Intel to battle Qualcomm for mobile computing leadership

Update from Intel Development Forum in S.F. and Qualcomm open house in Santa Clara, CA last week.

Introduction

For those interested in mobile computing and mobile WiMAX, there were several important take-aways from last week’s Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco. CA. Most importantly, Intel made it clear that they intend to dominate the mobile computing silicon and software space. But Intel will face stiff competition from Qualcomm, which is already moving their technology into smart phones, eBook readers, Mobile Internet Devices, and other hand held devices.

In this article we detail Intel’s newly announced mobile computing plans and its reaffirmation of its commitment to mobile WiMAX. We’ll also look at Qualcomm’s plan for mobile computing dominance. We will examine the following:

  • Roadmap for Intel’s Atom processor, which is targeted at netbooks, MIDs, and other hand held mobile computing devices.
  • Establishment of the “Intel Atom Developer Program.”
  • A new version of Moblin – Intel’s Linux-based operating system intended for netbooks and MIDs.
  • Reaffirmation of Intel’s WiMax commitment via a short progress report and Clearwire demonstration.
  • Qualcomm’s mobile computing intitiatives

Editors Note: More information on this year’s Intel Developer Forum can be found at:

http://www.intel.com/IDF/

IDF Highlights:

1. Intel’s Atom processor (now using the Menlow platform) is currently sold into netbooks, but not hand held devices where power consumption is a huge issue. Intel plans to integrate more functionality into Atom, reduce power consumption, and shrink the die sizes by half.

Editors Note: Atom and other “System- on a -Chip (SoC)” platforms have their own road map schedule that is different from Intel’s PC client and server products, which operate on Intel’s famous "tick-tock " road map schema. In particular, the Atom/SoC line will trail the leading PC and server products by about one semiconductor process generation, or "tick." Major architecture upgrades — or "tocks" — also will be different from the PC client and server road map.

The new Moorestown platform –to be available in mid 2010- shrinks and integrates more functions into fewer chips so that it can be embedded into Mobile Internet devices (MIDs) and larger smart phones. It also adds hyper-threading to Atom, boosting performance in threaded apps. Built on a 45nm process, Moorestown will greatly reduce power consumption (especially idle power) compared to Menlow. Citing a combination of architectural, design and process enhancements, Intel VP David Perlmutter discussed some of the innovative techniques that Intel is implementing in Moorestown. These include “Distributed Power Gating,” for improved performance and major reductions in power and thermal envelope.

Mr. Perlmutter also highlighted Intel’s next generation of mobile processors, codenamed "Arrandale," which brings the Nehalem micro-architecture to mainstream laptops. These chips will integrate the dual-core CPU and graphics in the package and incorporate the 32nm manufacturing process and second-generation high-k metal gate transistors for increased performance and power efficiency for mainstream mobile PCs. This integration of platform components will continue into the future with a fully monolithic processor on 32nm, codenamed "Sandy Bridge."

These technologies help to achieve up to a 50x improvement in platform idle power reduction compared to Intel’s first generation "Menlow" platform. The reductions are enabling Intel to establish new thresholds in ultra low power while making it possible to run the full Internet and media-rich applications in handheld devices, according to Perlmutter.

In his opening day keynote speech, CEO Paul Otellini explained, “At Intel, Moore’s Law is alive and thriving. We’ve begun production of the world’s first 32nm microprocessor, which is also the first high-performance processor to integrate graphics with the CPU. At the same time, we’re already moving ahead with development of our 22nm manufacturing technology and have built working chips that will pave the way for production of still more powerful and more capable processors."

Editors Note: It wasn’t too long ago that 90nm processors were the norm, and 65nm processors were cutting edge.

For sure, Intel is serious about pushing its Atom-based SoC platforms into an increasing number of product categories. CEO Otellini even predicted "a future where Intel ships more SoC cores than standard PC cores."

2. The Intel Atom Developer Program was unveiled during a keynote speech by Renee James, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel’s Software and Services Group. This effort encourages independent software vendors and developers to create mobile applications. Intel is partnering with notebook and netbook manufacturers, including Acer and ASUS, to create multiple application stores where applications and application building blocks for Intel-based netbooks and handhelds will be sold.

"The Intel Atom Developer Program will drive new innovative applications for consumers and new revenue streams for software developers," said Mr. James. "The new program facilitates the creation of applications that consumers can use with confidence knowing they were optimized and validated for Intel Atom processor-based devices. We want to fuel the growth of Intel Atom-based products designed for the mobile lifestyle," Continuing, he stated, "The netbook has become one of the most popular consumer devices in the market today, but its true potential has been limited by applications that are not optimized for its mobility and smaller screen size. The Intel Atom Developer Program provides a great opportunity for developers to create useful and inventive applications that will unlock a netbook’s potential while opening a new sales and distribution channel."

To provide the broadest choice of applications across platforms, the Intel Atom Developer Program will support multiple operating systems and run-time environments. Run-times enable developers to use a single code base to support multiple device platforms and avoid extensive reprogramming, thereby reducing development costs and time-to-market. Run-times such as Microsoft Silverlight allow developers to access multiple classes of customers and deliver rich applications for Windows and Moblin-based environments using a single toolset, Visual Studio and the .NET Framework.

For more information, please see:

http://www.intel.com/pressroom/archive/releases/20090922comp_a.htm

Intel no doubt wishes to replicate the success of the iPhone App Store by having its OEM vendors create App stores for their Atom-powered devices. Taking it one step further, Intel introduced its own "App Store" for its Linux-based Moblin operating system (see discussion in 3. below). Interested developers can join the program now at this new site:

http://appdeveloper.intel.com

Intel states, “You create innovative network applications – we take care of the rest.” Let’s see if this works out well for all concerned.

3. Intel introduced a new version of Moblin – its Linux-based operating system for netbooks, MIDs and other hand held devices. Among several new features, Moblin 2.1 supports a new interface appropriate for the screens you see on MIDs and smart phones.

Additionally, Moblin 2.1 builds in capabilities like native touch screen input and gesture support, new user interface features, and support for more hardware drivers. It also includes incremental upgrades that expand the usability of the OS.

Moblin was originally developed and promoted by Intel as an OS for netbooks. At IDF, an Intel representative said that with Moblin 2.1, the OS will now come in three versions: for handhelds, netbooks and nettops. (A nettop is an inexpensive desktop about the size of a hardcover book to which key boards, mice and monitors can be connected.) For more information, please see: http://moblin.org/

4. Intel is still very committed to mobile WiMax—even as global mobile carriers rush to implement various versions of 3G and look towards LTE in the future. During his keynote speech, David Perlmutter, executive vice president of Intel’s mobility group, stated:

“Another cool factor is connectivity. This is the era of getting connected. Intel is delivering the total mobile experience on each device, offering different levels of performance and power in sleek form factors coupled with compatibility, a superior mobile Internet experience and embedded WiMAX wireless broadband. We’re truly taking mobility to the next level of cool."

Perlmutter continued,

“A laptop generates more than 15 times the data of a smart phone. This is generating stress on 3G networks. Last year we introduced the first embedded WiMax that goes into notebooks. But having products with WiMax doesn’t matter. It’s all about having networks, because if you cannot connect, then it doesn’t matter. And we have networks being built in North America, in Russia, in Japan, and we have networks already there. We are building with our partners networks in other places like India, Malaysia, Taiwan. And many, many other places have all sorts of mobile and fixed WiMax all over the globe.”

In closing this discussion topic, Perlmutter said, “But I will better have someone that build networks talk about it.” Peter Cannistra1, VP of embedded devices at Clearwire was called to the stage. Mr. Cannistra talked about his company’s “ability to put the mobile Internet in your hand, in a broadband way.” In particular, Clearwire customers are realizing average downstream speeds of 3 to 6 M b/sec, bursting up to 10M b/sec, according to Cannistra. He then demonstrated a videoconference over WiMAX, which showed superior performance compared to an equivalent 3G videoconference. The comparison was a CLEAR win for mobile WiMAX (pun intended).

Perlmutter’s keynote webcast includes this videoconferencing comparison as well as his comments about the Atom processor road map. It is archived at: http://intelstudios.edgesuite.net/idf/2009/sf/keynote/090923_dp/f.htm

Qualcomm’s Mobile Computing Initiatives

As we all know, notebook PCs are evolving into netbooks, tablet PCs and MIDs, essentially big smart phones that are always on, always connected to the Internet, with all-day battery life — in short, very much like a large iPhone or BlackBerry. Qualcomm calls these devices smartbooks because the design resembles a large smart phone.

