BBH Report Home Page
November 5, 2006 Provided by System Dynamics Inc.


Heard on the Net

Briefly Noted
Updates, Observations and Trends

WiMAX World 2006
"Wi-Fi On Steroids"

Update from Europe -
A Guest Article by Lynne and Henry Heilbrunn

Online Video Update

Heard on the Net

News about People and Companies Influencing The Broadband Home

People News

Kenneth "Casey" Keller has been appointed EVP and chief marketing officer at Motorola. Keller was previously chairman and CEO of Heinz Italy. ( )

Greg Memo has joined Cisco as VP and GM of its Linksys consumer business. Memo was previously senior VP of products and marketing at Gateway. ( )

Gerard Pearce has been appointed head of North American sales for Entone Technologies. Pearce was previously with Motorola/NextLevel. ( )

William Squadron has joined SES Americom as senior VP, media partnerships and venture investments. Squadron had previously head of IMG Media's Interactive operations in North America. ( )

Company News


Atheros is acquiring Attansic Technology, a Taiwan-based fabless semiconductor company for $71.5 million in cash and stock. ( ) ( )

Conexant Systems has acquired Zarlink Semiconductor's packet switching business for $5 million. ( ) ( )

Liberty Media is selling voting control of OpenTV to Kudelski Group, a co-owner of Nagravision, for $132.3 million. Liberty is expected to pay OpenTV up to $19.7 million. Upon closing, Alan Guggenheim, currently CEO of NagraStar, will become CEO of OpenTV. ( ) ( ) ( )


Aggregator, a vendor of TV-over-broadband (TVoBB) services to the PC, has raised £9 million in series A financing, with participants including Intel Capital. ( )

Colubris Networks, a WLAN switching company, has raised $14 million in new funding. ( )

MobiTV closed its Series C funding with $30 million and adding two new investors, Adobe Systems Inc. and Hearst Corp. ( )

WiSpry, a specialist in tunable Radio Frequency (RF) technology, has raised $13.5 million. ( )

Other News

Gemtek has announced their new Wireless USB Dongle, which uses Intel's MAC (Media Access Control layer) and Alereon's PHY (Physical Layer), both of which are based on Certified Wireless USB technology from the USB-IF. ( ) ( )( ) ( )

Sprint Nextel is conducting trials using Qualcomm's MediaFLO mobile TV service. Sprint is branding the trial as "Vue" to distinguish it from their current MobiTV offering. ( ) ( ) ( )

Texas Instruments announced availability of five new xDSL solutions from its UR8 residential gateway family. They are based on an advanced multimedia gateway processor so that manufacturers can implement multiple types of home networking and features and work over all ADSL and VDSL2 standards. ( )


BPL in the US

The Federal Communications Commission, in a unanimous decision, granted a petition by the United Power Line Council (UPLC) to classify BPL access to the Internet as an information service. It will thus be regulated in the same way as DSL and cable modem broadband offerings. ( ) ( )

Industry Alliances


LG Electronics, Matsushita (Panasonic), NEC, Samsung Electronics, SiBeam, Sony and Toshiba have formed a special interest group called WirelessHD which is developing a specification for a wireless HD digital interface (WirelessHD™ or WiHD™). It is intended to enable uncompressed high-definition audio video (A/V) streaming and content transmission for consumer electronics devices. The technology works in the unlicensed 60 GHz frequency band and is expected to enable transmission rates of up to 5 gigabits per second at over a distance of several meters. ( )

Briefly Noted: Updates, Observations and Trends

Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations you might have missed. This month's briefs include Finland's push toward wireless broadband, place shifting progress and OECD broadband numbers.

Wireless Broadband Coming To Finland

Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communication has approved a rollout schedule for a nationwide wireless broadband network. Digita’s @450 network will be inaugurated in April of 2007, after delays caused by radio frequency coordination with neighboring countries. The network, operating in the 450MHz band, is planned to cover 80 per cent of the country by June 2008 and all of Finland by the end of 2009. It is being done in conjunction with Siemens, and uses Qualcomm/Flarion's FLASH-OFDM technology. ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )

Place shifting Progress

Place shifting to mobile phones was the subject of two recent announcements.

  • Nokia is working with Orb Networks to integrate Orb MyCasting into the Nokia N80 Internet Edition. Orb provides a way to remotely access digital media from your home computer using any Web connected device.
  • Sling Media will make a version of the SlingPlayer Mobile software for the Symbian OS platform. SlingPlayer Mobile allows users to stream content from their home TV to their mobile phone, including recorded shows, control of live content and to schedule recordings. Nokia has been a major user of the Symbian OS so it is interesting that their announcement was with Orb.

