Cell Phones View Webcams

Logitech Mobile Video and Verizon Wireless have teamed to bring live webcam images from virtually anywhere to cell phones. Verizon’s Get It Now-enabled phones can view live images from personal or publicly available web cameras directly from their handsets. The application is powered by generationPIX.

“Our uniquely available Get It Now service gives our customers innovative, fun and useful communication applications they can access directly from their wireless phones,” said Jim Straight, vice president of wireless data and Internet services for Verizon Wireless. “The Logitech Mobile Video service brings an exciting new dimension to Get It Now by enabling our customers to visually connect with family and friends, as well as view public web cameras right from their phones.”

Using the Logitech Mobile Video service powered by generationPIX, Verizon Wireless customers can view public web cameras as well as password-protected private web cameras from their pre-selected ‘Friend’s List’. Users can also receive an SMS message notification that will alert them when a friend’s camera comes online.

The generationPIX GPiX server software converts live/archived video content into a proprietary compression format for the most efficient delivery over 2 and 3G wireless networks. The GPiX Player/Decoder has a small client footprint (10-19K) which enables Palm OS and Qualcomm’s BREW enabled handset owners to view video content published by generationPIX branded content. It streams 2-5fps (color) over existing 2G celluar networks.

“Our ability to send Logitech web camera images to mobile phones is a phenomenal step forward for the rapidly growing audience of next generation wireless phone consumers,” said Michael Branzuela, CEO of generationPIX Inc.

Verizon Wireless customers who purchase a compatible full-color Get It Now phone can subscribe to Logitech Mobile Video directly from their Motorola T720 or the CDM-9500, by downloading the application, which costs $4.99 per month for unlimited use in addition to airtime used. Currently, Verizon Wireless is offering a free trial of the Logitech Mobile Video service.

The Motorola T720 is currently being offered for $79.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate and a two-year agreement while the CDM-9500 retails for $149.99.

The Japanese cellular carrier, J-Phone, uses the Nancy codec for real-time video compression/decompression delivering full-color video at up to 30 frames per second. It’s used in their 2.5G “Movie Sha-Mail” video mail system, a big honkin’ hit. J-Phone is owned by UK-based Vodafone Group and Japan Telecom.

Japan’s third 3G network, KDDI, provides a 2.5G system (similar to CDMA 1X networks used by Sprint and Verizon in the United States). KDDI took off in Japan when movie mail came out. KDDI got more subscribers in a month than DoCoMo’s W-CDMA system managed in a year.

IPv6 Ambulance

Ericsson announced that an ambulance demonstration today showed vital medical data, voice and video using IPv6 and seamlessly roaming over 2G and 3G systems as well as wireless LANs. As part of the EU-project IPv6 Wireless Internet Initiative (6WINIT) it signifies an important step towards the vision of mobile users being “Always Best Connected”.

Three key technologies were brought together for the first time to show the usefulness of seamless mobile services: next generation Internet (IPv6), 3G (WCDMA) and Multi-Access.

The medical emergency system, called Guardian Angel, can seamlessly move between different types of access networks — whatever is the best available in a certain location. From a hospital setting, doctors can observe the patient in the ambulance, check the heart rate and blood pressure, using mobile networks such as GSM/GPRS or UMTS/WCDMA. Once the ambulance reaches the hospital, the system can automatically switch over to an indoor WLAN hot spot. Data flows can use separate network interfaces in parallel. For example, if the WLAN does not have sufficient reliability, vital data transmissions could simultaneously use a GSM/GPRS or UMTS/WCDMA channel.

The IPv6 Wireless Internet Initiative (6WINIT) is led by University College London and was started in early 2001 with a powerful consortium including carriers, suppliers, research organizations, hospitals and universities. 6WINIT will validate the introduction of the new Mobile Wireless Internet in Europe, promoting European operational testbeds to plan, build and demonstrate an end-to-end IPv6 enabled mobile environment.

Satellite Grab Bag

Here’s a grab bag of satellite related news.

  • Miami-based New Valley, ended an agreement to invest $55 million in Globalstar, the bankrupt satellite telephone company. Buying a $4 billion system for $55 million seemed like a good deal at the time.

