31 December 2007

Miscellaneous topics ...

I had a few items that I wanted to blog about over the past couple of weeks. So, in an effort to clear out my backlog, let me summarize them here.

  • The US GAO published this report, which is fairly critical of the US FCC and other agencies with regard to the upcoming conversion to digital television. The "switch off" is just over one year away, and consumer education has been basically non-existent.

    Update (2008-01-03): The FCC published their Third Periodic Review of the digital TV transition. No mention of the GAO report that I could find ...

  • On a similar note, the UK regulator Ofcom issued this report that examines alternatives for using the "digital dividend", which arises from the sale of the spectrum formerly used by analog television.

  • Changing gears a bit ... this article in BusinessWeek gives hope to the fans of Municipal Wireless. The Spanish WiFi operator FON seems poised to enter the void that Earthlink is leaving after it reevaluated its participation in this market. They have a different business model. Will they find more success?

  • There are a couple of interesting items on the international front.

    • Take a look at this (from Swivel, one of my favorite sites), which shows the dominance of prepaid wireless in China's market.

    • Gordon Cook unearthed a fascinating, detailed report on providing wireless to Nepal. See Gordon's post here. I have been unable to locate it on the World Bank's website.

    • In this article, the possibility of a "natural limit" to Kenya's mobile market is raised. I am always suspicious of these kinds of projections, because they normally assume that the future will be driven by forces similar to those driving the markets today. History has shown us the disruptive power of wireless technology, after all ...

  • Speaking of natural limits, I have been interested in the pending conversion to IPv6, which has been prophesized for several years already but which has not yet happened. This article over at CircleID provides more grist for this mill. Is it different this time, or should we expect more of the same?

Happy New Year, dear readers!

Australia censoring the Internet?

This article over at TechCrunch reports on a new law in Australia designed to provide a "clean feed" of Internet content into the country. This law is an initiative of the newly elected Labor government. I had blogged earlier about the implications of this election on telecoms ... but I hadn't been aware of this element of the electoral campaign.

I think this points to the tension between information openness and social preferences that every country has to deal with in the Internet age. Do you think that censorship of this kind is an effective way of dealing with it?

Inside the spectrum auction

This article in Forbes provides an interesting insight into the workings of the upcoming 700 MHz auction. Since Forbes doesn't do permalinks, I will quote from the article more liberally than I prefer to:

If you're a 150-person start-up going up against the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Google in the upcoming auction of wireless spectrum, you look for any advantage possible.

Towerstream, a tiny Middletown, R.I.-based fixed-wireless Internet provider, is hoping telecom lawyer Dee Herman will give it a leg up against the competition. Herman, a principal at Bennet & Bennet, is part of a cottage industry of lawyers, consultants, engineers and economists that companies are hiring to boost their chances in the closely watched Federal Communications Commission auction that could redefine the telecommunications industry.


Experts say larger companies are more likely to have in-house teams that assess the value of particular slices of spectrum and come up with different bidding scenarios Those with fewer resources are hiring outside consultants and lawyers, who may, in turn, work with bankers or economists to devise strategies. Even Google, which has set up a war room at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, is consulting with auction experts and game theorists to gain an edge over the competition.

Consultants and lawyers usually file the applications on behalf of companies. They also get tapped for a multitude of other tasks, including supervising auction deposits and payments and deymystifying FCC regulations, such as the FCC's anti-collusion rule. Consultants and lawyers also may help craft business plans, determining, for instance, how particular licenses complement a firm's projects or other spectrum holdings, how much a particular slice of spectrum is worth and what an appropriate bidding strategy would be.

These outside consultants describe their role as streamlining a somewhat Byzantine process. "The process of bidding, looking at results and strategizing with our clients to figure out their next move can be constant, consuming and all-encompassing," says Herman, Towerstream's outside legal counsel, who is also representing several other bidders interested in different geographic areas. Some clients, he says, enjoy the frenzy and get intimately involved in the details; others prefer to have updates e-mailed to them.

Experts differ on the advantages of outside help but agree that the real payoff may simply be saving time in what can be a weeks-long process. In spectrum auctions, bidding stays open until no new bids are received, at which point the entire auction ends. That helps ensure no one cuts in and outbids someone at the last minute. It also means serious competitors must keep a close eye on the auction until the end.

Compounding the complexity, FCC auctions tend to begin slowly, with two to three rounds per day, then ramp up to as many as eight to 14 rounds. A smaller spectrum auction held last fall with 168 bidders went 161 rounds over 29 days. The 700 MHz auction is expected to last longer, given thee greater number of participants and the higher perceived value of the spectrum.

Despite the plethora of options, many players will probably go it alone. The FCC says it has taken pains to make the auction process easy to navigate. A Jan. 22 mock auction is scheduled to familiarize participants with the bidding software, which has been fine-tuned over the past two years and includes a section of frequently asked questions. Like the real auction, the mock auction will have anonymous bidding, which means companies will know the amount of the highest bid and whether they submitted it, but not who they're bidding against. Limiting information in this way could help level the playing field, experts say.

While I believe that auctions are the most efficient way to do spectrum assignment, I think this article highlights some of the shortcomings of this mechanism. It seems clear that smaller participants stand at a relative disadvantage. Can you imagine how it might go if governmental agencies (eg., police and fire departments) had to enter this auction for their spectrum needs as well?

18 December 2007

US consumer expenditures on telephone services

This item has gotten a lot of press in the blogosphere. It represents what we have all been experiencing. If you look at the raw data, adjusting for inflation, the total expenditures on telecom have remained steady. There has been a substitution effect, though, where expenditures on mobile telephony has increased to 0.9% of income from 0.4%, while expenditures on landline telephones have decreased to 0.9% of income from 1.5%.

If these trends continue, we can expect expenditures for mobile phones to exceed landline phones in the US this year (2007).

13 December 2007

Thoughts on Google and business strategy

I succumb to the temptation to write about Google from time to time (why? search me... ha ha). This article was prompted by this item by Nicholas Carr and this one by Om Malik. Both of these analyses are focussed on strategy rather than technology.

In his analysis, Malik writes:

By squeezing the supply chain as hard as he could, he turned Dell into a fearsome (and loathsome) competitor. With his help, the supply chain for the PC era came to consist of foundries, ships, U.S. assembly plants and UPS trucks. Google (GOOG), with over $200 billion in market capitalization, is following a similar strategy, fine tuning and adapting it for the Web & broadband.

Instead of trucks and assembly plants, however, Google’s supply chain is made up of fiber networks, data centers, switches, servers and storage devices. From that perspective, its business model is no different than that of Dell’s (DELL): Google has to deliver search results (information, if you want to be generous about their other projects) as fast as possible at as low a cost as possible.

To better understand Google and its business model, one needs to break it down into three data inputs.

  • Relevancy of results.

  • Speed of search.

  • Cost of executing a search query.

Malik goes on to argue that these foci are the driving force behind Google's efforts to build their own switches, data centers, etc. Indeed, Carr refers to this as Google's third innovation: "Google’s third great innovation — and it may well be the one most critical to the firm’s future success — is the design of its parallel-processing computer system." However, Carr notes that:
The way Google makes money is actually straightforward: It brokers and publishes advertisements through digital media. More than 99 percent of its sales have come from the fees it charges advertisers for using its network to get their messages out on the Internet.

This is useful because profit is, in the end, the difference between revenues and costs. I don't think that Google's efforts to build a switch can be explained in terms of cost alone, because the market provides switches at competitive costs. Instead, following Carr, I can only rationalize this effort as one that gives Google a special leverage in the way that it is able to improve its revenues. Going back to Carr:

Any understanding of Google as a business has to begin, I'm convinced, in the idea of complementary goods. In The Google Enigma, an article in the new issue of Strategy & Business, I argue that the wide scope of Google's interest and activity is a natural and inevitable result of the fact that everything that happens on the internet is complementary to the company's core business.

Regulation or micromanagement?

