Showing posts from March, 2009

Ribbit Announces KillerApp Winners

Ribbit has announced the winners of its "KillerApps" challenge, a contest for developers of new applications using the Ribbit voice platform.

Lucid Viewer won the "Media, Advertising, Entertainment" category for its authoring tool that allows developers to create immersive experiences. The tool allows users to call up stores directly from a Flash interface, such as a three-dimensional view of a street in Rome, Italy. Lucid Viewer also won the Grand Prize in Ribbit's KillerApps contest.

Sugared Frog won the "Business" category, with an app that integrates SugarCRM's open source solution with Ribbit voice apps. Sugared Frog allows users to organize their voicemail, and dictate notes and memos right from their mobile phones.

Save A Life won the "Social Networking and Communication" prize by creating an Adobe AIR app that allows you to quickly reach a group of friends or community members by phone. Currently, the application focuses on blood do…

Verizon and AT&T: No, Thank You, to Stimulus Funds

Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T might very well pass on applying for any of the "broadband stimulus" programs, at least in part because of "strings" attached to the money.
Neither company is well placed to apply for the Rural Utilities Service portion of the funds targeted at rural areas, and access provisions might be unpalatable for the National Telecommunications & Information Administration grants.

More Wireless Broadband Substitution Coming?

It is no idle speculation to consider that more users will look at wireless broadband substitution as downlink speeds rise into the 50 to 60 Mbps range in the near future. And Verizon might be thinking along those lines itself, though mobile providers without wired assets to cannibalize have been more aggressive, so far.

There is speculation Verizon will introduce such a router at CTIA this week.

Zer01 Plays the "Interconnecting Carrier" Angle

Some observers might wonder how the new mobile service created by Zer01 is different from existing applications that provide VoIP calling over a mobile handset. Recently, Skype for Apple iPhones has gotten lots of attention, for example.

“I do not really see any comparison to the Zer01 value add here,” says Mark Richards, Pervasip CIO. Pervasip provides the underlying network, billing and customer care for the Zer01 effort.

The Skype calling feature uses a Wi-Fi connection, not the AT&T data network, and can require per-minute calling charges, where Zer01 uses an IP wide area network and a GSM wireless network for access.

And Richards argues there is a difference between an downloaded application running on top of a mobile operating system, and a native application. “To run VoIP over GSM is stodgy,” Richards says. “It is not simple.”

One problem is that the downloaded app is always contending for processor resources. To run a VoIP path on top of the OS, rather than natively on the…

Private Interests, Public Purposes

For every public purpose, there is a corresponding private interest.

VoIP Revenue Will Grow 20% in 2009, IBISWorld Says

Telecommunications and internet related services are now so ingrained in the daily lives of businesses and consumers that they will hold up relatively well compared to other areas of the economy, say analysts at IBISWorld.

"One shining light will be VoIP, which competes on price against more established service providers," the firm says. "Consumer substitution from wired telecommunications to VoIP will accelerate but a weaker economy and lack of available finance will result in many smaller VoIP providers exiting the industry."

VOIP revenue is expected to grow 20.1 percent in 2009.

Wireless Providers to Collaborate on Marketing "Best Practices"

The Mobile Marketing Association says the four largest U.S. wireless service providers--Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile USA-- have agreed to coordinate their mobile marketing guidelines with the MMA’s "best practices" guidelines. This industry-first agreement is intened to produce a dramatic reduction in the costs of launching mobile marketing campaigns, faster time to market for campaigns and improved consumer satisfaction by improving the consistency and efficiency of mobile marketing campaigns across the four major U.S. wireless service providers.

In addition to the four largest U.S. wireless service providers, major aggregators, brands and content owners includingVeriSign, Neustar, Limbo, and Thumbplay are supporting the process.

The agreement is expected to enhance efficiencies in running short code programs, accelerate the time to market for mobile campaigns, ensure monitoring programs and audit results are more consistent and reduce operational costs ac…

Cox Communications Plans CDMA, LTE Networks

Cox Cummunications is moving ahead with its plans to build an in-region moble broadband network using CDMA, the same platform used by Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel. Cox is said to be thinking more along the lines of Long Term Evolution for its fourth-generation network.

Huawei Technologies Co. says it has been selected to provide its end-to-end CDMA solutions and services to Cox Communications. Cox, the third-largest cable provider in the United States, will launch its new 3G wireless network utilizing Huawei’s LTE-ready SingleRAN solution and industry-leading 3900 Series base stations, Huawei says.

Cox might rely on its partnership with Clearwire or Sprint for out-of-region roaming. As Sprint's national network uses CDMA, it makes sense to rely on the Sprint network rather than WiMAX for out of region coverage.

