Category Archives: Communications Industry

Municipal WiFi Should Not Be Allowed

Looks like muni wifi is getting serious. I don’t agree that a city should compete against the private sector with a service like this though. They don’t offer free electricity to the poor or heat or phone or any other utility. It will be interesting how it all plays out. Philly announced Earthlink as their provider. They were the first city with the idea (was stuck in court forever).
Let me expand on how I think cities offering WiFi is a.) a new paradigm for government and b.) bad for business.
a.) There are no other examples out there that I know of where a government entity is providing a utility service to people for free
– Television stations are private entities providing a service to customers. While this service is free (over air broadcast), it is paid for by advertisers. However, the government has no involvement or subsidization in this business venture.
– Since WiFi does not include “content” it acts more as a utility such as electricity, water, sewage, or phone service. None of which are provided free by municipalities.
– With respect to the telephone company, there again you have no competition from any municipalities. Now, this is an obvious monopoly within any given area and to counter that the FCC has required telephone companies to a.) provide plain old telephone service (POTS) to all rural areas at a reasonable price (federal law; costs of which are subsidized by urban areas), b.) rates have been regulated and monitored to not abuse this power. (In 1996 the FCC went further and forced all incumbent telephone providers to provide access to their switches/networks in order for competition to be created (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers or CLECs)). A somewhat similar paradigm to this offering would be SF asking Google to build a telephone network wired to every home and provide service for free.
– Telephone companies can leverage their channel more though as they can provide additional services over the same lines (e.g., broadband, TV (coming soon from SBC))
– Electricity companies are still trying to get the technology to provide broadband over their lines. Yet, it looks like broadband over electric lines is ready to go per a press release today
b.) Providing free broadband competes directly against telephone, cable, TV, satellite, cellular and electricity companies.
Telephone – I pay about $20 a month to SBC for my DSL. I would not if this service was launched.
Cable – many folks get broadband from their cable company. guessing they wouldn’t pay for it when this was launched (this eliminates revenue…jobs…)
TV – television stations are required to make the leap to digital broadcasting by the end of this year. the spectrum allocated for this and the technology would allow them to send data along with the video signals. new business models they haven’t quite dreamed up yet would be impacted
Satellite – also provides broadband access
Cellular – carriers world-wide have made significant investments in 3G networks (billions). they would likely never achieve a return with a free competitor as you wouldn’t need the cellular companies to provide this if it was free. not to mention, when it was available you’d get Skype and use it as a phone too, so now you’re not paying for your mobile phone or broadband (eliminates revenue…jobs…)
Electricity companies – well, they’re old. but if they ever really get into convergence (lot’s of wires that could do lot’s of things). they won’t be able to compete if there is already a free channel
Would I like to have free WiFi? Yes! But, I see way too many businesses that could be dramatically impacted by this paradigm change in our local governments, which I think would ultimately affect jobs, which will create even more people that can’t afford the digital world. But hey, I guess they’d still have WiFi!

Samsung SCH-i730

The race continues, but is still not won (nor may it ever be). The Treo 650 now has some additional competition. As I?ve been considering a new mobile phone (currently have the Treo 600), I haven?t crossed paths with anything that beats the Treo yet. But today, I ran across the Samsung SCH-i730 on Microsoft?s Windows Mobile site. I played with it a bit in the store and found the keyboard to be clumsy with the lip edge. Overall, I didn’t think it typed as well as the Treo or have has easy to operate menus.
My focus for now is getting a phone with over-the-air integration with Exchange Server so that I can easily check email and figure out what building my next meeting is in, without opening the laptop. I had looked at the upcoming Nokia 9300, which happened to be available to play with at a mall booth. However, while it?s web browser was beautiful with the wide view, it?s keyboard was a pain as the keys were designed to cover the full length of the phone when folded open, which made it difficult to quickly reach all with my thumbs. Additionally, it doesn?t look like it?s going to have ActiveSync (to Exchange) in the upcoming version, so it?s off my list.
Watching the consumer gadget masters such as Apple, Sony, Samsung, Palm, RIM, etc. try to come up with that perfect all in one, is exciting. Unfortunately, I still feel like we?re a few steps away. Yet, given this new offering from Samsung, we are getting closer. Apple, RIM, Palm look out! I think you?re going to be passed by soon with the new Windows Mobile and these latest devices from Samsung and Nokia. I just wish Apple, RIM and Palm would merge. Now, that would be a cool phone.
?The Samsung SCH-i730 manages a pretty impressive feat: It shrinks a Windows Mobile-based smart phone into a form factor that actually fits comfortably in your pants pocket and includes broadband wireless, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a built-in keyboard, and a speedy processor. Despite some irritating quirks in its wireless support, the Samsung i730 stays in the running for the “Treo killer” title.? ? CNET
Note: Edited since playing with the device in a store (opinion went down).

