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Posts from April 2010

Best and Worst of Hotel WiFi

I can't say I disagree at all with Hotel Chatter's annual Hotel WiFi's Best & Worst Report at all. My favorite hotel chain, the upscale Hyatt ANDAZ is number one. I've been staying in the London Andaz practically every three months or so for the past two years and have spent many a memorable number of days there. One of the reasons is the fantastic WiFi. Same in NYC where the Andaz just opened in the Wall Street area. They use a service called interTouch, which is owned and operated by DocomoNTT out of Japan. Yup, the same folks who used to be in partnership with AT&T in the Mobile phone world many years ago.

If you notice, the major hotel groups, Marriott, Sheraton and Hilton didn't fare very well. That's because for the most part they have farmed out their WiFi to a few companies that work with the in-room entertainment suppliers and are running connectivity the most cost efficient way possible, vs. actually sitting down and figuring out how to do it right. Additionally, the capacity needed for quality WiFi, and quality Internet connectivity keeps going up, as more guests and more meeting attendees usage rises. Ten years or so the average hotel saw no more than ten percent usage per night based on the number of registered guests, so a T1 was likely more than enough. Now, that usage is north of 60 percent, and in markets like NYC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Seattle more than likely closer to 80 percent.

Hotels, even with 20 megs of connectivity are suffering from being underpowered, and also challenged by improperly positioned WiFi access points, as well as the growing number of P2P (peer to peer) clients running on guests computers. More and more guests are also downloading music and videos using Apple's iTunes, the BBC's iPlayer and of course a few other apps for services we won't mention.

So it's more than just the WiFi, its also the size of the pipe that matters. Oh. that fits in what we won't mention.......

Well anyway, it's great to see someone is keeping score. I for one have demanded better connectivity in hotels. I treat Internet access and WiFi like hot water. If you don't have hot water, the stay is usually free. Well the same goes for me if I don't have solid access and fast speeds of at least half a meg in both directions. You have a choice in where you stay. Stay where you can have hassle a free Internet life.

My Take on The Failure of Qwest and the Century Tel Sale

A lot has already been written about the CenturyLink pending merger with Qwest, including a rather interesting summary by TMCNet's Emperor For Life, Rich Tehrani. Tehrani cites a few online folks we all know and they each have gone on to share their perspectives. Peter Radizeski stated the obvious, in his comment about how the investment bankers are driving "M&A" activity. That makes this merger not much different, except in scale, to the recent Covad & MegaPath tie up.

In bankers terms, CenturyLink is a "roll-up" play. Taking similar industry companies, bringing them together to squeeze out efficiencies, usually by taking the best parts of each, and canning the rest. That means layoffs, staff retirements, furloughs or in some cases selling off parts or assets to others who need them.

Overlooked in most recaps though is what CenturyLink got with Qwest beyond the customer base and a larger national footprint in markets where customers are not alway only yards away from one another, is the Qwest IP network, which may be the newest IP network in the ground in the USA. Qwest built it's nationwide network right along side Level3 back in the 90s. The fiber runs along the railway tracks and is about three feet over from those same fiber runs according to people in the know. That fiber network was supposed to be one of the key growth portions for Qwest, but along the way, the company, embroiled in merger attempts, financial games and even executive criminal activity lost their right of way as a company. But the asset remained buried in the ground, partially lit. Qwest's Cyber Centers were supposed to be the future of the Internet, massive hosting, switching and routing facilities dotting the USA. The idea was right. The timing, and leadership wrong. So as the cable companies began to pick off customer after customer, and as wireless became more en vogue, Qwest, with neither a clue how to play in the wireless game, nor any real focus on the IP side of the house, became less and less of what they were supposed to become, and more of the old fashioned telephone company.

They got bought because what the have, fits, with the rest of the pieces Century Link has already bought. As AT&T moves towards One Network, and as Sprint migrates to an industry supplier of bandwidth and 4G connectivity, CenturyLink moves into compete with Verizon and AT&T for enterprise connectivity, with the makings of some very good in the ground assets. A largely dark fiber network. Likely they will find a way to work with the cable operators, especially in rural area. This may make them a useful suitor to SinglePipe, a company whose business is being shopped around the country still, but where no one is jumping. While I think they are a better fit for another piece of Covad, CenturyLink has the cash and right now is on a buying binge.

