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Posts from November 2009

iPhone 3GS Batter Life

As an experiment I turned on my fully charged iPhone at 1000 AM today.

After three hours of very light use I am now at 65% of battery life left compared to 90% on my Droid which is seeing heavy use. By that I mean I have push turned off on the iPhone while the Droid is in full sync mode.

While I think today the Apple apps are better, my feeling is Android will catch up very quickly.

With data connectivity being so power intensive, the difference in battery life becomes a major differentiator when deciding which phone is best for you.


LTE and Voice Calling

Wireless Moves has a very good summary of just how many voice calls can travel over LTE compared to GSM, UMTS and HSPA.

The key though in reading the post is in the summary:

The numbers are stunning and offer interesting opportunities in the future. According to these numbers LTE is 10 times more efficient to transport voice calls than the current GSM deployment. That is, of course, if the voice calls are controlled by the operator and all optimizations used for the calculation are put into the game. For over-the-top VoIP, that's hardly going to be the case.

So, that means services which are not so called "on-deck" plays such as what Skype has done with Three in the UK won't see the same performance levels.


Gizmo To Migrate PSTN Numbers

If you have PSTN numbers for Gizmo In service you may not have seen this language on the administration page:

We are currently working on a migration strategy.

No call-in numbers will expire at this time.

We will provide ample notice for you to have uninterrupted service.

What does that mean for users? One of three or four things.

A) The numbers will be migrated to GoogleVoice, providing you a seamless experience between the two services by your Gizmo number becoming your GoogleVoice number "for life."

B) You already have a GoogleVoice number and that becomes you new Gizmo number, with some period of "your number has changed" or the option of a hard forward of your old number

C) Gizmo/Google Voice sells off the number hosting of DIDs to a company with a robust SIP DID gateway business.

All three scenarios, or even a combination of these are possible.


Whose MiFi is It?

Novatel Wireless pioneered the concept of the MiFi, introducing it for the first time at CES in January, 2009.

Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, a year earlier had introduced a similar product idea, but it was Novatel who pushed the idea of MiFi to the limits, and pretty much built the market for PocketSpots as I like to call them.

On my last trip to London, I couldn't help but wonder who owns the trademark, as I saw the advertisements for Three's own Pocketspots, called MiFi's which are made not by Novatel, but by Huawei.

I went so far as to read the store poster in the window of the Three shop near Regent Street and saw that Three was claiming trademark for the term MiFi in the UK which Novatel Wireless has in the USA, but may not have in the UK.

FWIW, the current MiFi deal from Three is not a bad deal at all, if you are a resident or frequent visitor to the UK. Packaged up with Pay as you go data, without a dongle. That means your laptop, iPhone, Nokia E or N series device or even an Android with WiFi is ready to connect. In my case, an iPod touch and a MiFi is a great way to stay connected and make calls via client Truphone or Skype.

Here in the USA a MiFi and AT&T's new plan is also one to take a good look at if you need lightweight data access wherever you may be. While the pricing isn't as good as we see in the UK, the concept is worthwhile for the occasional user.


Sponsored WiFi Access, Sending Party Pays and The Future Of Media

We continue to see more of what I am calling the sponsored model of public WiFi. After all the municipal models failed, with city and county governments in many places buying into a very flawed model that was heavily overplayed by Earthlink and a group of advisors to cities, plus an over dependence on a previously failed approach to technology, mesh networking. Metricom had failed with that, with a service called Ricochet in the late 90's and early 2000s.

For some time I have felt that the whole concept of "MuniWireless" is wrong, and that what we really have the need for is a concept I have shared with Ms. MuniWireless, Esme Vos, some time ago. That concept is "Public Wireless" and is based upon the concept of WiFi being available, regardless of who pays for the access pipe and connectivity.

We saw Google work with Boingo, JiWire and other members of the WiFi ecosystem join hands and provide "sponsored" WiFi at airports. We have seen the subsidized model at airports, where some of the passenger facility charges are used to underwrite the services availability, and in the sky via GoGo and Google, while others have experimented (and failed) with ad supported access. Recently, CableVision launched free WiFi in MacArthur Airport in Long Island.

This is one more example of the "sponsored" model, but goes a step further, as Cablevision, being the local cable company in the market gets to leverage and take a major lead in mind share over the the local incumbent telco, Verizon, which for many years has opposed the concept of both WiFi, largely due to Verizon Wireless protectionist like thinking that killed good ideas such as turning New York City phone booths into WiFi hot spots and their own territorial mindset in prior eras. Now, Verizon and Verizon Wireless, recognizing that 3G and 4G just won't be here, there and everywhere are beginning to see the light and are very gingerly embracing WiFi, starting first with providing their high speed landline customers with roaming access via Boingo, which is one more example of "sponsored" access.

