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Wireless Cloud
? Satire. RIM Proposing Ending U.S. Blackberry Service
Written by Dave Burstein   
Sunday, 29 August 2010 19:03

RIM just issued a statement that they couldn't provide the Indian government a decryption Ganesha-aumkey for Blackberries in India because it was technically impossible. I have absolutely no proof, but I'm nearly certain they are lying. If that were true, I'd expect the U.S. government to rapidly put them out of business.

"RIM does not possess a 'master key', nor does any 'back door' exist in the system that would allow RIM or any third party, under any circumstances, to gain access to encrypted corporate information. In order to provide corporate customers with the necessary confidence that the transmission of their valuable and confidential data is completely secure, the BlackBerry security architecture for enterprise customers was purposely designed to exclude the capability for RIM or any third party to read encrypted information." (RIM statement via GigaOm.)

     The AT&T/NSA and Verizon/NSA massive collaborations confirmed what most of us in networks take for granted: the U.S. government expects access to everything. "What we couldn't do before 9/11, we can do now," I hear from a friend I believe knows what he's talking about. 

     We all know this from ordinary news reports. Think how many times you've read "intelligence sources discovered a message and we are raising the alert level;" "a communications intercept has led to a warning" or something similar. Of course they are listening to just about everything. Quietly, in the background of industry news, "security concerns" are a huge issue in any big merger. The most dramatic was Alcatel-Lucent. According to WSJ, the U.S. government formally required the right to reverse the merger if they developed security concerns.

      It's not for me - or anyone not Indian - to say whether the Mumbai Attack of 2008 justifies an Indian government policy of being able to intercept everything. With 1.2M Blackberries in India, it certainly would be practical for a small group planning an attack to obtain a few.

Crucial for Competition: Don't Require Spectrum Fees in Advance
Written by Dave Burstein   
Friday, 30 July 2010 01:45

auctioneer_also_a_gameThere's enough spectrum in sight to double the number of state of the art U.S. mobile networks. To facilitate that, the FCC should immediately change the auction rules that are a huge obstacle to competition and almost certainly reduce the amount collected. In most of the world, part of the spectrum fee is paid over time. In the U.S., it all has to be paid up front, three or four years before significant revenue (the network has to be built) and even more years before breakeven. With U.S. licenses going for $5B and more, that's a hell of a lot of cash to tie up without even a hint of return. That's a huge obstacle for most bidders, who would gladly pay more if the spectrum payments were more closely tied to when they have income. A new network competing with powerful V & T has to be considered speculative, which means their cost of borrowing the spectrum fee money for the three years of construction is very high.

In addition, even if the bid made sense, there are very few able to front $5B except the incumbents. So the current auction rules are an incumbent protection plan, especially valuable to the larger incumbents, V, T, and Deutsche Telekom. Verizon and AT&T made that clear by bidding up and if necessary buying spectrum in the last few auctions that they didn't really need. They and Sprint have enormous amounts of spectrum not in use, so this was preemptive to keep new companies out.

Or maybe, as Genachowski fears, V & T scale will dominate no matter what the FCC does.

Free U.S. Wireless Ain't Dead - M2Z is Baaack!
Written by Dave Burstein   
Saturday, 17 July 2010 23:26
john_doerrJohn Doerr and Milo Medin visited the FCC 13 July with a crazy plan. They would provide 768K wireless free across 95% of the U.S.. Even with a good deal on the spectrum, it will require investing $5-7B before breakeven. Or maybe it's not so crazy.  Doerr is a legend who was the money behind Google, Amazon, Compaq and a dozen others while Milo built most of the cable networks in the U.S. as CTO of @Home.  The audience included the Chairman and six chiefs. Julius is taking this seriously, and Doerr is confident they have the cash needed.  There's essentially no downside to Julius saying yes except the predictably violent opposition of the incumbents, but they are screwing him so many ways he might just go ahead.

    Doerr's partners include Al Gore as well as Republicans Colin Powell and Tom Perkins. The Senate is pressing Julius hard because he's not doing enough on affordability. This wouldn't have much impact until 2015 or so, but is a partial answer at the very low end.

    They are looking for the 2155-2175 AWS-3 spectrum. That 20 MHz is as much as Verizon is devoting to a worldclass LTE network, although at the higher frequencies far more towers would be needed to match VZ. The business plan begins with selling at market rates the higher speeds and probably voice. Doerr is on the board of Google, so they've presumably have thought through the advertising. Google put $3.5B on the line for spectrum in the hope of breaking the wireless cartel and has advanced $billions to win ad contracts from AOL and others. With over $20B on Google's balance sheet, they are a natural source of financing.

    They promise to reach 50% of the country by 2016 and 95% by 2021. The technology will presumably be LTE, for which inexpensive gear should be widely available in 2013-2015.

Steve Wozniak: Use a Verizon MiFi as Backup for your iPhone
Written by Dave Burstein   
Monday, 23 August 2010 17:42

Apple founder Steve Wozniak loves his iPhone but recommends carrying "a second Verizon phone for backup” or to “carry a MiFi and rely on Skype on your iPhone,” he told dealer Henk van Ess when ordering a Mifi 2352 to use in Europe.  Woz was angry after getting a $7,000 bill from AT&T for a half day's use of his iPhone, especially because he was supposed to be on an international unlimited plan.

