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So Verizon has an iPhone: Empires (of technology) have risen and fallen since Apple introduced its iPhone in 2007, and the question constantly on everyone's lips: When will Verizon get a model that works on its network? The answer: 3 February for existing customers and 10 February for new ones.
The CDMA-based iPhone has piles of tradeoffs, but these aren't necessarily worse than using a GSM iPhone on AT&T or other networks around the world.
The ViPhone doesn't have LTE. No phone has LTE. We're not going to see LTE-based phones with decent battery life and size for several months, and the early ones will be monsters of compromise. There is no agreed-upon voice standard for LTE networks yet, which means Verizon will make compromises in whatever voice option it picks (initially) before later upgrading to something more universally supported. I don't expect an LTE iPhone until 2012, because coverage and other tradeoffs won't make it desirable until then.
You can't talk and use 3G data at the same time. Verizon opted for EVDO (Evolution Data Only), which tells a story with its name. Voice is handled separately and can't be used simultaneously. Wi-Fi and voice can be used at the same time.
It's Verizon Wireless, for cripe's sake. Verizon has a history of offering less-than-forthcoming information about its service plans, and is in the middle of settling a dispute in which it denied for years charging people $1.99 and other fees for inadvertent usage of mobile data without a plan (when pressing a conveniently located button that's on every featurephone). People don't like any carrier, but Verizon didn't make itself any friends with this.
We don't know pricing plans yet. Verizon's 3G service plans aren't bad, but they aren't enormously better than AT&T's unless you use a ton of data each month.
Worldwide roaming isn't an option. Despite being 45-percent owned by GSM carrier Vodafone, the ViPhone won't work on most networks worldwide because it's CDMA only. It's odd that with Vodafone selling many millions of iPhones into other markets, Verizon Wireless, Vodafone, and Apple wouldn't have teamed up to offer both. There are chips, from Qualcomm notably, that allow GSM/CDMA switchover.
You won't be able to use your ViPhone in Canada or Mexico, notably, and you can't swap out a SIM in GSM markets for another carrier, something that carriers allow or make easy in some markets, or that you can jailbreak to allow. (Update: Canada and Mexico do have CDMA operators, and Verizon supports roaming. Coverage in Mexico is quite limited for voice and data; in Canada, there's broader availability, but 3G data isn't everywhere.)
AT&T has a path to faster service, with HSPA+ (21 Mbps) overlaying HSPA 7.2 (7.2 Mpbs) as the year goes on. Verizon is stuck at 3.1 Mbps EVDO Rev. A until it has a sufficient LTE footprint to jump its customers to that. (AT&T and Verizon will both require new hardware for faster networks, though. An iPhone 4 will not, to my knowledge, be firmware upgradable to HSPA+.)
If you live in an area with poor AT&T coverage and great Verizon coverage, which likely amounts to tens of millions of people's homes and workplaces around the US, then you are suddenly able to own an iPhone of your very own. AT&T's coverage can be sketchy in many parts of the country, notably exurbs and large parts of New England.
Verizon and Apple are offering a mobile hotspot feature (pricing not yet known), which lets the iPhone be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot, just like a MiFi, or Android 2.2 phone, or several other smartphones. This lets up to five devices connect. GSM networks and the GSM iPhone could support this feature, too. Apple has been keeping this in its back pocket, perhaps to save for Verizon. (I don't believe AT&T, unique among the carriers, has any phone with a mobile hotspot feature enabled
, nor does it offer a MiFi or similar router to the general public. Correction: AT&T reminded me via email that they had added a MiFi to their product line last November.)
Heavy data users will have an unlimited plan restored to them if Verizon offers its $30/mo unlimited data plan to new iPhone users. AT&T removed that plan for new subscribers in June, and has a 2 GB/mo plan for $25, with $10/GB overage fees (charged by the whole GB for any fraction).
Verizon will sell many millions of its CDMA iPhone to existing customers (upgrading from featurephones and sidegrading from other smartphones) and new customers (who have never owned a smartphone or are fleeing AT&T, cancellation fees be damned).
Verizon has the best and most solid 3G network in the US, proven time and again by independent third parties. AT&T has continually improved its network coverage and speed, and has great plans for 2011.
