Texas Shootout: Little Guys Win

The effort to ban municipal networks in Texas has failed. Texas House Bill 789 originally had provisions to ban muni wireless networks. The Senate passed a significantly rewritten version, without a ban. A conference committee failed to reach agreement, so the bill died when the Texas legislature adjourned this weekend.

The fight to maintain free municipal wireless services in Texas included heavyweight Michael Dell as an ally. U.S. Representative Pete Sessions of Dallas even introduced federal legislation to ban municipal broadband networks nation-wide.

Meanwhile phone companies in Texas were unable to get state legislators to pass a bill that would have allowed phone companies to negotiate a single statewide contract for television service via the Texas Public Utility Commission. Now they’ll have to work city by city to acquire franchises through local governments. Just like Comcast. SBC is based in San Antonio.

SBC & Verizon Plan Different Fiber Strategies
SBC’s Project Lightspeed is preparing a triple-play launch. They’re using VDSL-2, to reach the overwhelming majority of their homes. Fiber to the node, twisted pair copper to the home. SBC will use Alcatel gear for the fiber backbone. It consists of IP routers, the 7750, the Ethernet switches, the 7450, the remote DSLAM, the 7330. Microsoft’s IPTV solution will be used for the settop box.

Verizon s FiOS (Fiber Internet Service) does not use DSL. It brings fiber directly to the home. For in-home distribution it uses twisted pair (for voice) and coax (for video). FiOS TV uses digital cable boxes rather than IP-TV. Fios Internet Service requires CAT5 or higher grade wiring. It will deliver 5 Mbps ($39/mo) to 30 Mbps ($199/mo).

Verizon and SBC are challenging cable providers head-on for TV services, using fiber-optic networks for voice, data and video.

Verizon said that the legislative impasse will prolong a time-consuming process for allowing more competitors into the game. Business Week says without state or federal legislation, phone companies must win franchises in each municipality they hope to serve. For Verizon, that would mean gaining licenses in 10,000 municipalities.

Cable companies in Texas contended, however, that this would have created an unfair system for them because they currently must gain approvals from more than 800 cities in the Lone Star State to offer service.

SBC will provide Fiber to the Node (not the home). Once to the node about 500 homes will be served via existing twisted copper via VDSL. SBC says it will provide 6 Mbit/s to 8 Mbit/s per HD channel using either Microsoft’s VC-1 or MPEG-4. Verizon has already spent $1 billion, or an average of $1,000 per home, to replace the copper lines serving areas with 1 million homes and expects that number to reach 2 million homes this year. SBC expects to spend $5 billion over the next three years

Broadband Infrastructure Costs per Kilometer vs. Other Infrastructure Costs

Road: $550,000
Water: $195,000
Electricity: $145,000
Gas: $85,000
Fiber Optics; $22,000 – $35,000
Coaxial Cable: $12,000 – $20,000
Copper Wires: $7,000 – $15,000
Wireless: $3,500 – $15,000

Source: Canadian Broadband Taskforce Report, 2001 page 46

Verizon’s FIOS may run fiber to the home, then distributes video via coax around the house. SBC does IP-TV, Verizon is essentially digital cable. Verizon is building video networks based on cable TV not IP. Fios TV’s fiber-to-the-premises service is scheduled to begin later this year. Internet connections at 30 Mbps cost $199.95.

Verizon first rips out the old twisted pair feed so consumers no longer have the option of “equal access” to competing ISPs. It’s Verizon DSL or nothing. Like cable. Homeland Security, Bill Barr style.

Verizon will bring fiber to 6 of the 115 million U.S. households.

So what!

In Hong Kong, 10 Mbps costs US$16/month with 100 Mbps running $34/month. Alcatel and India’s C-DOT recently signed an agreement for introducing WiMax technology in India, targeting 20-40 million subscribers in the next five years. The United States ranks 16th in broadband penetration — and falling fast.

No less a capitalist than Comcast’s CEO Brian Roberts calls telephone fiber plans “FTTR” — Fiber-To-The-Rich. Intel’s CEO Craig Barrett said DSL and cable were “half assed“. He likes WiMax, of course.

Incumbents spent a quarter million dollars to convince locals to vote against a municipal broadband in Illinois. Broadband Reports tallies the travesties.

Related DailyWireless articles include; Banning Broadband Everywhere, Heartland Says The World Is Round, City Clouds Save Money, and Daily Wireless Testifies for Municipal Wireless and High Noon for City Clouds.

Mobile WiMax – Now?