( ) ( ) ( )

OECD Broadband Numbers

A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicated that there were 181 million broadband subscribers in developed nations at the end of June, rising 33% over the course of the year. Denmark now leads the OECD with a broadband penetration rate of 29.3 subscribers per 100 inhabitants. Japan leads the OECD in fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) with 6.3 million fiber subscribers. The US has the largest total number of broadband subscribers in the OECD at 57 million representing 31% of all OECD broadband connections, but ranks 12th in terms of broadband penetration. ( )

WiMAX World 2006: "Wi-Fi On Steroids"

Listening to a lot of the speeches at the recent WiMAX World 2006 in Boston, we often felt like we'd walked into a pep rally for a candidate during this intensely political season. Illustrating the heightened industry interest in WiMAX, the show attracted over 4500 attendees, compared with 2600 a year ago. Since many were new to WiMAX, the speakers must have felt it appropriate to extoll its virtues.

Don't get us wrong. We're not WiMAX cynics. On the contrary, we think WiMAX—particularly its mobile 802.16e version—will have a huge impact on the world of personal broadband. And we saw lots of signs of progress at the show. It's just that after a while, all the praise for the wonders of WiMAX got to be a bit wearing.

While WiMAX World included a lot of "strategic vision" speeches, we think the biggest news came from three areas:

  • An increasing number of major players from the telecom infrastructure world as speakers and on the show floor, showing that WiMAX is becoming part of the mainstream;
  • Real products displayed and demonstrated on the show floor; and
  • Realistic appraisals of key outstanding issues, and the timeframe for market penetration.

To put the conference in perspective, here are some of the major events that have occurred since last year's WiMAX World show:

  • The first certified WiMAX Forum-certified products for the fixed implementation profile (WiMAX 802.16-2004) were launched.
  • KT started commercial WiBro service based on the initial WiMAX profile.
  • Intel and Motorola invested $900 million in broadband wireless provider Clearwire.
  • Sprint Nextel confirmed plans to develop and deploy a mobile WiMAX IEEE 802.16e network in the 2.5GHz band. Intel, Motorola and Samsung were selected as vendors.
  • An additional WiMAX certification lab was opened in Seoul for mobile WiMAX products.
  • Some vendors have launched pre-802.16e products -- built to spec but not yet certified.
  • The ecosystem continued to develop with more vendors in each of the critical sectors.

View From The Big Guys -- Intel, Clearwire and Motorola

One of the biggest WiMAX stories this year was the announcement in early July that Intel and Motorola would contribute $900 million to Clearwire. Intel Capital invested $600 million, and Motorola contributed $300 million as a combination investment in Clearwire and purchase of Clearwire's NextNet Wireless subsidiary.

So it was no surprise that the opening session of the conference featured keynote talks by top-level executives from the three companies. While we've heard much of this before, it was good to hear the prospects for WiMAX spelled out clearly by companies who have "put their money where their mouth is," investing billions of dollars toward their convictions.


Sean Maloney, Intel's executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer, went first. He started by explaining "why we need a global broadband wireless standard". Explaining why Wi-Fi alone won't do, he said "The global standardization of the 2.4 and 5.8 spectrum bands meant we could start driving mass wireless into notebook computers. Wi-Fi tipped notebooks to be a consumer product. Notebooks are now 60% of European PC sales." But "the problem is that Wi-Fi runs out" because it doesn't go very far. "Now we need Wi-Fi on steroids."

With cellular carriers spending billions to deploy 3G, he explained why Intel is so bullish on WiMAX: "WiMAX is 1/10th to 1/20th of the cost of traditional wireless infrastructure. It's four times more capable than 3G at 1/10th the cost."

Then he addressed some key remaining issues. The cost of user equipment is still too high: "The promise of WiMAX will only be delivered if we can drive cost down over the next 2 or 3 years."

Roaming remains a major issue: "We have to do away with the dreaded 'get my card out at the airport' scene" which everyone used to have to do with Wi-Fi before it was built into notebook PCs, and have to do now to use 3G data services. He pointed out that people don't have to log in on their cellphones every time they want to make a call. "We must make global roaming easy."