Can we have some competition now, please?
Apple is letting Verizon Wireless sell the iPad: The trick? Verizon will only offer through its 2,000-plus stores the Wi-Fi iPad, not the 3G model. The 3G iPad works only over GSM networks (up to HSPA 7.2). Instead, Verizon will sell you a plain Wi-Fi iPad ($500, $600, and $700 for 16, 32, and 64 GB); or, for an extra $130, it'll throw in a MiFi router. That $130 is the same price difference Apple and its partners collect for a 3G iPad over its Wi-Fi–only brethren.
Verizon pairs the iPad and MiFi with plans nothing like what the carrier has offered before. These are fixed-price, moderate-use offers with no termination penalty; the terms are just like AT&T's offer for the 3G iPad, but Verizon's prices are better. Verizon will charge $20 for 1 GB ($20 per GB over that) and $35 and $50 for 3 GB and 5 GB (with $10 per GB overage fees).
AT&T charges $15 for 250 MB and $25 for 2 GB for its 3G iPad plans. Additional units of each can be purchased at the same price after the 30-day period expires or you use up all the data. Virgin Mobile offers unlimited Sprint Nextel 3G broadband with a USB modem or MiFi for $40 for a 30-day period.
Because the MiFi can handle up to five devices over Wi-Fi, one could argue that if you don't need an iPad and do need a MiFi, this is a slick deal. Buy the package and sell the iPad without even opening its box. You'll probably get a few dollars under list for it.
At the end of a slow Wi-Fi week, a deal: Delta has over 100 aircraft equipped with Aircell Gogo Internet service. The 126SKY2 coupon code gets you 20 percent off on Gogo on Delta flights until 30 April (conditions apply; follow link for details).
Amazon.com is offering a so-called Black Friday special on Eye-Fi Share:
The 2 GB Wi-Fi-enabled Secure Digital card normally runs $90; it's $65 while the sale lasts.
Given that Eye-Fi introduced a limited-time-only 4 GB "Anniversary" model that replaced the 2 GB Share version in its current line-up, and that the Anniversary model was $130 list but $100 for Costco members, it's pretty clear that the 2 GB won't re-appear, the 4 GB model will drop in price, and Amazon's acting as a clearance center.
The Eye-Fi Share lets you upload pictures over a local network to a designated computer, or upload via a Wi-Fi network for which the Eye-Fi is configured to connect over the Internet to Eye-Fi's servers, and from there to a specified photo-sharing, social-network, or photo-printing service.
I'm a fan of the Eye-Fi, although I favor the currently $130 Explore model (see my review), which comes with geotagging (via Skyhook Wireless) and adds a year of included uploading via Wayport locations (now part of AT&T).
Devicescape scores deal with world's largest handset maker to ease users' connections to Wi-Fi hotspots: Devicescape's middleware lets a user connect to a hotspot--their own or a public one--with very little fuss, using a single super-account that consolidates all other Wi-Fi and hotspot network passwords and accounts. Nokia has been inserting Wi-Fi into an ever-increasing array of devices, which makes Devicescape a perfect match. The deal between the two first puts Devicescape's Nokia-tailored software in a download area for the N95 smartphone and their tablet PC series that includes the N800.
The deal doesn't extend (yet) to cell phones that have Wi-Fi built in; that combination could have huge repercussions for the carriers, especially on phones that can support VoIP over Wi-Fi. Update: The N95 is a smartphone, despite Nokia's strange omission of any phone features in their description of the N95! (Devicescape also offers downloads from their site for E and N Series Nokia phones.)
The second acquisition in the last several months of a significant firm in the AAA (authentication, authorization, accounting) space: Meetinghouse and Funk were independent powerhouses, challenging Microsoft, Cisco, and others domination of a critical area of the networking space with their standalone servers and custom client packages. Both companies were active in the standards process, and I can't tell which was more important in EAP-TTLS, a secure 802.1X authentication method for wired and wireless network access that represents a strong alternative to the Microsoft and Cisco backed (and incompatible) flavors of PEAP. Both companies offered a radical expansion of client options to platforms that otherwise were unserved or had poor built-in supplicants for 802.1X.
