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Broadcom Buying RALINK/Trendchip?
Friday, 14 January 2011 14:29

Shinjou_rabbitShin-jou Fan built Taiwan's Trendchip into one of the largest DSL chipmakers by pioneering low cost chips and offering low cost designs to modem and router makers. He merged with RALINK, a successful 802.11 designer, and emerged as CEO of the combined companies. Digitimes' Cage Chao and Steve Chen are now reporting rumors Broadcom is about to buy the combined company for $800M. RALINK denied although Chao's analysis showed the stock market thinks a deal will go through. 


       Trendchip claims they are #2 or #3 in DSL chips, a remarkable achievement when giants like TI and Analog Devices couldn't survive the earlier highly competitive market. RALINK was one of the first to announce 3x3 MIMO 802.11n chipsets, a breakout technology for 2011. The chipmakers claim 3x3 or 4x4 MIMO is fast enough to carry HD TV around the house and some carriers are enthusiastic after early testing. 


       RALINK also offers a low-power, low-cost WiFi chip that sells for under $5. Power was the biggest obstacle to incorporating WiFi into mobile phone; earlier chips would kill battery life. That's been mostly solved, and essentially all but the cheapest mobiles will soon have WiFi.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 January 2011 22:29
High Speeds: Majority Will Not Pay More Than $10/Month Extra
Wednesday, 12 January 2011 22:08

Scrooge_John_Leech_1843The worldwide experience is that many people will pay $5-10 for higher speeds but very few will pay much more. An analyst asked “Is there data you can share behind your comment few people are willing to pay more than a small premium for higher speeds?” There have been many natural experiments where consumers had a clear choice and the results I know pretty consistent. I'd guess that customers are more concerned about differences in speeds at lower levels and less at 20 megabits or beyond, but I haven't seen anything systematic.


Little interest in paying a lot for high speeds: Almost half the U.S. cable customers can get 50 megabits instead of 10 megabits. Only about 2% have switched because there's a $50 premium. There are similarly very few takers for the 50 meg speeds on Verizon FiOS. In Japan, J:COM offers (up to) 160 megabits down for $5 more than 30 megabits down but only 26% will pay even that premium to go beyond 20-30 meg service. http://bit.ly/gcsHCE In Taiwan, fewer than 10% are willing to pay $48 for 20 meg when the price of 3 meg is $31. Conclusion in 2011: There is some interest but not a big revenue opportunity


Courageous Regulator, Real Results in New England
Tuesday, 11 January 2011 02:14
 Liz_miller_VermontRegulators need courage to demand telcos meet important public goals. Fairpoint has met its commitment to reach 80% of Vermont by yearend 2010, 83% of Maine and 85% of New Hampshire despite having fallen behind earlier in the year. Fairpoint is now controlled by their former creditors and needed state approvals to come out of bankruptcy. The state commissions insisted they meet the (already postponed) deadlines despite enormous political pressure. The result is clear below: 15 new service announcements in 7 weeks.
    Nearly a fifth of U.S. phonelines are pending the merger of Qwest and Century Tel. If Genachowski and Copps have courage, they will demand Century match Comcast's merger concessions: half the unserved connected and a $9.95/month offering for poor school kids. Century wants the approval and will say yes if Julius has any backbone. If he doesn't deliver on this, he should stop talking about what he's doing for broadband.