The cellphone’s guts have been the domain of Qualcomm. As the cellphone becomes more like a computer and the computer more like a cellphone, it was inevitable that Intel and Qualcomm would battle for dominance of mobile computing.

“Intel is trying to come down from the computer and bring their software ecosystem along,” said Qualcomm’s chief executive, Paul E. Jacobs. “We’re trying to go up from the phone and build the software ecosystem.” Mr. Jacobs sees his company at the center of an industry that is driving the most cutting-edge innovations, as seen in devices like the iPhone and BlackBerry Storm.

“That energy is now coming out of the phone industry,” Mr. Jacobs said. “The PC became so standardized that the degree of innovation was not the same as what you see in the phone space.”

In an open house discussion on September 24th, Qualcomm executives described the many software initiatives underway.  The mobile web is a key focus for Qualcomm.  In a follow up email exchange, VP of Research Nayeem Islam wrote:

"Qualcomm has many initiatives in wireless. Clearly, we have fundamental research in basic communications but that is in San Diego. As you can tell from the talk yesterday we have a very large initiative in wireless and a very strong focus on mobile computing based on our snapdragon platform. We have also started a rather large fellowship competition in new areas like web technologies (the focus of last night’s talk),  indoor positioning technologies, visual computing and augmented reality, multicore and low power computing, gaming, application delivery, and content delivery. You can learn more about our fellowship at: "

 

http://www.qualcomm.com/innovation/research/university_relations/innovation_fellowship/

For another point of view, please see:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/07/technology/companies/07qualcomm.html

Comment and Analysis:

There is no doubt that Intel is focusing on mobile computing with its next generation of microprocessors, Atom developer program and new version of Moblin. Will they be able to compete with future versions of ARM or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon with embedded 3G cores?

Until now, the key issue has been power consumption, with Intel’s Menlow platform consuming too much power to be used in handheld devices. Intel’s only hand held design win that we are aware of is with LG – a 3G MID that will use the Moorestown platform. No deliverable products have been announced for the Intel- Nokia strategic partnership. We expect Moorestown to be used with embedded 3G SoC capability with 3G cores from Ericsson, Nokia and possibly other vendors.

So we think the key test, will be commercial acceptance of Intel’s "Moorestown" platform, scheduled for 2010, in eBook readers, MIDs and smart phones.

With Qualcomm now making a big mobile computing push with its Snapdragon (ARM based) processor and with their Gobi 2000 platform that supports almost all 3G wireless network interfaces we think they will be a formidable competitor. At an open house last week, we learned that Qualcomm is producing a wealth of software innovations to advance the always-connected mobile world. The mobile phone chip powerhouse now has more software engineers than hardware engineers and is moving ahead full steam with mobile computing research projects. Qualcomm is mobile OS neutral, but is currently working with many device vendors using the Android platform.

A key differentiator between the two companies is that Qualcomm is mobile OS neutral, while Intel is trying to promote its Linux based Moblin OS. This is somewhat surprising as Intel’s “strategic partners” (e.g. Nokia) use a different Operating Systems, e.g. Nokia’s Symbian, Android, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, etc. This is quite perplexing panoply of mobile OS’s that app developers have to contend with.

And with the potential for Microsoft to port Windows 7 to ARM-based platforms in the future, we believe Intel could potentially devote even more resources to Moblin in order to help deter Microsoft from supporting Windows on ARM as well as Android on Snapdragon. The Atom Developers program will also need to be strengthened in order to offer a variety of applications that will run on the Moblin platform. Can this initiative succeed in light of all the effort and energy on Android, Symbian, and Windows? Only time will tell.


End Note:

1)  Cannistra oversees the company’s strategy to embed mobile WiMAX functionality into notebooks, netbooks and a wide range of consumer electronic devices. He is responsible for Clearwire’s strategic relationships with Intel, PC OEMs and numerous other companies that aim to make wireless broadband accessible to more people and devices.

3G-HSPA, Mobile Linux and Open Source are the Big Winners in Intel-Nokia Technology Partnership

Intel referred to it as "this year’s most significant collaboration in our respective industries." The Intel-Nokia strategic partnership will "align and shape the next generation of mobile computing." But it was very difficult to extract any tangible take always from the press conference announcing the partnership. That’s because no specific products were identified and no time frames were given to see the results of this highly acclaimed collaboration.
 
To a large extent, the press conference was a lot of hand waving and gesturing, without providing anything of substance that we might expect from such an important strategic relationship. This is the third time in the last decade that Intel and Nokia have announced a partnership, with the previous two attempts not producing much if anything at all. So the industry might have a right to be skeptical this time. Nonetheless, it certainly sounded exciting. 
 
Anand Chandrasekher, Sr VP and GM of Intel’s Ultra Mobility Group stated, "The leaders in both computing and communications are coming together to accelerate innovation while driving exciting new revenue opportunities. Intel and Nokia are joining forces to announce a long term strategic relationship that will align and shape the next generation of mobile computing."
 
We are all aware that smart phones and intelligent hand held devices contain powerful processors and need mobile broadband capability to unleash "the tremendous power and potential to reshape our lives." With many different wireless communications options, most of us expect that "the future will bring even more ways to be connected- a future full of different possibilities." Yet that kind of talk dominated the prepared remarks of Intel and Nokia during the conference. 
 
Nokia told us more of what we already know: "The Internet continues to evolve and touch every aspect of our daily lives. Today, there are more Internet users (at 1.6B) than there are fixed phone lines (at 1.3B). There are over 64B web sites exist and more are added every day. And the Internet continues to grow in every aspect. New applications will drive the need for more powerful compute engines and faster (mobile) broadband wireless access, Consumers looking for mobile devices to do more, e.g. sensors, new apps, new materials, new device design and form factors (e.g. netbooks MIDs). We need to extend computing platforms, build on common open platforms and explore new architectures."
 
Anand told us that Intel would continue to "relentlessly focus on driving down the cost and power requirements (of new devices), while delivering continuing performance improvements." Should we have expected something different? We were also told more of the obvious, "Mobile devices require high bandwidth- mobile broadband communications and ubiquitous Internet connectivity at a reasonable cost. Users should expect a rich experience, any time, anywhere. New and exciting services across a range of devices, including new ones the companies will be defining together."
 
So what’s really new? There are three aspects of the partnership, which is not limited to just hardware and Research and Development:
 
  1. Intel and Nokia will collaborate on several open source initiatives, most importantly Mobile Linux. Nokia pointed out that "Hardware and software are decoupled these days. Mobile Linux is an important part of the new converged mobile computing world." We would expect Intel and Nokia joint software development to be centered on two open source projects:
  • Moblin, originally an Intel project but now run by the Linux Foundation.
  • Maemo, a Nokia implementation created for an Internet tablet.
  1. Intel is licensing 3G HSPA modem technology from Nokia, complementing its own WiFi and WiMAX silicon. (Note that two years ago, Intel licensed an HSPA module from Nokia for use in notebooks. This technology transfer is intended for Intel to offer HSPA silicon for mobile hand held devices).
  1. Intel and Nokia have entered into "a long term strategic partnership to develop a new class of mobile computing devices." Those future mobile computing devices will be based on Intel architecture defined chip sets and will "leverage each company’s expertise." 
And what about Mobile WiMAX? Don’t expect anything from the partnership. In response to a question on further WiMAX co-development, Anand replied, " This announcement has no effect on WiMAX one way or another. We are still committed to it. In this announcement, we are expanding our wireless portfolio to be able to implement Nokia’s 3G HSPA technology."
 
–>This implies that Intel will no longer debunk HSPA technology in favor of Mobile WiMAX and suggest that network operators leapfrog 3G and move to Mobile WiMAX instead.
 
When a questioner pointed out that Nokia now had licensed 3G-HSPA to five different companies, Intel and Nokia responded as follows.
 
Intel: "3G HSPA technology has been licensed to build into future mobile offerings. No comments on products or timing. Nokia and Intel’s vision is very similar- bringing communications and computing together. This is not an exclusive agreement."
 
Nokia: "3G HSPA is what’s on the market today (implying Mobile Wimax is NOT really on the market). Nokia is licensing its 3G-HSPA-modem technology as widely as possible within the industry.”
 
