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A series of stories yesterday appeared that said T-Mobile used to allow 10 GB per month of unmetered data use: This is incorrect. In April, T-Mobile switched from the standard U.S. carrier model of charging overage fees of 5¢ to 20¢ per MB for data used above 5 GB on the higher of two metered plans (see "T-Mobile Offers Overage Compromise: Throttling," 27 April 2010). Instead, T-Mobile switched to what European carriers typically employ. After using 5 GB during a billing period, the data connection is throttled to about 64 Kbps. Some customers might like paying $50 to $200 per GB over 5 GB; others might like the soft landing.
Stories yesterday, such as this one from a site devoted to T-Mobile news (TmoNews), stated, "If you may recall, previously the data cap was 10GB/month." I checked with a T-Mobile spokesperson, who confirmed my recollection was correct. I have spoken about this with T-Mobile several times, too, since April, and the cap was always 5 GB.
What may have spurred the confusion is a document that talks about such throttling starting "October 16"; TmoNews has a photo of the internal document meant for T-Mobile sales agents.
This kind of throttling, by the way, won't be mandated nor disallowed by the FCC under new disclosure rules it's imposing on carriers, but it certainly fits within the framework the FCC has set. The FCC wants sticker shock banished, and will force carriers to provide notifications before a customer hits a point at which fees will be charged. Many carriers offer mandatory or optional methods to be notified (at no cost) of such limits. But not all do, and international roaming is especially egregious. It's also difficult to turn off service to prevent such overages from happening accidentally.
T-Mobile, by pursuing throttling, with no extra fees involved, ensures customers on the 5 GB plan never pay an extra cent; they just have to cope with lower bandwidth.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:08 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 2.5G and 3G, Cluelessness, Regulation | No Comments
I'm a bit dubious about the vast amount of overhype pouring out about white-space spectrum after the FCC's new rules were set (PDF file): I don't see how what's postulated is possible. The TV channels in question are 6 MHz wide. Shannon's Theorem always wins. Channel capacity is a function of bandwidth mitigated by the level and ratio of signal to noise.
Wi-Fi can use 20 to 40 MHz channels in 2.4 and 5 GHz, and likely 80 MHz or more in future 5 GHz iterations. Without multiple radio receivers, encoding improvements in 802.11n over 802.11g bumped the raw rate from 54 Mbps to about 65 Mbps. Take two radios and 40 MHz, and your raw rate approaches 300 Mbps. Three and four radios and 450 Mbps to 600 Mbps.
White-space spectrum can only be used in 6 MHz blocks. Even with an extremely efficient encoding, I don't see how one can get more than 15 to 20 Mbps out of a channel. I've seen several statements that white-space networks will hit 400 to 800 Mbps.
The high power that's allowed--4 watts EIRP, the effective power after antennas--is pretty remarkable. Wi-Fi is limited to 1w EIRP, and in the nature of radio waves a 4fold increase in EIRP means more than 4fold improvement in distant reception. Correction: Wi-Fi is limited to 1W of transmitter power, but 4W of EIRP. The greater range of white-space devices will come from much, much lower frequencies, which carry further and penetrate better.
However, my understanding is that by the same token, MIMO is ineffective because MIMO doesn't work over long distances. It requires reflection over short spaces to provide the multiple spatial paths that boost speed. So by going long, you lose MIMO, and encode with a single radio.
Also by going high power, you lose the advantage of cellular infrastructure, whether for Wi-Fi or 2G/3G/4G mobile networking. The greater area you cover, the more your shared medium is split among users, even in a contention-free scheduled environment, which will likely not be what happens. As an unlicensed band technology, you could be contending with interferers of all kinds the higher power you use and greater area you cover.
Now perhaps the 400 to 800 Mbps figure is if you took all the white-space in a given market and bonded it together with a transceiver that could handle multiple separate bands at once. Or it's 400 to 800 Mbps of aggregated additional capacity, not for one device. (I can't run down the source of the number, only uses of it without reference.) By that token, Wi-Fi in 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz would add up to several Gbps.
I also haven't run through channel maps in given markets under consideration. How many channels are free in urban areas where a dense deployment would make sense? One colleague wrote to say he believes only a couple may be available for unfettered use.
