27 July 2007

HD DVD vs. BluRay

I have blogged about this earlier, so I thought an update might be interesting. This article provided some evidence that seems favorable to the BluRay camp, though you can find contrary evidence as well.

Any bets on who will win?

Emerging trend in wireless?

There has been some buzz in the industry around something that some have referred to as "wireless Carterfone", reflecting the 1968 FCC decision that began the deregulation of CPE in the wireline industry. This buzz has now risen to the level of BusinessWeek, in this article. As I blogged earlier, Google has sought the creation of a wireless wholesale market in the upcoming 700MHz auctions, where users have the freedom to attach handsets of their choice. This item points to some of the "pro" and "con" articles (emphasizing the latter, in this case).

Why do carriers build "walled gardens"? Should this be a matter of public policy or private choice? How is this different from people purchasing unlocked GSM devices?

26 July 2007

Broadband in France

I found this article in BusinessWeek interesting. While I will leave it to you to read the article in detail, the article attributes the increase in broadband access to local loop unbundling. The prices set by the French regulator encouraged entry, which was praised in the article; in comparison, the article points out that the unbundled prices in the US were set too high to encourage widespread entry. The article does not discuss whether the prices in France are compensatory, though it does imply that the prices in the US were predatory. Interestingly, the article criticizes the facilities-based competition bias of the US, while concluding the article with the desire on the part of a French CLEC to build its own facilities. Also, to some extent, the French experience is driven by EU policy.

Is facilities-based competition the desired outcome, in the end? Are the criticisms of the US approach to unbundled local loop warranted?

24 July 2007

Mobile television

This item on Om Malik's blog is interesting, especially in light of the recent EU decision. We appear to be heading into a fragmented technology marketplace, with two competing technologies in South Korea, one in Europe, and another which appears to be a winner in the US (see this).

Update (2007-7-26): You might also enjoy this article in BusinessWeek, which discusses this topic in a bit more detail.

Does it matter that there may be several global standards? If so, why do you think so?

Universal service funding

While the objectives of "universal service" are often hard to argue with, implementation is often problematic. The approach taken by the US is to create a Universal Service Fund (USF) from taxes paid on certain telecommunications services, and then to distribute these funds to "eligible" carriers. This story illustrates how problematic this approach is:

Over the past four years, there has been nearly a tenfold increase in government-ordered subsidies paid to a few "competitive" providers - cellular phone companies paid by the fund to offer service in rural areas where an existing carrier already receives a subsidy.

-- snip --

Critics say the cellular companies are enjoying a windfall because their networks are much cheaper to build and maintain than miles of wires and telephone poles. They say logic dictates the subsidy should be based on actual cost.

Making the system more expensive, companies are compensated on a per-subscriber basis. Each time a cell phone company signs up a new customer, it collects a subsidy.

If the customer keeps his land line, the fund pays a subsidy to both carriers. If the customer opts to drop his land line and keep his cellular phone (the goal of competition), the per-subscriber subsidy for the land line carrier actually goes up, keeping the overall subsidy unchanged. In some high-cost areas, the subsidy can amount to several hundred dollars per customer per month.

Since the cellular competitor's rates are based on the incumbent's per-customer subsidy, the cell company gets more money, too. And so does every other cellular competitor that does business in the area. In some places there are two, three or more.

Do you think that this approach is viable, with corrections? If so, what should the corrections be? What alternatives to a USF do you think are better?

23 July 2007

US Broadband rankings

It is not hard to find references on the Internet to the comparative broadband statistics published by the OECD and the ITU. Thus, it is interesting when an alternative methodology or analysis is posted, such as this one (the direct URL to the report, bypassing CNET is here). Quoting the paper:

To provide policymakers a tool to compare broadband subscription rates between countries, this PAPER develops and presents the Broadband Performance Index (BPI). This index quantifies the relationship between a country’s broadband subscriptions per capita and that country’s economic and demographic endowments. This approach is policy-relevant because it strips away many factors over which telecom policymakers have very little influence or control. As a result, we believe that the BPI provides telecom policymakers with a method of comparing broadband subscription rates among countries that is superior to existing measurements, all of which depend upon raw data that do not take these factors into account.