This item from Forbes reports on the process of gaining regulatory clearance for a sale of access lines. FairPoint Communications had agreed to purchase Verizon's 1.6 million landline operations in northern New England for US$2.7 billion (or about US$1700 per access line). Transactions such as this are subject to regulatory approval because they involve the transfer of an operating license. According to the article,

An MPUC staff report last month recommended that the proposal be rejected unless the companies satisfy dozens of conditions.

The most controversial conditions would require Verizon to lower the selling price by $600 million and make FairPoint cut its dividends to shareholders by 30 percent, spend more to expand high-speed Internet and meet stronger quality standards for service.

According to the Examiner's Report, this recommendation is a result of concerns about FairPoint's ability to meet the needs of the residents, i.e., FairPoint is highly leveraged, and so will be limited in its ability to accommodate adverse results. This despite the fact that the examiner's report mentions that the price of the transaction is "considerably less than the price of other recent transactions".

Do you think that this is reasonable regulation, or is this micromanagement by a governmental agency? If this transaction is not approved, would the citizens of Maine be better off with an operator who (apparently) does not want this business (since they are selling it for a low price), or with one who wants to be there and isn't financially as solid as regulators would like them to be?

Update (2007-12-27): According to this article in Forbes, Vermont regulators have rejected the Fairpoint bid. Quoting the article:

The ruling by the Vermont Public Service Board cited FairPoint's financial viability.

"The Board found that FairPoint had not demonstrated that it would be financially sound as it seeks to operate the newly-acquired territories in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire -- a service territory that has five times the number of access lines as Fairpoint presently has," the board said in a prepared statement.

FairPoint, based in Charlotte, N.C., would have to borrow $2.5 billion to complete the transaction, the debt service on which could exert "significant financial pressure" when combined with operating costs and revenue projections, the board said.

State regulators, however, left the door open to a revised bid.

The article mentions that the union representing some of the employees was opposed to the sale. This also comes through in the papers from Maine. I wonder if they were shareholders ...

Tower sharing in India

This article in Forbes contained some interesting tidbits about tower sharing (in India, in this case). Quoting the article:

Last week, Bharti Airtel’s subsidiary Bharti Infratel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular said they would merge their wireless-infrastructure businesses to cut costs and improve efficiencies. Vodafone Essar and Bharti will each own 42% of the new company that results--Indus Towers--and Idea will get 16%.

The companies all operate on the global system for mobile communications standard. They will merge their infrastructure assets, totaling 70,000 towers, in 16 of the 22 demarcated telecommunication zones. Media reports said Indus Towers would fund expansion through debt and could venture a public offering two years on.

Other facts about the Indian market from the article are:

India’s mobile market added nearly 8 million subscribers in October, the largest gain in the world, along with China. But intense competition has ensured tariffs are as low as 2 cents a minute.

[... snip ...]

... as record subscriber growth overcrowds the airwaves, Indian telecom players are now engaged in a legal battle over precious spectrum allotments from the government.

11 December 2007

AT&T network upgrades

Stories like this one in Forbes don't get a lot of press attention, but I think that they are worth tracking anyway. Since Forbes doesn't do permalinks, here are some key excerpts from the article:

AT&T Inc. said on Monday it has switched on its high-speed backbone network, which is designed to ferry data traffic across the U.S. four times faster.

AT&T has begun placing traffic on its so-called "ultra-long haul" network, which boasts a capacity of 40 gigabits per second, meaning consumers will be able to download large files quicker and more easily stream online videos to their computers. Carriers have been upgrading the backbone network - the underlying pipes needed to move data across extremely long distances - to meet the increasing demand in bandwidth-intensive programs and videos.


The company, which is deploying routing equipment supplied by Cisco Systems Inc., has upgraded 50,000 miles of its network and plans to connect 25 major metropolitan areas in the next several months. ... In addition to a faster connection for consumers, the upgrades will help ease the capacity requirements for the company's U-Verse Internet-based TV system.


While the network is the first in the U.S., Verizon Communications Inc. said that this month it would begin building a 2,000-mile backbone network connecting major cities in Europe.

Both companies plan to push the 40-gigabit standard in the U.S. and eventually upgrade to 100 Gbps.

The article doesn't mention it, but I think it is safe to assume that the "40 Gigabit" standard is, in fact, OC-768 (this article in Network World confirms this). NW also reports that this is AT&T's MPLS network. I'm not sure what the "100 Gbps" is ... OC-1536 comes in at approximately 80Gbps. Wikipedia reports that the OC-3072 standard is a "work in progress".

Could the 100Gbps bit rate be referring to 100 Gbps Ethernet (as this article in Wikipedia suggests)? That would be quite a departure ... and would suggest an explicit strategy to integrate local and long distance network standards. Ethernet has truly come a long way (pun intended)!

In light of the Comcast "network management" discussion, this is an interesting development. Do you think AT&T would be credible if they employed similar techniques on this new network?

06 December 2007

Wireless network openings

AT&T, of course, could not be left out of the limelight that has surrounded Verizon's recent announcement. As TechDirt reports, they now claim to have "opened" their network as well. As a GSM-based operator, it has always been possible for users to purchase an unlocked phone and put in AT&T's SIM card. This is basically what AT&T is announcing to the world.

It is clear that this misses the point a bit. In its announcement, Verizon suggested an "unbundled" pricing scheme for these new devices. AT&T makes no such offer ... as a user of an unlocked phone, purchased separately, I received no break on AT&T's monthly service, so I didn't benefit from an handset subsidy, yet I pay the same amount. Go Figure.

On a related note, you might find Om Malik's analysis interesting. He writes:

The wireless unit of Verizon (VZ) reported year-over-year subscriber growth of 12 percent, but a mere 5 percent rise in voice revenues. Data revenue saved the day, surging 63 percent and lifting the company to 15 percent revenue growth overall. Data revenue per user increased 43 percent, while voice revenue per user declined 5 percent — pushing data to 20 percent of revenues from 14 percent. The same report revealed a 10 percent decline in residential access lines. The voice business of Verizon Wireless, in other words, seems to have entered the same cycle of contraction suffered by Verizon’s wireline business in recent years.

Joining the open access bandwagon promises to keep data revenues growing strongly, but CEO Lowell McAdam faces some mighty difficult choices as the 80:20 ratio of voice to data revenues reverses. The legacy pricing model incorporates price discrimination that will prove awkward to preserve.

Consider the lucrative SMS business of shipping 160 character messages for 10 cents each, or roughly $1,000 per megabyte. What happens when all devices cleanly incorporate instant messaging? “Any app, any device” means VoIP-capable devices that transparently support voice and web browsing via data plans. Why would someone pay Verizon an extra $40 per month for voice services? Any data plan that makes video affordable makes voice essentially free.

Articles like this one in BusinessWeek lend some credence to this argument. While AT&T suggest that its networks are already "open", they are only open to unlocked GSM devices. Amazon's Kindle is a different kind of device that uses a different business model. If the history of the telephone industry is a useful lesson, we will not be able to predict the kinds of innovation in devices and device/service combinations that might emerge.

Do you agree with Om Malik's assessment? Assuming you do, does Verizon's network opening make more sense?

05 December 2007

Asset swaps

It is not unusual for carriers to swap assets with each other for a variety of reasons. Sometimes swaps allow carriers to rebalance their regional portfolios to gain economies or to align their assets with their strategic objectives and other times it is to comply with regulatory requirements (there may be additional reasons as well). This news release (the quote below is from http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/12/04/ap4402372.html?partner=alerts in Forbes) is an example of the latter:
AT&T Inc. said Tuesday it has reached an agreement with Verizon Wireless to swap wireless assets, satisfying regulatory requirements from the company's acquisition of rural cellular telephone carrier Dobson Communications Corp. In mid-November the Federal Communications Commission approved AT&T's $2.8 billion purchase of Dobson but required one of the companies to divest assets in Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas. Under the terms of the agreement, after Verizon's acquisition of Rural Cellular Corp., AT&T will acquire some former Rural Cellular properties. The properties include licenses, network assets and subscribers in the Burlington, Vt., area and in rural service areas in New York, Vermont and Washington. AT&T will also acquire a cellular license from Verizon in Kentucky. In addition, Verizon will acquire from AT&T some former Dobson properties, including licenses, network assets and subscribers, in some rural service areas in Kentucky.
So, while these companies are fierce competitors in the retail market space, they are also business partners in other circumstances.

