In This Issue
New Jersey and Telecom
Upcoming Conferences -
Your Voice -
Nancy Anderson has been named chief executive at AudioFeast. ( www.audiofeast.com )
David Baranski has been hired as VP of Sales, the Americas for Terayon. ( www.terayon.com )
Scott Blaine has been named interim CEO and President of Kineto Wireless. ( www.kinetowireless.com )
Chris Costa has joined Radiant Communications as Director of Engineering. Costa was previously with GE Security’s Fiber Options Division. ( www.RCCfiber.com )
Arata Hirao was appointed General Manager, Representative Director of OPENTV JAPAN. He was previously at Critical Path Japan, Inc. ( www.opentv.com )
JD Howard was named President, CEO and board member of LongBoard. Previously he was President and Representative Director of Lucent Technologies Japan. ( www.longboard.com )
Gary Kunis has been named Chief Technology Officer at Nortel Networks Ltd. Kunis was the Chief Science Officer at Cisco Systems Inc. until 2002. ( www.nortel.com )
Michelle Kuska has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Broadband Access at CableLabs. She leads the combined efforts of DOCSIS® cable modems and CableHome® home-networking initiatives. ( www.cablelabs.com )
Bob Machlin has joined SkyPilot Networks as President and CEO. Machlin was previously with AirFlow Networks. ( www.skypilot.com )
David W. Monroe has joined Eyeball Networks as its Director, Sales and Marketing. David was previously with TIR Systems. ( www.eyeball.com )
David Nicholas has been named Senior VP of Strategic Sales at Xtend Networks. He was previously a VP at N2 Broadband. ( www.xtendnetworks.com )
Suresh Nihalani has been appointed President and CEO of Omnilux Inc. ( www.omnilux.net )
Daniel O'Brien has been appointed Chairman and CEO of Gotuit Media Corp. O'Brien was previously CEO of Brief Original Broadcasts (BOB) ( www.gotuit.com )
John Pickens has been appointed VP of technology at Arroyo Video Solutions, and Tom Foster was named VP of national accounts. ( www.arroyo.tv )
John Rayfield has been appointed CEO at Morpho Technologies. He was most recently with Novelchange Inc. ( www.morphotech.com )
Richard Sekar has been appointed VP of marketing at TZero Technologies Inc., a developer of wireless networking chipsets. Sekar was previously at Ikanos Communications Inc. ( www.tzti.com )
Peter Stern has been promoted to Executive VP of Product Management at Time Warner Cable. ( www.twcable.com )
Bill Waters was appointed Senior VP of Worldwide Sales at Aperto Networks. He was formerly with BayPackets. ( www.apertonet.com )
(Please email email@example.com to report a change in your position.)
Airspan Networks Inc., a developer of VoIP solutions, is acquiring the outstanding shares of ArelNet Ltd., a provider of broadband wireless equipment, for $8.7 million. ( www.airspan.com ) ( www.arelnet.com )
Duke Energy and Cinergy agreed to merge under the Duke Energy Corp. name. The combined company will serve 5.4 million retail customers and have assets of more than $70 billion. Each of these companies has been active in projects involving broadband over powerline (BPL). ( www.duke-energy.com ) ( www.cinergy.com )
SeaChange is acquiring the assets of Liberate Technologies outside North America for $25.5 million in cash. Previously Liberate's North American business was sold to a joint venture of Comcast and Cox Cable. ( www.schange.com ) ( www.liberate.com )
Time Warner and Comcast, the two largest US cable television companies, have reached an agreement to acquire substantially all of Adelphia's assets in the United States for $12.7 billion in cash and 16 percent of the common stock of Time Warner's cable subsidiary, for a total of $17.6 billion. After closing Comcast will have 23.3 million customers and Time Warner will have 14.4 million. ( www.timewarner.com ) ( www.comcast.com ) ( www.adelphia.com )
Akustica, a wireless chip maker, has secured $15 million in third round financing. ( www.akustica.com )
Asylum Telecom LLC, a provider of Internet-based communications solutions, has received a "strategic minority investment" from Motorola Ventures. Terms of the investment were not disclosed. ( www.asylumtel.com ) ( www.motorola.com/ventures )
Bluestreak Network, a developer of digital and mobile TV software, has secured $6 million in second round funding. ( www.bluestreaknetwork.com )
Broadband iTV Inc., which provides applications for cable operators, closed a $375,000 tranche of its $3 million Series B round. ( www.bbitv.com )
Network Chemistry, a WLAN security firm, secured $6 million in new funding. ( www.networkchemistry.com )
Outsmart Ltd., a provider of Fixed-Mobile Convergence solutions, has secured $17 million in venture funding. ( www.outsmarttelecom.com )
Sandvine, a provider of broadband management solutions, has secured $15 million in venture funding. ( www.sandvine.com )
Siano Mobile Silicon, a semiconductor chip provider, has received $11.5 million in Series A funding. The company develops silicon receivers for the emerging mobile digital TV market ( www.siano-ms.com )
SkyPilot Networks announced a $15 million round of funding. ( www.skypilot.com )
