Dvorak: Muni WiFi Will Die

Municipal WiFi efforts are unlikely to survive, says John Dvorak.

Every few months we seem to hear about another initiative by a U.S. city to deploy free wireless Internet access.

The latest entry, New Orleans, is still struggling just to get the lights back on, months after Hurricane Katrina caused massive flooding, destruction and death. Nevertheless, New Orleans looks to be the first and only big city to actually implement a WiFi plan.

This will provide great access for an entire (reduced) population. It should help New Orleans to recover. But the likelihood of it becoming a larger trend is nil and you can be sure it will eventually be killed there too.

Too many people are making money on connectivity.

This will come to a head when a newer form of wireless communications called WiMAX appears in the next two years. It’s being pushed hard by Intel which hopes to benefit by selling WiMAX chipsets.

WiMAX has a single point connection radius of approximately 10-30 miles. Thus it should become a favorite technology for municipal Internet connectivity. Many believe it will relegate the weaker 802.11x WiFi networks with their smallish 300-1500 foot radius to only local area network status.

In an ideal world you’d have a municipality covered by WiMAX for the connection to the Internet. That connection would then be redistributed through homes and offices with WiFi. The two technologies do interoperate.

The best effort to create universal free municipal access previous to New Orleans was in Philadelphia. These efforts were quickly foiled by Comcast and Verizon, two companies that would have been hurt by local government offering free connectivity service.

Philly’s cloud (which is being built), is not free, of course — their wireless service will probably cost $20/month or so with credits given to low income residents.

But that’s Dvorak — he speaks in hyperbole to make a point.

IMS: HP’s Backdoor Play

Hewlett-Packard announced today a new software product and a multimedia service to help carriers provide “triple-play” services of voice, video and data. Pricing wasn’t immediately available.

The software-based media server, the HP OpenCall Media Platform Media Resource Function (MRF), is designed to support advanced multimedia and interactive services in Internet Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) networks. IMS is an emerging next-generation networking architecture designed for VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) and multimedia services.

HP also announced a new service called Mobile MusicSharing. HP has partnered with Movial and Ubiquity Software to provide the service, which will allow mobile users to join a conference call, listen to their favorite music and talk about it at the same time.

The next 12 months will be critical for the future of the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), as carriers begin to deploy IMS-specific systems and determine whether it can deliver on its promises, according to Heavy Reading analyst Graham Finnie.

IMS allows a service provider to deliver identical IP services to fixed and mobile customers, whether the final connection is a switched or circuit network, explains Unstrung. As a result, it is seen as a cornerstone of carriers’ fixed/mobile convergence strategies.

See DailyWireless IMS: Walled Prison?

Selling Out Local TV

Dean Vernon Wormer: “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

Making money: It’s the reason commercial TV broadcasters exist, explains Television Broadcast Magazine.

DTV multicasts can be akin to getting a second or even a third broadcast license (or more when there’s no HDTV programming). However, they will only pay off if the content being shown makes money, which is what broadcasters are in business to do.

To date, “of the 1,614 U.S. stations that are broadcasting in digital, 632 are multicasting,” says Dave Cechota, director of data product development for Decisionmark Corporation (www.decisionmark.com), which provides software and data solutions to broadcasters.

On secondary digital channels, “weather is huge,” he says. “Also popular are local news and sports, but nowhere to the same degree as weather.” The national average of channels per multicasting station: 2.8.

WHEC-TV 10 (NBC) in Rochester, NY owned by Hubbard Broadcasting, is transmitting local weather on a secondary digital channel, which is also being carried regionally on Time Warner digital cable. WHEC is selling ads on its DTV weather channel, which is cross-promoted on the station’s main analog feed. By combining its local weather data with Weather Plus’ polished 24/7 programming, WHEC will provide its DTV viewers with comprehensive always-on weather information comparable to that of The Weather Channel, but for free.

The Tube Music Network (www.thetubetv.com), is marketing a music video service meant to attract eyes and advertisers by targeting the people who buy 55-60% of all music sold—namely the 35 and older demographic!

Under The Tube’s affiliation deal, the company gets to sell five minutes of national ads hourly, and provides one minute of sellable hourly ad time to its local partners. So how is The Tube doing in signing up broadcast partners? Well, on April 25, 2005, the company announced that Raycom Media would be launching The Tube into 29 markets later this year.

