Viodi View – 08/22/14

Image of a future car  courtesy of Michael Robinson and ED Design.
Image courtesy of Michael Robinson and ED Design.

It’s obvious by the look on their faces, that people could be thinking that this guy is from another planet. This is the feeling I have when talking about my latest obsession, the autonomous vehicle. The obsession first manifested itself in the fictional story of what life will be like for today’s youth in the year 2040 thanks to self-driving vehicles. That story has been a spring-board to various discussions with experts on the topic, such as the recent discussion we had with someone who is an expert in both the legal and engineering aspects of vehicle autonomy. Read his thoughts on the winding road to vehicle autonomy in The Korner, below.


V2V & Spectrum Auction Round-Up

Depiction of V2V in urban area - image courtesy of U.S. D.O.T.
Depiction of V2V in urban area – image courtesy of U.S. D.O.T.

As written,  Implementation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Begin Implementation of Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications Technology could have an impact on service providers, as it asks about the FCC’s proposal to share the 5.85 to 5.925 GHz band between Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) radios (which are projected to be embedded in V2V-enabled vehicles, starting as early as the 2015 model year) and other WiFi devices. The NHTSA’s report on the topic outlines some of the potential safety benefits from such a network and, starting on page 92, goes into depth on spectrum utilization.

At the same time that the NHTSA is proposing rules of the road for vehicle to vehicle communications and potentially paving the way for an autonomous transport future, the FCC issued rules on how the broadcast auction spectrum will work. In an article in CED Magazine, respected telecom policy expert Jeffrey Krause suggests TV White Spaces and wireless microphone users will be the losers based on the FCC’s almost 500 page ruling.

As  was suggested in the article accompanying our interview with SocialMesh advocates, Devabhaktuni Srikrishna and Rajeev Krishnamoorthy, it  is not too late for Congress to step in and take a holistic view of spectrum to ensure maximum value for this public good; which might not mean direct dollars into the U.S. Treasury. This will require a big picture view  that embraces seemingly disparate use-cases, such as V2V and wireless broadband access. More on the bigger picture in the next issue of the Viodi View.


Better Driving Through Metadata

A picture of the 2015 Corvette Stingray along with  the metadata of its drive.
Click to View

Great racing athletes are able to visualize their every move giving them a mental picture for how they should perform. For the rest of us, Chevrolet may have the answer in the form of its Performance Data Recorder (PDR) in the 2015 Corvette Stingray, which is notable as it is the first telematics system to be included in a production car. Although not available in this version, the transmission of real-time metadata to other vehicles is the very sort of thing that would be at the heart of an aforementioned V2V network.

Click here to read more and to view the video.


Building Blocks – Adding Value to the Internet of Things

A demonstration of the Mobile Internet of Things is provided by CableLabs at their booth at The Cable Show 2014.
Click to View

Cable companies as value-add providers of data from the disparate Internet of Things is on display in CableLabs’ demonstration at The Cable Show 2014. Clarke Stevens explains how the prototype they created allows consumers to view the location of public transit buses on an app; an app that can live on multiple devices, including TVs, smart phones and tablets.

Click here to read more and to view the video.


The Heat Is On & Helping Monitor the House

Ken Pyle interviews Rob Riordan at the International CES 2014.
Click to View

Heat sensing with personal devices is about to take off, according to an articlethis week’s in the Wall Street Journal. Rob Riordan, EVP and director of corporate development for Nsight, talks about using thermal technology to add more accurate detection to their home monitoring service. We caught up with Riordan at International CES 2014, where he talks about the success Nsight has had in offering home monitoring services to its Wisconsin customers.

Click here to read more and to view the video.


Video Editing Challenges

One must click on the "About" option to see this menu. Although this shows only the "Disable GPU for this product" box marked, it may be that "Disable GPU Option for all products" may need to be selected as well.
Click to read more

Anyone interested in video editing; particularly with the latest release of Sony’s Vegas software, should read this 3-part series on the challenges faced by this author in editing with the latest version of this professional video editing software package. To read the rest of the story, click on the following links.

Click here to read more.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:


The Korner – Autonomous Vehicles and the Law

Ken Pyle interviews autonomous car expert, Brian Walker Smith.
Click to read more

The advent of self-driving vehicles will have a profound impact on the way communities develop; particularly if the service model, as already coming into play with companies like Uber, Lyft and others, turns out to be the predominate way of transporting people.

As one MIT study suggests, a shared, self-driving vehicle approach could mean only 1/3 as many vehicles would be needed as compared to one where humans are behind the wheel; which has huge implications for the way cities are designed. And the autonomous vehicle’s reach won’t be limited to the urban areas, as fully autonomous vehicles are already operating in various mining operations.

In this interview, legal and transportation professor, Bryant Walker Smith, talks about the challenges as we transition from human directed vehicles to fully autonomous vehicles. As he points out, there will be tensions between local and national interests. He likens it to the early days of broadband and implies that the road from here to fully autonomous vehicles will be a one with some potential forks and paths not yet imagined.

Click here to read more and to view the interview.

Broadband TV Conference- Part 3: The Problem and Solution for WiFi Delivered Video Content -Why Can't We Watch Any Content, on Any Device in Any Room in the Home?

Introduction and Backgrounder:

The number of mobile devices in the home is exploding. Most “Pay TV” operators (like Comcast Xfinity, Verizon FioS, and AT&T U-Verse) are supporting multiple screen viewing as part of their “TV Everywhere” services. The content is mostly OTT VoD, video clips, or real time sporting events available by subscription (e.g. MLB.TV, NHL.com or ESPN3) that’s played on mobile devices, gaming consoles and even connected TVs.

In almost all cases, the in-home WiFi network delivers the streaming video content to the “second screen.”   Mobile devices will not likely use 3G/4G wireless access to watch videos, because that would consume a good chunk of the wireless subscribers monthly data plan.  Some second screens, like the Kindle Fire and iPod Touch, only use WiFi for wireless communications.  Furthermore, there is no charge for WiFi home video distribution (other than the OTT subscriptions the user has with the video streaming provider, e.g. MLB.TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu+, Apple TV, etc).

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Note 1:  The U-verse Wireless Receiver is a wireless STB which is connected to the TV using an HDMI, component, composite or coaxial cable. It uses the WiFi home network to connect to a WiFi Access Point (AP) that plugs into the U-verse Residential Gateway via an Ethernet cable. The WiFI AP is also a “video bridge,” in that it extracts the TV content (SD/HD/apps) from the Residential Gateway, decodes it into the correct format, and delivers that content wirelessly over the in-home Wi-Fi network to the U-verse Wireless Receiver which plugs into the TV. The quality of SD/HDTV videos is expected to be a lot better than OTT video streaming, so would be adversely effected by any WiFi home network performance degradation.[/dropshadowbox]Most Wi-Fi home network implementations are optimized for best effort, peak data rate streaming. However, video is very sensitive to packet loss, latency and jitter, which results in artifacts on the consumers’ second screens (How many times have you noticed the OTT video picture freezing or sharply degrading in quality? Or loss of lip synch?). In addition, whole-home WiFi coverage and a consistent signal become mandatory for a good “user quality of experience.” Consumers will generally have their mobile devices, notebook PCs, STBs and TVs located in various nooks and corners of the home. They expect consistent video and audio quality whenever they’re watching videos on any screen in the home (or even in the back yard).

In addition to OTT streaming via WiFi in the home to notebook PCs and mobile devices, WiFi is sometimes used for delivering broadcast and on demand pay TV content. For example AT&T offers a “Wireless U-Verse receiver” for watching SD and HD TV plus apps that are included in the residential subscriber’s U-Verse TV package or bundle.1


Fundamental Problem with WiFi Delivery of Video Content in the Home:

Consumers have been led to believe they can watch any video content on any TV/device, in any room of the home. AT&T has been advertising this claim repeatedly in their TV commercials for U-Verse TV (Have you seen the one where the Dallas Maverick’s Mark Cuban invites players into his house to watch live basketball games on his tablet?). Google reports that 77% of consumers use mobile devices while watching TV each day. Touch screen mobile devices were said to have superior User Interfaces (UI’s) for search and socializing. Therefore, many people use them for watching and sharing videos while at home.