ABI Research is getting lots of traction on their new research report, Opportunities for High Speed Wireless Data in Portable (802.16e) Markets. The ABI report was widely touted by News Factor, WiFi Planet, Internet News, Mobile Pipeline, Wireless IQ and others.

Northern Sky Research says WiMax hurdles can be easily overcome and predicts that by 2010, there will be 12.4 million WiMAX subscribers worldwide.

On the other hand, Strategy Analytics predicts fixed WiMAX will succeed but questions the viability of mobile WiMax, while E-Week says the fixed market for WiMax is limited and mobilized WiMax is a long way off.

We’re keen to get started on 802.16e, said Mick Reeve, group technology officer for British Telcom. The jury’s still out, of course, but mobile/nomadic could represent a much bigger market.

According to ABI:

Conventional wisdom says that until the advent of 802.16e mobile WiMAX systems still some time in the future the wireless broadband standard will be more or less confined to the great outdoors.

ABI Research analysts say that there are optional specifications built into the 802.16 standard which can boost the sensitivity of receiving equipment to the extent of making WiMAX PC cards and built-in receivers a practical proposition for laptops, PDAs and other portable devices. Generally these optional specifications have not been implemented by the largest vendors of WiMAX equipment.

However at least two smaller companies TeleCIS and Sequans have been designing their chipsets to implement these under-utilized options in the standard.

According to senior analyst Philip Solis, what this means is that “There may be WiMAX PC cards on the market earlier than many observers have expected.

These will result from superior chipsets permitting the use of WiMAX in laptops and similar devices in homes and offices within the reach of fixed WiMAX transmissions. You will not have full mobility as you will with 802.16e, but you will have some portability.”

Well, yeah. TeleCIS and Sequans have been promoting mobilized versions of WiBro/WiMax, using gate arrays. And they’re working on client chips for mobilized WiMax/WiBro. Who isn’t? TeleCIS says the bill of materials for a dual-antenna (MIMO) CPE is expected to be under $100 for a $200-$300 user price with better performance. TeleCIS claims their MIMO-like design provides 12 to 17 dB of additional gain. But it’s a year or two off.

The Intel/LG deal blends elements of WiBro/WiMax. WiBro offers the speed of WiFi with the range of cellular. It provides throughput of 30-50Mbps with a 1-5km (.5-3 mile) range (at 2.3 GHz) – about like cellular, but faster and probably cheaper, with IP all the way. In the United States, it all hinges on Sprint and Clearwire – they own most of the usable 2.5 GHz frequencies. The 5.8 GHz unlicensed band is okay for backhaul – not for mobility. Sprint is unlikely to undercut their EV-DO service. That leaves Craig McCaw’s Clearwire.

Broadband Policy in the United States

Broadband wireless policy for the United States may be largely determined by Craig McCaw (and maybe SK Telecom). Kevin Martin will do as he’s told. If Verizon/SBC/Comcast manage to sink municipal broadband or Clearwire, Powell left an out – the unlicensed 700 Mhz TV band (via 802.22). It’s not perfect, but it’s a workable plan.

Scalable-COFDM is the new thing at WiMax HQ. WiMax is changing horses mid-stream with S-COFDM. It promises improved coverage with mobility, but at the cost of backward compatibility with 802.16-2004. But since there really aren’t any WiMax clients out there, the WiMax Forum is hoping nobody will notice. Meanwhile, Intel, Fujitsu and others have modified their chips. They expect S-COFDM will be standard issue in the future for CPEs and basestations, largely supplanting 802.16-2004 even before it gets off the test bench at Cetecom.

802.16-2004: Lost In Translation?

The 802.16-2004 got a range boost using subchannelization. That allows clients to use fewer carriers (upstream) resulting in higher EIRP. That helps indoor clients get out.

A scalable carrier is the next frontier for Mobile WiMax. But moving to mobilized WiMax (and S-COFDM) may not be the smooth transition everyone was hoping for. Plain vanilla 802.16-2004 isn’t compatible with the new Mobile WiMax/WiBro standard. That’s forcing chip companies to create “enhanced” 802.16-2004 WiMax chips, with a foot in each camp.

Two mobile standards (IEEE 802.16e & WiBro) agreed to merge to avoid political, technical and economic headaches. Intel wanted the Scalable COFDM technology while South Korea wanted early entree into the global WiMax market. Intel and LG are now working together to bring Korea’s 2.3 GHz WiBro system to WiMax. Elements of WiBro, specifically scalable COFDM, are being incorporated into Intel chips.

Samsung and LG Electronics lead the world in WiBro – and may have first mover advantage in Mobile WiMax. Intel couldn’t afford to loose China. South Korea couldn’t afford to loose a global market.