Sprint could spin off WiMAX division

This has been quite a month for the wireless industry. Between Verizon's recent announcements (see this and this) and the earlier news regarding Sprint and WiMax. In this article, Sprint interim CEO Saleh said:
... that Sprint was currently examining its plans for widespread WiMAX deployment in 2008 and deciding “if it’s the right course for us.” He then said that in the future, Sprint’s WiMAX division could take “multiple forms,” including one scenario where Sprint would “contribute our [WiMAX] asset to some kind of entity and find investors who are willing to fund the deployment of WiMAX.” Sprint would then buy services from that entity and resell them are on the market, he said.
I find the wholesale scenario most interesting (especially given my interest and work in secondary use and secondary markets for spectrum). This amounts to the creation of a wholesale WiMAX infrastructure from which Sprint would lease capacity for a potential retail operation. This is not unheard of in this industry. Note that Sprint is the carrier for MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) like Virgin Mobile. Also, many of the carriers have sold or outsourced their towers to companies such as Crown Castle and American Tower. So, I am wondering a couple of things as a result of this announcement:
  • Is the Sprint retail brand going to separate from its carriage services in its 2G and 3G (i.e., CDMA) operations as well? If they do, then Sprint (retail) will be just another MVNO on the Sprint (carrier) network. If they don't I wonder what spinning off WiMAX really buys them. This is roughly akin to the functional/structural separation that is being discussed (and in some cases implemented) in the wireline industry.
  • Is the Verizon annoucement a signal that the industry is in the process of restructuring itself into separate handset, retail and wholesale services components? If this is the case, it suggests that the economic and strategic benefit of integrated package delivery is coming to an end; that the transaction costs that have driven this integration have decreased significantly so that a new industry organization can become feasible.
It is clear that it could take a few years for this scenario to play out ... we have yet to see what AT&T has in mind in this regard, as well as the carriers in other countries that have a highly sophisiticated mobile industry.

30 November 2007

EU Declines to Set Mobile TV Standard

This article in Forbes, which reports that the EU Telecommunications ministers, who are meeting in Brussels this week, declined to endorse the adoption of a standard for mobile television (I haven't yet found the original announcements). According to the article:
But EU telecommunications ministers said this time that it was important to let the market decide which type of mobile TV it prefers - and the European Commission should stick to "technology neutrality." They said DVB-H should be a "non-mandatory standard" among other options.
Not surprisingly, the EU Commissioner Viviane Reding was concerned with this laissez-faire attitude, warning that "Europe risks losing its competitive edge unless it moves fast".

This is a truly surprising announcement, coming from the region that mandated the GSM air interface. Many European cognescenti have expressed concerns about the US's refusal to set such a standard. This makes this development so much more remarkable!

Broadband in Australia

You might find this item of interest ... there will be a cabinet level Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. One of the goals of this Minister is to implement the AU$4.7 Billion fiber to the node plan that was one of the promises of the recent election in Australia. So, following up on the point I was arguing here, how would one account for this in the OECD's price of service report? In other words, is it right to compare Verizon's retail price for FiOS (which did not receive a subsidy that I know about) with future services from Telstra and other Australian ISPs (which benefitted from this subsidy)?

FCC FSJB recommends funding broadband from the USF

Speaking of broadband, there is some interesting news on this front. The Federal-State Joint Board released this report recently. This group advises the FCC, in this case, on universal service policy. Thus, this report outlines recommended decisions that the FCC may or may not adopt. Responding to criticisms of the USF, the joint board recommended several actions:

  • Change funding structure to reduce burden on consumers
  • Change high cost program in several ways, including the introduction of three "funds": Broadband, Mobility and Provider of Last Resort (POLR)
  • Explore the use of reverse auctions to distribute funds

In doing this, the board is arguing that access to basic mobile voice and access to "broadband" is part of the universal service definition that should be funded.
They recommend that the broadband fund be approximately US$300 Million per year. They stop short of defining what they mean by "broadband" (which is not a trivial omission, since it affects cost in a significant way).

29 November 2007

OECD broadband statistics

he OECD recently published some updated broadband statistics. This was picked up and visualized by the San Jose Mercury News (as reported here -- the figure is pretty cool, by the way).

In looking at these new data, I asked myself the following questions:

  • What is really relevant here? Are users in "lagging" countries (like the US) getting their needs met? If yes, what is the problem?
  • In considering the reported data, they are advertised bit rates and retail prices. Is this really a fair if the prices are subsidized, either by tax subsidies, universal service funds, etc.? There is no doubt that there are serious methodological problems in counting and attributing subsidies, and using retail prices simplifies that.

Verizon Picks LTE for 4G Wireless Broadband

I have blogged about 4G technologies before. Now, in this item, Om Malik reports that Verizon has made its choice. He ties it to Verizon's recent announcement that they are opening their network:

The LTE evolution negates the GSM vs. CDMA debate, and it also promises global connectivity. In a recent chat, AT&T Mobility President & CEO Ralph de la Vega said that his company was going to migrate to LTE as the 4G solution. In such a scenario, you and I can then switch between the two services without worrying too much about handsets.

What does this mean for WiMAX?

Update (2007-11-30): CNet has a bit more to say about this in this article.

Verizon Wireless is opening up its network!

This has got to be the news of the month, perhaps the news of the year! It has gotten the attention of the major news sources (see this in BusinessWeek, this in the NY Times, and this over at CNet). I believe that it is no accident that it comes on the heels of the Open Handset Alliance's Android project, which has been substantially supported by Google). Not surprisingly, the blogs have been buzzing about this as well (see this from Om Malik and this from BusinessWeek). As I mentioned earlier, this was the essential vision of Tim Wu in his "Wireless Carterfone" treatise.

I applaud Verizon's move because it will almost certainly increase choice and innovation. It is likely to transform the industry in profound ways as well. I am also delighted that this move was Verizon's choice, not a policy originating from a court or a government agency. They must have a business model in mind that will make their investment more profitable for their shareholders in the long run.

The success of this effort will clearly depend on prices ... what will unbundled access cost and what will technical certification at Verizon's facilities cost. By the way, I have read some commentators who have questioned Verizon's testing ... suggesting that this should be an independent lab (I can't find the specific references anymore, regrettably). I disagree. I think it is perfectly reasonable for Verizon to establish, define and support conformance testing for devices attaching to their network.

Update (2007-12-5): This item argues why this move makes economic sense for Verizon.

Undersea cable for Africa (TEAMS)

In following up to this item, you might be interested in this article, which is relatively rich in cost information. By the way, this site has information on other cable projects as well. Some tidbits for the TEAMS project:

  • The project will involve the construction of a 4,887-km submarine telecoms cable linking the Kenyan coast with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The project will cost an estimated $110-million (or US$22,500/km). The cable has an expected lifetime of 25 years.

  • "Capacity will be allocated at cost with TEAMs investors paying $400,000 per STM1 per year. This translates to $2580.645 per megabit per year up to Fujairah and $ 215.00 megabit per month."
  • "TEAMs shareholders are expected to operate on an Internal Rate of Return of 32.71 per cent with a pay back of 2.4 years."
  • "Transit costs from Fujairah to Europe and US stands at between $55,000 to $100,000 per year"

The cost is considerably below the estimated US$70,000/km for the Guyana project ... why might this be the case?

20 November 2007

iPhone in Germany

You might find this item interesting. This is very similar to the situation in France, except it is ex post instead of ex ante, which is less favorable for Apple. The comments on the Gizmodo post are worth reading. Is this a precursor of what we will find throughout Europe?