Ideally, video reception quality should not vary much depending on location in the home, but it does. AirTies claims the user experience is not nearly up to expectations when watching WiFi delivered video content within the home.  They say the primary bottleneck is poor WiFi performance – even with the latest IEEE 802.11ac silicon in the sending/ receiving WiFi enabled equipment/devices.

AirTies Presentation Overview:

Ozgur Yildirim, Vice President and General Manager – North America Business Unit- AirTies discussed this topic during his Broadband TV session on June 4. 2014.

Ozgur’s excellent presentation included actual measurements in a typical home. He also discussed network level limitations of WiFi, including: range performance, capacity impact of mobile devices,  interference from neighbors and streaming from DVR to 2nd TV. Finally, Ozgur presented a WiFi mesh-network home network solution to the problems inclusive of range extender/ boosters and other WiFi network enhancements. AirTies currently sells such a home network to Service Provider customers in Europe (see Comment and Analysis section below for further details on AirTies).

The primary problems with WiFi distribution of video and audio content is that it’s difficult for the WiFi signal to penetrate walls or reach corners within a typical home. That was supposed to be fixed with IEEE 802.11n and now 802.11ac, but not according to Mr. Yildirim.  Here’s why:

  1. In conventional WiFi, all wireless traffic to/from the Internet or between clients goes over a single WiFi Access Point (AP) which is embedded in a WiFi router, Video Bridge, or Residential Gateway. For “n” devices in the home, there are “n” point-to-point wireless links to the WiFi AP, which creates a star topology.
  2. WiFi capacity degrades logarithmically over distance and walls (RF signals at 5GHz – used by 802.11ac- are prone to absorption by walls which effectively reduce signal levels (i.e. results in a lower S/N ratio at the receiver).
  3. The slowest WiFi link pulls down the entire WiFi network capacity, which is shared amongst all the devices accessing that wireless network. Therefore, there is less effective bandwidth to distribute to mobile devices and personal digital recorders within the home as you add/use slower devices.
  4. Your neighbor’s WiFi signal was said to “consume air time,” which is something we hadn’t heard before! Ozgur provided this explanation via email after the conference:

“WiFi uses “Carrier Sense Multiple Access” (CSMA) – only one user can transmit at any one time, while others must wait. Since they all ‘share’ time and bandwidth this way, one ‘bad apple’ device taking too long will hurt all others. ‘Airtime’ is also shared with neighbors on the same channel. There are only three channels in 2.4 GHz – if you have more than two neighbors with WiFi home networks you share channels with them.”


Actual Tests of WiFi Home Network Performance under Various Conditions:

In an actual wireless home networking test in Istanbul, Turkey (headquarters of AirTies), sharing the WiFi aggregate bandwidth between three devices was said to reduce aggregate bandwidth/ total capacity by 65%. With a single device in the room, the WiFi capacity was measured to be 800M b/sec. When an iPad 4 (2X2 MIMO IEEE 802.11n), MacBook (3X3 MIMO IEEE 802.11ac), bridge (3X3 MIMO IEEE 802.11ac) the aggregate capacity dropped to 292 M b/sec in the same room.

Ozgur said that “much worse results would be obtained if the iPad was removed from the room.”  Ozgur provided this explanation via email to clarify that last statement:

“The iPad represents the legacy “slow” 802.11n client in the configuration described. It pulls down the entire network capacity- even within the same room. Recall that the single 802.11ac client got 800Mb/sec of WiFi capacity. If we were to put two 802.11ac clients in the same room, each client would 400Mb/sec. But when the iPad is introduced as a legacy (802.11n) client that does not support 802.11ac, the total WiFi capacity went down to 290Mb/sec.”

“Moving the iPad to a far location (with respect to the AP) in the home results in that (relatively slow) legacy client will get significantly slower due to poor WiFi reception. This results in the iPad taking much longer time to send packets which means much less time is left over for faster 802.11ac clients to access the home WiFi network.”


Worse, when moving one device upstairs, the total capacity was reduced to 92%, with an effective bit rate of only 68 Mb/sec. Wi-Fi link speed at the edge was said to be critical for performance in this case.

Almost as bad is “device-to-device” streaming performance -say from a Personal Digital Recorder/Network Attached Storage (PDR/NAS) to an iPad or other second screen.  That reduces total WiFi capacity by 40% to only 320M b/sec. With three devices in the same room the capacity drops to 175M b/sec. If the PVR (using 3X3 MIMO and 802.11ac) is moved upstairs, it drops to 38M b/sec.  [Remember, that total WiFi capacity is shared by all devices using that wireless network.]

A Solution for Mutli-Screen Video Streaming over WiFi Home Networks:

AirTies solution is a WiFi Mesh home network, which enables streaming video to multiple screens with much better video quality. That was said to outperform conventional Wi-Fi (with the star topology described above) by up to 10X. That WiFi Mesh configuration, along with conventional WiFi, is illustrated in the figure below:

An image of AirTies Mesh network configuration.
Image courtesy of AirTies

It connects each WiFi device/node to a WiFi AP and routes IP packets over the best path available at the time. Mobile WiFi devices connect to the closest AP at maximum capacity speed.

In conclusion, Ozgur said that such a “Wireless mesh network enables an ideal user experience. You can watch any content on any device, in any room, with premium (perceived) video quality.”

Comment and Analysis:

AirTies sells their technology to OEM partners, including several European telco TV providers. One of their products is called the Air 4641- a dual pack Wireless Digital Bridge “to optimize wireless video delivery throughout the home.” They also sell other products and solutions, such as a “wireless extender” which extends a WiFi home network’s coverage range and cleans up wireless signals (i.e. increases the signal to noise ratio).

This past March at TV Connect 2014, the company demonstrated HEVC adaptive bit rate video streaming, delivered over the public Internet to STBs, with Envivio (a provider of software-based video processing and delivery solutions) and Octoshape (a leader in cloud based OTT video streaming technology).


In contrast to the WiFi mesh network solution proposed by AirTies, a WiFi semiconductor company named Quantenna Communications Inc. published a white paper in March 2013, titled “Right Wi-Fi® Technology for Multi-Media Distribution.” It details and recommends how to get the best performance from 5 GHz IEEE 802.11ac for multi-media/video distribution within the home without using a mesh network topology. There’s no mention of a mesh network topology.

We thought this excerpt was especially noteworthy:

“For mobile devices, power is the most important, next is cost and lastly performance. In contrast, for whole home video distribution and general access points, higher performance connectivity with continuous error free distribution is a must. Error free video in the presence of interference cannot be compromised.”

References:

The Evolution of Wireless Home Networks, by Ece Gelal, Eren Soyak, Ozgur Yildirim of Airties

Interview with Burak Onat, AirTies Product Manager (multicast live video streaming demo with Octoshape)

End Note:  Please contact the author if you wish to pursue a consulting arrangement related to any of the topics summarized in the three Viodi View articles, or discussed at the BroadbandTV Conference last week in Santa Clara, CA.  Thanks.  alan@viodi.com

 

Viodi View – 06/09/14

Wayne Gretzky’s quote of, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been,” has become an oft-used metaphor in presentations in the telecom world. An important point, not mentioned in his quote, is to be aware of the external factors that could the alter the path of that puck (e.g. like the really fast skater you don’t see). Competition can come from any sector these days, as disparate industries look more and more alike, thanks to the Internet and the principles of the Internet.


Google’s Potential End Game – Transport and Organize the World’s People, Not Just Information

The garage is no longer needed to house a car with a vehicle-on-demand service.
The garage is no longer needed to house a car with a vehicle-on-demand service.

On the surface, autonomous vehicles seem way beyond Google’s core business, so it is easy to discount their efforts in this space, given all the barriers they face from incumbents, regulators and entrenched consumer behavior. Still, they have an advantage of a fresh approach without the legacy that other providers have. For instance, looking at autonomous transport as a service business (as opposed to the traditional box business of the vehicle market), yields $30B+ in profitable revenue with only 5% market share, while providing consumers a lower-cost, higher quality and safer transport option.

