In This Issue
Your Voice -
News about People and Companies Influencing The Broadband Home
Daniel Artusi joined Conexant as President and CEO. Artusi's previous experience includes ColdWatt, Silicon Laboratories and 24 years with Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector. ( www.conexant.com )
John Burbank joined AOL as chief marketing officer. Burbank was previously VP of marketing at AT&T. ( www.aol.com )
David Feldman has been named CTO of Vyyo. He was previously with Advanced Micro Devices. ( www.vyyo.com )
Gary Gibbs has been appointed VP of Channel Development at Sigma Systems. ( www.sigma-systems.com )
Rolla P. Huff was named President and CEO of EarthLink. He was previously with Mpower Communications. ( www.earthlink.com )
Dick Lynch has been appointed EVP and CTO for all of Verizon Communications. Lynch was formerly CTO of Verizon Wireless. ( www.verizon.com )
Christine Munson has joined ICTV as CFO. Christine was previously VP Finance for MarketTools, Inc. ( www.ictv.com )
Balan Nair has been named senior VP and CTO at Liberty Global. He was previously executive VP and CTO at AOL. ( www.libertyglobal.com )
Bill Noll has been named EVP of Technology at Actiontec Electronics. He was previously with Westell Technologies. ( www.actiontec.com )
Al Nuñez has been named President of the Americas at Tandberg Television. ( www.tandbergtv.com )
John O’Hara was named EVP, Engineering at Cedar Point Communications. Previously he was a consultant for sentitO Networks. ( www.cedarpointcom.com )
Jeff Orr has joined The Walt Disney Company as Sr. Project Engineer with the corporate New Technology and New Media group. He was previously Director of Marketing at the WiMAX Forum. ( www.waltdisney.com )
Sprint Nextel announced the following changes related to the Sprint/MSO joint venture: Keith Cowan was named president of strategic planning and corporate initiatives; John Garcia becomes Senior VP of product management and development for the Pivot brand; Jim Patterson will serve as acting president of the JV. Patterson also oversees Sprint’s cable wireline service offerings. ( www.sprint.com )
Valerio Zingarelli has been appointed CEO of Babelgum. Zingarelli was formerly a Vodafone executive. ( www.babelgum.com )
Harmonic Inc. is acquiring privately-held Rhozet, a developer of software-based transcoding solutions, for $15.5 million in cash. Rhozet's solutions have been deployed by more than 100 customers, including Amazon, CBS and Yahoo! ( www.harmonicinc.com ) ( www.rhozet.com )
Level 3 Communications has acquired Servecast Limited, a provider of live and on-demand video management and streaming services for broadband and mobile platforms. Level 3 paid approximately $45 million. ( www.level3.com ) ( www.servecast.com )
NextWave Wireless has acquired 65% of Switzerland's WiMAX Telecom AG through its majority-owned subsidiary, Inquam Broadband GmbH. Separately, NextWave signed a definitive agreement to acquire all shares of IPMobile, a Tokyo-based telecommunications company, held by Mori Trust Co.; upon closing, NextWave will hold a 69.2% stake in IPMobile and will become the only foreign carrier in Japan. Values were not disclosed for either transaction. ( www.nextwave.com ) ( www.wimax-telecom.net ) ( www.ipmobile.jp/english )
adap.tv, an online video advertising platform, has secured $10 million in Series A funding. ( www.adap.tv )
Altair Semiconductor Ltd., a developer of ultra-low power WiMax chips for mobile devices, has received an $18 million Series B round of financing. ( www.altair-semi.com )
Broadlogic Networks Technologies Inc., a designer of chipsets for broadband networks, has announced a $17M Series C financing. Comcast Interactive Capital led the funding round. [Ed note: see our recent article on Broadlogic] ( www.broadlogic.com )
Eye-Fi, a company focused on wireless digital photography, has secured $5.5 million in Series A funding. ( www.eye.fi )
InGrid, a provider of broadband-integrated home security systems, has raised $13.5 million in a Series C round of funding. ( www.ingridhome.com )
Mirics Semiconductor Inc., a developer of chips for receiving TV and radio broadcast signals in mobile devices, has received $10M in Series B financing, with Intel leading the round. ( www.mirics.com )