In an earlier post, I pointed to the report of Comcast "managing" BitTorrent traffic. Well, things have gotten a bit more interesting since then. As this article in BusinessWeek reports, Comcast is now the object of complaints filed at the FCC as well as a lawsuit that is seeking class action status. You might also find this item useful to add a bit of dimension to your thinking.

Should the FCC set guidelines for acceptable "network management" practices, as Vuze is requesting in its petition?

Update (2007-11-29): There have been a few new developments and insights for your consideration:

  1. The Electronic Frontier Foundation released a report documenting the AP's findings in more detail. They also are offering tools for users to test their ISP, though the test method seems focussed on more technically astute people. To that end, the NNSquad has been discussing how one might build tools to test ISP behavior.
  2. For additional background on ISP motivations (yes, there are some that make sense), you might visit this site, which includes a pointer to a report from Sandvine.

Undersea Cable to Serve South America

Since the topic of undersea cables came up in class recently, you might find this item briefly describing a cable project between Guyana and Trinidad of interest. I think what is most useful are the cost and schedule details. Quoting the article:
Atlantic Tele-Network Inc., based in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Salem, Mass., expects to invest $35 million in the new cable, which will provide improved service to Guyana, Suriname and Brazil, the company said. It is expected to be completed in 2009. The region is currently served by an undersea cable between Florida and French Guiana, but many people in the region complain of slow Internet service and difficulty making international calls.

The distance covered by the cable is approximately 500km, so this project is estimated to cost US$70,000/km. How does this compare to other published cable costs?

EarthLink and municipal WiFi

As you know if you have read this blog before, Earthlink began reevaluating its commitment to municipal WiFi this summer. According to this and this, the results of this evaluation indicate that Earthlink will be exiting this business. you might enjoy this analysis as well.

Do you think this dooms the concept of municipal WiFi? Or, does this simply open the door for WiMAX based systems? What about the possibility that Earthlink was pursuing this as a strategy to exit the declining dialup business?

19 November 2007

700 MHz auctions, Google and more

There has been a bit of talk over the past months on Google's wireless ambitions. Certainly, Android is a part of it, but the speculation has also centered on Google's ambitions to be a wireless operator. To that end, this item over at GigaOm was the most insightful analysis that I have yet read. Om Malik concludes that it is unlikely that Google will become a wireless operator, and is instead using the upcoming 700 MHz auction to beat current carriers up over their network policies.

To that end, the NY Times is anticipating higher auction returns in this article because of the WRC agreement that was just concluded. I really doubt it, because there is no tangible value that the WRC reallocation added for US carriers.

Finally, I found this item, also from GigaOm intriguing. If Google is indeed making its own 10 Gbps switches, it seems as though we may be witnessing the re-incarnation of the vertically integrated Bell System (albeit without the market power). Interesting how times change ... I think there is little doubt that the Bell System benefitted from having a captive R&D and manufacturing capability. Is Google discovering that as well?

Update (2007-11-20): You might find this item interesting. Do you think Google should pay attention to analysts?

16 November 2007


The subject of payphone use came up in a recent class. To my surprise, two of the students in the class had never used a payphone. (OK, I know I am old -- I use email after all.) But the discussion did get me thinking about how payphone use has evolved in light of the penetration of mobile phones. I have not been able to find reliable, transnational data (at least for free).

I did find some tidbits that are relevant. Check out the results of an informal survey (too bad they didn't include the option "never"):
When's The Last Time You Used A Payphone

This item (from the World Dialogue on Regulation) reports on payphone use in Africa.

The ACMA (Australia) issued an annual report that contained some data. Unfortunately, I was spending too much time trying to copy some graphics from that report into this blog post.

The FCC provides some data for the US, though it does not include usage data:

So how about you? Did you ever use a payphone? When was the last time you used one (please feel free to update the "Swivel" chart)?

Update(2007-12-3): This item (via Forbes) reports that AT&T will "... exit its declining public pay phone business by the end of 2008 to focus on faster growing areas."

15 November 2007

Power line communications

I want to draw your attention to this item over at Ars Technica. While the story is mostly about a new chipset that ups the bit rate of this technology, the latter part begins exploring the market penetration of this technology (and the reasons for the current state of the market). Do you think that this is the elusive "third pipe" that many industry observers are looking for? Why or why not?

13 November 2007

World Radio Conference

The ITU-R's World Radio Conference is nearing its end. There has been little reported (that I am aware of) beyond this item. You might find this site useful if you want some more details that you won't find on the official site (at least without paying for it). If you do a search on "WRC-07", you'll find an array of position papers and a few reports beyond this one. I guess it isn't that interesting to the population at large, even though the stakes are enormous.

AT&T Technology timeline ... from the telephone to today

You might find

this website interesting. I do wonder about how topics for inclusion were selected ... but it is interesting nonetheless.

EU announces new (proposed) telecom regulation framework

In case you missed it, you might find this of interest. If you follow the links, you can get to the (draft) legislative documents. Note that these documents do not represent final policy, though it seems likely that the final policy will be close to what is published today.

  • As expected, functional separation is one of the options available to regulators. Do you think that this will be widely used?
  • The framework proposes a "European Telecom Market Authority". How do you think this will play out, especially with regard to NRAs?
  • What about the spectrum reform proposals? Will they help?

Anyway ... enjoy your reading!

Update (2007-11-14): Here is Forbes' take on this announcement and here is CNET's. Interestingly, few of the major news outlets reported on this.

Update (2007-11-15): This item reports that French and German regulators question the need for the Telecom Market Authority. Will this reform proposal face a long road to adoption?

Can services successful in one country gain traction in another?

I found this article interesting. It reminds me also of the Mobile Television services that have been successful in Korea and iMode, which was successful in Japan. Text messaging is another example of a technology that was successful in Europe but was slow to take off in the US (it has done so now -- ask any teen or young adult in the US).

These are the latest examples of technologies that have been successul in one country that may or may not translate to successful services in other countries. It is clear that cultural values are a piece of this, but so are living arrangements, communting arrangements, etc.

More on Sprint/Clearwire and WiMAX

As I have mentioned earlier, Sprint and Clearwire have ended their partnership plans. Several articles (see this and this, for example) are wondering what the future of mobile WiMAX is, especially in light of the recent LTE test. BusinessWeek has speculated about investment by Intel, in light of the strategic importance of this technology (see this), or a significant engagement with Google (see this as well).

Do you think that this is another case of analysts falling over themselves to get attention (i.e. a lot of hot air)? Or, is this truly a deep blow to mobile WiMAX prospects?

HD-DVD vs BluRay (again)

So I can't keep my fingers out of this one, OK? There were two articles, both from Gizmodo, that I found interesting and relevant. The first is this one, which reports that the Toshiba HD-DVD player that has been selling for US$ 99 costs approximately US$674 to build. This is a classic "technology sponsorship" move, even if it is driven by retailers at this point. How long is this sustainable?

What is reported in this item is more subtle and is predictable when you have broad cartels consortia. Will Blu-Ray end up "losing" because of what amounts to unfinished standards?

Internet Governance discussions

The current discussions by the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Brazil have been reported in a couple of places (see this and this, for example). The IGF was an outcome of the WSIS meeting in Tunisia in 2005 (see this and this, in case you've forgotten about it). The Internet Governance Project (IGP) which is distinct from the UN, is a forum for academics to debate Internet governance, is also deeply involved in the Brazil meeting.

Although the IGF is not a decisionmaking group, the discussions could lead to calls for decisions by UN groups that do have decisionmaking authority. According to this article, Co-Chairman Hadil da Rocha Vianna said:

"Let's progress slowly but that's not to say go backwards or just spin our wheels. So in Rio, the concrete results would be to advance in these debates, deepening themes debated in Athens."

So, what will the impact of IGF be? Is it another "consultative" organization, or will it result in a significant change to Internet governance?