Lost in translation may be IEEE 802.20 and the original IEEE 802.16-2004 standard. The mobilized IEEE 802.20 “standard” now appears to offer few advantages over the WiBro/WiMax “e” juggernaut. Cellular support is tepid as EV-DO and HSPDA loom. Flarion is promoting their FLASH-OFDM system as the “defacto” standard.

Meanwhile, “enhanced” WiMax chips, with the ability to interoperate with Scalable COFDM (for better range), may mean the plain vanilla 802.16-2004 standard could be quickly obsolete.

At least that’s the way we see it at DailyWireless. But we may have it all wrong.

Intel and LG are working together on WiBro/WiMax while TeleCIS Wireless, a California chip designer, has strategic alliances with Samsung and Korea Telecom. Meanwhile Unstrung reports that LG Electronics will use Seattle-based Adaptix channel cards in LG’s WiBro products for basestations.

But ABI’s press release seems a bit confusing. The TeleCIS gate-array solution is not the same as an “enhanced” client. Secondly, “enhanced” WiMax clients may be fairly common. Mainstream chip providers like Intel and Fujitsu are apparently getting “enhanced”, too.

Both KT, South Korea s largest fixed-line carrier, and SK Telecom, Korea s largest mobile operator, hope to have operational WiBro service early next year. SK Telecom expects to have a dual-band CDMA 2000 1x and WiBro handset available at the time of commercial launch next year.

Meanwhile, Sequans, the French WiMax startup, is eyeing Korea’s WiBro developments closely, according to WiFiPlanet:

Sequans is initially focusing on fixed WiMax (802.16-2004), with the aim of working towards mobile 802.16e as quickly as possible as the standard matures. “Our mobile development is initially targeted towards the Korean space which is WiBro because we believe that ultimately WiBro is going to be the first deployment of mobile WiMax applications,” says Bernard Aboussouan, Sequans’ vice president of Marketing.

Sequans chips work in both base stations and subscriber units. It’s currently shipping “pre-WiMax” FPGA boards to customers. “By the middle of this year, we’ll have our system-on-a-chip, an ASIC, and by the end of this year we plan to have an 802.16e and WiBro chip for the mobility space,” says Aboussouan.

Airspan is using picoChip’s PC102 processor in its WiMax basestations. A software upgrade converts them from the fixed to the mobile WiMAX standard, enabling the basestations to connect to laptops, PDAs and other mobile devices that will be supported by the emerging 802.16e mobile WiMAX standard. The basestations will be commercially available in the third quarter of 2005. Airspan clients use Intel’s WiMax chips.

As Intel explains, neither of the two WiMax standard modes; the 256 carrier (OFDM version) or the OFDMA (Multiple Access – without scalability), could deliver vehicular mobility at high speed. Furthermore, WiBro’s scaleable carrier system could accomodate bandwidths from 1.25 Mhz to 20 Mhz easily.

Meanwhile, today the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) said six companies successfully bid for Wireless Broadband Access (WBA) spectrum in Singapore. Bidders can start deploying their WBA networks from 1 July 2005, and have to offer services within 18 months. Bidders included Pacific Internet Limited, the largest telco-independent ISP in the Asia Pacific region by geographic reach, secured 30MHz of frequency spectrum in the 2.5GHz band. That’s supported by WiMAX. The winning bidders will deploy wireless broadband nationwide in Singapore.

A contrarian view is held by Strategy Analytics. They think power consumption will limit Mobile WiMax compared to the established base of mobile 3G users.

E-Week says the fixed market for WiMax is limited and mobilized WiMax is a long way off:

“The unclear road map and lukewarm commitment from equipment makers raise questions about the viability of WiMax in the enterprise and have industry insiders urging users to be wary of the technology, at least for now”. “[802.16e] may happen at some point in the future, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in the short term,” said Nortel’s Whitton. “It took Wi-Fi four or five years before it was inexpensive enough to get into laptops.”

Meanwhile, RemotePipes has formed a WiMAX Global Roaming Alliance (WGRA) that aims to develop roaming interoperability standards for future WiMAX broadband wireless networks.

Concerns of the Alliance will include streamlining authentication and accounting functions between network operators, as well as ensuring uniform user processes between networks.