When asked if Intel had made any other inroads in the mobile phone business (which the company has tried to crack for years, but has not succeeded), Anand replied, "Intel is not public on any wins in the mobile phone arena except for LG." Then when asked what type of LG device would be forthcoming, Anand would not comment on the specific LG device that will have "Intel inside." 
 
Author’s Note:  This was surprising, considering that Intel had previously touted the LG MID (with Ericsson HSPA module) as the highlight of this year’s Barcelona MWC.

 

The stonewalling continued in response to other very reasonable questions about partnership deliverables:
 
Question from Bloomberg News: “There have been a lot of announcements about visions of the future. Intel has tried to get into the mobile communication business for a number of years, yet they have not succeeded. There’s still a degree of skepticism until we know when the first Intel powered mobile device will be out there. Can you tell us?”
 
Intel: "We will work together on strategic technology collaboration which spans three areas: Intel Architecture defined chip sets for future mobile computing devices, mobile and MIMO collaboration to deliver a very rich software environment for applications and user experience, Intel licensing of Nokia’s 3G HSPA technology   No products announcements at this time- not for today’s discussion."
 
Question: "Do you expect the Atom family (Intel’s lower power micro-processors) or x86 family to be embedded in future mobile computing devices?"
 
Intel: "No comment on brands or usage."
 
Nokia: "Premature to say how we will apply the technology at this stage."
 
How will the Mobile Computing Industry be affected as a result of this partnership?
  1. Could these mobile devices, with open source operating systems like mobile Linux, cause MSFT to lose its software domination of the computing world? Could this mean the end of Wintel dominance of the computing industry?   Mobile Linux- one of the three focus areas for Intel-Nokia partnership – is a direct competitor of MSFT’s Windows Mobile. As people increasingly use mobile computing devices to do things that would have required a PC a few years ago, MSFT is likely to lose ground.   Mobile computing devices, e.g. smart phones, MIDs, all-in-one gadgets, etc are already replacing a lot of things we do today on PCs. This trend will likely accelerate as mobile computing replaces desktop computing.  
  2. Does this announcement negatively impact Mobile WiMAX, which already has been severely criticized for the lack of mobile devices with native mode air interfaces? After all the Intel talk about WiMAX MIDs, we are still waiting for those devices to hit the market in a big way. Will "the Internet in your pocket," be based on 3G-HSPA, rather than Mobile WiMAX?
An anonymous Intel employee provided his read on the partnership:
"This announcement does not change any of Intel’s plans on WiMAX which are solid going forward. Intel has not been a major player in Smart Phones/MIDs and we want to get into that space with the Intel Atom® Processor so this one part of this strategy. Also most smart phones shipping today at least have 2G/2.5G and many also 3G. So this licensing deal help fill a gap in our wireless technology portfolio. 
It also allows us to provide WiMAX solutions to Nokia once more networks get deployed and they want their mobile devices to have WiMAX support as well. So by no means does this negatively affect our WiMAX strategy. It only opens new doors for us with a large customer like Nokia."
  1. When will the new mobile computing devices hit the market? They will need to come quickly, if they are to compete with all the new smart phones from Apple, RIM, and Palm. We hear there will also be MIDs coming soon from Samsung and various Taiwanese companies. Previous Intel – Nokia partnerships, e.g. HSPA modules for notebooks, have not been successful so the industry is skeptical that this one will succeed. We would expect to see Intel-Nokia mobile computing devices on the market in less than one year and perhaps as early as this Christmas.
References:
Intel and Nokia Announce Strategic Relationship to Shape Next Era of Mobile Computing Innovation
 
Intel makes stab in the dark with Nokia deal  

http://www.tgdaily.com/content/view/42977/118/ 

Intel- Nokia Partnership Facing Market Challenges

http://www.informationweek.com/news/hardware/handheld/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=218100945

Mobility in the Spotlight at TiEcon 2009 Wireless Sessions

Introduction:

TiEcon is the world’s largest conference for entrepreneurs, focusing on technology markets, entrepreneurial opportunity and innovation. Now in its 16th year, TiEcon 2009 was themed "The BOLD Entrepreneur." The record-breaking attendance of over 3,500 included entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, industry executives, analysts, engineers, and business leaders. TiEcon 2009 lived up to its entrepreneurial spirit by featuring dynamic speakers who showed how they adapted to changing conditions and create their own future, despite a very challenging economic climate. This article reviews two wireless panel sessions, which had a very pragmatic market and business focus.

Wireless – What’s Working, Where and Why?

This session examined the mobile applications, content and services that are gaining broad user adoption. It provided a global perspective of users, usage and market dynamics, the trends, opportunities and words of caution for entrepreneurs going forward.

The panelists were:

  • Bernard Gershon, Gershon Media
  • Atif Hussein, Nokia
  • Yves Maitre, Orange
  • Dilip Venkatachari, New Enterprise Associates Ventures (ex-Google)

Mr Gershon was very bullish on mobile video on cell phones, which has been predicted for a long time, but hasn’t happened yet. He assured us that this would be the year (we’ve heard that one before). Bernard stated that mobile video was happening in Korea, with full-length TV episodes (which suck up a lot of mobile network capacity, perhaps requiring a separate dedicated video network).

Mr Atif Hussein of Nokia reminded us that messaging continues to be the “killer app” for mobile phones, but that it continues to evolve and change. Social networking (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) and Location Based Services (LBS) provide opportunity for application software developers. The objective is to connect people wherever they might be and provide location relevant information and entertainment. Atif identified sensor networks and related apps as a growth opportunity. He cited a machine-to-machine locator capability to find “missing cows” in developing countries like India.

Mr Maitre of Orange told us that smart phones and multi-media messaging were “hot” areas. He identified several mobility issues that need to be addressed:

  1. Partnerships are either being neglected or not working well. The industry needs to reinvent the way companies cooperate with one another.
  2. Consider the immense processing power people will have in their hands as semiconductor technology continues to progress. What will smart phone, netbooks and gadget makers do with that processing power? What new apps will evolve to take advantage of it?
  3. Privacy is a huge issue for the industry. With all the information being exchanged over the air, how will user privacy be protected?
  4. Speeding up the U.S. patent process to protect IP. It now takes 36 to 39 months to obtain a U.S. patent.

Mr Dilip Venkatachari stated that for most of the developing world, the most practical applications of a mobile phone are voice and simple text messaging. He gave India as an example, where farmers get weather alerts and exchange crop price reports with each other via cell phones. “Everything is linked to payments,” he continued. If the price of the phone service, phone and apps drop, that will stimulate much more demand. He noted that there were already 4B mobile phones in use worldwide.

In the developed world, Dilip said that equipping field personnel with mobile phones was a promising new application space. He cited emerging respondents and health care as important examples.

With the increased adoption of smart phones and apps, what are the issues and opportunities? Here are selected comments from the panelists:

  1. Nokia says that 100M of the 1B mobile phones sold last year were smart phones, with perhaps 200M smart phones to be sold in 2009. Netbooks are also selling very well.
  2. Orange says that more netbooks are being sold this year then smart phones.
  3. Mobile payments- from vouchers or pre-paid plans is a huge issue. Cellular operators should segment users by their needs and payment methods. Scalability of the payment method to accommodate multiple users with different payment plans.
  4. Life style applications (not identified) were seen to be a very promising area.
  5. Extended battery life is a huge issue, especially when multiple radios are included in the same phone, e.g. WiFi and cellular.
  6. 3rd party apps to take advantage of Nokia’s capabilities for hand held devices, e.g. maps, messaging, music, cameras, etc. Apps should be optimized to the device.
  7. App developers have to choose amongst competing mobile operating systems, e.g. Google’s Android vs. Microsoft’s Windows Mobile vs. Nokia’s Symbian vs Apple iPhone, etc. They had better chose carefully!
  8. Netbook price will be driven down by the competition between Intel and Qualcomm, resulting in even more demand. Orange and NTT DoCoMo will soon sell a 1G byte Mobile Internet Device (MID) with a built-in phone and 7” or 8” screen. Netbooks and MIDs will create a “new revolution” in wireless connectivity, according to Orange.

What’s the role of mobile network operators now and how will it change in the future?

Today, cellular carriers certify applications, while device makers optimize their devices to certain classes of apps and not others. However, it’s the users and not the carriers that understand and select the mobile apps. The user’s experience will ultimately determine the market for new mobile apps and operators will have to adjust their roles accordingly.

