Telecom Timeout

A blog

April 15, 2010  2:24 PM

Broadcaster joint venture to deliver mobile device content is no accident

Posted by: KateGerwig
broadcast industry, FCC, mobile content, mobile devices, national broadband plan, regulation

Sometimes telecom’ers forget that the broadcast industry is also subject to FCC whims, um, I mean regulations, and that it spends as much time trying to pacify the agency beast and positioning with the media as telecom carriers do. My case in point is the new joint venture of a dozen major broadcasters — including Fox, NBC, Gannett and News Corp. — that will deliver live and on-demand mobile programming by pooling their existing spectrum.

Who could disagree with this noble effort? Delivering programming to mobile devices is a good line of business, but the venture isn’t all about that. What’s really going on is that is one of the FCC’s proposals in its national broadband plan is to take back as much as 40% of broadcast spectrum because wireless needs it. This makes broadcasters cringe, of course, but they’re taking the high road on looking cooperative instead. Historically, it works out better if the market in question suggests a plan rather than being ordered to do so, and in the process they look like concerned citizens. The broadcasters said they will provide the spectrum and kick in the content, marketing, and cash investments to drive its growth. Really good citizens.

Are broadcasters against any FCC plan to reclaim spectrum to instead help wireless broadband? TOTALLY. Broadcasters would rather use any additional spectrum for more digital and HD channels. But the FCC’s saber-rattling has them making a good show of extreme interest in mobile TV. Would this be good for broadcasters, wireless operators and mobile users? You betcha. Broadcasting to mobile devices would take some of the heat off wireless network congestion and mobile users want more content.

It could be a win-win. But will it make the FCC forget its spectrum reclamation project? Doubtful. Democratic FCCs are notoriously activist, and I don’t think one joint venture will make it all go away.

April 15, 2010  12:44 PM

‘Deleted scenes’ from today’s Q&A with Ruckus Wireless’ CEO

Posted by: Jessica Scarpati
3G offload, Ruckus Wireless, traffic management, Wi-Fi, wireless broadband

Not everything that goes into a SearchTelecom news story makes it off the cutting room floor. Unlike our exhaustive guides and point-by-point primers, you can read our news in under 10 minutes and get all the key insight into broader market trends.

The bad news is this means not everything makes the cut. But the good news is twofold: 1) Because we try to give you the most interesting and relevant news and analysis, a lot of what gets left out is extraneous and boring (PowerPoint presentations make your eyelids droop? Yup, us too, so we thought we’d spare you); and 2) When we do have some of the cool stuff that maybe got cut for space, you can catch them on the blog.

When I sat down with Ruckus Wireless CEO Selina Lo at CTIA Wireless a few weeks ago to talk Wi-Fi and 3G offload, we covered a lot of ground (and I finally learned the story behind that Ruckus dog). Without further ado, here’s some “deleted scenes” from our conversation that you won’t find in this week’s Q&A…

Continued »

April 12, 2010  11:38 AM

100G DWDM optical networking facts, projections and analysis

Posted by: KateGerwig
100G DWDM, optical networks

Even while telecom carriers are still installing 40G DWDM optical links in their networks, service providers already have their collective eyes on the prize that is 100G optical networking. Search around and it’s easy to find theoretical white papers and product descriptions for 100G vendors, information on preliminary trials, and the like. But how about the real nuts and bolts on a technology that will cost a lot to deploy, yet a real market for it may take years to develop.

Who better to bring rational thought, projections and analysis to the subject than optical networking expert Dr. Ray Mota, managing partner of ACG Research. In his new, three-part expert lesson on 100G DWDM optical networking transport, Mota discusses 100G systems requirements, the history of 100G development and the technologies that will enable it. Along the way, he looks at standards development, the challenges of performance trials and where he sees the market going.

Don’t miss any of this must-read guide on 100G DWDM development:

April 6, 2010  3:53 PM

Cha-ching: AT&T aims for business customers with $1 billion spending spree

Posted by: Jessica Scarpati
AT&T, business services, cap-ex, network expansion

Recession? What recession? AT&T scoffs at the suggestion, releasing a $1 billion spending plan to feed its cash cow —  its business services, which grew its fourth quarter revenue by 17% year-over-year.

The usually demure telco surprised us by opening its play book for all to see (us to AT&T: keep it up!). The spending plan is broken down (with lots and lots and lots of bullet points) into five main objectives:

* Scaling application services
* Enterprise mobility applications
* Vertical industry focus
* Enhancing small business
* Global network expansion

“Despite the continuing challenges of today’s economic environment, we continue to deliver on our commitment to provide companies with the network-centric capabilities and applications they need to enhance their operations,” said Ron Spears, President and CEO of AT&T Business Solutions.  “IP-based solutions and applications have become ever more important to companies aiming to take their productivity to a new level while transforming their operations to adapt to their customers’ changing needs.”