It is not to hard to imagine Google creating a Smart Transport Community contest, like they did with Google Fiber. A pilot program to a mid-size city would only require 1,700 vehicles, which is not much more than 100-250 they are planning on developing for testing purposes. As a service business, there are many analogies to broadband (including net neutrality or, perhaps, “road neutrality”).

This article, which is probably too long for the web, touches upon the salient points of what it will take to make an autonomous transport service a reality, including:

Although this seems way outside a broadband operator’s sweet spot, it probably makes sense to imagine the impact of Autonomous Vehicles on their broadband networks and their customers. In the meantime, let’s fast-forward 25+ years and imagine what life might be like for the next generation.

It’s 8:07 am and my next door neighbor, cheapskate Charlie, has been waiting outside his door for a few minutes for his ride, which is guaranteed to be at his house within a 10 minute window. He looks at his garage and is reminded that he will soon be renting it as storage space to his neighbor, Rich……

Click here to read the rest of the story.


Marching Toward a Gigabit

Ken Pyle interviews Terry Nidiffer of GCI regarding their plans for 1 Gb/s.
Click to View

“What would you do with a gigabit,” is what GCI is asking of its customers in anticipation of a 2015 roll out of gigabit services via its DOCSIS 3.0 plant. Announced in late March, GCI will be the first operator offering gigabit in the 49th state. GCI’s Vice President of Product Management, Terry Nidiffer, reinforces the idea of a “halo effect” of offering gigabit services, as they have seen approximately 300% uptake on their top-end offerings since their announcement of the higher speed services.

Click here to read more and view the associated video.


Congressional leaders ask FCC to Streamline Wireless Broadband Infrastructure Deployments by Alan Weissberger

Cell Tower
Click to Read More

On May 29th, House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to streamline the approval process for upgrading existing wireless facilities.  The letter asks Mr. Wheeler for clarification of Section 6409(a) – the spectrum provisions of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. 

Click here to read more.


Meeker: Mobile is King of Internet Access and Content by Alan Weissberger

1cast application on the Gphone
Click to Read More

Mary Meeker of KPCB puts out an Internet Trends report every year that is chock full of interesting data on Internet, social, mobile and e-commerce trends.  In this year’s report at the Code conference in Southern California last week, Ms. Meeker said that while growth in overall Internet usage was slowing (especially in developed countries), it has increased rapidly for mobile.

Click here to read more.


Technology Outlook: The Cable Show 2014 by Kshitij Kumar

An image of the Imagine Cafe at the 2014 Cable Show.
Click to Read More

The Cable Show 2014 was back in Los Angeles this year – which usually allows for a larger contingent of content folks to attend given the proximity of Hollywood. This year saw a good mix of technology folks rubbing shoulders with content-types but it almost felt like two shows in parallel – one set of tracks attended mostly by the techies of the industry and the other attended mostly by the content folks.

Click here to read some of the more interesting themes of the show.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:


The Korner – Better Officiating Through Technology – Because It’s the Cup

Jim Jachetta of VidOvation shows a goal cam, which includes camera, battery and 60 GHz wireless transmitter.
Click to View

Often, it is important to know where the puck has been; particularly when millions of dollars are riding on an accurate call.

In this interview, Jim Jachetta of VidOvation discusses how his company worked with NHL to create an in-goal camera system to help remote officials determine whether a puck crossed the goal. The “puck cam” that Jachetta describes has an integrated 720p camera, a battery and a 60 GHz wireless transmitter.

What makes this application particularly interesting is that VidOvation is transmitting uncompressed video using 1.5 GHz of the 7 GHz available band within the 60 GHz band.  Although this application only needs to go about 50 meters (to the top of an arena’s ceiling), Jachetta explains that, with the right antennas, the 60 GHz frequency band has application for point-to-point transport to buildings of up to one (1) kilometer.

He explains that 10 to 15 kilometers can be achieved with the higher frequency bands of 70, 80 and 90 GHz. This gets particularly interesting for service providers as these bands offer the potential to serve as the equivalent of wireless extensions of their fiber networks.

Click here to read more and to view the video.

All-IP Network Transition Plan at FCC's Jan 30th Open Commission Meeting

Introduction:

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”raised” width=”270px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ][/dropshadowbox]During his January 8th speech at the Computer History Museum (CHM) , FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told the CHM audience that the U.S. was in a transition to a “4th Network Revolution” that would be led by a transition to an “all-IP” network.   The 4th Network is actually a multi-faceted revolution based on  IP based packet communications (for voice, data and video) replacing digital circuit switching and analog transmission. Communications protocols are moving from circuit-switched Time-division Multiplexing (or TDM) to IP packet switching.  At the same time, 3G and 4G wireless access networks are increasingly prevalent, empowering consumers to connect at the place and time of their choosing.

Wheeler said, “The transition to an all-IP network is important in its own right, but it also is important because it demonstrates that the Commission (FCC) will adapt its regulatory approach to the networks and markets of the 21st century.”

The FCC Chairman then said that no one would use a network without being able to make a 911 phone call (to report emergencies and seek help from law enforcement). That implies that the all-IP network must support 911 calls in a consistent manner.

From the FCC Web site, an image of FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler
FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler (image courtesy of FCC.gov)

Wheeler told the CHM audience:

“The best way to speed technology transitions is to incent network innovation while preserving the enduring values that consumers and businesses have come to expect. Those values are all familiar: public safety, interconnection, competition, consumer protection and, of course, universal access. They are familiar, and they are fundamental.”

Continuing, he said: “At the January 30th Commission meeting, we will invite proposals for a series of experiments utilizing all-IP networks. We hope and expect that many proposed experiments, wired and wireless, will be forthcoming. Those experiments will allow the networks, their users, the FCC and the public to assess the impact and potential of all-IP networks on consumers, customers and businesses in all parts of our country, including rural America.”

All-IP Network Topic at the FCC’s January 30th Open Commission Meeting:

The all-IP network transition will be the number one agenda item at the FCC’s January 30th Open Commission Meeting  Advancing Technology Transitions While Protecting Network Values is all about the transition to an all-IP network.  “The Commission will consider a Report and Order, Notice of Proposed Rule making, and Notice of Inquiry that invites diverse technology transitions experiments to examine how to best accelerate technology transitions by preserving and enhancing the values consumers have come to expect from communication networks.”

In a November 19, 2013 blog post Wheeler provided an overview of the all-IP network migration.  He wrote: “The way forward is to encourage technological change while preserving the attributes of network services that customers have come to expect – that set of values we have begun to call the Network Compact.”

Wheeler noted various FCC Commissioner comments in that blog post:

  • “Commissioner Pai said that the FCC should ‘Embrace the future by expediting the IP Transition.’
  • Commissioner Rosenworcel told us that, ‘As we develop a new policy framework for IP networks, we must keep in mind the four enduring values that have always informed communications law — public safety, universal access, competition, and consumer protection.’
  • Commissioner Clyburn has called upon the Commission, ‘To carefully examine and collect data on the impact of technology transitions on consumers, public safety and competition.’”

AT&T Petition and FCC Technology Transitions Task Force are encouraging trials:

On November 7, 2012, AT&T petitioned the FCC to “Launch a Proceeding Concerning the TDM-to-IP Transition,” GN Docket No. 12-353 (AT&T Wire Center Trials Petition).

That document requested the FCC to “open a new proceeding to conduct, for a number of select wire centers, trial runs for a transition from legacy to next-generation services, including the retirement of TDM facilities and offerings” and that “the Commission should also seek public comment on how best to implement specific regulatory reforms within those wire centers on a trial basis.”

AT&T requested that the FCC consider conducting trials where certain equipment and services are retired and IP-based services are offered. These geographically limited trial runs, conducted after a public comment period on how they should be carried out, would help “guide the Commission’s nationwide efforts to facilitate the IP transition.” Such an approach, AT&T notes, will “enable the Commission to consider, from the ground up and on a competitively neutral basis, what, if any, legacy regulation remains appropriate after the IP transition.”

