Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What if Netflix switched form pigeons to postage?

Comcast versus Level 3 has been widely covered, with great articles on Ars Technica, GigaOm and others. Fundamental questions include:
  • Is it about peering? And then: is traffic direction relevant at all?
  • Is it about competition, or lack thereof? And then: does an ISP hold a monopoly on 'termination'?
  • Is it about net neutrality? And then: is it about Netflix, which has a new deal with Level 3? And: is it about Comcast's NBC takeover?
  • Who should pay: Netflix, Level 3, Comcast, or the consumer? And then: should anyone of these be paid twice?
  • Is it all about opinions, or is there some way to look at it in an neutral and objective manner?
If it is left to the market entirely, then there shouldn't be any one player with siginificant market power. And if so, regulation must be put in place. Hence, there is a reason for regulators to look at the Internet on a global level.

Some people say that ultimately Netflix needs to pay. The trouble is however: they are paying already (to Level 3). For argument's sake, let's just suppose that Netflix was originally in the DVD rental business, making use of UPS. Unfortunately, Reed Hastings, a former door-to-door salesman, mistook UPS (United Pigeon Service) for USPS. Now, Reed has the brilliant idea of switching to the genuine USPS, which will make his service a lot cheaper, faster and more secure. What do you suppose will happen? Will USPS be thrilled to get this wonderful big new customer? Get all the extra revenue from increased traffic, i.e. return envelopes? Or will they complain, saying: "You can't use my boxes without paying." Not likely, as long as Netflix pays postage itself and/or delivers its DVDs to the post office.

In the Internet world, ISPs charge consumers; if they feel it isn't enough, they can raise prices, or try out new pricing models - assuming that there is sufficient competition (which is doubtful in the US). But they shouldn't use their termination monopoly to also charge upstream parties. In fact, without these upstream providers, not a single consumer would be interested in any of these fancy broadband packages in the first place. ISPs should be thrilled to be able to deliver streaming movies to their customers.

And yes, replacing networks is expensive. Migration to FTTH (not to be confused with evolutionary upgrades using xDSL or Docsis X) is a once-in-a-century drama. It requires a capex boost, which creates a singularity in the otherwise predictable free cash flows and dividend payments. So for once, telcos are required to take a long-term view, instead of the short-term focus on progressively growing dividends (and share buy-backs). But that doesn't mean that they should turn to upstream parties for increased payments.

That leaves telcos with the difficult task of explaining to shareholders that free cash flow is going to suffer for a while. But the good news is that the NGA network is a lot more efficient and green than the old one.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Intel's hybrid STB customers racing for a pre-Holiday launch

Google TV is out on a Logitech box and a Sony TV and Blu-ray player. In an information alert, In-Stat's Gerry Kaufhold mentions video quality issues (frame rate, no support for WMV or DTS, limited storage) and content blocking (ABC, NBC, CBS, others).

Content seems to be the least of their problems. The other issues are much deeper, could involve memory leaks, and are probably behind the ongoing delays that have plagued both Boxee (slated for November 10) and Yuixx (which is aiming for a pre-Holiday launch as well) - and most other Intel customers.

The race is still on, especially among the dozen (?) or so Intel customers, to get a hybrid STB out onto the market beyond a prototype or demonstration. And it's not just the software, it's DRM, content, distribution and a bunch of licenses (Dolby, DTS, etc.) as well that need to be taken care of.

Check out our coverage of OTT. Free commentaries (updated April 20, 2011):

Connected TV brings new competitor for operators: CE manufacturers (April 20, 2011)

Hollywood struggles with broadcast rights and the iPad (April 4, 2011)

Amazon takes Lovefilm out of DECE, launches own cloud service (March 29, 2011)

Entertain Sat: Deutsche Telekom and SES Astra's clever cooperation (March 1, 2011)

Broadcast TV resurgent, but OTT players add a little extra (February 25, 2011)

Vodafone Germany's hybrid STB offers little to distinguish it (February 17, 2011)

Ziggo feels the heat and looks to spark up connected TV (February 3, 2011)

Connected TV puts network operators to work (January 21, 2011)

Microsoft, Google, Nokia Siemens trail the Connected TV market at CES

French govt should ask why Sony hasn't contributed to the cost of the electricity network

Google TV frustrated by Hollywood

TiVo transforms iPad into 2nd screen with a remote control

Google TV takes on the couch potato

BBC can enforce Net Neutrality through sheer market power

Belgacom takes new steps in expanding IPTV services

Is KPN planning its own version of UPC's Horizon box?

Nimbuzz versus Skype, Google versus ABC

Network pressure from Netflix shows success of OTT video

YTL, Sezmi bring quad-play with OTT over Wimax in Malaysia

Cisco's umi and Logitech's Revue: two new connected devices

Google TV marks important step with content deals

Battle starts for OTT market

Apple's iTV heats up competition on OTT market

Your.TV: waiting for DRM, content and distribution deals

Intel looks to break open connected TV market

ltra-Violet: the virtual successor to Blu-ray

Google optimises YouTube for mobile and TV

Can Google, Apple and Philips beat UPC and Telstra?

