Wireless Networks & Platforms

Covers market sizing forecasts, best practice case studies and the insights to guide profitable mobile broadband growth.

December 30, 2010 22:12 suerudd
Skype today launched Video for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPads. This new version of the Skype service application software lets users make and receive video calls from iPhones, iPod touch and iPads, with instant messaging for other Skype users, over both Wi-Fi and AT&T's 3G network. Was it a test for this iPhone video application that brought down Skype's Video Network Last week? The story going around last week was that a new release for Apple software - possibly the Skype iPhone Video application announced today - had a problem and triggered the Skype server failure when installed first on one and then several Skype 'supernodes'. But don't blame the Apple software application. Skype's supernodes act as both offline message (IM/SMS) relays and as Skype's Chief Information Officer noted yesterday "a directory, supporting other Skype clients, helping to establish connections between them and creating local clusters typically of several hundred peer nodes per each supernode." The initial crashes brought down 25% to 30% of the Skype supernode servers - just before the normal daily peak. This in turn led to traffic overload that created extensive delays in the support servers responsible for offline instant messaging. This resulted in long response delays to some to Skype Windows clients and 20% of these had an old software bug that then caused them to crash. The official Skype story was released yesterday by Lars Rabbe, Skype's Chief Information Officer, who describes the "snowball" effect that blocked most Skype users for 24 hours on 22nd.- 23rd. December 2010. "50% of all Skype users globally were running (an older) 5.0.0.152 version of Skype for Windows, and the supernode crashes caused approximately 40% of those clients to fail. These ... included 25–30% of the publicly available 'supernodes', (that) also failed as a result of this problem." "The failure of 25–30% of supernodes in the P2P network resulted in .. massively increased... load as (supernodes) reconnected to the peer-to-peer cloud... just before our usual daily peak-hour (1000 PST/1800 GMT)". As users tried to reconnect to the system, they generated "traffic to the supernodes that was about 100 times what would normally be expected at that time of day" and overwhelmed the remaining supernodes bringing the whole system to a standstill. It is interesting that some sources focus blame on Microsoft, not just Skype's network, servers and software, but maybe the problem is more profound. P2P Server Architecture. Serious questions need to be asked about a network service architecture that allows:
  • Application software to crash what should be 'carrier class' servers performing network functions
  • P2P software that causes both network and user device based clients to crash as a result of network overload problems
  • Network server problems that spread automatically across a large number of supernodes
Network servers need to be especially resilient and intelligent in how they 'fail-over' in a distributed networking environment; but a robust Service Architecture is always a pre-requisite. Let other P2P and 'Cloud' service providers beware. On a positive note Skype brought in massive extra capacity to stabilize the network and was also able to restore Group Video Calling functionality in time for Christmas. Software Release Deployment Lars Rabbe also committed to review Skype's "testing processes to determine better ways of detecting and avoiding bugs which could affect the system.". Hopefully this promise includes:
  • 'Old fashioned' regression testing of all old versions of client software
  • Large scale network testing that does not impact live users - especially at peak traffic times!
These are rules that traditional service providers have followed for decades. Perhaps a little more respect for the "old fashioned" network operators and their software release processes is warranted.

October 12, 2010 04:10 David Kerr

sa photo dk

At CTIA in San Francisco last week, away from the fanfare around LTE rollouts and the next dozen tablet devices (ok, I exaggerate a little), Sprint had an announcement which will have significantly higher impact on mobile broadband adoption and revenues: Sprint ID. 

Sprint ID promises to up the ante on personalization and ease current feature phone users into the smart phone ranks.

Sprint ID offers instant personalization along key themes/packs where the operator has done the heavy lifting of identifying and group related applications of interest to different persona from wallpaper to ringtones to apps. While the one click marketing line is not quite matched by reality given pesky little things like accepting terms and conditions etc, Sprint ID is a significant breakthrough in my opinion as:

  • it broadens the market appeal of Smart phones to current feature phones users with a simple to understand offer in a range of device price points including the critical $49 and $99 levels.
  • it tackles one of the biggest weakness of all app stores: discoverability of content and simple personalization.

