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Posts from July 2010

AT&T Bought Wayport To Be A Monopoly Again

AT&T purchased Wayport about a year and a half or so ago. Wayport was the leading underlying provider of WiFi and Broadband services about a year or so ago. At that time Wayport's biggest customer was McDonalds. AT&T quickly took over StarBucks via Yahoo's ad engine as the cost savings driver, and now roughly has struck what I consider their first big deal. They've landed Hilton to provide WiFi and Guest Broadband services.

This comes after some global horse-trading between AT&T and Swisscom, who along with Intertouch, DoCoMo's hospitality arm, are pretty much the global market leaders to hotel operators as the provider of broadband services, a space previously dominated by T-Mobile (who I predict will shed that service in the next 18 months or so.) Over the past two years, T-Mobile which pretty much owned the hotel and airline club space has been giving up market share, especially in the USA. So, why do I single out these three companies related to the AT&T story about Hilton? Its simple.

The hotel connectivity for travelers in Hilton hotel properties in the USA has been so bad for the past five years that I went from being nearly a Hilton Diamond guest to Silver and now will be lucky if I qualify for that this year, if at all. And I'm someone who has traveled globally over 300 days in 2008, 275 days in 2009 and am on a pace to match the average of the last two years this year. Since 2006 Hilton has mandated to their properties, many of which are nothing but franchises to use Hilton "approved" providers, many of whom have simply run the Internet over the existing twisted pair (DSL) or some kind of ethernet over the existing in room TV coax. In some cases they have added WiFi, but in almost all locations at best you have seen no more than a pair of T-1s providing the kind of coverage that gives guests at best speeds that were only considered great when dial up was the access king (i.e. 56K)

And now days, access to real broadband is important. Especially to AT&T and their customers, as the consumption of content and delivery of mission critical information goes over the 'Net. For iPhone users in a Hilton, the inability to access the Net over WiFi, let along 3G is now critical. With AT&T now saying they "will ensure that hotel guests receive fast wi-fi and Internet services through a wired connectivity over a common Internet access platform" should mean a lot to the business traveler. But will it with the Hilton property owners.

First to really deliver this means that AT&T has to go past the demarcation point (where the service is handed off to the premise owner.) They are actually going to have to redesign and upgrade many of the internal distribution systems, many of which are controlled by OnCommand and other in room guest services/entertainment companies. Then there is the actual access point for WiFi. Anything short of the commercial grade Bel Air, Motorola or Cisco access points will mean an experience that is less than solid. And that's only for WiFi.

But I think this deal goes farther. I think AT&T has been reading some of Machiavelli. Specifically, "The Prince" where the fundamental and underlying premise is about "territory establishes control."

1. AT&T wants better in hotel coverage for voice calls. That means Femto or Pico cells being installed that work with guess whose network? AT&T.

2. Broadband Media Delivery of TV. Can you spell UVerse. First WiFi and Broadband, then the entertainment to the rooms both wired and over WiFi

3. WiFi access on the property

And who said AT&T isn't still about being a monopoly.

Apple's FaceTime Shows That Apple Outsmarts Carriers

Your phone number is now no longer important. It's your identity that matters. And Apple, has once again demonstrated forward thinking vision and leadership.

In reality this is precisely what Yahoo started to do under the reign of Brad Garlinghouse (now at AOL) with the YAHOO ID. At Yahoo they envisioned a world where their user identification was what mattered, and if a user moved from carrier to carrier over time they still remained a Yahoo customer. Unfortunately, many meetings between the carriers and Yahoo likely occurred and in those meetings one could gather that the dumb pipers, those providing DSL access which (i.e. AT&T, Verizon and Qwest) more than likely discouraged their upstart partner from taking the concept too far. Kinda like what Yahoo did with VoIP inside Yahoo Messenger (which is still there) and their plans to clobber Skype (under Brad and now Xobni leader Jeff Bonforte.) Those ideals and ideas got derailed by others inside what quickly became AOL II. Over at AOL the same kind of thinking, use your AIM ID tied to your phone services was likely going to happen until the folks at Time Warner Cable more than likely pushed hard corporately because they wanted to sell phone service over their network, and not let AOL's team do it better (and better it would have been based on my tests.)

So with that as history, Apple has come out with FaceTime, and as BGR reports, your Apple ID, or in reality any email address, becomes how people will reach you.

