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Posts from September 2009

Is Clearwire Suffering?

From the outset, as an early adopter, I'm very intrigued by the prospect of mobile WiMax, and even more excited about fixed WiMax.

The two big players in those games are Clearwire in mobile, and Open Range in fixed.

Well despite the hype, the always very much user oriented DSL Reports, has a post today about Clearwires woes. It seems the speeds being touted are not being seen by that many users, except in demos.

Early on in this decade I was an early adopter in San Diego of Metrocom's Ricochet service. In some locations the service worked as advertised, but in others it didn't. As time went on, it improved, my agency was asked in the last few months of its life to help, and we tripled the customer base here in San Diego through some then very innovative promotions, just before the bottom fell out for them.

I fear the same for Clearwire as they're not really marketing the service the right way (i.e. give it away now, let the users help make it better for one thing.) We learned many lessons in three months of marketing Ricochet, the biggest one being that a then dial up customer had no idea what the difference was between dial up, cable modem, DSL or a mobile, on the go Internet. I would contend that for the most part, the buying public doesn't know (or care to know) the difference that Mobile WiMax brings them, despite what I saw at IT Expo. Why? They people evangelizing the product are selling to people like themselves. What's more, I would contend that those that needed Ricochet, vs. those who embraced it early, were very different types of customers, as the biggest revelation we learned was that people who needed it most, the mobile work force didn't know it was really there until it was too late.

Too much marketing of new technology is based on the wow factor and the desire to get to as my agency colleague Bill Ryan, whose former agency NRW launched Yahoo and repositioned Apple for Steve Jobs, likes to say, "speed to cool." Another way to describe that is the "wow factor" and how fast you can get someone there. That works for early adopters like me, but to get a regular person, a follower type of decision maker who is so far down what we have labeled as "the Boulevard of Communications" is a major leap, and it doesn't happen easy.

If Clearwire is going to grow, it will need to be by growing with the help of the customers. Right now the day pass is the best sampling program they have but it requires an upfront investment in a 4G modem. To me, that's not exactly how to get someone to sample the product, nor is simply a demonstration. If Clearwire wants to really show how good they can be, and convince a suspecting and unaware buying public they need to really embrace sampling, which as we've seen in the world of Free, needs to be really just that. FREE to try.

As someone who is hooked on wireless, being able to try new technology that makes me tether-less sure makes me realize a lot more of what can be done and who can use it more. For example, my MiFi's from Sprint, Verizon and the unlocked unit I use on AT&T and internationally, means I can now go to lunch or dinner for work at restaurants that have no interest in installing WiFi. I can sit in parks and read, using a PDA that is WiFi enabled (ala an iPod Touch) and even, as I have realized, go to the gym and work out, without being so unplugged.

High speed wireless, ala Mobile WiMax has lots of unlocked potential, but first Clearwire has to get beyond the same old (and failed) approaches to marketing and really bring a difference to the marketplace.

Verizon Chief Says Ditch Your Landline-Sorta

In what has to be a very broad swipe at AT&T, Verizon chief Ivan Seidenberg is basically telling the investment community to cut the copper cord and get on a fiber or copper light diet.

In a speech yesterday Seidenberg disclosed that he may have been a tad behind the curve in realizing what the market needed. I'd say, he got it faster than former AT&T chief Ed Whitacre who is now trying to wrestle GM from disasterland.

Verizon is right now all about two things-mobile via LTE and high speed Internet via FIOS, their fiber to the home solution. Both approaches make sense, and when you look at their vision vs. AT&T's which is all about ONE NETWORK, you have to realize that one company is doing all it can to grow, while the other is looking simply to maintain to get more.

Right now, from a technical perspective both companies are looking to make advances, however from a more modern technical perspective, Verizon's geographical compactness makes them a far bigger threat to grow faster with a better technology to homes and businesses with FIOS vs. AT&T and a smartened up, juiced up DSL product named uVerse that is a hybrid of all kinds of wireline technology.

XConnect Closes Series B Round With $10 Million Dollar Raise

Knowing the news and sharing the news is always a challenge for me, especially when the company involved is a client. For close to two weeks I've been in the know about XConnect's founder and CEO Eli Katz successful closing of their Series B round, but my lips were sealed and my fingers tapped together.

