City Clouds: Dumb Idea?

Verizon Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg last week told the San Francisco Chronicle that city plans to build networks could be one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard.

But backers of municipal networks are fighting hard against such claims, reports Telephony Magazine. They are winning the support of a high-tech community worried that Asia and now much of Western Europe is pulling ahead of the U.S. with better broadband penetration, quality and cost.

We’re a joke compared to Europe and most of Asia, said economist John Rutledge, the author of last summer’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce report on the need for telecom regulatory reform. In the U.S., most people think of broadband as a cable modem that’s like turtle mail in Japan and Korea, where broadband services typically run at 20 Mb/s and higher at costs similar to what U.S. consumers pay for 3 Mb/s service, he added.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles WiFi Cloud Committee Report (pdf) included academics as well as incumbent telco and cable company representatives.

Executive Summary

We envision the City of Los Angeles as a place where everyone who works, lives or visits here enjoys convenient and affordable broadband access to the Internet. We want Los Angeles to be a broadband city both in reality and in global reputation.

We think that the experience of increasingly mobile, high speed, personalized communication will help make the City a great place to live, work and enjoy the excitement of urban life. Most importantly, we believe the ability for everyone to communicate easily and quickly is vital to the City s aspiration to serve as a great forum of open and free democratic discussion and creative expression.

In developing our report, the members of the panel agreed on several core values that guided our deliberations and recommendations:

Affordability. High speed communication services need to be available at prices competitive with other cities and regions in the U.S. not just to help close the Digital Divide within the City, but to avoid any negative impact on the decision to locate in Los Angeles or even in one area of the City vs. another by individuals, non-profits or businesses.

Convenience. Access to high speed networks should be available to all City residents, businesses and visitors in ways and at locations that encourage their use and enhance the experience of living in a modern, connected metropolis.

Technological Neutrality. The rapid changes in communication technologies that will occur over the next five years requires that the City not attempt to lock in on any one technological solution nor attempt to award preferred status to any particular solution for fast and easy access to the Net.

“One of the best ways for a city the size of Los Angeles to achieve our goal”, says the report, “is to work with institutions in the private sector that share our vision and want to work in partnership with the City to achieve it”.

  • The Digital Cities Convention in Philadelphia will welcome, technology professionals from some 33 cities as well as counties, states and municipal coalitions, from May 2-4, 2005.

    Sponsored by the Wireless Internet Institute, the convention promises to provide three days of brainstorming, analysis and consensus-building among representatives of wireless and mesh networking providers and the city, state and international representatives interested in implementing their solutions.

  • BostonWAG is one of several local organizations involved in a special task force formed to plan the Boston WiFi Summit, which will be held on Thursday, May 19. The task force is now seeking input from community residents on how they think wireless technology could be used to make Boston a more attractive place to live, work, go to school and conduct business. Representatives of local community groups, grassroots organizations, and non-profit agencies are invited to participate in the forum. The Summit is being organized and sponsored by the City of Boston, the Boston Councillor John M. Tobin, Jr., the Boston Foundation, and the Museum of Science.

  • Chicago’s Finance and Economic Development committees estimate it would cost about $18.5 million to deploy the network, according to the Chicago Tribune. A task force will study the best way to deploy a city-wide wireless network. In addition, an alderman said he would propose a law that would preserve the city’s right to install such a network, even if the state legislature approves a bill that would prevent municipal networks.

  • New York City has an RFP for a billion dollar cloud, but New Yorkers suffer from patchy mobile coverage. In exchange for being able to mount up to 18,000 new lamp post-based antennas, to strengthen coverage around the five boroughs, the companies will pay the city government around $25m each year.

    State Outcome
    Colorado Amended version much less onerous
    Florida Compromise reached
    Illinois Died in committee
    Indiana Died in committee
    Iowa Some restrictions lifted, still pending
    Louisiana Pending
    Michigan Pending
    Nebraska Five measures pending
    Ohio Session ended, no action
    Oregon No action
    Texas Amended version less restrictive, still pending
    Virginia Died in committee
    West Virginia Died in committee
    Source: The Ballet-Herbst Law Group

    Business 2.0 looked at Broadband Boomtowns in the Northeast, Southeast, Mid West and West.