Including this year’s planned investment, AT&T will have invested more than $4 billion since 2006 in business-focused network, systems and applications to provide a globally consistent set of robust and highly-secure services to the more than 3.5 million business customers it serves.

AT&T is capitalizing on the ongoing shift in network traffic from voice to data and video — and more importantly to IP-based data and video — as customers migrate from legacy data networks to MPLS-based virtual private networks and managed applications.

Get AT&T’s shopping list.

Continued »

April 6, 2010  11:05 AM

Court ruling is a major set-back for FCC’s net neutrality position

Posted by: KateGerwig
broadband, FCC, national broadband plan, net neutrality, P2P

“Net neutrality” advocates took a body blow today when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gave the FCC a big thumbs’ down on having the authority to prevent Comcast Corp. from limiting Internet traffic from high-bandwidth file-sharing services.

The 3-0 ruling from the three-judge panel may have only concerned an FCC Comcast ruling (click here to read the court’s full opinion), but the bigger issue is whether the FCC has the power to regulate how ISPs manage their network traffic. And it seems that’s a negative. The ripple effect leads to the question of whether the FCC has the authority to declare that all broadband traffic is created equal – which would effectively nix tiered services that offer higher profit margins.

The decision overturns a 2008 FCC order that Comcast should cease and desist blocking subscribers’ peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing applications (remember that this was under the Bush Administration’s FCC, but the ruling will affect the Obama FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

The court decision is also a set-back for members of Congress who want to usher in net neutrality. FCC Chairman Juilus Genachowski said he wants to try to reclassify the broadband plan as a Title II service in communications law, which means the FCC would have authority to create regulations. Broadband is currently classified as Title 1 (in plain English that means the FCC doesn’t have the authority to regulate it).

Can we hear corks popping in the Washington office of major carriers? For once, AT&T and Verizon were siding with the likes of Comcast. But savor the moment; it won’t last long.

April 5, 2010  11:39 AM

M2M Hype-O-Rama! Carriers look to embed themselves in wireless devices

Posted by: KateGerwig
M2M wireless applications, machine-to-machine services

I don’t know about you, but wild telecom industry hype just hasn’t been up to snuff lately. We’ve pretty much worn cloud computing into the ground, and even iPhone apps are threatening to go there too. Thank goodness we have renewed telecom interest in machine-to-machine (M2M) wireless applications that could provide a slow-and-steady low-bandwidth trickle of data across carrier networks ($$$$).

To prove M2M hype has arrived, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior talked about the M2M services opportunity recently, so you know it’s serious (or at least Cisco is seriously interested in it). She spins a vision of continuous data streaming via wireless sensors that are deployed everywhere. Ok, this gets a bit Big Brotherish for me. Do I really want a non-traditional device tattling to my car insurance company that I am exhibiting bad driver behavior? And who decides what behavior is bad? Or do I want a pill bottle cap flashing at me because I missed a dose?

But to try to stay on topic, our own Jessica Scarpati reports on the telecom revenue possibilities in machine-to-machine services this week. Find out what nontraditional device might have wireless chipsets embedded in them next.

March 29, 2010  11:41 AM

Five key Evolved Packet Core issues face 4G LTE planners

Posted by: KateGerwig
3G, 4G, Evolved Packet Core

Yes, we’ve been hammering on Evolved Packet Core technology for 4G wireless networks a lot lately, and why not? Better now than after everyone has deployed LTE and worked out its issues. We’ll have plenty of time for follow-ups later, but for now, it’s all about EPC planning and deployment.

Who better to ask about the challenges than those wireless operators in the early adopters category? CIMI President Tom Nolle listened to a variety of operators – no names here – and saw the pattern. It come down to five key Evolved Packet Core issues that wireless operators need to consider and address in the key transition from 3G to 4G.

Learn from their experience on everything from how to manage fiber to the towers, mobile security, quality of service and providing app developers access to network elements.

March 24, 2010  10:11 AM

CTIA keynote roundup: Data traffic is growing — shocking!

Posted by: Jessica Scarpati
broadband plan, CTIA, CTIA Wireless 2010, data services, data traffic, FCC, femtocells, mobile broadband, regulation, smartphones, Wi-Fi

This one comes from the in-case-you’ve-been-hiding-under-a-rock file.

Keynotes are supposed to grip the audience, set the agenda for a conference and offer fresh insight into how industry leaders see the market landscape.