Moby Med from Marvell

I'm married to a primary care physician and spend a lot of time thinking about how Wireless and Health will be both converging and diverging with devices in the near future.

This new device from Marvell, named Moby Med, is going to be something that changes medical records, medical information dissemination and how technology goes farther into the doctors office than it ever has before.

A device with a 1080p, HD webcam, Flash, Android and Windows Mobile ready is going to be hot.

The original press releases is here.

TMC Now More iPhone/IPad/iPod Friendly

Rich Tehrani tells us the folks at TMC have made their video site more iPhone, iPad and iPod video friendly, by working beyond the limitations of Flash.

That's great news.

Now I can take Rich and his team's interviews with me on my 3G iPad via Verizon. All I do is take along a MiFi and carry the iPad around town. I'm really less and less carry a laptop. Seems others are too. Yesterday, during a meeting over at Qualcomm (the offices, Building N as in HQ not the stadium) two of us, the other being pal Jeff Belk, were using iPads to take notes and such.

Rich's decision to make sure his video content is iPad/iPhone and iPod friendly is a super step forward in all things VoIP information.


Is Broadsoft Buying Tango Networks?

I keep hearing through the grapevine that IPO quiet period company Broadsoft is pursuing the purchase of Tango Networks.

My email to Broadsoft PR from a few weeks ago has never been replied to, which only adds to the speculation.

All comments are welcome...

Stranded? Turn To Video Conferencing

Starting in 2005 and up until their sale in 2008, my agency represented SightSpeed, one of the pioneering companies in the personal video conferencing space. Since their acquisition by the Swiss consumer electronics giant, SightSpeed has become VID on a personal level, while still maintaining a six party client for their business product, something we helped introduce for them back in 2007. The recent global travel disruption was the kind of event their past CEO and my good friend, Peter Csathy, now leading Sorenson Media, would have relished.

Csathy, was a big proponent of avoiding travel, and promoting the use of video calling to "see" his partners, team and colleagues, all from his San Diego home office. For the entire time we worked with the East Bay based company, the number of times I ever had to "go" to their office was really zero. While I dropped by a few times, every interaction that was necessary was carried on by video calling or the occasional face-to-face meeting in San Diego with Peter, as we live just a few miles apart.

As the New York Times reported yesterday, stranded travelers have turned now to video conferencing. I guess Peter and I can both say, "we told you so."

Now, lets fast-forward almost two years. Skype has taken the battle for video calling full on, and is regularly reporting how many video sessions are held by their users, on a percentage basis. Depending which set of information one uses, the number is either in the high 30 percent or low forty percent range. According to Skype’s PR folks, their users have made over 20 million minutes more video calls than normal in five days, roughly the same time it would take to make over 2000 trips to the moon, and back - or the same time as more than 2.5 million flights from London to New York

That's MASSIVE. And it’s steadily growing, even without a natural disaster. More and more people, including everyone from Oprah to the news networks, are turning to Skype to be the "carrier" in the middle for one to one video calling. Gone are the days where someone had to "look" TV ready to make a video call. You see, Skype has made video calling "personal," something SightSpeed under Csathy and his colleagues, Scott Lomond and Aron Rosenberg initiated. But sheer numbers are on Skype's side.

As I'm writing this post, some 21 million Skype users are on line (it's not even 7 AM on the west coast) and likely by the peak time of 9 AM here that number will swell to likely something closer to 25 million and maybe more (I've seen over 29 million users online at the same time.) That massive audience is not yet all webcam enabled either. So when you take the fact that roughly 40 percent of Skype's traffic today involves video calling, and then factor in the addressable audience out of some roughly 500 million Skype users, but only 1/3rd or less (my guess) have built in webcams, you can see that the upside for Skype, and the webcam manufacturers, is equally massive in the months ahead.