Funk was bought by Juniper Networks in a deal closed last December; Cisco now buys Meetinghouse. This is a great deal for Cisco, which already makes a variety of RADIUS and AAA tools, because it lets them answer complaints among customers about choice and configuration by presenting a mature product line that will work perfectly fine with their existing client and server software.
The last remaining firm that I'm aware of at any reasonable scale is Open System Consultants down in Australia which make the Radiator Radius software, a well-liked package that requires some kind of brain expansion tool to configure. I tried, and got it working, but it's the kind of product that needs true dedication to unleash its seemingly bottomless potential, to judge by its manual.
The HotZone Duo comes with one or two radios: The new products compete both against Tropos and BelAir's single-radio mesh nodes, and against BelAir, Cisco, SkyPilot, and Strix's two-plus radio products that offload backbone traffic through switched, mesh, or point-to-multipoint links. A few months ago, the Motomesh division head told me that residential use of metro-scale Wi-Fi couldn't compete against wired service, and was emphasizing the loss in single-radio hopping as packets were rebroadcast over clusters.
But, just as BelAir told me that they had to release a single-radio product to compete against Tropos for price and market niche, I imagine that Motorola wants to sell two-radio solutions that conform to their vision of metro-scale service.
These new products put them somewhat at odds with Tropos, which has been paired with Motorola's Canopy gear as backhaul for their clusters. In the Tropos configuration, a few mesh nodes, typically 4 to 6, are paired with a Canopy radio that uses WiMax point-to-multipoint aggregation to base stations that then in turn use license, high-frequency wireless to further aggregate to fiber points of presence and network operation centers.
Now, Motorola can sell an end-to-end solution, coupled with their existing multi-radio public-safety oriented system that uses both 2.4 GHz and the 4.9 GHz public safety band.
EarthLink contracted with Motorola as their service firm, meaning a division of Motorola handles integrating and maintaining all the technology for the metro-scale operations that will roll out in Anaheim (launching in a few days) and Philadelphia (test network due later this year). EarthLink committed months ago to Tropos and Motorola Canopy for its first five cities.
Tropos knew the writing was on the wall, which is why they now also have a partnership with Alvarion, one of the leading WiMax firms, with a history of broadband wireless gear dating back to the mid-90s.
EarthLink will offer a package to wireless ISPs, operators who want to follow in their footsteps: This ISP Planet article says EarthLink will require roaming and some unspecific conditions for its franchisees, and will request (but not demand) a right of first refusal to buy should the WISP choose to sell its network. EarthLink will provide its architecture plans, its volume equipment pricing deals, and can offer EarthLink products and support. There's no revenue share, an EarthLink exec said at ISPCON last week.
EarthLink also said it was looking to rollup smaller WISPs into its footprint, although it would retain local brand names.
T-Mobile now bundles unlimited Wi-Fi and unlimited GPRS/EDGE for just $29.99 per month for voice subscribers: I don't know when these charges changed, but my friend and colleague Steve Manes, Forbes Magazine's technology columnist, mentioned this in passing in a phone call today. He'd been trying to renew his Treo service with T-Mobile when his old unit died and was told about this new deal.
I tried to find any announcement about this or any coverage, and bupkes. It's possible it flew under the radar. But it's a great deal. While GPRS runs at modem speeds downstream and usually less upstream, EDGE can provide a consistent rate of over 100 Kbps down and about half up. Coupled with Wi-Fi, for the right kind of business traveler or college student, this is a very inexpensive alternative for ubiquitous access.
The T-Mobile Internet plan requires a phone purchase, so make sure you get an EDGE capable phone through which to use the 2.5G service.
Current scores $130m from General Electric and...EarthLink: Huh. Just a few minutes ago, I posted an item at WiMax Networking News about AOL and Clearwire partnering on a service that allows AOL to skip the wires, noting that like EarthLink, AOL must shed dial-up. AOL via Time-Warner may be resold over a major multiple systems cable operator, but they still have many parts of the country where they need a fourth way--beyond phone, cable, and powerline, meaning wireless as the fourth method. I count powerline as number three because the infrastructure is largely in place and it's been viable for much longer than true metro-scale broadband wireless.