He's optimistic these problems will be overcome: "WiMAX will drive a new embedded mobile Internet business model. There are now 100 million plus notebooks per year, smart cellphones are moving in that direction, and new device categories are ripe for experimentation from CE companies." He said he expects to see "WiMAX integration across all segments."


Ben Wolff, Clearwire's Co-Chief Executive Officer, was next up. He started by saying that he'd been "watching the evolution of the cellular and broadband wireless businesses." They're similar in that "people highly value access to communications services whenever and wherever they might be. They're no longer tethered to a specific location for making calls and accessing the Internet." But he also sees differences: "In the early days, cellular predicted total penetration of 1-2%. We're now getting 1-2% of people covered by Clearwire per calendar quarter."

He said Clearwire is growing very fast, with good market penetration: "Clearwire now covers 5.5 million US homes, and expects to reach 9 million by yearend. We ended last year with 50,000 customers, and we now have 162,000 customers in US and international markets. We're now operating in 31 markets. 20% of the markets have greater than 10% penetration of households passed. One has 18% penetration."

Commenting on Clearwire's fast growth, he said "It's a differentiated product not widely available in the market. It's simple, fast, portable, reliable, and affordable. It creates a compelling customer proposition."

He talked about where Clearwire's customers come from: "Most customers come from wireline broadband - 58%. 32% come from dialup, and 10% had no internet access. Some customers view Clearwire as complementary to their wireline broadband, some think it's all they need. 64% get it for personal use, one-third for business purposes--these are mobile professionals. The top three reasons they get Clearwire are simplicity, portability and speed."


Greg Brown, Motorola's President, Networks & Enterprise, started by mentioning that Networks & Enterprise is a $13 billion business. He said we are "sitting at a fundamental threshold of a major transformation of communications: making mobile broadband affordable and accessible. Do we really need it? Are people going to pay for it? Technologies change, the questions remain the same."

He then talked about Motorola's strong interest in wireless services of all types: "Mobile broadband penetration is growing rapidly - there will be 18% annual growth now to 2010. Wireless broadband is the most significant shift since the development of cellular networks. Users will mix and match across technology - wireless mesh, metro Wi-Fi, fixed and mobile WiMAX."

Motorola is one of the largest wireless infrastructure providers, and he said "we're seeing a tremendous interest from service providers, including traditional providers. WiMAX has seen an unprecedented pace of innovation and development. In 2007, we'll see all types of operators--there's a host of new players with new spectrum licenses." He predicted we'd see "a broad adoption by the end of the decade - a broad base of devices with embedded WiMAX." He also said we'd see "inter-network roaming across markets and across countries."

He closed by saying "In mature markets, people are clamoring for any time, anywhere broadband today. In emerging markets, they want broadband at cost and at speed." Asking "How do we make this a WiMAX world?" he said "Motorola is committed and positioned".

WiMAX Forum--Global Roaming Working Group

Ron Resnick, President and Chairman of the WiMAX Forum, delivered a later keynote. An Intel employee, Ron launched and became general manager of Intel’s Broadband Wireless Access business startup focused on wireless Metropolitan Area Network technology more than four years ago.

Resnick started by saying he was "a broadband guy" and noted that there are "250 million broadband users in the world"--but there are already 2.2 billion cellphones. Echoing Sean Maloney's earlier talk, he said "We need to deliver a wireless broadband experience similar to fixed broadband" and "WiMAX is the global platform for the mobile Internet".

Responding to Maloney's roaming concerns, he said the WiMAX Forum has formed a Global Roaming Working Group that is "working from the ground up to allow for global roaming." Chaired by Korea Telecom (which launched the Korean WiBro service based on WiMAX in June), the roaming group's charter "includes roaming agreements, rating, billing and settlement." He said the roaming group "will offer brokerage services -- initially WiMAX only, then WiMAX to Wi-Fi, then to 3G as well. We want to create a global roaming ecosystem based on the best practices in GSM."

Resnick also talked about "the Taiwan program." He said "the Taiwanese government is backing WiMAX, and the 2.5-2.69 GHz band is allocated for WiMAX. Taiwan has the majority of market share in notebook PCs. We want to do the same with WiMAX." He said Taiwanese manufacturers are "all building products based on WiMAX today."

View From the Trenches--PicoChip Weighs In

In contrast to the cheerleading scenarios in the keynote talks, Rupert Baines, VP of Marketing at PicoChip, presented a somewhat more cautious view in a breakout session on "The Evolution of WiMAX Devices". PicoChip is one of the most innovative chip makers (see our profile of PicoChip (BBHR 8/15/2004) ( ), and its "software based radio" chips have been embedded in many WiMAX products, including one from Intel announced at this show.