Ortiva Wireless, which develops software to deliver video clips over mobile networks, has completed a $15M Series B led by Comcast Interactive Capital. ( www.ortivawireless.com )
Oversi, a content delivery solutions provider, has raised $8 million in a second round of funding. Investors included Cisco Systems. ( www.oversi.com )
PicoChip Designs Ltd., has raised a $27 million Series D round of financing. ( www.picochip.com )
Ubiquisys Ltd. has secured $25 million in a round B funding, with Google as one of the participants. ( www.ubiquisys.com )
WiQuest Communications Inc., a semiconductor company focused on ultra-wideband wireless chips, has closed a $28 million Series C round of financing. ( www.wiquest.com )
ZeroG Wireless Inc., a company developing low power radio frequency chips, has closed $13 million in Series A funding. ( www.zerogwireless.com )
Clearwire has signed marketing pacts with U.S. satellite video vendors DirecTV and EchoStar, allowing its services to be sold to their residential customers. Clearwire also has the right to sell the satellite vendors services. ( www.clearwire.com ) ( www.directv.com ) ( www.dish.com )
Separately, Clearwire and Sprint signed a comprehensive agreement to jointly construct a nationwide WiMax network. They plan to build their respective portions of the network, and enable roaming between them. In addition, they will work jointly on product and service evolution, marketing and distribution, plus the exchange of selected 2.5 GHz spectrum to optimize network build-out and operation. Clearwire will also offer Sprint's 3G voice and data services and both providers will offer customers dual-mode services. ( www.clearwire.com ) ( www.sprint.com )
Crown Castle has shuttered Modeo, their subsidiary to provide DVB-H mobile TV service. It will lease the US-wide 1670-1675 MHz spectrum associated with Modeo to a venture formed by Telcom Ventures and Columbia Capital. The annual lease price is $13 million. Modeo's New York City trial network is being transferred to Telcom and Columbia; Crown Castle will be the preferred provider of tower infrastructure in further deployments. ( www.crowncastle.com )
Intel signed a licensing agreement with CableLabs under which the chip-maker will include support for the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) in future system-on-a-chip products for consumer-electronics devices. This agreement on OpenCable presently relates only to the chip family for CE devices Intel plans to introduce in 2008, not Core or Pentium processors. ( www.intel.com ) ( www.cablelabs.com )
Microsoft has started offering Intellectual Property (IP) licenses for two Wi-Fi related technologies, according to Broadband Wireless Exchange. The first is called RADAR, an indoor system, optimized for Wi-Fi, which combines empirical measurements with signal propagation modeling to determine user location and enable location aware services. The second is a Wi-Fi network system called CHOICE, which can be used to deploy new wireless "hot spot" services or augment existing ones. It is differentiated by its network access system, which allows different service providers to offer separate and concurrent services to the same user. ( www.microsoft.com )
Telstra announced the launch of BigPond TV, a mobile TV service which is transmitted over the operator's Next G network. Content will include prime time hits, made-for-mobile programs and sports and music videos. ( www.telstra.com.au )
Wibree, an ultra-low-power short-range wireless broadband technology, has been merged into the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), where it is expected to be standardized as a compatible piece of the Bluetooth standard. WiBree has been supported and developed by Nokia and the Wibree Forum includes Broadcom, Casio, Epson, ST Microelectronics, and TI. ( www.wibree.com ) ( www.bluetooth.org )
Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations you might have missed. This month's briefs focus on getting video directly to the consumer; "femtocell" as the word of the month; another letter in the WiMAX alphabet; wireless USB product certification; and more.
Bypassing Video Service Providers
More news keeps popping up about content providers trying to get video directly to the consumer outside the traditional "walled garden" deals with MSOs, telcos and satellite providers.