Related DailyWireless articles include; Adaptix + LG= WiBro, WiMax: On The Move, WiBro Dropout, WiMax: Will It Stay or Will It Go?, WiMax 16d+ Dilemma, WiMax World Wrap, Korea Gets WiBro, Roger, That WiMan, China WiMax, WiMax: HPi – Not, WiMax Procession, WiMax 16d+ Dilemma, Toyko Gets WiMaxed, 802.16 Chips Partner Up, Alvarion Promotes Mobile WiMax, Will 802.20 Challenge WiMax?, Telephony’s Guide to WiMax, Realistic WiMax Range/Speed Projections?, National 802.16 from McCaw, Spectrum Cowboys, WiMax Switcharoo, and IEEE Scores 802.16d.

Mini Pentium M

No, it’s not a Mac Mini, explains Silent PC. It’s AOpen’s new Pentium-M based Mac Mini lookalike, codenamed “Pandora”.

Unveiled at Computex 2005, this tiny product takes advantage of the powerful formerly mobile Intel CPU into the desktop world.

A fully integrated system incorporating wireless LAN, the “Pandora” was brought to prototype form in just a month, according to Joseph Hsu, a Technical Manager at AOpen. It uses a single blower fan that turns on only when needed.

The aluminum casing was warm but the fan was not running when these photos were taken in the hot tradeshow room, reports Silent PC. Look for a Sept market release date.

AOpen manufactures PC and components as a subsidiary of the Taiwanese corporation Wistron, and is affiliated with the giant Acer group. Several small companies already offer tiny Windows PCs like the Mini ITX that are similar in size to the Mac mini, but they are relatively expensive, niche products.

“I don’t think the two — Mac mini and whatever Intel puts out — are really in the same market; that is, of course, unless Apple starts running OS X on x86 hardware,” said IDC analyst Roger Kay.

Via’s next-generation x86-compatible processor, the C7, is labeled “the world’s smallest, lowest power, and most secure native x86 processor.” It targets thin and light notebooks, mini-PCs, green clients, personal electronics, and high-density servers and appliances. The Mobile AMD Athlon 64 processor will likely blow them all out of the water.

These tiny PCs might be great for community hotspots embedded with music downloads. So everyday is a SXSW Festival.

Tiny servers, access points and storage devices are the future. Today.

Metcalfe: WiMax Could Kill WiFi

No less an authority then Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, is talking up WiMax, reports Unstrung. Speaking in an exclusive Light Reading TV interview, the inventor of Ethernet says “it s conceivable that WiMax will just kill WiFi.”

“I m not making that prediction, but it s possible if WiMax lives up to expectations,” he continues. “These days [people] are saying ‘why do you want hotspots when you can have broadband everywhere?’ Of course, they re not using WiMax but it s a precursor to WiMax that they re using.”

Metcalfe is a big proponent of WiMax, not least because of the effect he believes the technology will have on “lethargic” service providers.

“WiMax is coming and that s very exciting because that s going to light a fire under [ILECs and cable companies]. No! All three — the mobile guys will be attacked, the wireline LECs will be attacked, and the cable companies will be attacked by WiMax — and I m really looking forward to that.”

Meanwhile Broadband Reports says Wimax support has shifted from unbridled optimism to more cynical (or at least reasoned) overviews, like this one at Eweek:

“Now, even WiMax proponents are saying fixed-wireless flavors of the technology are best suited for Third World countries rather than the United States.

As for the much-hyped mobile version of WiMax, there is still no standard, and, by the time products appear, it will face stiff competition from emerging third-generation cellular technologies.”

Meanwhile the United States is getting killed in broadband penetration and subscriber count.

The Asia-Pacific region to account for 145.8 million broadband connections by 2008 — about 65 million more than Western Europe and 70 million more than North America. Alcatel and India’ Centre for Department of Telematics (C-DOT), recently signed an agreement for introducing WiMax technology in India, targeting 20-40 million subscribers in the next five years.

DailyWireless has more global broadband statistics.

Embedded MP-3 Virtual Tour

Search Engine Watch has a guide to London.

London offers wonderful opportunities for rambling exploration but it’s also easy to lose your bearings if you’re not careful. Fortunately, the web offers some terrific navigation tools and maps to help you find your way.

Search Engine Strategies London opens tomorrow, and we have attendees and exhibitors at the conference from all over the world. This got me thinking why not put together an article about search tools, navigation aids and maps for attendees to use while they’re enjoying the city away from the conference.

London is a huge, sprawling city, and good maps are a necessity. Three good mapping services for London include:

I think London one of the best cities in the world for taking endless walks, exploring neighborhoods that can date back hundreds of years. Fortunately, London’s public transportation system makes it easy to get back to your starting point when the point of exhaustion takes hold.

Transport for London is the official page for information on just about every type of transportation available in London.