All this points to the model of "sponsored" or third party paid access, whereby the consumer or business user is granted access by a third party who pays the bill for access. This is the first step towards what pal Martin Geddes once elaborated to me over a dinner in London early in 2008, where he clearly explained the model of "sending party pays" to me. By that, the access is provided to or paid for by the receiver, but the data being sent to them is much like a letter, where the party "sending the letter" pays for the postage. This means all the content sites will eventually either need to be advertiser supported (which is why Google bought AdMob) or charge enough for the content to be delivered using the HBO premium content model where the receiver pays "extra" over their basic service costs.

By being the "sponsor" companies like Google, Cablevision and others use the perceived concept of "free" WiFi as their way to build market share, mind share and dress it all up at being "good for you." It speaks to reputation, but what it really is all about is the subtle takeaway from the territory the incumbent landline telcos have owned, and through their own protectionist moves over time, gave away to the cable operators what they could have easily owned and operated. What they gave away was the access to the wired grid that now connects to the WiFi world in both private and public places. This philosophy was largely spawned by their high income producing mobile subsidiaries, or sister companies, which argued against WiFi as they needed to protect their investment in 3G spectrum, a commodity that is now running out (just ask any iPhone user in New York or San Francisco) who can't do on their iPhone what someone can do in Naples, Florida, where the bandwidth is less precious. Instead, the telcos stood by in idle as the cable operators used their in ground fiber to pretty much win the connection to the home business, and are now racing to not lose the small business segment to the same sprawling giants, as just about every major market MSO (multiple system operator) in cable has begun to target the @Work market, selling data, voice and of course cable TV to them. Already in Las Vegas Cox Communications has won the bulk of the casino hotel business, and Covad is winning the business market with their WiMax like solution. Cheetah Wireless (whom I am a small shareholder in) is gaining customers at the street level using a paid model, leaving Emabrq wondering what's left, as former parent Sprint and Clearwire goes in to the market heavily with 4G Mobile WiMax coverage.

My prediction is that "Public Wireless" really takes hold, not from the telcos, or even the cable companies, but from the likes of Google, who understand how to monetize "free" better than anyone, and who also have the delivery billing system in place to bill back to a "sender" the same way they can bill back a click to an advertiser. Google, will then work with their "partners" in Clearwire, not to promote 4G WiMax as the pipe, but to use real WiMax in consort with companies like Comcast, Covad and TowerStream to deliver super fast Gigabit wireless to a series of access points around the country, where it then is distributed using WiFi. This is more than a likely scenario as Google has been a pioneer in Public Sponsored WiFi access for sometime, with their Mountain View WiFi network which has been up and running for a few years, surviving the failed Earthlink, MetroFi and other third party operator networks.

By blending the "sponsored" public access model as Google has done with "sending party pays" the end user sees little or no cost. Basic services will be Web surfing, browser based content such as Flash video, email, IM and VoIP calling such as Skype to Skype, SIP ala GoogleVoice + Gizmo, personal or business SIP based video ala Skype, SightSpeed/VID, as long as they remain on net. Once a "session" goes off net, someone will have to pay the network operator-either the sender or the receiver, or both. Premium services will be iTunes downloads (and streaming), Rhapsody, Pandora and yes, YouTube, but that will be via a revenue sharing model, as by now, Google can identify easily, just what each download/stream of a YouTube video costs to host, manage and deliver. That is why Comcast today, is so anxious to buy NBC/Universal. For the content. They know the future is not so much in only the delivery of the content, but in the ownership of it, for delivery, as it gives them licensed leverage, as the delivery pipe becomes more and more commoditized.

This then goes back to sponsored access, something NBC/Universal is already doing with Hulu. NBC/Universal, like PBS, knows how to sell "sponsored" programming. Sponsored is far broader in nature than "advertiser supported" as the model usually involves more than just running an ad spot or a commercial, as it touches on more than just an "impression" but is all about being a significant part of the carrier network's universe beyond the spot, and being more intimate with the audience. Once again, Google's insight about people, learned by where they surf and what they look for (Google.com), where they go geographically via Latitude, who they call via GoogleVoice, what kind of content they watch via YouTube. Now, add all that up, and Google will be the first of all the major media companies to be able to deliver a very geo-targeted, content relevant, personalized offer that is sponsored. Marry Comcast and Google together, toss in a variety of access options (WiFi, WiMax, Mobile WiMax, Broadband) and tie together the models of sending party pays, sponsored content, sponsored access, and low cost subscriptions to access, with high speeds, and you have the future of how media is both delivered and consumed.

I say this because it is exactly how the media that is being eliminated first and second by the Internet was built also, and since we know history always repeats, all one needs to do is look at print media, magazines and newspapers, the first media to be basically put to rest by the online world. There advertisers plus subscription or pay as you go models underwrote your readership. Readers paid a subscription fee (which was supposed to cover postage or delivery) and the advertisers or a sponsor underwrote the publishing costs. The second media which is seeing erosion, is radio, which is losing audience to streamed content and personalized portable content that is streamed or downloaded. Radio required the purchase of a receiver but the delivery was ad supported, so in essence we had "sending party pays" with the receiver paying for access to both print and broadcast. The same applied to over the air television, and even to cable - pay for basic, get local TV stations. Pay for more, get the cable channels. Pay even more get the premium content. Pay even more, get the on demand content. Pay even more, have a PVR (personal video recorder) and so forth. That all leads to what Cablevision is doing, and why their move is so smart.