Word of the Month: Femtocell
Read any industry publication about mobile phone service in the home and you are sure to come across "femtocell," the buzz word of the month. Broadband Home Central first used the word in this report a year ago when writing about PicoChip's partnership with Korea Telecom to develop WiBro/WiMAX access points, or femtocells, to extend WiBro service into residential and corporate environments without requiring special UMA-capable handsets.
In case you missed their rise to prominence, femtocells are tiny cellular base stations that provide enhanced mobile voice and data coverage inside people's homes. Your standard 3G handset connects to your own local cell site (the femtocell) and routes its calls over your broadband connection. Femtocells are likely to come as both standalone units and as part of residential gateways.
A brief article in our June 2006 report Expanding Mobile Coverage Indoors talked about such a capability from UbiquiSys Ltd. At the time, the company called it "a home access point system". Look their website now and you'll see that the f-cell word has come a long way since then!
A group of vendors recently formed the Femto Forum. Founding members include Airvana, ip.access, Netgear, PicoChip, RadioFrame, Tatara and Ubiquisys. It held its inaugural meeting at the recent International Conference on Home Access Points and Femtocells in London.
WiMAX Alphabet: D, E,...M
Every time you get the illusion that you have caught up on what's happening in technologies and buzzwords, something new comes along. The latest in our wireless broadband lexicon is 802.16m, a new version of the 802.16 standard which targets increased bandwidth by using larger MIMO antenna arrays. Its properties include data transfer speeds up to 1Gbps and backward compatibility with existing WiMAX radios. IEEE is assuring that the protocol will meet the ITU's requirements for 4G. The 802.1m group targets completion of the standard by late 2009.
Take the Skype and Go to Jail
The Antigua Sun reports that Antigua and Barbuda have begun to crack down on the use of VoIP services from Vonage, Net2Phone and Skype, which are illegal there. Beware if you visit, since that Skype call could end up costing you a fine of up to $50,000 or up to two years imprisonment. ( www.antiguasun.com )
Wireless USB Is Finally Here!
We have been writing about ultra wideband (UWB) since 2003 and wireless USB since early 2005 (see Certified Wireless USB -- Coming Soon To Your PC). So it was good to hear that four companies have received Wireless USB Certification for six consumer products--notebook PCs from Dell and Lenovo, USB adapters and hubs from D-Link and IOGEAR. These are expected to be the first standards-based UWB products to reach the consumer market. ( www.usb.org/developers/wusb/ )
Adios to VIIV
What a relief! We won't have to try to make sense of VIIV any more. Intel has stopped advertising the brand and--according to CNET (Intel losing its joie de Viiv)--is consolidating marketing around the Core brand. VIIV evidently won't disappear entirely--it will survive as a sticker on high-end PCs and say "Core 2 with Viiv". We tried to give Intel the benefit of the doubt that VIIV really meant something, but that "something" kept changing. Adios VIIV--we won't miss you.
Celebrating Twenty Years
Kudos to Andrew Kreig and his staff on the great speakers and content that WCA brought together for its 20th anniversary show. The WCA show in Washington is always one of our favorites, because it has a sharp focus on intellectual content and avoids most of the "conference syndrome" where much of the air time is filled with sponsors hyping their products and services.
We heard speakers from multiple arms of government (both inside and outside the US), service providers, equipment suppliers, technologists, standards leaders, solutions providers, financial experts, and representatives from municipal and public safety. It's difficult to neatly summarize the messages from such a rich mix of interests, but here are a few quotes we found interesting:
Sprint and Mobile WiMAX -- Beyond the Technology
CTO talks generally contain a heavy dose of technology. Barry West, Sprint Nextel's CTO, gave a different kind of talk, focused largely on the business of the mobile Internet. Early in his talk, West addressed the question of why Sprint is putting several billion dollars into another mobile network, since they already have EV-DO Revision A technology and could follow its evolution path.