Apple, now with considerable market share, and with it growing everyday, have a way to say...go elsewhere, but your friends stay with you.

Game, Set. ...not quite match yet...but close.

SinglePipe To Be Acquired Shortly

I've had two very reliable sources come to me over the last 72 hours with news that cable MSO VoIP provider SinglePipe is going to be acquired, with the likely buyer being a company named IBBS.

SinglePipe is one of the leading providers, along with Momentum Telecom, of VoIP services to cable companies after you get past the top five or six MSO's. Between the two of them, and a few smaller players, they provide the infrastructure and technology to enable smaller, more regional cable operators with the ability to market voice in addition to TV and Broadband.

More as I learn it.

Fring and Skype Now Battling-War of Words over Video

Fring is calling Skype "cowards." Skype is saying that "Fring is breaching our API Terms of Use and End User Licence Agreement."

My sources tell me that Skype has neither "blocked fring" nor asked them to pull their support for Skype. This is slightly different than what Frings' angle to the story is. As we all know there are three sides to every story, but given Fring took the shot first, an old rule of thumb in a legal battle is get the word out first. And Fring did. Now Skype, whose legal minds are based on the West Coast, as well as their platform team and video folks for the most part have gotten in and replied.

Skype has also issued a statement that reads:

"Skype has been in discussions with Fring regarding our belief that Fring is breaching our API Terms of Use and End User Licence Agreement. Skype is disappointed that an amicable resolution was not possible, but Fring’s decision to withdraw Skype functionality immediately was of its own choice. Skype encourages developers to build products that work with Skype in accordance with our various API licenses. However, Skype will rigorously protect its brand and reputation and those companies that do not comply with our terms will be subject to enforcement."

Earlier this past weekend I made other observations about the situation.

Update: Skype's lead on legal has jumped in and added more..

Hey Apple: What I Want In My Next iPod Touch

Dear Uncle Steve,

Here's my wish list for my next iPod touch:

1) A really good camera-you know. 3.5 megapixels or more..

2) Video chat with non-Apple users-I mean, most of my friends use Skype and h.264 SIP Video. Please. I really want to see them.

3) Retina display. - I'm so hooked on great clarity in communication.

4) Faster Wi-Fi-Besides, that one thing that AT&T can't really screw up, except at Starbucks and McDonalds. But I rarely go there to hook up.

5) Built-in microphone-one less thing to carry and one less chance to confuse the TSA agents at airport security.

6) Longer battery life-um, yes. I mean with 99 cent streaming movies on the Apple TV I gotta believe the iPod is next and I need at least two hours.

7) 3G option with iPad-style data plan-Just use regular SIMs please. Well okay. Make it a Micro. Just more pricing options and global deals.

That's all. Nothing big. Nothing you can't deliver.

Your customer since 1984,


iPad 3G Data for the Cheap

TUAW tells how to use an unlimited iPhone 4 3G data plan from AT&T on an iPad.

Maybe I'm less frugal than most, but I have unlimited plans for both and don't really think that the extra 30 dollars a month is wrong to pay. Why? Well for starters I understand how AT&T needs the money. I mean, despite their record profits the network needs all the cash they can get to build out more infrastructure, so I figure, give them some additional help, for the upside down the road. Better bandwidth. With their ONE Network approach backhaul issues have to go away. Same for logging on, and at some point they begin to rival the cable companies with their own flavor of Triple Play that goes beyond uVerse.

Observations on Technology After A Month In Europe

I have to admit, being over here in Europe for a solid month has really changed my perspective on some things related to technology. Here are some observations:

Apple, which was never so dominant in Europe five years ago is clearly the runaway leader. I have seen more iPhones now than anything else as the most common phone in the hands of people on the go. Even the cab drivers have them and everyone uses the wired earphones. I'm not seeing so many Bluetooth earphones stuck in people ears' that make them look like the Borg and wired earbuds are still very hot.

Blackberry is what I'm seeing more of and was in second place of what I'm seeing more of, especially in Spain where even winemakers and hotel staff have them in their hand and the insiders I know at RIM tell me that kind of usage is growing. Candidly, I didn't see much Android, at least not many Milestones. Nexus One's are a figment of someone's imagination over here. Feature phones are still ruled by Nokia, with some Samsung and LG with HTC getting hotter, but HTC's heat index is more in the UK than anywhere here on the Continent.