Addressing "Sustainability" of NTIA Broadband Stimulus Projects

The problem many applicants must face in crafting projects under the National Telecommunications & Information Administration portion of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act ("stimulus bill") are the conflicting objectives.

The "broadband stimulus" portion of the ARRA is supposed to create jobs. Broadband is almost a secondary objective. The projects are supposed to have "measurable" goals. But economists aren't sure whether new broadband facilities actually create--or destroy--jobs.

All funds awarded under the NTIA program must be spent in two years, so are temporary, but the ARRA ideally expects "sustainability" of the projects once federal funding ends.

Nobody yet knows what "under-served" means, so many projects might actually be proposed in areas where there are two wired services providers as well as two satellite providers, plus three mobile broadband providers. Lots of people are "under-served" not becaus…

Long Tail Yes, But Perhaps Not What You Were Expecting

In recent years much has been made of the implications of the "long tail" theorem, the notion that digital technology, digital goods and the Internet make possible a vast shift of commerce from the few large firms in any category to many hundreds to thousands of other firms.

Search market share indicates that the basic underlying theorem, the Pareto Principle, commonly understood as the "80/20" rule, does indeed operate.

But not in the ways some might predict. There is a search long tail, with four providers at the head of the curve, and then several score other smaller providers forming the tail.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that market share is much different from what might predict for physical goods. In search, as elsewhere in life, 20 percent of providers have 80 percent of the market share. In this case, a few percent of providers have 99 percent share.

TV Still Dominates "Three Screen" Viewing

TV Continues to represent 99 percent of viewing on all screens, according to the Council for Research Excellence. Contrary to some recent popular media coverage suggesting that more Americans are rediscovering "free TV" using the Internet, computer video tends to be quite small with an average time of just two minutes (a little more than 0.5 percent) a day.

Despite the proliferation of computers, video-capable mobile phones and similar devices, TV in the home still commands the greatest amount of viewing, even among those ages 18 to 24, the Council says. This appears to refute a common belief that Internet video and mobile phone video exposure among that group (as well as the 25 to 34 cohort) were significant in 2008.

Consumers in the 45 to 54 age group average the most daily screen time (just over 9.5 hours). The study also found the average for all other age groups to be "strikingly similar" at roughly 8.5 hours

Even in major metropolitan areas where commute times c…

Social Networking Overtakes Email

Internet activity patterns are changing, according to Nielsen Online. In the past, email has been the "killer app" for Internet users. More recently, search replaced email.

These days, email has been eclipsed by search and social networking.

Two thirds of the world’s Internet population visit a social network or blogging site and the sector now accounts for almost 10 percent of all Internet activity time. "Member communities" have overtaken personal email to become the world’s fourth most popular online acivity after search, portals and PC software applications, Nielsen says.

The total amount spent online globally increased by 18 percent between December 2007 and December 2008. In the same period, however, the amount of time spent on member community sites rose by 63 percent to 45 billion minutes,  and on Facebook by a massive 566 percent, says Nielsen, growing from 3.1 billion minutes to 20.5 billion minutes.

"The staggering increase in the amount of time people …

Expect Upwards of $29 Billion in Fraud, Waste from Energy Dept. "Stimulus" Spending

When was the last time an infrastructure project--any infrastructure project--really was better because spending was rushed?

Based on rates of fraud already encountered by the Department of Energy, one might expect a 17.5 percent rate of fraud and waste, at minimum, for funds disbursed as part of the "stimulus" spending authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

According to Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman, the $165 billion in stimulus cash to be distributed by the Department so dwarfs the annual Department budget of $27 billion that the resources of the agency for getting the money spent while avoiding fraud and abuse will be sorely tested.

In the last four fiscal years the Department of Energy investigations into misspent federal funds have resulted in about 150 criminal convictions, and fines and recoveries of more than $190 million. This represents a little over 17.5 percent of budget money, and suggests the Energy Department can expec…

Less Churn is Sorta Good, Sorta Bad

At home entertainment is up, while almost anything outside the home is down, a survey sponsored by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing suggests.

Industry executives--both telco and cable--have been saying that with housing starts down and housing activity down, so are home moves.

Ironically, that has made it harder to attract new customers, as moving automatically creates a "change event" that opens the door for new providers.

The CTAM survey also suggests there is less appetite for trying new providers. So all those customers who aren't moving, also are less likely to churn. Lower churn is good. But some amount of churn also represents a sales opportunity.

Service providers in the small and medium business space note a roughly similar trend: people are less inclined to take on some amount of additional risk by switching current providers.

Another Take on "Cocooning"

One reason video entertainment services fare relatively well in a recession is that the perceived value of in-home entertainment increases.