Three handsets were featured at launch of Sprint ID: Sanyo Zio™, Samsung Transform™, LG Optimus S™. These three devices cover key price points in the Sprint portfolio and provide customers with a range of form factors, industrial design and brand to meet their tastes. Interesting to note that both LG and Sanyo retain the right to put their own packs on their handsets as well. This is a big win for LG as its Optimus S™ will be available for under $50 with contract giving the vendor a much needed boost in the smartphone space. Samsung meanwhile continues to shine at Sprint occupying the lucrative $149 spot with its Transform™. All three devices of course require a Sprint Everything Data plan.

However, for me the more significant impact is that operators and oems are finally realizing that customers don’t buy phones or services or apps… what they really want are positive experiences

… be that socially connected, sports, education, health and fitness, fashion etc. This is something that our User Experience team has been evangelizing for the last 7+ years. Whether its 80k apps on Android or 250k on Apple store or 10K on RIM, one common experience has been exasperation at the huge waste of time, energy and emotions in finding ANYTHING!!! Which happens first, eyes glazing over or fingers cramping with so much scrolling? Either way the net result is often a disappointing experience which the early smart phone coolaid drinkers have learned to live with.

Newbies to the smart phone arena, will certainly have less tolerance and spend less time to personalize their device and enable applications. Sprint ID is well tailored to the next wave who are taking tentative steps into the smart phone space

 

David Kerr

dkerr@strategyanalytics.com


September 23, 2010 22:09 David Kerr

September 23, 2010

While there has understandably been a lot of attention given to consumer apps post iPhone and the plethora of application stores that have emerged, business mobility and enterprise mobility offer huge potential from horizontal to vertical applications and from smartphones to iPads and tablets to superphones.

In both NA and W. Europe, business customers account for under 30% of users but are the dominant streams of both revenue and profits for operators. On the device side, premium priced models from RIM, Nokia, and Microsoft Mobile licensees as well as the iPhone have long been key drivers of profits in a market where low single digit margins are the norm.  The explosion of smartphone choices has led to the battle ground moving beyond the corner office, to other executive and now increasingly the midlevel manager.

With a new range of devices competing for space in the corporate market, the issue of corporate versus individual liable has become an increasing priority for IT decision makers. Add on the complexity of managing an expanding list of OS (Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Palm, MeeGo, Bada from Samsung) and the growing importance of mobile portable devices with access behind the firewall and one can already feel a corporate migraine forming…. And that’s before we even discuss device management, mobility policy, device retirement etc. etc.

I am looking forward to CTIA Fall (San Francisco October 5-7) and in particular to the Enterprise Mobility Boot Camp moderated by Philippe Winthrop of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation. The boot camp spread over two days will address many of the issue listed above with our own Andy Brown featured in an analyst roundtable on October 6th.  I look forward to meeting you there. Don’t hesitate to contact Philippe for passes to this the deep dive enterprise mobility event.

David Kerr

David Kerr
Snr. VP - Global Wireless Practice
Tel: +1 617 614 0720
Mob: +1 262 271 8974


