Saturday, March 30, 2013

Apple, Android Lead Enterprise App Deployments, Microsoft Tablets Growing Fastest

Apple and Android seem to lead enterprise plans for deploying mobile apps, but there are indications the Microsoft Surface tablet an Windows Phone platforms are poised to get a wave of support, according to a new survey by Aberdeen Research.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Complementary Roles for Municipal Wi-Fi?

Municipal Wi-Fi networks perhaps are carving out a distinct niche that commercial providers might have little interest in serving. "No incremental cost" public Wi-Fi networks running at very low speeds, such as 1 Mbps downstream, and serving outdoor areas, provide one example. 

Santa Clara Power, the municipal utility serving Santa Clara, Calif. has launched just such a network, offering free outdoor access across outdoor areas of the city at speeds of 1 Mbps. The "free" service does not offer "for fee" tiers of service and is offered as an amenity. 

In large part, the positioning of such a service is complementary to most commercial high-speed access services, not competitive. And that might be important, going forward. 

Many initiatives and experiments now envision public-private partnerships or other "non-traditional" ways of spurring investment in very high speed (1 Gbps) networks. The key is finding some "win-win" pattern that provides incentives for commercial ISPs to invest, while providing some path to a sustainable revenue model. 

Technology advances make a difference. As is the case in every other field where computing and communications are used, the cost of building or using an outdoor Wi-Fi network now are lower than a decade ago. 

Vijay Sammeta, San Jose's chief information officer, said the San Jose, Calif. municipal Wi-Fi network cost only about $100,000 to install and requires around $20,000 annually to maintain. 

That has been a problem for many such efforts launched by cities and towns over the last 10 years. Operating costs have been a big issue. One might argue that especially has been the case for operations that intended to supplement "free" service with other "paid" tiers of service, or possibly sale of advertising. 

Very few consumers would pay for service running at such levels, and most public Wi-Fi public Wi-Fi networks operate at power levels that make in-building use an "iffy" proposition. But that is why such networks are complementary to commercial offers from Internet service providers. 

In some instances, success has been obtained in small towns where commercial service either is expensive or slow, and where a commercial carrier decides the municipal offer is not a big threat. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Vodafone Could, But Won’t Pursue LTE Substitution Test in New Zealand

At least in principle, a major test of Long Term Evolution and its ability to provide a viable alternative to fixed network broadband access could occur in New Zealand, the big issue being tariffs.

Telecom New Zealand has launched its new “Ultra Fibre” services to businesses and consumers in New Zealand, offering consumers “up to” 30 Mbps service, with a 10 Mbps upsream.

Vodafone’s Long Term Evolution service in New Zealand already offers downstream speeds up to 70 Mbps, and upstream speeds up to 11 Mbps.

So all other things being equal, Vodafone should stand a fair chance of grabbing more customers than Telecom New Zealand.

Of course, all other things are not equal. Vodafone’s mobile broadband offers do not compare favorably with Telecom New Zealand’s offers, either on a “price per bit” basis or in terms of total usage that comes with a monthly bucket. For roughly NZ, $100, a Vodafone New Zealand customer gets a bucket of usage of 2 Gbytes.

The same amount spend on Telecom New Zealand’s new “Ultra Fibre” network would get a usage bucket of 50 gigabytes.

What Vodafone would have to decide, to make a serious run at the “Ultra Fibre” service is reconfigure its usage caps and price-per-bit packages to be more nearly comparable.

But Vodafone also owns a big hybrid fiber coax network in New Zealand, and would not want to risk upsetting market pricing for broadband overall, nor risk an order of magnitude potential increase in “typical” demand on its LTE network.

What is the Point of "Gigabit" Access Experiments?

You might argue that major cycles of investment in communications networks happen when the investment climate and government policy line up. Historically, that was the reason for grants of monopoly or scarcity of spectrum availability.

But you might also argue that “supply” innovations now are matched, in an Internet era, by efforts to change the demand drivers.

Google Fiber is trying to do a bit of both supply and demand innovation. It always has been unlikely that Google Fiber would discover some disruptive new cost advantage related to network construction costs.

Some argue that municipal inducements are important, but a reasonable observer might argue that has only minor impact on network costs. As always, “digging holes and hanging cable” is where most of the cost lies.

Nor does it seem Google has found any breakthrough in consumer premises equipment costs. A consumer buying broadband access, video and DVR service requires three boxes, plus a tablet, for example.

But Google is trying to change the breakeven point for operating costs, applying something that is analogous to an “Internet” model for marketing and customer support, for example. In essence, Google Fiber is an attempt to illustrate that a major ISP could operate at far lower costs than traditionally has been thought possible.

More importantly, Google Fiber is an attempt to influence demand drivers, by creating new applications and behaviors built on the assumption of ubiquitous gigabit access.

In that same way, the Federal Communications Commission wants to encourage creation of gigabit cities in every U.S. state, by 2015. That goal is unlikely to be reached, as even if construction started right away, full new networks could not be built within two years.