VoIPshield Systems, a VoIP security systems developer, has secured $2 million in seed financing. ( www.voipshield.com )
Vonage has secured $200M in new funding. The company, which started offering VoIP in the US, now also offers service in the UK. ( www.vonage.com )
2Wire launched its 2000 series gateways, equipped with an ADSL2/2+ modem to support broadband speeds up to 24Mbps (designed with IPTV in mind), as well as built-in Voice over IP ports. The gateways include 2Wire's FullPass instant set-up technology and support the DSL Forum's TR-069 industry standard, so that they are compatible with any standardized back-end component management system. ( www.2wire.com )
Crown Castle Mobile Media and Microsoft announced Crown Castle's selection of Windows Media® Audio, Media Video 9 and Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) 10 for its Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld (DVB-H) broadcast service deployment. Crown Castle Mobile Media intends to build and operate a dedicated DVB-H network for broadcasting digital television content to mobile devices including cell phones using spectrum they have already acquired. ( www.crowncastle.com ) ( www.microsoft.com )
Microsoft launched MSN Video Downloads, with daily downloadable video content including news, sports and entertainment programming for Windows Mobile-based devices. The service delivers subscription-based mobile TV, including content from numerous partners. Some content will be free; $19.95 yearly buys access to all available videos. ( www.microsoft.com )
Microsoft recently launched Windows Mobile 5.0, which eliminates the previous differences between the Smartphone and Pocket PC versions, creating an almost identical system for all mobile devices. Separately, Microsoft also launched its new Xbox 365. ( www.microsoft.com )
Motive and Alcatel announced a strategic alliance to jointly develop and sell a solution which enables broadband providers to automate the deployment, configuration and support of any residential gateway (RGW). In addition, Motive, as part of its Digital Home Management strategy, announced that residential gateways from Linksys, SMC Networks and Westell have achieved interoperability with its broadband management software. This is the next step in implementing the DSL Forum’s http://www.dslforum.org/aboutdsl/Technical_Reports/TR-064.doc" target="_blank">TR-064 and
RealNetworks introduced three new tiers of Rhapsody® services:
Rogers Communications announced it will be the first Canadian telecom company to deliver live TV to wireless phones. The company plans to launch the service in the current quarter with at least eight channels. The Rogers service will be powered by MobiTV. ( www.rogers.ca ) ( www.mobitv.com )
Skype announced passing the 100 millionth download of their software. Additionally, they announced the public beta launch of two new premium services, SkypeIn and Skype Voicemail. SkypeIn allows customers to receive inbound calls to their Skype client from ordinary fixed or mobile phones or mobile phones worldwide, as they travel, in order to avoid roaming charges. Skype Voicemail provides users the ability to manage incoming voicemail messages. ( www.skype.com )
TotalVid, a seller of specialty videos for download to PCs, signed a deal with Comcast. Comcast subscribers will be able to download one free TotalVid selection per month. TotalVid offers over 1,000 titles varying from martial arts to home improvement, which cost up to $4 and expire after seven days. ( www.totalvid.com )
The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) has launched an industry reference test bed for voice over wireless (VoWLAN) testing. The lab is now mixing wireline and wireless tests for voice and data. The UNH-IOL test bed has 138 wireless access points from 35 manufacturers, various testing environments, test platforms and traffic generation and analysis capabilities. The test lab's goal is to provide equipment vendors an unbiased environment to test product conformance and interoperability. ( www.iol.unh.edu/testsuites/wireless )
Vivendi Universal SA is merging its Cegetel fixed-line and Internet divisions with Neuf Telecom. The combined company will be called Neuf Cegetel. Cegetel was already France's second largest phone service provider. ( www.vivendiuniversal.com ) ( www.sfrcegetel.fr ) ( www.neuf.com )
WildBlue Communications announced it will introduce its satellite Internet service in June, providing high-speed Internet connections to homes and small businesses in the continental U.S. The service is based on two-way satellite spot-beam service to provide high-speed data in both directions, upstream and downstream. The monthly price will start at $49.95. ( www.wildblue.com )
Yahoo! launched Yahoo! Music Unlimited, an online music subscription service with over one million songs, priced at $6.99 per month or $60 per year. Users can transfer tracks from the PC to their portable devices or share music through Yahoo Messenger. ( music.yahoo.com/unlimited )
Broadcast Flag: A federal appeals court ruled that the FCC exceeded its authority by requiring that consumer electronics manufacturers include a "broadcast flag" anti-copying capability in products sold after July 1, 2005.