Update (2007-11-16):
The NY Times has this article that was filed after the conference ended. Quoting the article:

With no concrete recommendations for action, the only certainty going forward is that any resentment about the American influence will only grow as more users from the developing world come online, changing the face of the global network.

''I think that there are many Third World countries and developing countries and people from Asia and so on who are pressuring for changes,'' said Augusto Gadelha Viera, coordinator of the Brazilian Internet steering committee and chairman of a closing session on emerging issues at the four-day Internet Governance Forum.

As the conference drew to a close, Russian representative Konstantin Novoderejhkin called on the United Nations secretary-general to create a working group to develop ''practical steps'' for moving Internet governance ''under the control of the international community.''

Network Neutrality (again)

You can probably figure out that I am skeptical about the appropriateness and efficacy of ex ante internet regulation. At the same time, I believe that the Internet should not subject users to undue restrictions. So, I think the approach that the NNSquad is terrific. This group has no regulatory powers, but can discover and report incidents, like the recent Comcast/BitTorrent incident (see this for an analysis/discussion). This kind of "regulation by information" may just be the most effective approach, especially as we reason through what "reasonable" user expectations are (or should be) and what "reasonable" provider behavior is (or should be) as the market evolves and as application requirements evolve. (By the way, here is another opinion on this group.)

Do you think that regulation by information is strong enough? Do you think that ex ante regulation (or even functional separation) is necessary anyway?

08 November 2007

Thoughts on the G-Phone

Google's much anticipated wireless strategy was finally publicly revealed this week, after much speculation and anticipation. Google's approach was inspired by Tim Wu's "Wireless Carterfone" proposal (which I have blogged about earlier). Unlike Apple's iPhone, Google is proposing an open software platform (Android) that is open and will run on a variety of hardware. The platform, which is based on the Linux kernel, will be developed and maintained by the Open Handset Alliance. According to OHA:
Android does not differentiate between the phone's core applications and third-party applications. They can all be built to have equal access to a phone's capabilities providing users with a broad spectrum of applications and services. With devices built on the Android Platform, users will be able to fully tailor the phone to their interests. They can swap out the phone's homescreen, the style of the dialer, or any of the applications. They can even instruct their phones to use their favorite photo viewing application to handle the viewing of all photos.
It is interesting to note that the carriers Sprint and T-mobile were quick to endorse this initiative. They are, after all, the smallest of the "big four" in the US. Is this an attempt to ride on Google's coat-tails (following the boost that AT&T's earnings had after their exclusive deal with the iPhone)?

The responses of industry analysts have been mixed:

  • Om Malik wrote "This is one massive PR move, with nothing to show for it right now, and it seems like there are other unknown reasons (Facebook ad platform launch perhaps) for the motivation here. No phones till second half of 2008 — in our ADD culture that is a lifetime."
  • Kent German wonders if T-Mobile and Sprint will hue to the spirit of openness once the phone ships.
  • Scott Anthony concluded that this is not a disruptive innovation. He writes that "[c]arriers have already placed big bets in the anticipation of earning service revenues from advertising and other future applications, which appears to be Google's plan as well."

  • According to this item, ""I have yet to be convinced that Google's mobile strategy will create a big dent in the industry," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Jordan Rohan, who added that Yahoo appears right to focus on distribution deals of its services instead."

It seems that Android is a platform that will compete in substantial ways with Microsoft Windows Mobile, Symbian, PalmOS, and the Blackberry operating platforms. So why would developers and phone manufacturers be interested? According to this article:

  • "Unlike with other mobile-platform providers, developers working with Android pay no licensing or other fees. They also will be able to sell their applications through a Google-created online marketplace without sharing revenues with the search giant. Google will make money on the ads served through the phone's browser, according to Google."
  • "By not having to pay licensing fees to Symbian or Microsoft, cell-phone companies will save about 10% of their costs, according to Google."
What about carriers?
  • How will it help carriers be more profitable in a business that is rapidly commoditizing?
  • Large carriers like Vodafone have already made it clear that they want to reduce the number of operating platforms that they support so that they can roll out applications and services more quickly. Does Android help them? Will this affect the other platforms?

Update (2007-11-13): This item contains some videos that show prototypes of a phone running Android.

07 November 2007

Nanotube Radio

Carlos Caicedo sent me this pointer to an article about a nanotube radio that has been developed in a lab. The article discusses signal detection, which is mechanical instead of electrical, but not demodulation, which would be a necessary feature of a fully functional radio. On the other hand, I don't see why AM demodulation should be challenging, using the same principles as a crystal radio.

02 November 2007

Sprint and WiMAX news

This article reports that Sprint is considering a merger with Clearwire. The two companies had collaborated on the construction of a nation wide wireless network.

Are you surprised that we are seeing consolidation already? Do you think that a merger like this would act as a significant deterrent for potential new entrants into WiMAX?

Update (2007-11-09): According to this article in the Wall Street Journal (via Forbes), Sprint and Clearwire are not combining their networks after all. Do you think that this is a good strategic move for them? What about for consumers?

30 October 2007

Google news

There have been a couple of items related to Google lately that caught my attention (I have posted on some of Google's (apparent) strategic intentions before, if you search this blog).

The first thing is this item, which purports to reveal Google's "wireless plans". According to the Wall Street Journal:
Within the next two weeks, Google is expected to announce advanced software and services that would allow handset makers to bring Google-powered phones to market by the middle of next year, people familiar with the situation say. In recent months Google has approached several U.S. and foreign handset manufacturers about the idea of building phones tailored to Google software, with Taiwan's HTC Corp. and South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. mentioned in the industry as potential contenders. Google is also seeking partnerships with wireless operators. In the U.S., it has the most traction with Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA, while in Europe it is pursuing relationships with France Télécom's Orange SA and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.'s 3 U.K., people familiar with the matter say. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

The Google-powered phones are expected to wrap together several Google applications -- among them, its search engine, Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail email -- that have already made their way onto some mobile devices. The most radical element of the plan, though, is Google's push to make the phones' software "open" right down to the operating system, the layer that controls applications and interacts with the hardware. That means independent software developers would get access to the tools they need to build additional phone features.

Developers could, for instance, more easily create services that take advantage of users' Global Positioning System location, contact lists and Web-browsing habits. They also would be able to interact with Google Maps and other Google applications. The idea is that a range of new social networking, mapping and other services would emerge, just as they have on the open, mostly unfettered Web. Google, meanwhile, could gather user data to show targeted ads to cellphone users.


Google helped push through controversial rules for a coming spectrum auction at the Federal Communications Commission that would result in a new cellular network open to all devices and software applications, even those not favored by an operator. Google has said it will probably bid for the frequencies.

For now, the company knows it has no choice but to work with operators to make its open platform successful. D.P. Venkatesh, CEO of mPortal Inc., which makes software for wireless operators, puts it this way: "There are a few things carriers control that will always keep them in charge at the end of the day."

But broader (and deeper) thoughts come from Robert Cringley and Nicholas Carr. In his recent article, Cringley writes:

Here is what's significant about Google putting code into MySQL: they haven't done it before. Google has been a MySQL user from almost the very beginning, customizing the database in myriad ways to support Google's widely dispersed architecture with hundreds of thousands of servers. Google has felt no need previously to contribute code to MySQL. So what changed? While Google has long been able to mess with the MySQL code in ITS machines, it hasn't been able to mess with the code in YOUR machine and now it wants to do exactly that. The reason it will take so long to roll out MySQL 6.1 is that Google will only deliver its MySQL extensions for Linux, leaving MySQL AB the job of porting that code to the 15 other operating systems they support. That's what will take until early 2009.

Then what? I think the best clue comes from the agreement Google recently signed with IBM to co-promote cloud computing in universities.

Cloud computing is, of course, the ability to spread an application across one or many networked CPUs. You can think of it as renting computer power or having the ability to infinitely scale a local application without buying new hardware. Cloud computing can be anything from putting your entire business on other people's computers to running a huge Photoshop job from the lobby computer at Embassy Suites before jumping on the shuttle bus to Disney World with your kids. For all its promise, though, cloud computing has been pretty much a commercial failure so far.


