Archive for January, 2009

Super Bowl gets a taste of DAS

Big events like the Super Bowl generate loads of wireless traffic, not just from voice calls and SMS–the Super Bowl may be one of the few times a wireless user ever sends a picture or video message. Wireless operators typical handle the overload by hauling a few cell sites on wheels, or COWs, into the parking lot, but at least two operators are taking a different approach to adding more macro cells. They’re using ADC’s distributed antenna system architecture (DAS) to get into the guts of Raymond James Stadium.  

ADC vice president of product management John Spindler won’t name the two operators. Sprint has announced it has deployed a DAS system throughout the stadium, while Verizon Wireless has said it has built an in-building network. Neither named ADC as their vendor, but you can infer what you choose.

Macro cells are pretty lousy way of covering a stadium: loads of concrete and steel cover concourses and underground facilities. It take something awfully powerful to penetrate that mess. The DAS, though, takes a sector that would normally radiate from the top of an external tower and distrubtes it throughout a building in as many as 32 discrete remote modules. Instead of transmitting from a single point, the whole cell can be gerrymandered throughout the concourses and training facilities of a building. Spindler likens it to an “RF sprinkler system.”

The result is better indoor coverage in the places football worshippers are likely to use it the most: the concourses the concession stands, and–I hate to say it–the men’s bathrooms. And just how much will that coverage be needed? Spindler said that last year’s Super Bowl generated 2.1 Terabytes of data on a single operator’s network, and the previous year’s event at Dolphin stadium–which ADC also outfitted–at one point hosted 15,000 simultaneous phone calls.

Nortel exiting mobile WiMAX completely

Nortel is ending its short-lived WiMAX partnership with Alvarion, announcing today it would exit the Mobile WiMAX business entirely to focus on its other businesses.

“We are taking rapid action to narrow our strategic focus to areas where we can drive maximum return on investment.  We will work closely with Alvarion to transition our mobile WiMAX customers to them and assure customers that they will continue to benefit from leading-edge technology and high-quality service,” Nortel president of carrier networks Richard Lowe said in a statement.  “Our continued success in the wireless business requires us to focus our energy on opportunities with long-standing customers. This will position Nortel more effectively to capitalize on future resurgence of carrier spend levels and drive value to the business.”

Last June, Nortel announced plans to discontinue its in-house WiMAX radio developmentand instead partner with Alvarion, a strategic sales agreement that paired Nortel’s access service network (ASN) gateway with Alvarion’s WiMAX base station. Nortel, however, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protectionearlier this month, forcing it re-evaluate the viability of its various business groups. The Alvarion venture appears to be one of the first casualties.

Business just isn’t sexy anymore

The AT&T earnings call focused heavily on wireless and on Uverse, with AT&T business services taking something of a back seat. Interestingly, the same thing was true a day earlier during Verizon’s call — the presentation of data certainly includes business results but the focus of most questions is on wireless and on FiOS.

I thought it was important to mention the news that Verizon COO Denny Strigl casually dropped halfway through the call that Verizon is teaming up with Accenture  on global sales of its network and professional services, but in checking out the competition, I find I was apparently wrong. No one else thought this was that big a deal.

When did global business become too boring to discuss? AT&T CFO Rick Lindner talked today about revenues from AT&T’s status as IBM’s primary global network services provider starting to kick in, as the two global giants move country by country through the process of moving IBM traffic onto AT&T’s network and learning how to work together. This seems to me to be significant, but again the headlines are fixated on iPhones and Uverse.

By Lindner’s own account, business sales make up 36% of AT&T’s revenues, trailing wireless at 41%. But as Lindner also repeatedly said, a growing number of AT&T’s business sales involve wireless services and that number is only going to grow with greater adoption of wireless data.

There was a time when business services drove everything else — consumers got technology only after businesses had helped drive economies of scale that made it cheaper and thus more affordable. Are those days gone?

Nortel ex-CMO comes to Juniper

We knew rivals of Nortel Networks were pouncing on the vendor’s bankruptcy as the best way to gain share in a tough market. (Some Nortel customers have pledged to stay true to their supplier, however.) Juniper Networks, for example, is sending letters to Nortel’s Middle Eastern resellers this month trying to convert them.

Today Juniper announced its new chief marketing officer is former Nortel CMO Lauren Flaherty, who left Nortel last fall along with CTO John Roese. Flaherty, who replaces Juniper’s current CMO, Penny Wilson, may be one of the many Nortel ex-employees whose severance packages have been frozen by the company’s bankruptcy proceedings and thus may have a grudge fueling her fervor to contribute to her old firm’s demise.

A hopeful sign from Adtran?