West says the answer is simple. The last phase of wireless growth was driven by voice, the next phase is being driven by data. For high speed data transmission to have reasonable costs, you have to go to a wider channel. To do that, you need two things: spectrum ("that's where our 2.5 Mhz spectrum comes in") and a technology that scales in a linear way. That is what OFDM does.
West made clear that he believes technology is not the main issue since "the whole industry is going OFDM." The main problem is the business opportunity. "The silver bullet", he said, "is open access to the Internet wherever you are, and in an open Internet model."
Bring Your Own Phone
"Mobile operators got into the habit of subsidizing the phone" according to West. The WiMAX ecosystem creates the possibility of getting away from this model since its standards-based chips are expected to soon be incorporated into laptop PCs in the same way that Wi-Fi is today. West went on to say: "Wouldn't it be nice to have the customer pay for the phone and I (Sprint) will pay for the chipsets that enable it". In this new "bring your own phone" model, the first time a service provider knows about you as a customer is when you turn on your device. Depending on the service provider implementation, the technology could be consumer-friendly like Wi-Fi, in that it could be accessed in an ad-hoc manner and without a subscription commitment.
West believes that the new model he describes does not relegate the mobile broadband network to being a dumb pipe. That's because once you register for their service, Sprint will know about your presence, who you are, and where you are. They can use this information to add value to their service for the customer. The challenge for this open business model will be the back office and billing to support it.
No More Walled Garden
In the hierarchy of customer complaints about wireless services, the top item is dropped calls. Right after that comes contracts, which tie you to one service provider, and with them the restriction to remain in whatever "walled garden" of content the service provider offers. West believes that in the open mobile Internet model, where the service provider is not selling/subsidizing the phones, they will no longer need to keep a customer restricted to content they provide or approve. (Although Apple's iPhone is a step in the direction of West's model, it can be used only with the AT&T network and can run only Internet-based applications.)
Where Are They?
Sprint is underway in their plans to make this vision real. Last year they started making calls on the Washington, DC WiMAX network, built using Samsung-provided commercial hardware. Samsung has been one of the early companies supporting and delivering WiBro and WiMAX and is one of the major suppliers for Sprint.
Sprint plans to launch its WiMAX service in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington DC by year-end, with full commercial launch by April 2008. Sprint's commitment to the FCC, as part of the approval of the Nextel merger, calls for them to provide coverage of 100 million POPs, using their 2.5 MHz spectrum, by year end 2008.
Subsequent to WCA, Sprint announced a collaborative deal with Clearwire for building and operating this network (see below). They also announced a deal with Google to bring their future WiMAX customers applications like search, IM and social networking.
FCC commissioner Adelstein said in his talk that Sprint Nextel had exceeded his expectations in the announced build-out plans for this coverage. It will be interesting to track how closely the actual numbers meet those that were announced.
The take-away for us from West's talk was Sprint's commitment to take advantage of the potential that WiMAX offers for openness, both with respect to customer equipment and content. As Roger Marks, longtime Chair of the IEEE 802.16 Working Group (which is developing the WiMAX standards) observed in a conversation at the show, WiMAX may offer the potential for openness, but does not require service providers to use it this way. Many operators, such as those deploying WiBro in Korea, are using WiMAX equipment--but apparently intend to maintain control of the features in the handsets and the content accessible to their customers.
Clearwire: McCaw's Next Act
Clearwire's goal is crystal clear. Their aspiration is "doing for the Internet what the cellular industry did for voice." It's a big vision. On the other hand, it comes from Craig McCaw, who did make it happen for voice. We've been covering Clearwire since its first incarnation in Jacksonville, Florida in early 2003. McCaw bought the company in April 2004, and since that time some major changes have occurred. Key among those were the $900 million investment by Intel and Motorola in July 2006 and Clearwire's switch from their pre-WiMAX (i.e., proprietary) technology to the WiMAX standard.