According to Orange, the role and functions of the mobile operator will change markedly by 2014 in order to accommodate the quantum increase in processing power of hand held devices. The operator will need to: protect the identify of the mobile user, bill correctly, provide on-screen information that is needed at the right time and place – safely and securely.

Wireless – Where are the VC’s investing?

During this panel session we heard from five VCs about the hot segments and opportunities in the Wireless Industry. Derek Kerton of the Kerton Group moderated the panel session. The panelists were:

  • Shawn Carolan, Menlo Ventures
  • Ajay Chopra, Trinity Ventures
  • Scott Raney, Redpoint Ventures
  • Janice Roberts, Mayfield Fund
  • Richard Wong, Accel Partners

Here are a few of the questions considered by the moderator and the panelists:

  • Are devices the enablers or are mobile apps the differentiators?
  • Apps, Smart Phones (Rich Client) apps or SMS based apps?
  • Native or web browser-based?
  • If devices, what types? Integrated feature packed or targeted low cost?
  • A look ahead to provide a sense of where VCs see opportunity for growth and where the bets are being placed e.g. Applications vs. Infrastructure, LBS and Social Networks, consumer Internet vs mobile enterprise?
  • Mobile messaging (SMS) continues to be the “killer app.” The “bread and butter” mobile apps continue to be mobile messaging, and teleNavigation (turn by turn directions). Gaming is coming on strong as another “legacy” app.
  • A lot of new apps have been developed in the last 12 to 18 months. It makes sense to aggregate many of these apps into a package and scale them to the appropriate distribution model.

A few data points expressed by Ms. Roberts of Mayfield:

  • Business models are lagging far behind innovation, e.g. mobile browsers, video and LBS’s.
  • It’s difficult to identify vertical markets and properties for mobile apps.
  • A portfolio of “bundled” apps might be interesting.
  • More opportunities in wireless infrastructure, as carriers move to more open and less proprietary platforms to deliver mobile services.
  • The applications running on open platforms may not be hosted by the carriers.
  • No hot companies have been identified for new investments.

Apps and app stores: The biggest change in the mobile world has been the large number of new companies that have “sprouted up” in bursts to provide apps for the iPhone and Android platform. The companies get a “proof of concept” via app stores. New entrepreneurs are looking at enhancing user experiences on the “consumer Internet,” as users have gotten much more “Internet savvy.” Many of the entrepreneurs starting these new companies are moving quickly to make money from app stores- a great new distribution channel.

Richard Wong of Accel Partners said there was a new surge of opportunities in wireless backhaul. Today, the average cell size has a backhaul capacity of only five T1 circuits, which will need to be significantly upgraded to accommodate the increase in mobile data traffic. Mr. Kerton noted that backhaul is front and center on the cellular carrier’s radar screens. But what about the cellular access network?

How will cellular carriers solve the bandwidth bottlenecks in their access networks due to the exponential increase in mobile data traffic from smart phones, notebooks and netbooks? Richard Wong of Accel Partners provided his prescription:

  1. Cell splitting- reducing the cell radius so there are likely to be fewer users per cell. Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) were being used for this.
  2. Move to more spectrum efficient network technologies based on OFDM/OFDMA, e.g. WiMAX or LTE
  3. Block certain types of traffic or meter traffic to limit bandwidth hogs
  4. Move some of the data traffic to WiFi premises networks (but WiFi radios and interfaces consume a lot of power which decreases hand held device battery life)
  5. Use a separate network to carry broadcast video traffic

Author’s Note: At the April 19, 2009 Telecom Council meeting on Wireless Infrastructure, Qualcomm and others suggested that network topology changes could be exploited to improve mobile network capacity. Femto-cells were seen as one way of taking traffic of the cellular network and placing it on the (mostly wired) broadband access network.

What business models and new products/ services have potential? What are the key unresolved issues? Here are a few suggestions:

  • “Mobile game town” has been successful in Japan. That model can be used to establish virtual goods and virtual communities on the mobile Internet.
  • Mobile advertisements- still an experimental area. Carriers don’t want to inundate users with irrelevant information. The key question is how to monetize mobile advertising?
  • Success of netbooks, especially amongst college students should be exploited. Mobile operators may sell netbooks like they sell phones and handhelds.
  • Licensing apps vs. subscription model for aggregated apps needs to be sorted out.
  • Location based social networking for iPhone and Android is a huge potential opportunity.
  • Combining voice recognition technology with maps also has potential.

Will open access change anything (vs. the “walled garden” approach of the cellular carrier controlling all apps and devices on the network). It hasn’t really happened yet, according to the panelists. For instance, AT&T blocks Skype use on the iPhone and also blocks Sling Media over its cellular network. Perhaps cellular networks will be truly open when devices based on Google’ Android platform are in more widespread use.

Conclusion:

We are in the early stages of mobile networks that are in transition: from cellular networks that adequately support voice, text messaging and email to mobile broadband data/ video networks that also support voice. This will be a big challenge for incumbent network operators and a huge opportunity for quick and nimble new players

Gary Reback: US Government Must Enforce Antitrust Laws to Encourage Innovation

On the need for government intervention in the free market to protect competition and encourage innovation

Gary Reback is one of the nation’s most prominent antitrust attorneys, best known for spearheading the efforts that led to the federal lawsuit against Microsoft.   Gary spoke to an attentive and eager audience on May 14th in Santa Clara, CA.   The Commonwealth Club and Yale Club of Silicon Valley sponsored his enlightening and provocative talk. Reback’s main message was that the government l’aissez faire policies, so strongly promoted by University of Chicago economists, have gone way too far. As a counter-weight, he says we need more government oversight of the private sector along with more vigilant anti-trust enforcement.
 
To set the stage for the current recessionary economy, Gary began by chronicling the history of the U.S. antitrust movement. From its beginnings in the 1870s (a time when big business controlled the railroads), through Teddy and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thurmond Arnold and others, there has been an ebb and flow of power and control between the federal government in Washington and big business (e.g. monopolies) or Wall Street investment firms. Starting about thirty years ago, conservatives forced an overhaul of competition policy that has loosened business rules for everything from selling products to buying competitors. In the free market era of the 1990s, big business and investment banks certainly had the upper hand. To a large extent, that is what has caused the global financial meltdown and enabled companies like Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Oracle, and Google to become so powerful. We were surprised to learn that expensive medical care and non-generic prescription drugs are the result of a lack of anti-trust enforcement.
 
Mr Reback firmly believes that in a high-tech world, U.S. government “hands off” policies actually slow innovation, hurt consumers, and entrench big companies at the expense of entrepreneurs.   In particular, Gary calls for increased government scrutiny of high tech firms monopolistic practices. He argues that monopolies have the power to raise prices by restricting output, supply and competition. As a result, the economy weakens, unemployment increases, and innovation is pressured.
 
We take it for granted now, but many of the advances in semiconductors and software were the result of a few dominant lawsuits against big companies. 
 
In the late 1950’s, AT&T was forced by the U.S. government to license the transistor. William Shockley, one of the co-inventors of the transistor, licensed it from AT&T to form Shockley Labs, which later begat Fairchild Semiconductor, which in turn begat Intel, AMD, and National Semiconductor. The early years of the semiconductor industry in Santa Clara Valley (it was not called Silicon Valley till the mid 1970s) was therefore, a direct result of the lawsuit against AT&T. For more on those early years, please see the article by this author:
 
 
In the early 1970s, concerned about possible anti-trust legislation, IBM was forced to unbundle software from hardware. This created a whole new independent software industry, which had not existed before. Software had previously been bundled with mainframes and minicomputers made by the same computer manufacturer.
 
Merger enforcement is perhaps the biggest business issue of our time, according to Reback. What do we do with companies too big to fail? How about Citibank Group, for example? If it had not been for the repeal of the Glass Steagall act in 1999, Citi would not have been able to acquire Smith Barney, Solomon Brothers and other investment firms. Hence they would not have gotten too big to fail.   Better to have government carefully scrutinize the mergers and acquisitions and/or break up large companies before they become too big to fail! One has to wonder if certain tech companies, like Oracle and Cisco have become too dominant in their industry or even too big to fail because of acquisitions that occurred without anti-trust scrutiny. For example, Oracle has done over 40 mergers after it acquired People Soft and now has proposed to acquire Sun Microsystems.
 
