Archive for August, 2009

Analyst predicts IP STB revival

IP set-top boxes will generate a market value of more than $3 billion by 2014, according to data today from ABI Research. Spurred by the digital transition, ABI found that STBs now have a more crucial role in the home as they are used to access entertainment and information services provided by pay TV providers. more

FLO TV launches audience measurement system

FLO TV might not be willing to tell exactly how big its audience is, but it will sell second-by-second viewership data of its subscribers to get advertisers on board. The multicast mobile television service, a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), today announced it has partnered with digital audience measurement company Rentrak (NASDAQ:RENT) to provide comprehensive standard viewership and impression reporting for Qualcomm’s FLO TV live mobile TV service. more

Dynamic green routing offers 40% cost savings

Internet-centric businesses could cut their energy costs as much as 40% by shifting their data dynamically to wherever energy prices are lowest at any particular time, according to a study from researchers at MTI, Carnegie Mellon University and Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ: AKAM). more

CDMA getting voice boost

When Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ, NYSE:VOD) chief technology officer Tony Melone raised the possibility last spring of sunsetting VZW’s EV-DO network after its long-term evolution (LTE) network took root, he made no such proscription for the operator’s 2G network. CDMA 1X will be with Verizon for the long haul, he said, for the simple reason it does voice efficiently and well. And with new technology improvements to the decade-old 1X standard, CDMA will do voice even better in the future–on the order of four times more efficiently. more

Carrier M&A activity drops off

I was struck by the apparent drop-off in RLEC M&A activity this year as described in Frontier Communications’ (NYSE: FTR) recent regulatory filings. Leading up to the mid-tier telco’s deal to acquire nearly 5 million access lines from Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Frontier was only considering one other major deal, and even that didn’t get very far.

It’s a stark contrast with last year, when offers were flying in every direction across the RLEC sector, including proposals for three-way mergers. Embarq and CenturyTel talked with at least five other companies about serious M&A offers before the two merged last fall.

And it wasn’t just the RLECs. M&A offers were flying in the CLEC sector, too, last year. The Wall Street Journal reported for the first time only last week that more

Open access: The opponents have a few points to make

In yesterday’s online commentary, I talked about why I think open access is the right approach for the broadband networks being built with $7.2 billion in federal funds. I received a number of very articulate comments from people who strongly disagreed with me, and I think they are worth sharing. more

Windstream sells distribution arm

Windstream (NYSE: WIN) just sold its product distribution subsidiary to Walker & Associates. You’ll recall that in March, another mid-sized independent telco, Embarq (now CenturyLink), sold its equipment distributor arm to KGP Telecommunications. In an odd coincidence, both Walker and KGP are helmed by mother-and-son duos.

As carriers gird for FCC fight, an omen down under

As the new FCC Chairman focuses “relentlessly” on competition, he cannot have failed to notice the recent admission of Australian carrier Telstra that it has engaged in anti-competitive practices, denying rivals the legal right to interconnect by falsely claiming there was no room for new equipment in seven exchange facilities – an admission that came only after the departure of its former chief executive officer, Sol Trujillo.

Known for his adversarial relationship with unions and the government (which owned the company just four years ago and still owns a large part), Trujillo will be remembered by Australians as “the one who took on the government and lost,” one analyst said. As the former CEO of US West, Trujillo must have been shocked to learn that a Fortune 500 company can take on the government and lose. Now Australia is barreling ahead with an ambitious plan to build a $34-billion open nationwide network, dramatically changing Telstra’s tone and inspiring others around the globe. more

$50 Million Reasons Social Media Is A Feature, Not A Business

Today, my colleague Sarah Reedy described how social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are adversely affecting personal relationships.

Maybe more importantly for our service provider readers, it appears social media platforms have only moderate ability to affect the bottom line.

The proof? Cutting-edge social media site FriendFeed — which pioneered many of social media’s most compelling features — was sold to Facebook for a mere $50 million.

Now $50 million isn’t pocket change — but it’s not serious change either. The swallower here, Facebook, is probably worth at least ten times that much, once again, a nice round figure but not exactly the size of the companies Facebook ostensibly threatens, including wireless operators and Web companies like Google.

So what’s the deal? I’d argue that what FriendFeed — and, one could argue, the even more popular Twitter — have going for them are features, not services. Features are things people like and use; services are things customers pay for. FriendFeed did the first and in many ways best implementations of important new features, things like activity streams, content aggregation, distributed conversation tracking, real-time search and more.

Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to build a real business around these things. Advertisers don’t really want to sit alongside social media content and social media users have proven they don’t really want to pay for these features. Why? Well once the free genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to shove it back in and start charging even small fees.

How can such features be monetized? The best avenue may be the mobile world, where operators can add such features to existing revenue-generating text messaging/mobile IM services and either boost fees or use the extra features to hold current (and lucrative) fee levels steady. The app store paradigm also offer a path to charging for software clients that support such services, but once again, the prices for such mini-apps tend to swiftly move toward free as well.

It’s not completely game-over for companies building social media businesses. Twitter, with its real-time conversation and search capabilities, holds major promise. With Facebook swallowing rivals, as well as getting ready to launch its own search feature shortly, that social media upstart is still positioned to cash in as well. It remains to be seen, however, if the real value in both of those businesses will ultimately devolve into features or evolve into real, revenue-generating services.

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Harris Stratex adds WiMax customer in India

Networks solutions provider Harris Stratex Networks (NASDAQ: HSTX) announced today it has inked a deal with India-based telecom service provider ICOMM to provide an end-to-end mobile WiMax network for its subsidiary, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL). Through the partnership, Harris Stratex will extend BSNL’s public wireless network to enterprise and retail customers in urban areas across the southern Indian state of Kerala. more

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