Now add in the news coverage around the volcano, and the realization that business continuity can be maintained face to face using video conferencing, and you'll quickly realize that for everyone in the game, from the Ciscos, Tandbergs, Polycoms, Glowpoints, Vidtels and yes, Logitech and Skype are all going to benefit from nature's untimely eruption.

Earlier this year I tabbed "2010 the year video communications explodes for Skype". I guess, I should have said "erupts."

eComm-The Show Will Go On

eComm (aka eMerging Communications)is the twice annual gathering of the hottest, the brightest and the most forward thinking folks in telecom and emerging communications. Starting today, just outside of San Francisco in Burlingame, the event has already registered more than 400 attendees. Sponsors and speakers from the world over were booked to attend and tell the community what's coming next.

But eComm will be without its leader and organizer, Lee Dryburgh, who is caught up in the no fly zone of Europe due to the Icelandic Volcanic Eruption and unable since Thursday to get to the USA. But, like all things Lee, the show is going on. Working remotely, with a Video Camera and a Skype connection Dryburgh will be virtually with us, keeping an eye on the show, and calling the shots from Ljubljana. And the community has responded. Folks like GrandCentral's founder and now the leader of Google's Voice operations Craig Walker, Thomas Howe, Alec Saunders, BT JP Rangaswami, a few others and I are going to be Lee's virtual eye's and arms, keeping things moving, and overcoming the challenges of missed flight connections from speakers and attendees. Pal Martin Geddes, also on the other side of the Volcano will deliver his always waited for speech via Skype, proving that distance won't stand in his way.

You see, the old adage that "the Show Must Go On" is at play, and while 40 or so folks may not make it to SFO, the other 400 or so are here and ready. Last night a group of 40 or so folks met up for dinner and a chance to renew friendships at the annual eComm Indian Dinner, this time sponsored by The Voyces, a new blog that you'll want to bookmark, along with Ditech and Comunicano. Jamie (PhoneTag) Siminoff covered the food and I supplied wine and we along with MISTER Mashup-Thomas Hale and our Voice 2.0 era cabal of Alec Saunders, Larry Lisser and Luca Filigheddu are kicking off Voyces as the Independent Voice of the Community. No ads. No B.S. We'll be joined by Jim Courtney, one of the original voices at Skype Journal and by regular guest posters (no, not posers) all to prevent a void in perspective, opinion and unbiased thought from occurring in what remains a very active industry.

So the show known as eComm has officially started. The Voyces will be on site providing coverage of the event and helping Lee out from afar, while keeping the event the star.

Retail: Why Customers Don't Like Their Mobile Phone Operator

Pal James Kendrick of JK on The Run is one of the nicest, most easygoing guys I have known in the tech journalism world. As a blogger, he was one of the first I tuned into before the idea of social media took hold. So when I read this post about his experience with one of the nations leading mobile phone operators unfortunately, I have to agree with him. This is an experience that just never should happen. I've run into the same experience at AT&T stores and even in some 3 shops in London. Unfortunately, one bad apple does spoil it for all, but his lament is an unfortunate eulogy on the state of customer service in the USA, not only with mobile phone stores, but in other retail environments too.

It doesn't just happen though with any one carrier though. It happens with them all. And it happens because there's a huge disconnect in what is called "customer service" and what's called sales. There's "no" and "know not." Unfortunately, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) can sway an unknowing customer. But not one of the best gadget geeks on the planet. Clearly if Verizon Wireless was tapped into the Social Media/CRM world they would have know who James Kendrick is, and press usually gets handled a lot different. But they didn't and someone blew it big time, and James, to his credit, blew the whistle on them.