So the third way is coming into its own, and EarthLink's investment is a direct result of their need to get customers without working through incumbent phone and cable operators.
It's worth noting that Google invested in Current (at an unspecified level) in July 2005 as part of $100m received from Google, Hearst, and Goldman Sachs. In 2004, Current and a related effort received $70m in investment. Google, too, needs end runs around gatekeepers.
Current offers broadband over powerline (BPL) in Cincinnati, and has a large project underway in Texas. EarthLink will be a retail reseller of Current's offering, but I expect that (per EarthLink's modality) this isn't exclusive.
I'd already heard that cable systems operator Cox was friendly towards Tempe's wireless effort: The NeoReach division of MobilePro is, according to Tempe, buying its fiber-optic feeds from Cox. The announcement today links Cox and MobilePro across Arizona, allowing the company to build out wireless and Wi-Fi services for municipal security and infrastructure overlaid on Cox's network.
Unmentioned in most of the reports of the AT&T/BellSouth merger is Wi-Fi: AT&T runs one of the largest Wi-Fi networks in the country: AT&T's FreedomLink network is operated by Wayport, but branded and operated by the telecom giant. They have thousands of FreedomLink locations comprised largely of The UPS Store/Mailboxes Etc., Barnes and Noble, and Caribou Coffee.
They offer this network--along with several thousand McDonald's outlets directly under contract to Wayport--for $1.99 per month to their DSL subscribers. I haven't seen any numbers on how many DSL subscribers have taken them up on it. An extra $20 per month buys roaming locations across several networks, including Wayport's hotel and airport locations.
The question with the merger, of course, is whether FreedomLink's already national footprint becomes more intensely regional. Does AT&T push the DSL/$1.99 deal to former BellSouth customers? Likely. Does it expand locations in its larger coverage area? Almost certainly. And does Cingular's Wi-Fi plan, which relies on FreedomLink but is smaller and more expensive, become fully integrated with FreedomLink? You gotta hope so.
This could challenge T-Mobile, which currently offers a $20/month unlimited Wi-Fi plan for their over 6,700 domestic locations for existing voice subscribers (1-year commitment required). If AT&T--which will now own 100 percent of Cingular instead of 60 percent--matches or beats that deal for Cingular voice subscribers, that might cause some drainage out of the T-Mobile user pool.
With Cingular offering UMTS nationwide and HSDPA in certain markets, the combination of real 3G speeds, Wi-Fi hotspots, and voice could be a winning bundle over Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon deals. Sprint and Verizon lack good add-on plans for Wi-Fi, although Sprint has a roaming network of nearly 30,000 locations worldwide--they just don't bundle it well and domestic locations are largely FreedomLink's. T-Mobile has a great inclusive network in the US and roaming deals (single login, single bill, but fees) worldwide, but they don't have a 3G cell network.
Tropos has frequently been paired with Motorola Canopy for metro-scale networks: However, Motorola has a division that competes with Tropos, their Motomesh line, which was primed by the acquisition of MeshNetworks. Motomesh doesn't support the notion of residential access via mesh-based 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, but they are all about mobility in city-wide networks, using a combination of proprietary and Wi-Fi encodings and 2.4 and 4.9 GHz radios with up to four radios per device. Tropos, for the time being, focuses on single-radio 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi with user access and mesh occurring on the same devices and channels. Both solutions need backhaul.
EarthLink signed a deal that pairs Tropos with Canopy for their first five city deployments, while Tropos included Canopy among their partners as part of their platform development that allows top-to-bottom management and reporting across an ecosystem of wireless devices--from customer premises adapters (CPEs) to backbone equipment.
Canopy competes head-to-head with Alvarion, with both going after similar market segments with similar technology. Both claim a high degree of WiMax feature compatibility in their current product line-ups and both will be fighting for deployments in municipalities that involve hundreds of base stations. This is the first move I'm aware of by Alvarion that specifically ties their equipment to a relationship with Wi-Fi access. The deployments I'm best aware of are direct broadband wireless replacement.
Dealmac is reporting a semi-ridiculous low price on this best-selling Linksys model: The WRT54G--almost certainly the new version that can't be modified with homebrew firmware--is $54.99 with free shipping at Amazon, but with a coupon code and a rebate coupon, it's just $37.24. Read Dealmac's instructions to get the bargain.