Is Google the next Microsoft? Yes, in terms of its dominance over web search software, in comparison to Microsoft control over desktop and notebook PC software. No, in at least two other important ways: 
  1. Google created technology that people liked and it worked well. 
  2. The company was also more customer friendly with a more congenial corporate culture and image.
Author’s Note: the next battle between these software titans will be in mobile OS market- Android platform from Google vs Windows Mobile from Microsoft.
 
Gary believes that Google’s big search competition will come from social networking sites (e.g. Twitter and Facebook), rather then from traditional search engines from Yahoo or Microsoft. He also noted that potential anti-trust action was enough for Google to call off its plans to put adverts on Yahoo’s search result pages.
 
Was the European Union’s (EU) huge fine against Intel Corp justified? Just one day before this talk- on May 13th– EU regulators slapped a record 1.06 billion euro ($1.45 billion) fine on Intel for antitrust violations and ordered it to halt illegal efforts to squeeze out arch-foe AMD. This fine was levied after an 8 year EU investigation of the company. "Intel has harmed millions of European consumers by deliberately acting to keep competitors out of the market for computer chips for many years," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes told a news conference.
 
Should Intel have known better to refrain from engaging in unfair trade practices? Most definitely yes, according to Gary. Intel was actually a U.S. government witness in the huge anti-trust suit against Microsoft in 1998. The plaintiffs (US Department of Justice and 20 states) alleged that Microsoft abused monopoly power on Intel-based PCs in its handling of operating system and web browser sales. The issue central to the case was whether Microsoft was allowed to bundle its flagship Internet Explorer web browser software with its Microsoft Windows operating system. Bundling them together is alleged to have been responsible for Microsoft’s victory in the browser wars, especially over arch rival Netscape (which seemed by this author to be a superior web browser). Didn’t Intel learn anything from the trial and the verdict against Microsoft regarding unfair competitive practices? Gary response, "Of course, Intel says it is innocent of the charges and never broke the law, so perhaps the company will be exonerated after the EU Commission decision is reviewed by the European courts."
Opinion: We suggest the reader to ask the question to an Intel executive or lawyer.
 
In summing up, Reback opined that “anti-trust action failures” in the health care and banking industries have contributed to unreasonably high medical costs and a financial meltdown. Meanwhile, heightened scrutiny over acquisitions (e.g. Oracle’s) would result in a stronger U.S. economy by encouraging more competition and invigorating innovation and the start up culture. 
 
 
Bio: Gary Reback is one of the nation’s most prominent antitrust attorneys. He has been named one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers” in America by the National Law Journal and is quoted regularly by major media. His book Free the Market! is a memoir of Reback’s titanic legal battles—involving top companies such as Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and AT&T—and a persuasive argument for measured government intervention in the free market to foster competition.   Gary is currently of counsel with Carr & Ferrell LLP. He is a very friendly and easy to get a long with person, in this author’s opinion.
 
 
 

New apps and smart phones to drive demand for 4G mobile networks

We now believe that smart phones and "all-in-one" gadgets will drive the need for more bandwidth and QOS and accelerate mobile network movement to 3.5G (EVDO, HSPA, mobile WiMAX, etc) and 4G (LTE and Advanced WiMAX- IEEE 802.16m).

UK research firm Mobile Squared reports that Apple to hit 1 billion app downloads on April 23rd!  Please see:

http://www.mobilesquared.co.uk/?p=593

They observe that the number of downloads from App Stores is growing exponentially: Apple is now experiencing average daily downloads of 5.1 million apps and requires another 38 million apps to reach 1 billion. At this download rate, the billion mark will be surpassed in a few days. At the start of December Apple announced that it has passed the 200 million download mark. And this was promptly followed by a similar announcement of 500 million downloads by January 19th.

We would expect to see the same growth from other smart phone and "all-in-one" gadget makers (e.g. RIM, Palm, Nokia, etc) who have started their own on-line app stores.

Many of the new apps will require massive amounts of bandwidth, e.g. video sharing, multi-media conferencing, interactive games, Video on Demand, real time broadcast video, Location Based Services, etc. The amount of bandwidth and real time, rich media content demanded by smart phone users will necessitate the need for new mobile networks with higher bandwidth and QOS.

And it appears that more powerful iPhones are just around the corner.  The San Jose Mercury reports: Speculation grows over new Apple products

"Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu, in a recent note to investors, wrote that Apple could be ready to release a new iPhone packed with a powerful application processor to run more complex software. And Wu anticipates improvements to the device’s battery, which does not last much more than a day during heavy use."

http://www.mercurynews.com/businessheadlines/ci_12167258?nclick_check=1

and here is more proof:

Apple’s App Store: a rapidly growing marketplace

http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_12037710?IADID=Search-www.mercurynews.com-www.mercurynews.com

Implications::

The big problem for network operators is that bandwidth and need for QOS is exploding, while revenues are increasing at a much slower rate. Hence, revenue producing services must be developed and come to market quickly for operators to get a decent ROI on their investments in next generation mobile broadband networks.

Smart phones and all in one gadgets will likely dominate the 4G mobile hand held market (that does not include netbooks and tablet PCs). We see little room for MIDs that do not have voice, conferencing or LBS capability.  The functions envisioned for MIDs will likely be built into smart phones and multi-purpose gadgets (e.g. web based cameras).

Perhaps, the notebook and netbook PC user will be content with nomadic/ portable Internet access and related services (either from WiFi hot spots or WiMAX with USB dongles). The exception is Internet access in high speed trains, e.g. in Japan and Taiwan. In those cases, mobile WiMAX networks are being planned for notebook and netbook users.

3G and LTE squeeze WiMAX- is the market window still open?

Summary:

Many pundits have declared the window of opportunity for WiMAX has closed.  Squeezed between he enhanced capability of 3G technologies (e.g. HSPA/HSPA+ for GSM) and accelerated LTE roll-outs, (notably Verizon Wireless) the claim is that WiMAX is DOA.  We disagree!  In particular, we believe there is a reasonable market for WiMAX fixed and nomadic/portable service in developing countries.  We also see possibilities for mobile WiMAX in Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Russia and other developing countries (but not necesarilly in the U.S. or Western Europe).

For more details on WiMAX in emerging markets, please refer to:

WiMAX Continues to Make Progress in Developing Countries

http://www.wimax360.com/profiles/blogs/wimax-continues-to-make

When used for either nomadic/portable or true mobile service, both LTE and WiMAX devices will need to have roaming and handoff between either HSPA/HSPA+ or EVDO rev xyz.  That is because those latter 3G networks will still be the predominant way users access the Internet- especially during the early days of LTE/WiMAX deployment.

While LTE is thought of as a mobile technology, it will be also used for BWA (e.g. Century Tel and VZW plan on LTE for rural BWA).  Similarly, IEEE 802.16e compliant WiMAX can be used to deliver both fixed/nomadic and mobile services if permitted by the regulator in the country where service is offered.

The LTE Express- has it really accelerated?

In the U.S., VZW’s aggressive LTE roll out plans have put pressure on Clearwire, which asserts that its mobile WiMAX network is superior to the LTE service Verizon Wireless will soon launch. Once projected to reach 100 million subscribers by the end of 2008, the new Clearwire joint venture is commercially available in just two metropolitan areas – Baltimore, MD and Portland, OR. What about the 7 other cities that were to be operational by end of 2009?

Clearwire plans to provide more details about its WiMAX deployment strategy on March 5, when it announces its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2008. Those details may include dates for commercial availability of mobile WiMAX service in Chicago, Washington, Boston and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, possibly very soon. Sprint Nextel’s WiMax division was already building networks in those cities before the joint venture with the original Clearwire was completed in December. Clearwire is also working on converting its more than 40 pre-WiMax networks to true, standardized WiMax over time. No plans have been announced yet for VoIP over WiMAX which negates any WiMAX smart phones (which Sprint has announced for its mobile WiMAX MVNO unit).  For more information see:

Clearwire readying WiMax game plan as rival LTE gains steam

http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9128221&intsrc=news_ts_head

Robert Syputa of Maravedis disagrees with all the hype about the VZW stepping up its LTE deployment.

"Verizon has not recently accelerated the roll out of LTE in their 700 MHz spectrum. If anything, recent announcements including Barcelona (WMC) amount to a 2-3 month push out from previous statements that they would luanch commercial networks by the end of 2009.