I'm not even getting into the issue of competing licensed uses, the set aside by the rules of two channels in each market for wireless mics, and the ability for special-event permits and special-use mic permits (limited in area) that would trump pure unlicensed networking purposes, too.
Further, there's a canard circulating about how Microsoft has "covered its campus" with two white-space transmitters. That's true--that's not the canard. No, the problem is that Microsoft can serve the space but not the user base with two transmitters, even if the transmitters could handle the mythical 400 to 800 Mbps of raw throughput. (I should note that Microsoft has nothing to do with spreading this notion; Microsoft Research has a been a very reasonable driver, promoter, and engineer on this spectrum. Visit the Networking over White Spaces site for more information.)
Microsoft installed thousands of Aruba Wi-Fi access points across its campus a few years ago not just to provide coverage but also to provide bandwidth. WiMax has been hyped in the same way. You can have distance or speed but not both: the more area you cover, the more users you cover, the more you have contention for air space or time slots, and the less bandwidth available to each user.
White-space spectrum will spawn a lot of interesting devices, and I could see companies and buildings migrating to it for particular purposes. But replace a cellular network or Wi-Fi? I'm not seeing it yet. I welcome more insight in the comments.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:55 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Future, Regulation | 6 Comments
The FCC's rules on white-space spectrum seem rather clever to me: The rules adopted today in a unanimous vote by FCC commissioners--a rarity on major policy issues--should be good for all parties. That's hard to achieve. The full rulemaking hasn't been posted yet; an FCC spokesperson told me via email it would posted later today.
White-space devices will have to consult a geolocation database that's regularly updated to avoid stepping on the toes of television broadcasters and other users, notably churches, sports venues, and performing spaces that rely on wireless mics.
To help preserve the use of wireless mics without interference, the FCC will require two channels in the former 7 to 51 (VHF up to UHF) range be reserved in each market for such transmissions. Wireless mic users can petition for additional space, apparently for special events, which means white-space transceivers will have to consult the database on a regular basis.
It's unclear at the moment how devices will grab database info. I could imagine a narrowband repeating transmission on a dedicated otherwise unused channel that would simply dump the local database. White-space devices will certainly require GPS receivers, and computation power and software to figure out the area in which they operate as a distance from other points that have to be offset from use.
The Wi-Fi Alliance put out a press release immediately after, noting that 802.11af is already in progress for adapting WLAN IEEE rules for white-space spectrum and options, and that the alliance already has a plan under way to set a certification programs for such devices.
White-space isn't "Wi-Fi on steroids," but it could be a great enhancement for particular purposes in which Wi-Fi doesn't reach far enough, and a cellular network restricts uses while being overkill and too slow.
There's a potential for competitive wireless networks to emerge over white-space spectrum, but the real-estate issue still intrudes. You might need 1/3 or fewer transmitters per square mile to build a Wi-Space network instead of a Wi-Fi one, but you still have to secure the right to mount gear.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:25 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Future, Regulation | No Comments
Very interesting story out of New York City: Cablevision and Time Warner Cable agreed to spend $10m to build out Wi-Fi in 32 city parks as part of the requirements for renewing cable franchises in the city. The country is divided into thousands of cable franchise zones, in which local bodies negotiate with cable firms to allow monopoly or limited competitive access to rights of way and other resources in exchange for typically a gross-revenue fee, public-access and government channels with budgets and facilities, and other add-ons.
While franchise boards are prohibited by law, regulation, and court decision from considering broadband and VoIP service as a condition of renewal--only the FCC can regulate broadband, and voice is a separate state regulatory domain--this is a neat twist. The NY negotiators figured out that they can require broadband to be offered.
The New York Daily News (a competitor to Cablevision-owned Newsday) reports that the service will be available for 30 minutes free each day to users, and then charged at a rate of 99 cents per day. Correction: My brain apparently couldn't cope with the fact that it's 30 minutes per month! In three 10-minute sessions, no less. That's fairly ridiculous.
Many New York parks have free Wi-Fi through various business districts and other sponsorship, such as Bryant Park.