AT&T has set a date of 2020 to retire its TDM network and has been upgrading its IP-based service capabilities in its wireline markets via Project Velocity IP (VIP).  AT&T presented a progress report on the Project VIP at the June 2013 IEEE ComSocSCV meeting.  It can be read on pages 3-4 of this article: Telco Tours & Seminars Top ComSoc-SCV Activities.

Technology Transitions Policy Task Force” which was tasked to move forward with real-world trials to obtain data that will be helpful to the Commission. The goal of any trials would be to gather a factual record to help determine what policies are appropriate to promote investment and innovation, while protecting consumers, promoting competition, and ensuring that emerging all-Internet Protocol (IP) networks remain resilient.   The FCC task force is seeking public comment on several potential trials relating to the ongoing transitions from copper to fiber, from wireline to wireless, and from time-division multiplexing (TDM) to IP based packet switched networks.

Technology Trials Proposed:

The FCC task force has proposed the following trials related to the all-IP network transition:

  • VoIP Interconnection
  • Public Safety – NG911
  • Wireline to Wireless
  • Geographic All-IP Trials
  • Additional trials: numbering and related data bases, copper-to-fiber transition, retirement of copper?

 The US Telecom Association was very supportive of such trials as well as the previously referenced AT&T petition. In comments submitted on January 28, 2013, the trade organization wrote:

“The idea that the Commission should conduct real-world trials in order to better inform itself as to the technological and policy implications of the IP-transition is a way the Commission can continue its commitment to data-driven policy making. The Commission itself has urged carriers to ‘begin planning for the transition to IP-to-IP interconnection’ and the Commission-guided trials urged by AT&T would facilitate this effort.”

“In particular, the AT&T Petition offers an opportunity for the Commission and state regulators to conduct informative, but geographically limited, trial runs for regulatory reform in discrete wire centers. AT&T correctly notes that such an approach will enable the Commission to consider, from the ground up and on a competitively neutral basis, what, if any, legacy regulation remains appropriate after the IP transition.”

US Telecom’s comments can be read here.

Important Unanswered Issues for an all-IP network:

Transition to an “all-IP” network implies retiring the PSTN/POTs, TDM/circuit switching and all wireless networks other than 4G with VoIP over LTE. That is a huge undertaking that will be incredibly disruptive and take many years, if not decades, in our opinion.  Here are just a few points to ponder about this monumental transition:

  • Telcos and MSOs must universally deploy broadband for wireline VoIP to be ubiquitous. Currently, they make their deployment/build out decisions strategically- based on reasonable ROI.  Not every area in the U.S. has or will have wired broadband as a result.
  • Many rural areas have little or no wireless coverage and certainly not 4G-LTE.  What happens to people who live in those areas, e.g. Arnold, CA?
  • Even if wired or wireless broadband is available in many regions, there is likely to be only one or two network providers at most.  Hence, there is little or no choice in service which is effectively a monopoly. Santa Clara, CA is in the heart of Silicon Valley, yet we now have only two choices for wired broadband – AT&T or Comcast.
  • There is currently no Universal Service Fund/Lifeline or discounted rate (for low income folks) for VoIP service.  Lifeline service is ONLY available for the PSTN/POTS.
  • If an individual or family doesn’t want or can’t afford high speed Internet and/or broadband TV service, then it will most likely be uneconomical for the Telco/MSO to ONLY provide VoIP service over broadband access. This is the case for many poor people and older Americans!
  • Battery backup is required for an all-IP network to make emergency phone calls when power is lost.  There is a substantial monthly charge for a battery backup box for AT&T’s U-Verse VoIP service. An AT&T subscriber must also have battery backup power for the Wi-Fi gateway to enable your AT&T U-verse services to function during a power outage.
  • There will be a huge impact on business customers that use digital circuit switched networks if the proposed all-IP changes happen soon in the affected areas or “wire centers.” What if a company’s main or branch office site(s) are located in an all-IP wire center coverage area?  In that case, the business customer would have to give up it’s digital PBXs or hosted ISDN PRI voice trunks and move to SIP trunks–even though the company is not nearly ready for a total enterprise-wide transition to an IP voice network.
  • What happens to faxes, which are still overwhelmingly based on the analog PSTN and not IP fax? The death of fax has been predicted for over a decade, yet it is still alive and kicking!
  • There will be a huge impact on business customers that use digital circuit switched networks if the proposed all-IP changes happen soon in the affected areas or “wire centers.” What if a company’s main or branch office site(s) are located in an all-IP wire center coverage area?  In that case, the business customer would have to give up it’s digital PBXs or hosted ISDN PRI voice trunks and move to SIP trunks–even though the company is not nearly ready for a total enterprise-wide transition to an IP voice network.
  • The transition from the classic PSTN to an all IP infrastructure will mandate the end of Signaling System 7 and the entire infrastructure that supports it. This is a substantial undertaking, the consequences of which are not fully understood. Can SS7-based functions be replicated on a broadband IP-based network? What would be the equivalent of a “voice grade” circuit? Is a SIP connection a functional equivalent for the key functionalities of SS7 switches? What about SMS/texts?
  •  The telephone numbering system provides a way for callers served by virtually any service provided in the world to reach one another. What will replace that system has yet to be determined. It surely won’t be an IP address which is often dynamic and allocated for temporarily reaching IP endpoints.
  •  Interconnection and Inter-operability between IP and TDM networks is a work in progress-for both voice and data.
  •  Quality of Service/Reliability/Resiliency is largely unknown with an all IP network, which would need to scale to replace and reach all PSTN/TDM endpoints. What would constitute an “outage,” and how should “outage” data be collected and evaluated? Here again, the battery back-up on power fail would need to be made mandatory and low cost or no cost to consumers and enterprises.

For sure, the above issues will challenge equipment vendors, regulators, business and consumers. We think the transition from PSTN/TDM/digital circuit switched to an all-IP packet network will take much, much longer than many expect.

Viodi View – 12/18/13

Ken Pyle and Jade Worobec playing brain tug-of-war.
Click to view

Another year, another 200+ videos published on Viodi and other web sites. A few of the videos from 2013 that will be etched in my memory will be those dealing with technologies that sense brain waves to control something. Two of the these videos were published earlier this year. Scroll to the Korner to see the third video that almost wasn’t, thanks to an interruption of this reporter’s brain waves.


The Best Service Is No Service

Ken Pyle interviews Jerry McKenna of CableOne at the 2013 Independent Show.
Click to view

“The best service is no service,” explains Cable One’s Senior Vice President-Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Jerry McKenna. McKenna discusses why his company won the Cable Fax Independent Operator Award for 2013.  Quick and proactive resolution of problems is a key reason they won the award.

Click here to read more and watch our interview with the well-respected McKenna, who will be retiring at the end of the year.


7 Tips for Sales Success

Ken Pyle interviews Kristi Westbrock of CTC at the 2013 MTA Convention.
Click to view

“We all need to be on top of our sales game,” said Kristi Westbrock, Director, HR, Sales & Marketing for CTC. Speaking at the 2013 MTA Annual Convention, she points out that it is important for everyone in a company to have an appreciation for selling. For CTC, this translates into their front line employees being technology experts.

Click here to view.


Pent Up Demand for Broadband Operator Deals

Dinner at the 2013 ACA Summit. One of the sponsors was the Pat Thompson Company.
Click to view

“It’s always been difficult for the smaller operator to get funding,” said Pat Thompson of Pat Thomson Company. In this regard, Thompson, who is a long-time ACA board member, points out the importance of ACA’s efforts to get Washington to provide regulatory relief. She points out that, thanks in part to regulatory burden, cable systems in some small towns have been shuttered and, as a result, broadband is not available to those locales.

Click here to view.


Reducing Barriers to Broadband Rights of Way

A picture of conduit for fiber optic cable being laid in a city street.
Click to view

In recent comments to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Task Force on Communications and Technology, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai suggested that state legislatures need to be proactive in reducing and removing barriers for over-the-top business of all types, such as the examples he provides in telemedicine and transportation. Pai stated that, “States should be proactive in reducing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment.” Attorney Michael Keeling provides an example of the proactive removal of an infrastructure barrier by a state legislature in this interview.