We have held that Verizon was posturing in their earlier announcements because suppliers could not be ready for commercial state deployment. What’s more, there has been no chance that there would be many devices available and too little time to do conformance and compatibility testing among vendors.

Verizon is pushing their own requirements which presage official LTE standard conformance and compatibility. This can be looked at as being similar to the way Sprint pushed the supply ecosystem including running their own test labs outside of those established by the WiMAX Forum. But this is jumping the gun; the LTE standard has yet to be published and chips, devices, and network equipment is at an earlier stage of commercial maturity.

This jousting of PR about availability should be evaluated in the context of what Verizon and other firms are attempting to achieve: Verizon has achieved the market position and PR image as being among the world’s leading networks. That contributes to their ability to hold onto and gain subscribers. Meanwhile, Sprint has succumbed to problems stemming from conversion of iDen, and upgrades to their 3G network and service problems. Even though they can now claim high 3rd party service reliability ratings, their image continues to suffer. Combined with pull from new phone and service offerings from Verizon and AT&T including iPhone, Google Android, and expanded push to talk, Sprint has continued to lose market share.

3G operators like Verizon can continue to build out higher density 3.5G HSPA & EVDO networks but added capacity comes at an escalating price tag. Both WiMAX and LTE next generation networks are, according to the competing camp’s AT&Ts network director, 1/4-1/2 the cost of delivering similar capacity on an advanced 3G network. Despite the higher cost, they say that they will continue to put most of their capital behind 3G over the next 2-3 years. The reason they don’t switch to LTE or WiMAX for the bulk of deployments is because LTE is at least 2-3 years away from being a mature ecosystem and it will require multiple mode or a transition to new devices in order to transition the customer base. The issue is hardly as simple as which technology works best.

What works best for Verizon is holding onto the image of being the leading network and not cannibalizing their fat 3G revenues more than is necessary until the market pressures them do to so. Eventually the market will press on for ever higher bandwidths and combined services that drives operators to adopt 4G. WiMAX and LTE are at a ‘pre-4G’ stage of evolution.. the systems and device evolution, needed disruptive re-farming of spectrum, and marketplace demands are building toward but are still years away from widespread adoption.

Verizon’s pursuit of LTE is pressing on but it will be more about holding onto image and 3G customers than about carving out revenue on a comparative scale for a few years.

A major advantage of 700 MHz is they can deploy thinly to achieve broad coverage. They will leverage that but it is not a panacea."

Opinion:   One thing I’ve learned in over 38 years in the telecom industry, is that new network infrastructures- especially a new high speed wireless network – takes much more time to be fully operational than anyone thinks. Once the infrastructure is in place, several levels of interoperability testing are required along with provisioning systems, monitoring, OSS and back end billing/accounting.

Will 3G Improvements Kill WiMAX?

The Ericsson view of comparisons between 3G/HSPA abd mobile WiMAX was outlined in a white paper released last month (January 2009):

"While the peak data rates, spectral efficiency and network architecture of HSPA Evolution and Mobile WiMAX are similar, HSPA offers better coverage. In short, Mobile WiMAX does not offer any technology advantage over HSPA. What is more, HSPA is a proven mobile broadband technology deployed in more than 100 commercial networks… [and] can be built out using existing GSM radio network sites and is a software upgrade of installed W-CDMA networks. Compared with other alternatives, HSPA is the clear and undisputed choice for mobile broadband services."

http://www.ericsson.com/technology/whitepapers/hspa_and_mobile_wimax…

But there’s a contrary point of you that favors WiMAX performance over 3G.  Many think that HSPA/GSM 3G will be overloaded when more mobile users access the Internet, upload photos and videos and watch streaming video on their devices.  Essentially, 3G is a TDM voice network with a data overlay. WiMAX is a flat (non-hierarchial) IP only network.

For EVDO/CDMA 3G, WiMAX avoids expensive royalty payments to Qualcomm, which owns most of CDMA intellectual property. Still, building a ubiquitous WiMAX network would be far more expensive than buying wholesale access to 3G with a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) agreement.  But there is also the possibility of being a WiMAX based MVNO.  That is exactly what Sprint plans to do- using Clearwire’s mobile WiMAX network and supplying its own multi- mode (CDMA/WiMAX/WiFi) mobile phones that will operate on the CLEAR network. 

For more details, please refer to:

Sprint may sell tri-mode phone in 2010 that will include VoiP over WiMAX

http://www.wimax360.com/profiles/blogs/sprint-may-sell-trimode-phone

Conclusions

We do not believe the market window is closed for WiMAX.  The technology works, is available now, and can offer download speeds of 2 – 4 M b/sec per user (depending on cell size- number users per Base Station).  However, we continue to believe the most lucrative market for WiMAX will be for fixed/nomadic services in developing countries.   While most WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e compliant) deployments will actually be used for fixed BWA, the same network can also support mobile BWA at 2.3G, 2.5G, or 3.5GHz spectrum.  That’s a key advantage for network operators that want to deploy a combination of fixed/nomadic and mobile services to subscribers.

You need to segmrent the market for WiMAX.  It is definitely the answer for fixed/nomadic broadband wireless access in developing countries and rural areas.  It is also a success in South Korea (WiBro) as a fixed/mobile technology

It may or may not succeed as a globally ubiquitous mobile wireless technology.  The places to evaluate that are Japan, Taiwan, India, and other Asian countries.  I do not think people should be so hung up on whether or not Clearwire suceeds in the U.S.  Think global, especially Asia, for mobile WiMAX.    Once WiMAX netbooks, MIDs, other CPE, and smart phones are available, then there will be a better outlook for mobile WiMAX.  But that will happen, if and only if,: the regulator in the country permits mobile service at the licensed frequency(s), the operator builds out the mobile network, and implements roaming agreements with both mobile WiMAX and 3G carriers.  That remains to be seen. 

There is another market segment where WiMAX has huge potential- backhaul (WiFi hot spots, video surveillance cameras, etc) and wireless backbone for campus/ private networks.  This is a dark horse growth area in my opinion!

Addendum: In-Stat: 30% of subscribers will be 3G or 4G by 2013

In-Stat says that 30 percent of subscribers worldwide will be using some form of 3G or 4G cellular technology by the end of 2013. With mobile WiMAX needing to prove itself in the market as LTE deployments expand, In-Stat predicts that WiMAX networks will find favor in developing countries. In addition to expected LTE deployments in the United States and other developed markets, the research firm predicts that numerous vendors will pick up on the mobile WiMAX trend in emerging markets.

Viodi View – 01/23/09

Something is different this third week in January. No, I am not talking about the historic inauguration of the first U.S. President born in the 1960s, but I am referring to missing this week’s OPASTCO’s Winter Convention. Unfortunately, we did not get our act together and, consequently, did not produce ViodiTV at this OPASTCO Convention. The agenda and locations are always interesting at these events, but the most enjoyable part of the experience is meeting with the people of OPASTCO.

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Green Cell Tower – Efficient and Effective

Click here to watch this video of Pat Riordan talking about Cellcom's green cell towerTo remind myself of how much fun we had at last summer’s event, I posted a video interview with Pat Riordan, President and CEO of Nsight. Riordan discusses the implementation of a ‘green’, off-the-grid, cell phone tower by its wireless subsidiary, Cellcom. Prior to Cellcom’s construction of this unique repeater site, cell service was not available in this rather remote area of the Eagle River of Northern Wisconsin.


And More Recently at this Week’s OPASTCO Winter Convention

John Rose, in his speech at the OPASTCO Winter convention this week, reinforced the idea that broadband is changing everything and that rural carriers need to address the desires of consumers who increasingly wish to access content in locations and on devices of their choosing. He indicated that the industry’s future prosperity is also dependent upon the right regulatory environment.


The one good thing about not producing ViodiTV at OPASTCO was it gave Roger to catch up on some earlier reviews as well complete part 3 of a series on over the top video.


Vudu On-Demand and On-Line by Roger Bindl

Well… it’s one step closer to better television over the Web. Vudu now has Network and Studio TV episodes for purchase and download, plus it now has Vudu Labs which consists of YouTube videos, On Demand TV, Flickr, Picasa, and a couple of on-line games.


Click here to see Roger's latest installment of his series about over the top videoVideo and TV Over the Net – Part 3 in a Series by Roger Bindl

 

Voice narration isn’t necessary to make the point of this two minute video as it notes the progression of IP in telecom and the progression of Video and TV over the Net. IP displaced ATM in an industry that would have said "no way" ten years ago. And now, Video and Television over the Net have progressed to a point where few are questioning or doubting, but many are jumping on the band wagon to provide products and service.


