Telecom Timeout

October 8, 2010  8:15 AM

Video chat using Cisco’s Umi? Let me clean the house first

Kate Gerwig Kate Gerwig Profile: Kate Gerwig

I can say with complete assurance that I will be not; standing in line at Best Buy on November 14 to buy Umi, Cisco’s latest consumer offering designed to bring telepresence to the home in a big way. In case you want to be the first person on your block to videoconference from the comfort of your living room HDTV, I won’t stand between you and your Umi.

Cisco’s home videoconferencing solution comes with a $599 hardware price tag and a $24.99 monthly subscription fee. (What happened to the $200 consumer-adoption break point?) The money isn’t even the main deal-breaker for me, although it is totally one of the deal breakers. Someone would have to have a powerful video-chat motivator to pay the price right now.

Of course I realize I’m probably not in Cisco’s target demographic. Plenty of people already look to Skype or Google to video chat from their computers. For a sanity check, I IM’d my friend Rivka, a proper geek and editor of “Do you want to video chat?” I typed. The answer came back in all caps: HELL TO THE NO.” It was early. She was probably in her sweats. I was.

So what’s my problem? As with many things, it goes back to childhood fears. I would hear about the video phones of the future and cringe – from a very young age. Now I lay me down to sleep, please protect my dog and family, and don’t make video phones a reality. For me, Umi has a Big-Brother quality, even though one can allegedly close the shutter and prevent the living room or the bedroom from being a window on the world’s network (just imagine the possibilities).

Let’s say video chat takes off in a big way despite my personal issues. Cisco’s Visual Networking Index predicts that it would take 72 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks during calendar year 2014.

Naturally Cisco wants to capture a good share of the consumer video market. In that vein, telecom consultant Tom Nolle looks at the video domino effect that could influence changes in service provider business models to deal with the video tsunami. Even though I’m a huge Internet booster, I won’t contribute to the madness by asking anyone to watch my dog’s tricks over IP – it would take too long to position them in front of the TV.

September 1, 2010  4:42 PM

ALU adds to app development platform puzzle with OpenPlug acquisition

Kate Gerwig Kate Gerwig Profile: Kate Gerwig

Alcatel-Lucent has added another piece to its in-progress application developers platform, which is designed to use the network as a Web development platform and insert carriers in the consumer app revenue chain.

Its second acquisition in the past few months, Alcatel-Lucent acquired mobile software and applications development tools vendor OpenPlug on Wednesday. With OpenPlug’s capabilities, Alcatel-Lucent will be able to offer operators and enterprises a platform where Web developers can write an application once and have it translated to run on any of five major mobile operating systems (iPhone, Android, Symbian, windows Mobile and Linux).

Alcatel-Lucent plans to combine OpenPlug’s tools with some of its own development tools to effectively create a development platform that can float across devices and run on any of a large number of appliances, including smartphones, IPTV set top boxes, game consoles and some car systems.

The advantage for service providers buying into Alcatel-Lucent’s applications development platform is to broaden the content in their app stores and make their networks more valuable to customers.

From a carrier perspective, Alcatel-Lucent’s applications enablement building blocks, which now include OpenPlug, create a framework that lets operators expose network features as APIs in a way that lets developers use them easily at a low level of risk to the operator, according to telecom consultant Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. “Alcatel-Lucent has effectively tied its developer program to the network, which in the future could become the company’s service layer solution.”

If everything goes according to plan, Alcatel-Lucent may have just revitalized its position as a network-based service layer platform competitor. Vendor descriptions of their network-based service layers have been difficult to understand at a high level, much to the frustration of telecom carriers. But if Alcatel-Lucent keeps the pieces coming and explains and positions them correctly, it could pull its service layer position out of the fire.

August 26, 2010  3:47 PM

What do consumers care about IPv6? Tell us, please

Kate Gerwig Kate Gerwig Profile: Kate Gerwig

We’ve been hammering on IPv6 migration issues a lot lately, and we’ll probably keep yammering as IPv4 addresses dwindle. But to change up the IPv6 discussion, we thought we’d get off the “what you and your partners and vendors have to do” soapbox. Instead, we invited guest columnist Mike Jude, program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan, to weigh in on IPv6 through the eyes of the consumer. Have the majority of consumers even heard of IPv6? Do they care? According to recent Stratecast research, the short answers are: No and no.

We can understand why enterprises and government agencies are interested in their own IPv6 transitions, and buying IPv6 services like managed IPv6 router services, IPv6 test beds and IPv6-enabled managed firewalls from carriers might have some appeal (that could grow over time). But even most enterprises are more interested in running IPv6 through IPv4 tunnels for now.