WiFi Salon at one point had the contract to provide service in several parks, and had planned to use sponsorship as the driver. That deal with city parks ended in late 2008.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:19 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Free, Hot Spot, Regulation | 3 Comments
I've always wanted to put the country-music sweetheart into a headline: Dolly Parton, megachurch pastors, and theatrical promoters object to white-space spectrum rules proposed by the FCC in 2008, that would allow unused television frequencies in any market to be employed for Wi-Fi-like networking with far higher signal strength. The low-frequency spectrum can also penetrate walls and obstacles far better than the 2.4 and 5 GHz ranges used for unlicensed Wi-Fi.
The opposition from that group was related to wireless mikes that rely on low-power use of frequencies that could be affected by new white-space gear. Other opponents to white-space rules included broadcasters concerned about interference, and owners of expensive licensed frequencies.
The FCC's new rulemaking, due out next week, will apparently address these concerns, while also removing some cost obstacles for producing the gear.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:51 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Future, Regulation | No Comments
Protect your Wi-Fi network in Germany, or pay the piper (in German): The piper, in this case, being music industry or other rightsholders. Germany's Bundesgerichsthof, the highest appeals court for civil and criminal matters, ruled in a case stretching back to 2006 about a song downloaded from an open Wi-Fi access point by a third party--not the owner of the access point, who had left the location unprotected.
The court said that actual and punitive damages weren't warranted in such a case, but that a kind of statutorily defined penalty of €100 did apply. (The term is Abmahnung, which seems to be a sort of compulsory penalty that doesn't require a court case to be levied.)
Update: A commenter who knows more than I do (that's why we like comments) explains that the fee is a "civil pre-trial settlement to avoid a costly civil trial if the facts are clear."
The court said, "Private individuals can be held responsible for default judgment, but not for claims of damages, when an unauthorized third party makes use of an insufficiently protected wireless LAN access point for copyright infringement."
The decision is welcome in Germany, because it removes a lot of worry about unlimited fees (such as have been levied only directly against filesharers in the US), and the fees that can be collected are small enough that the various copyright holders may not pursue them.
Nonetheless, the precedent now allows these fees to be collected, and that does change the equation.
Germans thus warned ought to enable any kind of encryption. The linked article notes that even WEP, though it's easily broken, would qualify because then the third party would have to break into the network (a fairly severe crime in Germany since 2007), making the access point's owner not liable.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:10 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal, Regulation, Security | 2 Comments
Marvelous report from Ofcom detailing how 2.4 GHz is used in England, and how 2.4 GHz is broken: The detailed report contains a lot of interesting observations, raw data, and charts that demonstrate how competing uses of the 2.4 GHz band stack up against each other. One fascinating chart compares the number of Wi-Fi frames used to carry data versus management and beaconing. Only about 10 percent of frames carry actual user data; about half, beaconing. The report doesn't break this out into bytes (the beacon frames are much smaller than a full loaded Wi-Fi packet, of course), but it's part of the report's examination of inefficiencies.
In the most dense areas the report authors tested, namely parts of London, interference among competing networks wasn't the issue, but rather devices of all sorts--seemingly dominated by video cameras and baby monitors--that tromp all over 2.4 GHz without any interest in co-existence. That's not precisely how the band is licensed; devices must not create unnecessary interference and cope with the presence of interference. But in practice, working within the power limits and rules is all you have to do.
The report suggests that better harmony among manufacturers of devices for the band would vastly alleviate the problems seen, even with a lot of legacy devices in the field.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:29 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Regulation, Spectrum | 2 Comments
Veteran tech political reporter Declan McCullagh determines Internet Safety Act would apply to everyone who runs a Wi-Fi network: The law imposes unheralded requirements for keeping records on who accesses a given network, something that governments want to track criminals (often citing child-pornography downloaders) regardless of the cost to individuals and businesses in dollars, sense, time, and privacy. Odd how the Republicans back this so strongly; it's the law-and-order thing. But Dems are behind a similar version of the bill.
The act would requires two years worth of data being stored for anyone providing "an electronic communication service or remote computing service." McCullagh's analysis is that this applies to basically every kind of network everywhere run for any purpose by anyone.