Alan Weissberger added interesting commentary to his earlier article on Cisco’s plans to move into consumer electronics with a discussion of their plan to move into servers.  Weissberger also wrote a very interesting piece about WiMAX MIDs. Ironically, I read the first draft of this piece on a Google Phone, which is 3G enabled and WiFi. Check out the article, as well as the associated comments.

 


Where Are the WiMAX MIDS? by Alan Weissberger

Did you notice the absence of any major WiMAX device announcements at CES? With all the talk by Sprint and Clearwire about mobile WiMAX at the show, we were expecting a raft of WiMAX capable Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) to be announced at CES. We were disappointed.  Click here to read the rest of the article.


People on the Move:

Congratulations to Ron Strecker of Panhandle Telephone Cooperative, Inc. for his OPASTCO Grassroots Advocacy Excellence Award.

Congratulations to Rob West of CoBank’s communications division and communications and energy banking group for his OPASTCO Associate Member Distinguished Service Award.

Congratulations and good luck to Jay Cuthrell, formerly CTO of Digitel and NeoNova Network Systems. Jay is providing his consulting services on a full-time basis to independent telcos and others entities. Operating from Raleigh and Missoula, his understanding of technology and the independent telco industry is unique and valuable for telcos in their transition to broadband providers.


The Korner – Stir Krazy

Producing ViodiTV at an OPASTCO event or any other event is a great deal of work. Roger ends up doing most of this work when we produce these video compilations of telco conferences.

[Sponsor Alert – Viodi in the planning stages for the Minnesota Telecom Alliance Convention in March]

It is great fun and a great break, however, as it takes us away from our normal locales and puts us in places that are normally warm when it is cold everywhere else. I appreciate the nice weather, but given the fairly mild climate of the Valley of the Heart’s Delight (aka, Silicon Valley) that I call home, I don’t appreciate it nearly as much as does Roger.

click here to watch Roger's latest creationI didn’t realize this until I watched a video that Roger created earlier this week. I call it Stir Krazy, because it is obvious that my friend needs to get away from the cold and snow and go where it’s warm. He co-produced this video with a collaborator who was a thousand-plus miles away in Portland.

Like a street corner rapper, who comes up with lyrics off the top of his head, Roger made this little ditty up as he went along. It has sort of a country feel. Country and Rap, I will let the reader do the math on that one. Seriously, it grows on you and it is quite clever. Help Roger go viral with this by passing it on to someone who needs a pick me up from the winter blues.   Click here to watch his video.

Where are the WiMAX MIDs?

Did you notice the absence of any major WiMAX device announcements at CES? With all the talk by Sprint and Clearwire about mobile WiMAX at the show, we were expecting a raft of WiMAX capable Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) to be announced at CES. We were disappointed.

After conversing with attendees and scouring the web, we only saw one WiMAX MID announced at CES- a blog post about Yukyung’s Viliv "X70 AtoM Communications MID."

The company is based in Korea so we don’t know if the MID is only for the Korean WiBro market or will be sold worldwide. According to a Yukyung rep, the Viliv devices should be available in Spring 2009, priced between $500 and $700. Like all WiMAX devices, they will first have to be certified on each network they connect to.

For more info please visit:

http://www.myviliv.com/ces/main_x70atom.html

Please see my summary of our local (SC Valley) Jan 08 IEEE ComSoc meeting presentation: Internet in Your Pocket, by Rama Shukla of Intel

http://www.ewh.ieee.org/r6/scv/comsoc/Summary_011608_MIDWiMAX.pdf

Hence, my keen interest in why there have not been more MIDs announced – one year later! Without a large choice of MIDs, netbooks and notebooks with embedded WiMAX, I don’t see how there can be a market for mobile WiMAX.

In sharp contrast, there are MIDs for 3G+ networks that may be coming to market this year. At CES, Qualcomm’s demonstrated the Android software platform running on its Snapdragon chipset, which is targeted at non WiMAX MIDs and other devices that go beyond the conventional handset. To the best of our knowledge, none of the Android based MIDs or phones in the works will support mobile WiMAX. They are all 3G/ 3.5G based. Qualcomm said the work is geared to larger MIDs and web tablets, having already been an early adopter of Android on its mainstream smartphone chipsets – the first Android phone, the T-Mobile/HTC G1, runs on the Qualcomm MSM2701A silicon.

http://www.rethink-wireless.com/?article_id=906

Opinion: Snapdragon could be stiff competition for Intel’s AToM processor, which is also targeted at MIDs (with built-in WiMAX adapter). The MID introduced in 2009 may be mostly 3G/ 3.5G since those networks are much more pervasive than mobile WiMAX. Alternatively, the entire MID market may never come to pass- with equivalent functionality built into smart phones and netbooks. We are looking forward to seeing WiMAX enabled netbooks by the end of 1Q09.

Verizon CTO on their LTE Rollout and Use of Femtocells in the Home

Contrary to what you’ve might have read elsewhere, Verizon CTO Dick Lynch did not make a surprise LTE deployment announcement on 12/8/08 at Cisco’ C-Scape conference. What he did say was: "We expect to have LTE in service somewhere in the U.S. around this time next year. We’ll follow that up almost immediately with LTE to the home using femto-cells, which probably will have WiFi in them." There was no definite LTE committment from Verizon and no mention of locations or scale for their LTE deployments.

A similar statement was made by Link Hoewing, Verizon’s VP of Internet and Technology Policy, in early October at the US Telecom Association’s 2nd Annual Executive Business Forum in San Jose, CA. Hoewing stated that Verizon Wireless "plans to roll out LTE in early 2010 with possibily 75M bit/sec downstream rate." So Lynch’s LTE statement moves that up a few months, but was not indicative of an accelerated mass deployment. We think the VZW LTE deployment will likely be a very controlled test bed evnironment, limited to one or more select cities.


Our rationale: With the LTE standard not completely finished, there aren’t even any pre-standard LTE devices available yet. Hence, we think it’s quite premature for any large LTE roll out one year from now. Testing and device certification will be required for mass deployment and that is at least 2 years off, in our opinion.


The uncertain timing of LTE availability was highlighted by Enrico Salvatori, senior VP and general manager for Qualcomm Europe, speaking at the company’s inaugural European Innovation Summit on 12/2/08. He cautioned that commercial availability of Qualcomm’s LTE/HSPA+ multimode device, dubbed the MDM9000, "still depends on a number of very uncertain factors." According to a report in EE Times, there are still major standardization issues to be resolved, even though the important Rev.8 standard is due to be finalized in mid December, that there is still uncertainty about which spectrum ranges LTE would be deployed, and noted there are many important choices to be made on network topology.

http://www.eetimes.com/news/latest/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=212201711

Mr. Lynch stated that low latency (e.g. 10 to 15 ms delay vs 110 to 125 ms with 3G) would be a distinguishing characteristic of 4G technologies. Ubiquity will be critically important to success. VZ believes that "LTE will be the dominant provider technology to deliver 4G wireless broadband data services," according to Mr Lynch. The company is working with partners Vodafone and China Mobile to ensure LTE is embedded in many different types of devices for consumers and enterprise customers. "Think of 4G broadband technology in every car on the road, in every meter in the house, in consumer electronic appliances you buy," Lynch said. An example of a broadband wireless machine to machine was given: a camera wirelessly connected to a photo storage facility, with the capability for the camera to do auto uploads after the wireless connection was established.

Another key point made by Lynch was that femtocells would be used to deliver wireless broadband to residential users who want wireless (not wired) devices for use within the home. In this case, the network access configuration would be LTE to/from from the cell site and the home, with femto-cells used to create a micro cell site within each home for broadband wireless data delivery.
 

A few questions to ponder:

Do you think LTE will the dominant 4G technology or does mobile WiMAX have a chance given that it is now available or soon will be?

Does mobile WiMAX have a chance given that it is now available or soon will be while LTE is atleast 2 years (or more) from actual deployment?

If so, how can mobile WiMAX capitalize on this time to deployment lead?

Update on Mobile WiMAX- is it really mobile (or only for wireless fixed line access)?