   Woz wrote "If you can afford it, carry a second Verizon phone for backup. Another option is to carry a Verizon mifi and rely on Skype on your iPhone. I have used this mifi technique to rescue my own, and others’, iPhones on occasion. If you buy a Verizon Palm Pre, you get free mifi on it so that is possible the best ‘compromise’ solution, to carry a Verizon Palm Pre along with your AT&T iPhone 4. ... I was in Germany 1 year ago for the World Segway Polo championships and after half a day got notified that I had a $7000 bill for data.

Future Wireless Limits: A Quick Look Says 5-15 Hours/month of TV
Written by Dave Burstein   
Thursday, 29 July 2010 18:32
LTE_logosIf LTE can deliver 5-12 megabit speeds, does it replace DSL many places? I've confirmed with good engineers the speeds are realistic, if and only if most people don't attempt to watch quality TV over the web. Because wireless networks are shared, they break under very high video volumes or other truly heavy bandwidth demands.
     That's almost guaranteed not to happen on major networks because the operators control the traffic volume by how they set prices. Something as simple as a cap somewhere between 25 and 75 gigabytes/month should be enough to protect a decent 2015-2020 LTE network. Low caps like AT&T's 2 gigabytes are abusive, but at a level far above that there is a problem.
   Glen Campbell of Merrill Lynch calculated bandwidth cost, traffic growth estimates, necessary capex, and the effect different pricing strategies. In an important paper, he concluded there is no crisis to fear. http://bit.ly/bK5s4y. His paper was influential in the broadband plan, who independently came to a similar conclusion. Wireless speeds should be reliably at 5 megabits and above to a traffic load far higher than today but not unlimited in the short run.
    Back of the envelope, a 2015 LTE network probably would allow most people to do all the surfing they wanted, social networking, and even dozens of hours of music listening without ruining the economics of a $30-50 service. The current monthly cost per gigabyte is about $2-3, which I'd expect to be under $1 when LTE is mature (2013-2016).  10 gigabytes, costing perhaps $10, would be enough to watch 5-15 hours/month of video. 
Moffett: Caps "very likely spell the end of mobile video"
Written by Dave Burstein   
Sunday, 13 June 2010 13:51

no_TVCraig Moffett (a friend) is a great "big picture" guy, a top tier Wall Street analyst always interesting to read. His job is to help investors find companies with improving profits, not the public and consumer interest. Like most of us, he's concluded that if Verizon follows, the caps will substantially increase profits in the long run by making consumers pay more for net connections.

      "[Investments over the next few years,] including the provision of 4G networks, will drive down the cost of wireless data dramatically," Moffett reports, citing estimates of capacity growing from 2.9 to 20 times with a capex level that will be declining after the current catch-up.

     He thinks AT&T raising profits is great, even beyond the 300 basis point margin increase AT&T recorded last year.  I think consumer prices going up is terrible, and Julius Genachowski just testified to Congress making broadband affordable is his top priority. With enough competition, supply and demand usually reach a fair compromise.

      There's no room under such a low cap for video.

NZ: Competition in Mobile, Govt. Fiber in Fixed
Written by Dave Burstein   
Sunday, 22 August 2010 14:20

new_zealand_trees2degrees has quickly taken 5% of the New Zealand mobile market by charging (USD) 15 to 31 cents/minute. They've now introduced 3G data at prices between (USD) 11 & 14/cents per gigabyte.  Telecom New Zealand and Vodafone were doing what duopolists prefer, ripping off customers for (USD) 62 cents/minute. 

     In France, the planned entry of Iliad/Free as the fourth mobile in 2012 is already bringing down prices, Merrill Lynch believes. New entrants are forcing the big 3 to drop mobile prices in Canada, long far more expensive than the U.S. for the same service. All of this is just what you'd expect where competition is weak. Bringing in more competitors is a natural solution, which is what the U.S. broadband plan is hoping will happen around 2015 because of added spectrum.

       New Zealand recognizes more competitors are unlikely for landlines in less than a decade, if then. They consider the result unacceptable, because weak competition is not enough to persuade TNZ or anyone else to upgrade to a world-class fiber network. So they've decided to spend $1.5B to bring fiber to 3/4ths of the country, with a dozen bidders including Telecom applying. Telecom has agreed to fully split wholesale and retail in order to qualify.

Mobile Base Stations and Motorola's Huawei Suit
Written by Dave Burstein   
Thursday, 22 July 2010 18:56
Lemko wowed the broadband planners with a demonstration of a cellular base lemko_COW_raisedstation that could fit in an SUV and be very rapidly deployed to cover an emergency. Huawei supplied some of the gear to Lemko and also worked closely with Lemko on some products.
    Some of the Lemko folks were employed at Moto. They say the work they did for Lemko was on their spare time; Moto says it belongs to Moto. Moto is now suing both.  (91 page complaint)
    Huawei is far ahead of Moto in LTE, which everyone agrees is the right standard for the public safety network. They are deploying LTE around the world. Huawei has many more wireless engineers than MOTO and certainly doesn't need to steal designs from anyone.
   Something like a million square miles of the U.S. - much unpopulated - is not reached by the current network of cell towers. While the plan has proposals to cover some of that territory, everyone recognizes huge areas will not be covered in the foreseeable future. The Lemko or a similar unit could rapidly drive to a forest fire, prisoner search, or other emergency in remote areas and support all the fire or police radios. One model for the U.S. public safety network would station one of more SUV COWs in every state ready to deploy when needed.
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