Global VoIP Growth Slows

Global growth in local VoIP minutes seems to have slowed down a little, say researchers at iLocus. There was a sequential growth of seven percent in local VoIP traffic from the third quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of 2008, apparently caused by a decline in the rate of VoIP subscriber growth.

International long distanceVoIP minutes, on the other hand, experienced negative growth quarter over quarter. "This is perhaps due to the overall decline in international long distance traffic in the fourth quarter of 2008, iLocus says. The negative growth also could be due to slight bit of consolidation in the service provider segment, as well. National long distance minutes saw a healthy growth rate owing to the growing use of IP networks by wireless carriers to transport NLD traffic, iLocus says.

In the fourth quarter users consumed 107. 2 billion local minutes, 298.1 billion national long distance minutes and 22.5 billion international long distance minutes.…

Don't Assume A Return to Normal

There's a reason for voice, data and video entertainment providers to be obsessive about how their consumers are behaving during the current recession. Presenting a customer with a chance to switch, to change behavior, is dangerous because the changes, once integrated into daily life, can become permanent.

"Don't assume a return to normal," John Quelch, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, warns. "The longer and deeper the recession, the more likely consumers will adjust their attitudes and behaviors permanently."

"Their coping mechanisms may become ingrained and define a new normal." More than that, the competitive landscape likely will have changed as well. One would expect to see mergers, acquisitions, company failures and launches that mean the post-recession market looks different than the pre-recession market.

That means buyers might be looking at all product offers with new eyes.…

FCC Asks for Advice on "Broadband Stimulus" Rules

The Federal Communications Commission is asking for comment on how to distribute broadband funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly known as the "broadband stimulus" program.

The FCC has already established a separate docket for parties wishing to comment generally on a rural broadband strategy (GN Docket No. 09-29). The FCC now is seeking comment as part of its consultative role with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (“RUS”), the agencies that actually are charged with disbursing the funds.

The FCC specifically is seeking comment on five core terms and concepts:

The definition of "unserved area;"

The definition of "underserved area;"

The definition of "broadband;"

The non-discrimination obligations that will be contractual conditions of the Broadband Fund Opportunities Program ("BTOP") grants; and

The net…

Permanent Changes After Recession?

It isn't yet clear how changes in consumer use of communications and entertainment might change on a more-permanent basis once the recession is over. So far, there has been little tangible evidence of significant behavioral change.

About the only measurable change I've been able to find is an increase--by about one percent--of mobile users on prepaid, rather than postpaid, wireless plans.

There might be more-permanent changes in the business market, though, such as wider adoption of open source software.

Mobile Media Gains U.K. Ground

Some 81 percent of U.K. mobile media users access mobile media once a week with strong at-home, public transport and around town consumption, says Orange.

As you might expect, mobile is viewed as the most innovative and personal media channel compared to all other traditional and digital channels, Orange says.

Mobile media usage patterns differ greatly depending on a consumer's location, with the strongest usage of mobile media being in the home, where 67 percent of participants who used their mobile for email did so in their home and 56 percent used a mobile at home for mobile Internet browsing.

The average age for mobile media users is 36, and 81 percent of respondents said they use mobile media more than once a week, with 46 percent using it daily.

Men generally use mobile media more, although women are much more likely to use picture messaging.

The mobile internet pages viewed most often are search engines, email, news, music and film although, interestingly, a high proportion (55 …

Recession Barely Touches Cable Modem Subscribership

Only two percent of cable modem households report that they are "somewhat" or "very likely" to cancel their cable modem service in the next six months, a new study sponsored by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing suggests. Nearly 95 percent of cable modem households surveyed report that they plan to retain their cable modem service, despite current economic conditions.

Cable TV service likewise is showing similar strength despite the economic downturn, the study suggests. In fact, cable households have become more loyal to their TV service over the past three months, the study suggests. About 81 percent of respondents who have cable TV service or digital cable TV service report that they are "not at all likely" to cancel their cable TV service, compared to November 2008, when 71 percent of respondents indicated a similar certainty about keeping cable TV. In November 2008 just 77 percent of respondents with digital cable TV said the…

Content is Not Always King, But "Sunday Ticket" is Close

But sometimes it makes a huge difference.

As part of a new four-year, $4 billion deal struck between DirecTV and the National Football League, DirecTV "Sunday Ticket" subscribers will now also have the option of getting any game streamed to their laptops.

It is the first time the NFL has licensed the online rights to its games. DirecTV says streaming will begin “no later than 2012."

The NFL, though, also won the right to create a new channel called “Red Zone Channel," to be launched in the next couple of years, that shows real-time highlights of NFL games that will be distributed on multiple media, including cable, satellite, online and mobile.