Baines started by talking about the forces reshaping the development of telecommunications equipment. He said it "went from the fully integrated AT&T to a full value chain. Component suppliers are doing more and more development, including reference designs - this would have been unthinkable 5 years ago."

After discussing other aspects of the wireless evolution, he cautioned "it always takes five years to get volume, and it's always the handsets that are late. It takes a decade from launch to when it peaks." He said research by independent analysts "predicts a full-scale WiMAX launch in 2010 and a peak in 2016" and said that would be the "fastest life cycle for wireless."

He then described some of the challenges: "Customers want ADSL data rates - the industry is in danger of repeating the tech-lead disasters of WAP and 3G auctions. The technology has to be cheap enough, have decent battery life, performance and prettiness." By "prettiness" he meant that WiMAX phones have to look good in comparison with high-fashion consumer phones -- consumers won't buy big, heavy, unattractive phones with poor battery life.

WiMAX promises much higher data rates than 3G, but he pointed to the high cost of WiMAX today: "The WiMAX BOM is much higher than GSM, WCDMA, and Wi-Fi. WiMAX is twice the cost of HSDPA - can it deliver twice the ARPU?"

He cautioned "Power will be biggest problem. Consumers turn off 3G mode to save power, and WiMAX will draw much more power than 3G. OFDMA has a high power drain."

He said WiMAX might first go into smart phones, which have a big screen and high performance. "Today's smart phones are incredibly sophisticated - with multiple silicon in the same package, thin and light. The 2007 3G smart phone is even more sophisticated." But with "an average selling price of $300," smart phones represent "only 10% of the market -- they're now niche and not the mass market."

He was encouraged by all the effort going into WiMAX. "Nokia, Motorola, and Samsung are the leading handset makers, and they're all committed to WiMAX. 21 manufacturers are making chipsets for WiMAX, and a grand total of several billion dollars is pouring into WiMAX development."

He closed with an observation on the future of WiMAX: "The first 500 million cellphones were sold to rich people who already had copper phone lines. The next 2000 million will be sold to people who will never have a copper line. How will they get broadband?"

Major Companies and Announcements

After the WCA meeting in late June, our article Targeting the Mobile Internet ( ) referenced the many big companies that were visible at that show. Those were all at WiMAX World, and there were more including IBM and Nortel.

Many of the large companies had booths at the show. Many major companies made product announcements, some incorporating innovations by smaller companies that have been developing their WiMAX expertise over a substantial period.

Motorola was a very visible player in this conference, both in the major keynotes and on the show floor. Both Sprint and Clearwire are committed to using Motorola products. MOTOwi4 was the prominent theme, including a WiMAX line supporting fixed, nomadic and mobile environments. Motorola had a display cabinet showing a range of WiMAX devices. They included both outdoor and indoor units with MIMO, and laptops equipped with Beceem Mobile WiMAX PCMCIA cards.

NextNet Wireless, recently acquired by Motorola, was brought under the Motorola umbrella with a prominent MOTOwi4 banner in their booth.

Samsung is a driving force behind Korea's WiBro service, providing base stations and handsets. At their booth, Jim Parker showed us their WiBro/WiMAX phone, but there was not a lot to see without operating infrastructure.

Jim Freeze, Senior VP Marketing at BelAir Networks, showed us their latest equipment. We asked why BelAir, a strong player in Metro Wi-Fi, was at a WiMAX show, and he explained that BelAir already offers 802.16d fixed WiMAX for backhaul in its Wi-Fi products. They're currently developing products based on mobile WiMAX for the 2.3, 2.5 and 3.5 frequency bands; these are in trials now and they expect delivery by the end of 2007. He mentioned that BelAir was making wireless products with built-in DOCSIS cable modems for cable operators.

At the show, Siemens Networks and BelAir Networks announced an agreement enabling Siemens to market and sell BelAir products globally under the Siemens brand.

Alcatel announced commercially ready products for early adopters of mobile WiMAX, using technology from Israeli OFDMA chip maker Runcom. Runcom reportedly has many OFDMA patents and has pioneered several OFDMA silicon solutions for the last six years.