Why is this a big deal? At WCA, Clearwire's CEO Ben Wolff showed several charts to make the point. The key word is spectrum. Clearwire's spectrum portfolio includes 14bn MHz-POPs of 2.5Ghz, covers approximately 223M people in the US, including ~85% of POPs in the top 100 markets and rights to spectrum in 76 of the top 100 markets. Their spectrum footprint is not just in the US--they have 8.7bn more MHz-POPs in Europe, in countries including Ireland, Germany, Spain, Belgium Denmark, Poland and Romania. Add to this the major support coming from Intel's marketing machine, as well as from Motorola, and it is hard to ignore them.
Subsequent to WCA, Clearwire and Sprint announced a major plan to jointly deploy wireless broadband services across the U.S. The companies agreed to split U.S. deployment -- with Clearwire handling around 35 percent of the buildout and Sprint the other 65 percent (see News above).
Clearwire's current customers come from a variety of sources. Some are moves from dial-up but many previously had cable or DSL. Because the major advantage of Clearwire's service is portability, which users of cable and DSL don't have, almost 1 in 5 of their customers are using Clearwire’s service in addition to their existing ISP.
Wolff provided an interesting perspective at the close of his talk. He showed a variety of quotes shedding doubt on McCaw's actions: "No one expects the Company’s operations to produce enough cash flow for years. ... What worries Wall Street, says Business Week, is that the business is still a crap shoot. ...the Company faces stiff rivalry from incumbents..." Wolf then pointed out that these quotes were "from articles published in 1989 and 1990 about a company called McCaw Cellular." His point was unmistakable: don't bet against Craig McCaw--he has done this kind of thing before.
For More Information
WCA conferences always include a large dose of United States public policy, and the recent conference in Washington (see WCA 2007: Beyond Technology) was no exception. The third day included a general session and four breakout sessions on the upcoming 700 MHz auction.
We have been watching 700 MHz from a distance for some time, and WCA was a great opportunity to better understand what's going on in Washington. Not surprisingly, the spectrum debate has been heavily politicized. After the conference, Google weighed in with an offer to bid in the auction if specific conditions are attached.
The good news is that the long-awaited 700 MHz auction will take place soon. The bad news is that the end result will almost certainly not be as beneficial for personal broadband as many had hoped.
Background on 700 MHz
On the surface, the topic appears to be setting the auction rules for the reallocation of a block of spectrum previously used for television broadcasting. Below the surface, many other issues permeate the pre-auction positioning and debate regarding who should get the spectrum and for what use:
The USA "700 MHz Band" consists of the spectrum from 698-806 MHz. This band was previously assigned to UHF television channels 52-69, and is now being used as a temporary broadcast digital television (DTV) band during the phase-out of analog television. By law, the reallocated band is divided between commercial and public safety wireless services. Of the total of 108 MHz, 24 MHz is allocated for public safety, and 6 MHz for guard bands, leaving 78 MHz for commercial services. The FCC previously auctioned 18 MHz of the commercial spectrum, leaving 60 MHz for the upcoming auction.
The FCC long ago divided the 700 MHz band into two sections: the "Lower 700" and the "Upper 700". The Lower 700 MHz Bandplan (shown above) reassigns TV channels 52 through 59 in five blocks. Blocks A, B and C are each 12 MHz (paired 2 x 6 MHz); D and E are unpaired 6 MHz.
The original Upper 700 MHz Bandplan (shown above) shows the reassignment of TV channels 60 through 69. It reserved 24 MHz for Public Safety (only the lower Public Safety band is shown in this FCC drawing) with two paired blocks of commercial spectrum: C is 10 MHz (2 x 5 MHz), D is 20 MHz (2 x 10 MHz). 6 MHz is distributed across four guard bands to protect the assigned Public Safety bands.