In truth, the FCC’s goal is better described as “gigabit communities,” built around “anchor institutions,” not full “cities.” The general idea is that doing so is the best way to foster the creation of new applications that presume ubiquitous  gigabit communications.

Blair Levin, Gig.U executive director,  points out that changes in regulatory policy historically have lead to changes in market dynamics, by changing the investment climate and business model in a positive direction.

The idea is that more investment happens when capital or operating expenses are lowered, when the riskiness of investment is reduced or when revenue opportunities are enhanced.

Changes in regulatory policy also can change the business case by altering the threat of competitive losses for existing contestants, forcing them to invest in response.

The whole point of Google Fiber, the “Gigabit Cities” initiative and Gig.U are to try and change the math in a positive direction (lower cost, higher revenue) while changing the competitive climate (force incumbents to invest faster)

Are telcos playing “catch up” in the race to keep providing better high speed Internet access? More generally, with the exception of what might be done by fiber to home networks, are other contestants able to keep up with cable?

You might well argue that most contenders are not physically able to keep pace, the exception being a fiber network, such as operated by Google Fiber in Kansas City, Mo. and Kansas City, Kan.

For some contestants, the issue is capital. For others the key blockage is spectrum, and in some cases it is network architecture.

Ecosystem change
Competitive Losses
Grant of monopoly


Grant of monopoly, pole attachment law, compulsory broadcast license


Rural areas

Limited # of licenses


Limited # of licenses, program access


Broadband upgrade
Deregulation, two wire policy

Wireless upgrade
More licenses, lowered TAC, oversight of siting authority


Broadcast television to digital
Provide 2nd channel for transmission of content


Softbank Sprint Acquisition Conditions are Likely

Softbank's deal to acquire most of Sprint likely will be approved, but with some conditions, most observers might agree. Among those conditions notification requirements if Sprint plans to buy equipment from Chinese suppliers such as Huawei. 

The U.S. government likely would not bar purchases, but would require notification if Sprint planned to buy such equipment for the core of its network. Precisely how that would work is a bit unclear, since government authorities would have no power to block such purchases.

But presumably the pressure not to so so would effectively restrain Sprint, which would not want to risk the ire of regulators or the possibility of losing out on government contracts.

There are other more subtle possible effects, should a technology oversight clause be attached as a condition for approval of the deal. Other suppliers using Huawei products might likewise reconsider whether that is necessary and useful.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Santa Clara Power Company Launches Free Public Wi-Fi

Free outdoor Wi-Fi (1 Mbps downstream speeds) in the City of Santa Clara is being launched by Silicon Valley Power, the city’s municipal power company, as part of its SVP MeterConnect program.

Santa Clara says it is the first city in the country to provide free outdoor Wi-Fi access for an entire community as part of an advanced electric meter upgrade program that uses wireless technology to read meters.

SVP expects over 5,000 connections a day on the free  public network.

As always is the case for a community broadband network, some sustainable way of generating the resources to keep providing the service is key. In this case, the resource model is the sale of electrical power to customers in Santa Clara.

That commercial revenue stream supports the operating and capital costs associated with the meter reading program, which in turn provides the capacity for the outdoor public Wi-Fi network.

When advanced meters are installed at residences starting late in 2013, electricity and water usage information will be highly encrypted and sent using the same wireless network that provides the public Wi-Fi.

The SVP MeterConnect network reserves a separate channel for the free, public, and unencrypted outdoor Internet service.

The network seems intentionally designed not to compete with commercial ISP operations. the network is not designed to support indoor coverage, so it really is not going to be a substitute for other commercial ISP services.

Also, the 1 Mbps (shared) network is not going to offer the sort of bandwidth most users these days will find too useful, as a primary connection.

More U.S. Mobile Spectrum Coming in September 2014?

The Federal Communications Commission has sent a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) saying the commission plans to commence the auction of licenses in the 1.695 – 1.71 GHz and 1.755 GHz to 1.78 GHz bands as early as September 2014.

The FCC had earlier auctioned off adjacent portions of the Advanced Wireless Services band.

Those moves are part of a larger FCC effort to free up licensed and unlicensed spectrum for mobile and fixed broadband use, and appears to be considered an important part of licensing for
the 2.155 GHz to 2.18 GHz band.

As some propose, the 2.155 GHz to 2.18 GHz band could be paired with the 1.755 GHz to 1.78 GHz band.

This federal band is part of a larger federal band that NTIA' s Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC) is studying for shared use between federal and commercial users.

Tablets Lead Global Growth of all "Smart and Connected Devices"

It would clearly be rational to argue that the smart phone is going to be the most ubiquitous device used to access the Internet, in most emerging markets. But  tablet importance is going to grow, especially if smart phone communications are grafted onto a greater number of tablet models.

Smart connected device volume in emerging markets grew by 41.3 percent in 2012 with the tablet volume growing by 111.3 percent and smart phone volume by 69.7 percent year over- year.