Let's face it, no carrier wants to lose a customer. Not AT&T. Not Verizon. Not Sprint and not T-Mobile. As someone who has accounts with all of them, plus Cricket here in the USA, and even a burner account with AT&T's GoPhone for experimentation and to loan to friends who visit, I can relate to James' plight. Surprising to me though is it happened with Verizon Wireless, which based on my experience, have improved their support and service a lot, and really become more customer friendly. Over the past year or so my calls to customer service have resulted in "you're on a rate plan with a limit. We can lower your monthly and remove the minutes cap," while visits to the the local Del Mar, CA Verizon store have been so pleasant, I actually refer people there who need Verizon service. And, I know they're doing a good job because the shop is always packed, and no one waits that long, and that wait when it happens has been worth it. I've had phones taken back after the 30 day "no return date" (the Blackberry Storm) and had a lost MiFi replaced creatively, by the store manager, as well in such a way as it saved me money. Why? Because they care about their customers. Especially the corporate account types, which I fall into now. It seems whomever is running that shop knows that customers are savvier, and more knowledgeable these days, and instead of arguing, they simply work to keep the customer happy.

But James is right about the outright sales lies being told at times. I've run into that a few time, plus the arrogance, in the Del Mar Heights AT&T phone store, as far back as when they were Cingular. I've been blatantly lied to by AT&T Mobile Phone store clerks in Philadelphia, Chicago and New York around the time of the iPhone launch. Why? They wanted to take my order, but could care less that they couldn't ship the phone to me in another city. (I wanted to order it so it would arrive day of launch and I was traveling on business.) AT&T clerks have without permission swapped plans out on my wife's Blackberry, including deleting her Blackberry BIS services, remove International calling, and more, all to find out later that it was because of a "promotion" activation program or a training issue that cost me or my wife time in the shop or on the phone to fix the "over charges." I've personally had my International plan on the iPhone run on for months, even when I've said "I only want it on for a month" when I know I'm traveling. Sure the problem gets fixed, but it wastes time, and it's all because of two factors, and unfortunately, James fell prey to it. (Note my way around retail arrogance is to become a corporate customer of AT&T and any issues have all gone away or quickly get corrected without a wait or a fuss.)

So why does this happen?

1. Always keep the customer at all costs to maintain revenue.

2. Poor training due to poor on the floor management

Sadly, Verizon Wireless now is tainted in Houston, TX, and I really wish James had listed the store address. Really now. Who would want to trust a Verizon Wireless person ever again in all of Houston. What should have happened? First, when James said he was going to cancel, instead of spreading lies, the sales rep should have had a "win back offer." That could have been some free service, the offer of a larger data cap (knowing that James was going to capless 4G Clear was the tip off). They could have offered James a new device (not that he needs one) or they could have offered better rate plans, discounts or simply, a no contract/no penalty termination to stay for any line he had with Verizon Wireless. Would any of those kept James on VZW? Likely not, because after testing, and given his needs, 4G is better than what Verizon is offering today in Houston. They didn't have to lie, and they didn't need to do it over and over again.

I feel for James. I've been in his shoes, and I commend him for taking the time to share his plight. Now, it's all up to Verizon Wireless to make it right.

Why? read the comments in the post, especially the one from Ricky Cadden, a longtime mobile phone blogger, and someone I've gotten to know through the Nokia Blogger Relations Program we ran very successfully for more than four years. Clearly the problem isn't just with Verizon, or localized to Houston.

So if they really care, this is where Verizon Wireless needs to buck up, send a written apology to James (and all the GigaOm readers.) The shop in question needs to have their staff pulled, retrained, and a new, more customer trusted culture instilled, likely by a different manager transferred in from somewhere the "Mystery Shopping" program has proved that they don't lie, and don't tell a well informed customer things that are just not true. Just do me a favor, don't take the manager away from the Del Mar, CA store. That person's team doesn't lie and their staff doesn't make it hard on the customers to cancel, change plans, or buy new phones. They just do it right.

New NetComm 3G/WiFi Router To Rival MifI

Novatel Wireless has some competition on their hands and it's coming like a thunder from down under. NetComm, a leading player in Australia, recently revealed their portable, credit card size traveling hotspot, or as we like to say, a PocketSpot.

Given the specs are in metric measurement with some quick math it appears the NetCom PocketSpot is lighter and thiner than the Novatel MiFi, and that means it will tuck in just nicely behind my iPad in it's new snappy case.