Random Comments

I have the Treo 600 from palmOne, which I happen to think is the best smart phone on the market today, but the Internet browsing experience is pathetic. The download speeds on the GSM network are so slow. Two things I think would improve this experience without having to improve the technology much. First, fix the cache so that it doesn?t feel like you?re downloading all over again when you go back into the page and second add a ?alt-tab? type of option that allows you to do other things while you wait for the web page to load.
Again as most of my life is bouncing here and there, yesterday I thought about how much of a pain it is for me to get music off/on my iPod. I am sure Steve is thinking of something along this line, but if I had WiFi built in I could access music on the fly from iTunes and/or my laptop on a wireless network. No wires? ๐Ÿ™‚

Mobile Dating and SMS Flirting

A while back I actually thought about connecting people in a club with each other through an online profile managed instantly from their mobile phone. As soon as they walked into a club it would be like friendster on steroids. If they were looking for love, then it would attempt to find a match with someone that was on the same page. You can imagine the possibilities. I also thought of building a proprietary system that I could then lease to clubs. I kept this idea pretty under wraps only sharing with a small group of people to test the idea. As it turns out, with over 6 billion minds on this planet sometimes two or more think of the same thing. This kind of dating is now available in the clubs of Europe and America, so I no longer have the jump on the market. But, I still envision a world much more networked today. Yes, we are at our computers a great deal of the day, but wouldn’t it be nice to have some technological ice breakers when we go out for coffee. I’d like to be able to walk in to Starbucks and find out there was someone in there with my same interests and also wanted to go see a movie tonight. Of course at a flip of a switch I would be “invisible”, and be able to choose whether or not I wanted to be bothered (e.g., my message going out to others). The possibilities are endless. You could be somewhere and need to settle an argument and an expert could be immediately found (maybe in person or virtual). In this day of age where most don’t know their neighbors, I think it would be great.
Update: Sounds like this is taking off.

In Japan, the cultural shift in mating practices has been driven even faster by new phone technologies. So-called proximity dating services use the ability of new generation phone networks to pinpoint the location of mobile handsets. By entering their own profile and the profile of their dream partner, Japanese teens can rely on their phone to alert them – and offer an introduction – whenever a potential mate is around the corner. The service is massively popular. – The Sydney Morning Herald

Update (1/21/07):
Hooking Up in the Information Age
Mobile dating platforms offer revenue-generating opportunities, but security concerns slow down uptake on the LBS component.
Update (1/21/07):
โ€œSK Telecom and Psynet are launching a truly revolutionary service. Weekend clubbing will never be the same. Subscribers are starting to plan their evenings out based on receiving location-based date notifications on their mobile phones,โ€ said Tasso Roumeliotis, CEO of WaveMarket. โ€œWhile this is the first launch of its kind – one that uses carrier-based location โ€“ we foresee that many other operators in the world will be able to use location data to enable a whole new range of dating and social applications.โ€

Mobile Media

It seems that all the big players are getting ready to launch the next thing for mobile phones. Over the last year everyone grabbed a camera phone. Now, you’ll be getting a media phone, with the early focus being on music. Most players are teaming up with Microsoft and the Windows Media DRM (subscribe to FierceWireless email). Motorola on the other hand has also gone the route of hooking up with Apple?s iTunes. This is a great next step, but as I travel a lot I am often away from my iPod, home computer or stereo system yet seem to always have some form of access to the Internet. I would rather not have to store my music anywhere. I’d rather have access to all of my media (e.g. MP3’s) regardless of device anywhere I can access the Internet. In this model, someone else would store it and my home computer, laptop, mobile phone, living room stereo, alarm clock, etc. would be able to play any song or even any video I own. This would solve the storage problem quite a bit and as data rates increase via cellular and WiFi becomes more prevalent.
Update 3/3/06: With Metro Wi-Fi networks coming available in the next few years and more 3G high bandwidth cellular networks available, this idea becomes more possible. The highest probable entrants would be device manufacturers or the communications carrier (either Wi-Fi, cellular or satellite). A company could build a subscription model where an individual would have access to any song or radio feed at any time on any device. While jogging a user could pull down their favorite radio station or listen to their favorite band. When they get home, they could immediately transfer that experience to the home stereo that would pick up where they left off. After they’ve showered and changed, they head out again to meet up with a friend across town. As they get in their car, the car stereo recognizes them and again picks up where they left off in that album they were listening to.

