Receive new posts as email.
This site operates as an independent editorial operation. Advertising, sponsorships, and other non-editorial materials represent the opinions and messages of their respective origins, and not of the site operator. Part of the FM Tech advertising network.
Entire site and all contents except otherwise noted © Copyright 2001-2010 by Glenn Fleishman. Some images ©2006 Jupiterimages Corporation. All rights reserved. Please contact us for reprint rights. Linking is, of course, free and encouraged.
At Ars Technica, I explain femtocells: In a long article at Ars Technica, I explain what makes femtocells tick, and whether they wind up as a good deal or not for consumers. I've been skeptical for years about femtocells because they are a tricky value proposition for carriers to explain.
"Our network is great, but because it's not, pay us extra money for this thing that we've advertised we can already do."
Not a great sale. Verizon, with the best network for voice in the US, sells its femto for $250, and it's just intended for improving reception. I don't hear complaints about it. People who live in places with poor coverage know that they get great coverage elsewhere, I suppose, and suck it up.
Sprint splits the difference, selling it ($100) for both unlimited calling (with a monthly fee of $10-$20/mo) and pure coverage ($5/mo). Its deal is best.
AT&T charges a relatively low price ($150), but because of complaints about its network coverage and quality in some urban areas, gets the most criticism as it's not precisely what people want. If AT&T coupled the femto with a decent calling plan, it would be more of a sell. AT&T wants $20/mo for unlimited North American family plan calling, which is only slightly cheaper than unlimited calling without being tethered to a femto.
PhotoVu releases Wi-Fi-enabled high-resolution picture frame: I am a gadget junkie, and I confess that I thought these kinds of remote picture frames were super-cool when Amazon.com started taking orders for the first of them many years ago. This latest LCD wonder, the PV1940, is 1280 by 960 pixels and 19 inches (vertical) or 19 by 24 inches (actual frame size, not screen dimensions).
The PV1940 is an update of an earlier model that already supports Wi-Fi; this latest unit, for $100 more, has landscape and portrait hanging modes, an optional DC adapter ($1,399 total) to avoid running through batteries, and an optional on-board 40 Gb hard drive ($1,549 total, presumably including the DC adapter).
You can also control the frame via a PDA with Wi-Fi, which is perhaps the slickest feature: your picture frame can suddenly become a PowerPoint presenter. [link via MacCentral]
A thoughtful reader with no connection to cable companies thought my analysis of DSL versus cable service (in re: SBC's Wi-Fi hotspot offering) was a little harsh: This reader has had great cable modem performance, meeting the promised speeds. But I thought I'd share with you my response. Update: Folks more knowledgeable than I in the workings of the cable world have taken me to task: apparently there's more in common now with DSL and digital cable head ends than a few years ago--my knowledge on this subject is obviously out of date. I've revised this post.
When you buy into a pooled business service like Frame Relay, you can opt for a Committed Information Rate (CIR), or a rate below which the bandwidth will never be unavailable, but above that rate, you're not promised and you may often get higher rates. At one point, I had a 1.5 Mbps frame connection with a 384 CIR. I usually saw peak performance. But I was paying for a pool of bandwidth shared (virtually) with other users from other companies.
I believed that cable still had this same difficulty. However, digital cable head ends, or the points at which entire systems are connected (usually by optical fiber) out to neighborhood cable nodes which lead to hundreds of homes by coax, has much higher capacity and much greater ability to expand than I realized.
With DSL, the effective limit is the size of the DSLAM or DSL aggregator/multiplexer in the C.O. or central office. From the C.O. in most areas that have DSL, there's probably fiber back to the Internet, or something sufficiently high-speed to provide a large enough pool at that end.
So the pool that DSL users share could be higher because of the one-to-one DSL modem to DSL card in the DSLAM relationship. The pool that cable modem users share is at the neighborhood cable node, which limits the maximum amount of bandwidth that the cable companies can offer across the entire neighborhood shared network.
Where I erred in my analysis in this post was thinking that the cost and complexity of cable companies increasing bandwidth more than moderately as demand increased would radically outstrip capacity. But, as one reader, Mike Ritter noted, "It's an open issue if their bandwidth is more expensive to provide than DSLAM bandwidth. My guess is not."
