18 January 2007

Transition to digital radio

In the US, we are most likely to read about the transition to digital television. Indeed, I have referred to this several times on this blog (see this, for example). What is also happening, though much more quietly, is digital radio. In the past few months, I have begun hearing advertisements in the local market for "HD Radio" (which is how this is being branded in the US). To gain perspective on this, you might find this article from Wired interesting. Here is part of what they have to say:

But in the United States? Not so much. Slightly more than 1,000 U.S. stations now broadcast in HD Radio, according to iBiquity Digital, the company that created the technology behind digital radio in the United States. But none yet offer the features available in the United Kingdom. Instead, they use the additional frequencies HD Radio technology provides to offer new channels of content called "multicasts." Top 40 station WNKS, for example, simulcasts its main analog signal on one of its HD Radio frequencies, and multicasts a Christian format on the other.

"Multicasting is HD Radio's initial value proposition, but it's just a first step," says iBiquity CEO Bob Struble.

Struble envisions HD Radio eventually delivering scrolling-text news and traffic updates, integrating with car navigation systems, and offering on-demand song downloads. And the new partnership between Clear Channel and Microsoft will create a national data service called MSN Direct HD that delivers localized, personalized content to home and car HD Radio receivers.

Just as in television, what is required is an equipment investment on the part of consumers. Right now, the choices are fairly limited. Do you think that the transition is likely? There is not a government push behind it (at least that I am aware of) as is the case with HDTV

17 January 2007

Predictions from Deloitte and Touche

The consultancy Deloitte and Touche recently issued its 2007 predictions (free subscription required). A sampling of their predictions:

One of the key possibilities for 2007 is that the Internet could be approaching its capacity.

The debates around the world over net neutrality look likely to continue through 2007.

2007 should see many launches of IPTV services around the world.

Telecommunications operators may well continue to focus on applications that generate large files and high data rates in 2007.
In 2007, the connectivity chasm may become as well known as the digital divide.

2007 may well see telecommunications services being given away.

15 January 2007

Cost of FLOSS

Yes, you can get floss for under $3.00 at your local market. The cost of FLOSS, or Free/Libre Open Source Software has been a discussion item in the press for some years. Some (often sponsored by Microsoft) have asserted that the total cost of ownership of FLOSS-based systems is, in fact, higher than proprietary alternatives. This article, published at Silicon.com, points to this EU sponsored study, which asserts otherwise. Thurston writes:
According to the report, which was authored by academics at the United Nations University in Maastricht, Netherlands: "Our findings show that, in almost all cases, a transition towards open source [produces] savings in the long-term cost of ownership."

Microsoft has attempted to persuade IT professionals and businesses that Windows can be cheaper than Linux, through its Get The Facts campaign. Get The Facts cited examples where Redmond's software offered a cost advantage over open source.

The EC report also issued encouragement for organisations considering the free Open Office applications suite. "Open Office has all the functionalities that public offices need to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations," the report said. "Open Office is free and extremely stable." It added that users were equally as productive with Open Office as they were with proprietary software.

But the report issued two notes of caution. Firstly, it said that short term costs would be higher for organisations migrating, even partially, to open source, largely because of the initial cost of training. Secondly it said some workers may feel undervalued if they are required to work with free software.

I will be looking forward to studying this report in more detail.

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10 January 2007

"Net Neut*" again ...

It should not come as a surprise to learn of more legislative interest in the somewhat vague idea of "network neutrality" in light of the recent legislative change and in light of the AT&T/BellSouth merger. Indeed, there have been numerous actions that have been reported lately. See this from the NY Times and this, for example. Do you think the chances of legislation are better? Do you think that regulating the Internet in this way is a good idea (or meaningful, for that matter)?

Separately, you might find this report interesting, in which the authors argue that municipal ownership is the answer to network neutrality problem. Do you agree? Why or why not? Is this a first step to nationalization, ala Chavez in Venezuela?

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The Nationalization of CANTV?

In his inaugural speech, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced his desire to nationalize several "strategic" sectors, including telecommunications. While this had been threatened earlier, this speech seems to have caught analysts off guard. It is unclear whether he hopes to accomplish this through seizure or through purchase of the assets on the open market.

Update (2007/01/11): This article indicates that there will be compensation for owners of nationalized companies. However this comes from a member of the legislature rather than from the Chavez government. Furthermore, Mr. Sanguino did not indicate whether this compensation would be at market levels or whether some other level would be determined. Excuse my skepticism ...

Update (2007/01/15): This article is clear that the Venezuelan government plans to pay market prices in its nationalization program. I withdraw my skeptical tone. This article goes on to summarize where privatization and nationalization have and have not been successful in developing countries in general and Latin America in particular. It is well worth the read.

Update (2007/01/22): Hugo Chavez reversed the previous signals (see this article). The article says:
Speaking during a Sunday broadcast, Chavez said the price for CANTV would take into account debts to workers, pensions and other obligations, including a "technological debt" to the state.

"I'll pay when the law dictates and in the form the government decides. I'm going to tell them that CANTV was given away, and that they shouldn't come here saying it must be paid for at the international price," he said.

Are you surprised? I, for one, am not ...

What impact do you think this will have on the telecommunications infrastructures in other countries?