Other potentially profitable secondary digital formats include local news and sports, plus national alternatives thought up by the networks themselves. For instance, during the Association for Maximum Service Television’s 19th annual convention in Washington DC on October 5, 2005, CBS Executive Vice President Martin Franks said that his network is planning a second network-style program feed called CBS.2. According to MediaWeek, Franks said the new service’s lineup “complements or counterprograms, frankly, the mother ship.”

Then there’s U.S. Digital Television (USDTV).

Taking advantage of broadcasters’ opportunistic or left-over spectrum, USDTV offers consumers approximately 30 all digital channels, comprising local digital and HDTV broadcast channels and 12 leading cable networks, including FOX News Channel, ESPN and The Disney Channel, for less than $20 a month. It’s cable without the cable or, if you prefer, digital MMDS.

USDTV leases spectrum from its television station partners in each market, providing those stations with DTV secondary revenue. Meanwhile, consumers receive the USDTV service through a VHF/UHF antenna connected to a proprietary USDTV set-top box.

The service is currently being tested in three pilot markets, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque and Las Vegas, and commercially launched in the Dallas/Fort Worth market on November 14. Planned technology upgrades include the introduction of video on-demand content and digital video recording services.

Last month, USDTV signed a $25.75 million funding agreement with an investment group that includes Fox Television Stations, Hearst-Argyle Television, McGraw-Hill Broadcasting, LIN TV, Morgan-Murphy Stations and Telcom DTV.

“Public service” has nothing to do with it.

Broadcasting pay tv over free television channels is made more effective if HDTV transmissions are eliminated or reduced to 480/720p.

Broadcasters get their channels free. Then they charge you $20/month for over-the-air pay tv (instead of HDTV)? What kind of scam is that? This is probably not helping George Bush, Mr. Martin.

The real money is in soft porn, of course. That should be interesting.

Meanwhile Clear Channel plans provide video podcasts using technology from Maven Networks, starting with conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.

The NPR podcast directory now includes 195 podcasts. The original 17 podcasts it offered this August have been downloaded more than 5 million times. The new alt.NPR brand is an incubator for edgier content.

Podcast Alley and Podcasts.Yahoo index thousands of great programs.

In October, Apple cut a deal with Disney to make popular tv shows on the ABC network available for the video iPod on iTunes for $1.99. CBS and NBC have made similar forays into online content.

The next Mac Mini will probably have the ability to record TV shows.

Intel Moving on Movies

Intel, the bastion of WiMax hype, announced today that it is partnering with movie, music, and game providers around the world to introduce its Viiv technology for home media centers.

Viiv-enabled PC’s, which won’t be out until next year, let consumers download content from the Internet. Movielink, the movie download service, and British Sky Broadcasting in Britain, are two companies that will offer content compatible with Viiv.

Viiv-enabled computers, will run Microsoft Windows Media Center, can be controlled by a remote control and turn on instantly. They will be automatically configured to provide the best- quality image when viewed on a variety of devices.

Intel expects Viiv hardware and content to be available during the first quarter of next year, with simultaneous introductions in France, Germany, Italy, Britain, the United States and other countries. The hardware manufacturers have not yet been announced.

Other content owners that will provide Viiv-compliant programming include Canal+, the French pay TV service; the Japanese TV network NEC; Telecom Italia; and TiVo, according to the NY Times. Music and game content will be offered by Napster, Square Enix and Ubisoft, among other companies.

British Sky Broadcasting, of course, is headed by Rupert Murdoch who also controls DirecTV.

Maybe DirecTV ought to just buy Qwest and be done with it.

Mr. Murdock, tear down this wall.

Fujitsu Demos WiMax IPTV

Fujitsu Microelectronics Europe (FME) announced the successful demonstration of IP-based video-on-demand application at the Wireless Broadband Forum in Cambridge, UK. The solution combined FME’s AXEL-F, ETHOS and WiMAX devices to deliver a high-resolution video-stream from a server across optical and wireless networks to an end user.

The demonstration network was developed to comply fully with the protocols that will form the backbone of the next generation of wireless broadband roll-out, such as Ethernet over SDH/SONET (ETHOS) (MB87M2181) and WiMAX (MB87M3400).

Fujitsu says the demo proves it has the capability to offer a cost-effective, highly-integrated solution that will provide a fast route to market for Telcos.

Using an optical Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), with a WiMAX connection over the last mile to the customer would be more cost/effective than the fiber to the home.

