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Showing posts from February, 2008

Online Video Viewed by Half of U.S. Internet Users

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eMarketer predicts that over half of the U.S. population will have watched video on the Web before the year is out. By next year, more than 80 percent of all Internet users will have done so.

New Peak Load Issues for Mobile

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There's only one problem worse than dealing with peak load, and that is average load that starts to look like peak load. In the voice world, peak load has been the bigger issue, not average load.
Data networks have peak load issues as well, but those issues are mostly about the number of bits to pushed through the pipe, not generally use of circuits or network elements or ports.

Wireless is starting to have other problems, though, as data usage grows. And you instinctively would think bandwidth has to be the issue. It isn't. But take the easy stuff first.

Just as there are two “rush hours” on the road (6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.), enterprises typically experience two “rush hours” on their phone systems, says Art Yonemoto, owner of his own telecom expense auditing firm. For most enterprises those PBX rush hours happen at mid morning (10 a.m.) and early afternoon (2 p.m.). Hospitals, though, tend to have one of their busiest hours at 9 a.m., especially on Mondays, as the…

Enterprise iPhone? Just talk to RIM Servers

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Though there are other issues, Apple would get far down the road as an enterprise device if it did just one thing: ensure compatibility with Blackberry servers.

Though Microsoft Mobile is growing its share, BlackBerry is the device to beat. Apple will keep getting heat for its lack of security as well.

But the main thing is the ability of a user to get company email on an iPhone, not just on a Blackberry.

Sprint Unlimited Plan: Unlimited Everything

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Sprint Nextel now has responded with a new “Simply Everything” plan offering not just talk, not just unlimited texting, but unlimited Web surfing, email access, GPS navigation services, DirectConnect, GroupConnect, Sprint TV and Sprint music.

The $99.99 Simply Everything plan is available to customers on both Sprint's CDMA and iDEN networks, and goes way beyond T-Mobile's comparable plan that includes unlimited voice and texting.

Sprint has thrown in the kitchen sink.

Existing Sprint customers can switch to the Simply Everything plan without extending their current contract either by contacting Sprint customer service or by stopping by any participating Sprint retail location.

New line activations require a two-year agreement.

For families, Simply Everything includes an incremental $5 discount for each incremental line, up to five lines on the same bill. For example, two lines would amount to $194.98 ($99.99 + $94.99); a third line would cost an additional $89.99. This is in sharp…

Luster Off MVNO in U.S. Market

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Ed Mueller, Qwest Communications CEO, now can be counted among executives who believe their mobile virtual network operator ventures have been a bust.

After operating an MVNO using the underlying Sprint network, Qwest now has concluded it simply hasn't worked well enough to keep doing. "We have a hole in wireless and we don't have the assets and we aren't going to invest," he says.

In Qwest's case, at least, an MVNO isn't financially attractive, but also is weak in the market place," Mueller says. One of the issues is access to the latest, greatest phones. "We don't have scale to get the new phones," he says.

"The financials and economics are really difficult," he says. "Only six percent of our customers bought, where the national average is 200 percent."

"Even if we had access to all the new phones, it would still have been difficult," Mueller says. And he also acknowledges a historic reality resellers of basi…

Fiber to Home: Density Matters

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When evaluating prospects for fiber-to-home deployments, density really does matter. As recent data from the Fiber to the Home Council shows, countries with higher rates of fiber access tend to be highly dense, where a "fiber to the basement" approach is feasible. Japan is the exception. Generally speaking, fiber to the home penetration is high in countries with high density, though other factors, such as government financial support and regulatory framework, also play an important role.

50 Mbps from Comcast by 2010?

Comcast will offer customers 50 megabit-per-second service, upstream and downstream, available to half its subscribers and homes passed, by 2010, DSLPrime's Dave Burstein argues. What remains unclear is how many customers Comcast or any other cable company will be able to support at those rates, in any single neighborhood of 500 homes or so, unless a very large amount of analog video bandwidth is freed up by moving them to the digital service tiers.

Apple Inches Closer to Enterprise iPhone

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Apple is convening a meeting to unveil its software development kit on March 6. For critics who have panned Apple for producing a closed device not suitable for enterprise users, Apple now will begin to prove at least some of those critics wrong. Salesforce.com, for example, already has moved to position its services for iPhone users. In fact, its own sales force demanded that this be done. And small business users, who don't have all the enterprise software issues to face, already are using the iPhone as their preferred device.

Why Netflix is Not "Toast"

On-demand video might affect the DVD rental business someday, but apparently not this year. Netflix just revised first quarter and full-year 2008 guidance. For the year, Netflix expects to have 8.9 million to 9.5 million subscribers, up from the prior forecast of 8.4 million to 8.9 million subs. It expects revenue of $1.345 billion to $1.385 billion, up from $1.3 billion to $1.35 billion. It expects unchanged GAAP net income of $75 million to $83 million. But GAAP earning per share will be higher. The new forecast calls for $1.18 to $1.30 per diluted share, up from $1.12 to $1.24 per diluted share.

On-demand viewing is convenient, to be sure. But there are countervailing values as well. On-demand purchases introduce an element of uncertainty into monthly budgeting of expenses. On-demand rentals can be cash transactions, with no later unexpected financial impact. It's an underestimated value for physical rentals rather than on-demand purchases.

