1.89 billion workers worldwide. While Gartner Dataquest has claimed that almost 41 million employees worldwide will be teleworkers by the end of 2008 (working at least one day a week from home), Wainhouse Research believes that the numbers of distributed and mobile workers far exceed that number. Furthermore, the total number of distributed workers, including teleworkers, could reach as much as 100 million worldwide, Wainhouse suggests.

In principle, Phweet, a new application based on Twitter, might ulimately help all those distributed workers communicate. A Phweet begins as a person-to-person call, but Phweets are meant to be social and so any Phweet can be instantly transformed into a multi-party conference call.

When you Phweet someone, you can decide to make it “private” (sent with a Twitter “direct message”). In that case, you can still add people to the call, but only people you explicitly invite to the call can join in (and they must be following you on Twitter).

Otherwise, a Phweet is sent using the public twitter stream (with a message such as “@phweet http://phweet.com/Gyfc India PhweetUp at 3 pm today. Join by clicking url.”) and in this case anybody that sees that URL can click the link and request to join.

The “host” then can approve that user and let them into the Phweet. In other words, the Phweet URL can be sent to anyone, using any means available, it doesn’t have to be sent only via Twitter. Skype chat and RSS feeds can be the notification vehicles.

One objective of a Phweet is to make the path from tweeting to talking quick and easy. 

People Underestimate Email Intensity

In a study last year, Dr. Thomas Jackson of Loughborough University, England, found that it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover your train of thought after interruption by email, so people who check their email every five minutes waste 8.5 hours a week figuring out what they were doing moments before, reports Suw Charman-Anderson, a writer for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Dr. Jackson found that people tend to respond to email as it arrives, taking an average of only one minute and 44 seconds to act upon a new email notification. About 70 percent of alerts got a reaction within six seconds, arguably a faster reaction that occurs when a phone rings, sings or buzzes.

Likewise, a July 2006 study by ClearContext found that 56 percent of users spent more than two hours a day in their inbox.

The other thing is that what people say, and what they do, often are different. And that seems to be true about the frequency of interaction with email systems. About 64 percent of respondents in the Jackson study claimed to check their email once an hour while 35 percent said they checked every 15 minutes, but they were actually checking it much more frequently, about every five minutes, in fact. So it is likely that respondents underestimate the amount of disruption email causes. 

Add Twitter posts, instant messaging, text messaging and other forms of IP-mediated communications, and things will get worse. "Presence" might help, but only possibly. Unified communications providers need to pay more attention to "overload," not "missing a message."

LEOS: Here We Go Again

Google has agreed to back a satellite broadband access service in Africa, Asia and South America
within 45 degrees of the equator or half the world’s surface, CommsDay reports. Google is working with  HSBC and Liberty Global and O3b Networks to construct and operate a fleet of 16 low-Earth-orbit satellites. Service activation is scheduled for late 2010. 

The project aims to offer low latency Internet backhaul for 3G and WiMAX deployments, as well as satellite-based broadband services.

It isn't the first time lots of capital has been thrown at the idea of LEOS systems. Teledesic proposed just such a system in 1990. Teledesic's original proposal aimed to build a huge network costing over $9 billion and using 840 active satellites. In 1997 the scheme was scaled back to 288 active satellites was later scaled back further.

The commercial failure of the similar Iridium and Globalstar ventures (composed of 66 and 48 operational satellites, respectively) and other systems, along with bankruptcy protection filings, were primary factors in halting the project.

The satellites will offer speeds of up to 10Gbps with a combined total capacity of the constellation in excess of 160Gbps, the company says. The system will cover Asia, Africa and South American countries located within 45 degrees of the equator.

The three initial partners have injected an initial investment of $65 million into O3b. The total costs of the project is expected to sum up to $750 million. 

The difference this time around is that backhaul is a bigger market than in was in 1990. That, more than direct-to-user services, might be the key to success, this time around.

Google Antitrust Action Coming?