Google, Sony and Intel enter the living room

Time's running out for operators that want to profit from OTT

Metrological develops strong position on OTT market

Google targets operator market again with TV plans

Qualcomm hints at multi-function media gateway

Convergence expands to the TV

Liberty Global hints at consolidation, OTT box

Who's going to bring OTT content to the TV?

Apple poses threat to cable sector

And a series of Research Briefs:

Defining Connected TV

Three reasons for operators to launch OTT services

Google TV: lots to offer

OTT: distribution as a scenario for operators

Connected TV allows operators to benefit from OTT content

And the Global Connected TV 2011 report:

Global Connected TV 2011

Google doc: still not doing evil

Entertaining documentary on Google's history, right up to Google TV. Ken Auletta talking about copyright, privacy and power, but otherwise quite laudatory on Brin's and Page's idealistic motivations.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

HFC: lines are 97% fiber, but route km just 6%

Claims from the cable industry concerning the amount of fiber in their networks (97%) are realistic and unrealistic at the same time. It all depends on your perspective. If you are an end-user, the claim is defensible. If you own the network and think in terms of route kilometers, you will agree that it's not, because just 20% is fiber (source: FTTH Platform NL). In reality, this number is even worse and closer to just 6% (an informed source tells me).

End-user perspective
Cable operators in the Netherlands claim that 97% of their network is fiber. This would be the portion of the network (line) between your home and the Internet. The last mile is on average 300 meters (in the Netherlands). If the signal travels over non-fiber, this may function as a bottleneck, but over short distances like these (or 90 meters in early FTTH deployments, which were in fact FTTC) its doesn't really matter that much. In fact, in-home networking at 10 meters can be just as much as of a bottleneck.

Once this bottleneck needs to be taken out, fiber needs to be extended to let's say the home's WiFi router. And an interesting argument for this is gaining importance: the number of connected devices (directly or via WiFi) is exploding:
  • Computer (desktop, laptop)
  • Connected TV, hybrid STB
  • Blu-ray player
  • Game console
  • Smartphone, iPhone
  • LiveView (Sony Ericsson's new 'data pager')
  • E-reader, Kindle, Nook
  • iPad, notebook, tablet, netbook, smartbook, speedbook, booklet, ....
  • Femtocell
  • umi (Cisco's video calling box)
Network-owner perspective
Once the cable operator decides to extend fiber to each subscriber, he will realise that he will need to dig a lot more than just 3%. UPC NL (2,777,300 homes passed) and Ziggo (4,107,000 homes passed) would probably need to spend FTTH-like amounts of cash, say 800 EUR/home. That translates into EUR 2.2 billion for UPC and EUR 3.3 billion for Ziggo. Large sums for their controlling (Liberty Global owns UPC) and prospective (Ziggo's IPO may come in 2011) shareholders to reckon with.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

FTTH is sooo 200x - Connected TV is sooo 201x

Graph on Google Trends, comparing searches for Connected TV vs. FTTH

Monday, September 13, 2010

Google TV meets Google Fiber and YouTube Live

This is an update to the series of posts on Google Fiber, which ended up focusing on two key characteristics of several NGA networks:
  • 1 Gb/s. The 100 Mb/s bar is gradually being left behind (Docsis 3 doing 120, Comcast 105, Bell Aliant 170) and there are several 1 Gb/s services around now. Most recently, it was launched by EPB Fiber Optics of Chattanooga (Tennessee). It comes at 350 $/mo. Other 1 Gb/s service news relates to Costa Rica and Hong Kong.
  • Open access. Wholesale-only business models are springing up rapidly. LightSquared (US) and CenterNet/Mobyland (Poland) are planning LTE networks, Allied Fiber is into fiber backhaul, the Australian NBN is making progress, so is the New Zealand UFB network, while eircom is planning trials and Covage is rolling out in France.
In the meantime, Google is trialing Live on YouTube (live streaming), while ever more details are made public on Google TV. Google TV is to launch in the Fall, Google Fiber will be decided (perhaps with a shortlist as an intermediate step) by year-end. It is therefore supporting to see 1 Gb/s and open access proliferate, while YouTube is expanding its options:
  • YouTube Leanback is an optimised version for Google TV.
  • YouTube.com/movies will offer movies.
  • YouTube HD was launched some time ago.

This is our 1,000th post, which coincides nicely with all the 1,000 Mb/s news.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Google's Acquisitions

Cool graph from Scores.org.
See also:

Google Acquisitions.

Research by Scores.org

Thursday, August 26, 2010

TD-LTE: an introduction

TD-LTE is an interesting area. Spectrum is cheap and lends itself very well to data traffic. TD-LTE may also present an upgrade path for WiMax, possibly leading to a merger of LTE and WiMax. Touseef Ahmed of Mobile Broadband has been friendly enough to make an intro into the topic, that is presented here as a guest post.

Defining TD-LTE:

LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the fundamental and primary technology for the development of 4G technology, which is an evolution of 3G networks. TDD (Time Division Duplex) version of LTE is called TD-LTE. It was developed by China Mobile in the recent years.