That sweeps in not just public Wi-Fi access points, but password-protected ones too, and applies to individuals, small businesses, large corporations, libraries, schools, universities, and even government agencies. Voice over IP services may be covered too.
It's unclear what this could possibly mean for home users and casual network operators like cafes. I'm sure larger firms, like Wayport (now an AT&T division), already had data-retention policies and have had to work with law enforcement in the past. But what would I, with my home network, have to do?
Some home Wi-Fi routers do keep internal logs by default, and would record the MAC addresses and timestamps of when access occurred. How about, however, if yours doesn't? Or it keeps one month of data and then dumps it?
I don't think this law's scope was well thought out, clearly, and one hopes that ISPs, consumer groups, and Wi-Fi gateway makers band together to force some sense into it.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:43 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cluelessness, Regulation
Because we didn't have enough on our minds on election day, the FCC met and made three relatively massive decisions: Let's start with white spaces. I have been avoiding posting too much about the topic, because it's mindbendingly boring to the average reader or businessperson who is more interested in technology or developments when they happen, not when they're discussed ad nauseum. The gist of the white spaces proposal is that computer industry giants want television channels that are unused in specific markets to provide assurance of a lack of interference among adjacent channels.
Microsoft, Google, Intel, HP, and many others covet the space to use for high-speed wireless networking for broadband and wireless LANs. Over short distances, rates rival 802.11n Wi-Fi speeds; over longer distances, speeds will likely be closer to 10 Mbps. The expectation is that the frequencies, way down in the 54 to 698 MHz range, would have enormously superior propagation characteristics when coupled with higher power limits than Wi-Fi's 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz deployments. With adaptive scanning required to avoid stepping on licensed users, the white spaces technology would likely be much more resilient than Wi-Fi, too, as well as having a larger span of channels on which to choose to operate.
The National Association of Broadcasters, representing owners of TV stations and networks, protested that regardless of how well designed devices were to avoid interfering with TV signals, it was inevitable that they would. Dolly Parton surprisingly entered the fray--nearly a la Wi-Fi patron Hedy Lamarr--on behalf of the wireless microphone industry, which has a licensed low-power use for theater and performance.
The FCC voted 5-0 to move forward. Manufacturers would still be going through tightly controlled FCC certification and testing for their devices, and one imagines the NAB will be watching very closely as well.
The FCC also voted 5-0 to approve a WiMax merger/spinoff that allows Sprint Nextel to reorganize its Xohm broadband operation into a new firm that would be merged with Clearwire's assets and be named Clearwire. The new operation already has billions lined up from Google, Intel, and cable operators to invest. The Justice Department already gave its general go-ahead, too.
This move sets the stage for a real battle among all broadband providers: it will force AT&T and Verizon to move quite aggressively to use the new 700 MHz bandwidth they acquired (and plan to deploy GSM-based LTE over, even though LTE is still officially in the lab, not in production); and for wireline provides like AT&T and Verizon, as well as Comcast, Cablevision, Qwest, and all the rest, to rethink pricing, speed, and services that Clearwire enters. If WiMax pans out as a viable third or even fourth pipe into the home, other broadband options in the same markets will be cheaper and faster.
Finally, in the least-interesting part of the news, the FCC voted to approve, with Dems partially dissenting--procedural thing, it appears--to allow Alltel to be acquired by Verizon to create the biggest U.S. cell carrier. Alltel was the largest of the smaller carriers, as it were, providing service in areas that the major carriers often overlooked. The Alltel acquisition is partially an infrastructure play that reduces Verizon's roaming costs while expanding its customer base.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:37 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Regulation, Spectrum, WiMAX
The nearly finished IEEE 802.11y could make Wi-Fi more practical over longer distances: Wi-Fi is a compromise. In the unlicensed bands in which it operates, it has to deal with interference from noise sources and other networks, while using very low power, and trying not to make a pest of itself. It's done very well. In the 2.4 GHz band and parts of 5 GHz, the maximum power from the radio is 1 watt (W), and the effective power (EIRP) is 4 W on an omnidirectional antenna. (You can push far more power if you narrow the antenna's beam. And parts of the 5 GHz band restrict radio power below 1 W. I wrote a long rundown of 5 GHz issues back in Jan-2007.)