So much for the fresh part. If you missed the first day of keynotes at CTIA Wireless 2010 in Las Vegas, you probably could have recited the talking points in your sleep, anyway:

If you want to watch the video highlights, the CTIA media team did a nice job getting a variety of clips up from Tuesday morning. But if you want the drive-thru version, here are the quick hits:

Ralph de la Vega loves his bar graphs and pie charts. The president of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets and chairman of the CTIA board busted out data point after data point to illustrate how U.S. carriers are global leaders for mobile broadband (kept waiting for the U-S-A chant to break out). To stay ahead, wireless operators will need: mobile data offload (via Wi-Fi hotspots and femtocells), more spectrum, faster networks, new business models and a tighter relationship with app developers. “There is no silver bullet,” de la Vega said.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski prerecorded his address, claiming he would be stuck in Washington to work on national “mobile broadband plan” stuff. Maybe he was afraid the crowd would throw tomatoes at him. Either way, he touted the FCC’s plans to free up 500 Mhz of spectrum over the next decade to help carriers with (guess what) growing mobile broadband usage. “The plan is more than a call to action. It’s a strategy for action,” he said.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson also bemoaned the potential for “stifling regulation” to muzzle innovation and investment — especially as (all together now) mobile broadband usage soars. “We consistently underestimate the growth potential of new connectivity,” Stephenson said.

Don’t shrug off emerging economies, particularly Latin America, advised Iñaki Urdangarín, international chairman for Telefónica. Developing countries’ economies are bouncing back from the recession faster than their more developed counterparts, he said. That spells opportunity for new services, such as Telefónica’s mobile banking service, O2 Money, which extends financial services to the 70% of Latin Americans who don’t have access to banking systems, Urdangarín said.

Samsung is working toward its “Smart Life” initiative, trying to integrate end users’ personal and professional identities and needs into one device, said J.K. Shin, president of South Korean vendor’s mobile communications business. “The future is [the] smartphone,” Shin said. “[But] without content, we will never give consumers what they want — a device that gives them the ability to do everything on the go.”

Samsung showed a quick series of end-user interviews, asking them what they wished their smartphone could do, including — function as an ATM, change the kitty litter and “get me girls’ numbers, like, automatically.” Personally, I’d be most impressed with #2.

March 4, 2010  11:51 AM

Sprint board revamps exec bonus rules: Are you listening, J.P. Morgan?

Posted by: Jessica Scarpati

If sending comedian Ian Bagg to do his best Jay Leno impersonation on Hollywood Boulevard isn’t enough to charm potential Sprint customers into jumping on its 4G train, the third-place wireless operator is about to make its execs hustle a little harder to court would-be WiMax customers. As the Kansas City Business Journal spotted in Sprint Nextel’s SEC filings, Sprint’s board is no longer doling out feel-good bonuses and instead cracking the whip…

Top executives will be graded on those guidelines, with 45 percent of the score based on net service revenue, 25 percent based on adjusted operating profits, 20 percent based on retention of annual contract (postpaid) customers and 10 percent based on the number of customers signing up for Clearwire Corp.’s fourth-generation wireless Internet service, which Sprint resells under its brand.

As the Journal points out, half of the bonuses last year were based on (more forgiving) adjusted operating earnings. The other half was new postpaid customers and call center volume (via FierceMobileBroadband).

Sprint is also getting a bit scrappier in its marketing — going directly after rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Interestingly, they’re bringing the discussion around price, which as telecom consultant Tom Nolle points out in this week’s news, isn’t going to do much anymore to prevent mobile churn and win new customers.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen this commercial featuring CEO Dan Hesse that debuted this week touting Sprint’s $69.99/month all-you-can-eat voice, data and text plan:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

When I spoke this week with John Carney, Sprint’s senior vice president of consumer marketing, he said Sprint jumped at the chance to turn the marketing war into one about price after Verizon and AT&T made a big to-do in January about cutting their unlimited plan prices.

“In some ways, AT&T and Verizon are helping us because they made the decision to move the dialogue into the discussion around rate plans,” he told SearchTelecom. “That’s a place where we feel very comfortable playing in.”

February 12, 2010  4:42 PM

Google’s broadband plan: Take that, AT&T

Posted by: Jessica Scarpati
AT&T, google, iPhone, mobile broadband, wireless

Yup, we all heard — Google is getting into the broadband business. Are the lobbyists having any trouble finding FCC doors to bang down with all that snow blanketing D.C.?

We’ve seen a few surprising signs lately that Google is trying to move into Telco Town. In the wake of the iPad snarkfest, how soon have we forgotten the media flop that was the Nexus One? (Sorry, Team Googs, but I think Apple successfully stole the new product release show that week)

What went wrong there? Oh yeah, Google sort of forgot they might have to provide customer service for a device they sell, which makes it all the more interesting that they’re staking their claim in the service provider (emphasis intentional) market.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it seems to me this might be rooted in the Google Voice/iPhone flap from last year, when Apple rejected/conveniently never approved the Google Voice app for the iPhone (allegedly for aesthetic reasons, but we can all see why Apple’s partner with the iPhone, AT&T wouldn’t have been eager to have customers use their unlimited data plans to make calls and never worry about voice charges again).

Granted, Google is only looking at fiber in the ground now… but if Google leverages this into a wireless network, who are they going to answer to? Who’s going to stop them from taking everyone’s voice customers?

(Image courtesy of

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