In mature markets, shipments of smart connected devices grew by 15.6 percent, with a “huge plunge in the PC market,” says IDC.  

By the end of year 2017, IDC predicts that the tablet and smart phone markets will have huge growth in the emerging markets.

In emerging markets, tablet unit shipments are expected to increase by 300 percent, while smart phone unit shipments are expected to double.

Portable PCs, on the other hand will show a moderate single-digit growth while desktop PCs are expected to consistently decline year over year with almost no growth in 2017.

"In emerging markets, consumer spending typically starts with mobile phones and, in many cases, moves to tablets before PCs," says Megha Saini, IDC research analyst.

Tablet shipments grew 78.4 percent year-over-year growth in 2012, representing 128 million devices, and driving global shipments of “smart connected devices,” according to International Data Corp.

IDC expects that tablet shipments will surpass desktop PCs in 2013 and exceed portable PC sales in 2014.

That could make the tablet the crucial computing device for fixed broadband services and ISPs selling fixed broadband services.

Smart Connected Device Year-over-Year Growth by Region and Product Category, 2012-2017
Product Category
Mature Market
Desktop PC
Mature Market
Portable PC
Mature Market
Mature Market
Total Market


Emerging Markets
Desktop PC
Emerging Markets
Portable PC
Emerging Markets
Emerging Markets
Total Market


Desktop PC
Portable PC
Total Market

Source: IDC
* Forecast estimates.

Smart Connected Device Market by Product Category, Shipments, Market Share, 2012-1016 (units in millions)
Product Category
2012 Unit Shipments
2012 Market Share
2017 Unit Shipments*
2017 Market Share*
2012—2017 Growth*
Desktop PC
Portable PC
Source: IDC
* Forecast estimates.

Small Cell Backhaul: Fixed or Wireless?

While some people forecast that as many as 80 percent or 90 percent of outdoor small cells will be connected by wireless backhaul, Maravedis-Rethink believes mobile backhaul will mirror today’s pattern, where 55 percent is wireless and 45 percent uses a fiber connection.

“Operators will use fiber wherever possible and install short range wireless in the gaps,” according to Esteban Monturus, Maravedis-Rethink backhaul practice head. 

Wireless backhaul for small cells is forecast to grow rapidly until about 2013, according to Mobile Experts In 2016, for example, Mobile Experts expects sales of about $1.5 billion worth of small cell gear for wireless backhaul, for example.

But patterns likely will differ from country to country.Others think wireless will be more important. 

Where it comes to small mobile cell sites, which will, by definition, cover small areas primarily in high-traffic areas, backhaul costs will have to scale to match the large number of sites, and the relatively small number of customers served at any single site.

  So recurring backhaul costs are a huge issue. And the need for locating small cells in highly specific locations, which might not have easy direct line of sight, will tend to make non line of sight systems important.

Here's a great summary of mobile backhaul equipment.suppliers who can support small cells.

Internet Use is Ubiquitous, for People Up to Age 49

If you have followed adoption trends for consumer products ranging from subscription video to use of mobile phones, texting or social media, you know that adoption skews by age. 

For the older forms of media and communications, what happens over time is that the behaviors of the younger age groups become the behaviors of the total population. That is happening with use of the Internet as well.

The only surprise might be the small percentage of people who claim not to use the Internet. 

Intel Internet Video Service Making Progress?

Intel has been working on an Internet competitor to cable, satellite and telco TV that it had wanted to launch in 2012. As you would guess, Intel has had to work harder than expected to line up key programmers for a distribution strategy that competes with its present distributors (cable operators, telcos and satellite video suppliers such as DirecTV and Dish Network). 

Ignoring for the moment the current "average" amount of bandwidth U.S. consumers are able to obtain, the venture hinges on the ability to offer the same sorts of content cable TV, telco TV and satellite TV service providers offer. 

In that regard, Intel Corp. is "making progress" in talks with Time Warner, NBC Universal and Viacom to obtain TV shows and films for its online video service.

Intel reportedly is about to begin negotiations with News Corp. as well. Apparently, the talks with Disney and CBS are less well developed. 

Intel hopes to create a more flexible service, that might give subscribers more choices over the channels they receive. Just how much change programmers might agree to support is the question. 

There has been speculation that Intel could offer a streamlined selection of standard channels at a lower price, with or without the ability to view some content "on demand." Others have said a key draw would be the ability for consumers to have some ability to buy somewhat customized packages of service.

Many observers have argued that programmers will be quite careful about upsetting relationships with their present distributors. That would imply a very limited ability for Intel to offer too much customization of which channels or programs consumers could buy. 

On the other hand, it would precisely be just such customization that could provide huge incentives for consumers to consider an Internet delivery service. 

The Downside of Multi-Purpose IP Networks

By now, virtually all observers agree that direct revenue generated by fixed networks will shift to supplying broadband access, while some o...