    WiFi Planet has the latest Hot Spot Hits. MuniWireless covers city clouds while Civitium keeps score on municipal broadband legislation. See DailyWireless; GigE to the Home – Wireless Next? and DailyWireless Testifies for Muni Broadband.

  • Space Radar Launch

    Imagine there’s no heaven…it’s easy if you try.
    No hell below us…above us only sky
    — George Bush sings

    Sometime between 8:00 and 10:30 p.m. tonight, a spy satellite payload may be launched from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40. A 9-minute, 30-second ascent is expected to deliver a National Reconnaissance Office radar imaging satellite into an inclined orbit.

    UPDATE: IT HAS BEEN LAUNCHED. Satellite Observers have the orbit details while Heavens-Above plots the track. Wave when it’s scheduled to pass over.

    Space watchers have speculated that the clandestine cargo nestled inside the rocket’s 66-foot long nose cone could be the fifth in a series of radar imaging spacecraft, commonly called LACROSSE inside the 20 story tall Titan 4B.

    The NRO was formed more than 40 years ago from military and CIA to collect critical intelligence. The synthetic aperture radar system can operate in both daylight and darkness and see through clouds, detect objects a few feet across and even reveal underground structures.

    Space-Based Radar, by contrast, delivers continuous location information, requiring a 17,000 pound payload in a 100 Mile, 63-degree orbit. The Space Radar program would use a constellation of 10 to 24 satellites by 2012 to track everything below, from planes to tanks to individual people.

    The first and third radar imaging satellites, using radar to capture images, were placed into 57-degree inclination orbits, which means the craft fly as far north and south of the equator as 57 degrees latitude. The second and fourth LACROSSEs were placed into 68-degree orbits to cover more of the planet. Active radar is the opposite of stealth. PocketSat for Pocket PC can track it.

    Although the targeted inclination for Friday’s launch has not been disclosed, hazard warnings issued to mariners and Canadian oil platforms confirm the Titan 4 is headed up the Atlantic seaboard.

    Rarely 2-3 hours go by, it is believed, without at least one of the current 15-ton spacecraft obtaining imagery somewhere over Iraq, although 12 specific overflights per day have viewing angles that provide the highest resolution pictures.

    Lacrosse can track moving vehicles, locate bunkers up to three meters underground and submerged submarines at periscope depth (40 to 50 feet). The NRO tries to keep two Lacrosse systems in orbit at all times, with one tasked for oceanic surveillance. It is said to have a 48 foot long, 12 foot wide rectangular radar antenna and a 150 foot long solar panel, suggesting an output power of 10-20 kilowatts.

    This liftoff ends the Titan era at Cape Canaveral after five decades of flights, including Titan 1 missiles, Titan 2 boosters launching Gemini astronauts, Titan 3s with Viking and Voyager, Titan 34D carrying critical military satellites and the past 16 years of Titan 4.

    The NRO, known for legendary waste, hopes to make space the 21st Century battleground.

    But the military’s new rocket program, designed to launch more than 20 tons into space, is $14.44 billion over budget and counting, raising questions about how long taxpayers can subsidize two of America’s biggest aerospace companies to keep them in the launch business, reports Florida Today.

    Boeing is more than a year behind schedule and billions over budget on their NRO spy satellite contract, forcing the government to shift an estimated $4 billion from other spy programs.

    The EELV program (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle), was created after the military’s space truck (the Shuttle), proved expensive and unreliable. The EELV program includes two heavy lifters; Lockheed’s Atlas 5 and Boeing’s Delta IV Heavy. They will provide the U.S. government’s primary heavy-lifting needs for the foreseeable future. Patrick Air Force Base, at Cape Canaveral, provides Lockheed’s International Launch Services with Atlas V launch support.

    Boeing and the Air Force opened up a new Vandenburg facility for their EELV this Wednesday.

