Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rotterdam Fiber Lab: KPN, Daily Media

Today I attended Rotterdam Fiber Lab 2009, hosted by OBR (the Rotterdam city department in charge of the local munifiber network, and other assets) and R-IX (the Rotterdam Internet Exchange). Speakers included Ed Vermeulen (director of KPN Glas, the service provider on KPN’s FTTH networks), Hans Appel (CTO at Sun) and Gert Suur (CEO at Daily Media, the media center company). Here are some highlights, with comments. Make no mistake, Ed Vemeulen’s statements need a lot of clarification. Read all about it at my employer’s site.

Ed Vermeulen, KPN:
  • Almere has 230 homes connected. COMMENTS: We hear about delays all the time, in Almere, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. These reports remain unconfirmed, however. Earlier this week, OBR said (in a local paper) that it plans to pass 60k more homes in Rotterdam in 2009. They should do better marketing, because for as far as I know, this is double the amount they mentioned last summer.
  • In a different town, probably smaller but not mentioned by name, KPN started the roll-out of FTTH 8 weeks ago. It has reached a penetration rate of 16% and an ARPU of EUR 58. Line loss was reverted to a gain of 5% (instead of the national KPN average of -2%). Almost 100% of the target group now has single access share. COMMENTS: Is the penetration a % of homes passed or of the entire town? People need to take the full triple play, costing 65, 80 or 110 EUR/mo, so how they arrive at 58 is a mystery for now (promotions?). Also, no wonder the target group has a ‘single access share’ of nearly 100% (meaning: they cancelled other subscriptions, such as ADSL and cable?).
  • As usual, FTTH (dedicated, max in the multiple Gb/s) was promoted relative to cable (shared, max at 400-800 Mb/s). COMMENT: In the end, every network is shared, because traffic is assembled at a certain point anyway. FTTH is the end-game to most, except for NLkabel (they believe coax is comparable for the local loop) and possibly John Cioffi (the DSL godfather). Everybody else, including many cablecos, acknowledge FTTH is the end-game.
  • The KPN strategy has 3 steps: 1. Get ready (2008), 2. Trials in 2 x 5 towns (2009), 3. Decision on nationwide roll-out (June/July 2009). COMMENTS: So far, KPN said they were building in 5 towns, now the number miraculously seems to have doubled. Ed Vermeulen appears to be a true FTTH aficionado. He showed a very cool promo, that I suppose is used at demo sessions in the towns where KPN is rolling out. Only one thing may delay KPN’s nationwide FTTH roll-out: the sale of its MDF locations (as part of the All-IP project); the proceeds are meant to finance the FTTH roll-out.
  • KPN strategy per area: 1. Awareness (promotion), 2. Physical presence, 3. Frontline activation (roll-out). They distinguish residentials (families; elderly; singles & couples; youth) and city stakeholders (sports clubs; schools; banks; libraries; councilors). COMMENT: I suppose the relevance of the latter is to attract anchor tenants, which helps a lot when trying to make the business model work.
  • Q (from the audience): What happened to KPN; they promised so much over the past few years but delivered so little? Are they re-monopolizing? A: I can only speak for myself. The network is completely open, we invite everybody to provide services. What counts, is the utility rate. COMMENTS: KPN needs to be more clear about the 3-layer model. Yes, they will be a monopolist on the passive layer (apart from the omnipresent cable network), but as long as regulation results in decent wholesale tariffs: who cares? Why don’t cable companies start providing services over KPN FTTH, instead of complain all the time over KPN’s abuse of market power? Generally, cable suffers a very bad image in the consumer market. KPN however has an equally bad image in the professional market: slow; indecisive; unreliable, etc. As to the utility rate: this is the first time I heard a fiberguy explicitly mention the term. I suppose he reads this blog.

Hans Appel, CTO:

  • Young people have 4 screens to the world (not the usual 3): mobile device, desktop, TV and car.
  • Unfortunately, the Woodstock generation (baby boomers) is running the world. They should take a look at how Generation Y (millennials) live.
  • Recommended book: Thomas L. Friedman – Hot, Flat and Crowded.
  • Sensors are Appel’s pets, his views are developed in CENSI. Sort of M2M communications to make this world a better place. Green isn’t just about green datacenters, please!

Gert Suur, Daily Media:

  • I wrote about them several times before, so here are just the interesting bits.
  • Essential to the business model and big differentiator to similar media center boxes: free to the consumer; no subscription fees; independent from any cable company or IPTV provider; extreme ease-of-use, including single sign-on and PIN for VoD rentals; content providers (also very small ones) can interact directly with consumers and don’t need a cableco (it’s a platform!); 1.5 Mb/s connection suffices (and 8 Mb/s for HD). COMMENTS: the Netherlands were a box-less nation for a long time. The advent of digital TV changed this, over the last few years. Now however, people may end up with a multitude of boxes: a STB from their cableco, a media center and (next year or so) a femtocell. Why not integrate all that hardware, and use it for new services? I think Daily Media should pitch this idea at box manufacturers, including Cisco, Tandberg and Ubiquisys. Also: cablecos very unjustly fear VoD income cannibalization; they control the margin themselves, Daily Media doesn’t necessarily make a difference.
  • No hard disk, so no piracy issues (no room to store any downloaded content), no security issues, very fast re-start should the box crash (which it actually did during the demo).
  • Innovation: a PC-based version sans box will be coming; Traffic Radio (started by entrepreneur Erik de Zwart) has launched, but is not available on cable; direct sales to consumers could start to happen once the box has HDMI connectivity. COMMENT: I strongly believe they should do the latter, taking their future into their own hands. Several people in the audience were interested in getting one, forcing Mr. Suur to reply: “It’s not for sale.” How do you like that?!?


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