TD-LTE explained:

TD-LTE allows carriers to make use of unpaired spectrum that many of them already own. Compared to the previous standards GSM, EDGE, etc., TD-LTE's commercial release time period is very short, due to its later addition into the standards.

There are some essential similarities and differences between TD-LTE and classic LTE. Basically LTE has the following characteristics:

  • Much faster upload and download speeds than the 3G.
  • It can reach download speeds of over 150 Mbit/s and upload speeds of over 80 Mbits/s.
  • It has a larger cell size where a single LTE cell tower can cover upto 100km. Although its size will be greatly diminished in urban areas, it is still a lot better than 3G.
  • It can easily be upgraded as it was developed with the intention of making the implementation of upgrades easier down the line.
  • It has a great advantage of being compatible with existing standards.

Differences and similarities between LTE and TD-LTE:

  • They run on different bands of wireless spectrum. But the part of spectrum that carries the TD-LTE signal is a lot cheaper and has much less traffic.
  • LTE and TD-LTE are so similar that both the networks can be accessed by the same chip, which is easier for handset manufacturers.
  • 4G, WiMAX standards are not compatible with LTE, but compatible with TD-LTE.

TD-LTE technical specifications:

  • TD-LTE is specified to operate in the frequency range of 1850 to 2620 MHz.
  • It uses the same MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) scenarios.
  • There are two frame configurations, each with an overall length of 10 milliseconds and divided into 10 subframes as shown in the figure above.
  • That is, the transmitted signal is organized into subframes of 1 millisecond.
  • There is only one single carrier frequency and the transmissions (uplink and downlink) in the cell are always separated in time.

TD-LTE frame structures (see figure above):

  • The 5ms version has two special subframes when compared to one in the 10ms version which provides greater chances of uplink/downlink flexibility.
  • The frame can be dynamically configured to any one of the above depending upon the transmission requirement.
  • Each one millisecond downlink subframe contains blocks of data called “Resource Blocks” meant for a number of different users.
  • Uplink subframe contains blocks of data from the users to the Base Station.
  • The specified latency time is 5 ms or only half a frame for small data packets.
  • The current system is made such that the stationary or pedestrian users or the low speed users experience operations done at the highest speed.
Advantages of TD-LTE:

  • There is no need to develop new devices for using TD-LTE. It's enough to add TD-LTE support to the existing devices.
  • There is a lot of TDD spectrum available and it is cheap in cost.
  • The increasing availability allows transition of WiMAX (Worldwide interoperability for Microwave Access) operators to TD-LTE using the same allocated spectrum.
  • Industry commitment is great without any limitations.
Future of TD-LTE:

TD-LTE will bring in new challenges to developers and vendors of design. New schemes, new configurations, higher system bandwidths, higher system capacity, lower latency are some of the expected challenges. There is a prediction that there will be 30 to 80 million subscribers and over £70 billion in operator revenues within 5 years.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

FTTH and LTE help increase focus on wholesale

Three weeks of holidays create a truck load of catching up to do. Results, LTE, MVNO, FTTH, VoIP, WiMAX - every possible new item crossed our mail boxes. They can best be categorised at the next higher level: Corporate, NGN, Wholesale and OTT.

  • Results: incumbents (KPN, DT, BT, Telefonica, Belgacom, FT, Bell Aliant), mobile (Sprint), cablecos (Liberty Global, Telenet, Ziggo, Virgin Media, ONO, Comcast).
  • Financing: Reggefiber got its desired EUR 130m loan from the EIB.
  • IPO: Skype's $100m plan.
  • M&A: possible buyers (Telefonica, PT, Vodafone, FT, TI) and sellers (PT, TI, Vodafone).
  • FTTH: lots of deployments announced (inclusing China and India).
  • NBNs and NBPs: Australia expands coverage plans to 93%, New Zealand receives 15 bids, the US awards another round of funds.
  • LTE: several deployments announced.
  • 4G: Clearwire moving closer to switching from WiMAX to LTE and the WiMAX2 standard gets ready for a 2012 launch.
  • 1 Gbps: several MSO and telcos are now going beyond 100 Mbps, while ever more are eying 1 Gbps as the new frontier for bandwidth.
  • Structural separation: proposal from Telecom NZ in order to be able to bid for the Crown Fibre plan.
  • MVNO: KPN reports success with foreign MVNO operations (2G, 3G); Econet plans launch on the Everything Everywhere network (3G); Best Buy will do the same on the Clearwire network (WiMAX); Airspan is LightSquared's first wholesale customer (LTE); Tele2 NL started offering CATV on the networks of Ziggo and UPC (analogue TV); Chile considers a wholesale-only network (mobile and digital TV).
  • BT was not allowed to raise wholesale prices to help stem the pension fund deficit.
  • Apps: Google ended the development of Google Wave and acquired Slide; Samsung announced a developer contest.
  • Net neutrality: Google and Verizon struck an agreement.
  • Hybrid TV: Apple was rumoured to rework Apple TV into iTV, Cox partnered with TiVo and the Virgin UK/TiVo partnership added Cisco.
  • The focus in the sector is shifting to Wholesale and OTT; FTTH and LTE are ongoing; wholesale is established as an important new business.
  • M&A is focused on emerging markets, esp. Latam.
  • Many incumbent telcos are still assembling global empires in order to be able to show growth. KPN is continuing on the wholesale path for growth.
  • A telecoms network can be looked at as a vital piece of national infrastructure. If structurally separated, its cash flows can be seen as a vital element of the governments budget (incl. retirement funding).
  • Cablecos are outperforming telcos. If you split the business three ways, it becomes clear why. 1. Connectivity (access): Docsis 3 outperforms xDSL and provides cable with a growth engine. Utility rates are close to 80% in the Netherlands, still much higher than FTTH's. 2. Communication: a nice add-on for growth and loyalty, hitting incumbent telcos in their hearts. 3. VAS (incl. content): here cable is the incumbent and benefits from a considerable head-start on multiple fronts (network, digital services, content deals). The foremost risks include FTTH and non-linear TV/hybrid TV/OTT.
  • NGNs (FTTH, LTE) are exploring their advantages: 1. Maximum symmetrical bandwidth. 2. Lowest opex, highest score on the green scale. 3. Options for open access and wholesale.
  • OTT is a complex and uncertain field, but hybrid TV seems to be a promising direction.
Final conclusion: while areas such as Latam may provide telcos with some more growth, wholesaling (open access) appears to be the way to maximise the value of a network. FTTH and LTE carry the lowest possible technology risk. OTT is a promising but complex development.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Smart grid proponents have some explaining to do

