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Posts from August 2012

Boingo Drops 15 Airports

In what looks to be a either a major loss or a negotiation ploy, Boingo has notified Advanced Wireless Group (AWG) of the termination their roaming agreement that impacts 15 airports. With Boingo entering the advertising supported space, the two are now head to head in competition for airports and ad revnue, and until the ad-network sharing can be sorted out, and how that relates to money, this type of problem will only likely get worse for the traveler. 

I say this because up until T-Mobile started getting out of the Hotspot business the combination of accounts with both they and Boingo pretty much gave travelers the kind of access they needed in airports and hotels, along with coffee shops. But now with T-Mobile basically out, Boingo losing major airports, and AT&T not really putting fast enough pipe into airport locations quickly enough to keep up with demand (the acquired Wayport a few years ago to address this) I'm seeing a massive slowdown. Recently at Philadelphia International Airport (an AT&T location) I was lucky enough to get LTE coverage as the Wi-Fi speeds were in the hundreds. 

In SFO my Boingo experience didn't differ from the free experience, so while I logged on with one device using Boingo, and another using the free airport service, the premium experience being offered to roaming partners, which was designed to offer better speeds and no ads, simply was ad free, but no speed increase, and the only speed benefit was the speed of logging on using Boingo credentials vs. having to "register" each time. 

To me, or any business traveler using Boingo or iPass expects their service levels to be better than the freeloader. Unfortunately, the recent experiences I saw would not require customer to maintain a paid account from either iPass, AT&T or Boingo to get access to a premium service that isn't there.  Boingo was offering a convenience for their subscribers, and since its free and not the Boingo grade of experience, why should they have to support their customers who are having a less than expected Boingo experience in airports they don't manage or can't deliver a better grade at a premium price.

If it isn't obvious yet, the main wireless carriers in the USA, Verizon and AT&T, are hoping for more of this fragmentation as it will only drive people over to LTE, where consistency will reign. My guess is AWG is hoping to get bought up by Verizon or AT&T, as history has shown by their exiting of the sector that neither T-Mobile nor Sprint, both pioneers in the Wi-Fi hotspot location game, have the appetite to stay in what could have been the icing on the cake of Wireless access.

AWG operates the Wi-Fi access in some key airports, including Atlanta-Hartsfield (ATL), Baltimore-Washington (BWI), Boston-Logan (BOS), Buffalo (BUF), Burbank (BUR), Indianapolis (IND), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami International (MIA), Minneapolis (MSP)*, Oakland (OAK), Omaha (OMA), Providence (PVD), San Diego (SAN)*, San Francisco (SFO), Sacramento (SMF) and The Prudential Center (Boston). They were one of the first hotspot operators to explore a paid and ad supported model. 

My experience with AWG hotspots has been somewhat mixed. In SFO the log on process for Macs has sometimes been frustrating, and the same when using the Boingo mobile client on iPhones and iPads depending on terminals and locations. In LAX the experience is also variable. Previously in SFO the T-Mobile managed service worked like a charm, but as T-Mobile has been exiting the mobile hotspot market (a very big tactical mistake on their part with the rise of Wi-Fi offloading and their scarce spectrum resources) AWG has been picking up airports. AWG also has been taking over management of airports who had previously chosen to go on their own (as evidenced by their new agreement with San Diego's Lindbergh Field)

All of the above said, I don't think Boingo is out of the fight, and they still have the largest footprint, but as more landlords smell money, Wi-Fi access rights are going to become like billboard signage rights along major thoroughfares. Hotly contested and wanted.

Nimbuzz Messenger Adds Nokia Lumia To Lineup

Windows 7 Nokia Lumia users now can have Nimbuzz Messenger on their smartphones.  Nimbuzz has rolled out the text and chat app, that also offers photo sharing that allows cross platform chatting with Facebook, GTalk, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Live Messenger friends and buddies for free. Given its cross platform and cross network, this puts it in the OTT category of apps and services.

United--Where's The Redundancy?

For some travelers flying United airlines yesterday, it must have felt like Deja Vu, that feeling that you've been here before. For at least the third time in memory since the merger with Continental Airlines their passenger reservation system failed. This failure resulted in delays and missed connections because no one could check in for their flights and agents were basically blinded without access to the reservation systems.

In an era of backups and redundancy, one has to wonder to what degree United, or any airline, actually has redundency, not only of the passenger record information, but of their entire system so a fully mirrored backup is available. While it was nice that the airline didn't charge for cancelling or changing a flight, this kind of inconvenience at the height of the summer travel season can wreck people's lives. Many children are returning to college and going home with schools starting up this week. Business people who have meetings and appointments get put off track, and what's worse because planes can be put out of position for the next day, the cancelations mean passengers may not even have arrived to their destinations yet. This gives a whole new meaning to being "delayed."