DirecTV executives have been adamant about retaining their exclusive deal for out-of-market games, believing (correctly) that in this particular case, exclusivity allows it to lure subscribers away from cable and other satellite TV companies.

Sports programming continually is cited by cable operators as a primary reason for cont…

Why "Net Neutraliity" is a Bad Idea

If no Internet service provider can give preference to any streams or protocols, it is not possible to create a service a user actually does want: the ability to give preference to voice streams when on a Skype call or conference, when watching a webcast or a movie.

It is understandable that some advocates worry about ISPs giving preference to their own streams over others. News: they already do. It's called "cable TV." The issue is whether an end user can prioritize certain protocols at certain times, to optimize their own experience.

Strict net neutrality, which allows no prioritization, or minimal traffic shaping to maintain overall user experience when a very small number of users are straining a network, also will prohibit any other "user friendly" forms of prioritization.

Seattle Weighing Own FTTH Build?

The city of Seattle seems t be pondering building and perhaps even operating its own fiber to the home network. Planners think such a network, offering speeds of perhaps 25 Mbps, might ultimately get 24 percent market share.

That certainly is within the realm of possibility, though lots of executives with experience in the overbuilder business, where a network competes against both a telco and a cable company, might point out that the business case is tough without the ability to offer both voice and video services.

A full FTTH network with on-going revenues from access alone might be very difficult.

Mobile Access Less Strategic, Vodafone, Telefonica Signal

Telefónica and Vodafone have confirmed wide-ranging plans to share mobile network assets--starting with tower sites--across Europe.

As part of the collaboration, Telefónica and Vodafone also are actively exploring opportunities to cooperate in related areas such as the provision of transmission services, which would extend sharing to radio capacity as well. The companies will share mobile network assets in four European markets where both have operations - Germany, Spain, Ireland and the UK - while discussions are ongoing to extend the agreement to a fifth market, the Czech Republic.

The joint building of new sites and or consolidation of existing 2G and 3G tower sites, with one site housing the equipment of both companies where previously two would have been used, is expected to lead to a significant reduction in the total number of towers in operation.

The move also suggests a perception of where value lies. Towers are deemed not to be strategic, though required, and radio resources, t…

How Much More Can be Wrung from DSL?

Ericsson engineers have demonstrated in the lab a way to bond together six unshielded copper wire pairs to push 500 Mbps about 500 meters. The technique is promising for the same reason all such technology developments are: they suggest it is possible to wring yet more performance out of a widely-deployed infrastructure that has some real-world performance limitations.

That doesn't mean the lab performance easily can be ported to a real-world environment. For starters, lab tests are not encumbered by all the messy real-world complications. Real-world access plant faces hazards such as squirrels, moisture ingress, corrosion and electromagnetic interference from other services that might be running inside the same cable bundle.

The other practical limitation is that most consumer locations might not have six available spare pairs to use. On the other hand, as fewer people use landlines, there theoretically are more unused pairs to tap. It's a messy process, though, and likely woul…

Big Gains Seen for SIP Trunking, Ethernet

Nemertes Research says 53 percent of respondents to a recent survey are evaluating, deploying or planning to deploy SIP trunking to reduce access costs and take advantage of new services for in-bound and out-bound call routing.

In addition, 62 percent are using, or planning to use, Ethernet as a WAN connectivity technology to reduce bandwidth costs, with 85 percent planning to increase Ethernet usage.

Cox Aims SIP Trunking at 20-99 Employee Segment

Cox Business will be rolling out SIP trunking later this year, aiming at the 20 to 99 employee organization, after introducing its hosted IP PBX service.

Broadband Stimulus: Too Much Optimism About What Can Be Done

Hype is running far ahead of what can be done even when all of the broadband stimulus funds are awarded and projects deployed. Broadband access is a hugely capital-intensive process, especially for the last couple of percent of locations that are so remote, in areas so thinly settled, that nearly all the cost must be recovered from such a small number of potential customers.

Physics and demography, not lack of will, are the key problems. In an urban area, some forms of broadband can be deployed for less than $2,000 a location, and often for as little as $1,000 a location.

In remote areas, serving one location can cost $10,000 to $50,000. You can build your own spreadsheet to figure out how long it would take to break even on that sort of investment, when the customer is expected to pay $40 to $50 a month. Don't forget the cost of interest on borrowed money, operating costs, maintenance and repairs, as well as the need, at some point, to replace the entire infrastructure because of a…

Small Businesses Increase Web Spending, Shift Ad Spending

The smallest U.S. businesses have average annual sales of $212,000 and spend just $5,671 per year on advertising, typically in the yellow pages or on direct mail ads or on coupons, say analysts at Borrell Associates. But where small businesses used to spend four percent of their budgets online three years ago, they now are investing 11 percent of their advertising that way.