We are doing a new broadband conference October 13, after an FTTH conference (September 2009) and a mobile broadband conference (June 2010). The program isn't finalised yet, but one of the thing to look forward to is smart grid and smart metering. Hopefully somebody will teach us the value of these things, because I haven't been convinced yet. In fact, I am inclined to be an opponent, as I will explain here. Since I am probably not alone erring, I hope an expert speaker will address these points:

1. Burning oil (or corn) has three issues:
a. CO2 is released, which probably causes the greenhouse effect and as a consequence forces rapid climate change upon us.
b. Oil is scarce. Burning it will only make matters worse, driving up prices and making us ever more dependent on undemocratic countries for our oil supply. Burning corn or the like is just a stupid idea, not worth elaborating on.
c. Oil is scarce, even at times (such as in the middle of the night) when there is a temporary oversupply.

2. It is in our nature to try and drive up the efficiency of oil burning and usage. People are inventing smart grids, hybrid cars and are teaching us to unplug unused battery chargers. In itself, there is nothing wrong with increasing efficiency, but at the same time, three new issues arise:
a. Focus remains on burning oil, instead of developing new and truly green sources.
b. The efficiency efforts themselves require a lot of energy and oil burning.
c. It is naive to think that enabling consumers to monitor their usage will make them more frugal or efficient. Human nature doesn't work that way.

When it comes to business decisions, it is wise to sweat your assets and squeeze every penny out of them (as in copper networks). Oil is another matter however and we need to switch over to new sources sooner rather than later. It looks like we need to stop thinking in terms of increasing efficiency. We should be more ambitious and develop new sources that provide us with an abundance of energy. Energy shouldn't be scarce any more than bandwidth.

I can't wait for the expert to address these issues.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Australian NBN trials apps for FTTH

The Australian NBN is trialing applications to run over the new network in NSW. Finally stuff other than Internet access requiring OA FTTH! Here's what they will ofer 40 trial homes in the Parkbruidge Estate. Teleworking seems to be missing; the services being trialed can definitely be expanded; but smart metering - who buys that?
  • Smart metering (with Integral Energy). "Allow families and business to track their energy consumption in real time and adjust energy use accordingly". This is the one application that nobody has been able to convince me about (see next post).
  • Touch screen communication (by Smart Services Cooperative Research Centre and Consult Point). Basically e-health/e-care. For elderly and young children.
  • Virtual world learning environment (by Smart Services CRC and NSW Department of Education and Training): An e-learning app.
  • HD Internet TV (by NICTA and Opticomm). Basically a hybrid STB. You can wonder why they do not partner with Google TV or another existing player in the connected TV/hybrid TV/OTT market.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Google TV: what will the UI look like?

Connected TV, OTT content, hybrid STBs: success is largely dependent on the UI. According to this article, the Xbox is going 'Minority Report'. And in this article, Yahoo! talks about the UI for Yahoo! TV.

In theory, it's a mixture of a lare range of building blocks:
  • Remote control, keyboard, mouse
  • (Multi-)touch screen
  • Camera, gesture-based control
  • Menus, search
  • Recommendation engines, social media
  • Personalisation
  • Widgets, widget channels, app stores
  • Accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS
  • Voice control
  • ??
Google TV is keeping all its options open, for the moment. Read more about is over here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kabel Noord: the case for open access

Cable company Kabel Noord is a darling among fiber aficionados because of its commitment to FTTH. It is therefore gratifying to see that their 2009 results seem to reflect both FTTH and open access - to a limited degree.

Kabel Noord is quite small, with just 29k homes passed in the north east of Frisia (including two islands). While the company is behind Ziggo and UPC in terms of margins, free cash flow generation, ARPU and the roll-out of telephony services, it has taken a lead on the broadband market in terms of penetration.