911 mandate: The FCC has followed action similar to that of Canadian regulators last month, in ruling that VoIP service providers that connect to the public switched network must provide access to 911 services to its customers within the next 120 days. Incumbent carriers are required to provide 911 infrastructure to VoIP service providers. The decision effects both fixed VoIP lines and nomadic phones. ( www.fcc.gov )
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) mandated that VoIP providers offer emergency 911 services to their subscribers. Service providers offering fixed VoIP service must provide the same level of 9-1-1 emergency service provided by incumbent telephone companies to their existing customers. Those offering either nomadic or foreign exchange VoIP service must implement an interim solution providing a level of service comparable to Basic 9-1-1 service. These requirements must be implemented within 90 days of April 4th. ( www.crtc.ca )
In a split decision, the CRTC also determined that it would regulate Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service only when it is provided and used as local telephone service. Thus, the prices ILECs charge for VoIP services will be regulated, but those charged by other companies offering VoIP will not be. An appeal to the cabinet from the incumbents is possible.
Last month we wrote about 100 Mbps to the consumer. A recent announcement fro Hong Kong makes that speed look slow! Hong Kong Broadband Network Limited (HKBN), a wholly owned subsidiary of City Telecom (H.K.) Limited launched its residential 1Gbps Internet access service, called bb1000. Their Premium bb1000 service costs US$215/month, their Mass Market bb100 (symmetric 100 Mbps) costs US$34/month (!) and their Mass Market Entry Point bb10 (symmetric 10 Mpbs) costs US$16/month. This kind of offering would not be cost effective in places that don't have Hong Kong's extraordinary population density (6,250 people per square kilometer). ( www.ctihk.com )
Point Topic has published Broadband, the Internet and the Election mapping the "Digital Divide" in Britain, an issue in the recent election. These show for the first time how many business and residential broadband users there are in each constituency. There's a big range between the peaks and the valleys of "Broadband Britain". Some places, such as parts of Cardiff, show over 30% of households with broadband; others, such as Wales, are below 10%. "The peaks are areas where the population is relatively young and prosperous, with many people in managerial jobs, and where BT competes with the cable networks to offer broadband services." ( www.point-topic.com )
eMarketer recently published results on consumer broadband adoption in Italy and compared them with Forrester predictions. The results showed that consumer broadband adoption in Italy jumped 113% last year, far faster than the 60% rate across Europe as a whole. By the end of 2004, residential broadband penetration was almost 20% according to Forrester (17% according to eMarketer). Forrester predicts that 40% of all Italian households will have broadband by the end of the decade, while eMarketer predicts the 2010 rate will be almost 50%.
Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations that you might have missed. This month we feature a study on broadband usage reflecting "media meshing," some thoughts on the emergence of the "prosumer," some broadband statistics and much more.
Yahoo! and Mediaedge:cia have released a study done by Forrester on broadband usage and behavior patterns. The study finds that users of high-speed Internet do not consequently use less of other media. According to the study, 64% of broadband users watch TV or read magazines or newspapers while online, and 71% of high-speed wireless broadband users do the same. They conclude that old and new media are "meshing" to provide a fuller, richer experience. ( www.yahoo.com ) ( www.mecglobal.com ) ( www.forrester.com )
The "Prosumer" Has Arrived
In the early days of online services, people discussed the potential for the emergence of the "prosumer": consumers who are also producers of digital content for their own use and for others. Many people now use Weblogs to publish content on the web and reach an audience.
Today's prosumer is moving from text-based content into multimedia. "Prosumer" digital cameras and camcorders provide many features of professional models at a price somewhat above consumer models.
A recent Google announcement ties into this trend. Aspiring video prosumers are invited to sign up for the beta Google Video Upload Program, an experiment in "video blogging." Then "pending our approval process and the launch of this new service, we'll include your video in Google Video, where users will be able to search, preview, purchase and play it." Contributors are asked to add metadata about their video to help users search for and find it. This will be based on technology Google is already using to search and catalog programs on PBS, Fox and others.