    Globalstar was set up by Loral and Qualcomm in 1994 to offer satellite-based mobile telephone services to business customers but fell on hard times as demand for its services was much smaller then expected.

    In November, Globalstar reported that it had about $22.6 million cash on hand at the end of September, and it would need debtor-in-possession financing to complete its Chapter 11 restructuring. It has a burn rate of $4M/month and defaulted on loans to its founding companies in early 2001 and filed for bankruptcy protection in Feb. 2002.

  • Meanwhile Iridium LLC, founded by Motorola, filed for bankruptcy in 1999. Its assets were bought for $25 million in Dec. 2000 and is still operational. The military finds it useful and has bought large blocks of time.

  • The future for Craig McCaw’s ICO Global Telecommunications still uncertain. If ICO can use some of their spectrum for terrestial “cell phone” use, providers like Nextel (also owned by McCaw), could stand to gain.

    More than a year ago, MSS operators Motient and ICO petitioned the FCC to give them some of that spectrum for an ancillary terrestial component (ATC) that would allow them to offer cellular-like terrestrial service along with their mobile satellite service.

    Satellite phone signals can be disrupted by tall buildings and canyons. Terrestial “repeaters” enhance coverage and make the service more viable. Nextel’s Rural Push hopes to provide rural cellular phone service and “last mile” data connectivity combined with ICO for the backbone.

    The Agriculture Department is finally adhering to portions of the 2002 farm bill that called for $1.4 billion in funding to bring broadband and telecom services to rural areas (loans are issued to communities with fewer than 20,000 residents). The Bush administration also announced this week their intent to use $196 million of the Agriculture Department’s 2004 budget on loans to telecommunications companies to improve rural high speed infrastructure through Rural Development Grants.

    McCaw could establish cell-like services on the 2 GHz (satellite) band without having to pay for the spectrum, get it funded with USDA money, and use ICO for a backbone.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Billionaires need free government money, too. We’d just blow it on shoes and stuff rather than critical satellite infrastructure.

    Currently ICO only has one satellite launched but it has plans to launch 11 others soon. Motient and New ICO state that the survival of MSS is in the public interest because without MSS, U.S. citizens in rural areas will be deprived of wireless and public-safety services.

    That’s exactly what the FCC approved on Thursday.

  • The FCC’s decision to share satellite spectrum for terrestial “cell phone” use will let providers of satellite phone providers like Globalstar use some of their spectrum to provide terrestrial wireless service to improve coverage. The agency also agreed to reallocate some satellite spectrum for use by cellular providers. That was expected to mollify opposition by the terrestrial companies to the decision to give their satellite competitors “free”, land-based use of their airwaves. The new ruling gives the satellite providers and conventional wireless providers 30 additional megahertz of spectrum, as well as safeguards against the satellite companies using their new flexibility improperly.

    “The FCC’s decision to give failing satellite companies new technical rights is a giant giveaway that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars,” said CTIA President Tom Wheeler.

    Unlike conventional wireless providers, which bought their spectrum in auction, Congress under the Orbit Act provided the satellite providers theirs for free.

    In other satellite news:

  • For emergency communications (or war coverage) satellites are indespensible. The Norsat NewsLink (above), can be carried in two suitcases and deployed easily in the field in several minutes without special tools. It allows the transmission of broadcast quality MPEG-2 video via DVB-S over satellite. The terminal is ideally suited for the transmission of video, voice, and IP data in remote or hostile environments.

  • The Inmarsat Regional BGAN satellite IP modem, developed by Hughes Network Systems… takes seconds to fine tune and seems foolproof … about the size of a couple of stacked magazines.” The satellite modem offers standard USB, Ethernet or Bluetooth wireless connectivity for laptops, PDAs or other mobile data terminals and can simultaneously send and receive packet data over a shared, 144 Kbps secure channel. The BGAN network delivers IP GPRS-type services throughout Europe, North Africa, Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, allowing access to the Internet, company intranets and to transfer files. PC Pro considered the modem to offer a more reliable connection than a ground-based GSM/GPRS connection.