Flat rate is important for many consume…

Citizens Sees Slowdown in California and Arizona

It's just another small data point, but Citizens Communications says it does detect a slowdown in sales it believes is related to economic sluggishness in areas serving about 12 percent of its customers.

"We do see a slowdown in the economy in our California and Arizona markets," says Maggie Wilderotter, Citizens Communications CEO. And it seems to be housing related.

California and Arizona are "the only two markets that we have that have definitely had the housing issues," Wilderotter says.

"So, from the gross add perspective, what we have seen is a slowdown in gross adds out there, but it is not about the competition necessarily getting them," she notes.

"It is also about housing remaining vacant at the moment until inventory starts to get absorbed," Wilderotter says.

So what might be notably different about this particular dip in economic growth, compared to earlier slowdowns the telecom and cable industries have weathered, is the overhang of …

Slowdown Coming, But It Won't Affect Us, Execs Say

Though Goldman Sachs analysts now forecasts that U.S. IT spending outlook for the remainder of 2008 will slow perhaps two points compared to 2007 levels--meaning growth will come in at fiver percent rather than seven percent--IT suppliers predictably say the slowdown won't hurt their firms.
Executives "said that while they’ve seen some small impacts from the U.S. economy with respect to IT spending, there is little to fear in the bigger picture," reports eWeek reporter Reness Boucher Ferguson.The good news for IT suppliers is that a decline this time is simply a slowing of the rate of growth, not an actual negative downturn. The rationale is that IT spending in recent years has tracked fairly closely with gross domestic product, growing just a bit faster than GDP.

Of course, what else would you expect a CEO to say? It's a bit like running into associates in the hall at a trade show, and asking them how business is. No matter what the reality, the answer always seems t…

Dish Network Reports Slower Growth

Dish Network experienced slower subscriber growth during 2007, though it is hard to separate out the impact of better performance on this score by competitors, internal issues, slower housing starts and macro economic factors. “During 2007, our subscriber base continued to grow, but at a slower pace than in previous periods,” the company says.

“We believe that our slower subscriber growth was driven in part by competitive factors including the effectiveness of certain competitors’ promotional offers, the number of markets in which competitors offer local HD channels, and their aggressive marketing of such advantages," the company says.

In part, Dish Network was hampered by a delay in the launch of new satellites to support high-definition services. The company argues that the delay lead to gains by competitors better equipped to deliver lots of HDTV signals.

Dish executives also say subscriber growth was affected by worsening economic conditions which included a slowdown in new hous…

Verizon to Hold "Open Network" Conference for Developers

Verizon Wireless will convene an Open Development Device Conference on March 19 to acquaint developers with its version 1.0 of the technical specifications for wireless devices that will work on its “Any Device, Any App” network-only service option. The conference will discuss the certification of devices that users can use on the Verizon network, without having to buy a device directly from Verizon.

Broadband Penetration: How You Count Makes a Difference

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Comparing broadband penetration across country boundaries is a tricky matter. It makes most sense to measure some services or products, such as cable TV, broadband access, TVs, HDTV, IPTV or telephone lines, on a "per household" basis, since that is how the service tends to be consumed.

Other services or products, such as mobile phones, MP3 players, Skype, smart phones or notebook PCs, might more accurately be counted on a "per user" basis.

The difference in broadband penetration, for example, can vary dramatically by the size of a household. In countries where households tend to be larger, for example, "per capita" and "per household" penetration will show a weaker correlation. Countries with lower household size will show a higher correlation between the two measures.

The latest ECTA data shows broadband penetration "per capita." So where we might be used to seeing "household" penetration figures in the 50-percent range, coun…

Planning on Buying a New Phone?

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ChangeWave Alliance surveys suggest demand by consumers for new mobile phone has been weakening since July 2007.

Weaker Consumer Spending

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Consumer spending turned south in the summer of 2007, according to surveys conducted by the ChangeWave Alliance. ChangeWave also found that business IT spending dipped in the first quarter of 2008.

In January, 34 percent of ChangeWave respondents said they planned to spend less during the next 90 days than they did a year ago. About 29 percent said they would spend more.

Business Hiring Heads South

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Business hiring declined in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to survey data compiled by ChangeWave Alliance. That lead ChangeWave to declare that a recession already was underway.

Enterprise IT Spending Heading South?

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ChangeWave’s latest enterprise IT spending survey points to a negative growth rate for the second quarter of 2008, suggesting that U.S. business spending has already in a recession of sorts.

Some 23 percent of respondents report their company’s IT spending will decrease--or there will be no spending at all--in the second quarter.

About 15 percent say spending will increase.

A total of 2,013 respondents involved with IT spending in their organization participated in the February survey, ChangeWave says.

The last time such negative growth was reported was August 2001. And you might recall that was the time when the Web and telecom industries melted down. The ChangeWave data show a slowdown in businesses of every size.

About 43 percent of respondents say their companies will spend normally. About 53 percent say their firms will slow spending.

In the first quarter, about 10 percent of respondents reported they had spent more than planned.

Another 27% say they’ve spent less than planned. It …

Consumer, SME Spending Tightening?

Large incumbent telco and cable companies say they haven't yet seen any adverse sales or churn impact because of economic stringency. But there are some signs this is not true, and has not been true, in parts of the consumer and small business and medium business market segments since perhaps last summer.