It looks increasingly likely to some observers that Google is about to get a taste of the antitrust scrutiny Microsoft has had to deal with. The Justice Department probably is going to bring an antitrust suit against Google, experts are beginning to say. The Wall Street Journal has reported that DOJ has hired renowned antitrust lawyer Sanford M. Litvack to take a closer look at Yahoo's deal to outsource search to Google.

Welcome to Microsoft's world. 

Millennials Drive Parental Purchases

Millennials (16-27 year olds) in Europe and the Middle East have huge influence on buying of broadband and TV services purchased by their parents, even when the Millennials do not live at home with their parents, a survey conducted by Motorola indicates. The majority of respondents stated that they influence the broadband (83 percent) or TV services (84 percent) purchased by their parents, even if they do not live at home.

The new study of over 1,200 Millennials from five countries in Europe and the Middle East also found that young adults are passionate about being in control of their rich media content and are heavily influencing older generations. So while it is important to understand and meet the needs of Millennials as the future drivers of demand, it is worthwhile to remember that Millennials also drive current buying.

About 66 percent would be interested in pausing TV in one room and restarting it in another. This compares to 86 percent of respondents in the United States when Motorola surveyed U.S. respondents earlier this year. And though lots of attention now is directed at delivering high-quality video using the Internet and then displaying that content on a TV, almost one in three (32 percent) prefer to watch programs on their PC rather than TV set.

Significant numbers of respondents want to be able to access full-length movies and their favorite shows using a mobile device, possibly by side loading. About 81 percent of respondents indicated strong interest in having the ability to move content from a set-top at home to a mobile device.

About 75 percent indicate that watching movies while travelling also is appealing. But there is an apparent appetite for shorter items as well. About 62 percent would be interested in watching 15-minute mobile versions of 30-minute TV programs and 61 percent would be interested in three-minute versions of their favorite shows on their mobile devices.

“Technology is the lifeblood of this generation. Millennials feel that their personal lifestyle would change dramatically without internet access. It is not surprising therefore to see their influence on technology purchasing for the home,” said Joe Cozzolino, corporate vice president and general manager, Motorola Home & Networks Mobility EMEA. "By understanding the needs and desires of this generation, Motorola is able to design and customize solutions for our customers that enable them to deliver rich media experiences to today’s and tomorrow’s consumer.”

Some 63 percent of respondents acknowlede that their demands and expectations for rich media experiences are higher than those of their parents, partcularly in the area of interacting with what is on the screen:

Over half of those surveyed would like to be able to interact with their TV and accessing information about the content they are watching. About 68 percent would be interested in learning about and possibly purchasing items featured in TV shows, with the highest appetite coming from the UAE where 81 percent of the sample expressed interest in doing so.

High-definition TV is popular throughout all markets surveyed, especially in Germany and the UAE with 53 percent and 58 percent saying they "love" HD content

About 43 percent of respondents have an HDTV set; the United Kingdom having the greatest market penetration with 54 percent owning an HDTV set. Of the 57 percent of total respondents who do not presently have an HDTV set, only a quarter said they did not want to get one.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

DVRs: Consumers Really Love Them

More than 80 percent of U.S. digital video recorder users surveyed by Consumer Analysis Group say they could not live without their DVRs. Respondents also said that DVRs were the second-most-indispensable item of household technology, behind only the mobile phone.

The number of DVR households in the United States will pass 30 million in 2008 and climb to 48 million in 2012, says Consumer Analysis Group. At that point more than 40 percent of U.S. households will have a DVR.

The average DVR owner surveyed watched 4.7 hours of television per day, over one hour per day more than the 3.7 hours viewed by adults surveyed in June 2008 by The Media Audit, says eMarketer. 

DVR user TV viewing generally rose with age. Respondents under 30 watched an average of 3.7 hours daily, while middle-aged TV viewers had the TV on for as long as 5.4 hours, eMarketer notes.

U.S. Broadband Will Break 90% This Year, Among Internet Users

At current growth rates, broadband penetration among active U.S. Internet users should break 90 percent by the end of 2008, predicts Leichtman Research. Overall, broadband penetration is 57 percent of U.S. households, but was well over 80 percent of Internet users at the beginning of the year.