Click here to read more and to view.


FCC Delays Reverse Auction till 2015; Spectrum Aggregation & Ownership Limits? by Alan Weissberger

An image of a radio tower.
Click to read more

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has delayed the “Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction” until 2015.  FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler published a blog post Friday announcing the delay, saying he hopes the auction will take place in mid-2015.  The FCC had set a goal of completing the auction in 2014 and we thought this would be the top priority for the new FCC Chairman.

Click here to read more.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • auction pause gives Congress chance to reevaluate how best to utilize What’s Wrong With the Wi-Fi?
  • ACI study suggests failure to change rules cost 1/2 $trillion in lost consumer welfare.
  • Disappointed my retransmission for spectrum suggestion hasn’t yet make it into Congresswoman’s Eshoo’s Video CHOICE act, but 2014 seems like it could be a year for changes to the way spectrum is managed. Along those lines, stay tuned for a video in the new year about Social Mesh Networking.
  • While its smaller neighbor to the north is proud of its high-speed municipal WiFi network, San Jose may soon have a pilot project that improves SiliconValley lighting, reduces copper theft and provides wireless broadband via Smart Poles. Philips is referenced as the potential corporate partner, but this seems like it could be of interest for @Verizon, @ATT, @Google and @Comcast as well.
  • In this article, Greg McCurry, formerly of broadband operator Santel and now president and CEO of Independent Community Bankers of South Dakota, makes the argument that local banks are critical to the vitality of rural communities. The importance of of local institutions to economic development is something we have heard this repeatedly in our travels.
  • Samsung’s Chris Kermoian talks about their strategy to create an app ecosystem that works across all their platforms in this video interview from CONNECTIONS at CTIA.
  • Last minute gift idea for the person who needs a beverage holder; particular suited for tailgating. Fun thing is that this clever tool is from someone who works for an independent broadband provider.
  • Congratulations to Roger Bindl for his award at the 2013 Wildwood Film Festival in the category of Best Documentary Film for Hopping for Brew.

The Korner – In the Zone – Part 3

Ken Pyle interviews Jade Worobec at NeuroSky and discusses brain wave technology.
Click to view and read more

As the saying goes, there is always a silver lining to every bad situation. It was hard to see that silver lining when I realized that I had failed to record the audio in my CES interview with NeuroSky.  The silver lining was that the retake video was even more fun as we were able to shoot it in a controlled environment (NeuroSky’s office, instead of the trade show floor) and try more of the brain wave controlled devices than we were able to at CES.

Having tried a couple of different incarnations, brain wave sensing technology really seems to work. The logical next step will be integration of this technology with wearable heads up display technology (e.g. Google Glass or Contact Lenses).

Using one’s mind becomes the ultimate in a user interface. As an example, NueroSky has a game/movie, MyndPlay, whereby scenes are chosen based on the game player’s mood. Although this reporter didn’t get a chance to use that smart phone based application, he did get to try a brain wave powered, tug-a-war type game that proved to be extremely fun.

Click here to read more and watch the video.


The above video was part of our CES 2013 coverage. We will be back at CES next month. Please drop us a note if there is anything in particular that you think we should cover.

Until we meet again in 2014, peace be with you and your family.

FCC Delays Reverse Auction till 2015; Spectrum Aggregation & Ownership Limits?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has delayed the “Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction” until 2015.  FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler published a blog post Friday announcing the delay, saying he hopes the auction will take place in mid-2015.  The FCC had set a goal of completing the auction in 2014 and we thought this would be the top priority for the new FCC Chairman.

Wheeler wrote: “I believe we can conduct a successful auction in the middle of 2015.  To achieve that goal, there will be a number of important milestones along the way.  The Task Force will provide more details about the timeline and milestones in a presentation at the January 2014 Commission meeting.”

When the auction is finally held, TV stations will consider bids to relinquish their licensed spectrum and either go out of business or obtain another frequency slot (i.e. TV channel). The licensed spectrum will then be put up for bid by wireless carriers, who covet the low-frequency airwaves because they can cover greater distances and travel more easily through physical barriers.

Observers have called the spectrum auction the most complex proceeding ever undertaken by the FCC. Mr. Wheeler said he has spent more time reviewing the incentive auction than any other issue since taking office, and determined it would be best to wait in order to ensure success. He hopes to avoid any technical difficulties with the software that will be used for the auction and “get it right.”

“I am also confident that the policy challenges are only part of the picture; we must also get the enabling technology right,” he wrote.

Because AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless control most of the spectrum under one gigahertz, the auction is considered particularly crucial for T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. because it represents a rare opportunity to obtain low-band spectrum.  The 700 MHz band has been dubbed “beachfront property,” because of its excellent propagation characteristics.

“While AT&T is eager to see new spectrum allocations brought to market as soon as practical, we appreciate the enormity of the task the commission faces,” said Joan Marsh, vice president of regulatory affairs at AT&T.

Public interest groups and the smaller wireless firms have lobbied the FCC to set auction rules that would prevent AT&T and Verizon Wireless from grabbing up all the low-band spectrum at the auction. Mr. Wheeler has hinted that he is open to such limitations, but has yet to tip his hand one way or another.

There is also considerable pressure on the FCC to maximize revenue from the auction. The proceeds will be used to compensate broadcasters and fund a $7 billion public safety communications network known as FirstNet.  “This entire Commission is also acutely aware of the importance of the auction to fund FirstNet,” Wheeler wrote.

It’s unclear whether enough TV broadcasters will participate in the auction, which is voluntary. Stations affiliated with the Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) aren’t expected to, leaving smaller, independent  TV stations as the most likely participants.  Whether those stations will yield enough spectrum for the auction to be deemed a success remains to be seen.  Another issue is that if the FCC limits bids from AT&T and Verizon, that could depress the prices paid for the airwaves, resulting in less revenue.

Click here for a complete description of the Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction.


A related FCC spectrum concern is whether the commission will permit AT&T and/or T-Mobile to bid for Verizon’s 700Mhz spectrum that may be put up for sale. AT&T already holds the rights to adjacent 700MHz spectrum, and certainly has the cash to buy Verizon’s if it is put up for sale.  T-Mobile operates its network primarily in the 1900MHz and AWS (1700/2100MHz) frequencies, so the 700MHz spectrum is much more valuable than what they now hold. T-Mobile has targeted AT&T in its marketing in an effort to get customers to bring their phones to its network—and has successfully reversed a long streak of subscriber losses.

Availability of 700MHz spectrum is limited, and regulators have suggested there should be caps placed on ownership so that it isn’t monopolized by industry leaders Verizon and AT&T, which already own roughly 75% of the low-band spectrum currently in use by wireless carriers. In April, the Obama administration’s antitrust team had urged the FCC  to develop auction rules that ensure that T-Mobile US and Sprint are able to buy some of the prime airwaves and better compete nationally with their  two larger rivals.

The F.C.C. already enforces rules limiting “spectrum aggregation.” In theory, the FCC’s spectrum screen prevents further acquisition once a company goes above 33% of the licensed airwaves in one market area. But it applies that limit on a case-by-case basis, usually when one company buys another and asks to transfer ownership of the spectrum licenses.  Although it relies on general guidelines, the rules are unique to every individual transaction. Spectrum deals that violate the FCC’s screen are viewed much more closely by regulators.

After regulators rejected AT&T’s bid to acquire T-Mobile,  AT&T has lobbied the commission for a review on how to measure spectrum.  On the other hand, T-Mobile and  Sprint Corp have argued for ownership limits on lower band spectrum.  The FCC has not decided on any of this yet.

Viodi View – 11/18/13

Can drivel be thought-provoking? Sometimes it can, even if not for the reason intended. A recent episode of Two Broke Girls had me thinking thoughts that CBS probably had no intent on stirring. Those thoughts, combined with the timing of Senator Jay Rockefeller’s (D-W.Va.) bill, S1680, regarding the creation of a new class of online video distributor, inspired my post suggesting that now is the time to re-examine the policy of giving away spectrum for television signal delivery. Read more in the Korner, below.