Cbeyond, which sells to small business, reports it began to see higher than normal credit issues in the third quarter, forcing it to tighten its credit rules. The result was a churn rate 40 percent higher than is typical for Cbeyond.

Leap Wireless, which sells heavily into lower-income customer segments, likewise saw an unusual and high rate of customer churn in the third quarter last year, an anomaly the company says can be explained by expansion into less mature markets as well as deliberate policy changes in the prepay and handset areas.

Now Henry Blodget of Silicon Alley Advisor says he detects real softness in small and medium business spending on advertising since the Chris…

Slowdown? "Not Yet" Says Siemens

Siemens AG, Europe's biggest engineering company, probably will meet its 2008 sales and profit goals, and sees no sign that a global economic slowdown is affecting business, Chief Executive Officer Peter Loescher says.

That despite the statement that "it's clear that we're entering a phase of slowdown in the world,'' Loescher says. ``The impact for us as a company, we don't see it yet.''

Mobile Revenue Surpasses Landline in 2009

"Mobile service revenues will pass landline in 2009," says Arthur Gruen of Wilkofsky Gruen Associates, reporting on the latest Telecommunications Industry Association expectations for U.S. communications revenues. "It now is primary line erosion, as second lines erosion was finished some time ago."

That means there will be 150 million landlines in service by 2011, where there once were 286,000 in service in 2004.

About 82 percent of consumer voice subscriptions are sold as part of a bundle, up from 14 percent in 2005 and 40 percent in 2007.

Wireless growth slowed to single digits in 2007 for the first time, however. Still wireless revenue of $200 billion in 2011 will exceed wireline revenue by 26 percent.

About 84 percent of wireless service revenue growth comes from data and data will be 35 percent of total revenue in 2011, up from 16 percent in 2007 and six percent in 2005.

Overall wireless penetration will hit 90 percent in 2011, up from 79 percent in 2007.

In 201…

EU Approves UK Broadband Deregulation

The European Union Telecoms Commission has approved an Ofcom proposal to deregulate the U.K. broadband market UK broadband market where there are four or more actual or potential providers serving areas with more than 10,000 homes and businesses.

In practice, that means deregulation for areas covering around 65 percent of all homes and businesses.

T-Mobile USA Continues Fixed-Mobile Trial

T-Mobile USA continues to test a Wi-Fi-based, dual-mode phone approach to fixed-mobile integration, allowing users to send and receive calls and messages using their in-home broadband network and a Wi-Fi router instead of sending and receiving messages and calls over the mobile network. The user advantage is that the airtime plan isn't decreased when using the Wi-Fi connection.

The tests began last June in Seattle and now is providing service in Seattle and Dallas.

The additional monthly cost is $10 for the "Hotspot at Home" feature, which isn't much of an issue. The issue is that the service only works with two phone models, the BlackBerry Curve and the Samsung T409.

Someday handset limitations won't be so big a deal, as more devices come natively equipped with Wi-Fi, and when operators stop disabling the function. But right now, the limitation to just two devices is an issue that will limit adoption.

TA 96, Digital One Rate: Which was More Important?

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Though the subscriber stats don't paint the picture quite so clearly, wireless minutes of use exploded after 1998, when AT&T Wireless Services introduced "Digital One Rate," a new plan that eliminated the difference between local and long distance services, and used a "bucket" of minutes packaging approach.

U.S. competitive local exchange carrier lines in service, on the other other hand, ramped up through about 2004, and then began to decline, even as more telephone and cable companies themselves became "CLECs" for purposes of providing services outside their historic service territories.

In 1998, when Digital One Rate was introduced, mobile subscribers numbered about 69 million. By the middle of 2007, mobile subscribers numbered more than 243 million. At this point, the time is long past when wired lines exceeded wireless lines. These days, wireless accounts far outnumber wired accounts.

In many respects, and without belittling the Telecommunicati…

VoIP Markets: Is Europe the Future?

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Though those of us in the U.S. community tend to overlook the fact at times, the consumer VoIP market in Europe is quite different. In Western Europe there were 21.7 million VoIP customers at mid-year 2007, up from 15.6 million only six months earlier.

TeleGeography estimates that the ranks of European VoIP subscribers had grown to 28.9 million by year-end 2007.

While VoIP is often associated with competitive carriers and cable companies, many European incumbents have counterattacked by launching their own VoIP services. France Telecom has emerged as by far the largest consumer VoIP provider in Europe, while BT, Telecom Italia, and KPN all rank among the top ten European VoIP operators.

The European consumer VoIP market remains fragmented and highly diverse, featuring a wide range of provider types and business models, says Stephan Beckert, Telegeography analyst.

In some countries, incumbents dominate. In others, competitive carriers have gained the advantage. VoIP adoption also diffe…

Verizon Has 0.5 Percent Exposure to Unlimited Calling Plan Downgrades

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Verizon Communications has 305,000 single-line Nationwide Unlimited Anytime customers with monthly voice price plans in excess of $99.99 per month. That's important as the investment community now is nervous the introduction of new plans costs about $100 a month will cause those sorts of customers, paying $125 to $135 a month, will downgrade to the $100 a month plan.

Keep in mind that customers paying more than $100 a month for a single line represent just 0.5 percent of Verizon's customer base.

Verizon believes that the reduced revenue from the $100+ customers will be more than offset by other customers on lower-priced plans moving up to the $100 a month plans. The exposure to the downside isn't that high--possibly $109 million or so.