In 2002 and 2003, the FCC auctioned two blocks of Lower 700: block C (paired 2 x 6 MHz) and block D (unpaired 6 MHz). The legislation establishing the reallocation of the 700 MHz band did not set a firm date for the end of analog television. The moving target for the DTV transition limited the auction winners' use of the band since analog TV is still being broadcast on those channels in some markets, and the FCC repeatedly delayed auctioning the remainder of the band pending a firm date for "clearing" the band.
Federal legislation in 2005 set a firm date of February 17, 2009 for the end of the DTV transition period, and required the FCC to begin auctioning the remaining spectrum no later than January 28, 2008, and deposit the proceeds by June 30, 2008. The FCC is now moving quickly to plan and execute this auction. It is expected to publish the auction rules by the end of this month to give potential bidders time to plan for the auction.
The 700 MHz band is "prime territory" for broadband wireless. 700 MHz would provide much wider coverage than the 1800 to 3600 MHz more typically used for licensed wireless services--signal propagation at 700 MHz is much better and the new band allows high transmit power. Wireless carriers--both incumbents and potential insurgents--have been watching this band for more than a decade.
Two Flavors of Spectrum Allocations
Wireless spectrum can be paired or unpaired. Paired spectrum allocates two distinct and equal frequency bands, one assigned to "downlink" from the base station to mobile devices, and the other to "uplink". In contrast, unpaired spectrum provides a single band used for both downlink and uplink. A technique called frequency division duplex (FDD) is used for two-way communications in paired spectrum, and time division duplex (TDD) is used for unpaired spectrum.
Voice traffic is inherently symmetric, and very well suited to paired spectrum. Broadband services tend to be highly asymmetric (for example, web surfing has much more traffic downstream toward the user than upstream toward the Internet). So unpaired spectrum would make more efficient use of the available spectrum--broadband services in paired spectrum will waste much of the spectrum assigned to uplink. WiMAX, the leading candidate for next-generation broadband wireless services, supports both paired FDD and unpaired TDD, but most WiMAX development and deployments have used unpaired TDD.
Spectrum Arithmetic Fails the "Good for Broadband" Test
Let's first get to our bottom line. As Barry West stated clearly in his WCA talk, "For high speed data transmission to have reasonable costs, you have to go to a wider channel." And in our view that is the crux of the problem of the way the 700 MHz spectrum is being divided up. Broadband data would ideally use wide channels of unpaired spectrum. Instead, the present FCC band plan favors paired rather than unpaired spectrum and narrow rather than wide channels--it is optimized for yesterday's voice rather than tomorrow's data.
The FCC plan allocates 66 MHz of the commercial spectrum to paired and only 12 MHz to unpaired (a 5:1 paired to unpaired ratio), and further divides the unpaired 12 MHz into two 6 MHz blocks. The paired spectrum is mostly in 6 MHz pairs (one pair is 10 MHz). Only half of the total spectrum in each block can be used to carry downlink traffic--the vast majority of the traffic for most Internet applications. Today's wireless technologies will probably average no better than 3 bits per Hertz, so a 6 MHz block--paired or unpaired--might be capable of carrying 18 Mbps on the downlink. Because of the range of the 700 MHz band, this could cover hundreds of square miles and tens of thousands to millions of homes depending on population density. Simple arithmetic shows that the amount of bandwidth available to each home is best measured in kilobits per second -- that's fine for voice service, but hardly broadband by anyone's definition.
By comparison, the typical cable system today carries more than 100 6 MHz channels over a combination of fiber and coaxial cable serving about 500 homes; most of those channels are still devoted to analog television today, but that will go away quickly once analog television goes off the air in less then two years. Fiber to the home (FTTH) could carry even more bandwidth to each home. Anyone who thinks that 700 MHz is magically going to transform broadband communications hasn't done the math.
Aside from 700 MHz, there's already a lot of higher-frequency bandwidth allocated to cellular voice and wireless broadband services. The United States currently has nearly 300 MHz of licensed paired spectrum already auctioned for cellular services: 208 MHz in the existing cellular bands, plus 90 MHz in the new AWS-1 band auctioned in the summer of 2006. The US has also auctioned about 200 MHz of unpaired spectrum in the 2.3 MHz (WCS) and 2.5 MHz (BRS) bands. These higher frequencies don't cover as wide a range as 700 MHz, but there's a lot available.