And there's a shift of thinking occurring as well. SMB executives are blurring the lines between what’s advertising and what’s not. They consider whatever they spend on their own Web sites to be “advertising,” though in actuality that spending is a technology, design and telecommunications expense, Borrell Associates notes.

When marketing professionals were asked in which media they intended to spend more money this year, two thirds of them said “my own Web site.”

SMBs are less receptive to buying banner ads (now accounting for 54 percent of their online spending, but declining) in favor of search-engine advertisi…

Effective Broadband Stimulus? Give it to Libraries

As this article from the New York Times suggests, libraries are where people go to use resources they do not want to, or cannot pay for. If you have been to your local library recently, and if your local library has PCs and Internet access, you see the same pattern: people who cannot afford broadband at home, or who do not own PCs, use the public libraries.

It would be hard to name any single institution, anywhere more ideally suited to provide high-speed broadband access to people who cannot afford PCs or recurring service charges.

It would be nearly criminal if libraries are not key beneficiaries of "broadband stimulus" funding.

Commissioner Adelstein to Head RUS

Jonathan Adelstein, a two-term commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, has been nominated by the White House to head the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service, the agency that will be disbursing $2.5 billion in grants, loans or loan guarantees to further rural broadband deployment.

Keeping $7 billion in "Broadband Stimulus" in Perspective

AT&T is going to invest $17 billion to $18 billion in 2009. Verizon will invest somewhere between $16 billion and $17 billion. The U.S. cable industry spent about $14 billion in 2008. It is reasonable to expect cable companies to spend less than that in 2009. Add possibly $11 billion by all other U.S. telcos other than At&T and Verizon, for a total of about $59 billion in capital investment in 2009.

The point is that cable companies, AT&T and Verizon alone will spend about $48 billion in 2009, compared to perhaps $3.6 billion in combined National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Agriculture Department Rural Utilities Service "broadband stimulus" funds in 2009.

Just keep that in mind when gauging how much can be done, even adding $7 billion in "broadband stimulus" funds over two years. There are lots of needs. But something on the order of $3.5 billion a year for two years is not going to produce as much change as you might think.

The r…

How Long to Disburse "Broadband Stimulus" $, Really?

The Congressional Budget Office’s original assessment of the House version of what ultimately became the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was that it would take as long as seven years for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to disburse $2.825 billion. 
NTIA currently distributes $17 million, so CBO obviously extrapolated from the workload in making its assessment. Of course, NTIA now has the taks of allocating nearly $5 billion. The statute, nevertheless, requires spending of all that amount by the end of 2010. You can make your own assessment of how thoughtful the disbursement process will be.

Optimum Lightpath to Turn Up First Business Hosted VoIP Customer April 1

Optimum Lightpath is going live with hosted IP telephony services on April 1, a source says. Optimum will not sell to customers with fewer than 35 seats to support, as sister company CableVision Systems will be handling business customers up to about that range. The company is taking a really smart approach to pricing and packaging.

It has worked out agreements with one or more value-added resellers in its market to provide local area network assessments and remediation, installation and other support services. But those agreements are structured in a way that Optimum Lightpath can price its services on a really-simple per-seat-per month price, including any necessary LAN remediation. The whole idea is to simply pricing so that a 50-seat, 75-seat, 125-seat or perhaps 300 seats, for example, service can be sold at one uniform price, anywhere, anytime, without having to custom source assessment and remediation services every single time a new customer is to be added.

Think about that enta…

No Signs of Video Substitution, Says Viacom

Viacom CEO Phillippe Dauman gets paid "by the subscriber" by distributors who carry Viacom programming, and he says his company is not seeing lower subscription rates, even if some observers think consumers are not, or might, abandon their cable or multi-channel video subscriptions in favor of online alternatives

"We're not seeing it," he says. "We know what the subscriber base is out there, because we receive affiliate fees based on subscribers. And the subscriber base is growing."

Just What We don"t Need: More Broadband Talk, Less Action

The broadband stimulus program, most of you would assume, is designed to get more people more broadband, not to study whether some potential users need broadband, or where those people are. Indeed, part of the broadband stimulus funding already is earmarked for mapping exercises. But that isn't going to prevent some applicants from "studying" rather than building.

The ConnectMe Authority, a Maine state agency, is planning to apply for federal economic stimulus money to pay for a study of the state's high-speed Internet network, AP reports.

Of all the things the need to be done, one would think yet another study is about the last thing we need. How about actually providing more broadband?

Broadband Stimulus: Who is "Unserved," and Why?

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service have gotten around to accepting public testimony about what an "unserved" or "underserved" community is.