TW Telecom Sees Some Weakness

TW Telecom hasn't yet reported its quarterly results, but has warned that although it continues to experience strong sales, it has experienced pressure on its revenue growth in the first half of the year, caused by disconnects by customers in the mortgage industry and from very small customers, as well as economy-related pressure in its Midwest region. 

"These pressures continue," the company says. TW Telecom says it also is seeing potential extension of the impact of the slowing economy into its Southeast region and certain individual markets in other regions, based on results to date for the quarter. 

In addition, the company warns it may experience an increase in very small business customer churn in the third quarter due to the  disconnecting non-paying customers.

TW Telecom  expects continued long term revenue growth, but with possible further downward pressure in the near term. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Business Transformation Now Crucial, Says IBM

The challenges communications service providers face also seem to be seen as crucial by midmarket CEOs. Recent surveys of telecom industry executives have found them focusing top attention on changing business models. It now appears that sentiment is widely shared.

In a global marketplace, it's all about change, say midmarket CEOs recently surveyed by IBM. About 74 percent of midmarket CEOs "plan to substantially change their business models over the next three years, versus 69 percent of the overall sample," IBM says. The big takeaway? Nearly 70 percent of CEOs say they have to change their business models. 

"They told us that this is partly because they are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate their companies through products
and services alone, and partly because technological advances have given them many more options," IBM says. 

Of those executives that plan to substantially change their business models, 33 percent are focusing on enterprise model innovation,   addressing new markets and customer segments. 

Another 22 percent of midmarket CEOs are engaging in revenue model innovation. One respondent, for example, is focusing on “new services to existing customers” and “new ways to sell and price,” while a second aims to shift from a “transaction-based” pricing regime to a “fee-for-service” model that is “more value-based.”

Similarly, 23 percent are undertaking industry model innovations. The vast majority of these respondents plan to redefine the industry
in which their companies are operating. Surprisingly, however, 39 percent of this group aims to create entirely new industries, IBM says. 

Mid-market CEOs also say they are struggling to keep up with an environment where consumers are now dictating the pace of change, where formerly they were the ones in control. “Change in the organization is not happening fast enough. The gap is widening,” one Dutch midmarket CEO told IBM researchers. 

In 2004, market factors (such as variations in customer purchasing patterns, growing competition and industry consolidation)
dominated the boardroom agenda. Today, however, midmarket CEOs have to focus on a much broader range of concerns, IBM says. 

Market factors remain their top priority, but access to people with the skills they need, regulatory compliance, technological factors and globalization also weigh heavily on their minds. Regulation is a source of particular anxiety. About 37 percent of midmarket CEOs think it will bring major changes, compared with just 30 percent of the total survey population.

Globalization is creating many more challenges for mid-market enterprise executives. Rather than being able to concentrate their efforts on a few specific issues, midmarket CEOs must now cover a much wider front and cope with much greater uncertainty. They must “master complexity,” as one respondent put it.

Mid-market CEOs plan to channel more than 22 percent of their budgets into meeting the needs of information omnivores. Most companies are focusing on the development of “the next generation of products” and services, and “how to attract” these customers, as one respondent put it.

Markets Have Changed; Regulatory Tasks Must Follow, FCC Says

Predictably, the Federal Communications Commission's decision to remove some mandatory reporting by some leading telcos (AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Frontier and Embarq) is seen by some public policy advocates as a blow to consumer welfare. Under new rules, and after a two-year phase-in, those carriers can stop reporting network reliability, customer satisfaction and infrastructure investment data. 

AT&T, Verizon and Qwest will continue to file price, revenue, and total cost information necessary to achieve the goals of price cap regulation, though. But the FCC argues that some data, used in a monopoly environment to monitor customer welfare, are not needed in competitive markets, especially when the rules are not applied universally, on cable operators, for example. 

Though one can disagree about the thesis that competition itself forces contestants to maintain and improve the quality of their offerings and the quality of their customer service, market forces arguably already have forced all contestants to ramp up the quality of their service. Consumers have choice, and are exercising their freedom to abandon providers and choose others. 