    The humongous hangar at Space Launch Complex-6, on south Vandenberg Air Force Base, will be the launchpad for polar orbits using Boeing’s new EELV, the Delta IV.

    It will compete with Lockheed’s EELV, the Atlas V. Both are expected to loose billions.

    Boeing and Lockheed guessed that commercial space launches would amoritize EELV development costs.

    They guessed wrong. Taxpayers now subsidize both of them.

    Perhaps not incidently, Lockheed reported a 27 percent increase in its first-quarter profit this week and raised its 2005 revenue forecast.

    “At each Titan launch, I have always had the feeling I was standing too close.”

    – Dennis Fitzgerald, acting director, NRO

    Vandenberg hosts the final Titan 4 launch in July before it shifts to the new Titan 5 EELV. The July launch at Vandenburg is expected to be another NRO payload. The satellite will be shrouded inside a “modified version of a standard Titan 76-foot payload fairing.” Such a nose cone has never been used on the previous 11 Titan 4s from the West Coast. The most interesting may be the EELVs from Florida launching 100 meter antennas for NRO’s “big ears”.

    Lacrosse s data recorder may need to dump several hundred megabits-per-second within a 3 minute window as it passes over ground stations. It can also relay data via SDS or TDRS satellites.

    The TDRS-J relay satellite features the following capabilities:

    • S-band Single Access: Two 15-foot diameter steerable antennas, used at the 2.0 to 2.3 GHz (gigahertz) band, supply robust communications to user satellites with smaller antennas and receive telemetry from expendable launch vehicles during launch.
    • Ku-band Single Access: The same two antennas, operating from 13.7 to 15.0 GHz, provide higher bandwidth for user satellites, provide high-resolution digital television for Space Shuttle video communications and can quickly transfer large volumes of data from tape or solid-state data recorders aboard “NASA scientific spacecraft” (quotes mine).
    • Ka-band Single Access: This new higher-frequency service, which operates from 22.5 to 27.5 Gigahertz and increases data rate capabilities to 800 megabits per second, will provide communications for future missions requiring higher bandwidths such as multi-spectral instruments for Earth science applications.
    • Multiple Access: This system is capable of receiving signals from five user spacecraft simultaneously at rates up to 3 megabits per second, while transmitting to a single user at up to 300 kilobits per second. The system operates using a phased-array antenna in the 2.0 to 2.3 GHz range.

    The follow-on to the Delta IV, Boeing’s Delta IV Heavy (above), can place 50,000 pounds in low-Earth orbit or close to 30,000 pounds in geosynch orbit, more than twice the 12,700 pounds geo payload of the Delta IV being phased out. The Pentagon plans to spend some $5 billion this decade on 15 rocket launches. When Boeing announced their Decatur Delta IV rocket factory in 1997, it projected a $400 million investment would create 2,300 jobs. Boeing employs less than 600 local workers today and the future looks bleak.

    The EELVs could be a $20 billion white elephant. Nobody wants giant satellites anymore. Too risky. Insurance has skyrocketed while the market has plumeted. Investment bankers run the major international satellite carriers now. Fiber optics and broadband wireless deliver more bang for the buck.

    There is no demand for a big launcher right now or in the next five years,” said Phil McAlister, an industry analyst. “None of the private-equity guys [who have purchased several large commercial satellite operators] are looking at monster satellites, especially if the only ride is on a relatively unproven rocket”.

    Autonomous aircraft are less predictable and immediately useful to people getting shot. Fiber networks, like i2i’s 8.4 Terabit global network (above), are orders of magnitude faster and cheaper.

    Blimps and Balloons and Low Earth Orbit satellites are sometimes used for radar platforms or 100-200 mile, handheld-to-handheld communications. In Iraq, blimps with fiber optic tethers are used.

    High Altitude Airships that station-keep high in the stratosphere are also planned. In 2006, a prototype airship will be positioned over Akron, Ohio. Sanswire hopes to provide voice, video, and broadband Internet access to all parts of the country.