On the other hand, assume just 300,000 customers upgrade their plans to the unlimited plan, out of the base of total 65.7 million users, and that the incremental revenue is $30 a month.

Despite some momentary imbalance, it seems more logical th…

Dan Hesse, Digital One Rate

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Dan Hesse, Sprint Nextel CEO, was CEO of AT&T Wireless Services back in 1998, not many will recall. That was the month Hesse was able to act on a vision he had strenuously to sell to his superiors: that wireline minutes of use could be shifted to wireless, saving at&t money on access fees by doing so.

The Digital One Rate Plan was not primarily aimed against other wireless carriers at all, but rather at reducing a significant cost of doing business on the AT&T long distance side of the house.

At the time, Hesse pointed out that "we're taking a chunk out of revenue usually going to our competitors," meaning by that the Regional Bell Operating Companies that at&t had to pay access fees to.

The point is that major packaging initiatives can have unanticipated consequences. Digital One Rate was just a way to save AT&T long distance operations money on terminating traffic charges paid out to local carriers.

So make no mistake: Hesse is used to launching unusu…

What if Sprint "Goes Nuclear"?

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There now is speculation Sprint Nextel is considering an unlimited calling plan costing as little as $60 a month. Aside from disrupting nearly all pricing plans in the U.S. mobile business, one has to wonder what that does for wireless substitution and consumer VoIP as well.

If one can get unlimited calling for that sort of price point, most people who use mobiles and also live in single person, or households of unrelated people, are going to have huge incentives just to go "wireless only."

To the extent that consumer VoIP is mostly about cheap calling, mobile is going to be hugely competitive in a new way, in the event of "nuclear" conflict.

CLEC Precedent for VoIP Companies

Birch, a competitive local exchange carrier that declared bankruptcy twice, has been sold to Access Integrated Networks. The combined company is based in Atlanta, has about 400 employees and will have revenue of $200 million to $210 million a year. The combination is but the latest in a continuing wave of consolidation in the independent CLEC segment, which like most other parts of the telecom business requires scale.

In many ways the VoIP business already has taken a path similar to that pioneered earlier by the "CLEC" business. The CLEC business was lead, in terms of market share, by just two companies: AT&T and MCI. There were lots of independent CLECs, but most had fairly small market share and sales.

Both AT&T and MCI were absorbed into SBC Corp. and Verizon, respectively, leaving the CLEC industry essentially "headless" in terms of national regulatory clout.

The experience of VoIP providers is analogous in many ways. Though the business was pioneered b…

Mobile Price War Impact?

Though the impact might be quite overblown, at least some investment analysts think the recent adoption of unlimited calling plans by three of the four largest U.S. mobile providers is going to hammer their revenues.

Credit Suisse telecom analyst Christopher Larsen, for example, has reduced his rating on at&t, Verizon, Qwest and Sprint Nextel.

He worries that unlimited calling plans will trigger “a wireless price war.”

UBS telecom analyst John Hodulik thinks the potential impact will affect Verizon and at&t, at least at this point.

Hodulik says Sprint is likely to launch an unlimited voice plan in the next few weeks is considering pricing at $60-$80 a month. If Sprint gets traction, that logically would compel Verizon and at&t to reduce their prices to match.

I am not so sure about that. Each of the carriers might see some lost "overage" revenue from heavy users. But each should gain some customers who upgrade from lower-priced plans, as well as some customers upgr…

Euro Managed Services Sales Slowing?

Managed IP PBX contracts won by European telecom service providers declined by an order of magnitude during the first half of 2007, says Phil Sayer, Forrester Research analyst.

The number of IP PBX managed services deals fell to three percent of deals, where in the first half of 2006 managed IP PBX deals were part of 39 percent of new contracts.

Forrester says there was an equally massive drop in the number of deals involving managed security services as well. The only IT service that recorded any increase was the provision of help desks.

Overall telco IT services sales with an IT services component was down from 31 percent to 22 percent.

It isn't yet clear whether that trend was seen in other regions, whether it continued through the balance of 2007, or what it means, if indeed the trend did continue.

Most likely, the data suggest a shift of buying to other channels, rather than a decline in aggregate purchasing. The survey suggests that most of the service provider sales were of t…

T-Mobile Adds $100 Unlimited Plan

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T-Mobile USA will offer consumers an unlimited calling plan including unlimited ationwide text messaging for $99.99 per month. This offer will be available beginning Feb. 21.

Note that the T-Mobile offer includes unlimited text messaging (SMS), picture messages (MMS) and instant messages (IM). Full details of the at&t Wireless offer are not yet available, but it wasn't immediately clear whether at&t Wireless would include unlimited text messaging as part of the $100 a month unlimited voice plan.

$100 Unlimited Plans Spread

Wasting no time responding to a major new Verizon Wireless offer, at&t Wireless has unveiled its own $100 ($99.99)a month plan for unlimited mobile calling. The plans will be available to new and existing wireless subscribers Feb. 22. Existing customers can buy the plan without extending their current contracts.

New customers can buy on a month-to-month, 12 month or 24 month contract.

Sprint has been offering unlimited calling plans in four markets at about $119.

More Funding for U.S. WiMAX?

Sprint Nextel and Clearwire are close to announcing the formation of a WiMax joint venture funded in part by a $2 billion injection from Intel Capital, the Street.com reports. As currently rumored, the deal would create a new company that pools Sprint and Clearwire licenses in the 2.5-gigahertz wireless spectrum. Additional financing also is expected from other firms.