That is not to say markets now are perfectly competitive. Nor can one argue that markets always will remain robustly competitive. The outcome of competitive markets is that winners get stronger and losers go out of business. Over time, the inevitable logic of competition is therefore less competition. So the need for oversight does not disappear. 

But it does not make sense to burden competitors with reporting requirements that have real costs, when monopoly markets no longer exist, and the abuses that the rules originally were intended to prevent, are prevented by consumers with choice.

Reporting imposes real costs on businesses. Many smaller firms, with no market power, report that their annual reporting costs for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance alone cost between three quarters of a million and a million dollars a year. That isn't to say Sarbanes-Oxely was anything but a well-intentioned attempt to prevent abuses. Still, burdening companies with compliance costs is not an unalloyed good thing. It raises costs of doing business at a time when costs are a major concern in the communications business, precisely because of intense competition. 

U.S. Government Now on IPv6

Lots of entities, despite the inevitability, have incentives to drag their feet on a transition to Internet Protocol version six (IPv6) as long as possible, the simple reason being the need to replace virtually 100 percent of their existing router infrastructure. At the beginning of June 2008, all U.S. government networks were required to migrate to IPv6, however. 

Many observers have expected U.S. government conversion to prime the pump for U.S. adoption of the new standard, which provides virtually unlimited address space, compared to the IPv4 standard now in widespread use. 

Created by the Internet Engineering Task Force in 1998, IPv6 replaces IPv4, which supports 4.3 billion individually addressed devices on the network. Under a White House policy directive issued in August 2005, all federal agencies had to demonstrate the
ability to pass IPv6 packets across their backbone networks by the June 30 deadline.

It wouldn't be the first time the U.S. government has primed the pump for the Internet. Without the U.S. government, there might not have been an Internet, it can be argued. 

Ouch! "DSL is the New Dial Up"


Ouch! "We are starting to see DSL become the new dial up," say analysts at Strategy Analytics. "The telcos' core DSL offerings are unable to compete effectively with cable; they must step up their already frenetic fiber roll out to stay in the game, says Ben Piper, Strategy Analytics director.

That might be overstating the case, but there is no doubt that a dismal second quarter broadband access performance is very troubling for the major DSL providers in the U.S. market. It was not an easy quarter, by any means, but new broadband accounts have been decelerating for at least a year, as the market starts to saturate. 

Broadband access providers collectibvely added only one million net additional subscriptions in the second quarter, compared to over two million in the first quarter, says Piper.

"The dramatic downturn in the quarter is largely attributable to a slowdown of `new connects,' as well as consumer migration from DSL to cable," says John Lee, Strategy Analytics analyst. "As users become more accustomed to high speeds at the office or elsewhere, they are less willing to tolerate slow performance in the home."

If it turns out that is the case, it would be very bad news for the major telcos indeed. But I doubt that is the case. One doesn't typically see a major shift in demand (an order of magnitude shift) in a single quarter. That suggests to me something other than a demand shift has occurred. Marketing inattention, or inadquate attention to the value proposition seem more likely culprits. I could very well be quite wrong about this, of course. 

Maybe something I've never seen before has happened. Maybe a radical, sudden shift in end user demand has occurred. It just doesn't seem like the most-likely explanation, and I'll stick with Occam's Razor: "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best."

And the simplest solution is that marketing staffs took their eye off the ball. 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

3 of 4 Presidential or VP Candidates Generate Twitter Traffic

It is a commonplace and probably largely accurate observation that younger users avail themselves of Twitter more than older users. Most people might therefore make the assumption that backers of Barack Obama twitter more than backers of John McCain. 

That probably is true as well. But if an analysis of Twitter messages during the recent Democratic and Republican conventions is correct, there must have been lots of younger viewers.

Except for when Joe Biden was speaking, John McCain, Sarah Palin and Barack Obama generated fairly high and comparable levels of activity, according to Twitter. 

That implies nothing about "support" or anything else, simply interest (or "outrage" or whatever you want to imply about what you think people were saying). 


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...