August 11, 2010 16:08 suerudd
August 11th 2010 Doing the FCC’s job? On Monday August 9th. Verizon and Google issued a joint ‘suggested policy framework for lawmakers’ which reads as if it had come from the FCC, leading to an appropriate response from FCC commissioner Michael J. Copps that it is “time to reassert (FCC’s) authority”. The framework endorses all the good ‘motherhood’ concepts - openness for legal content, nondiscrimination that does not block or degrade the Internet, and transparency for both wireline and wireless. And it addresses some of the traffic and network management concerns raised in my blog of May 27th . But the sting is in the tail. The fifth and sixth points posted in the expository blog carve out two major markets. The ‘Carve Out’.Two key markets are carved out for minimal FCC oversight and therefore would not be subject to many ‘net neutrality’ and access requirements. First area is ‘differentiated online services’ that integrate application services with bandwidth – “healthcare monitoring, the smart grid’ etc. i.e. vertical markets where performance and security must be guaranteed. The proposed Verizon and Google approach allows each application to be ‘nailed-up’ to a specific network - rather than the Virtual Private Networks VPNs) with Service Level Agreements(SLAs) that operate today. This could lead to significant innovation – if only it were not based on exclusive bi-lateral transport and applications vendor deals. Haven’t we been here before? Didn’t this lead to the original Enhanced vs. Basic Services split of Computer Enquiry II.  And it recreates the comparatively unsuccessful ‘Walled Garden’ approach to applications. Second ‘carve out’ is wireless broadband which is claimed to have “unique technical and operational characteristics” and to be “more competitive and changing rapidly”, so “in recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace” Verizon and Google recommend against applying any of the “wireline principles” except transparency. Broadband is Broadband is Broadband….Although wireless has historically had special treatment, mobile broadband is rapidly reaching parity with wireline speeds and quality. Over the next two years applications will operate seamlessly across wireless and wireline networks and many users may not even be aware which network they are on. To users Broadband is Broadband. All applications require an appropriate class of service at a competitive price. Special value added networks and mobile broadband cannot and should not be carved out from the general area of FCC broadband service oversight. Reactions and Furor on both sides of the ‘pond’ In the US, Wall Street Journal welcomes this ‘Traffic Plan’ and TIA notes that the “Verizon and Google…rightly addressed important issues such as the need for network management welcoming it as a “step in the right direction … and a possible solution to the uncertainty created by the Comcast decision.” But bloggers and the New York Times Opinion page started discussing carrier/search engine business alliances and making jokes about ‘VerGoogle’ that have now prompted a strong tweet denial from Google “We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet.” Wired magazine however, describes the ‘differentiated online services network’ as a “left-field proposal to anticipate an entirely new information highway for ‘fast lanes’” and believes that “Google and Verizon have proposed creating a second, paid-access-only internet” “over an unspecified global network”. Could that be Verizon’s new Packet Optical Transport Platform (P-OTP) network? Across the pond reactions are still evolving. Financial Times subtly points out that “industry insiders on Capitol Hill and at the FCC are questioning Google’s motives for an apparent about-face on its position as one of the most powerful advocates of net neutrality.” Others reflect the stronger view that the EU is taking on Net neutrality.with one blogger warning that “An obvious outcome … is that when Google is dragged backwards through an antitrust investigation by the EC or DoJ, it will find no favours from civil society after this betrayal…..Good luck, Google - you thought China was sticky in terms of political support, you'll find that was a storm in a delicate teacup.”

June 29, 2010 20:06 swelshdegrimaldo

This morning I finalized a report that lists mobile device portfolio expansion as the top mobile broadband trend for 2010, so I should not have been surprised when I tuned into John Chambers’ presentation at the Cisco Live Online event to see a demonstration of a new Cisco tablet providing an interactive, collaborative education experience.

Cisco is billing its Cius as “a first-of-its-kind mobile collaboration business tablet that delivers virtual desktop integration with anywhere, anytime access to the full range of Cisco collaboration and communication applications, including HD video.” (see Cisco’s press release)

You could almost feel the minds of the folks in attendance a the Cisco event churning out potential new ways to utilize a Cius setup in business, education, medical settings—and the people thinking, hey, I’d like one of those for myself. So while Cisco is not the name that would typically come to mind for mobile devices, we think this converged fixed/mobile device offers a new game changing model that will grab attention.

The new Cius, likely to be available in the September time frame, points to a number of new trends in mobile devices that will leverage the capabilities of 3G and 4G networks:

  • The lines between consumer and business devices are blurring – price points of course make the biggest difference.
  • Innovation in technology goes hand-in-hand with innovation in human processes, including business processes.
  • HD video will have a very important role in the future not only for entertainment but also for communication for individuals, groups, and businesses—as Cisco claims, “Video is the New Voice.”
  • Enabling collaboration and multimedia interactions at anytime or location is a big piece of the value mobile broadband promises to bring to consumers, enterprise, education and the public sector.