       Best of luck to the new Fairpoint, which has an experienced new operations team. They've stanched the bleeding due to the service failure when they took over from Verizon, with Ashley Smith reporting line loss in the last year is down to 12%. The new broadband facilities will help. They fell from 415,671 lines in January 2009 to 252,309 in 2010. http://bit.ly/dGIA3P
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 January 2011 00:39
Plan B From Shannon's Law: Doubling Speeds with Vectoring, Bonding
Friday, 07 January 2011 13:04
Plan_nine_from_outer_space50M lines in the U.S. will soon be connected with 25 megabit FTTN/DSL. So will millions more in Britain, Germany, Canada and Switzerland. Because some of that bandwidth will usually be used for IPTV, customer speeds are typically 6-16 megabits. Many fear, and I long expected, that simply wasn't enough to compete with 50 and 100 megabit DOCSIS. The numbers aren't proving out that way so far. http://bit.ly/i57E8j
      For $200-400/home in 2013, those speeds can be increased to 20-40 megabits and perhaps higher. DSM, vectoring, and bonding are now coming out of the labs and in field trials. Vectoring requires new boards in the remote terminals and sometimes complete new DSLAMs, >$100 port, installed. Bonding requires two ports. Often, the wiring needs to be redone in the field, expensive labor.
    As soon as the gear becomes practical (?2012), carriers will start installing vectored gear in all new builds. It will cost little more than the old gear. No carrier I know plans to upgrade the existing lines, however -- unless cable's higher speed becomes a big factor in the market.
     That's AT&T's Plan B iff they need it against cable. They've been leaders in the related research and at the Paris Broadband World Forum announced the world's first field trial of vectoring. Done thoughtfully, two lines bonded in a vectored system will deliver 100 megabits to many homes.
Last Updated on Friday, 07 January 2011 13:57
Paying $137M, Alcatel "Doesn't Do Things Like That Anymore"
Friday, 31 December 2010 21:07
DOJ and SEC have collected $137M and released a few details. We now know Alcatel not merely bribed Costa Rican Presidents but also went over the line in Malaysia, Taiwan, Honduras, Kenya, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Angola, Ivory Coast, Uganda and Mali. No senior executives have been criminally charged, although few believe they weren't aware of what was going on - especially Mike Quigley.
    Alcatel's admitted payments are far less than Siemens's bribes and may be smaller than what ZTE was offering in the Philippines. There is no proof that the French government pressured the U.S. There is no evidence that Alcatel Board Member Stuart Eizenstat, long time senior U.S. official, played any role.  People in business "do what they have to do" and are "pragmatists."

    Australian politicians battling the NBN finally realized that NBN head Mike Quigley was in charge of much of Alcatel when the bribes were paid. Mike is a very competent manager and they probably will be reluctant to fire him. He was head of Alcatel Americas, but when I asked Alcatel whether he had responsibility for Central America they refused to give me an answer.  The opposition leader in Parliament just attacked him. Investigations have (finally) begun in Malaysia and other countries.

     Alcatel meanwhile has terminated the use of sales agents and other consultants that are frequently used as middlemen. Maybe that's why they've lost some big contracts in India lately.

      Update: Australia's NBN released a statement: ''Neither Mike Quigley nor Jean-Pascal Beaufret had any involvement in the matters which were the subject of the US Securities and Exchange Commission announcement relating to Alcatel-Lucent'. The actions of Alcatel-Lucent employees detailed in the claim ''fell outside the accountability and jurisdiction of both Mr Quigley and Mr Beaufret.'' Beaufret was Alcatel CFO and now also works for NBN. If Mike didn't know something funny was going on with $10's of millions in his division at Alcatel, NBN should promptly fire him for incompetence. 
Last Updated on Friday, 07 January 2011 03:46
100 Meg Bonded, Vectored: Great in Lab, Still Tough in Field
Wednesday, 22 December 2010 05:48
"We have working chips now," a VP tells me. He's optimistic they'll be able to support actual customers by the second half of 2011. With bonded lines and a fully vectored binder group, they are delivering 100 megabits 1500+ feet. I'll be skeptical of his claim, and all others, until things are truly working. "100 megabits is the sweet spot our clients want to achieve. There are many situations a local box that uses copper for the last 1500-2000 feet is a good decision."

     "I mapped my own neighborhood, a typical suburb, and counted about 300 homes within a 2,000 foot radius. That could be a very cost-effective deployment. We're selling a lot of fiber as well," he added. "Many of the carriers, especially those with a strong community base, are choosing to spend more and bring fiber all the way to homes.  Almost every carrier believes  they have to upgrade one way or the other."