Other companies are taking note of this trend. At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg asked for broadcasters' help in getting content. He went on to say that such cooperation is vital to everyone's reinventing themselves in a digital age where technology has turned "consumers into broadcasters and everyday life into reality TV."
More on the Muni Wi-Fi Story
There has been a lot of fallout from the media attention focused on Wi-Fi projects like the one in Philadelphia. Leaders in other cities have felt pressure to tell their citizens what their plans are. Recently, Minneapolis unveiled their plan to launch a privately-owned municipal WiFi network, estimated to cost $15 to $20 million to build and offering data service at speeds from 1 to 3 Mbps. City officials expect to sign contracts later this year, and have service start about 12 months after the contracts area awarded.
The telcos have not been happy about this turn of events and have encouraged state legislation to limit municipal Wi-Fi. A bill has been moving through the Colorado legislature which, if passed, would make it difficult if not impossible for municipalities to provide broadband to their residents. Variants of the Colorado ban have been passed in more than a dozen states.
Now some industry and public advocacy groups are rallying against these moves by state legislators. For example, the Media Access Project (MAP); the Consumer Federation of America (CFA); and Free Press, have made public reports, studies and papers supporting municipally-sponsored and joint-ventured broadband access. These documents focus on rebuffing arguments asserting that such government efforts are economic failures.
The story is far from over. Stay tuned for the next act.
ITU Statistics on Broadband Penetration
The most recent International Telecommunication Union (ITU) statistics on broadband penetration by country have been published. They indicate that the top three are (in order) Korea, Hong Kong and the Netherlands. The U.S. has dropped from 13th place to 16th, with France and the UK following just after. ( www.itu.int )
US Fiber's Growth
Render Vanderslice and Associates released new statistics, indicating that the number of homes passed by FTTH in North America topped 1.6 million in April, an increase of more than eight times the 189,000 reported in March 2004. The number of US communities where residents receive FTTH service grew 83% since October 2004, according to Fiber Optic Communities of the United States (FOCUS). Service providers range from large incumbents like Verizon, to municipalities like Jackson TN and CLECs like SureWest Communications. Despite this growth in North America, other countries including Japan are still ahead. ( www.opinionsnow.com/RVA/index.html ) ( www.communitiesinfocus.org )
Broadband Video at 35,000 Feet
Singapore Airlines is scheduled to begin delivering in-flight IP video to viewer's laptops, using the Connexion by Boeing satellite-based in-flight broadband service. The Connexion service costs $30. It is not clear whether there will be an additional charge for the IP video service, which initially will include the English-language version of EuroNews, content from BBC World, Eurosportnews, CNBC and MSNBC. ( www.connexionbyboeing.com )
Wi-Fi Too Slow?
If your Wi-Fi is too slow, check out WiFi Speed Spray --but keep your sense of humor ready!
All forms of media--data, voice, audio and video--are being carried with the same IP protocols over the same "fat pipes." These are going to multi-function devices--most cellphones already include digital cameras and voice recorders, and some handle video recording and playback, PDA functions like contact databases, and mores. Companies that used to be in different businesses--cable companies, telephone companies, mobile carriers, and even power companies--are all taking about the "triple play" of data, voice and video.
"Convergence" is a good way to describe these changes in residential broadband. We've been reluctant to use the "C word," but now is a good time to start using it again.
There's an irresistible tendency to hype a new technology concept. When hype goes wild and the concept fails to meet its overblown expectations, analysts and reporters debunk the claims, and the technology concept falls into disfavor. If the concept has real merit, it slowly starts proving its potential, and analysts again start looking at it favorably.
The Gartner Group describes this phenomenon as the hype cycle. Successful technologies go through a five-step sequence including the "Peak of Inflated Expectations," the "Trough of Disillusionment" and the "Slope of Enlightenment" between the initial hype and the eventual success.
The concept of "convergence" was very strong during the "dot com" era and has been out of favor since the bust. Remember the headlines asking "Is Convergence Dead"? Now it is making a comeback.
Convergence Takes Many Forms
The new question becomes "What is convergence, anyway"?