    Major Commercial Launch Services

    Launch Service Provider Rocket Launch Site
    Arianespace Ariane 4 Kourou, French Guiana
    Ariane 5 Kourou, FG
    Boeing Satellite Systems Delta Cape Canaveral AS, FL & Vandenberg AFB, CA
    China Great Wall Long March Xichang
    International Launch Services

    Atlas Cape Canaveral AS, FL & Vandenberg AFB, CA
    Proton Baikonur, Khazakhstan
    Japan, Rocket System Corp H-2 Tanegashima, Japan
    Orbital Sciences Pegasus/Taurus Wallops Island Flight Facility, VA & Cape Canaveral CA
    SeaLaunch Modified Zenit Pacific Ocean platform
    Yuzhnoe (Ukraine) Zenit 2 Baikonut, Khazakhstan

    Jonathan’s Space Report has a Table of Recent Launches

    Dave Thompson, President & CEO, Spectrum Astro has some choice words on America’s Other Space Agency (the NRO), which has apparently squandered tens of billions of dollars with nothing to show for it.

    “The NRO knows how to build one hell of an office building. They have the nicest office complex in all of America, granite and marble, soaring stainless steel and glass, and mahogany desks in private offices. That new NRO Taj Mahal is really nice and they have the nicest cafeteria in all of America. You can eat in little Mexico, little Italy, you can have southern grits and bacon, eight kinds of bread, five kinds of gourmet soup and sixteen toppings for your ice cream dessert.

    But where are those revolutionary satellites that they promised us?”

    John Negroponte, nominated to be the nation’s first Director of National Intelligence (DNI), has his work cut out for him if the Intelligence Reform Act is to have any positive benefit, said speakers at the National Space Symposium.

    Representatives from Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense and industry contractors said there is no guarantee that a boss placed above the CIA director will demonstrate any immediate advantage for technical intelligence agencies such as National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office or the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

    Nukes are spreading. The best defense could be more friends. Criminal waste just weakens us.

    Orbital Sciences has additional links. Related DailyWireless articles include; Rocket Welfare, Space Mist, Stealth Satellites, Space Balls, Intelsat-7 Goes Dark, Pacific Satellites Fail, NRO Rides Again, Stratellite, Battle Blimps, Mars: Dead or Alive, Off Shore Data Links, Future Crimes: MATRIX, Unwired in Hawaii and The Global Grid.

    X Marks Spotlight

    Apple’s new Tiger goes on the prowl tonight at 6pm, along with a new OSX server. C/Net, E-Week, MacWorld, Computer World, PC Magazine, ArsTech, and OS News explain the key features of the OS X 10.4.

    Among the 200 new features are Automator, Dashboard, Quicktime 7, an updated version of web browser Safari, and the new embedded search engine, Spotlight.

    Apple executives are especially proud of Spotlight search.

    “We think that people using Mac OS X Tiger will be in the Spotlight menu all the time,” said Brian Croll, Apple’s senior director of Software Product Marketing. “You can go there to find documents, pictures, applications or anything else you want. All roads lead to Spotlight.”

    Google and Yahoo are also adding search features that hunt out information on your own PC. Search technology is on the move. Search Engine Watch rounds up Yahoo’s personal search, Google’s personal search and Local Mobile Search Tools.

    Here’s a roundup of other mobile local search tools for users in the U.S.

    Google’s SMS service has offered local info since it launched last summer. Two other services that I’ve used also offer local info via SMS. They are and Synfonic. allows you to cut and paste material from any web page and send the content via SMS. provides several services for mobile web users including white and yellow pages, reverse phone and address look-up, neighbor look-up and maps with driving directions.

    The MSN Mobile site does not offer local business info but does provide maps and driving directions.

    AOL’s mobile portal offers a searchable yellow pages database.

    Infospace Mobile offers driving directions, yellow pages and other services.

    Maporama, a great site for maps and driving directions (global in scope) provides a mobile version of their service for Palm and Windows devices with wireless web access.

    And be sure to check out Yahoo’s offerings. Local service has been a part of the Yahoo Mobile web site since October 2004. Yahoo Local Mobile lets you save various locations, allowing you to search local info quickly for more than one location.