The general wisdom is that carriers moving to IPv6 are paying for the upgrade themselves because it’s necessary. And yet, a few unnamed hopefuls want to pass IPv6 costs on to consumers. What would these customers be paying for, exactly? IPv6 access doesn’t exactly have the “gotta have it” sound of voicemail or Caller ID — yet. We were so busy scratching our heads that we had to bring Jude in to shed light on the subject. Have a look at what he has to say, and let us know what you think on the subject early and often.

August 19, 2010  1:43 PM

Why do CDMA femtocells cost more than WCDMA femtocells?

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

Today’s story on the rapidly expanding femtocell market brings up some eye-popping forecasts for the global market — from 1 million units shipped this year to 62 million by 2014, according to Dell’Oro Group’s five-year forecast.

North America is slated this year to have the highest numbers in terms of revenue and units shipped, but will lose that the top spot for units shipped by 2014 to the European market. Interestingly, North America will remain as No. 1 in terms of revenue. Why? Loren Shalinsky, who wrote the forecast, told me that it’s because CDMA femtocells, which are used predominantly in the States, cost more than what the rest of the world uses — W-CDMA.

In case you have the same curiosity streak I do (and the answer wasn’t blatantly apparent to you), here’s Loren’s explanation on why CDMA femtocells cost more than W-CDMA:

I recontacted some of the companies in the supply chain, and the pricing differential comes from a combination of standardization and integration (which turn out to be related). The W-CDMA Femtocell standard was developed relatively faster, and so the companies involved in the supply chain were able to begin development of optimized chips (with more integration). The CDMA femtocell components are behind on this optimization and development, which leads to higher pricing on their femtocells.

July 19, 2010  5:01 PM

Talking up new hope for carrier packet voice services

Kate Gerwig Kate Gerwig Profile: Kate Gerwig

That packetized voice is the key to keeping voice services alive may be the duh statement of the decade, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. I know — voice is so last century that no one talks about it as a killer app. But it still is, and i t doesn’t even take much bandwidth to talk. The razzle-dazzle is about the big bandwidth for video and enterprise apps, and of course there’s social networking. But carriers can ignore next-gen voice only at their own peril.

People still talk, but voice isn’t edgy or interesting unless it’s over the top (OTT) or delivered over a 4G network that doesn’t have a circuit-switched voice channel for the first time in more than a century. That’s where the evolved packet core comes in to help enable voice over LTE, for example.

The tricky part is that service providers still have trillions tied up in the PSTN, and people still spend money to talk, so it’s financially critical to find a better path. Which brings me to my point. Telecom consultant Tom Nolle takes a hard look at the convergence of a handful of next-gen voice drivers that make voice an interesting business case for carriers: OTT competition, 4G evolution, enterprise pressure, femtocell maturation and fixed-mobile convergence.

The bottom line is that it all comes down to two basic carrier options for offering next-gen voice: using an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) framework, or adopting essentially their own OTT model of packet voice service. Since there are decisions to be made, carriers are going to need to understand their options before the over-the-top gang takes over.

July 19, 2010  10:25 AM

NSN gobbles up some of Motorola’s wireless network infrastructure goodies

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

Nothing like starting off the week with a bang. Nokia Siemens Networks announced today it’s paying $1.2 billion for some of Motorola’s wireless technologies — and perhaps just as significant, its customer base and foothold into the North American market.

Here’s the rest of the details from NSN’s release:

Nokia Siemens Networks expects that based on revenue, with the addition of the Motorola wireless network infrastructure business, it will become the #3 wireless infrastructure vendor in the United States, the #1 foreign wireless vendor in Japan, and strengthen its current #2 position in the global infrastructure segment.

Motorola’s networks infrastructure business provides products and services for wireless networks, including GSM, CDMA, W-CDMA, WiMAX and LTE. This business is a market leader in WiMAX, with 41 contracts in 21 countries; has a strong global footprint in CDMA with 30 active networks in 22 countries; and a robust GSM installed base, with more than 80 active networks in 66 countries; and excellent traction with LTE early adopters.

NSN is licking its chops over the potential 50 operator customers it expects to acquire in the deal. The company also says the merger will “strengthen its position” with some of its existing customers, including China Mobile, Clearwire, KDDI, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone. They expect the deal to close by the end of the year.

As MarketWatch points out, this moves Motorola a step closer to its assertion earlier this month that it would split the company in two. The pub also notes that this comes after NSN’s two failed attempts to buy similar assets from Nortel Networks, beaten out by Ericsson and Ciena Corp.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Although this merger includes a pretty broad portfolio, our story last month predicted lots of M&A activity in the LTE market. Bill Rubino, principal analyst at ACG Research, expects most of the action will be core infrastructure incumbents acquiring radio vendors.