For a review and comparison with Ziggo and UPC, read this article (subscription required).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

After 3-D comes 4K

If you think 3-D is the end of video developments, you should have been at last week's Mediapark Jaarcongres 2010 in Hilversum. 3-D, 4K and holography were hot topics.

First 3-D. Phil Lelyveld of the Consumer 3D Experience Lab in Los Angeles explained why headaches and nausea are issues for 3-D. The focus point is by definition on the screen, but looking at two different images at the same time makes our eyes converge at a different point, either in front of or behind the screen. This creates the 3-D experience, but for some it is hard for the head or the stomach. Hence, 3-D is to be applied in a moderate way and Phil recommends not too many images where the convergence point is way in front of the screen.

Then holography. There was some talk about Japan trying to organise the 2022 Soccer World Cup, in which case they would have holographic projections of each match in soccer stadiums around the country.

Finally 4K. If television develops from black & white to color to widescreen to HD to 3-D, then 4K could be the next step. Back in 2004, this article in the New York Times described MGM's efforts digitising analogue films in the 4K standard. The 4K standard is experimented on by CineGrid in the Netherlands, working with SURFnet and other partners. Fiber is explicitly mentioned as the medium of choice, because of the excessive data rate. Images are 4x sharper than in 3-D (i.e. a 4,096 x 2,160 resolution) and sound is recorded in 16 channels. According to this leaflet, 1.5 hours of video would require 750 DVDs or 3.5 TB of data. Each frame would be the equivalent of up to 50 MB, not mentioning what the 16 sound channels require. It was stated that a 4K stream would require a massive 8 Gb/s download speed for streaming (uncompressed), or close to 1 Gb/s (compressed). So that looks like a cinema experience, rather than a home cinema experience for now. Coincidentally, a few days ago a new 4K recording was made of Viktoria Mullova, playing JS Bach in the Holland Festival.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Nokia's first step

This pedal-powered charger from Nokia is nice, but they need to think on a much bigger scale.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

First the Why, then the How and last the What

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chrome faster than what?!?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

FTTH Netherlands 2010: report now available

The new FTTH Netherlands 2010 report can be ordered here. Hope to see you September 22 at our Broadband Netherlands 2010 conference.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

FTTH Netherlands report: 2009-2014

Our new FTTH NL 2010 report is out! Buy one and get a free pass to our Broadband NL 2010 conference (September 22). Almost 50 pages - it's a bargain.

Some highlights:
  • Reggefiber may have a majority market share, but there's lots of interesting stuff going on at a dozen newcomers and indie operators.
  • Structural separation comes in any thinkable flavour (exception: no company rolls out the passive network and provides services, without also acting as an operator). The market is embracing all 6 other varieties without any external pressure.
  • It doesn't take outrageously positive thinking to see penetration reach some pretty decent levels by 2014.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Intel's new CE4100: re-invent the TV

Intel demonstrated a new media box integrating broadcast and broadband at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing. It was developed by Intel's CE group. The user interface looks great: a remote control plus on-screen widgets in a Media Wheel (DVR access), a Media Wall (recorded and personal content) and a Channel Wheel (linear broadcast content via broadcast and broadband). The CE4100 is more powerful than the CE3100, allowing you to see so many thumbnails plus great response times.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reggefiber lauches 200/200 Mbps in Zeewolde

For our Dutch readers: Reggefiber's Gaby ter Keurs on the launch of the Zeewolde network (penetration 70%) offering 200/200 Mbps. Total subs 150k.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

FTTH adoption curve steeper than copper or coax

Highlights from RVA's report for the FTTH Council North America on the state of FTTH (not including FTTC, FTTN, FTTB) as of March 31, 2010:
  • 8.2m homes passed (o/w 99% in US for a 16% percent penetration).
  • 17.0m homes marketed.
  • 5.8m homes connected (o/w RBOCS 4.3m, o/w Verizon majority, >750 providers rest; penetration 5% in US).
  • Take rate 34.1% (Verizon 29.5%, non-Verizon 52%).
  • Adoption faster (at peak 250%) than copper (peak 76%) or coaxial (peak 125%).
  • 65.7% of ILECs not involved in FTTH yet are 'very likely' to do so in future.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Google's social energy: Fiber to the home trainer

It's never easy to predict Google's next move (unless it was a move into the TV market). Maybe we are ready for social energy, or a truly smart grid.

There must be an awful lot of energy waisted on home trainers, such as rowing machines. Now suppose they could be made to deliver energy to the electricity grid, in much the same way that solar panels do. That would save us some electric power and CO2 emissions, but it also opens the door to a sweet new application that brings a lot of Google stuff together:
  • Google PowerMeter: see what you consume and what you deliver to the grid. Have a go at it to see if you can power your own dish washer during use.
  • Games: this is new to Google, but they have now joined with Nintendo for a Wii game. Imagine doing a regatta against anybody in the world.
  • Google Wave: to get organised, you can make arrangements for a global regatta with all your friends, using this communication tool.
  • Google Talk/Google Voice, or a new voice app: of course, you need to be able to talk to your opponent. Or you need a referee to tell everybody when to start.
  • Google TV: if you want pictures too.
  • Google Fiber: if you want to see each other's sweat, you need fiber.
  • Google Docs: keep the score in a shared file.
  • etc.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Integrated operators should be prohibited to provide VAS

Some traditional network operators claim that open access (unbundling or WBA) is not necessary to establish competition, since subscribers are free to choose any over-the-top service they like. Sounds crazy, buy maybe it can be made to work.