We came away from the 700 MHz discussions at WCA rather dismayed by the absence of public policy leadership in the United States. A rational "top down" analysis of the spectrum requirements would conclude that broadband wireless needs unpaired spectrum, allocated in large blocks and licensed on a national basis to encourage widespread deployment. Instead we have tiny blocks of paired spectrum to be auctioned in a fragmented fashion, with the FCC rushing to start the auction and put the money in the bank.
Anyone who had hoped that the 700 MHz auction would create an opportunity for new entrants to challenge the entrenched wireless carriers, or to provide wireless competition to wireline broadband, will probably be severely disappointed. There's too little spectrum, of the wrong kind, in too small blocks, fragmented into small geographical areas. The clever application of technology and innovation may help, but the laws of physics remain. The draft rules favor the existing cellular carriers--who already own lots of unused spectrum--to buy more spectrum for their existing voice services, and then warehouse it until they need it.
Frontline, Google, the FCC and Open Access
More Safety for Citizens or Land Grab?
There is now a very vocal debate about the bidding rules and the approach for deploying wireless services for public safety. Many proposals favor reconfiguring the upper 700 MHz bandplan, especially for reallocating a portion of the public safety band for broadband wireless services.
One of the more radical proposals, from Frontline Wireless LLC, recommends setting specific rules for the 10 MHz nationwide paired block, sharing it with the 6 MHz paired broadband public safety band with priority to public safety in an emergency. Some view the proposed approach as a clever way to fund the buildout of the public safety infrastructure, others as a cynical way to obtain 10 MHz of prime spectrum at a reduced price.
In early July, Google asked the FCC to require the bidders for one of the paired bands to agree to several requirements, including fully open access. Subsequently, Google promised to meet the FCC's $4.6 billion reserve price if the FCC adopted four proposed auction rules covering open applications, open devices, open services, and open networks. This would be in stark contrast to today's "smart phones" which are typically locked to specific networks, applications, and content.
FCC Chairman Martin has circulated draft rules with a narrower vision for open access, in which consumers would be able to connect any device to the network and use the network for any lawful application. Martin's proposal does not require a wholesale model. And so the jockeying has gone, with each faction representing its interests. Verizon, as an incumbent, naturally is against open access and calls it "intervention in the markets".
All this positioning and debate won't go on much longer. The FCC has scheduled an open meeting on July 31, 2007 at which time they are expected to resolve many of the auction rules. At that point we should know better whether anything has changed.
All this discussion has been from a US-centric point of view, but really has much broader implications. Mobile voice services have had an enormous global impact over the past decade, and mobile broadband is likely to have a similar far-reaching effect. Assuming that countries outside the US approach the allocation of 700 MHz spectrum in a more rational and purpose-driven way--as many have with cellular and some already have with broadband--the US may well end up with its own systems which are useless in the rest of the world. That will be a shame.
Readers of this newsletter will recall that more than two years we started setting up a virtual private network between our Florida vacation condo and the production network at home. We planned to use VPN when we're at our condo to access files in our home network, and when we're at home to diagnose problems with the PC in the condo. We found that VPN is not for the faint-hearted, and failed several times to get it working.
When we last wrote about VPN, we were coping with two problems: getting dynamic DNS (DDNS) running reliably, so we could establish links between two VPN firewalls with dynamic IP addresses; and setting up the parameters of the VPN link for persistent connections. We've finally resolved both problems and now have a fully-operational VPN link.
More than a year ago, Netgear issued firmware releases for both VPN firewalls (one at home and the other at our condo). After upgrading both firewalls, we found that DDNS now worked reliably, updating the remote DDNS server whenever a dynamic IP address changed. The two firewalls could connect with each other by name, even if one or both IP addresses changed.