We found a talk by Henry Stevens useful in answering the question; this is a video interview put together by Telecom TV from the International Engineering Consortium’s 21st Century Communications World Forum in London. The interview focuses on the impact that convergence will have on the telecom sector and reports on the major concerns of senior carrier executives as convergence starts to take hold. Stevens observes that there are many types of convergence--his talk focused on five his research shows are important today to service providers:
An ETRI presentation Convergence Service of Fixed and Mobile Network provides another useful view. It describes fixed/mobile convergence occurring in four areas:
Changing What You Count
When people's behavior changes, systems that have long served their purpose must adapt or become outmoded. The affect of convergence on people's behavior is a case in point. A New York Times article Our Ratings, Ourselves by Jon Gertner discusses the changes occurring as TV is seen on cell phones, radio goes on the Web, more and more media content is available on-demand and single purpose devices suddenly become telecom/media "Swiss Army knives".
The number and categories of people reached by advertising has long determined how companies spend their advertising dollars. TV consumption has historically been measured by families who record their viewing habits in a diary or have an electronic meter attached to their TVs. The impact of today's media consumption--any time, any place, on many different devices--destroys the validity of a system that measures only one type of device (the TV) in one location (the home) and may require users to actively participate in the process.
Current work is focusing on a passive approach to measure what kind, and how much, TV and radio programming a person is exposed to during the day. One trial solution from Arbitron and Nielsen Media Research is a so-called "portable people meter" (PPM) worn by random volunteers; its data about media the person encountered is collected nightly.
It is much too early to see how this culture change will be reflected in what media are popular and how advertising dollars will follow. However it plays out, one thing is certain: convergence will cause many major economic and societal changes.
Each year we attend the National Cable Show sponsored by NCTA to tune in on the industry buzz and see what innovations vendors have on display. At this year's show we heard a lot about convergence, mobility and new consumer behaviors. Here's a sampling from speakers and the show floor.
Heard From the Speakers
The New Reality: The TV Goes First
Consumer expectations have altered radically from ten years ago. A decade ago, video entertainment was the cable industry driver which fit well with the perception of most TV watchers as couch potatoes. Computers were just starting to be present on the show floor of cable industry events; they were not yet a major factor in consumer's lives. MSOs were entirely focused on services delivered inside the home--mobility was not a topic of discussion.
In a show session, Bing Gordon, CEO of Electronic Arts, summed up one refrain of the show: "Every fifteen year old knows that communications and entertainment go together". Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, continued: "The proliferation of devices and media is what kids grow up with - and their behavior is driven by these experiences". Mitch Singer of Sony agreed that the wants and needs of today's customers are changing: "Every year, millions of analog subscribers die and millions of digital subs are born."
MSOs understand that today's teenagers are tomorrow's customers. Jerry Yang pointed out these young folks say in surveys that if they had to give up one of their devices, the TV would be the first to go. Streamed video is already available on their computers; mobile phones today supply voice, messaging and Internet functions and are rapidly adding video services to the mix.
What About Outside the Home?
In observing this changing world, US cable operators are coming to grips with an important reality: today they can provide the triple play of voice, data and video services to the home, but outside the home their offering cupboard is bare. In contrast, their biggest DSL competitors, the telcos, have associated companies that lead in providing wireless services. MSO representatives acknowledged the need to address their wireless gap. Tom Rutledge, COO of Cablevision summed it up by saying "the wireless world is a great business opportunity".
Of course the MSOs are not the only ones with an incomplete bundle. Blair Levin, in a session called "Peering into the Future," observed that "Everybody has a weak point. For cable it's wireless, for telcos it's TV and for DBS it's interactivity."
The Wireless Landscape: Cable's Perspective
With the quadruple play, city Wi-Fi, fixed-mobile convergence and WiMAX increasingly in the news, we were excited to be moderators for a wireless session during NCTA 2005. The objective was to allow three of the largest US cable operators to share some of their perspectives on the emerging wireless landscape. Their goal was to provide their perspective on customer needs, a view of their assets and obstacles, and a window into their current, early thinking. They made it clear that no specific announcements were part of the program.
Peter Stern, Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning at Time Warner Cable, provided some results of their qualitative research, focused on cable customers' wireless needs and likely prospects for wireless offers. The research concluded that cable-provided seamless mobility could solve a number of customer problems.
Tom Nagel, Vice President Business Development of Comcast Cable Communications, continued by giving some alternative paths that MSOs could potentially take if they wanted to enter wireless. These included resale arrangements, becoming an MVNO, building their own or becoming an equity partner. He also focused on some assets MSO could bring to the party, such as customer relationships and multimedia and data content.