The familiar 3 layer model (passive, active, services) can be extended by splitting the lowest and the highest levels:
  • Layer 0: trenches, ducts, PoPs
  • Layer 1: fiber
  • Layer 2: equipment
  • Layer 3: access services
  • Layer 4: value-added over-the-top (OTT) services
Both at the lower end and at the higher end, this raises problems: natural monopoly and net neutrality, respectively.

Few people will maintain that multiple fiber networks can be laid in a financially viable way. You don't want to build a complete network for a 50% (or even 33%) maximum penetration. Hence, the natural monopoly.

Also, few people see OTT as a viable model for competition. They want open access at layer 1, 2 or 3. The trouble is: the network owner competes with the OTT players, but has all the goodies (billing relation, presence and location information). OTT players have one big asset only: brand name. Hence the net neutrality issue.

Suppose the natural monopoly would lead to a single vertically integrated network, with competition played out only at the OTT layer, then net neutrality issues can be resolved by prohibiting the network operator of providing any value-added services (VAS) - just basic Internet access, which is not a VAS but a basic access service (although business providers usually describe it as a VAS). In other words, a monopoly operator should be prohibited to provide any broadcast, video or voice services. Or spin-off the services devision; not Internet access, but just the VAS and content services.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Google Fiber update #11: over 1,100 communities

Product manager James Kelly for the Google Fiber project through a blog post communicates that over 1,100 communities have responded to the RfI, issued February 10. "Over the coming months, we'll be reviewing the responses to determine where to build. As we narrow down our choices, we'll be conducting site visits, meeting with local officials and consulting with third-party organizations. Based on a rigorous review of the data, we will announce our target community or communities by the end of the year."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Google Fiber update #10: Candidate cities, towns, counties and states

This is the latest overview of Google Fiber candidates for today's deadline:
  • 233 entries across 45 states/territories.
  • States/territories: Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Washington DC.
  • States absent: Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, New Hamspire, North Dakota, Wyoming.
My guess: Jackson, Mississippi.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Google Fiber update #9: Wrap-up

Here's a follow-up to the Google Fiber coverage - and I'm sure we are missing a lot. Tomorrow is the deadline: March 26.

Open access. In the Netherlands, a Task Force of the Ministry of Economic Affairs recommended municipal funding to be granted to open access networks only.

1 Gb/s. Ars Technica has an article on the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Its open access point-to-point network is in fact a trial similar to Google's, running for one year. CPE is from Netherlands-based Genexis.

Cities. Since our previous update, we picked up another 32 towns planning an application. Multiple towns from California, Arizona, Michigan, Idaho, Iowa, Alaska, Georgia, Washington. Most conspicuous are Milwaukee and Detroit.

Overview. Looking back, we counted around 190 towns across 40 states/territories, as well as several counties and entire states/territories (Hawaii, Washington DC, Michigan, New York). States missing in the list are: Arkansas, Delaware, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Wyoming. States contributing the largest number of towns are:
  • California: 24 (ao San Francisco and several Silicon Valley towns: Cupertino, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale).
  • Michigan: 16 (ao Detroit).
  • North Carolina: 12.
It's anyone's guess now. I suppose Google's Minnie Ingersoll and James Kelly will have a hard time. There are no details yet beyond the original statement. The three states mentioned here may have a slighly higher chance, esp. California being the home state to Google. Apart from that, perhaps a city will be picked that shows a diverse geography and demographic, because Google intends the whole thing to be a trial of changing user habits on the availability of a 1 Gb/s connection. The survey mentioned here doesn't really seem to be relevant.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Smartphone bubble building

Mobile data has now surpassed voice traffic, according to Ericsson. At the same time, NSN reports that mobile broadband can be frustrating, as does Gomez in a whitepaper.

Page-loading can be addressed, but form factor will remain a problem. Up with the netbook/smartbook!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Google Fiber: update #8

Google's Fiber trial plans are drawing to an end. Applications are due March 26.
There are overviews available here and here, but nowhere as extensive as on this blog.

Open access: Not a word in the US National Broadband Plan, but you can read Herman's piece on the Amsterdam case here.