But there's this lovely new segment of lightly licensed spectrum in the U.S., the 3.65 GHz band. It's a non-exclusive licensed band available only in parts of the country that don't have pre-existing ground-to-satellite or radar uses that overlap. This omits most of the eastern seaboard and most major cities; Seattle is one exception.
The licensing mechanism allows any number of operators to obtain inexpensive licenses, and register the base stations they use by location. If interference arises among base stations, operators are required to work out the problems themselves. I wrote extensively about this band and its rules on 9-May-2008 in profiling Azulstar, formerly a metro-scale Wi-Fi firm, but now a big proponent of WiMax in 3.65 GHz. I also went over the rules for the band on 11-June-2007 when the FCC announced the arrangement.
Several firms offer base station and customer premises equipment for this band now, so close to the 3.5 GHz band more commonly exclusively licensed in Europe and elsewhere. WiMax equipment is available because the 3.65 GHz band can be used with WiMax without any modifications to that protocol, although limited to just 25 MHz of the 50 MHz that the FCC set aside.
Equipment that conforms to a more stringent set of rules about contention and other factors can use the whole 50 MHz, and that's where 802.11y comes in. It's an extension of Wi-Fi to cope with the specific needs--and to open Wi-Fi technology up to 20 W EIRP, a vastly higher power output. This could allow connections over 5 km, the group says.
The Wikipedia entry on 802.11y, clearly written by someone involved with the specification, notes that three specific additions are needed: a tweak to support the way in which the FCC wants contention among competing devices to work; a method for an access point to tell a station (a connecting radio) that it's about to switch its channel or its channel's bandwidth, and the station should do likewise; and a mechanism to handle a base station allowing or revoking permission to use the spectrum without uniquely identifying the user's system or broadcasting its precise GPS-based location.
The standard is near completion and initial approval. I don't have any knowledge about whether any mainstream Wi-Fi equipment makers or metro-scale equipment makers are looking into building 802.11y into their gear.
The fact is that this could be a great technology for the mostly sub-metropolitan markets that 3.65 GHz is available in, although it has the same pain as WiMax: all new gear on the towers and all new adapters for customers.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:01 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Regulation, Standards | 1 Comment
Russian regulator requires registration: The folks at the Rossvyazokhrankultura (Russian Mass Media, Communications and Cultural Protection Service) have decided that every device with Wi-Fi inside requires registration for use by an individual user without a transferrable license, according to The Other Russia, which picked the story up from Russian-language site Fontanka.ru.
While Wi-Fi wasn't as broadly unlicensed in Russia as it is in most other industrialized nations, a state regulator exempted indoor use in certain bands from registration. The Mass Media agency apparently believes that it has the authority to compel this, although there's some doubt by observers as to whether it really falls in their purview.
Setting up a home Wi-Fi network or a hotspot would require what sounds like vast amounts of paperwork, akin to putting a cell tower.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:04 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, International, Regulation
Even the losers win in this auction: The gag order from the FCC over the bidding and results of the 700 MHz spectrum auction were lifted yesterday, and everyone is jabbering. Verizon and AT&T have announced they'll build LTE (Long Term Evolution) cell data networks, a GSM standard, in the 700 MHz band. AT&T says their network will come online starting in 2012; Verizon, 2010.
Google posted on their own blog and told the New York Times that they were happy enough losing, even though they bid to win...sort of. They raised their own bids a few times to keep interest from other players, but were relieved when another bidder topped them. That turned out to be Verizon Wireless. Google managed to get a few types of openness encoded into the band, and they think (rightly so) that it made a difference. An economist notes in the Times article that Google now only has to spend "$1 million a year on a law firm to ensure Verizon lives up to the openness requirements."
AT&T didn't bid on the C Block that Google was discussing, a set of licenses that provide national coverage in a few easy pieces. Rather, they focused on acquiring 700 MHz spectrum before the auction from Aloha Partners (from the previous 700 MHz auction), and spending billions on smaller licenses all over the country that they can pin together. Those licenses are unencumbered by open device, application, and service provisions, so AT&T thinks they got the better deal. A good summary is at Phone Mag.