Mimi Thigpen, Vice President of Strategy for Cox Communications, brought a sense of the real-world challenges an MSO would face in adding wireless capabilities. These include differences from their current business in the billing relationship, suitable forms of content, their current footprint and channels.
Until some official announcements are made, what the MSOs will or will not do in wireless remains a matter of speculation. We'll keep watching and update you once there is something official to report.
What The Customer Wants
Paul Allen articulated his vision, shared by many, of a future in which the consumer doesn't care about the pipeline over which services are delivered. What they do care about is having their content and applications wherever they are and on whatever device is available. These needs give substance to buzzwords like interoperability, integration and platform independence. They also point out the industry challenges as the types and numbers of devices and services keep multiplying.
See It, Touch It
We most enjoy seeing and touching physical things and trying out new services. There's never enough time on the show floor but here are a few noteworthy items related to the themes we've already mentioned.
TV Guide on the Mobile Phone
What does your mobile phone have to do with your home TV? Gemstar-TV Guide International, which creates the interactive program guide used in many set-top boxes, plans to roll out a mobile-phone application allowing people to search for program listings. The company has already rolled out a similar service for NTT DoCoMo in Japan.
Once a user finds an interesting show, they can set up a reminder about when it will be on and alert friends to also watch it. If you won't be home at the right time, it can schedule recordings on DVRs that support the technology, such as Motorola's DCT6412 HD-DVR. The application has additional goodies, like access to TV-related ring tones and previews of some shows.
At the show we were shown a prototype demonstration of the application working on Nextel phones. Because this is neither an announced nor committed project, the Nextel folks wouldn't let us take any pictures of the phones or the demo--but the application looked pretty cool.
Converging Wi-Fi and Mobile
With all the discussion about Wi-Fi/Mobile convergence, we appreciated an opportunity to meet with David Schwartz of Longboard, a provider of open mobile convergence software. Their focus is SIP, Wi-Fi and expertise in handsets. Schwartz said their platform has over 300k active subscribers, mostly in Asia Pacific.
Longboard has partnered with Cedar Point Communications and ARRIS, two of the leading providers of cable telephony, to demonstrate fixed mobile convergence over cable's HFC networks. The joint product, using "dual-mode" handsets supporting both Wi-Fi and cellular, enables hand-offs between cable-provided VoIP phone service in the home and mobile services outdoors. Implementing such a service requires more than technology--such an offering would require business agreements between cable and mobile operators.
David explained that there are currently competing approaches to Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC). One approach is "wireless centric": the wireless service provider keeps the call control. This can be either network-based--call control is kept in the wireless network (the so-called UMA approach developed by Kineto Wireless)--or site based--call control is at the site (as in the PBX-based approach announced several years ago by Avaya, Motorola and Proxim targeting business users).
There are also "wireline-centric" approaches, in which the wireline carrier keeps the call control. These are the ones that we expect MSOs would favor. Again they come in two flavors; the Longboard solution is currently network-based, while there are also site-based approaches.
The bottom line is that there are multiple approaches to FMC, with various benefits for different constituencies. All are in various stages of development and maturity.
Consumer Video Communications Applications: Here Today
Sometimes it is easy to get enamored of challenging new technologies, while ignoring simpler applications. When we first met with Vibe at an earlier cable show, we focused on their videophone and ignored their video mail. Video mail is much simpler than videophone; it bypasses all the complexity because it is store-and-forward rather than conversational--one person records the video and sends it by email to another.
What turned the light on for us (I must confess) was receiving a video greeting card from our daughter, a Comcast subscriber. The quality was acceptable, but the wow! factor coming from a personal recording made it a knock-out.
We talked again with Brad Herrick to understand how Vibe is doing and where they go next. They have deployed video mail with several of the biggest cable operators and believe that simplicity has been one of the keys to acceptance.
Comcast and Road Runner both provide video mail free to their high-speed Internet customers. The video mail application provides "training wheels" for PC-based video telephony. While relatively few user PCs have webcams to create video, all can receive it. Receiving video mail gets customers used to video and encourages them to install webcams on their PCs so they can reply. That makes the progression to video telephony less of a jump and more of a stepwise progression.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes to move to the next stage.
( www.ea.com ) ( www.yahoo.com ) ( www.sony.com ) ( www.twcable.com ) ( www.comcast.com ) ( www.cox.com ) ( www.gemstartvguide.com ) ( www.nextel.com ) ( www.longboard.com ) ( www.cedarpointcom.com ) ( www.arrisi.com ) ( www.kinetowireless.com ) ( www.vibephone.com )
From the time we started this Broadband Home Central website, we have been writing about how we use our home as a testbed to learn about new technologies for the broadband home. The experience we have received this way is far more valuable than just reading about new technologies and products.