That public input on this subject, which began in Las Vegas on March 17, continues today in Flagstaff, Ariz., and will continue on March 19 in Washington, D.C., already offers us a chance to make a few observations.

Though most of the meeting testimony was non-quantifiable, it is clear that there are "unserved" areas in the sense of places where the cost of wired networks is extraordinary, and many places where service might exist, but is "underserved" in the sense of not receiving speeds that now are increasingly common in urbanized areas with significant competition.

The moderator of the Las Vegas meeting thanked the presenters for illustrating that unmet demand exists. Anybody who has been in the communications business long…

Turnkey Wireless "Broadband Stimulus" Package

Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc., EDX Wireless, DoceoTech, and EGS Technologies have developed a turnkey package to help the rural broadband build-out that is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) economic stimulus package providing broadband access to the rural and underserved areas throughout the United States.

The collective, integrated package allows for a streamlined procurement of wireless propagation test equipment, RF planning tools, geodata tools, and tailored technical training for several broadband technologies. These include WiFi, WiMAX and LTE.

It is not immediately clear whether the package is RUS-certified.

Broadband Stimulus: "Access" is Only 1 of 3 Problems

The "broadband stimulus" programs established by Congress in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, making $7.2 billion available to improve broadband service in rural, un-served and underserved areas, actually must address three different sets of problems, says the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The NCTA notes that "unserved areas" represent about nine to 10 million households, typically in rural areas. NCTA refers to areas without "wired" access, as satellite broadband is available in those areas, though in some cases not technically accessible because of obstructions (mountains are the biggest issue, though foliage and trees or other structures in the line of site can be an issue in some cases). NCTA thinks projects extending broadband access to these households should be given highest priority.

"Underserved populations" represent a different problem. About 35 million households already have access to wired and satel…

Broadband Stimulus: Commercial Entities "Need Not Apply"

Some observers say large telcos are "dragging their feet" about applying for "broadband stimulus" funds. That's not the best way to describe it. By RUS rules, large telcos are ineligible to apply.

By NTIA rules, which are targeted to non-profit organizations, most commercial entities likewise are ineligible to apply, at least not as "prime" contractors, unless they get a waiver that says the proposed projects are in the public interest. That might or might not be difficult.

Putting aside other concerns about strings attached to funds received under either the RUS or NTIA programs, the language of the statute, while not forbidding grants to commercial applications, requires a waiver.

Ultimately, commercial entities may find they do best by partnering with a submitting organization that is a government, medical, educational or other non-profit entity.

The single statutory exception is for Small Business Administration firms that already have qualified for …

Broadband Stimulus: Questions, Questions and More Questions

Thousands to tens of thousands of applications are expected for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration $4.7 billion in new broadband project funds, and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Electrification Service $2.5 billion in grants and loans to promote broadband services for “rural broadband.”

One obvious problem, among many, many others is that thousands to perhaps tens to scores of thousands of applications now will hit agencies ill-equipped to process them. RUS has a staff of 130, about 24 working on the broadband stimulus program. Observers say they aren't even sure the NTIA has even 130 people, total. That has some proponents arguing for state-level review, whether or not states actually are delegated authority to make the awards. Others say that is an unnecessary hurdle.

Consider the enormity of the challenge: the statute requires that applicants receive funds received under one program, not both. That requires some way of identifying which projects a…

Will Private Companies Be Able to Bid for Broadband Stimulus Funds?

Lots of people seem to very interested in the $7.2 billion in "broadband stimulus" funds the NTIA and RUS will be awarding. But there are some very big caveats. With one little exception, only non-profits are, by statute, allowed to apply. And there is some possibility that unless an entity already has in the past gotten a grant from RUS, it might not be well positioned to apply under the RUS rules, either.

And though RUS and NTIA are holding lots of hearings, there remains more uncertainty than clarity.

At a March 16 National Telecommunications and Information Administration hearing, presenters said about what you would expect them to say about bidding rules for the upcoming round of NTIA and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service "broadband stimulus" grants, loans and loan guarantees.

A service provider representative suggested service providers should be able to apply. "NTIA should extend eligibility to any existing entity that holds an FCC lic…

What Next for, other SaaS Providers?

Image has been the poster child for how voice and communications capabilities can be integrated with enterprise applications.

But now is a decade old. Pretty obviously, the focus on applications that can benefit from voice has to shift elsewhere.

And analysts at Forrester Research say enterprise interest in SaaS might be slowing. That could suggest that organizations are having a harder time figuring out where SaaS really delivers measurable benefits.

Web conferencing might be the only application for which there is broad-based recognition of the value of voice and communications tightly integrated with an existing business app (presentations and meetings).