In this economy, raising a Series B is huge endorsement. When the funds come for the most part from existing investors, it's more than an endorsement, it's a major proof point that the company is hitting stride and on plan. In the case of XConnect, knowing as an insider what they are up to makes this is really the case.

When you look at the overall voice space, registry, peering and applications are the core sectors. It's no longer a hardware game, as evidenced by the recent acquisition of SimulScribe by DiTech for seven million today and the prospect of ten million more in the future. Where the voice world is headed is services, (some would say it's there now) so the key roles that xConnect, like another client, VoxBone play, is in the middle of it all, with the type of technology assets that one likes to have as an investor. The company earns money when you're sleeping.

xConnect has been winning business in the voice federation sector, and that's a huge market. But it was their most recent win with the GSMA (the folks that basically run mobile telephony around the globe) to be the services company that enables interoperability between XConnect’s ENUM Registry Services and the GSMA’s PathFinder™ number translation service operated by Neustar.

Given how the world is going from landline to mobile, that win alone is a feather in Eli and John Wilkinson's cap that clearly shows the industry why they are the go to source, not only within the ground based IP comms world, but are a significant player in mobile too. As Eli Katz pointed out when the news about the GSMA announcement became public, he reiterated that the GSMA relationship is all about "registry interoperability – and through that, universal routing of IP-based services."

Today's news about the $10 million dollar raise, given the economy, and the way that it has been of late, is a big endorsement for a company that you may know is touching your call, but really is making that call possible.

Congratulations to a very good group of well deserving technology executives who deserve all that they are going achieve.

New Meaning for Broadband in a Box

BT over in London are opening what are being labeled, broadband shops, to show off their new fiber to the cabinet service that delivers 40 meg connections into the home.

In years gone by, the cable operators had town by town customer service locations, but those have gone bye bye for the most part. Given the real estate glut for retail space, the telcos and the cable operators here in the USA would be well suited to re-establish retail store fronts to show off just what high speed can do for people, especially in areas where high speed Internet sees lower penetration rates than on the left and right coasts.

3G/4G Dongle Hits The Streets from Sprint

Sprint is rolling out it's 4G service as fast as it can and to prove it they have announced the 3G/4G dongle/broadband modem. Right now it's Windows only, but I have to figure a Macintosh version will be out soon.

One thing to note, is that 4G broadband is unlimited, while 3G has transfer capacity limits which says that the 4G service is designed to fill the gaps where wireline service isn't as a cable or DSL replacement.

And how soon before we see a 3G/4G Pocketspot?

For the Record-Will T-Mobile Buy Sprint

MobileCrunch and others are reporting that Sprint may be bought by T-Mobile.

For the Record- I prognosticated that one almost two years ago here on VoIPWatch, suggesting that the German owned operator was a better fit.

Now let me elaborate on the scenarios that I think would play out:

1) T-Mobile buys Sprint-plans to migrate to GSM/LTE

2) Verizon acquires a large chunk of CDMA spectrum from Sprint

3) Vodafone sells their interest in Verizon and buys the GSM/LTE spectrum from T-Mobile

The USA landscape for mobile looks like this in three years or so:





followed by a bunch of regional operators. Of all the operators listed, T-Mobile and Vodafone have far more experience in setting up "affiliate" partners, ala SFR in France which is a Vodafone affiliate, while T-Mobile is very good at understanding roaming and the sales of roaming spectrum, and creating MVNOs.

While AT&T and Verizon play protectionists in wanting to keep their turf (largely the corporate markets and lots of post paid customers) T-Mobile and Vodafone go in a different direction based on history.

T-Mobile, in gobbling up Sprint gets a lot of pre-paid business understanding, as the Sprint customer is usually a higher credit risk than the other operators in the USA's profile. Their global expertise in pre-paid as my Austrian experience tells me they get prepaid retail very, very well-in and out of the store in five minutes with Two SIMs including data and a dongle and similar experiences in the UK, make this an ideal market to tackle. Vodafone understands partnerships very well, and is perhaps the most savvy of the big global operators. In the USA, they will initially not worry about the corporate business, but will go after various niche markets with partners.

Conjecture? Sure it is. But let's see how the mobile world unfolds, as there is money in the markets and new players rising. If you look at MTS, Reliance, Balti and Tata in India and some of the other rising players in the Eastern European and Far East markets, you'll realize that the older line companies need to build up some defense territories in order to be in a position to also be the buyers in the future, not only the sellers.