Verizon for its part said it was pleased with its national-scope licenses. Despite AT&T acquiring lots of spectrum, it's going to be far easier for Verizon to use these nationally defined bands, with consistent performance across all their networks.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:45 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Financial, Future, Regulation, Spectrum | 1 Comment
The FCC's auction for prime 700 MHz territory nationwide is over: The auction took in nearly $20b before discounts for small businesses and other credits, but the FCC didn't disclose the winners. 1,099 licenses were at stake, with the 6 C Block licenses ($4.74b winning bid) were the ones most watched. The others shouldn't be ignored, even though taken one at a time, most of them are quite limited in geographic coverage. With that spectrum, regional operators will be able to build interesting networks that could compete with national players.
The big failure in the auction was the D Block, a national chunk of shared public/private spectrum that a winning bidder would operate in a manner that gave priority to emergency uses. The minimum bid was far from met: $1.4b was the reserve price, and bids never topped $500m. Rules for the block will have to be redesigned and rebid.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:59 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Regulation, Spectrum | 2 Comments
A state rep in Utah tries to find common ground in keeping kids from viewing online porn and businesses that say they'll shut up shop: The bill would have required an attempt by anyone running a public Wi-Fi network to verify a user's age, and then prevent them from viewing obscene material if they're not an adult or can't verify their age. A penalty of $1,000 per incident would be imposed. That's probably an unconstitutional restraint right there, but a local free wireless operator, Xmission, said it would cost them $5,000 per month to verify ages, and would instead shut down its public service.
The legislator pushing the bill is "backing off the age verification provision," but suggests filtering should be required. Which is also silly. Filtering doesn't really work; it either blocks everything, or it's too porous.
The anti-pornography group The CP80 Foundation that was pushing for the bill thinks that it shouldn't take much effort on a business's part--obviously, they haven't done the math on this--and that homeowners should be regulated as well. Aren't these Republicans? What's with all the regulation?
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:23 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Regulation
The FCC has received a "provisional" winning bid for the national "C Block" licenses in the 700 MHz auction underway: The C Block, a national set of about 20 MHz of prime frequency real estate, has received a bid crossing the minimum $4.6 reserve price: $4,713,823,000 to be precise. The overall auction now stands at $13.7b after 18 rounds. This pretty much ensures that the open access, open device rules so fought over and then acquiesced to by major carriers will be enforced, and it's likely to push more openness into existing U.S. cell markets.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:43 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Financial, Politics, Regulation, Spectrum
I'm trying to wrap my head around the series of announcements and developments this last week that will change the face of cell service, and notably wireless broadband in the U.S.: In short succession, you have:
Yes, it's Google, Google, Google all over. While Google's Android platform might not take off, it's pretty clear that the disruptive influence of Google combined with the WiMax direction chosen by Sprint Nextel are reforming the future of the industry. But WiMax might get left out of the dance.
You see, with Forsee out of Sprint and Zander out of Motorola, you have two major firms that were committed to WiMax looking for leaders who will come in and not continue doing precisely what lead to their predecessors being forced out. Which means WiMax will be on the chopping block. Motorola could write down its Clearwire investment and spin off its Expedience division bought from that company, while refocusing on 3G and 4G cell. Sprint could decide to deploy something entirely different in 2.5 GHz, even if that delayed network buildout, rather than investing billions in something that they're now not clear they want to move on.
On the consumer side, things are brighter. It's likely that by 2009, we will see substantial competition among devices--think about the diversity of digital cameras available in sizes, formats, and features--where we might pick a device first and then choose a carrier. Android could be part of that mix, but the FCC's pressure combined with market changes seem to be leading to cell networks in which you won't have the same kind of lock-in and commitment--it'll be more like Europe is but with greater competition reducing the cost of devices.
This openness could, in turn, supplant some of Wi-Fi's forward momentum as the de facto wireless technology to build into portable devices. Wi-Fi is a best effort technology, which means that it's not reliable. It's a contention medium and there's no company offering ubiquitous coverage--aggregators offer national and international subscriptions, but that's not the same thing. If the cost of making and certifying devices to use on a cellular network drops precipitously, and volume of chips sold would be one of those factors, it wouldn't be weird to buy a really good camera that has a 3G or 4G cell chip installed that you could use on a pay-as-you-go basis or as an add-on to an existing cell account you might have.