Nortel demonstrated their mobile MIMO-powered WiMAX solution, also powered by chips from Runcom. Nortel's equipment is the basis of a WiMAX field trial in Moscow by Golden Telecom.

Fujitsu Network Communications and Fujitsu Microelectronics launched their fixed WiMAX product line, including two models of base stations for indoor or outdoor use. Fujitsu is targeting mid-year 2007 for its Mobile WiMAX system-on-chip (SoC).

Intel announced the WiMAX Connection 2250 (Rosedale 2) their system-on-chip that supports both fixed and mobile WiMAX networks. WiMAX vendors committed to use the SoC include Motorola, Alvarion, Alcatel, Airspan, Siemens and Aperto. Intel also announced a new baseband card for WiMAX base stations, with a physical layer (PHY) from PicoChip and Intel's media access control (MAC) layer.

For More Information

  • See WiMAX World: Rabbits, Gorillas, and More ( ) for our report on the same show a year ago.
  • For readers new to WiMAX, please see our topical guide on broadband wireless access ( ).

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Update from Europe -- A Guest Article by Lynne and Henry Heilbrunn

Note from the Editors: Lynne and Henry Heilbrunn spent much of 2001 and 2002 traveling in Europe. They headed to Europe again earlier this year, and we invited them to share with our readers what has changed for the broadband traveler between their visits.

Henry Heilbrunn is the founder of InterActive Directions ( ), providing strategic management consulting services and interim executive placement in the U.S. and in Europe. Henry and Broadband Home publisher Dave Waks collaborated on home information services in the 1980s and 1990s while at CBS and Prodigy, an early online service owned by CBS, IBM and Sears.

Currently a Teaching Fellow at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Henry led German students at the University of Leipzig in 2006 to dream about new ways to communicate in the next 5 to 20 years. His wife, Lynne, is busily using her broadband connections wherever they are to determine their next itinerary in Asia.

The Broadband Traveler -- An Update from Europe

If you’re off for broadband travel in Europe, no need to weigh down your bags with all the gadgets, adapters, and wires you once hauled with you. There is a downside, though: your wallet will be lightened by new technology usage charges.

We’ve returned to the U.S. from three months of hotel living, apartment renting, and bunking with friends in the bigger "Old Europe" cities and in spectacular remote mountainsides along a 9,600 kilometers (about 6,000 miles) route through Austria, Germany, Holland, Hungary and Italy.

Our travel was markedly different from the nearly 12 months in 2001 and 2002 that we moved through western and eastern Europe. In 2006 we arrived with fewer guidebooks, foldout maps, and no music CDs. We had less certainty about our itinerary and far more confidence that we could wing it. Our luggage contained far fewer electronics. And we carried more conviction to stay in closer, more frequent touch with family, friends, and the world.

In our 4-year absence, we discovered that Europe leaped forward. No longer was an RJ-11 telephone adapter required for each country visited (the electrical system still needs its converter). The Eurodollar currency you exchange in one country works in (most) others and it’s easily obtainable through plenty of ATMs with your home bank card (and a four-digit PIN).

If you’re on the right U.S. cellular network, your same mobile phone with the same U.S. number rings anywhere you are through the European GSM network. (Caution: remind your callers of the 5 to 7 hour time difference to avoid middle-of-the-night wakeups). In fact, cell phone reception is far better than in the U.S., including atop the mountains and deep in kilometers-long tunnels beneath those mountains. All this is a sharp -- and welcome – contrast to the three incompatible cellular technologies in use in the U.S.

What to Carry – and What Not?

So what did we carry in 2006 and what, from years earlier, did we leave behind?

Our even more miniaturized lifeline laptop travels with us everywhere.

Its longer-life battery, greater memory, fewer peripherals, and built-in wireless this time around gave us greater access to the growing traveler’s online tool chest.

We found online more precise European maps (tire manufacturer Michelin's is particularly useful for planning the day’s route, timeframe, and traffic delays, a time-saver over past years) and the ability to purchase tickets prior to arriving at the busy tourist destination to skirt the inevitable queues.

City guides are now ubiquitous online for large and small places, with chain and private hotel and B&B suggestions for the random stops we prefer just prior to nightfall. These are known as “gite” in France compiled at Gîtes de France ( ); “gastehaus” or “landhotel” in Germanic nations available through Hotel Reservation Service (HRS) ( ); and rural tourist homes in Italy at ( ).