An earlier partnership between Sprint and Clearwire died last November, when the two parties could not reach agreement on terms of the partnership.

Through a joint venture with Clearwire and a big investment from Intel, Sprint can move the expenses off its books and yet still continue to build a fourth generation network. Intel's interest in WiMAX is creating a new market for chipsets supporting WiMAX devices, including mobile PCs and handsets.

The unusually large investment by Intel Capital, which hasn't invested so much in any single company before, seems to be a signal that Intel worries about the U.S. WiMAX mark…

Verizon Wireless to Launch Unlimited Calling?

Starting Tuesday February 19, Verizon Wireless will roll out new "unlimited calling" plans of the sort Sprint Nextel has been testing in several markets and which Sprint is said to have been considering for national availability. According to Engadget, the new plans include $100 national unlimited voice.

Other plans include a $120 plan with unlimited texting and voice; $140 for plans that add email and VCast content services. For $150 users can get unlimited data, voice and texting.

A $170 plan adds international data capabilities. A $200 family plan reportedly will be limited to additional two lines, priced at $100 per additional line.

It appears there will be no caps on data sent or received.

In one sense the new pricing plans represent an attempt to change the nature of mobile service pricing, making pricing a lot more like VoIP, or wired calling with unlimited, flat rate long distance within the continental United States.

And that might be the thing to watch: not so much a …

U.K. Internet Penetration Tops 60%

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According to the most-recent data from emarketer, U.K. Internet penetration now tops 60 percent, and broadband penetration accounts for virtually all of that usage, as broadband penetration is nearly 55 percent.

Slight Skews to Google, Yahoo Search User Demographics

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The Yahoo search engine is slightly more often to be used by younger users; Google slightly more often is used by older users. But the overall patterns are pretty similar.

The real difference is that Google accounted for 65.98 percent of all U.S. searches in the four weeks ending January 26, 2008. Yahoo! Search, MSN Search and Ask.com each received 20.94, 6.90 and 4.21 percent respectively. The remaining 48 search engines in the Hitwise Search Engine Analysis Tool accounted for 1.97 percent of U.S. searches.

Patent Troll Seeks Cable Operator Toll

Yikes. Rembrandt IP Management, a suburban Philadelphia firm whose sole business is to buy up technology patents, and whose business model is based on patent royalties derived from those assets, has filed numerous lawsuits in numerous venues to force large cable operators and major broadcasters to pay substantial license fees on the transmission of digital TV signals and Internet services. Rembrandt seeks royalties for use of intellectual property related to cable modem services as well as digital TV broadcasts.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Cox Communications and Cablevision Systems are named as patent infringers.

iPhone 2nd Best Selling Smart phone in Q4

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Smart mobile device shipments hit 118 million in 2007, up 53 percent over 2006, reports Canalys. In the fourth quarter, newcomer Apple shipped the third most devices globally. Nokia remained the global market leader, shipping 60.5 million smart phones.

Research in Motion shipments grew 112 percent year-over-year to 12.2 million, to take second place.

Symbian remains the operating system leader, with 67 percent share, followed by Microsoft with 13 percent, with RIM on 10 percent. Apple garnered seven percent while Linux had five percent share.

High-end devices represented around 10 percent of the global mobile phone market by units in 2007, with annual growth of 60 percent.

Apple’s entry into this market in 2007 with the iPhone sparked a lot of media attention and speculation about how much it could disrupt the status quo and take share away from companies such as Nokia, RIM, Palm and Motorola. “When you consider that it launched part way through the year, with limited operator and count…

What's a Google Phone?

Apparently, just about any smart phone with broadband access, according to Financial Times reporters Maija Palmer and Paul Taylor. Google head of mobile operations Vic Gundotra says "it had seen 50 times more searches on Apple‘s iPhone than any other mobile handset."

“We thought it was a mistake and made our engineers check the logs again,” Gundotra says. "If the trend continues and other handset manufacturers follow Apple’s lead in making web access easy, the number of mobile searches will overtake fixed internet searches “within the next several years."

More mobile searches than fixed! I don't know about you, but my sense is that if that volume of activity can happen on most broadband-connected smart phones, Google won't have to worry much about creating a "Google phone," any more than it has to worry about a "Google PC."

Google has never separated out its mobile revenues but Gundotra says the business was growing “above expectations”, b…

Sprint Won't Reach Xohm Goal by 2009

No kidding. Sprint originally expected to have 100 million subscribers for its Xohm WiMAX service by the end of 2009. It now says it won't make that goal, and nobody is surprised.

Xohm, slated to deliver mobile broadband services of 2 Mbps to 4Mbps, for $40 to $50 a month, is slated to launch on a more or less full deployment basis in three cities this spring (Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.). There's no conceivable way any new service of this sort, selling into a nearly-saturated broadband access market, is going to get that kind of traction so fast.

VoIP, Broadband Growth is Slowing

One of the tentative conclusions we might reach from Comcast's fourth-quarter results is that the broadband access market is approaching a saturation point, with slowing net additions. Comcast added about 331,000 broadband subscribers in the three months ending Dec. 31, 2007, down 26 percent from the 450,000 subscribers it added in the third quarter. That's congruent with net adds from telcos as well, and has perhaps a little to do with the economy and slower housing starts. But mostly it is simply that we are approaching the point where nearly every potential customer for broadband already has become one.

