Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Netbooks will make smartphones obsolete within 5 years

When people start estimating smartphone sales for the next few years, I am tempted to throw in my own personal prediction: the smartphone will be obsolete in 5 years time and completely replaced by new netbooks that provide an infinitely better experience than smartphones.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

KPN may move beyond FTTH

Last week, I spoke with a couple of Ericsson people. They had a really cool slide of how market shares have moved for all vendors (Ericsson, NSN, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, ZTE, NEC, Cisco, Motorola, Nortel). The X and Y axis represented mobile and fixed sales. Each company was represented by three blobs, representing sales in 2006, 2007 and 2008. By their size and direction, one could tell who is moving where. Curiously, Cisco was regarded purely fixed (not counting the Starent takeover) and in LTE, Ericsson expects to see three winners: Ericsson, Huawei and some third party (I wonder who that could be).

When it came to LTE, they were perfectly clear about what it means: it is the third pipe that we have been talking about for a long time (but not recently). In Ericsson speak, mobile broadband (MBB) is not a complement, but a fully-fledged replacement to fixed NGA networks (helped by releases such as these: 500 Mbps, even if we should not get carried away). And make no mistake: we are talking laptop (or netbook) usage, not an inferior smartphone experience. Of course, MBB requires FTTS (site).

All this may be a blissing to KPN's indecisiveness regarding FTTC and FTTH.
On the side, new service development is notoriously slow, which may contribute to KPN's undecisiveness. One reason is (semi) governmental agencies' unwillingness to move online. A reason behind this, as was stressed in my newspaper this week, is the fact that health workers are paid by the hour. They are completely disincentivised to embrace e-health, because it threatens to make their work much more efficient.
Back to KPN. They bought a 41% stake in the FTTH start-up Reggefiber, and injected their own (few) FTTH projects into it. And now they are trialling both FTTH (through Reggefiber) and FTTC. By the end of the year, they want to decide their strategy going forward, based on these trials. (The Q3 release is due October 27.)

My prediction is: they will freeze the Reggefiber expansion (blaiming it on the financial markets) and move forward with FTTC. And this may be a smart move after all. The original FTTC targets were to bring fiber to 28k street cabinets. And perhaps some of these can also house LTE gear. At the same time, KPN's mobile sites will have to be fiberised as well (it is a well guarded secret how many actually already are).

It also becomes clear why KPN bought the Reggefiber stake: for the good old business reason of taking out a competitor. Remember Nielsen Media Research, once part of VNU, following the exact same strategy by buying start-ups that threatened Nielsen's monopoly on the US TV ratings market. They were never heard of again.

As a result, KPN may be the first operator in the world to actually move beyond FTTH. (So much for those who like to term FTTH not NGA but LGA: last-generation access.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NBN Australia: Alcatel-Lucent's YouTube video

I wonder if Alcatel-Lucent has gotten the order yet ...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Newspaper 2.0

During our FTTH NL 2009 conference, I spoke with a journalist from the NRC newspaper, a 'quality' newspaper in the Netherlands. During my own presentation I claimed that dinosaurs take a long time to die, but in the end they actually do. Think PSTN, CATV, broadcast TV, newspapers. Of course, the man smirked at me 'so my newspaper is going to die'?

Ironically, the very same NRC edition that contained a review of our conference, also carried the news of The Independent closing down. And today, a local newspaper in Leeuwarden is in desperate need of EUR 100m.

Looking a little more closely at the chances of survival for newspapers, it is useful to distinguish between form, content and other services.

  • Paper: clearly on its way out, with Amazon's Kindle going worldwide. Still, nice for specific locations (public transport, restaurants, etc.). In the long run: a typical dinosaur.
  • E-reader: saves newspapers a lot in terms of paper, ink and distribution costs. But who is going to pay? There is some resemblance to the femtocell conundrum. Will the end user be willing to pay for a piece of hardware that saves his provider a lot of money?
  • Netbook: if newspaper companies adjust their websites to the specs of a laptop or netbook, then they won't need to venture into the risky e-reader market. Instead, they could subsidise netbooks. If they make their websites fully for-pay only, they could make an offer to their subscribers: if you give up your print edition, we will give you a netbook and you can download our newspaper every day for a reduced subscription fee. If they score an MVNO deal, they could have the download process automated and performed daily (or even several times a day) over a 2G or 3G connection (cf. Amazon).
  • News: AP, AFP and Reuters aren't going away. Newspapers, relying on printing syndicated news from these sources alone, are on their way out.
  • Background stories, in-depth reporting, interviews: here is where a newspaper's value is, I believe.
Other services:
  • Non-content: My NRC newspaper is venturing into community services that are especially appealing to its rather well-defined demographic: trips, books, CDs. Perhaps these services reduce churn somewhat, but I doubt they add much value.
  • Content: Since newspapers are in the content industry, they could become portals for customised content by adding related content from a variety of sources. They could add books, blogs etc. to their daily newspaper download to the subsidised netbooks or e-readers.
  • Other: newspapers have a billing relation and a more or less well-defined reader demographic, which in theory positions them to become MVNOs or even RSPs on broadband networks.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

2009 Nobel Prize in Physics celebrates fiber optics

The fiber community can be happy. From Nobel Foundation's press release, on this year's Nobel Prize in Physics:

This year's Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded for two scientific achievements that have helped to shape the foundations of today’s networked societies. They have created many practical innovations for everyday life and provided new tools for scientific exploration. In 1966, Charles K. Kao made a discovery that led to a breakthrough in fiber optics. He carefully calculated how to transmit light over long distances via optical glass fibers. With a fiber of purest glass it would be possible to transmit light signals over 100 kilometers, compared to only 20 meters for the fibers available in the 1960s. Kao's enthusiasm inspired other researchers to share his vision of the future potential of fiber optics. The first ultrapure fiber was successfully fabricated just four years later, in 1970.

Today optical fibers make up the circulatory system that nourishes our communication society. These low-loss glass fibers facilitate global broadband communication such as the Internet. Light flows in thin threads of glass, and it carries almost all of the telephony and data traffic in each and every direction. Text, music, images and video can be transferred around the globe in a split second.

If we were to unravel all of the glass fibers that wind around the globe, we would get a single thread over one billion kilometers long – which is enough to encircle the globe more than 25 000 times – and is increasing by thousands of kilometers every hour.