In most hotels, we could connect our laptop. This was a considerable upgrade from earlier when we would take apart the telephone to bypass wires or use multiple adapters to get a faint modem tone for the PC to detect. In 2002 the national telecoms were rapidly upgrading hotels to ISDN Internet connections. This was one big frustration that we would discover from the front-desk clerk who proudly announced the installation of a new digital telephone system. We would moan about its incompatibility with our analog modem on our older laptop.

Expensive Wireless to the Rescue

All of that is history. Wireless is in many large and small hotels—and in some coffee shops. But it’s far less pervasive than in the U.S., where access—free or for a small fee—is readily available at the ubiquitous Starbucks, with 20,000 retail U.S. locations eventually expected, and nearly every one of its competitors; in 7,000 McDonald’s; and in book stores, hotel and office building lobbies, university campuses, auto rental agents, and public libraries. (The more limited other European options for wireless: self-service laundromats, an every 7-day routine for us, and Internet cafes.) When we needed to plan our road trip ahead, confirming wireless availability was one of the essential determinants of whether we would check-in for a night.

There was another question we needed to ask.

Unlike in the U.S. where wireless often is free to attract you to a hotel, in Europe wireless has emerged as a significant new revenue source. The more expensive the hotel, the higher the fee and the more ridiculous the pricing structure. Flat fee for a day is less typical. In the U.S. if you had to pay, you frequently can buy 24 hours of service for $10. In Europe, you buy 10, 30 or 60 minutes, for example, for 2, 5, or 10 Euros, respectively, for either “continuous” or “accumulated” usage. That converted to 20 U.S. cents a minute (at $1.25 to 1 Euro) while we were abroad.

Watch out what you buy! Here’s the exorbitant profit from two types of access. “Continuous” starts the clock when you initially log in and, for example, 10 minutes later by the clock you are out of time, regardless of whether you remained on or if you logged off after fewer than the 10 minutes. Your time and Euros have expired. “Accumulated”, which we learned late to look for, starts the clock when you initially sign on and only counts down the time while you are online, letting you return in the future to use unexpired minutes. The hotel doesn’t give you a choice and the minutes are only good for the specific service provider at the hotel. Occasionally the service provider gives you a clock of your unexpired time. We became very efficient in our log-ons.

Staying In Close Touch

In 2001, we departed our home outside New York City weeks after 9/11. Staying in touch with family and friends, who were more nervous than we were with our roaming through Europe, and staying current with the news were essential. We—two language-challenged travelers—relied on the text, graphics, and pictures of U.S. online newspapers that remained reluctant to put resources into their Web offerings.

Our news habit changed significantly in 2006. We would salivate Monday through Friday with the knowledge that nightly network news from home was available. NBC introduced its feed of Brian Williams ( ). It was posted while we were asleep so we filled ourselves in the next morning, with great sound from a tiny USB supplemental speaker. ABC and CBS now offer theirs, too.

We were equally excited about tracking the latest exploit of Jack Bauer on “24”; the campaign for the new president on “West Wing”, and who would be in trouble next on the “Lost” island. Big disappointment: Access from overseas was detected and our viewing prohibited. Good thing our friends were still TiVo-ing, a relatively new device from our earlier trip, so we could watch upon our return. Next trip we’ll consider Slingbox ( ), which sells hardware to transport your home TV signal to another receiving device – anywhere.

Maintaining contact with home was so much easier. First, our family and friends are more comfortable with their own PCs. They have adopted instant messaging at home and work so they are available more hours; text messaging, or SMS, on the mobile phone is far more accepted in Europe than in the U.S., and voice-over-Internet-telephony (VOIP) let us surprise many with a cheap and reasonable quality telephone call from afar. We purchased an unbranded USB telephone handset and a bare amount of Skype credit to make 2.1 U.S. cents a minute calls back to the U.S. (versus 99 cents a minute through our U.S. cell phone carrier). Skype, you’ll recall, is just 2-years-old.

More, Better Hotel-Room Entertainment

For the evenings in a farmer’s guest room atop the aromatic barnyard or for the endless drives up and down the autobahn, we had a new entertainment savior.

For our first trip, we stuffed CDs (minus the jewel cases) into the sleeves of two thick soft pack organizers, grabbed the non-bump-absorbent portable CD player, two 3” high stereo speakers, and the electrical connectors for the room and the car. It filled space and accounted for weight, a worsening problem as flights within Europe have recently reduced the number of checked bags and weight allowance that will result in our paying hundreds of dollars in surcharge fees the next time we fly.