But Google wants us to embrace not just cloud computing but Google's version of cloud computing, the hooks for which will be in every modern operating system by mid-2009, spread not by Google but by a trusted open source vendor, MySQL AB.

Mid-2009 will also see the culmination of Google's huge server build-out. The company is building data centers large and small around the world and populating them with what will ultimately be millions of generic servers. THAT's when things will get really interesting. Imagine a much more user-friendly version of Amazon's EC2 and S3 services, only spread across 10 or more times as many machines. And as with all its services, Google will offer free versions at the bottom for consumers and paid, but still cost-effective versions nearer the top for businesses and education.

If you are completely OK with this and are looking forward to this environment -- and there is much to look forward to -- you might read and consider Nicholas Carr's allegory (that is in the spirit of Halloween), which is difficult to summarize here.

Sprint Nextel Settles Lawsuit on mobile phone locking

This story was reported late in the week last week. Basically, Sprint agrees to provide unlock codes for subscribers switching to other service providers. As reported by Forbes, this still has to be reviewed by the Superior Court. The fact that it is a settlement suggests that it will not be appealed (but you never know).

Do you think other carriers will follow suit? Since the settlement only applies to Sprint, they don't need to, but do you think they will feel obliged to do so for competitive reasons?

US Wireless by the numbers

This report from CTIA contains historical data on US mobile operations. A couple of facts from the report
  • There were 243.4 million mobile subscribers in June 07, up from 219.6 million the previous June.
  • The average bill was $49/month, an amount that has been virtually unchanged since June 2003.
  • These consumers used over 1 trillion minutes in the first half of 2007, a record. Minutes of use has grown 18% year over year.
  • There were 210,360 cell sites in service in June 07, up from 197,576 the year before.
Have fun poring over the data in this report!

Wireless Use in India

This article presents some interesting facts and perspectives about wireless use in India. Some exerpts:
  • The number of Indian consumers accessing the Internet from their phones doubled in the last year to 38 million (from 16 million).
  • The number of Internet connections that occurred via PC declined to 9.22 million in the second quarter (from 9.27 millian in the first quarter)
I think this underscores the utility of mobile technologies in a wide variety of economic circumstances, and underscores why companies like Nokia and Motorola have been targetting this market

4G Standards

I found this article in BusinessWeek interesting. The article describes the upcoming technology battle between Qualcom's UMB, GSM-based LTE, and next generation WiMAX for dominance in the 4G environment. One of the interesting things to me is that apparently Verizon Wireless, a CDMA-based carrier, is considering changing its technology to LTE. To me, this makes sense given that it is partly owned by Vodafone, and that its target market is more upscale and is therefore more likely to travel internationally. I am surprised that it has taken this long, and that they haven't followed Korean carriers in moving to HSDPA for the high end. Sprint, of course, has already declared WiMAX as their next generation standard. This seems to leave Qualcomm with few major backers. Still, this battle is far from over, it seems ...

Update (2007-11-8): I came across this item that is relevant to this topic. Does this change your sense of where this is going?

25 October 2007

WiMAX news

WiMax got a few boosts over the past week:

  • This article reports that WiMAX has been approved as an ITU standard. This endorsement means that it will be easier for companies to get spectrum for this technology. Since the ITU is a treaty organization, this approval can, in some countries, serve as an enabler for its adoption.
  • This article reports that Taiwan has made commitments to invest in WiMAX networks
  • Sprint has announced plans to continue its WiMAX rollout, despite the change in their executive suite.

Tiered Internet pricing in Germany?

You might find this article of interest (I tried to find the source materials, but was unable to ... the URLs in the article point to a discussion of their VDSL network, not their pricing plans).

This is one of the items that gets to the heart of the "network neutrality" discussion ... should ISPs be able to offer tiered pricing? There is already a tradeoff between price and quality ... if you want more bandwidth, you pay more. If you want better quality, you can build an MPLS network (assuming you know the endpoints).

If you extend the analogy to non-telecom services, you can purchase mail with different delivery times at different rates ... so why should you be able to do this for internet services as well?

Next Gen DVD format wars again

I keep coming back to this topic ... there were a couple of announcements recently that provided contradictory signals.

  1. According to this, Blu-Ray disks outsold HD-DVD disks in the first nine months of the year in the US. This suggests momentum for Blu-Ray
  2. According to this item, Samsung has abandoned its next generation Blu-Ray DVD player for one that plays both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. This suggests that Samsung, a major backer of Blu-Ray, is not confident that Blu-Ray will win.

Do you think either of these facts are indicative of future outcomes? If so, which do you think is more meaningful?

19 October 2007

Comcast and BitTorrent

Articles like this one are showing up on the net ... I chose to refer to this one from Ars Technica because it is the most technical that I have seen thus far. Quoting the article:

Comcast has been "caught" blocking BitTorrent traffic in some areas, according to tests performed by the Associated Press. The news organization claims to have confirmed that Comcast is blocking—or at least seriously slowing down—BitTorrent transfers, regardless of whether the content is legal or not. If true, Comcast's actions have serious implications for sharing information online, and by proxy, Net Neutrality.

The AP was tipped off to the possible P2P blockage by a reader who had noticed serious slowdowns on his Comcast connection. The organization then proceeded to perform a number of tests—three, to be exact—on two computers in cities on both the east and west coasts. AP chose to download a copy of the King James Bible through BitTorrent (because it is an uncopyrighted work) and went to work. In two out of its three tests, the downloads were blocked altogether, while in the remaining test, the download started after a 10-minute delay.

Assuming this report is correct, do you believe that Comcast has the right to "manage" traffic on their network in this way? Could you imagine AT&T or Verizon offering a "BitTorrent-friendly" package to compete with Comcast?

17 October 2007

Wither CableCARDs?

This article over at Ars Technica provides a nice, brief historical review of the CableCARD program. The goal of this program is quite clearly to promote competition in set-top boxes ... does it surprise you that it hasn't happened yet?

16 October 2007

Broadband access in the EU

This item, published yesterday, reports on broadband access in the EU. This is a data rich report that is worth studying in some detail. A quick scan reveals a couple of interesting points:
  • The largest number of new broadband lines per 100 population and the number of new broadband lines per 100 are both Denmark ... this suggests that as the penetration gets large enough, the demand for more lines increases. At what point does this begin? Can you imagine an end to this trend?
  • Figure 8 illustrates a market with robust competition ... but digging in a little further illustrates that it isn't usually infrastructure-based competition. Figure 17 shows that only 0.6% of new entrants own their own facilities ... the rest rely on the incumbent's facilities in one way or another.
  • Europe is heavily DSL ... over 80% of access lines use that technology, though this distribution varies significantly by country (p. 29).
There is surely more to learn from this report ...

15 October 2007

[SNU_PITT Collaboration Proposal]

Unfortunately, there is no candidate for my proposed subject of wireline and wireless convergence until now, so I’d like to say more about the topic and suggest an additional topic.

Firstly, as I suggested before, it is about convergence between wireline and wireless services. Before the systematic convergence, the integrations of wireline and wireless services are tried in various forms such as DPS(Double Play Services), TPS(Tribple Play Services), QPS(Quadruple play services).
we can talk more to select issues as follows
- regulations and policies related to Fixed Mobile Convergence
- the market direction of wire-line and wireless integrated services (service bundling)
- the evolution of service integration & service convergence
- the factors to decide service feature of integration and convergence
- convergence service platform technologies
- ip-based backbone network

If there is no person who is interested in the first topic, my second topic is about internet telephony - VoIP. We will survey current services - voip over internet or wireless, and regulations and policies with comparison between USA and Korea.

I’m look forward to your joining. :)

Name: SangChoon, Lee
Nationality: Korea
Research interests: Network Evolution and Convergence
Education : Ph.D candidate in TEMEP program at Seoul National University. MS and BS in Infomation and Telecommunication Engineering at ChonBuk National University, Korea.

