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Posts from August 19, 2012 - August 25, 2012

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.



LTE in the UK Coming Very Soon

If The Verge's news report on LTE going live in the UK on EE is accurate (Everything Everywhere), the combined T-Mobile and Orage play, my friends across the pond will have faster and better speeds soon. According to the report EE will roll things out on September 11. 

The rumor though is that they will also have the new iPhone, and that the Mark 5 version will have LTE in it too, thus mirroring what the iPad already has here in the USA. Having made calls using CounterPath's Bria and Skype over LTE has been a real pleasure, and even on HSPA+ when I was in Europe this summer demonstrated to me how good voice calling over LTE can be, as long as your stationary with the iPad or not moving from one congested cell tower to another.


Yahoo Should Buy ooVoo

If Yahoo's new CEO was ready to buy companies, ooVoo would be on that list. ooVoo has stellar management, proven technology and advertising opportunities all around it making it an ideal fit for Yahoo today. Add to it the fact that ooVoo clearly gets mobile and desktop, as well as video calling, add in Yahoo's global reach and need to diversify fast, and you have opportunity.

Today, Engadget is reporting that ooVoo added four way video chatting to iOS and Android devices, thus expanding its reach. The new apps are available in the iTunes App store and Android Play market for download. Earlier this summer the company announed 12 person video chat on select Android devices from Motorola.

The news is interesting because it clearly shows the smarts of ooVoo and the rising interest in real time video communications. The mobile multi-party participation is something that Skype isn't doing and clearly turns up the heat on Silicon Valley darling, Tango, who remains the cross platform leader with apps for iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. 

Currently ooVoo lacks a Windows Mobile client. But so have many app and services players out thre. Instead ooVoo has focused on making their software work by going down to the actual device level of versions on Android, something that is needed with the myriad of options that one has now with Android and the many versions needed that seem to vary not only by manufacturer, but by model too. My guess is though, that with Windows 8 and Windows 8 Mobile blending together soon the lack of a Windows Mobile client won't be around much longer.

Why is this important? Video is not a sleeping giant. While enterprise and business customers in large companies are not using it as much as the communications companies would like to see, services like ooVoo and Skype are growing. Back in July, 2011 before Skype started counting video on devices like the iPad and Android tablets, 42% of all Skype minutes were video calling. Factor in that and you see why services like ooVoo and Skype, as well as Google's Hangouts are cutting into the revenues of Polycom and others in the video conferencing hardware sector.

ooVoo is also moving into the realm of media (think personal TV) with an emphasis on entertainment so by connecting to more endpoints, the company is poised to become the leader in social television, likely leaping ahead of Microsoft and Google in that area and then being bought by a larger entity, which is why I suggest Yahoo as the player of choice or perhaps Comcast who also has the same need, but already is wedded to Skype. 

Two SIMs, One Phone

For those who want to lighten their load, Samsung's new Galaxy S Duo may be for you. 

The Galaxy S Duo is a twin SIM phone that lets you combine your business and personal lives on one phone. In many countries it's not surprising to see people carrying one phone for each part of their life. With the Android based Galaxy you get a rocket fast processor and performance that Samsung delivers but with the kind of reliability you can expect from a market leader in Android.

Sure, twin SIM phones have been around for a very long time, usually coming out of China. They weren't well known except with the traveling sales crowd types but with this phone mixed live types who are mobile as well as transborder workers will enjoy the convenience of having their two services work.



Report on VoLTE from iGR Now Out

One of my favorite telecom analysts has always been, and remains Iain Gillott from iGR. I first met Iain when he was with IDC before breaking off and establishing his boutique consultancy. Long a watcher of wireless and mobile, today his firm announced the publication of a report on Voice over LTE or VoLTE for short. This is on the heels of a Metro PCS rolling out VoLTE a few weeks back which was reported on by GigOm's Kevin Fitchard back on August 8.

Having had the good fortun to have Iain on panels at conferences and also watched his work for some time, the report will offer concise and credible content that will shed a deeper light into what may become the next generation of voice over mobile networks.

VoLTE is a long term play for the mobile operators, as Gillott points out. I agree, as it's not exactly happening overnight where a switch is thrown and voice traffic moves from the circuit switched networks of the carriers over to LTE.

Back in May of this year (2012) and even earlier pal Dean Bubley had some thoughts on VoLTE as well. Between Gillott and Bubley, the perspectives provide the kind of insight mobile watchers should be aware of on this subject. 


Toll Free Data = Sending Party Pays

The other day, Fierce Wireless had a special report on the subject of "Toll Free Data." It's concise, timely and relevant to the changing market of mobile data where consumption is going to outstrip plans sometime soon. But, it's anything but news to me. In the past, I have written about the concept of "Sending Party Pays" which is identical to Toll Free Data. Sending Party Pays is the phrase pal Martin Geddes proffered up at least three, if not four years ago, over dinner at Smiths of Smithfield in London.

It's a subject I have mentioned relative to Sponsored Wi-Fi Access (November 2009), How the iPad would bring the model to content providers (May 2010) and again in Sending Party Pays (December 2010) in relation to a Bloomberg story about European mobile operators asking Apple and Google to Pay Up in relation to Facebook and other heavy traffic.

I don't believe that Toll Free Data or Sending Party Pays is an aberration, but actually is truly the way things will go as already as the report points out, it's being done, and has been done for a few years by Amazon with their 3G Kindle devices. To me, it's a "when" not an "if".