We compute the Broadband Performance Index for each OECD country by first estimating the relationship between these endowments and broadband subscriptions, and we use that information to compare how that country performs relative to expectations. The index for each country indicates whether a country’s broadband subscription rate meets, exceeds, or falls below what would be reasonably expected for that country, given its demographic and economic endowments.

Some of our findings will be of significant interest to policymakers. For example, we find that the United States generally meets expectations in its conversion of its national endowments into broadband subscriptions. This finding conflicts with claims that the United States is in a “broadband ditch” and is failing to perform up to expectations, at least with respect to subscriptions.

Also, we find that many relatively poor countries, like Turkey and Portugal, which actually rank behind the United States according to the OECD, are doing a better job of converting their national endowments into broadband penetration than many highly ranked countries. Indeed, many countries that rank higher than the United States according to the OECD, like Denmark and Norway, are in fact underperforming the United States when one considers demographic and economic factors.

Update (2007/7/25): You might find this item over at Marginal Revolution interesting and relevant.

Do you think this approach has merit? How much should a nation's policy be guided by how it ranks internationally with other countries?

20 July 2007

Google and Telecom

I have blogged about Google and telecom previously in this blog. There is a fair amount of noise about this leading up to the 700MHz auction. This item does a fair job of asking some provocative questions, so I thought it useful to share it with you.

19 July 2007

EU Endorses Cell-Phone TV Standard

I guess this has been Europe week ... I found this item interesting:
The European Commission on Wednesday endorsed a Nokia-backed mobile TV standard called DVB-H, saying Europe needed to pick one technology over others and promising to look at ways to mandate its use.

Europe's choice of DVB-H, or Digital Video Broadcasting for Handhelds, was expected. The move will likely prevent rival standards, such as U.S.-based Qualcomm Inc.'s MediaFLO and others developed by Chinese and South Korean manufacturers, from gaining ground in the world's richest market.

South Korea currently has two rival systems for mobile video and is most likely further along than most on this, both in terms of business models, consumer adoption and deployment.

Do you think it is necessary to have a single standard as opposed to allowing for competing standards? What factors other than licensing fees do you think may have played a role in this outcome?

18 July 2007

Mobile WiMAX in Europe

This article frames mobile WiMAX as a disruptive technology in the European telecommunications market. The essence of the article is this:
For the past 15 years, American tech giants such as Intel and Microsoft have been largely shut out of the European-dominated mobile phone industry. Not that they haven't tried—Intel (INTC) made processors and memory for handsets and Microsoft (MSFT) is still pushing a pint-sized version of Windows for handheld devices. But the business was still largely controlled by telecom companies such as Nokia, Ericsson, and Vodafone.

Now, with the pending arrival of a disruptive new wireless technology called Mobile WiMAX, the U.S. crowd stands its best chance in years at knocking down Fortress Europe. A kind of Wi-Fi on steroids, Mobile WiMAX delivers data at speeds comparable to conventional third-generation (3G) mobiles but promises to be cheaper to implement because it uses newer, more efficient technology.

Do you think this article is correct? Does WiMAX match the criteria for a disruptive technology laid out by Christiansen in his book?

17 July 2007

US vs. European wireless

You might find this item interesting, as I did. This is a more comprehensive analysis than the one that I posted earlier.

Why did these two industrialized markets obtain such different outcomes? Why was it necessary for the EU to regulate roaming rates when no such regulation was necessary in the US?

Verizon Wireless and Vodafone

As you may know, the second largest US wireless carrier, Verizon Wireless, is a joint venture between Verizon and Vodafone. This partnership has worked pretty well all in all, though it has posed some challenges for Vodafone, not the least of which has been the use of CDMA in the Verizon Wireless network vs. GSM in the Vodafone network. This has made it difficult for Vodafone to offer the kind of on-net roaming to its customers that it can elsewhere in the world.

The rumor reported inthis article, if true and assuming it is executed as reported, raises some interesting questions:

  • Would Vodafone convert the Verizon wireless system? How would they do this? How much would they be willing to invest?
  • How would this change the competitive dynamics between Verizon and AT&T in the US? Would it make sense for Verizon to continue offering its quadruple-play packages in markets where fiber has been deployed?

I'm back!

I took a hiatus from publishing for a variety of reasons. I will resume publishing on this blog now, as time and travel permit, in preparation for the Fall 2007 offering of Telcom 2520 "Telecommunications Industry and Regulation".