  • Intelsat’s Occasional Video Solutions provide end-to-end networks with global coverage by leveraging five of Intelsat’s satellites, the 905 at 335.5E, 902 at 62E, 901 at 342E, 701 at 180E and the 707 at 359E. Video customers can use both C- and Ku-band coverage beams on these satellites, or request services over additional satellites as well.

    Customers can order all or part of a solution by contacting the Video Operations Center at videosolutions@intelsat.com or by calling +1 202 944 7100. Services can be ordered in one-minute increments with a 10-minute minimum commitment.

  • The first commercial deployment of non-line-of-sight (NLOS) self-install customer units, using Broadstorm’s 802.16a metro wireless unit linking to a Hughes Skycaster. Hughes provides a self-contained satellite Internet data service with their 4020 box providing VPN connections to PC’s and LANs based upon the Hughes DIRECWAY satellite Internet service. The last mile uses Broadstorms 802.16a.

  • Other domestic (U.S.) satellite internet services can be accessed by Tachyon’s transportable satellite dish and MotoSat’s mobile 2-way dish (FAQ).

  • Satellite-based internet provider Starband declared chapter 11 last year but is still operational. It may join with the Ka-band Wild Blue satellite internet service. Meanwhile the Hughes-backed DirecPC also plans to continue operation although neither Starband or DirecPC are making money. Next year the Ka band Wild Blue and SpaceWay will provide up to 1.5Mbps up and 5Mbps down using spot beams which should make a better business model since spectrum can be shared by more users.

  • Confusingly, DirecTV Broadband is NOT a satellite-based service like the Hughes-based, DirecPC. DirecTV Broadband is a DSL service provided under the DirectTV name. It’s poised to dismantle its high-speed Internet service in the next few weeks. The last of the 160,000 nationwide subscribers will be cut off on Feb. 28, with shutdown plans in December.

  • For more information, check out Lloyd Wood’s Satellite Constellations, the best site for LEO information.

  • Dual Band Laptops

    HP will use Atheros chips in tri-mode notebooks, the first to support “tri-mode” (802.11a/b/draft-g) operation. Toshiba’s Satellite Pro 6100 also uses the Atheros 5100x. Meanwhile IBM on Tuesday announced dual-band ThinkPad notebooks with integrated antennas.

    Intel is delaying use of the dual-band chipset (codenamed Calexico). That means Intel’s ‘Centrino’-based laptops will have only 802.11b support, using a chipset from Philips. The dual mode (a/b and later “g” won’t be available until later in the year.

    Intel will introduce the Centrino processor family in March.

    Three versions of the low-power Pentium-M processor, formerly code-named Banias, now Centrino, will reportedly be available. A standard Pentium-M chip, is expected to run at 1.3GHz to 1.6GHz, but two as-yet-undisclosed lower-power versions may also be available.

    The new chips include an ultra-low-voltage Pentium-M that will debut at 900MHz and a low-voltage Pentium-M chip that will begin at 1.1GHz, according to the sources. The chips, along with the rest of the Centrino family, will allow Intel to target the full range of notebook models sold by manufacturers.

    AOL/TW Loses $100B

    The Washington Post reports AOL Time Warner, the world’s largest media company, posted a 2002 loss of nearly $100 billion, the largest annual loss in U.S. corporate history. They took a $45.5 billion charge in the fourth quarter to write down the value of assets.

    The company, which also said media mogul Ted Turner would step down as vice chairman, reported a fourth quarter net loss of $44.9 billion, or $10.04 a share, after taking the non-cash charge to write down the value of its embattled America Online business and other assets. That compared to a year-ago loss of $1.8 billion, or 41 cents a share.

    Cometa Talks

    “If we knew all about where demand for wireless broadband access is going to end up,” it would be too late to start the company, said Theodore Schell, chairman and founder of Cometa Networks.

    Cometa is eyeing corporate use of their national Wi-Fi network which plans 20,000+ “hot spots” with roaming. Cometa will resell the service to ISPs and wireless cellular carriers.

    Intel’s Centrino embeds Wi-Fi in notebooks. Coupled with innovations for longer battery life, the number of Wi-Fi portable computers could reach 45 million to 50 million by 2007.

    Cometa is a joint project by AT&T, Intel and IBM for national Wi-Fi service.