This is also making me think about all the suppliers my business is working with, and desire to understand what redundency efforts they have in place, and what we may need in ours.


Text, Skype and Other Tools Can Help Healthcare

UK newspaper, The Telegraph, has a story today that encourages medical practitioners to make greater use of Skype and SMS to help keep patients from missing their scheduled appointments. Not a bad idea and one that is in major need of acceptance, as they cite missed appointments and the inconvenience that the missed appointments can cause.

Having been married to a very tech savvy doctor until recently, I know how hard she tried to integrate technology into her practice, and all the roadblocks she ran into. Here in the USA it starts with HIPPA, the regulations surrounding privacy of patient information. Ask a medical assistant to email you your information they'll respond with they can't, because it's not secure. Then they will ask for your "fax" number or offer to mail you the documents. Have your bookkeeper call up the doctor to ask questions about the bill, and they will decline talking with them, citing no permission.  

But it goes beyond HIPPA. For the most part medical practices have not been tech centric, but that's changing and changing fast. Today's medical school graduates have grown up digital. They are used to using technology to research, learn and even help heal. That's why no forward thinking graduate from a leading medical school will want to to go back to using a dictaphone for notes, when an iPhone will do the same, or better job. They are used to using Skype to stay in touch with their friends from college and medical school, and it's how they want to communicate with their distant peers. 

So, what's on my short list of making medical practices more technology deploying? 

1. Collect mobile numbers for patients

2. Have practice management system tied into an SMS system (two way) to notify and remind patients of appointments

3. Develop a simple "appointment" app for leading smartphones that lets you manage, schedule and cancel your appointments--this would be great for physical therapists via links into the practice management systems.

4. Have apps for notetaking that can automatically attach to the patient's medical records. It's faster and in the doc's own words.

5. Oh yes. Wi-Fi in the office, with a patient access network that's public, and the practice's own that's private. Many better commercial grade Wi-Fi access points let you do that today.

6. A space for a patient's Skype name in the patient records, and Skype on the desktop. Wouldn't it be easier for everyone?

What's your suggestion?

FAA Looking at Reducing In-Flight Device Ban

Let's face it, we all want to "stay connected" when we travel, and contrary to some thoughts, we really don't need to talk on the phone these days to get a message to someone anymore. We've also learned over the years that modern day mobile phones don't interfere with the airplane's navigation. I should know, I've been one of many frequent fliers who found one of my devices magically turned on when I land in my bag or pocket after turning it off so I've since resorted to using flight safe mode on my devices. But as a result of a combination of safe traveling/flying and consumer demand, the FAA is going to take input over the next six months to determine what to do next with in-flight smartphone and other device use. This is a huge win for Gogo, the in-flight WiFi brand of Aircell.

Great. Now the flight attendants can get back to checking on something that really does impact safety. The seatbelt. The number of times I have had flight attendants tell me to turn my mobile phone, laptop or tablet off, while the lap belt is unfastened is to numerous to count. 

In the long run the FAA will rule in favor of the travel public. There will be the usual protests from the Flight Attendants union, citing things like greater passenger distraction, more confusion around the rules from passengers. Someone from Aircell will point out how for many years private planes have not had the same restriction and in the end this will all come to be. Besides, with the limitation on what you can eat, drink or snack on for free so limited, you no longer need the time in the air for that gourmet meal, sparkling service and cheerful conversation that you once had with the flight attendants in years gone by as for the mostpart the airlines don't deliver that any longer except on Virgin America. That's right, they are the airline with the all Wi-Fi fleet and the friendliest flight attendants in the skies. Could it be because of offering a great in-flight experience I fly them more than any other U.S. airline ????

GigaOm's Stacy's Higginbotham has her own take on this too.

New Tiki Mic from Blue Looks Impressive

As more of us use our laptops and desktops for Voice and Video, largely thanks to apps like Skype, CounterPaths Bria, Microsoft Lync, Google Talk and Apple's Facetime we all have a need for one thing. Awesome voice quality. 

Personally, I've long been a fan of the mics from Blue, and once again they seem to have hit onto something great with the new Tiki mic. The review via Engadget tells all.