We recently added a vacation home to the mix of places we spend our time, so we now have the fun (or perhaps challenge) of making it broadband friendly as well. Since we’ve already shared some experiences about equipping our home for broadband and as a comfortable place for both work and play, we’ve decided to invite you along on our new journey-–this time with the vacation condo we’ve just purchased in Sanibel, Florida.
Broadband may not be the first thing that comes to mind in thinking about this vacation island paradise off the Gulf Coast of Florida. But we do sometimes have to work when we are away; even if we didn’t, we still find it impossible to live without our email and the resources we look to every day on the Web.
We rent our condo to guests when we're not using it ourselves, so we have the added challenge of making all the broadband-equipped devices and services easy to understand and use. In addition, when anything broadband-related isn’t working, we'd like to have visibility into it so we can (hopefully) diagnose and fix the problem.
We started planning the broadband infrastructure as soon as we purchased the condo in early April. We first considered the user needs--for our guests and for us--and the current environment at the condo complex. It became clear that three technologies would play a major role: Virtual Private Networking (VPN), Dynamic DNS (DDNS) and wireless bridges.
Here's where we are so far. We spent the first week of May at our condo setting up the broadband infrastructure (and much more). Before we left for Florida, we created detail plans, purchased equipment and tested it at home. In Florida, we installed and tested the equipment and got much of it working.
We met all of the user needs for our guests. But we have not yet met many of our additional needs. We have more to do, but will not be able to finish until our next visit during the summer.
See About Our Broadband Condo on our website for details of the story and an update on our progress.
New Jersey's Shrinking Industry
Question: What do direct distance dialing, cellular technology, wireless LANs, transistors, lasers and optical amplifiers all have in common? Answer: New Jersey and Bell Labs. New Jersey has been home base for the first high-fidelity sound recordings, the first demonstrations of facsimile pictures sent over telephone wires, and the world's first triple-terabit long-distance data transmission.
But nothing is forever. From 1997 until 2002, New Jersey lost 37% of its employment in wired telephony. In a period of just seven years, wired telecom employment in the state declined by one half.
This precipitous decline and how to reverse it were the subject of a recent day-long "Summit on Shaping New Jersey's Telecommunications Future", sponsored by the NJ Legislative Caucus, NJ Commission on Higher Education and Princeton University. The goal of the Summit was to provide legislators and regulators with background information to help them understand the complex telecom issues they face.
Although we live in New Jersey and are immersed in the telecom industry, we were startled to realize that we probably had more up-to-date knowledge of the industry status in other cities and parts of the world than the one we call home. Thus we were delighted to be invited to participate in the Summit. Our role was to provide an overview of advances in video technology and what those could mean from the perspective of the telecom industry and also to New Jersey's citizens.
Those who have seen little of New Jersey beyond the area around Newark airport might be surprised by its complex demographics. Here are a few factoids courtesy of James Hughes, Dean of Rutgers School of Planning and Public Policy and a Summit speaker.
Video’s Hi-Tech Future: TV and More
Dave presented our talk Video's High-Tech Future: TV and More (PowerPoint, 1.0 MB), which highlighted the transition that is taking place in video. In the past, the term generally conjured up an image of broadcast TV. But video communications in the future is moving from:
In terms of broadband penetration per household, NJ ranks number 3 among US states, behind Hawaii and Massachusetts, but ahead of California.
Lessons From Korea?
One of the discussion topics was the correlation between New Jersey's high per-capita earnings and broadband penetration with the high percentage of the population historically involved in the telecommunications industry. One concern is whether the rapid decrease in telecom employment is a negative indicator for future income levels and broadband penetration.
Inevitably, the subject of high Korean broadband penetration came up and the extent to which it was influenced by government policies. Korea's policies both encouraged the underlying industries as well as broadband's wide deployment and affordability within the country. The question is what can be learned and transferred from Korea's example, recognizing that the US favors market forces rather than industrial policy as the determinant of what technologies and prices will prevail.
FCC Commissioner Abernathy: Nascent Services Doctrine
One of the day's highlights was a presentation by FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, "A New Regulatory Paradigm for Telecommunications". Commissioner Abernathy, always a compelling and delightful speaker, explained the tremendous difficulties in trying to fit today's communications services into yesterday's regulatory categories. Because of the complexity of interpretation, she observed that "Lawyers are in seventh heaven. The rest of us are confused."