For what it’s worth, Adtran — always an early earnings reporter and thus a sort of canary in the coal mine for equipment vendors — reported a modest increase in order activity in the new year, across all product categories (and Adtran sells into both the carrier access and enterprise spaces), compared with both December and November.

However, the company attached to those comments the caveat that they’re only talking about the first three weeks of the quarter, which is not enough information upon which to forecast even that same quarter. The company is projecting flat to slightly negative sequential revenue growth in Q109.

“Entering the year, our sense was many enterprises and service providers would begin spending through 2009 more slowly, in order to maximize capital budget flexibility through the year, which still may be the case,” UBS analysts wrote in a research note on Adtran today.

UBS has said telco spending could drop as much as 10% this year. It’s unknown, however, how federal aid tied to economic and broadband stimulus will affect the year.

Truphone continues smartphone rampage

Mobile VoiP provider Truphone today announced support for the Android operating system. While that doesn’t include a heck of a lot of phones just yet–pretty much the T-Mobile G1 in the U.S., the U.K. and soon in Germany–the Google-developed mobile OS has a lot of momentum behind it. Motorola, Sony Ericsson, LG Electronics and Samsung have all committed to developing Android phones (see the full list of Android partner’s here), and, in the case of Motorola, have even dumped the Symbian operating system to do so. Truphone may have just expanded its potential future customer base considerably.

Truphone has developed a VoIP calling service that uses a smartphone’s Wi-Fi radio or local number routing to offload international calls onto its SIP-based network, thus allowing customers to avoid the outrageous per-minute charges most operators bill for international calls. Over the last two years it has added more smartphone platforms to its service–including Nokia S60, BlackBerry and the iPhone–and has expanded the capabilities of its client to support messaging and interoperability with other VoIP providers like Skype. But Truphone has even bigger plans. As Telephony reported last week, Truphone plans to launch an MVNO that would combine the best elements of the different roaming, messaging and international calling platforms it offers. It still isn’t offering up many details, but we’re bound to find out more at Mobile World Congress next month.

Apple not interested in more wireless experimentation

Although Apple’s first wireless gamble paid off immensely, the company isn’t ready for more experimentation just yet. On Apple’s first quarter earnings call held this afternoon, Apple’s fill-in CEO Tim Cook shot down rumors of an iPhone Nano and a Mac version of the netbook, a mini-laptop made for mobile users. more

Is green good business?

I’ve spent considerable time writing about green initiatives within the telecom industry — you can read it all here – and I personally consider the telecom industry to be at the heart of a lot of what we can do to save energy. But for all of that, I’ve seen very little in the way of advertising and promotion from telecom service providers where environmental benefits are concerned.

I don’t know if this is because advertising dollars are very tight, or because telecom players aren’t convinced consumers care. Enterprises certainly do - because energy savings affects the bottom line — but advertising may not be the way telecom service providers are getting their message out to their enterprise and SMB customers.

But I think promoting the envirnomental benefits of today’s telecom services has merit, and it’s something I’d like to see the industry do. Such advertising would raise the visibility of telework, telepresence, remote energy management, and remote monitoring services, all of which will be based on broadband connections. The current projections for 2009 revenues in telecom don’t look good, but lowering broadband prices and battaning down the expense hatches only goes so far.

I think telecom needs to take a broader view, and display some of its vision for what the future could be, if we made better use of telecom resources already available to us.

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Social networking not just child’s play

Once the domain of teens and young adults, social networks are attracting more older members than ever before. Generation Y users still outnumbers their parents, but the share of adult Internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years, up from 8% in 2005 to 35% now, according to a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. more

What is Martin’s legacy?

Now that Kevin Martin is leaving the FCC, what is his legacy likely to be? The things that immediately come to mind are the negative ones - many within VoIP are convinced Martin singlehandedly undermined their industry while the cable industry is probably throwing wild parties tonight, quite certain that Martin singled out cable for particularly onerous attention such as his constant pushing for a la carte programming.

Martin is also criticized for backing incumbents too often and undermining competitors in the process. Under his watch, inaction by the FCC allowed Verizon to win some forbearance from competition, but later requests by Verizon and others for greater forbearance from competition were rejected.

I think the thing that most concerned me was how often the FCC simply ducked rather than deal with difficult issues - broadband penetration, Net Neutrality, the Universal Service Fund, intercarrier compensation — were all things that languished for years. Granted, Martin attempted to push an intercarrier compensation plan through in the final months — what if he taken that leadership stand earlier?

Having said all that, it’s unfair to expect one man to solve issues that have plagued this industry for years. And he must be given credit for establishing a regulatory environment such that both AT&T and Verizon - and particularly Verizon — were able to invest billions in their networks to upgrade their access networks.

So what am I missing here? How would you evaluate Martin’s performance as FCC Chairman?

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