Cablevision is insuring connection to their customers, and only their customers first, in the metro New York area. Basically, if you're a Cablevision subscriber you can get your content anywhere their footprint is. Compare that to AT&T's uVerse which only goes to your house (and eventually to their WiFi hotspots) but not everywhere they have local loop. I fully expect that to change one day, but AT&T is so far behind and their Mobile group at odds with their WiFI group and wholesale teams that the battles there are much like what Verizon and Verizon Wireless waged earlier in the decade.

Toss in gap fillers like FON and Meraki, both of which are shared access for "community members" and all of a sudden you have access for everyone, everywhere, without the need for muniwireless. Esme Vos once shared a simple idea to make the city of San Francisco wireless. Her idea was simple. Make it a tax base item. Have the cafes, restaurants and beauty shops all offer WiFi-on one city wide network, and pretty much you would have coverage once you add in schools, libraries and business towers and office parks. The cable and telcos would sell the access, and for the most part, we would have a democratized network, where bandwidth on demand solutions would insure a steady high quality connection. Now, layer in the sponsored, paid or subscription access model and you have everyone making money, something that is far different from the failed concept of what was called Municipal Wireless which Earthlink undertook.

So, at the end of the day, when I look at the sponsored access model, I see history repeating itself once again. Only this time, the players aren't the incumbents in either telecom or media. This time its a whole new group of players.


Localphone Looks Like Gizmo and Others to Me

A company out of the UK, called LocalPhone.com has put together a cheap calling service, plus some very nifty features, largely around SMS and call forwarding, plus of course inexpensive VoIP minutes.

In reading their blog, they are offering inexpensive VoIP minutes, local numbers in many countries, with the claim of "Call Global, Pay Local."

One of the pieces of their service is a dedicated pairing service of numbers you want to call, where you assign a local number in your home country. This used to exist with a now defunct Orange County, CA company called Mint Telecom, which enabled over the border calling at really low prices. This is the kind of service that appeals to the mobile expat crowd as it enables them to make local calls to reach friends and family Internationally.

But there's another great use for this today, and it ties in to why I say, this looks like Gizmo to me.

Prior to the acquisition by Google of Gizmo, I purchased a bunch of local, in country numbers from both Gizmo and a very reliable ITSP, CallCentric.com. Using a combination of SIP DIDs from both, and my second Gizmo account, I forwarded Gizmo to Google Voice. This meant I can make a call to a local number in each of the countries I am visiting, and be connected for the price of a local call, to my GV voice mail box and return calls very easily, and inexpensively. On the other side if I wanted to, I have had my primary Gizmo number as one of my GV destinations, allowing calls to be received on the laptop softphone client or forwarded to any number. What I do however on the outbound is forward to Truphone, which handles the international calling and changes which phone number I'm using as I currently change SIMs from country to country.

Another reason they remind me of Gizmo, is they are offering a softphone of their very own. But that's where the comparison's stop as they are offering a "calling card" program as well, which provides a local number to call, and which you can then dial out to other number from.

There are lots of good features to LocalPhone.com, and if they can control fraud, they may have a nice play in the cheaper minutes game that still remains an active part of VoIP, especially via the wholesale side of the equation.


Shake Up At Skype - How I See It

The New York Time's Brad Stone broke a story late Tuesday night about COO Scott Durchslag departing Skype to return to the world of the Fortune 500, from whence he came, as the gentle giant from Motorola was put in as part of a big picture, strategic rethink by the eBay folks.

Now, with a more startup, venture capital like investor group, its obvious the new board wants current CEO Josh Silverman to be the hands on, day to day leader (note Silverman is delivering a keynote at CES this year), and has basically said, "strategy time is over, now it's time to play the game."

With the return of Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, plus the involvement of Mark Andreessen, plus the Silver Lake folks, you have all the strategists needed.

I read all this though another way, as I read between the lines of the various stories. Skype wants to be in mobile in a big way. They have for a few years. Durchslag came out of a big mobile company and didn't get them there. All the rest is just out there to soften the blows.

This also support a long running theory I have about "big company" guys, playing in the start-up, or even venture backed universe. It's not really where they are at their best. Durchslag is a very good executive, who executed very well to get Skype focused, but now, in a changed playing field, he wasn't the right player for Skype's new game and will do very well where he goes next.


IVR-Far From Dead

A few weeks ago, Voxeo announced the raising of $9 million dollars. This is a company that doesn't need money, as they are rapidly becoming the go to company in the Voice XML space and a few others.

Shortly after, Voice consultant Larry Lisser who has successfully maneuvered Mobivox to their recent sale to SABSE/Bolo, posted his thoughts on the subject of IVR highlighting its promise and future. That post was quickly followed up by a story in NoJitter promulgating the death of IVR.

Pick a side, but read both. Then decide.