In examining the question of an appropriate regulatory framework concerning broadband, she sees the FCC's job as promoting broadband deployment and encouraging investment. Government should play a role only when it is necessary to promote social goals, as with the subsidy funding for schools, libraries and poor areas. Another example is in the recent requirements for VoIP when it is being sold as substitute for wireline voice. In these instances, Abernathy says VoIP should have the same rights and responsibilities as wireline voice. That mean it needs to provide emergency calling services (E911 as an obligation) and it should have the right to interconnection and to getting telephone numbers.
Abernathy has been trying to develop what she calls her "nascent services doctrine". Its premise is that to the extent possible, new non-dominant competitors in services should not be compelled to comply with old regulations which were put in place for a different set of market circumstances. As increasing competition occurs in such arenas, the original players should also be relieved of abiding by the original rules.
In talking about legacy rules which present the greatest challenges today, Abernathy focused on inter-carrier compensation and what it should mean in an era where VoIP calls don't have clear jurisdictional boundaries. Another hot topic is the universal service fund which helped the US get very high phone penetration. However, today's changed industry structure raises the question of who should contribute and how much.
These are tough issues -- no one at the FCC is likely to get bored!
Put yourself in the shoes of a city mayor. You have constituents at your door questioning why their property taxes just went up. The new intersection you were about to put in is on hold because it encroaches on some environmentally sensitive land. The school board is asking for your support on a controversial issue. And, you are running for re-election late this year.
In the midst of all this, you are being asked to participate in the decision as to whether your town should support municipal broadband, and if so what "flavor". People are spouting incomprehsible words for and against acronyms you've never heard: Wi-Fi, WiMAX, FTTP, GPON and HFC. Do you really want another term in office?
Broadband Properties Magazine approached us several months ago to write an article for their special issue on Municipal Broadband. Our role was to help municipal officials who are increasingly faced by discussions involving myriad broadband technologies and concepts. Our challenge was to make some sense out of the broadband landscape, suggesting what should be included in a rational discussion. We were not asked to advocate or oppose municipal broadband, but to clarify a complex topic and help municipal officials ask intelligent questions.
The resulting article A Mayor’s Guide to Broadband: The Six Leading Access Technologies appears in this month's issue of Broadband Properties Magazine. It explains some fundamental broadband concepts and terms like "symmetry" and "multiplexing" and gives a brief introduction to six different access mechanisms which can be used to provide broadband services.
A key point of the article is that there is no one "right" answer. The "best" technology alternative is determined by what unsatisfied needs your town is trying to satisfy, and the timeframe and costs which could constrain solutions. As in any complicated question, the answer always seems to be "it depends...".
Unfortunately, time and budget constraints don't allow us to attend all the conferences that sound relevant and interesting. There are several coming up soon that fit that description, so we wanted to let you know about them, especially if you will be near London, Amsterdam or Boston in the next few weeks.
Wireless Connectivity World is the first of these, taking place in London May 24-25, 2005. The event is both a conference and showcase of wireless solutions, focused on real-life applications of wireless technologies.
That is followed in June by two more, both in Amsterdam. The Networked Home will be at the Renaissance Hotel June 8 - 9, 2005. It is dedicated to presenting applications, standards, technology and interoperability, which are driving the growth of networked home services.
Toward the end of the month, June 23-24 The Broadband Strategies Summit 2005 is at the Marriott Hotel. It is centered on the critical broadband market issues of 2005.
Last year we attended and spoke at the Healthcare Unbound conference. It is being held this year on July 11-12, 2005 and will focus on the convergence of consumer and healthcare technologies. This year there is a special emphasis on telehomecare and remote patient monitoring. The location is the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts.
If you get the opportunity to attend any of these, we'd love to hear your feedback on them.
Thanks to those of you who wrote us about our new RSS feeds. The feedback was very positive. Here are a couple of comments. One said: "I am just changing to RSS feeds. THANK YOU! Unclutter my mailbox, but still get the good stuff.. What could be better?" Another had as a subject line "love the rss feed." He continued "I now have BBHR on MyYahoo! through RSS. Life is good. I loved the looking back article."
Bill Rose wrote: "After reading your article on Fiber to the Home (excellent article), I thought you might find this interesting. It's a position paper by the High Tech Broadband Coalition on states legislating against municipalities developing their own BB solutions ; the HTBC files an amicus brief in this. Also check out some interesting articles on the site written by a lawyer working in this area."
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