A lot of folks have been eyeing Palm's TX model, with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi included: The list $300 device is long on features, short on memory, but a good all-around handheld in my testing. My favorite "deals" site, dealmac.com--covering much more than Mac products--has ferreted out a Buy.com discount that puts a $270 price tag on the Palm TX including shipping, and then cuts it by $15 off for new Buy.com customers.
Reports say that Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner Cable will resell Sprint Nextel cellular service: Bring out the acronyms because the three MSOs (multiple system operators) or cable giants will become MVNOs, too, or mobile virtual network operators. They will, in turn, license or distribute their content over Sprint's network. All three companies have voice, data, and television services.
Let me spin this into another area, too: Wi-Fi hotspot networks. The cable firms have had some limited experience in building, partnering, and reselling access to various Wi-Fi networks, but none of it is comprehensive. Wayport now manages the largest single Wi-Fi footprint: between it and its partner SBC, they have many thousands of national locations which can be resold under various arrangements. Sprint already resells a 20,000+ hotspot network as an aggregator, which includes many of these locations, too.
It's a likely outcome that the cable companies will offer Wi-Fi/cell converged phones that will work over home networks; that's mentioned in this Reuters story. And it's also likely that the cable firms will offer 3G plans for data alongside voice plans.
Thus the cable companies also have every motivation to offer bundled roaming plans for Wi-Fi hotspots using its own and Wayport and SBC's network alongside a 3G data plan. This starts to look a lot like SBC's own convergence plan with Cingular.
The one stumbling block might be that SBC wouldn't allow the cable firms to aggregate SBC's hotspots, but I'm not sure whether SBC has any good motivation to restrict that kind of access.
Update: The deal is done and also includes Advance/Newhouse as a fourth cable partner. Adelphia customers will be included as they become part of Time-Warner and Comcast networks shortly. Charter and Cablevision aren't party to this deal, but it's possible they will join on.
No mention of wireless data in the news story, whether 3G or Wi-Fi.
Boingo did a deal last week with Birdstep, this week with Tatara: The company's Wi-Fi aggregation software platform is now available for integration with both of the leading 3G software vendors who produce applications or software kits to allow access to data networks.
Companies like Vodafone license Tatara products to provide to their own customers allowing them seamless access to cell data networks. Integrating Boingo means that Tatara's customers can add Wi-Fi hotspots without licensing separate software and requiring their customers to use two programs for access. (Disclosure: JiWire is one of Tatara's customers.)
Free After Rebate catches the latest good deal: With two valid rebates, order the Belkin Wireless Cable/DSL 802.11b Gateway Router for negative five cents plus $9.40 in shipping--oh, and two 37-cent stamps to send in the rebate coupons. Remember to photocopy those receipts and coupons in case someone "forgets" to process your rebate.
This is actually quite a good unit--I recall it well from the 802.11b days. If you need to extend an existing network or set up a network in a place where 802.11b is the fastest speed you'll need, why not settle for free (plus shipping)?
You didn't read it here first, but it's worth noting: Nextel has unique technology that lets them serve businesses who need push-to-talk quite well, but it's a mess of spectrum and their next-generation data plans are all on the drawing board. Sprint needs to be bigger, and wants the business audience, plus they need to roll out PTT. But they have a 3G plan that's committed to. Could be a decent merger of equals or thereabouts in terms of revenue, subscribers, and what they're bringing to the table.
If the merger happens, T-Mobile becomes the distant fourth player in the market. Meanwhile, it's also possible Verizon Wireless will buy Nextel. Verizon Wireless is the only other CDMA carrier in the market now that AT&T Wireless customers as part of Cingular are either on GSM or required to move.
Om Malik has some of his usual great analysis of the matter, including the merger's impact on Flarion (the next-generation non-standard wireless data technology Nextel was trying out) and Motorola (which sells Nextel quite a few handsets).
My favorite bargain site for tech goods, Free after Rebate, notes a free 802.11b card: The Belkin 802.11b PC Card is $25 with a $25 rebate. You pay $6 for shipping. If you were looking for a spare card or a card for an older machine, leap!