Cisco Enters Blade Server Business, Ecosystem

Cisco has introduced a new data center architecture that moves it directly into the blade server and computing architecture business. That inevitably means Cisco now competes in some new areas with the likes of Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

Cisco says it has designed an entirely new class of computing system incorporating the new Cisco UCS B-Series blades based on the Intel Nehalem processor families. The Cisco Unified Computing System also essentially consolidates what today are three separate networks: local area networks (LANs), storage area networks (SANs) and high performance computing networks, into a single fabric.

By supporting "virtualization," allowing multiple apps to run on a single server, Cisco's move also suggests some further changes. Though up to this point most important business applications have been run on dedicated hardware, in the future apps might typically run on standard hardware.

For those of you with some decades of experience in the communications bu…

Think You Qualify for Broadband Stimulus Funds?

Lots of companies and organizations believe they might be eligible to apply for funds to support broadband access services. Some of them are right. But the rules might be far-more restrictive in practice than most believe. 
NTIA funds clearly favor non-profit and governmental agencies. RUS funds clearly favor firms that have received rural electrification funds in the past. So most actual firms that supply broadband access services will not be able to apply directly.  Perhaps they can do so if they are participants in bids submitted by government or non-project agencies. 
But it appears lots of firms will spend significant time, and some money, to learn that they don't actually have much of a chance to submit bids that meet the program guidelines very well. 
Section 6001 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to establish the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, responsible for disbur…

Despite Video, Text Still Rules, So does Voice

There are some interesting parallels between "voice" and "text," and the relationships can illustrated by the difference between "telephony" and "IP communications," or "text" and "video."

Voice usage continues to increase, even as more text, blogging, video and conferencing occurs as well. But voice is not necessarily "telephony." Voice is used in many different ways, even as buying of traditional consumer voice lines continues to decline in favor of mobile or VoIP alternatives.

Likewise, lost of news, commentary and entertainment now is moving away from legacy print and towards online formats. But text seems to have grown in importance as legacy "print" channels have struggled. Again, what we see is a pattern similar to that of "voice" usage. More usage, but using new formats, media and channels.

But user behavior is quite complex. As Steve Rubel points out in this post, text remains key for Web-b…

Thinking the Unthinkable: Telcos Have Done Better than Publishers

Over the course of some years I have on occasion used the airline analogy to look at structural issues faced by telecom service providers. Both are capital-intensive industries with huge economies of scale, multiple customer segments, important regulatory backdrop, and similar market entry and incumbent response patterns.

At other times I have used the analogy of how Internet Protocol is changing the telecom business to describe what is happening in the print media business, arguing that the underlying business impact is similar in both industries.

Neither the print nor the airline industries have performed as well as the telecom industry in coping with dramatic change.

Clay Shirkey's article is a provocative but largely accurate assessment of why print publishers--newspapers in this case--have failed to adapt as rapidly as telecom providers have.
More than 77 percent of wireless subscribers in the U.S. subscribe to or purchase text-message capability, says Nielsen Mobile. And uers now send and receive more text messages than they do voice calls.

In the United States, about 200 million of the 259 million wireless subscriber lines subscribe to or purchase text-message capability. Of these, 138 million--53 percent of all mobile subscribers--use text-messaging on a regular basis.

Nielsen recently reported that in the second quarter of 2008, mobile subscribers sent or received an average of 357 text-messages per month, compared with 204 phone calls. And while the average number of text-messages sent or received has increased 351 percent (from 79 text-messages sent or received last year), phone traffic have not become less popular.

In fact, phone useage has been constant, suggesting that text messaging adds to, rather than replaces, voice communications.

U.S. and U.K. Users Represent Half of Mobile Web Browsing

About 29 percent of global mobile Web browsing traffic now happens in the United States, with about 20.3 percent happening in the United Kingdom. Between them, the United States and United Kingdom now represent about half of global mobile Web browsing, says bango.

That might come as a surprise to many. What might be a bigger surprise is the number of people who now land on Web sites using a mobile. That could be an issue: sites not optimized for mobile access might not execute some expected functions at all, others poorly.

But most businesses do not have mobile-optimized websites.“Many people simply have no idea that they have visitors from mobile devices accessing their PC-optimized website, says Anil Malhotra, Bango SVP."These mobile visitors are simply invisible to them.”

The statistics also show that while some countries such as India and Indonesia have a good appetite for browsing on their mobiles, it doesn’t always convert into purchases. In fact, only five countries in the To…

Google Voice to Launch Within Days

Nearly two years after acquiring GrandCentral, Google is preparing to relaunch the service with lots of new features. GrandCentral has been in private beta for the last two years and over the next few days Google will be prompting existing beta users to upgrade to Google Voice before rolling out the service to new users in a few weeks.