None of the cell carriers is particularly eager to allow more competition as that reduces margin, increases customer churn, and makes their returns more dependent on their short-term actions as people migrate around. But the fact that so many carriers are now promoting actions that will make life harder on them and their shareholders means clearly that the momentum is there for this change to sink in.
Google could sit back and do nothing, and they've already forced change. Sprint can't sit back and do nothing--but there's speculation Google might simply purchase them to pursue its goals. I doubt it, but Sprint will be a very different company within a year.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:24 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: 2.5G and 3G, 4G, Cellular, Future, Regulation | 2 Comments
The company that said its First Amendment rights were being challenged by FCC auction rules that required open access now bows to inevitable: Verizon Wireless said today that it would allow devices, software, and services to be used on its network by the end of 2008 as a new "choice"--read, "new billing plan"--a remarkable turnabout from its position during the 700 MHz C Block auction filings process. The company had complained the FCC adding the requirement that the national C Block licenses allow any legitimate device, program, or service to operate was unfair and illegal.
Of course, cellular operators have extensive and expensive certification programs for devices and programs, and typically control the services themselves, even if third parties offer them; the services run through the carriers' systems. What Verizon's press release states is that the company will release an open set of technical standards and allow any device meeting the "mininum technical standard" to work on the network. This should dramatically reduce costs, but I wait to hear from the community of firms that currently develop certified cell network devices.
This change could affect the bidding in the C Block auction in early 2008. It was assumed that Verizon would stay out of the auction to keep the price down, and bolster its legal position for future appeals or lawsuits. AT&T was likely to get in, as it had earlier agreed that the basic outline of requirements was fine. With Verizon's change, this seems to signal that they'll be part of the bidding, which makes the outcome of the auction more likely to reach the minimum the FCC has set for both C Block ($4.6b) and the entire auction ($10b).
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:24 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Regulation
The British spectrum regulator has set preliminary rules for in-flight mobile device use (voice and data) with picocells onboard, but sets 2008 as first deployment: Ofcom says that mobile devices may be used at an airline's discretion at altitudes of 3,000m (10,000 ft) or higher. On-board picocells would be required. The initial process will include only 2G services, which has been expected all along, so GSM voice calls and GPRS data using 1800 MHz only. 3G would come later, if 2G tests out fine, as it uses other frequency ranges. Ofcom is looking for feedback by Nov. 30.
Although Ofcom represents just the UK, they are working with other EU member states to create a regime that would common across the entire set of territories. Such a decision is expected by late 2007 or early 2008, Ofcom notes in the executive summary of its request for comments.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:42 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel, Regulation
Prague forced to scale back on free Wi-Fi network? Time magazine reports on the spread of Wi-Fi and wireless data in Europe, and notes that the EC told Prague in May to "tone down its proposed $16 million free wi-fi [sic] initiative by stripping out full Internet access" and offering just public services. The EU Competition Commissioner said that broadband is the province of private firms unless there's a "well-defined market failure."
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:45 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: International, Municipal, Regulation | 1 Comment
Verizon plays spoilsport: The FCC staff extensively refuted Verizon's various contentions regarding its intention to set any device/any service rules for a swath of national 700 MHz spectrum. Many of Verizon's arguments appeared prima facie specious to me, not a regulatory or constitutional expert; Verizon didn't like it, and sued today. The company argues that requiring a firm to allow any device and access any service oversteps the FCC's authority. It seems unlikely to be upheld, given the tendency for courts to allow the FCC to act fairly broadly within their statutory powers, even when that includes limiting competition by allowing massive consolidation of media ownership.
The national 700 MHz licenses in the so-called C Block are the last great hope for anything marginally like real, unfettered broadband wireless access that's not already tied up by large telecoms, as with 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz licenses, among other bands. I wrote extensively about the FCC Second Order and Report that set the terms for the upcoming auctions back on Aug. 16.
Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:32 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Regulation | 1 Comment