    The web version of Yahoo Local also allows you to send the entry to your mobile device via SMS text messaging. Now, with that same click you can also send yourself a direct link to access a map and driving directions.

    On a frivilous note, Apple Insider reports that discount mail order firm, Tiger Direct, has filed a lawsuit claiming Apple Computer infringed its trademark.

    PoE-Powered Touchscreen

    The BBC reports that UK firm DSP Design has made a PC that gets its power via Ethernet cable using Power-over-Ethernet (PoE).

    The Poet 6000 draws only 12 watts. It replaces a monitor with a flat-panel screen and uses low power components. It has a touch screen and DSP expects it to be used in kiosks, at trade shows and other places where laying power cables would take too long, be too expensive or too difficult.

    The current PoE specifications have an upper limit of 15.4 watts. It’s enough for network hubs, webcams, smart card readers and even video servers but it’s not enough for most desktop PCs.

    Ordinary laptops could also soon be getting their power from network cables as work is starting on specifications for Power Over Ethernet Plus which will be able to deliver 30-35 watts.

    Power-Over-Ethernet could end up being a universal power supply, says the article. Cables and connectors for PoE are identical, world-wide. By contrast, power sockets and plugs differ by country.

    TechDirt Profiled

    TechDirt was profiled in the San Francisco Cronicle today:

    In the cutthroat business environment of Silicon Valley, industry information is perhaps the best tool for success. With the right kind of dirt, you’re golden; without inside scoops, you’re just about as clueless as the average Joe.

    Enter Techdirt, a Belmont company designed to educate the masses. Via its Web site accessible by the public, the firm produces daily snippets of analysis on all of the industry’s latest news. Through password-protected private sites for corporate clients, the company also produces industry- specific analysis designed to help firms get ahead.

    CEO Mike Masnick, a 30-year-old with an insatiable appetite for news, founded the company in 1997 and is still its most prolific analyst. He has also piloted the firm’s rise — last year, Techdirt tripled its staff to 12 and its revenues grew 400 percent from 2003, according to the company.

    “It’s been quite a ride,” he says, noting that the company has been built solely on revenue, not on venture capital like most firms in the area. “If you had told me years ago that I’d build a company on this kind of news analysis, I wouldn’t have believed you for a second.”

    Techdirt began as a business school project when Masnick was attending Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. To keep fellow graduate students up to speed on developments in technology, Masnick began a weekly e-mail newsletter with pithy snippets that analyzed all of the latest technology news. Gradually, as more people began clamoring for the newsletter, Techdirt evolved from a weekly e-mail into a Web site updated daily.

    Masnick finished business school, then took his project west, to the Bay Area. After leaving a job at a (now defunct) high-tech startup in 2000, Masnick made Techdirt official, and incorporated the business. He then persuaded some like-minded folks from Intel, CNET and McGraw-Hill to help him run the show…

    Finding the right mix of opinion and “reportage” is tricky. You don’t want to alienate people — but you gotta have fun providing value-added perspective or linkage. We’re jealous. TechDirt has its finger on the pulse of the industry and generally scoops everybody.

    With the exception of Om Malik and Karl Bode, of course.

    3.6 GHz: VoIP or Not?

    The new 3650-3700 Mhz band, recently opened up by the FCC, has (apparently) some restrictions for WiMax that could limit its utilitity for voice backhaul.

    This article from Broadband Wireless World indicates difficulties with the contention-based protocol required in the new band:

    Some of the more pointed talk at the Broadband Wireless World show held last week came in the “Perspectives on the Industry” panel discussion that followed the Keynote Address by Fujitsu’s Keith Horn.

    The panel, moderated by Tim Downs, editor of BWB magazine, included George Wu, director of wireless solutions at Fujitsu, Dr. Reza Ahy, CEO at Aperto Networks, Mitch Vine, director of strategic marketing at Redline Communications and Dr. Ron Marquardt, director of alternative last-mile products at Covad Communications.