GrandCentral was a Web-activated IP voice service that uses a single "public" number that points to other numbers and devices, providing a range of visual voice mail and Web message retrieval and call management features.

Google Voice will add the ability to make free calls to U.S. telephone numbers and cheap calls to other numbers, make conference calls, and send, receive, store, and search SMS messages and create transcripts of voice mails.

From my perspective, one of the best new features is the ability to deliver the Google Voice number, even when placing a call from some other real device. The reason for that is that Google Voice features ar…

Comcast Passes Qwest as Phone Provider

Comcast Corp, the largest U.S. cable television company, says it now has become the third-largest provider of primary home phone service in the United States, overtaking telephone company Qwest Communications International.

Comcast, which started offering phone services in the spring of 2005, said it now has 6.47 million subscribers.

RCN Metro Has "Nice Problems"

Here's a problem any service provider sales staff would like to have: trying to figure out why sales are running ahead of projections for four months in a row. But that's precisely the issue Phil Alvarez, RCN Metro Optical Networks president, says he has been "grappling" with over the last four months.

"Gven our sales across all markets, we were trying to figure out why we are doing so well," says Alvarez. "You

question yourself." When RCN Metro dug into the numbers, it found very strong activity in wireless, a result of wireless providers really shoring up their backbones to support wireless broadband services. Need for more route diversity and the ability to provision very quickly also were factors.

You might think any provider with exposure to the financial services industry might face some exposure. Sure, there's some churn, says Alvarez. But "our services address trading requirements, data center connectivity and connections to customer…

AT&T to Add 3,?000 Jobs, Reduce CapEx $2-$3 Billion

AT&T plans to invest $17 billion to $18 billion in 2009, in line with its 2007 capital expenditures of $17.7 billion, though not as much as the almost $20 billion it spent in 2008.

About two thirds of AT&T's 2009 investment will go to its wireless and wired broadband networks The company also says it will add almost 3,000 jobs in 2009, primarily to support mobility, broadband and video services.

AT&T also expects to reduce jobs in other areas, primarily wireline. Some of the investment is in more than 2,100 new cell sites across the country, as well as an expansion of 3G service to 20 new markets in 2009. .

AT&T also says it will invest in its IP/MPLS backbone networks, U-verse, more DSL coverage.

NTIA Broadband Stimulus Meeting: Little Meat on Bones

The National Telecommunications and Information Agency held a public meeting on how the broadband stimulus programs will work, and attendees emerged with little more concrete detail than they entered with, with a couple of suggestive bits of guidance.

Bernadette McGuire-Rivera, NTIA associate administrator, suggested the agency will try to allot its $4.7 billion for broadband programs in three rounds of grants, with the first round coming between April and June. The NTIA is required to allocate all the money by September 2010.

The Rural Utilities Service, with about $2.5 billion to allocate, also likely have three rounds of grants and possibly loans, with a funding notice coming out within 60 to 90 days, said David Villano, USDA assistant administrator for telecommunications programs.

Moody's Issues "Most Likely to Default" List

Here's a list no company wants to be on: a new Moody's list of 283 companies which it believes are the most likely to default on their debt within 12 months. Moody's estimates about 45 percent of "Bottom Rung" companies will default on debt in the next year.Among the firms of interest to communications industry watchers:
Blockbuster,  CavTel, Charter Communications, Clearwire, Cleveland Unlimited, Global Crossing, Grande Communications, Intelsat, Integra Telecom, Level 3 Communications, Palm, Primus Telecommunications and Securus Technologies.
The Bottom Rung list, which Moody's will update monthly, represents roughly the riskiest 15 percent of all companies the agency tracks.  Seeking Alpha calls it the "leper list." Others call it the "death list." Others might call it a potential list of "dead pool" companies.  
Whatever one calls it, it is not a list one wants to be on. Some of them have been in dangerous straits for years, thou…

Broadband, Video, Mobile: What Will 1Q 2009 Show?

U.S. consumer spending on subscription TV, broadband, and mobile services will be "about the same" for most consumers, but about 15 percent say they intend to cut back in 2009, says In-Stat. The first test will come as first quarter 2009 results are released.

Should consumers do what In-Stat analysts think they might, these three service segments could see nearly a $5 billion decrease during the next 12 months.

The In-Stat might yet prove to be correct. But the latest round of earnings reports do not yet show evidence of the trend. comcast revenue was up 9.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, the latest quarter for which returns are available. Time Warner Cable revenue was up 6.7 percent.

In February 2009 average spending at Verizon and Sprint increased by three percent and one percent respectively. T-Mobile and AT&T saw declines of slightly more than one percent each.

Still, since October, both Verizon and AT&T have seen relatively stable revenues, according to the …