So the remaining problem was setting up the VPN parameters. We thought we were close the last time we paid attention to VPN. Since we had planned a vacation visit to our condo in early July, we decided to focus on getting VPN working during the visit.
Several weeks before we left, we re-established the test network in our house, so we could simulate the condo over one broadband connection while the production network continued to operate over the other. (We had installed the second broadband connection when we first started working with VPN more than two years ago, but had disconnected it while VPN was on the back burner.) Netgear had issued several new firmware releases for our VPN firewalls, so we again updated both firewalls in our house to the current release. We then configured the VPN parameters on the two firewalls at home, and VPN seemed to work fine.
We then started testing the VPN link, and it finally worked the way we planned it two years ago. We had been testing a Buffalo TeraStation Live as a home media server, and we were able to access the TeraStation from the condo—we looked at pictures in our image archive, and played a stored video on the condo PC.
When we used our laptop PCs to access the home network through the VPN gateway, we were delighted to find that we could access our Windows NT domain. We could read and write files on our home desktop PCs and Windows servers, and could access the web server at home to browse our home intranet.
We finally had the condo-to-home mechanisms working properly, and we turned our attention to the home-to-condo mechanisms. Our condo is occupied by rental guests most of the time, and they sometimes report problems with the PC at the condo. Many of our guests are tech-savvy, so Dave can talk them through diagnosing and repairing the problem over the phone, but it takes time away from their vacation.
What we really wanted was a mechanism for Dave to take control of the condo PC from home, and he had long planned to use the "Remote Desktop" feature of Windows XP to do this. We had first encountered Remote Desktop when we played with the late-lamented Smart Displays four years ago; Remote Desktop is a little clumsy, but does seem to do the job.
While we were at the condo, we enabled Remote Desktop and tested it from Dave's notebook PC. It worked just fine--although Dave found it a little spooky to see the Windows desktop of the condo PC on his notebook screen, with the condo PC's web browser pointed to our corporate intranet at home!
For more information, on the VPN network in our condo, please see
We received an email from reader Jeff Goldberg with a correction to our April 12, 2007 report regarding our coverage of Digital Fountain's forward error correction (FEC) technology in the DVB IPTV standard.
Jeff wrote: "We haven't spoken for a long time, but as one of the key contributors to the DVB IPTV standard, I would like to correct your April report. The optional FEC within the DVB IPI standard consists of a unique hybrid of 1D Pro-MPEG compatible COP3 FEC and the 2D Raptor codes, although other codes can be used. Only the 1D is mandatory, so strictly whilst DF's Raptor technology has been adopted, it is an option within an option..."
2007 FTTH Conference & Expo: The Content Revolution—Filling the Pipe
The FTTH Conference & Expo, Sponsored by the FTTH Council, will be held September 30 to October 4 in Orlando, FL. It will focus on the content that will fill the fiber pipe, as well as the technical, business and implementation decisions that service providers, developers and municipalities are making. On Wednesday, October 3, we will be presenting "Home Networking Technologies for Today and Tomorrow". ( www.ftthconference.com )
Everything You Needed to Know About Home Networking and Were Afraid To Ask
We hope you’ll join us on October 4, when Sandy and Dave hold a half-day workshop (8:00 am to noon) on Home Networking. The session starts at a basic level and will translate the "tech-speak" into facts and help attendees evaluate and choose what is needed inside new versus existing homes and what technologies have staying power for the future. You can register online for this optional workshop.
TelcoTV Conference & Expo 2007
We have attended TelcoTV for several years and find it a good source of information and contacts for the converging ecosystems of broadband and entertainment. It is being held October 23--25, 2007 in Atlanta, GA. Its coverage spans MobileTV, IPTV and NetVideo and their impact on service providers around the world. One of this year's keynoters is Chris Rice, CTO of AT&T. ( www.shorecliffcommunications.com/telcotv07 )
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