Next Generation Treo – Smartphone

If you?re goal is to own this smartphone market and you know you have to have the carriers love you, then I?d go for the high revenue generating features. I believe these to be trending toward music, gaming and data communications. Let?s talk convergence. Most folks like having separate products because to this date they?re usually better, but the moment you combine something well you?ve got it.
First I think you hit ?the? audience if you can combine the iPod and the Treo. Mobile music is going to be huge. Our society has been disconnecting from each other for a long time and the idea to pop some head phones in and essentially hide from people has really caught on. Not to mention you?d finally give those idiots that walk around with their Bluetooth headset always in their ear a decent excuse. The win for the carrier is when you provide over the air downloads of music. (Hell, if you really want to entice them make it possible for Peer-2-Peer software to work and the data traffic will go through the roof. Imagine if everyone had their music on their phone, which is always on and always sharing away their, um? files…)
Next up is gaming.
There is a generation that most product designers don?t even understand. They grew up with a computer, a gameboy and the ability to connect with their friends over email, IM and SMS. This is the generation that actually interacts with each other, albeit not via voice or in person. By providing a gaming platform where folks can play interactive games and communicate with each other such as with services like Xbox Live, you?ve created a product that appeals to an up and coming consumer group and again can drive a tremendous amount of revenue depending on how the carriers charge for that bandwidth.
(Note to carriers: I love unlimited bandwidth. I don?t think the answer here is to try to get back to charging me for every kilobyte used, but if you price it right you?ll still make a profit because everyone will want the data part of the plan. You?re total ARPA should still be able to stay stable or increase depending on how you price the package. For example, most people want voice, but hardly use the minutes. The magic price point is somewhere between $30-$40, and you can then tack on the $20-$50 data package, which puts your ARPA way up. The key is having enough things to use that data package for to warrant it being added on)
Now, Nokia is obviously heading down this path with the ngage, but have you seen that thing? It?s huge. Again, design will rule, just ask Steve. The other key I believe is providing a platform for the major developers to easily port to from their existing Gameboy or upcoming Play Station Player (PSP) games. As for other data communications, simply put, give away IM software and make SMS actually work (this is something the carriers need to fix; i.e., guaranteed delivery of failure notification).
Additionally, we need to rethink email on your mobile device. At work (or could be school) and home I may prefer to read my email on the web so that I can type more and read the message easier. However, I also email a lot during the day (revenue driver for carrier) and often get emails out of sync between the server copy and the one on my phone. Meaning, if I pop my email account to my web email client then the message is no longer available for my Treo to pick up, and if I didn?t finish reading everything I popped, then I?m out of luck until I can get back to that website. Now, I realize I could set that pop to ?leave messages on the server,? but I still have the scenario where I may pop the email into my web email, not finish reading it all, then pop it into my Treo (since it?s still on the server) and now have two copies that I have to go and delete. This is a pane. I think Danger?s Hiptop is the closest. On their platform if I delete an email on the website, it?s also deleted from my mobile device and vice a versa. This is cool, but I?m forced into their web application. What if I want to use Thunderbird or Outlook Express? Here I think you?re making progress, but haven?t made the giant leap. Let?s get together with Good Technologies or RIM and make it all happen. As you may note I didn?t say anything about web browsing. Well, this is so screwed up I don?t know where to start. It takes a day to load one web page and for some reason even with cache it takes half a day to go back to a web page I already visited (regardless of carriers). In summary, you?ve got your work cut out for you, but there are some great opportunities out there and you are the leader. I?m looking forward to the Treo 6000. Let me know if you want any help.

  • If you want to be really cutting edge and also have something ahead of the curve release a Treo that only works on WiFi (or have dual radio if carrier allows you). The day I can use my treo on a wifi network and call with Skype is going to change the world

No more wholesale lease rates for CLECs

The rules are out and no one is fighting to get them back. The baby bells will no longer be required to lease out their local lines to competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) at a predetermined ?wholesale? rate. The question now remains whether or not customers will be impacted. However, I don?t think we?ll see a dramatic change. CLECs never really took off. In every major city in the US you still only see one major phone company. The only competition that really developed was around the business customers, and the gov?t wasn?t concerned their. They were trying to decrease costs of ?plain old telephone service?. Survey California and find out how many people have local POTs that is not SBC, and I bet it?s less than 5%. Besides the wave of the future is wireless. It will either be cellular or WiFi or a combination of the two. I think there are enough ways to get communication services these days that it will not negatively impact the typical John Doe, which was all the government was trying to protect earlier anyway. Besides, we?ll all be making free calls to Tibet on our Skype phone anyway.