Update-MoPocket has a different viewpoint.

A Perspective on The Skype Extras Program From Germany

Markus Goebel wants to only make free or almost free calls, and I can't blame him. I mean, why pay if someone will give it away, and in his post he takes a consoling tone about Skype and their flushing of their Extra's program last week, on 9-11 of all days.

So while the UBER geek that he is enables him to play with all kinds of tech toys, gadgets and services, I'd contend that he's in a very small minority, and Skype is not aiming for him as their customer.

Skype wants to take customers away from the telcos not the SIP providers, as Skype For SIP is attempting to do. What's more, Markus is right, Skype isn't the cheapest in cost per minute of calling to the PSTN, and I bet they won't be the cheapest in SIP termination either. But what I do expect is that fill the room like sound that one gets with Skype, in Skype To Skype calls to be what we hear when we make Skype to SIP calls and, as more telcos deploy HD Voice, that the same "fill the room" quality and tonality that we get on Skype to Skype calls will be there too.

Speedtest Report From The CWA Is Revealing, Shocking and Fact Filled

If you look at the map on the Communications Workers of America's SpeedtestReport website and live on fast Internet, you have to be shocked at what can best be described as the deployment of real broadband in the USA, and more shocked at what the nationwide operators deliver.

Living in a major tech hotbed like San Diego most of the time, or in Sacramento, I'm afforded the luxury of really fast broadband, pretty much everywhere. When I travel to Europe, I can be in vineyard regions or a major city, and I pretty much have the kind of connectivity that lets me, in the words of KenRadio's sign off, "Stay Connected."

In looking at the map and the average speeds, it's shocking how so many citizens and communities have such a meager COMPLETE broadband experience. In some states the average upload speed is less than 768, so while the download is higher than it was a few years ago, it's still not fast but the speeds are really just passable as high speed in this era. What we need is more symmetrical offerings, even at higher prices. Hopefully, the broadband stimulus package and 4G services like those from Clearwire will carry things forward.

Looking at the map, it almost appears that most of the nation is like a third world nation? As a matter of fact, I'd contend that SE Asian countries, that lagged for years behind the USA with regard to Broadband access, are starting to surpass us, using our own technology, designed and sold by our own companies to them, because they went all IP where there wasn't any analog before. As a nation, we now rank 28th in overall broadband average speeds. That's pitiful.

We're living, no drowning in sea of dial up and low speed DSL. Forget the concept of the digital divide in the USA between the haves and the have nots. We're actually a country that is on the wrong side of the digital ocean, living in a land that is squandering its biggest natural resource. The minds of our own who are not advancing fast enough because of lack of access to high speed technology that brings with it greater opportunities for educational advancement.

Check out the site, draw your own conclusions. But do that on high speed, if you can as it's a far better experience for all.

Agito Networks Ships Their Blackberry Product

San Jose based Agito Networks has shipped their Blackberry client that enables a RIM device to be an extension of the PBX network and is a needed addition for Agito to penetrate the Blackberry heavy North American enterprise market. In Europe, and Asia, where RIM is just really beginning to see sales uptake, Agito's strategy of being handset agnostic will play better.

This newest addition joins their Symbian client for Nokia handsets and the Windows Mobile client in providing the Enterprise a solution that enables mobile handsets to be part of the PBX network, functioning as an extension to the PBX and to deliver a WiFi to Cellular handover.

I'm a huge supporter of the concept of being plugged in and connected, but still lust for the day when any size company, or even an ad hoc network of people (such as emergency service workers from different locals) can become part of what would best be described as a "Mobile PBX" network, truly allowing for ubiquity in communications regardless of handset. So while I see this as offering value as an Enterprise fix, and know it has it's place, the mobile industries lack of an operator level deployment of a solution is really holding us all back and is the chasm that Agito and others need to cross.

I'll compare that to Centrex which revolutionized the landline small business market which enabled small business to quickly connect and work in a unified manner. Centrex of the 70s was what the cloud is today. So when a Mobile Centrex like product arrives and carriers allow it to be deployed, then the prospect of a real Mobile PBX will be alive. For now, though the Agito solution provides the enterprise with something THEY can afford, while the rest of the market simply waits and lusts for the Holy Grail.