News and Views for Sunday August 26

It was an interesting week with AT&T coming under attack for it's desire to force FaceTime users into share plans as GigaOm's Stacy Higginbotham and other point out. What's I shared with Stacy is what may make the whole point mute for some who buy their iPhones direct from Apple. In AT&T's statement they wrote "FaceTime is a video chat application that has been pre-loaded onto every AT&T iPhone since the introduction of iPhone 4." Well, my iPhone isn't an AT&T iPhone. It's just an iPhone. I bought mine from Apple. The other way to approach this is to have Apple remove FaceTime in the next iOS from the preload and make it a download, just like Skype. With mobile video conferencing and calling on the rise, this can only be viewed as controversial and hurtful to that sector. Aberdeen Group reports that video collaboration over mobile is growing 

CNET's Maggie Reardon made really clear sense out of the FCC's approval of Verizon's spectrum grab from the cable companies. Now the deal can proceed as planned which will enable Verizon to have more LTE available spectrum. In parallel to all this that impacts wireless Boy Genius Report's Brad Reed has a look back reflection on the DoJ's flag on the play approach to the failed AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile here in the USA. Slightly missed in all of this was the FCC suspension of flexible pricing for broadband network access rates charged by AT&T and Verizon to other wireless operators to get onto the Internet.

TechCrunch tells us that shared ride service Zimride's Lyft app could be the AirBnB of local transit. Taking a page out of the Uber car service model, you basically tell the network you need a ride and drivers heading in your direction can give you a ride for a donation. I see both pluses and minuses with this. First is liability. Second is legality. To transport someone for money usually means the driver needs a chauffeur's licence. It's one thing to give someone a ride somewhere, which ride boards in college dorms and talked about on college radio stations for years, but it's another thing to be going into business to haul people using a private driver network. The real reason these services can thrive is the current model of taxi-medallion issuing. Only so many medallion cabs are licenced in cities. Those licenses are very expensive and not easily obtained. Thus growing cities, or reemerging cities like SF have residents and visitors held hostage to higher prices limited availability. If more cabs were allowed on the streets, and if costs were more in line with what the market can handle, services like Zimride and Uber wouldn't be needed. Until things change, they will both bring disruption to the market.

BubbleMotion out of India, a company that has a voice blogging service that is viewed as the audio "Twitter" raised more money, reported TechCrunch. Since it works over SMS the need for data plans isn't necessary, and give the focus of the company is in developing nations, like India and others in SE Asia, the injection helps them. The company seems to follow another company I'm familiar with, RockeTalk, which is based here in San Diego but has basically operated out of India since it's founding. Both services are demonstrating that there's a market for messaging that goes beyond text, using apps that work on phones other than smartphones.

The Apple victory over Samsung in the patent fight has some saying it can turn into a win for Samsung, reports Ryan Kim of GigaOm. My view is Apple has established both the moral and now legal high ground on this issue, and may now have set the first prescident that really protects intellectual propety. It also makes many of the phones and tablets from Samsung in a way, collectors items. Lost in all this is the possible discontinuation of availability of the Samsung Galaxy Note from T-Mobile shelves in the USA. The combo-phone and tablet is either loved or hated by mobile phone users. As someone who has one and has used it in Europe the last few trips, it's large size makes it a great GPS and far better notepad type device than my iPhone, solely on screen size. But it's still an Android.

Time Magazine has partnered with to show where the best and worst cell phone coverage is across the USA. A quick check of my area shows that my multi-carrier strategy is working. Verizon ranks first, while AT&T is second, with Sprint and T-Mobile lagging. With the new iPhones coming out in September, my plan is to buy one on Verizon and an unlocked version to use on AT&T. The value of this coverage map is that it really shows the what type of data coverage exists down to the street level as the data is being crowdsourced. Pair this up with the information avaialable from and you get really great insight into which carrier is right for you.



AT&T's FaceTime Fiasco

Not content to have lost face with the loss of T-Mobile via acquisition, AT&T has come out with its rationale on why it will force people who want to use FaceTime over the 3G/4G/LTE network into a share plan, and in doing so, is getting just crucified in the press. 

Let's start with Stacy Higginbotham of GigaOm and's Derek Turner. Both basically call it anti-consumer from the outset. Read them for their take, while I share my views below.

First off, AT&T and all the rest of the carriers provide ACCESS to the Internet. They don't provide the Internet. The real crux of the issue is that wth FaceTime pre-loaded, the AT&T network may literally melt at the backhaul level-that's the sending of the data from your phone to their network and even before they are it to the Internet. It's that simple.

But the effort by AT&T to manage and limit, who can use what today will not be only about FaceTime users. It will begin to impact Skype when it comes pre-loaded on Windows Mobiles, GoogleTalk on Android, as well. 

