Archive for October, 2008

Update: Intercarrier comp, USF reform vote pushed to December

Though the Federal Communications Commission had scheduled a vote for next Tuesday on broad changes in intercarrier compensation and universal service fund (USF) policies, the prospects for passage of those major new initiatives — still unseen by the public — is diminishing as opposition grows. [Updated below]

Infinera: What spending slowdown?

Optical equipment vendor Infinera is apparently not seeing the same broad carrier spending slowdown related to economic uncertainty that other vendors are reporting.

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How to lose a broadband customer on moving day

Customers moving is a chronic source of customer churn for telecom service providers, which is why some telcos have banded together to trade moving customers among one another and prevent them from switching to cable providers in the process.

Why, then, would AT&T make it so easy for customers to switch broadband providers when they merely transfer service from one location to another in the same town?

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FCC eyes intercarrier comp overhaul

The Federal Communications Commission this week began internally reviewing proposals for reforming intercarrier compensation policies, which have been crying out for reform for some time. But it remains to be seen whether the commission will have enough time to follow through on its plans.
[Update: For the latest on these plans, click here.]

Comptel: Signs of things to come?

At the Comptel event in Orlando this week, there were the obvious signs of last-minute cutbacks and cancellations. The show floor was smaller and scattered throughout were empty booths, and booths that had expanded at the last minute to fill an empty space.

 To be sure, unlike at other events that include exhibits, Comptel’s business goes on equally in meeting rooms and in its deal center, as on the show floor. The wholesale service providers I talked to all said their meeting rooms were booked and few people, if any, had pulled out at the last minute.

But the halls were buzzing with talk of the global economic crisis and no one was pretending it didn’t matter.  While saying they hadn’t seen signs of business cutbacks yet, a number of industry leaders admitted a slowdown may be inevitable.

So how does the industry prepare for rocky times? One obvious answer is to be flexible in working with business customers, many of whom may be relectant to get locked into new long-term deals or may want to renegotiate existing contracts to reflect changes or cutbacks within their business.

The bad times could represent an opportunity for savvy service providers to develop cost-effective managed services that bring productivity to small to mid-sized businesses without requiring massive capital outlay or hiring new and expensive IT personnel.  The keys here are proper pricing and ease-of-use.

Telecom services aren’t going to become less valuable to busineses during a slowdown. Iif anything, they could become more valuable, if the telecom industry rises to the challenge and helps its customers find ways to reduce business travel expense and commuting, and more effectively use Web-based applications and other new tools to make employees more productive.

Ciena: Spending slowdown spreading to Tier 2s, enterprises

At an analyst event today, Ciena indicated that the current caution in spending among service providers is spreading to Tier 2 carriers and enterprises.

College students choose Wi-Fi over beer

Last December, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced survey results that consumers would rather kick their coffee habit than give up Wi-Fi. This year, it appears consumers have added another expendable favorite beverage – beer – to the list. According to a survey conducted by the Wi-Fi Alliance and Wakefield Research, 90% of college students said Wi-Fi access is as essential to education as classrooms and computers, and if forced to choose, almost half would give up beer before Wi-Fi.

The study also found that three in five wouldn’t even go to a college that didn’t offer free Wi-Fi. Of the respondents, 73% said Wi-Fi helps them get better grades – something beer probably couldn’t do. Students are accessing Wi-Fi outside of the classroom or library as well. Of the 500 college students surveyed, 55% also accessed Wi-Fi in a coffee shop or restaurant, 47% in the park and 24% in their cars. The availability of Wi-Fi at these types of locations influenced whether a student would even go there.

While many universities have had Wi-Fi access on campus for several years now, 802.11n is changing the game, according to Kelly Davis, marketing director at the Wi-Fi Alliance, a global non-profit comprised of 300 companies. She said that the performance capabilities and range and benefits of the updated Wi-Fi standard are enabling the Wi-Fi market to really take off. The Wi-Fi Alliance certification program, introduced in 2000, has now certified more than 4,800 products on 802.11n, including digital cameras, PDAs, mobile phones and other handheld consumer devices.

In keeping with the beverage comparisons, Davis said that Wi-Fi is like water. There will be locations where a free water fountain is available, but other places you will have to – or want to – pay for it. In business environments, it is still largely pay for play, whereas coffee shops and similar hang-out spots are using Wi-Fi as a differentiator by making it free for consumers.

At the collegiate level, ABI Research expects to see Wi-Fi penetration in U.S. universities at 99% by 2013. The research firm also found that Wi-Fi equipment revenue in the global higher education market will reach $837 million by 2013, up from $137 million in 2007.

“802.11n is absolutely the future of Wi-Fi and is very compelling for anybody trying to do a large deployment and accommodate a lot of users,” Davis said.

As a generation that grew up with Wi-Fi access as part of their daily lives, those entering college have come to consider free Wi-Fi the norm. As has been the trend in most technologies, where Generation Y goes, the rest of the industry usually follows. College campuses should prove to be the best testing ground to really try the limits of 802.11n. With a group of thousands of highly mobile, diverse and spread out students who expect coverage everywhere – whether in the dorm or in a remote area of the quad – the environment is highly different than the enterprise. Free, ubiquitous Wi-Fi may not decrease drinking on college campuses, but if it can meet students’ expectations of fast, easy connectivity anywhere and on any Internet-connected device, Wi-Fi’s track record of success will continue past graduation.

Don’t Personalize; Socialize

Andy Lippman

Andy Lippman, associate director of the MIT Media Lab and a “visiting fellow” (love that title) at Nortel Networks, gave a fascinating keynote speech here at Telephony Live in Chicago this week.


October 2008
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