Small Cells – More Than Just a Bandwidth Solution

Ken Pyle interviews Rob Riordan of Nsight/Cellcom regarding Small Cell Technology.
Click to view

The impetus for regulating radio waves was the interference caused by multiple operators. Eighty years later, thanks to technologies like spectrum-aware devices and the transition to digital from analog transmission, and it is possible for the spectrum to be managed more dynamically (think WiFi)  than the slow hand of a regulator. Another factor in this new way of thinking is the emergence of small cell technology.

We recently caught up with Rob Riordan of the Green Bay, Wisconsin-based operator, Cellcom, who has been a long-time, small cell proponent and has been awarded for his pioneering efforts with small cell technology.

Click here to hear his insights on how small cell technology has implications beyond bandwidth re-use.


Digital Energy 2.0

Ken Pyle interviews Robby Simpson of GE Digital.
Click to view

Robby Simpson, PhD, System Architect of GE Digital Energy, explains the differences between Smart Energy Profile 1.0 and 2.0 and how the 2.0 specification, with its Internet Protocol capability, is going to provide flexibility with and interoperability between the protocol technology (e.g. Zigbee, HomePlug, WiFi, etc.) utilized for smart grid applications. The benefit of such an approach is the creation of an ecosystem that brings together all facets of the smart grid, lowering the overall cost of implementing new features that improve efficiency.

Click here to view.


Silicon Photonics – Cisco and Intel see “Light at the End of the Tunnel” by Alan Weissberger

Silicon Photonics has the potential to enable intelligent powering, improving overall data center power efficiency.
SiPh WIll Improve Power Efficiency

Among the many presentations on Silicon Photonics (SiPh) at the excellent 2013 Open Server Conference,  two were of special interest:

  • Joel Goergen of Cisco called for a radically new data center architecture that used SiPh to interconnect components and modules, rather than circuit cards or racks of equipment.
  • Mario Paniccia of Intel focused on using SiPh for rack level interconnects, but called attention to total solution cost as a critical issue to be solved.

Click here to read more as to how this optical interconnect technology could radically change today’s datacenter.


Facebook Progress Report, Goals, and China Activities at SVIEF Annual Conference by Alan Weissberger

The Silicon Valley Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (SVIEF) is an international conference designed to foster innovation and promote business partnerships between the U.S. and China. Famous U.S. speakers included Al Gore and Steve Wozniak, Congressman Mike Honda and Congresswoman Judy Chu, among others. We focus this article on the keynote speech by Vaughan Smith, PhD EE,Facebook’s VP of Corporate Development and Mobile Partnerships. The reason is that if Facebook is to significantly expand its mobile user base, it must enter the world’s largest mobile market – China!

Click here to read more.


Sustainable Community Through Broadband

A picture of downtown Olds, Alberta.
Click to view

Community leaders from Olds, Alberta describe their vision to ensure that their community remains relevant to its local institutions and people. The process took a several years and succeeded because various local institutions decided broadband was a priority and working together was the only way to make it happen. Lance Douglas, CEO of O-Net, describes the Fiber to the Home network they built as a giant community LAN; a gigabit network where a resident may, as Douglass said, “Store, secure and share your life.”

Click here to read more and to view.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • The low-cost cloud applications we enjoy today would not be possible if not for the low-cost hard-drive. This series of videos provides a glimpse of the challenges and the cleverness of the folks who developed the technology in the 70s and 80s that laid the part of the foundation for today’s innovations. Click here to view.
  • Kevin Beyer of Federated Telephone – “We became a technology leader when we started deploying #FTTH
  • “We try to orient not toward success or failure, but toward speed of iteration.” Automattic’s approach to software development.

The Korner – How is the Public Interest Served When Broadcasters Depict Illegal Behavior with No Consequences?

Perceived Great Risk of Marijuana Use among Youths Aged 12 to 17: 2002-2011
Perceived Great Risk of Marijuana Use among Youths Aged 12 to 17: 2002-2011

A recent episode of CBS’ hit series, Two Broke Girls, was thought-provoking; thought-provoking in the sense that it made me ponder, “In 2013, what is the public interest with regards to television broadcasters?”  That is, does it serve the public interest when a prime time (8:30/7:30 pm Monday), entertainment television program depicts behavior which is illegal under federal law without any negative consequences to those characters? In fact, one of the characters suggests a positive impact to the depicted behavior when she says at the end of the episode (20:37), “And another problem solved by weed.”

……..As I have pondered my original question, I realize that the right question isn’t whether the public interest is served by our current television broadcast licensing regime, but whether there are better ways to serve the public interest with the spectrum that the broadcast networks use. I contend today, as was implicit in an article I wrote five years ago, that opening up broadcast spectrum for broadband use would provide greater value to the public; essentially allowing everyone to be a broadcaster through the power of the Internet.

Enter the proposed Consumer Choice in Online Video Act, S. 1680 by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) which would radically change the way “cable television programming” is delivered.  To his 16 page bill, I would like to suggest an additional clause which would acknowledge that the “broadcast networks” really are cable networks, given that approximately 93% of their viewers are delivered via an MVPD or a broadband portal.

Click here to read the details in the full post.

Viodi View – 11/01/13

One of the best things about conferences is catching up with people and hearing the progress they are making in helping their communities stay up-to-date with the latest in technology. Sometimes, there are just too many conferences. Fortunately, Kshitij Kumar helps out this issue with his reporting on what he saw at TelcoVision. Kumar not only reported, he spoke on a panel regarding the topic of how operators can leverage big data to their advantage.


The Vision of TelcoVision 2013 by Kshitij Kumar

A portrait of Big Data guru, Kshitij Kumar.
Kshitij Kumar

TelcoVision (formerly TelcoTV) was held in Las Vegas, NV Oct 23-25 this year. While the name has changed, much else was similar to previous years. The intent with the name change, of course, was to reflect that the sessions and audience interest is not just in TV, but all services provided by Telcos. Content this year was progressive, attendance and exhibits were pretty steady and the hallway chatter was interesting.

Click here to read more.


Broadband on the Shores of Superior

An image of a fiber spool and Arrowhead Electric Cooperative's office.
Click to view

A little more than a year ago, we visited the folks at Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, Inc. in Lutsen, MN and caught a glimpse of their efforts to bring broadband to the very remote area they serve. At that time, one of their biggest challenges, apart from completing as much construction as they could before winter set in, was putting all the elements of the mid-mile in place.

Click here to view and read more about the progress AEC has made in bringing broadband to its rural service territory.


The Broadband Generalist

An image of the SCTE Cable Tec Expo exhibit floor.
Click to view

Cooperation is a common theme of any SCTE event. Started as a grassroots continuing education effort some 44 years ago, SCTE has always been about individuals working together to improve the cable telecom industry. Having missed way too many of the Cable Tec Expos in the past decade, it was heartening to see that spirit of teamwork was as strong ever at this year’s cable tech expo. Of all the leading technologies, however, the one that impressed me the most was a miniature spectrum analyzer that plugs into an outside plant, passive device.

To get a glimpse of that as well as a flavor for the conference, click here.


Small Cells: A Bright Spot in Dismal Wireless Infrastructure Market by Alan Weissberger

Cell Tower
Click to read more

The global mobile network infrastructure business is in transition as the major equipment vendors reorganize. The manufacturers are eager to take advantage of the growth of mobile data, as consumers around the world shift away from making voice calls on their smartphones to accessing the Internet on phones and tablets. But the real action in wireless network deployment is probably in China.  The country restructured its telecoms operator to create three fixed/wireless carriers and this change has stimulated growth along with the much delayed auctions of 3G spectrum.

Read more, click here.


New FCC Chair Tom Wheeler Faces Challenges in 2014 by Alan Weissberger

Approximate Route of Highway 6 overlayed on FCC Map
Map of 

The Senate voted unanimously to confirm President Obama’s two nominations to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), overcoming obstacles by Republican lawmakers, especially TX Senator Ted Cruz. Tom Wheeler was confirmed as FCC Chairman  along with Michael O’Reilly as a commissioner. The highest priority FCC issue is likely to be the structuring of “spectrum incentive auctions,” in which the commission would sell licenses to mobile carriers and broadband Internet companies (e.g. Google) allowing them to use newly available bands of the public airwaves to transmit phone and data traffic.