Over in Spain MVNO Mas Movil says to customers, come to us. Use the apps you want. If you look at T-Mobile's move yesterday to go "really unlimited" they are positioning to get users over to their network, which in 2013 will have LTE. If at that time, T-Mobile gets to offer the iPhone, AT&T and Verizon will finally have some competition. Also, if Sprint comes out and says, use FaceTime on our network all you want, they too will have reasons to take users away.

To me this is more of a technology issue, being disguised as something else. But the FCC has not been loving AT&T the past year or so, and they may find out again there even less loved.

News and Views for Wednesday August 22

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg (subscription required) gave newcomer to video conferencing a big shot in the arm late yesterday with news of their service launch. Not much is known about the company, but the new free service supports up to 15 simultaneous users and promises screen sharing too and is available for iPhone, iPad, Macs and Windows. It uses either Google Mail/Apps ID or Facebook credentials. Could this be the next Skype? Maybe....

Google Offers and Boingo are expanding the ad/offer supported free Wi-Fi to more locations, reported GigaOm's Kevin Fritchard yesterday. It's a nice experiment and helps with customer acquisition for Google of their Groupon killer play. By teaming with Boingo, Google can pick their spots and test close to where their sales teams are, as well as push new services out via Wi-Fi too. The question that stock market analysts who cover Boingo have to ask is how ad supported Wi-Fi contributes to the bottom line, what impact it has on churn. For example, if I have to see one ad to get online, why will I pay $7.95 a month for Boingo on my mobile devices? If I am only seeing ads three times a month when I travel does that equal the profit per sub they would be losing? Or, are the locations they are picking different than where the business traveler goes, like airports and hotels. More importantly, to keep me paying, I would want to see tiered speeds and service levels, where the free users can only surf the web, and the paid users can use POP3, IMAP, Exchange, stream music and video, use VoIP/Skype/Video and Web collaboration as well as enterprise apps.

T-Mobile is striking out and looking for differentiation in the USA vs. AT&T and Verizon with the return of unlimited data on September 5 here in the USA reports The Verge and others including GigaOm's Kevin Fritchard. Fritchard points out that this is for Smartphones only, not the more data intensive tablets, and it also prevents tethering so PC's can't connect when someone turns their mobile phone into a hotspot. This puts T-Mobile in the same class as Sprint with no caps, no slowing you down and clearly is aimed at getting heavy data users over to their network, and as a competitive offer to the family style share data plans AT&T rolls out this week. The timing wasn't a coincidence. The attractiveness to me is the possibility of 1900 MHZ bandwidth from T-Mo in 2013.

At the same time, Metro PCS is also going UNLIMITED with a $55 a month, all LTE plan for Voice, text and data. They promise "no strings" offer and right now are not setting any time limit on the steal of a deal, reports CNET. Interestingly, the small carrier with big ideas, and the first to roll out VoLTE in the USA is looking for roaming partners, according to PC Magazine. MetroPCS wants to roam onto any LTE network and would use VoLTE for the voice traffic. It's an interesting approach as it would give the 14 market player a huge leg up over oftened rumored merger candidate Cricket.

Verizon Wireless told employees that they can't take any time off starting September 21, and in doing so, signalled the market that the iPhone 5 is going on sale that day, according to TechCrunch. This could be a huge quarter for Apple if the rumors are true of an iPad Mini in the 7.7" form factor, as Venture Beat points out this morning. What would make this a killer device, and be pre-emptive of Google releasing a Nexus7 with 4G/LTE would be if it had voice and LTE built in with all GSM frequencies, including AWS for T-Mobile here in the USA as pentaband device, like the Nokia Lumia 900 and Android Galaxy Nexus are. With the rumor of a new and updated Galaxy Nexus coming, there seems to be a whirlwind of new devices due out, just in time for holiday shopping.

Yesterday Skype added photo sharing to their iPhone and iPad apps. This takes aim at the MMS market where you can send photos over the wireless network. Since Skype already has really good compression built into their apps for file shareing on Macs and Windows PCs, this is a work around to help Skype mobile users avoid MMS charges, but what Skype doesn't point out is that when someone's not on Wi-Fi the data plan caps come in. Don't be surprised if mobile operators start to sell MMS plans like they do for unlimited texting at some point, or bundles and family to family member plans. The new Skype family addition is likely an outgrowth of their acquisition of GroupMe a year ago.

Kipcall has entered into a deal with global dating site WorldFriends. The agreement brings back memories of TalkPlus (Jeff Black and John Todd's too early for prime time baby) and Jangl whose intellectual property ended up at Jajah (where have you gone Michael Cerda). The service promises calling and chatting without phone numbers.