The Cius is of course just one of many new devices that will offer mobile connectivity on 3G and/or 4G, and by CES next January we expect a wave of new product and solution announcements. We will be following as Cius moves closer to launch to see how pricing and mobile operator partners evolve, particularly to see where it positions relative to the consumer market.

What does this mean for mobile operators? Data traffic will continue to ramp, networks will need to support HD video, and operators will need to collaborate to define value propositions and service offerings for specific sectors, including education.

 

-by Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, Director, Mobile Broadband Opportunities


June 4, 2010 20:06 David Kerr
sa photo dk

 

 

 

The inevitable movement to tiered pricing which started with Verizon Wireless acknowledging its plans to do so for LTE and has been accelerated with the much anticipated data plan announcement by AT&T this week.  So, what next?

    • Will we see significant priced based competition for mobile data among the top US operators?
    • Will we see significant movement in share of adds for AT&T as iPhone wannabees are tempted by a plan of only $15?
    • What impact will lower data plans for smartphones have on AT&T’s Quick Messaging Devices and Verizon Wireless equivalent?
    • How long before we see family data plans and shared usage across multiple devices?

The move by AT&T is a smart play to extend the smartphone momentum as the low hanging fruit of Apple aficionados, multimedia techies and style seekers willing to pay top dollar has been significantly penetrated.

There is no doubt that the iPhone remains the coolest device on the marketplace and the end to end user experience remains easily the best in class. So, reducing the TCO to attract the next 20% of customers to a paid data plans while educating customers about data usage levels and managing the traffic risk is very smart business in my opinion.

The lower price points will help AT&T maintain its current leading share of smartphone users and may be attractive to casual social networkers

  • Although the 50 photos allowance is not exactly generous! For casual messenger, and social network status checking and moderate email the new DataPlus plan is quite attractive overall and will likely attract a portion of customers who would otherwise opt for a Quick Messaging Device from AT&T or a competitive offering from Verizon Wireless.

I do expect to see some modest price competition among the big operators

  • with T-Mobile most likely to drive prices lower given their need for scale and to protect their predominantly youth centric customer base. but also expect an increasingly strong Verizon Wireless handset line up to compete strongly.

The impact on Quick Messaging Devices is in my opinion likely to be modest

  • as a traditional qwerty remains overwhelmingly the input of choice for heavy messengers in the US although there is definitely room for lowering the $10 mandatory data plan on featurephones

Family data plans and data plans which allow access across multiple devices are in the pipeline

  • but will probably not make an appearance until 2012+ as part of LTE offerings.

From a device vendor perspective, the move to lower priced iPhone plans is likely to put further pressure on vendors like LG who have yet to make a credible offer in this space as well as RIM who will find more competition in the consumer space.

The lower pricing on data plans will be music to the ears of ambitious new entrants like Huawei, ZTE who plan to bring mass market priced devices to the US & Europe. The lower TCO of smartphones as a result of downward pressure on service prices boost their addressable market.