Over one year ago, I wrote an article titled: Will the real mobile WiMAX please stand up:

http://www.viodi.com/newsletter/061000/article2.pdf

The claim then was that IEEE 802.16e (AKA Mobile WiMAX) would be primarily used for fixed line BWA. Not much has changed in the last 18 months. Recently, there’ve been some encouraging announcements from Clearwire, Digital Bridge , and several overseas wireless service providers.  However, the overwhelming majority of WiMAX deployments continue to be for fixed BWA.  True mobile WiMAX service has been hampered due to several factors: a scarcity of native mode WiMAX devices, developing countries urgent need for fixed BWA, and the uncertainty of mobile VoIP (over mobile WiMAX) availability and roaming.

Where are the Native Mode WiMAX devices and MIDs?

The WMAX Forum says there are 480 WiMAX devices in development – by over 80 vendors. But we know of only one native mode WiMAX device – the Nokia 810 Internet Tablet Computer. We’ve heard a lot from INTEL about embedded WiMAX in Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), but we haven’t seen any MIDs hit the market yet. While several notebook PC’s with embedded WiMAX chip sets have been announced, we don’t know of any available. Instead, dongle attachments are now needed for notebooks to access a WiMAX network.

Intel is now shipping its first-ever combined WiMAX/Wi-Fi module, formerly code-named "Echo Peak," as part of the Intel® WiMAX/Wi-Fi Link 5050 Series that is an optional feature for Intel Centrino 2-based laptops. Several leading PC OEMs have announced plans to deliver Intel® Centrino® 2-based notebooks featuring the Intel® Core?? processor with WiMAX including Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba. Beginning today, WiMAX-based Intel notebooks can be found online at Amazon.com and NewEgg.com. Dell, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony also plan to support WiMAX in their laptops starting in 2009.

Perhaps the scarcity of true mobile WiMAX devices is power consumption of Intel’s AToM processor and power amps.The general opinion is that the power added efficiency (PAE) of the power amps used in Mobile WiMAX terminals is far too low. Power amps for mobile phones, for example, offer PAEs of 40% to 45% for wideband code division multiple access (W-CDMA), and 50% to 55% for Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM). For Mobile WiMAX, though, the PAE is only 10% to 20%.   For more on this issue, please see:    Can WiMAX Really Go Mobile?

 
Where is Mobile WiMAX being deployed?

The U.S. carrier that is offering true mobile WiMAX is SPRINT (which is now part of the "new Clearwire") with its Xohm network- operational in Baltimore since October 3rd. The only handheld device we know of that’s certified to connect to Sprint’s Xohm WiMAX network is the Nokia 810 tablet PC noted above.

For more information, please check:

http://www.xohm.com/

The "new Clearwire” recently announced that, while its company name will remain Clearwire, its new mobile WiMAX services will be branded Clear™. The Clear™ brand will apply to all new mobile WiMAX services to be offered by Clearwire in the U.S. and will be phased in to those markets where Clearwire offers pre-WiMAX services, as these existing markets are upgraded to mobile WiMAX technology.

http://www.wimax.com/commentary/blog/blog-2008/december/Clearwire-Completes-Transaction-with-Sprint-Nextel-and-%243.2-Billion-Investment-to-Launch-4G-Mobile-Internet-Company-1201

CEO Ben Wolff said the company plans to upgrade most of the existing 46 Clearwire markets to WiMAX next year. He added that Clearwire’s cable partners (e.g. Time Warner) are expected to offer wireless services under their own brands using the Clearwire network.  Clearwire’s mobile WiMAX roll outs, together with MSO reselling, significantly increases the chances that mobile WiMAX will emerge alongside LTE (Long Term Evolution) as one of the technologies that will power the next generation of high-speed wireless data networks.

At the November 2008 WCAI Symposium, Digital Bridge Communications stated they plan to offer mobile WiMAX (along with VoIP) in 15 U.S. markets. Handoffs to other carriers along with full mobility will be inherent in that network, which we need to watch closely to see if there are many dropped calls or Internet sessions. The network, known as BridgeMAXX, operates on licensed 2.3GHz frequency and is said to be very secure.

http://www.digitalbridgecommunications.com/OurDifference/ComparisonChart/tabid/67/Default.aspx

What about the new 3.65 GHz networks in the U.S? All that were described at a WCAI session use the fixed line version of WiMAX (IEEE 802.16d or -2005). The 3.65 GHz band uses a non-exclusive or "light licensing" regime to promote rapid deployment of wireless broadband systems to rural and underserved areas.
 

What’s the status of true mobile WiMAX in other countries?

Korea Telecom (KT) is offering a form of mobile WiMAX as part of its WiBro service in Korea. The relationship between the two is detailed in this whitepaper:

http://www.wimaxforum.org/news/WiBro_and_Mobile_WiMAX_Backgrounder.pdf

Just last week, we read that telco YTLE is collaborating with Cisco to launch a mobile WiMAX Network in Malaysia. YTLE plans to deliver affordable WiMAX packages with fast, wide coverage and always-connected mobile internet services that will cater to and complement the personal and business communication needs of consumers as well as the enterprise community.

http://www.wimax360.com/profiles/blogs/ytle-enters-a-strategic

Other overseas carriers planning to offer true mobile WiMAX are: UQ (part of KDDI) in Japan, Scartel and Comstar in Russia. However, Lee Sparkman, principal at Entorta (another Russian Broadband Wireless carrier) stated their market was exclusively fixed wireless broadband. With a take rate of only 15%, BWA is cost effective in developing countries, while a DSL or cable build out couldn’t be justified.

Esme Vos of muniwireless.com has posted a map of cities around the world that have "mobile WiMAX" service. She writes, "By “mobile” I mean you can connect to the WiMAX network either via a USB dongle or a WiMAX-enabled device (not many of those). You can view the map on: http://www.muniwireless.com/wimax/wimaxmap/

The pain of finding mobile WiMAX networksI had no idea it would take so long to assemble a paltry list of cities with mobile WiMAX service. I went to several WiMAX websites to find WiMAX networks and make a selection. The problem is that although many of them indicate that there is a WiMAX network based on 802.16e (”mobile” WiMAX), in reality, you need a stand-alone modem to gain access to the network – not useful for travelers. Most of the sources I used are unreliable: in certain cities they say that the service is live, but when you go to the provider’s site, you discover it’s not.It took me half a day to cull through dozens of listings of “mobile” WiMAX service providers to come up with this limited list, which is not complete given that new providers will be launching service in the coming months. So think of the map as a movable target."   The full article can be read at:

http://www.muniwireless.com/2008/11/26/map-of-mobile-wimax-service-around-the-world-now-available/

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WiMAX in India Revisited

While WiMAX in India is expected to be a reasonably good market, we know of no Indian carrier planning to deploy a true mobile WiMAX service. Rather then a 4G competitor, WiMAX in India is seen as a wireless fixed line replacement or as a substitute for DSL/cable service. It is now operational from Metamax, Pronto Networks, Reliance Group, and Sify in the 3.3G and 5.8G Hz bands. There will be more to come next year after the long delayed auction. Watch what Bharti-Airtel does. They are the largest mobile operator in India. In a WCAI session titled: Blueprint for Success in Emerging Markets, Farid Arifuddin, Managing Director, Vavasi stated his company planned to deploy a true mobile broadband wireless network in India based on a proprietary technology- not mobile WiMAX or LTE. For more on WiMAX in India:

http://viodi.com/2008/10/24/wimax-and-3g-in-india-delayed-again/

In answer to a query I had on true mobile WiMAX in India, here is a comment by Amitabh on November 28, 2008:

“The frequency auctions and Policy will permit Mobile WiMAX. However it is a question of how far the industry is ready. The past deployments are not necessarily a pointer as the Certification of profiles and availability of equipment is very recent. “

We conclude the jury is still out on true WiMAX mobility for India

http://www.wimax360.com/profiles/blogs/mobile-wimax-spotlight-on

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Predictions for the number of mobile WiMAX subscribers

In a WCAI session titled: Anywhere Network Synergies in the Evolution toward the 4G Technology Ecosystem, Berge Ayvazian, Chief Strategy Officer, Yankee Group asked how many true mobile WiMAX users there’d be by 2012. One audience member called out "ZERO!" Mo Shakouri, VP Marketing for Alvarion said the number would be somewhere between 0 and 100M. Berge later told me privately he expected no more than 30M mobile WiMAX subscribers by 2012.

What do you think the number will be and what countries will support true mobile WiMAX vs fixed line or nomadic configurations?