Click here to read Weissberger’s take on these new appointments.


No Static at All – More FM, But Is It Too Late?

Interestingly, while the spectrum auction process is rightfully in the headlines, the FCC is implementing the 2011 Community Radio Act that allows for an increased number of Low Power FM (LPFM) stations. The LFPMs may be located at frequencies closer to an existing full-power FM radio stations than prior to the enactment of this law.

It will be interesting to see how many non-profit and educational entities take advantage of this no-license fee opportunity (there is still the FCC’s estimate of the $35k+ equipment and installation costs that the applicant has to contend with) . This initiative seems 20 years too late, as the spread of the Internet and WiFi gives everyone a chance to broadcast; and not be limited to the 3.5 mile or so radius of the LPFM.

Applicants have until November 14th to apply.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • The big news is that android 4.4 (KitKat) works on a memory footprint of 512 Mbytes, opening it up to a wider variety of phones. Of course, maybe deep search and how it will break down application silos and prevent “cart abandonment” may be even bigger news.
  • Nice to be a small part of the team that is documenting these broadband success stories.
  • Kudos to #comcast for coming out on a Sunday afternoon. Very helpful technician who understood what I was trying to do.

The Korner – The Refrigerator that Is a Speaker

A refrigerator that has a built-in Bluetooth-driven speaker and its benefits are discussed in this video.
Click to view

And finally, one of my favorite video interviews from CES2013.

At first blush, a refrigerator that is Bluetooth enabled and has a built-in speaker would seem like the ultimate in feature-creep. Tanu Greywall of Whirlpool explains part of their job is to simplify and unclutter things for their customers. In that context, a connected refrigerator that plays music and, perhaps provides other messages (e.g. recipes), makes sense. Although it is not in production, one has to think that it won’t be long before this sort of capability will be part of the next-generation refrigerator.

Click here to watch.

Small Cells: A Bright Spot in Dismal Wireless Infrastructure Market

Infonetics Research released excerpts from its 2nd quarter 2013 (2Q13) Residential and Enterprise Femtocell Equipment report, which tracks femtocells by market segment, technology, and form factor.

2Q13 FEMTOCELL MARKET HIGHLIGHTS

  • The global 2G/3G/4G residential and enterprise femtocell equipment market grew 4% sequentially in 1Q13, to $115 million, driven by LTE
  • Integrated femtocells are expected to account for nearly half of all femtocell units shipped in 2017, almost entirely within the residential segment
  • Infonetics forecasts FDD-LTE femtocells to grow at a 76% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2012 to 2017
  • Cisco, who recently acquired Ubiquisys, sprang to the top of the femtocell revenue share leaderboard in 2Q13, thanks also to its work with AT&T, who lays claim to the largest scale femtocell deployment in the world
  • Airvana dropped to the #2 spot overall, but moved into the lead in the 3G femtocell segment

ANALYST NOTE:
“Sales of 3G femtocells still dominate the market, despite the focus of vendors on 4G,” notes Richard Webb, directing analyst for microwave and carrier WiFi at Infonetics Research. “Residential femtocells still account for the bulk of the market, though from this point forward we will see increasing adoption of femtocells from the enterprise segment, which is a key focus for a growing number of operators.”

FEMTOCELL REPORT SYNOPSIS:
Infonetics’ quarterly femtocell report provides worldwide and regional market size, vendor market share, forecasts through 2017, analysis, and trends for 2G (GSM/GPRS and CDMA), 3G (W-CDMA/HSPA, CDMA2000/EV-DO, and TD SCDMA), and 4G (LTE) femtocells. Femtocells are tracked by form factor (standalone and integrated) and market segment (residential and enterprise). Companies tracked include Airvana, Alcatel-Lucent, Argela, Cisco/, Contela, Fujitsu, Huawei, ip.access, NEC, QuCell, Samsung, Ubee Interactive, and others.

For more information on this report, contact Infonetics:


In a separate small cell survey, Infonetics interviewed wireless, incumbent, and competitive operators around the world about their small cell buildout plans.

SMALL CELL SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • 83% of respondent operators have deployed small cells, an increase of 11% from Infonetics’ 2012 survey
  • 78% of respondents rate “multimode” and “seamless integration with macrocellular networks” as very important small cell features
  • Small cell backhaul staged a comeback as a barrier to deploying small cells in this year’s survey, but overall barriers are waning with the exception of outdoor site acquisition, which remains challenging
  • Respondents don’t expect small cells to take the place of distributed antenna systems (DAS) anytime soon, instead viewing the technologies as complementary
  • New alternatives to small cells like Ericsson’s Radio Dot System hold the potential to reduce the need for DAS in very specific applications such as medium and large enterprises
  • A majority of survey respondents say they will definitely require self-organizing networks

“As evidenced by our latest small cell study, operators are seriously gearing up small cells for significant macrocellular network enhancements,” says Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research.

“Since service providers will be adding small cells to existing macro sites in very specific parts of their networks, there’s good reason to believe the total number of small cells will surpass that of macrocell sites, but definitely not by large proportions,” continues Téral. “Operators need to look at their spectrum resources and apply them as the need for capacity increases. This means selecting the right tool in the coverage and capacity toolbox.”

Read more at the ComSoc blog. 


From an article on another Infonetics report on Small Cells: 

Wireless network operators’ chief purpose for deploying small cells is to complement and enhance the macrocell layer from a capacity standpoint, to enrich the mobile broadband experience. Beginning in 2014, 4G metrocells will become the main growth engine in the small cell market, driven by in-building deployments in retail malls, stadiums, transportation stations, hotels, and event venues. Asia Pacific is where the action is and where it will stay through 2017: The largest macrocell network density, with more than 100,000-site footprints, can be found in China, Japan, and South Korea.

“The large service providers remain committed to their small cell deployment plans, but the pace of deployment is much slower than expected due to a sad reality: Small cell and macrocell rollouts share nothing in common,” explains Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research.  Téral continues: “Each technology requires its own internal business processes, which have been in place for decades with macrocells but have to be built from the ground up for small cells taking into consideration things like footfall, building dimensions, backhaul availability, and wireless technology. There is no cookie-cutter template for small cell deployments!”

Co-author of the report Richard Webb, directing analyst for microwave and carrier WiFi at Infonetics, adds: “Given that service providers are in the process of retooling their plan of attack, we’re not expecting the small cell ramp to happen in 2013.”

Read more at the ComSoc blog


Wireless Infrastructure Market Overview:

The global mobile network infrastructure business is in transition as the major equipment vendors reorganize. The manufacturers are eager to take advantage of the growth of mobile data, as consumers around the world shift away from making voice calls on their smartphones to accessing the Internet on phones and tablets.

Nokia now owns all of Nokia Siemens Networks, which had previously spun off its optical division. Alcatel-Lucent is also revamping, having announced this month that it would cut 10,000 jobs, or 14 percent of its global work force. Alcatel-Lucent wants to increase its profitability after several years of declining growth.

Ericsson today reported 3Q-2013 earnings that were less than the consenus forecast. More importantly, revenue fell 3 percent, to 52.9 billion kroner, also below analysts’ average estimate, of 54.3 billion kroner.

The Stockholm-based manufacturer of wireless telecommunications infrastructure (the world’s largest), is struggling in an increasingly competitive environment and has cuts thousands of jobs in Sweden over the past year to slash costs. Ericsson holds about a 35 percent global market share in the wireless network infrastructure used by carriers like Verizon Wireless and China Mobile.

Several European carriers- like Telefónica d’Espagne and Telecom Italia- are struggling to reduce their debt burdens and have put off infrastructure upgrades to their mobile networks. One bright spot in Europe is the UK carrier Vodafone which is a big Ericsson customer. The company announced in September that it would invest £6 billion, or $9.7 billion in its wireless networks after it sold its stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon Communications (its partner in VZW) for $130 billion.