June 30, 2010  3:21 PM

High demand for Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G; vlogger sparks smartphone beef

Ddevine Dan Devine Profile: Ddevine

We’ve been keeping an eye on the market’s response to the HTC EVO 4G ever since hearing that the dual-mode smartphone would be a key element in Sprint’s push to improve wireless customer satisfaction and stem subscriber base decline. So we weren’t too blown away when Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told attendees at a conference in New York on Tuesday that high demand was causing spot shortages of the new phone. (Exhale, eager consumers who’ve been shut out during the roughly one-week drought: Our buddies at tell us that EVOs are once again in stock.)

The impressive early sales of the unit did have us wondering, though: What exactly sparked the demand? The crisp 4.3-inch display? The unique WiMAX capability? The fact that it runs on an Android OS 2.1? Or was it the catchy pro-EVO/anti-iPhone 4 hip-hop track? (Video after the jump.)

Continued »

June 28, 2010  7:16 AM

Network operators’ top 4 service layer architecture needs

Kate Gerwig Kate Gerwig Profile: Kate Gerwig

Is anyone old enough to remember the slogan, “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen”? In the ads, when someone mentioned the broker’s name, the room would go silent and everyone strained to hear the advice. Let’s vary that a bit for our own selfish purposes. When telecom service providers speak about their network needs, everyone should listen, especially when it’s about service layer architecture requirements and differentiating themselves from over-the-top (OTT) players.

Network operators talked to trusted telecom consultant Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. who sums up what he learned about carriers’ four main service layer architecture needs .

Here are the main things he discovered in his conversations:

  1. Operators want their service layer architectures to be able to handle partnerships, an ecosystem, if you will;
  2. They need modular components that can be put together in various ways – kind of like Legos — to accommodate different experiences;
  3. While tradition dictates that standards are the way to go, operators aren’t so sure standards-setting will work quickly enough for them;
  4. And finally, there’s vendor commitment – and that’s a whole issue to itself.

As you plan out your network architecture, make sure you read up on the details from the survey here.

June 4, 2010  11:00 AM

Verizon Wireless: Ready for hurricanes and zombie apocalypse

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

Verizon Wireless pumped out a press release today promoting a sort of ho-hum video about emergency preparedness. Yawn.

To be fair, I did appreciate the split-screen, 24-style scene about how to change a cell phone battery one minute into the clip. Dammit, Chloe, we’re running out of time!

Digging through its YouTube channel, I spotted this much more interesting video the telco made in late March to show off its new Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) in South Florida (dubbed its “Super Switch”) that’s able to withstand hurricane winds, torrential downpours and all the debris violent Gulf storms hurl at buildings.

I think it’s pretty safe to assume Floridians will also find it to be an awesome fortress during a zombie apocalypse. That’s the kind of emergency preparedness I’m talking about.

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June 1, 2010  11:41 AM

Can we get a price check on microwave radios in aisle 5?

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

As noted in last week’s news story on, operators need to be mindful of the mergers and acquisitions likely to come in this very young LTE equipment market. That’s because when we say young, we don’t mean a cute and gurgly baby opening its eyes to a new world young. We mean an immature, volatile, unpredictable, door-slamming young teenager — full of indie microwave vendors that are driving down prices and becoming attractive M&A targets for bigtime packet core (rather, evolved packet core in LTE) players.

And it just got more grouchy: Despite an uptick in shipments, revenues in the point-to-point microwave equipment market declined 3% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2010 partly due to falling prices, according to a report by Dell’Oro Group released today.

It was an especially gloomy year for microwave in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), where revenues sunk 13% year-over-year, according to Jimmy Yu, senior director of microwave transmission research at Dell’Oro Group.

“Microwave market revenues declined in the first quarter partly due to heightened competition among vendors that resulted in steep price declines, [which] overrode the 14% growth in radio unit shipments,” Yu said. “In addition, demand in EMEA, especially Europe, was low as a result of the persistent economic distress affecting certain European countries.”

North America was “a bright spot for the market,” growing 50% year-over-year as a result of the large WiMAX deployment by Clearwire in the U.S., Yu said. The other good news came from the newest market segment, packet microwave (for which Huawei has a neat little primer), which grew 15% from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010.

Ericsson ranked No. 1 with 22% of the microwave market revenue share for 1Q10, followed by NEC at 15%, Huawei at 12% and Alcatel-Lucent picking up the rear at 10%.

Image courtesy of CNBC.

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