May 27, 2010 20:05 suerudd
Throttle or Choke.‘Net Neutrality’ proponents argue that there should be no restrictions by service providers on any type of end-user access to content, equipment or modes of communication but in April a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC had exceeded its authority when it told Comcast not to ‘throttle’ BitTorrent’s peer-to-peer video exchange and related applications - even though BitTorrent was ‘choking’ performance for other Comcast users. FCC is now proposing additional regulation and Congress is getting in on the act. Lurking behind the partisan rhetoric of ‘Net neutrality’ are serious issues. It is time to deal with them. Issue 1. Harm to the Network. Ironically Comcast was trying to protect its customers from ‘harm to the network’ as the Communications Act requires. Many service providers - including many mobile operators - are struggling to manage the disproportionate traffic demands of a few heavy duty users whose peer-to-peer or high bandwidth applications slow down performance for everyone else. Solution: Some equitable form of network management is not only reasonable but essential for the broadband networks to function. Issue 2. Service Quality at a Fair Price. Insistence by ‘Net Neutrality’ advocates that everyone get the same access with the same ‘class of service’ leads rapidly to a lowest common denominator for all. When video ‘bandwidth hogs’ block more time sensitive or more valuable, low bandwidth applications there is a good case for throughput guarantees. Solution: In both fixed and mobile broadband markets, tiered classes of service for different user applications with different bandwidth requirements and different priorities at different prices will enable operators to balance broadband traffic demand with new capacity expansion. Issue 3. Exclusive Walled Gardens. The owners of broadband access have been tempted recently to consider exclusive deals with preferred application and content providers – like Google and YouTube. Often there are only one or two access providers, so small new or innovative vendors are concerned they will be relegated to a lower class of service. This is not just a US issue. In April European Union telecoms commissioner Neelie Kroes suggested that “users should be able to access and distribute the content, services and applications they want”…”Nor should telecommunications providers be allowed to block services provided by direct competitors.” Solution: Toll highway operators should not choose the customers’ automobiles. Nor should the automobile companies pay the user tolls in advance for the fastest highways. A primary reason for communications regulation is to prevent access providers from extending their power to control access to limit content choice or overcharge for services. Networks need a clear and neutral boundary between transport and applications so that choices are separate and made by end users. Let’s deal with the real challenges to delivering broadband for all - instead of firing political rhetoric at one another

May 20, 2010 21:05 David Kerr

sa photo dk

 

May you live in interesting times as the old Chinese proverb goes. Well in the information, communication and entertainment industry we certainly do. Some very interesting questions face our industry whether we look at:

  • the outcome of much delayed Indian 3G auction or
  • the battlegrounds around HSPA+ and LTE or
  • the surging Android ecosystem vs. weakening Symbian or
  • the upside potential for WebOS under it new owners
  • the potential disruption caused by mobile cloud phones and device

Every major technology advancement has lead to a massive disruption in the handset and infrastructure vendor community.

  • In 3G, Motorola’s slim myopia led to its near ruin and has provided huge growth for Samsung and a foothold in international markets for LG and SEMC.
  • On the infrastructure side 3G was expertly grasped by Huawei and ZTE leading to a new wave of M & A and a new world order which counts Nortel as a victim and seriously challenges ALU.

So how will the migration to 4G change the playing field?

  • Who will benefit most on the operator/service provider side?
  • Will Cloud Phones be disruptive in LTE?
  • Will operators find a path to realign the traffic/revenue mix with mobile broadband devices?

I would welcome your thoughts on these key questions. Also don’t forget to join our client webinar on Thursday May 27.

 