12 October 2007

Vivian Reding on Telecoms regulation

You might find this speech by EU Commsioner for Information Society and Media interesting. Here are some points from her speech:

I have come to the conclusion that the instrument of functional separation should be added to the remedies tool box of national telecom regulators ...

... a symbol for the single market for telecoms is the creation of the new European Telecom Market Authority which will be an integral part of the reform package.

As you would expect, there are many caveats to those points in the speech. It clearly is a preview to the new regulatory frameork that will be forthcoming in the next month.

11 October 2007

Suit accuses Apple and AT&T of monopoly

Speaking of walled gardens ... you might find this story interesting. They NY Times says a little more about it in this article. This seems to get at the heart of the "wireless Carterfone" discussion that I have been blogging about. This seems to be an attempt to get from the courts what you (they) could not get from regulatory agencies. On the other hand, it is exactly what you could (and should) expect using ex post regulation.

Sprint and WiMAX

The Washington Post reported that Sprint's President Forsee resigned because the payoff on his bet on WiMAX is too slow in forming (at least in part). This article over at CNET has a deeper analysis of Sprint, investors, and WiMAX.

Did Sprint get cut on the bleeding edge?

10 October 2007

[SNU_PITT Collaboration Proposal] Wireless Broadband Policy

The future of the Internet is broadband, and the future of broadband will involve a large component of wireless services. With the growth of the Internet and the emergence of broadband, the world of wireless services is being transformed with important implications for the entire communications services value chain. Mobile service providers are deploying broadband wireless data services via so-called Third Generation “3G” networks. At the same time, the proliferation of wireless local area network (WLAN) technologies like IEEE 802.11b (better known as Wi-Fi) are supporting wireless data services in homes and businesses, and are providing new types of “hot spot” public infrastructure.

In this project, I’d like to search for some of the key architectural and design choices for wireless networking systems and their implications for cost and system performance (we could do U.S. and South Korea comparisons). In addition, we could provide examples of how the new wireless technologies are being deployed by municipalities in a variety of contexts, with reference to wireless technologies currently available from vendors. Finally, we could discuss about the policy implications of these trends and possibly provide possible policy suggestions (we could also do the U.S. and South Korea case comparison).

This is just my proposal for our project so, we need to further discuss about it. If anyone interested in this area, feel free to contact me and let’s discuss about our project. I look forward to meeting you!!

About Me
Name: Eung-Do Kim (Ryan)
B.A. in Information Technology, York University, Canada
Master Candidate in Technology Management, Economics, and Policy program, Seoul National University, Korea
Nationality: Korean

[SNU_PITT Collaboration Proposal]

Research Topic:
Future Contents on Mobile Telecommunication Technology
- case studies of Korea and US

Telecommunication technology evolutions move on faster, starting from 1G, 2G, and currently 3G or 3.5G (simply we just call it 3G). Right now, people already prepare for the 4G, which will guide us to the Next Generation Networks. For example, digital home remote control (from home automation), artificial intelligent system, Haptic technology, etc. Those things will change the way of our future.

Importance of this research:
This study will give vision to the Next Generation Contents, so that telco’s companies and contents or services providers can prepare it along with technology on data communication movement. Also this study will be useful for government officer, to prepare and anticipate what kind of policies to avoid confusion in the telco’s industries in the future.

Methodology: Literature Study of comparison between Korea and US.

Name: Yongsung Jung
Nationality: Korea
Research interests: Future convergence
ㅇ Bachelor in International relations at Naval Academy
ㅇ Master candidate in Technology management, economics and policy
program at Seoul National University

SNU-PIT, Collaboration Research Proposal

1. Research Topic ; Regulation Policy of Limited Internet Users' ID Verification
2. Brief Introduction on this topic
Recently, the Korean government implemented Limited Internet Users' ID Verification, which was designed to regulate very obscene or impolite Negatizens' activities such as preplanned or improvised attact to certain users by spreading or adding unconfimed rumors on the web. Therefore, if he who wants to add his comments or opinions on the web his registered virtual ID and his real ID(legal name and registration number) should match. Several months have passed since implementation. As to this issue, some people insist that the proportion of negative activities has decreased . On the other hand, it is also true that it tends to curb the freedom of speech on the web. From my side, I can provide some of public attitude and statistical change of internet users surrounding this policy. From your side, of course, you can find out the similar or the relevant pre-existing policy and its impact. And, finally, we can recommend some implication on this issue.
3. Student's Profile
(1) Name : Seongbong LEE
(2) Educational background
- BA, Business Administration, SNU
- MA, Science Policy, Sussex University, U.K.
- Currently, PhD Candidate, SNU

09 October 2007

[SNU_PITT Collaboration Proposal] Wireline and Wireless Convergence

Research Topic
With the IMS (IP multimedia subsystem) network architecture, a new approach to enabling convergence is emerging that lets wireless and wireline carriers use a common IP foundation to deliver multimedia and traditional services. So, I'd like to analyze market developments and policies of wire & wireless integration. It can be included to make comparitive studies of technologies and services (Service Bundling or Service Integration, etc) between Korea and USA.

Name: SangChoon, Lee
Nationality: Korea
Research interests: Network Evolution and Convergence
Education : Ph.D candidate in TEMEP program at Seoul National University. MS and BS in Infomation and Telecommunication Engineering at ChonBuk National University, Korea.

Regulation and technology adoption

One of the recent discussions in the US telecom policy circles has been the idea of a "wireless Carterfone". Such a policy would basically uncouple handsets from wireless service providers. That is, buyers would be free to choose handsets and wireless service providers independently (much like today's unlocked GSM phones). Carriers tend to bundle handsets and services for several reasons, including:
  • Lowering the barrier to entry (or use) by providing subsidized handsets
  • Ensuring reliable services by testing feature sets on supported phones
  • Strategic and economic purposes

This article suggests that the introduction of the iPhone in France may not happen because of regulations like this. Do you think that this is an example of regulation inhibiting innovation?

Update (2007-10-17): This article in Gizmodo is reporting that the iPhone will be on sale in France after all. Does this alter your opinion about this question? What does this say about bargaining among these titans?

Good News for Computer Science Grads

This article, from Chronicle.com is a positive indicator for IS & T. Hopefully this will translate into improved enrollments. Quoting the article:
Starting salaries for college graduates with computer science degrees are up, hitting their highest levels in seven years, according to a recent survey. But midcareer workers at big employers may face layoffs and “restructuring.” These two trends are somewhat connected, unfortunately.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported last month that the average salary offer to a computer science graduate was $53,051 in 2007, up 4.5 percent from last year. Students graduating with management information systems degrees received average starting salaries of $49,966, up 5.9 percent from last year.

Employers face a shrinking labor pool, since the number of computer science graduates has dropped significantly since the turn of this century. Laws of supply and demand apply, so companies compete harder and pay more for a smaller supply of qualified graduates.

AT&T's spectrum purchase

Showing that a secondary market does, in fact, exist in spectrum (even if it is "lumpy" and very thinly traded), AT&T purchased spectrum at 700MHz. So, it is interesting to speculate about AT&T might use this spectrum.

GSM-based systems are currently not designed for 700MHz ... so do you think this is for WiMAX? Is AT&T's recent spectrum purchase like an option on a future WiMAX network?

[SNU_PITT Collaboration Proposal] Telecommunication-Broadcasting Convergence Policies Comparison

Research Topic
Telecommunication-broadcasting convergence policies among some countries

It is about to begin Telecom-Broadcasting convergence. In order to go with this flow of times, policies and governmental offices with a new paradigm are needed. Hence I would like to compare the main issue of policies in telecommunication-broadcasting convergence, and how the governmental offices are organized. Furthermore, we can find out which case can be the role model of Korea, and what kind of problems should be improved.