In the U.S., AT&T continues to build out it’s LTE network footprint in the U.S., which lags far behind Verizon’s which is available in over 500 cities. AT&T claims it has the fastest and most reliable LTE network.

Verizon disputes those claims and asserts that it has the most reliable LTE network PERIOD.

Sprint’s 4G roll-out is also progressing as per its Network Vision program.


But the real action in wireless network deployment is probably in China.  The country restructured its telecoms operator to create three fixed/wireless carriers and this change has stimulated growth along with the much delayed auctions of 3G spectrum. China Mobile is the market leader but in 3G, is seeing its lead squeezed by its rivals, partly because it was forced to use the home-grown technology, TD-SCDMA, which has limited ecosystem.

The second player is China Unicom, which uses W-CDMA and is forming partnerships with operators outside China, such as Telefonica. China Mobile is also outward looking and forming strategic alliances, notably with Vodafone and Verizon, which will help spur its plans to move quickly to the TD-LTE standard for 4G services.

The third cellco is China Telecom, which focuses on the CDMA platform. China is also becoming a key country on the vendor side, with Huawei challenging Ericsson for leadership of the infrastructure business and ZTE growing rapidly in handsets. These suppliers are helping China in its goal of becoming more self-sufficient in technology and patents.

TC3 Part 2: Likely Strategic Goals for Next FCC Chairman; Obstacles Ahead

Introduction

This is the second article covering the Telecom Council’s annual TC3 summit. The first article covered start-up company value propositions and the SPIFFY Award Winners.  This piece is entirely devoted to likely FCC policies and obstacles faced in achieving their goals and objectives.

Steve Augustino of Kelley Drye & Warren law firm presented an important TC3  keynote speech on the new FCC’s Chairman’s strategic goals for the next few years. The Senate is expected to confirm Obama nominee Tom Wheeeler as the next FCC Chairman later this month. Mr. Wheeler is former head of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) and the National Cable Television Association (NCTA). Since 2005, he has been a venture capitalist at Core Capital Partners.

Mr. Augustino’s talk highlighted the likely goals and objectives of the new FCC Chairman. The FCC spectrum policy and regulatory reform are important not only for the U.S., but also for the rest of the world.  That’s because of the very large U.S. market size and its lead in deploying LTE technology. The scale of the U.S. wireless market affects global availability and pricing of various types of radio equipment and devices. The U.S. also has become a global trend setter for 4G-LTE services and mobile applications.

Prioritized FCC Goals for the new Chairman

The number one FCC goal will be to make more spectrum available for commercial use in 2014.  Augustino predicted that 2014 will be seen as the “Year of the Auction” due to multiple actions to free spectrum for commercial use.  That will be primarily accomplished by a “broadcast incentive auction,” where TV broadcasters will voluntarily relinguish their wireless licenses and auction them for use by mobile broadband service providers.  The broadcasters  will receive part of the auction proceeds  in exchange for relinquishing their licenses.

Another portion of the auction proceeds will be used to fund FirstNet– a nationwide broadband public safety network for first responders. However, FirstNet may be 14 years from actual deployment, according to Steve.

A second goal of the new FCC Chairman will be to make broadband Internet access more pervasive throughout the U.S., especially in unserved and underserved (rural) areas. The Universal Service Fund (USF) for rural areas now includes broadband as well as telephone service. Transforming the existing USF into a new Connect America Fund (CAF) focused on broadband will be progressed by reverse auction.  According to Augustino, that will make support of the program more efficient.

A related goal is for 99% of schools to get 1G bit/sec access as part of the broadband e-rate initiative.

Schools would like upwards of $5B per year to fund public education networks.  However, with sequestration and looming federal government budget battles, that’s not very likely.


Sidebar:  Does the FCC have the authority to regulate broadband service providers?

An overarching question that will impact the effectiveness of future FCC policy is whether or not the FCC has any jurisdiction in broadband communications in the first place. For example, the FCC’s 2008 ruling against Comcast, in a law suit complaint by Bit Torrent, was overturned in August 2010.  A U.S. appeals court ruled that the FCC did not have the authority to order Comcast to stop throttling peer-to-peer traffic in the name of network management.  Mr. Augustino discussed the recent appeals court hearing challenging the FCC’s “Open Internet” Order, in which the FCC attempted to correct the errors cited in the Comcast case and impose modified net neutrality obligations.

In a hearing this month before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, a lawyer for Verizon argued that when the FCC deregulated high-speed Internet access services in 2002, it gave up any authority to require that network access providers not discriminate in the way they provide their transport services to end-users, other networks and content providers such as Netflix and Google.  AT&T’s chief lobbyist said that policy governing competition in Internet access should be set by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC.

These changes will raise a host of related issues concerning the transition of the PSTN to IP-based networks, according to Steve (see related discussion below).


A third goal of Mr Wheeler will be to improve public safety networks and the reliability of the nation’s 911 emergency phone service.  Many 911 calls did not go through during  the Ohio Valley / Mid-Atlantic derecho (windstorm) of June 29, 2012 and the New York-New Jersey devastation from Hurricane Sandy in the Fall of 2012.

In the case of the latter, Verizon is not planning to replace its century old copper plant that was severely damaged by the storm. Instead, it plans to use fiber for its public safety network by extending FiOS so that it also provides battery backup power, circuit redundancy, etc. Verizon will also enhance its wireless network (now 100% owned) to permit texts to 911 and for more accurate reports of location based services, especially indoor location positioning.

Other Issues Abound for the FCC

Washington politics are still muddled (e.g. debt ceiling and federal budget debates), which may hamper the FCC’s ability to execute whatever it plans. As noted in the sidebar above, large telcos are challenging the FCC’s ability to regulate broadband communications, which may be a huge obstacle for the FCC to overcome.  There is likely to be pressure from various lobbying and political pressure groups, but Mr. Wheeler is no stranger to that scene, as he has been a lobbyist (as head of CTIA and NCTA) in the past.

Was the FCC’s Broadband Plan a Failure?

In answer to a question from this author, Steve said that it was the many entrenched government interests and plans that derailed the much publicized FCC Broadband Plan, which was first announced in 2010.

A recent TechNet study found that while the Broadband Plan focused primarily on “broadband adoption,” we haven’t seen much of an improvement on that front. Worse perhaps, the study found that nobody was coordinating the plan or tracking its impact.  In an interview with Telecompetitor, Blair Levin lambastes carriers like AT&T and Verizon for freezing their landline broadband deployments, and gives the FCC a tongue lashing for political dysfunction and way too much self-congratulation.  Click here for more on this topic.

Another Issue-not addressed: Replacing the PSTN with IP Telephony

A huge part of the FCC regulatory structure that governs communications is based on the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). We think the FCC must also deal with the dull, complex, and extremely important issue of how to phase out and eventually retire the PSTN. It’s replacements are already here- wireless telephony, broadband access (instead of dial-up modems) and VoIP networks for business.  A sticky issue is fax, which almost always uses the PSTN.

AT&T does not include POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service which uses the PSTN) in its U-Verse triple play bundle.  Like Verizon FiOS, they only offer VoIP with an optional battery backup facility.  Comcast, with no PSTN network to protect, never offered POTS service to its cable telephony customers. 

AT&T has petitioned the FCC to replace traditional PSTN service with internet-based IP telephony (voice and fax). But a business and regulatory structure built up over the past 125 years, with many billions invested, is not so easily disassembled.  Read more here.


About Steve Augustino

Steve Augustino is a partner at Kelley Drye & Warren’s Washington, D.C. office.    He focuses his practice on telecommunications and enforcement matters.Mr. Augustino represents all types of telecommunications service providers, including competitive local carriers, VoIP providers and prepaid calling card providers. His work for these clients covers all aspects of their business, including initial registrations, carrier to carrier negotiations, and billing disputes. Mr. Augustino defends clients in Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforcement actions, including Universal Service Fund (USF) compliance investigations and Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) reporting audits. Previous enforcement matters include customer proprietary network information (CPNI), network outage reporting, prepaid card marketing, cramming, fax marketing, slamming, “fat finger dialing” and other carrier practices.