    What follows are some of the highlights from this discussion. One big bombshell delivered during the talk was the general discontent expressed concerning the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) recent decision on the 3.65 GHz band. Despite the FCC’s wish that opening the 3.65 GHz band to fixed wireless would provide more spectrum for WiMAX applications, the FCC’s rules on the use of a contention-based protocol in the band will make this difficult to achieve, according to panelists.

    Tim Downs: How will 3.5 GHz WiMAX trials and network deployments in Europe affect the U.S. market?

    Mitch Vine: The FCC is trying to do something different with the 3.6 GHz band i.e., high-speed access for rural development, supporting the WISP community. Unfortunately, the products that are certified [for that band] have to use a contention-based protocol. This requirement disqualifies WiMAX as it is defined today. WiMAX was designed as a scheduler, as opposed to Wi-Fi, which deals with [traffic] collisions. It will take years to rewrite and implement a WiMAX solution that meets the [FCC’s] requirement.

    Reza Ahy: Seventy percent of our [Aperto’s] sales are in the 3.5 GHz spectrum. We believe there should have been amendments [to the FCC’s 3.65 GHz rules] to reflect where the WiMAX industry is today. Carrier-class services need to be predictable. With a contention-based protocol, an SLA [service level agreement] is not possible. We need help from the FCC on the 3.65 spectrum to make it competitive in the U.S. market.

    The FCC’s March 10, 2005 Press Release (pdf) states:

    The Commission also provided an opportunity for the introduction at 3650 MHz of a variety of new wireless broadband technologies, such as Wi-Max, into the band. Under the Commission s approach, there is no limit on the number of licenses that can be granted, and each licensee will be authorized to operate on a shared basis with other licensees on all 50 megahertz of the band, subject to restrictions in geographic areas occupied by grandfathered Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) and Federal Government stations.

    Licensees will also be required to register all system base stations electronically with the Commission. Base station registration will enable licensees to locate each other s operations and will facilitate protection of grandfathered stations from interference. This type of licensing and registration will enable the Commission to monitor the use of this spectrum as new technologies and services develop.

    The WiMAX Forum believes global harmonization can be achieved in the following spectrum bands:

    • License-Exempt 5 GHz: Because license-exempt spectrum is free to use, this band is a key to enabling grassroots deployments in underserved, low population density rural and remote markets.
    • Licensed 3.5 GHz: In these bands, the focus of the WiMAX Forum will be to minimize unnecessary technical and regulatory requirements that might constrain BWA usage models and overall market development.
    • Licensed 2.5 GHz: Though already allocated in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil and some Southeast Asian countries, the WiMAX Forum is participating in ongoing global efforts to make this band available in other countries.

    Broadband Wireless Magazine also has an article on VoIP in Broadband Wireless.

    • airBand Communications began rolling out its VoIP service last year. They plans to migrate VoIP onto its wireless network in mid-2006. The WISP connects business customers in metro Dallas, Houston and Phoenix using 5.8 GHz unlicensed spectrum, using 18 GHz and 23 GHz licensed spectrum for its larger customers. The company currently delivers VoIP service to 300 of its 1,600 business customers located in all of its markets.

    • NextWeb teamed with CommPartners to deliver VoIP service to early customers.

    • U.S. Wireless Online plans to roll out VoIP to customers in tier 2 cities in 11 states by the end of the second quarter. They use Aperto gear for the backhaul.

    • Speakeasy plans to launch its broadband wireless network in Seattle next month. Their WiMAX plans call for simultaneous VoIP and data services.

    • Clearwire plans to offer VoIP services in the near future, although Clearwire has blocked Vonage. Clearwire signed an agreement with Bell Canada under which Bell Canada will provide VoIP systems and services for Clearwire.

    Originally regulation free, VoIP is now under new management at the FCC. The FCC plans to require VoIP providers to provide 911 support, although how mobile users will be located is not exactly clear.

    WISP Centric has details on 3.650 GHz. Related DailyWireless stories include; Broadband World Wrap, Navini Offers 3.5 GHz PC Card, 3.5 GHz: Licensed or Un?, and The FCC Opens the 3650MHz band.