VoIP net adds are slowing as well, again confirming a broader trend seen in the consuemr segment of the VoIP business overall. Basically, significant numbers of people who are persuaded VoIP makes sense for them right now have become customers.

After adding 662,000 new subscribers in the third quarter, Comcast’s total net new voice additions dropped to 604,000 in the fourth …

T-Mobile 3G This Summer

T-Mobile USA will launch commercial 3G services this summer, finally. The company blames spectrum issues for the delay (3G was supposed to launch mid-2007). T-Mobile invested $4.2 billion in 2006 to more than double its spectrum holding in the top 100 U.S. cities it serves.

Those of you who have had to live with EDGE access speeds (just like most iPhone users) will be happy. Up to this point, EDGE access has felt remarkably like "dial up" access. And how many of you can imagine doing important work, or trying to get any of the normal sorts of information you look for in a day, over a dial-up connection?

People don't use the mobile Web much because it's too painful, even if there were interesting applications.

Cut Prices or Else: EU to Carriers

EU telecomumunications Commissioner Viviane Reding has given the mobile phone industry until July 1 to cut the price charged to people for sending text messages or surfing the Web on their laptops while outside their home nation in the EU region.

Hoping to head off mandatory pricing and regulation Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and KPN also have announced cuts in their data roaming prices.

As many in the computing and Web worlds are starting to discover, governments and regulators have much to say about which services and companies can succeed in the communications business, and even affect the amount of profits any contestant can make.

Any mandatory EU intervention to cut the price of sending text messages or using the Internet while traveling outside one's home country would be limited to the wholesale level. In other words, the EU would regulate the prices carriers can charge other carriers for roaming access, but leave service providers free to set their own retail prices.

Telecom Italia: Functional Separation of Access Network

It's official: Telecom Italia is creating a separate wholesale access operation clearly separated from Telecom Italia retail operations. When the new change takes effect, Telecom Italia retail and all other competitors will buy access services from the wholesale business.

Open Access will develop and maintain the access network infrastructure and manage activation and other processes.

The move is the latest example of ways different service providers in different countries are adapting to differing regulatory regimes and competitive "facts on the ground."

While there have been discussions of structural separation in the U.S. market, there never has been any political will to change the regulatory regime strongly in that direction, though aggressive wholesale discounts were the rule, for a period after 1996, and began heading the other way after about 2004.

Markets where functional separation has been adopted tend to be characterized by weak ability on the part of cable opera…

Vonage Churn: Not an Issue if it Survives

Should Vonage survive, it might be able to get its churn rates under three percent a month. But it would be a surprise if, even under the best of circumstances, it got churn below two percent a month.

That's a big "if," but history suggests lower churn is possible, if not easy. The reason is that, over time, customers learn the value of a new type of service or application, and gradually come to have a better understanding of why it is they actually need and use a service. There always is lots of churn at first.

The U.S. cable industry struggled precisely with churn at the same levels Vonage grapples with, in the late 1980s and 1990s. Today's churn levels are far below that, but not much below two percent a month. And there's a reason even for that level of churn.

People move. That's called "uncontrollable" churn because there isn't a heck of a lot most providers (except those with a huge footprint) can do about people moving. Wireless providers us…

Broadband Adoption: Under Par for the Course

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Since broadband first became widely available to consumers in the late 1990s, adoption has hit the
halfway point faster than most other information and communication technologies.

It took 18 years for the personal computer to be used by 50 percent of Americans at home and 18 years for color TV to reach half of homes.

Mobile phone penetration took 15 years to reach the "half of homes" point. It took 14 years for the video cassette recorder, and 10 and one half years for the compact disc player to reach the same level of penetration.

It has taken about 10 years for broadband to reach 50 percent of homes. We can argue about the price of broadband, the definition of broadband, the quality or terms of service under which broadband can be purchased.

But it continues to surprise me that some observers still think there is some sort of crisis or problem here. Over the last year bandwidths have been leaping, not just incrementally increasing. There's more third generation wireless a…

More Price Regulation Coming?

Though European Union regulators are putting strong pressure on Europe's service providers to dramatically lower data and voice roaming costs, that isn't likely to happen anytime soon in Asian markets, says Rosemary Sinclair, International Telecommunications Users Group external relations officer, and reported by CommsDay.

“The significance to me of what has happened in the EU is that it indicates to us that the cost structure of delivering these calls is much, much lower than the retail prices,” Sinclair says. “The operators know exactly what the costs of services are,
but they are not prepared, without regulatory oversight, encouragement,
or if necessary, intervention, to do something about it."

"At the moment, as far as I can see, the only thing that would fix this is regulatory action," she says.

Service providers take notice: a re-regulatory wind is blowing around the world, though it isn't as windy everywhere. Telstra seems to be in a different situation th…

Vonage Shifts Tactics

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In its efforts to control marketing cost, Vonage has been targeting geographic regions where it has a greater chance of signing up customers with high need to call international destinations. For the most part that means urban areas with large immigrant populations.

So although Vonage's marketing up to this point has been able replacing other landline services, the new value pitch is more nearly the "cheaper long distance" segment whose buyers might otherwise be looking at calling cards, dial-around or other ways of calling globally for less money.