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Telecommunications in developing countries

There is no doubt that telecommunications has transformed the lives of people in industrialized countries. When complementary infrastructures and the means to pay for service exists, the choice to adopt technology is an easy one. It is much more difficult in developing countries, where many people live on the margin of sustainability. There have been a couple of stories recently about this, particularly in light of Vodafone's interest in India.

The first article, from BusinessWeek focusses on India. Though the purpose of this article is to describe the challenges for handset makers, it provides a glimpse into the transformative nature of telecommunications:
o get a sense of how India's revolution in mobile telephony is changing people's lives, consider the case of Dashrath Pujari, a plumber who shares a modest shop with a cobbler in suburban Mumbai. People in his neighborhood seek him out to fix their faucets, washing machines, and water leaks, but when he's out on call it falls to his 14-year-old son to pass on any messages. And sometimes the boy, who attends night school, doesn't follow through.

In the past, that cost Pujari precious business, but no more, thanks to a $32 Motofone handset he purchased from Motorola a while back. Today, he fields about eight calls a day on his no-frills, black and white screen mobile phone anytime, anywhere. His monthly income has shot up 30% to $135 a month. He can't read, but knows how to take and make calls guided by the Hindi voice prompt on his phone. "It has changed my life completely," he marvels.

A similar story was recently published from Kenya:
How big a change have cellphones made to Africa?" I shout the question at Isis Nyong'o, over the throbbing bassline of of a Kenyan ragga track. She tells me calmly: "It's had about the same effect as a democratic change of leadership
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With one in three adults carrying a cellphone in Kenya, mobile telephony is having an economic and social impact whose is [sic] hard to grasp if you are used to living in a country with good roads, democracy and the internet.
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In five years the number of mobiles in Kenya has grown from one million to 6.5 million - while the number of landlines remains at about 300,000, mostly in government offices.

04 January 2007

IPv6 Update

I have written about IPv6 from time to time (see this, for example). A couple of items have gotten my attention lately, motivating me to get back to this subject. First, despite the NIST report I discuss in the cited blog post, this article reports concerns about the consequences of "foot dragging":
Eighty-six percent of 1,000 respondents believe there will be a negative impact to the United States for dragging its feet on IPv6 adoption, according to the The IPv6 Government Action Study. Seventy percent felt the delay would hit U.S. technological leadership, 62% felt it would impact national security and 58% believe it will affect U.S. influence over Internet stability. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget has required the federal government transition from IPv4 to IPv6 by June 2008.

At the same time, Network World's Service Provider Newsletter of 03 Jan 2007 reports:
NTT Communications, the first carrier to offer a commercial IPv6 service in the United States, is reporting steady growth of IPv6 traffic across its own backbone as well as for its peering partners.

As other carriers such as AT&T and Global Crossing announce their first IPv6 peering arrangements, NTT says it is peering with more than a dozen carriers through four exchange points in the United States.

Most of the carriers that NTT exchanges IPv6 traffic with are regional Tier 2 carriers such as Hurricane Electric that support universities and colleges.

--- 8< --- snip --- 8< ---

"There are a lot of Tier 2 carries that are doing IPv6 but not too many Tier 1s," says Stan Barber, vice president of product marketing and engineering for NTT. "There are probably less than five Tier 1 carriers altogether doing IPv6…Most of the Tier 2 providers are regional broadband providers."

Barber says he’s glad that AT&T and Global Crossing are getting into the game of IPv6 traffic peering.

--- 8< --- snip --- 8< ---

"If you look at the total amount of IPv4 traffic, which is multiple terabits a day, the IPv6 traffic is dwarfed," Barber says. "There’s no infrastructure that’s in trouble of being overstretched by the amount of IPv6 traffic. But I have to say in all honesty that the trend is upwards."

Barber says most of the IPv6 traffic NTT transports go between the United States and Asia, where IPv6 is more popular. In Asia, carriers such as NTT are beginning to see audio and video data carried over IPv6.

"In Tokyo, we know for a fact that consumers on the broadband networks are using IPv6 for video and audio traffic," Barber says.

NTT has seen the number of IPv6 customers in the United States double every year since 2003. Today, the carrier is approaching 100 U.S. customers for its IPv6 service.

Will 2007 be the year of IPv6? Do you expect IPv6 adoption to exhibit a "snowball" phenomenology? Why or why not?

Update (2007-3-9): The author Daniel Minoli opines on this subject in this article (with no particularly new conclusions).

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3G Technology War in South Korea?

This article reports on an impending technology battle in South Korea regarding 3G systems:
South Korea’s mobile operators are bracing themselves for a tough battle in 2007 as they ramp up their investments in new 3G technology, and none seems more confident of victory than the incumbent.

The article reports that SK Telecom, the dominant incumbent, has invested in and is deploying HSDPA, while LG Telecom is continuing on the CDMA path with EVDO Rev A.

Do users make a choice based on the technology, or is their choice based on price and features? Is the US experience with multiple standards relevant to what is happening in South Korea?

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03 January 2007

Telecom operators of the future

You might find this article, posted in silicon.com, interesting, especially in light of discussions of NGNs. Given the decay of access line revenues, operators will be forced to find new sources of revenues. On the other hand, check out this article ...

Are the views contradictory? If so, which do you think will prevail? How easy do you think it will be for operators to adopt a services-based orientation? Do you think that this will lead to a bifurcation of the industry into transport and services providers?

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