     "Using vectoring to preserve the value of the copper is very attractive but operationally is hard on some carriers. Essentially all of the lines in the binder need to be vectored. The mixed connections in the typical existing plant make that difficult.  The chips are very early and surely will prove to have bugs. We have to do the work to build the boards and systems as well. We're optimistic about late 2011 and pretty sure none of our competitors are ahead."
Last Updated on Saturday, 25 December 2010 13:51
"AT&T effectively overstated earnings by $17B over the past decade or so."
Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:40
AT&T_losses"AT&T effectively overstated earnings by $17B over the past decade or so," Craig Moffet writes, although AT&T announced the writeoff as $2.9B.  Like other companies, they've been using unrealistic assumptions for their pension plan and resisted write-offs for losses. I haven't double checked Craig's $17B estimate, but the amazing $30B lost in 2008 alone makes a high estimate sensible. As far as I know, AT&T financials follow the law and GAAP and are no more abusive than many, many other major companies.

    Randall Stephenson is a very good finance man, but I never imagined he could lose $30B and hide it so effectively most of Wall Street paid no attention. (I missed it too.) AT&T's pension funds lost money massively along with the market, and have only partly recovered. The result of the changes, Moffett believes, is "future long-term earnings will be inflated by writing off in past periods the substantial accumulated actuarial losses that would have otherwise been booked over the next decade."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 January 2011 00:45
50-100 Meg DSL to 80% of Taiwan by 2015
Wednesday, 12 January 2011 17:10

ChunghwaNearly half of Japan's vaunted Fiber to the Home is actually VDSL from a fiber-fed DSLAM in the basement (FTTB.)  Chunghwa Telecom, facing 50+ meg cable competition, is building a similar network. They just raised the top speed from 20 to 50 megabits on their FTTB service. FTTB now serves 1.8M customers, half of their total customer base (Taiwan Economic News,) and they committed to bringing 50 & 100 meg to 80% of the island in the next four years.

      Pricing is keeping most customers at lower speeds, however. Fewer than 1 in 10 homes are willing to pay US$48 for 20 meg when 3 meg is US$31. This corresponds to patterns across the world. Few are willing to pay more than $5 or $10 additional for speed in 2011.


     Chunghwa is doubling WiFi hotspots to over 20,000, which will take the burden off the spectrum of their wireless metwork. This will have the effect of raising their "effective spectrum." Spectrum itself may be finite, but upgraded equipment, WiFi and femto off load, and additional cell sites can raise the capability of a given amount of spectrum by 5-10 times. Randall Stephenson of AT&T was in D.C. crying he wants more spectrum. I thought to write that story as "Randall to Washington: We Need More Cell Sites & WiFi, Not Spectrum." That would allow thehundreds of megahertz of new spectrum to go to new competitors rather than reinforcing the dominant position of AT&T + Verizon. 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 22:32
World Broadband Q3 508M, Growth Flat
Saturday, 08 January 2011 16:07

Q3 2010 Asia DominatesQ3 broadband net adds were 14.3M to 508M according to the ever-invaluable Point-Topic. That's about 30% of the homes in the world. Developed countries at typically at  Fiona Vanier of Point-Topic notes "Net additions have remained relatively steady after their peak at almost 20 million in Q1 2009." (14M +- 1M). 

    50% (7M) of the new subscribers are in China and South Asia, with both China Telecom and China Unicom over 2M adds for the quarter. South Asia is the big orange blob dominating the chart at the left. China's lead over the U.S. expanded by 4M to about 40M homes, as many as the total in France + Britain. DSL (the big blue area at right) dominates cable by more than 3:1, with small cable shares almost everywhere except the U.S. and Canada. 


      The growth stories outside of China are Brazil and Russia, about 20% per year.  The next chart is the breakdown of the Top 10 broadband countries with three years of data. Here's the press release from Point-Topic and the Broadband Forum, which includes IPTV data. France, followed by rapidly growing China, are the TV leaders. 