The move highlights a perhaps under-appreciated aspect of the voice communications business. Though most executives think "voice is a commodity," and are right in most respects, an argument can be made that voice is not actually a "commodity" in a classic set, but rather a set of "commodities," or perhaps not a classic commodity at all.

Sugar, salt and flour generally are classic commodities. But sug…

Android, iPhone: Finding the New in the Old

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Sometimes the insight that leads to an assault on a new market is to discover the new market hidden in the weeds of an older and established market. Incumbents in the mobile phone market have dismissed the Apple iPhone simply because the volumes of devices shipped by the leading players is so overwhelming.

Though it is less often said, the same sort of dismissal could be aimed at Android, the open-source operating system under development by Google and 30 or so other partners.

And it's hard to argue with that perspective. Unless you dig in the weeds and reimagine a market. If one looks at smart phone (perhaps more aptly described as mobile PC or mobile Web device)penetration, it is still quite low.

Looking just at smart phones, which have low penetration, the market volume to be shared by all players is still quite small, so the market share doesn't have nearly the same meaning it would in a large volume market.

"Smart phones" or "mobile Web" devices or "…

SMEs Ripe for IP Managed Services, Says Nortel

Fifty percent of SMBs surveyed have voice networks three or more years old, and despite the fact that nearly half characterize themselves as "early adopters" or "on the leading edge of new telecommunications technology," only 40 percent have actually implemented VoIP or any IP-based mobile convergence solution.

"The research clearly indicates a great opportunity for service providers to target SMEs," says Alf deCardenas, Nortel general manager.

The research conducted by Ronin Corporation involved surveys of some 900 SME and enterprise decision makers across the United States, France and the United Kingdom.

Among other findings, the research found that SMEs are more likely to go to service providers than resellers for voice hardware and Internet services. The ability to make phone calls over WiFi and cellular networks using a dual-mode phone is the service SMBs are most likely to consider for implementation, followed by Web services like click-to-connect and…

Slow Email? BlackBerry Outage

Research In Motion Ltd. says an outage left users in North America without access to their BlackBerry email service on Monday, beginning about 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard time and lasting about three hours.

RIM says no messages were lost during the incident, which caused intermittent delivery delays. No explanation for the outage has been given.

Outages of this sort are the reason many of us are giving more thought to backup and redundancy strategies. On a recent business trip, for the first time in my life, I accidentally left my laptop at home, and was going to be gone for 14 days. True, I had the BlackBerry and another mobile as well.

But in my line of work access to the Web is arguably more important than either of those two sorts of devices, as important as they are. Because of Google Documents & Spreadsheets and Google Broswer Sync, I was able to keep working using public terminals and loaned machines, with access to Microsoft Office.

I also learned to live without access to Ou…

HD DVD War is Over

Consumers baffled by the competing high-definition digital video recorder standards soon will be able to go ahead and buy without concern they have backed the wrong horse in the race. Blu-ray has won.

One more sign: Netflix is going to stop carrying titles in the HD DVD format.
Netflix has stocked both Blu Ray and HD DVD titles since 2006. But all HD DVD discs will be cut from their inventory by the end of the year. Netflix also has stopped adding new HD DVD titles to its inventory.

Blockbuster last summer had made a similar decision.

The format victory is a surprisingly rare event for Sony, which developed and has pushed for Blu-ray. In prior format wars it has lost, fairly consistently. It backed Betamax, but lost to VHS.

So go ahead and buy a Blu-ray HD DVR. It's the winner.

Belgian Mobile Operator Wants to Kill Fixed Line

Belgian mobile operator Mobistar is intensifying its efforts to take market share from landline provider Belgacom by aggressively targeting its larger rival's fixed line subscribers. The Mobistar AtHome product allows users 40 hours of mobile calls from the home for 10 Euros a month.

About 35 percent of Belgian households no longer possess a fixed line telephone and another 28 percent are prepared to give theirs up if there is a good alternative, some researchers have found.

LA Will Try to Tax VoIP

Los Angeles voters have voted to extend the telephone tax to include VoIP and other Internet IP communications.

The measure was cleverly worded, saying it would lower the telephone tax rate from 10 percent to nine percent, but extend it to "a wider range of telephone-like technology and allows the city to tax the routing of voice, audio, video, data or other communication information transmitted through fiber-optic coaxial cables, power lines, broadband, DSL or wireless systems.”

The city has been taxing local access services since 1967. Further legal challenges are likely.

What does "Communications-Enabled Business Transformation" Mean?

A recent survey by analysts at In-Stat finds that 54 percent of U.S. companies that have adopted IP communications have integrated it into their operations in a way that has "changed business procedures and processes."

"Change," in this case, might not be anything like the notion of "transformation." The reason is that adoption still is driven by traditional buying decision triggers, such as equipment end-of-life, lack of capacity, business partnerships, and internal IT initiatives, In-Stat says.

The issue is whether adoption of unified communications necessarily entails "transformation" or whether it merely leads to "change," albeit changes that lead to more efficiency.

And some survey findings suggest there is less transformation going on than one would think, though efficiency arguably is higher. Less than 33 percent of businesses using IP communications currently use unified collaboration and unified messaging applications, In-Stat s…

Opera Mini, 35 Million Users

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In the two years since its worldwide launch, Opera Mini has achieved more than 35 million cumulative users, with 100,000 downloads a day of the mobile phone browser.