Kerry Williamson brought up an excellent counterpoint to my one-to-one DSL argument, too: "Cable companies are able to provide exactly the same level of service everywhere within their plant [wire service area]. That LOCAL area plant can have a radius of 100 miles (I know, I have designed and built several of them), and have no effect on the service, either data or video. The telephone company and DSL cannot do that. The further from the CO, slower the service. Not so with cable." The more I read about this issue, it's certainly cable's greatest single advantage over DSL's current few mile limit for high-speed performance.
Williamson notes that current technology has the ability to offer in the U.S. 10 streams or pools of about 30 Mbps downstream and 10 streams of 3 Mbps upstream without any real difficulty using the widely adopted DOCSIS 2.0 cable data protocol. Each stream is a 6 megahertz wide (replacing the spectrum used for a broadcast television channel), offering a pool as large or larger than non-fiber-based DSLAMs in telco offices. DOCSIS 2.0 can run over 40 Mbps in the U.S., but at those speeds has much greater susceptibility to noise. (European broadcast channels are wider, providing more spectrum that can be replaced in the cable system by data, increasing bandwidth per stream.)
Williamson also notes that a new revision to the cable modem standard, DOCSIS 3.0, could bring 200 Mbps per stream downstream into the home. Here's an article in a broadband publication that details DOCSIS 3.0. Upstream speeds would dramatically increase, with 100 Mbps available per pool in the best-case scenario.
Byoung Jo Kim responded to the issues of whether there's more expansion left in DSL versus cable with this: "For DSL, the high rates achieved in South Korea and Japan are mainly due to their shorter lines and higher line qualities from denser and more recent deployments of twisted pair copper wires. In the US with the longer and older lines, it will be very difficult/expensive to achieve such rates just by putting in new line cards at central offices. Thus, even Bells are looking into wireless for reaching far-away houses that HFC [hybrid fiber coax] reaches easily, although the seriousness is questionable."
Kim points me to this reference: "A view of fiber to the home economics" by Frigo, et al, in Communications Magazine, IEEE (Aug. 2004, pages S16-S23, Vol. 42, Issue 8). (Only an abstract is available at no cost to non-IEEE members.)
Similar feedback on the DSL side, about high-speed DSL flavors coming soon--ADSL2 and VDSL, to name two--would be welcome. I've opened up comments on this post.
An apartment resident worked with his landlord to build out good Wi-Fi coverage for free Internet access--but did he read the Comcast contract?: The page documents how "JC" worked with his landlord to build out ubiquitous coverage for the complex, incidentally benefitting himself by eliminating his personal monthly broadband bill. But he notes they're paying $60 per month to Comcast for their Internet feed, and at that rate, Comcast isn't offering shared Internet access in this fashion. Comcast clearly only allows use by people in the same household, and used to charge extra per machine and try to restrict sharing by locking down use to a single Ethernet adapter address.
Given the promotion that JC's story has gotten, how long is it before either Comcast shuts them down or Speakeasy Networks steps in and offers free access in exchange for promotion? Speakeasy remains the only national ISP that I'm aware of that encourages the shared use of personal or business DSL and T1 connections at all prices. [link via BoingBoing and Nigel Ballard]
An apartment complex in Detroit that draws executives from nearby auto makers has Wi-Fi throughout: Residents who rent furnished apartments--apparently many of them do--get the Internet access for free. The owner of the complex calls Wi-Fi a "deal clincher" for many potential residents. It seems as though the network administrator authorizes users on the network by their MAC addresses.
A service provider is also targeting apartment buildings in Washington, D.C. For new or old construction, Wi-Fi offers a much easier way for building owners to offer Internet access than stringing cable throughout the building.
Time Warner Cable alleges company rebroadcast cable modem service to apartment dwellers: An Internet firm and apartment complex have been sued by Time Warner Cable for using Wi-Fi access points to bring access to its Road Runner cable modem service to residents. Even worse, the cable company claims that the service was running on free subscriptions given to building superintendents.
This might wind up testing whether Internet sharing is actually something that a contract with an operator can restrict as a matter of law. But if the allegations prove true, this seems clearly a problem since the provide is allegedly reselling service. Sharing might wind up being okay, but not selling.