David


March 24, 2010 22:03 suerudd
Newton MA.USA. The size and bureaucratic tone of the FCC’ s ‘Connecting America :The National Broadband Plan’ conceal some exciting implications for broadband wireless. So here is the crib sheet.The new pro-active US Federal Communications Commission has decided to follow the example of other industrialized countries - that have been aggressively promoting Broadband - and has proposed a Broadband Availability Target (BAT) for every household and business location in America to have access to affordable broadband service with download speeds of at least 4 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 1 Mbps with good quality of service. 14 million people in US today do not have access to a terrestrial broadband infrastructure capable of meeting the BAT. FCC projected potential broadband revenues from these 14 million people and subtracted the required capital expenditures and ongoing costs for terrestrial fixed broadband. The difference is the Broadband Availability Gap (BAG) which has a 2010 present value of $24 Billion. “The gap is greatest in areas with low population density” where, the FCC says “service providers .. cannot earn enough revenue to cover the costs of deploying and operating broadband networks, including expected returns on capital… there is no business case to offer broadband services in these areas.” So what role does the FCC assign to broadband wireless to help fill this gap? FCC notes that as of November 2009 3G service covered only roughly 60% of U.S. land mass. And although FCC politely questions the spectral efficiency and services of current Fixed Wireless technology and timing of 4G wireless it boldly announced new plans to: Make 500 MHz newly available for broadband use in 10 years, of which 300 MHz is for mobile use within 5 years as follows:
• 20 MHz for mobile broadband use in the 2.3 GHz WCS band • 10 MHz Upper 700 MHz D Block for commercial use compatible with public safety broadband services • 60 MHz in AWS bands • 90 MHz of Mobile Satellite Spectrum (MSS) for terrestrial use • 120 MHz reallocated with compensation from the broadcast bands television (TV).
And the FCC recommends allocating funds for the plan in stages as follows:
Stage 1: 2010–2011 - FCC will establish Connect America Fund (CAF) to support the provision of affordable fixed broadband and will begin to switch up to $15.5 billion from the Universal Service Fund(USF) to CAF. CAF funding is planned to be “technology and carrier neutral”. FCC will also establish new Mobility Fund for specific locations that are lagging significantly behind in 3G wireless coverage (and to establish) the basis for the future footprint of 4G mobile broadband networks. Stage 2: 2012–2016 - FCC will assign approximately $4 billion from Inter-Carrier Compensation (ICC) reforms and CAF to Mobility Fund and related activities. FCC will also provide funding of up to $6.5 billion to support deployment of a nationwide, interoperable Public Safety mobile broadband network. Fixed wireless broadband will compete with terrestrial broadband for CAF funding.
Our recent TRS report ‘Gambling on Telco Returns - Telco CAPEX and Risk in Six Countries’ calculated that today fixed broadband capital investment cost per subscriber in the US, is approximately $250. This compares to approximately $70 per subscriber for today’s wireless networks and potentially twice that for 3G+ or 4G. Wireless broadband is likely to require significantly less FCC subsidy than terrestrial broadband to fill the FCC’s ‘Broadband Gap’, especially in the underserved low density rural areas of the US. Tariff and Revenue Strategy Service analyzes how service providers can balance their fixed and mobile broadband capital expenditures and price new broadband services to achieve profitable ubiquitous operations. Sue Rudd, Director Tariff & Revenue Strategies – srudd@strategyanalytics.com

March 3, 2010 18:03 suerudd
March 3rd. 2010, Newton MA. USA Tariff and Revenue Strategy(TRS) service looks at the financial outlook for service providers in 2010 and 2011.  Although growth will be slow, TRS expects telecommunications to outpace the economy. The glass is definitely ‘half-full’. Real US growth is beginning to come from the manufacturing sector. US Federal Reserve has announced that January 2010 was the 7th. consecutive month of US manufacturing growth. Output of business equipment rose 0.9 percent in January, and information processing equipment increased 1.7 percent. In UK today’s strong service sector report is stimulating talk of positive first quarter GDP growth; and the February US numbers show stronger than expected service sector growth and continued manufacturing expansion. For the telecommunications sector in 2010 the substitution of telecommunications for travel and of messaging and email for business transactions should continue to increase penetration as a percent of overall industry activity. Because telecommunications increases labor productivity it will continue to outpace the slow economic recovery, even if there is little job growth. Slowing rate of job losses has not been great news – though this is exactly how things look just before the economy turns up . Think ‘sine wave’ and ‘positive first derivative’. The slow recovery is not slow enough however, to totally depress Communications Investment. Capital expenditures (CAPEX) for telecommunications equipment and network deployment are expected to recover significantly in 2010, even if the level may not get back above that of 2008. Even as operators are laying off thousands of employees to improve competitive efficiency, they are optimistic enough to announce significant 2010 CAPEX for broadband telecom (fixed and mobile) over the next 18 months. These operators expect next generation IP based infrastructure to leverage the hardware volume of the information industry and lower their overall cost of operations. BTW: It is hard to quantify the exact impact of these savings on operator financials – but TRS is working on it. In 2010 and 2011 we expect that mobile broadband and IP based infrastructure will have the performance to begin to fill the ‘Broadband Gap’.  Mobile Broadband at 2- 20 MBps may actually be the cheaper, better way to deploy broadband services in rural and low density areas around the world. This infrastructure deployment will itself stimulate further economic growth. As April comes and the weather improves the glass may very slowly start getting fuller. Sue Rudd - srudd@strategyanalytics.com