Last Updated on Monday, 10 January 2011 00:25
Telcos' Hope: Half of U.S. Getting 20-40 Meg DSL Lines
Thursday, 06 January 2011 13:22
Cable-Telco Market ShareBy yearend 2011, nearly 40M U.S. homes will already been upgraded to 25-50 megabit DSL/FTTN and it is doing remarkably well against cable. AT&T U-Verse is adding 1M customers a year. While cable is pulling ahead in net adds, the change in broadband market share is less than 1% since 2006. It's been 54-55% cable, 44-45% telco for the last four years. 

    Reports that "cable has won" (Jessica Reif Cohen) or of "a looming cable monopoly" (Susan Crawford) are premature. Few customers who can get 6-16 megabit DSL show any urgency to switch to cable for upgraded speeds. Fast DSL and fiber cover almost half the U.S. today and almost 70% in a few years. Shifts to cable in these territories is likely slow.

      A large shift would be a million lines/year above trend to cable over telcos. That would result in cable having a 57-58% share in five years and in the low 60's in ten. That's important, but far from a monopoly. It would require unlikely major strategy moves from the cablecos, not matched by the telcos, to move the needle much further in a decade. In 15-25% of the country, cable may pull away but certainly not a majority.    

Last Updated on Friday, 07 January 2011 14:12
Tom Starr's G.hn Do-Everything Dream Coming Closer
Wednesday, 29 December 2010 00:39
Standing_jaguarThree chipmakers already are doing informal interoperability testing on FPGAs. Lantiq, as you can see from the ads, is ready to ship samples to selected customers in January. At least 7 chipmakers are promising chips this year, including one from mainland China and one from Taiwan. In June, I reported "Three chipmakers have promised to ship samples before the end of the year" and it looks like they are only a quarter or two behind.

camel     G.hn is a home networking chip that works over powerline, coax, CAT5, and telephone wire fast enough for multiple HD streams and more. Michael Weissman, a powerline veteran now at Sigma, tells me that MIMO and improved error correction in G.hn will make multi-HD speeds on powerline reliable around the home http://bit.ly/9z2Hmg .
Last Updated on Monday, 03 January 2011 18:50
Eat My Dust, Set Tops of the World
Friday, 17 December 2010 02:28
The design by Phlippe Starck is gorgeous. What you want is on the screen: Web, Applications, Photos, Television, Videos, Musique and CDs. The easy connection is true difference between the Freebox Revolution from what's currently on offer from carriers throughout the world. It's a set top/gateway that is designed like an iPhone for usability. It has the full flexibility of linux underneath. At 120 euro for an upgrade - or included in the subscription price - it outclasses gateways that cost three times as much. Here in New York, people are already complaining we can't buy one.

     The hardware is also remarkable. It matches the Sony Playstation in many ways and outdoes it in others. The features include:
  • 250 Gig hard drive and an eSATA port for additional high speed drives.
  • Blu-ray disk (Something missing from the XBox and all cable connections I know)
  • Intel's CE1400 four processor chip, fast enough to decode two 1080p HD streams simultaneously. Nilay Patel calls it "insanely powerful." 
  • WiFi 802.11n with 3x3 MIMO. Faster and more reliable than traditional WiFi and generally enough to avoid all wires around the home.
  • Freeplug powerline networking for when WiFi isn't enough
  • Both DSL and fibre connections in the box4 port gigE switch.
  • 8 ports for wireless DECT phones
  • A gyro remote control for games.
  • A simple, easy to use remote for TV

Free even includes an HDMI cable so the electronics store doesn't rip you off by overcharging for the cable. The box itself can manage downloads of http, ftp and torrent without a computer. This means you don't have to waste electricity running your computer for overnight downloads.

Here's the pr.
Last Updated on Saturday, 18 December 2010 17:03
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