As we were starting our first trip, Steve Jobs introduced the iPod. What a difference by 2006. We carried more songs then ever before, even our favorite campfire sing-alongs for the really boring (and self-embarrassing) harmonious moments. Our Griffin iTrip Auto FM transmitter and charger, that converted our car radio into an iPod amplifier, performed magnificently in Germany and Austria. It was foiled in Hungary and Italy by the electric power lines slung along the highways and lack of spare FM frequency.

The songs were also on our laptop so we could plug in our tiny speaker in the hotel room. Whenever we wanted to absorb ourselves in a novel in the car, we had books-on-MP3 from Audible. In previous trips we always ran out of English-reading material. No more. Only lack of time stopped us from listening to podcasts, including audio tours of the cities we were visiting.

Key Advances in the Car

Even our driving was easier in 2006. The brand-new car we purchased for 88 days (and then was bought back) from Renault ( ) was equipped with a large-screen GPS navigation system that spoke to us in its native French, German, and, before we left the pickup point, English so we could follow the directions (and traffic advisories in the more populated areas). Its urban and rural accuracy on the Euro-nation highways and one-lane country roads that parallel busy bike paths made for marriage-saving months. Peugeot offers a similar program ( ). U.S. passport holders can, in effect, rent a just-out-of-the-factory car for 17 to 180 days in many cities in Europe at rates competitive to the auto rental agencies.

There was even new technology that made the laptop in the car more secure. Our first year we would carry the laptop and other valuables in a knapsack whenever we parked the car. Weeks before we departed this year we learned about a slash-proof, stainless steel mesh bag with interlocking security ( ) that would hold our laptop locked into a grommet bolted into the trunk of car.

It was the latest example of keeping an eye everywhere for the technology advances that will make our broadband traveling even easier for the trips ahead.

Online Video Update

The barrage of news about online video continues. Last month, we described some of the companies we met at VON ( ) who are playing in this segment.

Here's a brief update about online video items that have hit the wires this month. They illustrate how rapidly videos are moving from TV to the net and vice versa.

Networks Starting to Get It

Whether it is by looking at the CBS Web site ( ) -- which is full of videos -- or looking at their corporate announcements, it's clear that CBS takes online video seriously.

  • CBS and Yahoo! signed a deal to make local news video from 16 of CBS's owned stations available on Yahoo! There will be 10 to 20 local news video stories daily from each of the 16 metropolitan markets. The TV stations will get a portion of the advertising revenue from Yahoo!, giving them a way to benefit from the move to Internet video.
  • CBS has launched the "CBS Brand Channel" on YouTube. It will offer network-owned programming, newsclips, sports video and more and will sell ads and split revenues with YouTube.

NBC previously struck a similar deal to upload promotional video clips of some of its TV shows, including "Saturday Night Live" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" with YouTube.

As the networks try to work out whether online video is friend or foe, they are experimenting to understand usage and economic impacts of these services.

CNET TV Officially Launches

CNET Networks officially launched CNET TV, its web portal where viewers can access all of CNET's videos on technology and consumer electronics. Additionally, Verizon will distribute CNET's video via on-demand TV as part of the FiOS TV service.

Two More Plays For Niche Content

UK company Aggregator is focusing on niche content including material for Russian expatriates, martial arts, Anime and motor sports. They have signed their first deal with freedom2surf offering what they call "television over broadband (TVoBB)" to serve special interest communities via both PCs and hybrid set-top boxes. For example, Aggregator powered MoëTV offering hundreds of hours of Russian television. It can be watched using a PC and broadband connection. Shortly it will also be offered via a set top box, allowing customers to mix on-demand video delivered through broadband, Freeview TV and a personal video recorder.

SIVOO uses an Internet TV network to provide multicultural programming for U.S. residents who speak a language in addition to English. They claim to have 20,000 hours of programming in Spanish, Chinese, and Hindi.

...And Lots More

  • Dow Jones has teamed up with Brightcove to create an online video channel that will link video segments to relevant stories on Barrons Online,, and, and allow users to upload their own videos.
  • UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations) has launched an online video service offering live coverage of UEFA games for users in 96 countries. It has been launched with 20 broadcast partners providing video feeds.
  • launched an online video platform offering streaming video content covering business and finance. Segments will be based on major stories from Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Money and Business 2.0.
  • Brightcove launched an online distribution network for video which will share ad revenue with content providers. At the same time, they launched a video site for consumers.

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