When it comes to PC's I see more and more Macs in meetings, with only the corporate IT type company folks or those from the oversized Enterprise companies carrying PCs, and those were usually Lenovo's. Netbooks (Samsung, Acer and Asus) are the rule for students and execs on the go not using a Mac. People seem to prefer them vs. more expensive laptops so it was obvious to me that Dell is losing/has lost ground fast and even H-P but they do have a growing Netbook share it seemed. And yes, the iPad is hot, but there seems to be shortage of them here, and a very real shortage of 3G MicroSims is slowing down roll out/uptake. Given how mobile of a society Europeans are, my take is that Apple is timing the big push for them when the MicroSim's have deeper supplies. For example, none are available in Spain until last week of July. The reaction to around the iPad when in the cafe's is "wow" but nothing like in the USA where I get fully engaged in conversation about it by someone. Then again, I'm hardly fluent in French or Spanish.....When I'm back in London tonight my iPad on 02's 3G network will be a blessing the next few days, as the laptop can take a rest and my shoulder will love me once again.

Public Broadband-and what we suffer through is embarrassing back in the USA. It's not only speed. It's packet loss, jitter and such and over here it's the lack of any of that. I'm getting almost none of that over here in the better hotels, nor in coffee shops. Broadband just works. Even when my bandwidth is only 500k I can have awesome video and voice calls over Skype or using CounterPath's Bria on the Mac. On my iPhone I use Truphone and Bria more than Skype for calls to real numbers (like banks) and credit card companies over WiFi. It sounds awesome. I still get tons of use out of my Nokia E71 as the phone of choice, but more because it has a keyboard, ala the Blackberry, but with the new Truphone Local Anywhere and my ported number I'm having a blast not having to carry so many phones any more. Paid Wi-Fi access to me trumps the so called free stuff that hotels back home like to promote. And, there is something to getting what you're paying for, or staying in hotels that have done it right as a true amenity. And yes, I've even finally seen the value of FON while sitting at a Cafe yesterday and jumping on the NEUF WiFi service here in Paris where I simply sent an SMS to gain access to the network while having brunch at Cafe de l'Industrie not far from Bastille.

This week when I'm back in London I'm actually going to try to purchase an unlocked iPhone while I'm there. I've really gotten hooked on the iPhone when i had my 3G that was Jailbroken (I restored it to see what 4.0 was like and thus locked out from using other SIMs) and found for reading and doing tasks that it very high on convenience as the apps make the phone more and more valuable each day. Heck, even using it without a SIM over WiFi has been easy as those calls over Bria, Truphone and Skype all sounded so, so good.

More observations to come...from your friendly, neighborhood Global Nomad.

Fring Fumbles on Cross Platform Video Chat

History always repeats. So you would think that taking a page out of the old AOL playbook the outcome would be known before the situation arose. I'm referring to the news about Fring and their capacity issue as it relates to two way video calling.

Plain and simply, Fring has a capacity issue. This is why Skype was smart to take their "wait and see" position on interoperability with FaceTime.

If doing this stuff was so easy, companies like client GlowPoint and others who offer bridging services wouldn't be working with the Polycoms and Tata's of the world to namedrop. Bridging requires skill, expertise and capacity management. And it has a price. So while the Frings of the world may think they can go out and simply cross connect and transcode, the real secret to satisfaction is in keeping it up.

Panasonic Rolls Out Link To Cell System For Home and Office

Here's a novel idea for cord cutters who have ditched the landline but still need to use a desk or cordless phone from Panasonic. It's called Linked To Cell and it works via Bluetooth.

Basically the Link To Cell system serves a BlueTooth gateway, connecting the mobile phone via BlueTooth on one side to a base station that supports Panasonic's DECT phones.

I see this as one more example of wireless cellular networks being dumb pipes, and at the same time contributing to the erosion of landline business around the globe. As 4G rolls out and there's less need for landlines connectivity, devices like Link To Cell will play a bigger role in how we are connecting and staying more connected.

Fring Delivers Cross Platform Video for Mobile

Fring is upping the stakes in consumer video on mobile devices with their claim at being the first cross platform mobile video applications provider. With their latest move Fring now provides iPhone users with what they claim is unrestricted 2-way video calling over Wi-Fi or 3G internet with other iPhone, Android or Symbian devices.

Cross platform mobile video is key to the growth, and with this latest move Fring has beaten Skype, and others, to being cross platform with video while clearly coat-tailing on the Apple Face Time initiative.