Name: Ji-hoon Hong
Nationality: Korea
Research interests: telecommunication policy
Master candidate in Technology management, economics and policy program at Seoul National University
Bachelor Degree in Industrial Engineering at KAIST

[SNU_PITT Collaboration Proposal] Spectrum management

Research Topic : The global trends of spectrum management
I selected spectrum management for the topic of term project. There are a lot of ways to distribute spectrum to users(by government regulation, spectrum auction, secondary market, and so on). So I am planning to make the case studies of spectrum management in some countries(i.e. Korea, America, UK, Japan ...) and compare each other.
The purpose of this project is to seek a effective way maximizing utilization of limited spectrum resources by analyzing diverse cases of spectrum management.
If you are interested in this topic, please leave a comment below.

Name: YungHwan Soh
Nationality: Korea
Research interests: Spectrum management, telecommunication industry policy
Bachelor in Electrical engineering at Korea University
Master candidate in Technology management, economics and policy program at Seoul National University

[SNU_PITT Collaboration Proposal] FTTH Policies Comparison

Research topic: comparison of FTTH policy between Korea and US
Objective: Through this project we can observe the FTTH policies and situations of two leading countries in the telecommunication industry. Furthermore, additional comparison of general broadband policy can be done.

Name: Hongbum Kim
Nationality: Korea
Research interests: technology innovation, telecommunication industry policy
Bachelor in computer science at Sogang University
Worked as a mobile application developer
Master candidate in Technology management, economics and policy program at Seoul National University

07 October 2007

[SNU Collobaration Proposal] Spectrum Policies Comparison

I would like to propose a semester project about spectrum policies in different countries. I am looking for Korean and American students, so we can compare policies of three countries. Together we can learn and discuss how spectrum is distributed and used in our countries, what kind of legislation is used and how governmental institutions execute it. I am open for discussion and redirecting of this project goals.
About me
Name: Stanislav A. Belogolov
Education: Seoul National University, Electrical Engineering (will be graduated in Aug.)
Moscow State University, Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics (B.C.)
Nationality: Russian
Character: Tend to criticize and argue ;)

04 October 2007

Regulatory arbitrage and freeconferencecall.com

This article in the Wall Street journal is a story of two firms that took advantage of a "feature" in US telecom regulation for profit. Quoting the article:
RICEVILLE, Iowa -- Two-and-a-half years ago Ron Laudner was the anxious owner of a rural phone company serving this tiny town, where Main Street was emptying out as restaurants and other businesses disconnected their phones and moved to busier commercial districts.

More than 1,800 miles away, David Erickson was running a Web-based conference-calling business in Long Beach, Calif., shopping around for phone companies to be his partners.

In mid-summer 2005 this unlikely duo struck a deal. They routed millions of minutes of Mr. Erickson's conference calls through the switches of Mr. Laudner's Farmers Telephone of Riceville. To do it, they used outdated federal regulations to charge telecom companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. steep rates and collected huge profits at their expense. Together, the two made hundreds of thousands of dollars. Soon, Mr. Laudner cut other deals to generate even more traffic. At the peak, his little telephone company was facilitating conversations among everybody from Mary Kay Cosmetics employees to customers of Male Box, an "all male all gay" chat line.

"I'm not going to argue I didn't think it was amazing," Mr. Laudner says.

But the big phone companies had another term for it. "Verizon is not going to stand by while irresponsible companies use this traffic-pumping scheme to overcharge our company," says Tom Tauke, vice president of public affairs, policy and communications for Verizon.

The deal between Messrs. Laudner and Erickson illustrates how tumult in the telecom industry has given rise to opportunities -- and headaches -- as entrepreneurs exploit outdated regulation. Their arrangement, and deals like it, spawned lawsuits, blocked phone calls and triggered an investigation by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission into the high fees some rural carriers charged to the Bells. Late Tuesday, the FCC proposed rules that, if approved, are likely to prevent such deals in the future.

The article goes on ... do you think that these kinds of arbitrage are appropriate? Or, is this another instantiation of "flat world" services that are being paid for by novel means?

ISP blocking of email traffic

The tiff about Verizon Wireless and text messages that I blogged about earlier that raised question of net neut in the eyes of some observers. In similar fashion, political advocacy groups occasionally complain about being blocked by their ISPs. As this item points out, there may be technical reasons that are non-political.

I conclude that there may be less to these stories than is being alleged ...

Operational Separation of Telecom in New Zealand

You might find this item of interest. This kind of separation has been proposed as a possible solution to the "net neut" concerns, and BT in the UK is proposing to do this voluntarily. Forbes has reported on this as well (see this). New Zealand will (once again) be a laboratory for advanced ideas in telecom policy.

Vodafone Eyes First Mideast Deal

This article is about Vodafone's trial for penetration into Qatar wireless market. Vodafone, a british giant in telecommunication, is one of the most aggresive company that has advanced foreign wireless markets. Starting from U.S, Australlia, Republic of South Africa, and recently India, they are keeping their business area expanding. Because of the difficulty to construct the infrastructure overseas, Vodafone mainly use two ways of entering foreign market. One is a joint venture with domestic provider such as Verizon Wireless and Vodacom, and the other is a takeover of domestic provider such as Hutch India. However, it is extremely impossible to run a joint venture without making any noise, (even in entering Qatar, Verizon and Vodafone are competing) also getting much harder and harder to complete a takeover deal due to FCC's consolidated restrictions (look at this). In that, Qatari market is really attractive for Vodafone. In Qatar, Vodafone doesn't need to make tricky relationships, and can get the dominace in domestic market and the bridgehead toward Mideast.

Who is going to win this battle and procure the priority? Can Vodafone enlarge their business opportunities so far as Mid-east? What is going to happen in Mideast wireless market?

Motorola's new leap?

Through this interview with chief technology officer, Padamsree Warrior, we can see Motorola’s recent strategy. Motorola, which has been beaten by Samsung in Q2 2007 for the number two spot in mobile phone market share after four years of stable ranking (see this), seems to concentrate on WiMAX business.

As CTO said, is it efficient to proceed to the WiMAX technology in some countries that are at a 2G level now? If WiMAX is not adapted as a standard for the 4G, what will be Motorola’s future?

AOL's Mobile Ambitions

AOL, one of the most powerful internet service providers, is planning to make its software available on cell phones worldwide. (see this) And also, it is working on a software module-a unified application that would integrate AOL's multitude offering into one master portal.
U.S. traffic to AOL's mobile Web site is higher than that to Google Mobie's and double that of MSN Mobile's. Moreover, it is equipped with various IT service contents such as AOL Mail, AOL Instant Messenger, Moviefone theater listings, MapQuest navigation software, City Guide local search, and so on. So, its current movements may impact on mobile industry greatly.

It's interesting issue that AOL is strengthening its mobile internet business. How will the situation of mobile industry change due to the AOL's new strategy? Is AOL's choice good or bad? We need to discuss it.

03 October 2007

Telco, Convergence or not ?

Althougt there are some companies say like this, the competition is heating up and operators are faced up to fight more severely in the telecom markets. As blogged before(this), google's plan is alse related to this competition.
Operator's new strategies to survive have been tried in various ways(see this) in these days. And, it is said that convergence and multiple bundle services are required to the operators.
On the other hand, this tells us that some telecos maybe choose to offer separate services rather than bundling them to remain cost-effective. Convergence, go fast or not ? which is better ?

Matters in DVD war and the China

It will take more time to see who will come out the winner. From the data so far, Blu-ray seems to be winning for outsold titles and their supporters. If someone asked me about the winner of DVD wars in this moment, I would say Blu-ray which has more spec, security and supporters matters.

See this chart I made for "matters in DVD battles" blow.

However, the most important thing to watch out is the China’s movement. China is probably going to develop better DVD format with lower price and more spec. Even though they don't have any supporters right now, I believe many things will be changed with China's new format. Let us take a careful look for another DVD war.

Those technologies are young and immature, and have room to improve so we have got to watch and wait for their competition with market dynamics. For the argument of Blu-ray and HD-DVD debate, see this blog. I'll keep spy on the China's wind.