Nokia Unveils N96

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As its name implies, the N96 is the successor to the N95, Nokia's former high-end device. The dual slider device comes with 16 gigabytes of internal storage, plus a microSD slot, something the N95 8GB lacks. Like the N95, the N96 retains the
5-megapixel autofocus camera with Carl Zeiss Tessar lens.

But "flash" support is improved by the use of two LEDs to provide lighting. There is an integrated DVB-H mobile TV tuner. As audio support on the N95 was robust, we would expect the same from the N96.

On such a device one would expect Wi-Fi support and global positioning satellite capabilities, and both are included. The N96 is supposed to launch in Europe in the third quarter this year.

Microsoft Buys Danger

Microsoft is acquiring Danger Inc., a provider of social-oriented messaging software and services. Danger provides real-time mobile messaging, social networking services and other applications that historically have proven popular with younger users.

The acquisition further reinforces the importance Microsoft attaches to the mobile computing space.

Nokia Launches Mobile Ad Network

Nokia today announced the launch of the Nokia Media Network, a premium advertising network including over 70 properties including AccuWeather, Discovery, Hearst, Reuters, and Sprint.

Nokia touts the venture as the first global mobile ad network of top tier publishers. There is no doubt a story here: First, that advertising is becoming part of the revenue model for the mobile business. Second, that handset providers are carving out new space for themselves in the value chain. Third, that mobile handset manufacturers and service providers now are in the media business.

Google isn't going to have this market to itself.

Starbucks Chooses at&t for Wi-Fi

If you are a T-Mobile Hotspot user, don't panic. Your service will still work at Starbucks. But if you are anybody else, Starbucks and at&t are serving up something even more tasty.

Namely, two free hours a day of Wi-Fi access at Starbucks. Additional hours will cost $3.99 for additional two-hour chunks of time.

Under the earlier plan with T-Mobile, Starbucks customers needed a paid subscription to access the in-store Wi-Fi service.

Users also will have a choice of monthly subscriptions costing $19.99 that will enable access to other AT&T hot-spot locations in addition to Starbucks.

At&t broadband customers will be able to surf at the more than 7,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S. for free, as well. The new Wi-Fi partnership is expected to be introduced gradually at Starbucks locations this spring.

So seating is going to be harder to get, and access more congested. It's still a great deal.

Sony Ericsson Embraces Windows Mobile

Sony Ericsson will drop its own Symbian-powered operating system in preference for Windows Mobile 6 for a new high-end Web-capable smart phone. The move does not mean Sony Ericsson is abandoning Symbian for other devices, but does suggest that as mobile Web devices become more prevalent and important, a "PC-like" experience might be growing in importance. The move also suggests growing acceptance of Windows Mobile as an mobile operating system.

The Xperia X1, which it says is the first new brand to come from within Sony Ericsson, is the first device to use Windows Mobile 6.

The X1 handset is designed around media player applications and Web browsing and features a full QWERTY keyboard.

How Much Bandwidth is Enough?

Nobody yet knows how much Internet access bandwidth a typical user will need in the future, at peak times (average usage doesn't much matter). It is easier in many ways to model bandwidth requirements for entertainment video services. If a provider uses a "broadband" approach(in the sense of all linear channels being delivered to the user, whether or not the user is watching), it is a simple matter of ascertaining how many discrete video feeds one wishes to deliver, how much bandwidth each feed requires, and then doing some simple multiplication.

If one then decides to deliver all on-demand programming, one needs a switching infrastrucure, and then must make some assumptions about simultaneous peak viewing. Will a typical user, at the peak viewing hour, want to watch one feed, two feeds or three, keeping in mind that one of the feeds might be recorded for later viewing while a second is actively watched.

The Internet access portion of the planning exercise is more murky, …

Will Sprint Unleash Nukes?

At this point, it is fairly clear to just about anyone that Sprint Nextel has to do something dramatic to reverse its sliding fortunes in the mobile services market. Sprint no longer has the luxury of time for small incremental changes that might change its fortunes "some day."

So the issue is whether Sprint will "go nuclear," unleashing some sort of market-disrupting attack it expects its competitors will not want to match. Its a risky gambit, to be sure. AT&T completely changed the basic way mobile voice minutes of use are packaged when it launched "Digital One Rate."

But the tactic has not had long-term differentiating value because all the other major carriers simply shifted their packaging to match. So Sprint has to find a proposition that is startling and compelling to end users, but not appetizing for the more dominant providers to mimic quickly.

If the attempt is to "drive sales through the roof," nothing short of a disruptive move wi…

FMC or Wireless Substitution?

In the coming war between mobile substitution and mobile-fixed integration approaches to unifying communications, it was inevitable that the "green" argument would appear as a weapon. OnRelay argues IP desk phones sold in 2008 alone will create 47 million kilograms of waste. Calling desk phones increasingly redundant, OnRelay argues the better path is simply to reuse mobiles as office handsets, substituting mobile for landline handsets rather than integrating the two calling methods.

"We do business in an increasingly mobile environment," says Marie Wold, OnRelay president. "Fifty to 70 percent of enterprise voice minutes are already mobile."

Her conclusion? "Landline office phones are simply a waste." In fact, her argument is in some ways similar to the argument proponents of hosted services and cloud computing take: that the public and private IP networks now are robust enough and easy enough to use that remote provisioning makes more sense.

In …