Cities and towns:
  • Michigan: Kalamazoo, Genesee County, Saline/Pittsfield, Ypsilanti, Canton.
  • California: Fresno, Mountain View, Long Beach, Berkeley, San Mateo
  • South Carolina: Spartanburg, Greenville County
  • Virginia: Richmond, Charlottesville
  • New York: Rochester/Monroe County, Tri-Lakes area (Harrietstown, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, North Elba)
  • Massachusetts: Worcester, Shrewsbury, Westborough
  • Indiana: Anderson, Chesterton
  • Other: Gainesville (Fla), Reno/Sparks/Washoe County (Nevada), Apple Valley (Minn), Pleasant Prairie (Wisc), Houston County (Georgia), Vancouver (Wash), West Des Moines (Iowa), Tulsa (Okl), Hickory/Newton/Lenoir (NC), Fort Collins (Col), Park City (Utah)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Google is becoming the Internet

Arbor Networks shows that Google represents more than 6% of all Internet traffic. Over 60% is delivered using direct peering. All that's missing is the last mile, and Google is working on that as well (muniwifi, a stake in WiMax-operator Clearwire, BPL-tests with Current Group, the Google Fiber FTTH project).

Looks like they are becoming the Internet.

Google's three-screen strategy coming together

In January, I wrote about Google's inevitable TV strategy here and here. Today the New York Times reports on plans involving Intel (SoC), Sony (TV, STB), Logitech (remote control) and Dish (test).

For widgets, either Yahoo! or Metrological could be contracted. Yahoo! seems an unlikely Google partner, after the Microsoft search deal.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Google Fiber update #7

Since the previous update, many more cities have launched plans to be included in the Google Fiber trials. A lot of activity in Virginia (Williamsburg, Hampton, Virginia Beach, James City County, York County, Albemarle County and Alexandria (see this post)). The state of Michigan is campaigning, and several towns independently (Birmingham). Next, several towns in Montana (Missoula, Bozeman, Butte), Missouri (Springfield, St Louis), Texas (Woodlands, Longview), North Carolina (New Hanover County, Wilmington), Pennsylvania (Allentown, Bethlehem), Florida (Leesburg, Palm Coast) and Iowa (Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Ames).

Other cities include: Tempe (Ariz), Boulder (Col), Petaluma (Cal), Memphis (Tenn), Bloomington (Ind), Louisville (Ken), Concord (Mass), Garrett County (Md), Galesburg (Ill), Renton (Wash), Gresham (Ore), Morgantown (WVa). In other words: large and small cities alike.

There's a short overview with videos here.

When it comes to 1 Gbps, wireless isn't standing still (see previous post).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

LTE breakthroughs coming

Three simultaneous efforts aimed at bringing about technology breakthroughs in wireless technology. LTE faces an uphill battle, because the shared nature of wireless technology forces upgrades to bring fiber ever closer to subscribers. Unless of course we are having a number of real breakthroughs here. I hope 'breakthrough' is the superlative to 'groundbreaking'.
  • BuNGee, as reported here: "The current next-generation technologies LTE and WiMAX support a mere 100Mbps/Km2 in ordinary cellular deployment. This is insufficient, in particular in dense urban areas where the market demand for wireless broadband access is the highest, thereby seriously jeopardising the wide scale uptake of IMT-Advanced technologies. BuNGee’s goal is to dramatically improve the overall infrastructure capacity density of the mobile network by an order of magnitude (10x) to an ambitious goal of 1Gbps/Km2 anywhere in the cell – thereby removing the barrier to beyond next-generation networks deployment. To achieve this objective, the project will target the following breakthroughs: 1. unprecedented joint design of access and backhaul over licensed and license exempt spectrum;2. unconventional below-rooftop backbone solutions exploiting natural radio isolations;3. beyond next-generation networked and distributed MIMO and interference techniques;4. protocol suite facilitating autonomous ultra-high capacity deployment.
  • NTU-NI Wireless Research Programme, as reported here: "bring the speed and quality of wireless network communications up to par with that of wired communications…[and] to develop wireless devices that offer ultra-high-speed mobile broadband services at virtually zero cost to the user"(...) "develop the next-generation wireless communication technologies which are cheaper, faster, more reliable and more pervasive." "(...) next generation of wireless communication technologies that are able to relay radio signals and scan for available 'holes' in airwaves without interfering with the incumbent users." "This project will not only bring about a technology breakthrough; it will also have a profound impact on current business models and inspire new designs for various wireless applications for the benefit of both mass-market and military users."
  • Alcatel-Lucent announces 'breakthrough innovations in wireless IP' here, for a press conference March 18, "to announce groundbreaking enhancements to its end to end LTE solution".

Verizon responds to ARRA in a predictable way

Dave Burstein reports in his newsletter that Veizon's FiOS buildout 'is dying'. Expansion into new areas is suspended. Verizon now focuses on areas where it already has agreements and expects to reach the 18 million homes passed by year-end 2010 - as promised before.

People are now complaining over being left in the dark, since 10 million Verizon customers may never see FiOS come to their premises. Such as those in Alexandria.

My comments:
  • You can't blame Verizon. This is how listed companies work. They have a focus on the short term. If you don't like it, change the system (ARRA is one answer, nationalisation is another).
  • Verizon is apparently seeking ARRA funds. Again, don't blame them. Looks like a sound business decision. This is exactly what you get when you throw government money at the market: it distorts the market and companies respond in a predictable way.
  • One thing the FCC should be looking at, is promises made by Verizon. In itself, it shouldn't be illegal to brake a promise, unless the promise itself got you funding or something like a regulatory holiday.
  • Another thing the FCC should prevent is Verizon trying to block Alexandria from building munifiber (should they want to), either with ARRA or Google funds.