The excellent interactive journey planner suggests various alternatives for getting to and from one location to another. This can be a Station or stop, post code, address or place of interest. Once you’e entered your start and stop points, enter the time you want to go and you’ll get several alternatives to consider.

Click on a result, and you’ll get a figurative map showing details of your journey, with options to get more detailed maps in PDF format. You can also check out ticket options and fare prices.

London’s Underground (aka the Tube) is one of my favorite forms of transit in London, especially for random exploration. Get a day pass and you can pop on and off trains at will. Even though all Tube stations and trains have maps of the system, you’ll want to spend some time with Transport for London’s tubes maps. Here you’ll find standard maps, accessible maps, large print maps, and versions of tube maps in a dozen non-English languages.

The Tube Guru is a cool Flash application that helps you get around on the Underground and find things once you’ve arrived at your chosen station. Drag the map around until you find the station you’re looking for and then click on it; you’ll get a menu with links to information about the station, and restaurants, pubs and bars, shopping and other nearby attractions.

The Search Engine Watch article lists many other virtual guides.

This weekend your intrepid editor Sam took a Local Innovations Bicycle Ride and also found out about PedalPalooza. There are dozens of bike events around my fair city this June. And let’s not forget the World Naked Bike Ride, June 11th in some 50 cities around the world.

Why not an MP-3 self-guided tour, 24/7? Tune to FM 88 on your radio…and follow the map.

An MP-3 player with built-in FM transmitter ($100) coupled to a $40 solar panel stashed in a bird house might supply the narration. Maps show “talkspots”.

A self-guided cultural tour could be about anything. Everyone’s got an FM radio. The free service might be sponsored by local businesses who get 15 second “spots”.

Virtual City Guides are becoming more common. Portland has self-guided tours on the web. So does Portland Walking Tours. So does your town.

The King County Library System (KCLS) is now offering digital audio books in Microsoft Windows Media Audio format. Seattle’s Underground Tour might be GPS synched.

The YellowArrow.org concept puts a phone number on a yellow arrow sign. Call for local history. Put audiobooks on an answering machine. Paste 1,000 Yellow Arrow stickers with the phone number all over town. A cell phone activates the phone machine. Choose from 999 selections and hear a 2 minute narrative about that location. Search A-9, Local Google and Google Scholar for backgrounders. Powell’s Books gets a 15 second plug.

Amos Latteier designed an urban wildlife tour, Call of the Wild, which he guides by cell phone. Just call.

Handy for virtual journeys with Lewis and Clark. You name it.

A $20 FM adapter could continously broadcast audio within 10-30 feet from a $50 MP3 player. Seal it in Tuperware and slip them in a WiFi Birdhouse. Stories First. Rivers That Were.

A Mobile Hitchhiker’s Guide might also be available for mobile phones and PDAs. With the added benefit of photos and animation.

Need inspiration? How about the incredibly wonderful DC Metro Blog Map!

Bloggers, Unite!

More UWB Chips

Ultra Wideband chipmaker Artimi, announced it has taken delivery of their RTMI-100 from the foundry. Artimi claim it is the world’s first complete working single chip UWB solution. Samples will be made available to development partners for early design-ins.

The RTMI-100 is a complete UWB solution in a single chip implemented in 0.18 micron SiGe BiCMOS. It includes an integrated LNA and PA, adaptive channel digital radio, IEEE 802.15.3 MAC, standard PCI 2.3 interface with master/slave, flexible expansion port with dedicated RISC IO processor.

“Our single-chip UWB device demonstrates Artimi’s commitment to providing the lowest cost complete UWB solutions”, stated Colin Macnab, CEO of Artimi. “Our active participation in standards and industry groups, such as the IEEE and WiMedia Alliance, will ensure future compatibility and interoperability of our UWB devices. In addition, our flexible architecture will enable us to deliver a single chip MBOA compliant solution when the standard is finalized.”

The RTMI-100 is targeted for high bandwidth wire replacement, such as high performance bulk file transfers or where quality of service is important, like streaming audio and video between a DVD player and an LCD home theatre system.

In related news, Wireless UB 1.0 was recently announced. Alereon showed the first fully integrated demonstration of WUSB running at 480Mbps. It used a WUSB Media Access Controller (MAC) from Intel, and a WUSB physical layer (PHY) from Alereon running at the maximum speed for wireless USB. The day when computer users can enjoy a life without wires is fast approaching, said Eric Broockman, CEO, Alereon.

Artimi will be showcasing their RTMI-100 single chip UWB solution and demonstrating UWB video applications this week at Computex in Taipei, Taiwan, 31 May-4 June 2005.