Friday, March 12, 2010

And now for a word from our sponsor

FTTH is sooooo 2009, so we decided to do FTTO. You can order it here.

FTTO is three things: local access (not long-haul) fiber (not DSL or HFC) to business locations (not homes). We did 12 interviews, covering ~90% of the market. Top-down estimates in volume terms, topics surrounding FTTO and drivers & inhibitors.

Reggefiber's new CHQ

The new corporate headquarters of Reggefiber, located in Rijssen, made to resemble a fibre-optic cable cross-section. The company is named after a small river, the Regge, which flows nearby.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Google Fiber update #6: Duluth Mayor takes a cold dip

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Self-fulfilling prophecy

There's a famous quote, going something like this:

"Isn't it incredible that the news from all over the world always fit exactly into the newspaper?"

That's a reminder for people who claim that there is no need for more bandwidth, because nobody asks for it.

Google Fiber, update #5

Cities: Since the previous update, many more cities have sought publicity over Google's fiber plan:
  • In California (Merced, Ventua, Chico, Rancho Cucamonga), Massachusetts (Newburyport, Brookline, Fitchburg), Wisconsin (Superior, Appleton), New York (Tompkins County, Rochester), Michigan (Lansing, Flint), New Jersey (Jersey City, Montclair).
  • As well as Lehi (Utah), Burlington (Vt), Huntsville (Ala), Twin Ports (Minn), Palm Bay (Fla), Quincy (Ill), Des Moines (Iowa), Johnson City (Tenn), Prince George (Wash), Omaha/Council Bluffs (Nebr/Iowa), Columbia (Missouri), Bristol (CT), Asheville (NC).
Open access: Telecom NZ's former CEO, Theresa Gattung, has written a book on the events leading up to her departure in 2007, after the government forced separation between network (Chorus) and services. It will be published by Random House March 12. I wonder what went wrong there ....

Name changes: The Topeka Golden Giants changed their name to Google Golden Giants for the month of March. And the city itself wants to be known as Google, Kansas, for the same period. Sarasota (Fla) wouldn't stay behind and renamed City Island Google Island. Rancho Cucamonga (see above) finally is also in for a name change: Rancho Googlemonga.

Background stories: The subject is picking up steam, running up to the March 26 closing date for applications. See Ars Technica, Business Week.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Google Fiber update #4: coming to Holland?

The latest developments around the four pillars of Google's OA FTTH trial plans.

  1. Technology. Costas has a funny map, turning PON upside down. Meanwhile, Cisco is preparing an event March 9 for a "significant announcement that will forever change the Internet and its impact on consumers, businesses and governments". According to the Financial Times, they are working with US carriers. Would that be exclusive arrangements, or could Google buy the same technology from Cisco?
  2. Bandwidth. Apart from another move toward 1 Gb/s (FibreCity in Bournemouth, but only as a 'power boost'), there are also several intermediate steps to 200 Mb/s (XMS in the Netherlands; Virgin Media expanding its trial in the UK; Novus in Vancouver).
  3. Cities. US candidate communities seem to be concentrating in a select number of states. Newcomers again are mainly in North Carolina (Greensboro), Michigan (Ann Arbor, Holland) and California (the expected Palo Alto, Saratoga, Sunnyvale, La Jolla, Redding). Others include Washington DC, Baltimore, New Orleans, Topeka (Kansas), Mason City (Iowa), Peoria (Illionois), Charlottesville (Virginia).
  4. Open access. Last week it was ETI, this week ECI Telecom making the case for open access. Further, HeLi Net teams with PacketFront to market open access FTTH in Germany.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Google Fiber: Update #3

New developements regarding the four basic specs of Google's OA FTTH trial plan:

  1. Technology. Gordon Cook presented his latest Cook Report (Building A national Knowledge Infrastructure - How Dutch Pragmatism nurtures a 21st Century Economy), which draws on SURFnet's mission in the Dutch science sector and beyond, as innovation is its mission. I recently spoke with the newly appointed CTO about SURFnet's hybrid optical network. Would Google be interested in these new developments?
  2. Bandwidth. Shaw Communications, an MSO in Canada, is planning FTTH for new appartment buildings, providing up to 1 Gb/s, which is rapidly becoming the new standard.
  3. Cities. Facebook holds dozens of grassroots plans. Communities that have expressed interest so far include: Seattle, San Francisco, UTOPIA (16 towns, 500k pops), Somerville (Mass), Austin (Tex), Columbia (Missouri), Winston-Salem (NC), Fayette County (Georgia), Hawaii, Duluth (Minnesota), Madison (Wisconsin), Pittsburgh, Portland (Ore), Bellingham (Wash), Muskegon (Mich), Raleigh (NC), Durham (NC), Auburn (Alabama), New York State, Chapel Hill (NC), Carrboro (NC). More initiatives at: Grand Rapids (Mich), Kirksville (Missouri), etc.
  4. Open access. See ETI's report in the previous post.