Of course the phone companies, using twisted pair or fiber, can deliver faster connections (vital for multiple tv households).

SBC’s Project Lightspeed is preparing a triple-play launch. They’re using VDSL-2, to reach the overwhelming majority of their homes. They deliver fiber to the node, but 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). When installing Fios, Verizon tears out your twisted pair to eliminate all access to competitive landline providers.

SBC, using twisted pair and VDSL-2, is expected to deliver 20Mbps. That’s fast enough to deliver two HDTV streams (using IP-TV over twisted pair), along with voice and data, says SBC. Verizon’s FiOS brings fiber directly to the home. Verizon offers internet speeds up to 30 Mbps (at $199/month), and hundreds of cable channels.

The poster child for IP-TV is Hong Kong’s PCCW which just passed 500,000 IPTV subscribers. No Microsoft boxes.

Related DailyWireless stories include; SBC Picks IP-TV Settops, IPTV: Is It Soup Yet?, VDSL-2 Ratified, IP-TV Settops, Legislators: Don’t Mess With SBC, DirecTV + WiMax?, Muni Wireless Laws, Duopoly Laws, Mobile TV Expands, Verizon Does Cellular TV, Video Search, Big Media Mobilizes, U.S. Gets MobileTV via DVB-H, Samsung’s Video over DSL, 700 Mhz Worth $28B, The 700 MHz Club, The Man Who Invented Television, The Smartest Guy in the Room, and Unlicensed Spectrum: The Sum of All Fears.

Skyhook Location-WiFi to 70 Cities

Skyhook Wireless today announced that it has expanded its network roll-out to now include uninterrupted coverage in the 70 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

Skyhook is promoting the use of their Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS), a wide-area positioning system leveraging Wi-Fi, rather than satellite or cell tower-based technologies. The Skyhook Wireless works using a database of over 3 million commercially mapped private and public access points and is available in 25 U.S. cities.

The company says they’re on track to complete the top 100 cities in the United States by the end of this year and has begun its network roll-out in Europe and Asia.

“Location-based search and other services are on their way to becoming default capabilities in mobile solutions of all forms,” said Craig J. Mathias, a principal with the wireless and mobile advisory firm Farpoint Group (Ashland, MA). “Driven by such factors as governmental regulations for E911, concerns regarding public safety and home land security, the growing popularity of personalized experiences for online users, and requirements for reliable fleet management, a platform that taps into an existing Wi-Fi infrastructure offers vendors of location-based services and applications an easy-way to deliver their offerings without adding expensive hardware or the requirement for a clear view of the sky.”

Skyhook Wireless’ WPS automatically identifies a user’s current location through a combination of Wi-Fi and IP location determination techniques and then publishes that location to any location based service, application or device. Using WPS’ software only model, any Wi-Fi enabled laptop, PDA or Wi-Fi enabled phone can be made ‘location-aware’ with greater consistency and reliability than traditional methods.

Skyhook probably has a location-based advertising model in mind. Where they’ll get the money to build out a nationwide system is not clear. Fees are not detailed, either. But the technology to deliver location-based advertising may be ready for a close-up.

Competitors include:

  • Navizon provides your exact location in real time, and companies can send you messages about a restaurant of a film opening near the place where you are. Navizon knows the geographic locations of Hotspots and Cellular Towers in a specified city, and is able to determine your Latitude and Longitude via the software.
  • Project PlaceSite lets people share information locally. PlaceSite isn’t an infrastructure company, it’s built on what already exists — a Linksys WRT 54G. PlaceSite is being tested in a caf in Berkeley and will roll it out in more Bay Area caf s, soon with code so you can build your own PlaceSites in your neighborhood.
  • PanGo uses technology developed at Carnegie Mellon University and can turn a muni Wi-Fi network into a location-tracking network. Users wear watches with RFID tags for dynamic tracking.
  • Cisco’s 2700 Series Wireless Location Appliance uses the radio frequency (RF) fingerprinting capabilities of the Cisco Wireless Control System (WCS) to accurately locate authorized or unauthorized 802.11-enabled devices to within a few meters. This includes wireless laptops, PDAs, VoWLAN handsets and devices equipped with active 802.11 RFID tags.

Other “free” advertising based wireless clouds include:

Related Dailywireless stories include; Skyhook Locates by WiFi, Mapping Cloud Users, Google’s Location-Based Ads, SF Tries Free, Ad-driven WiFi, FreeSpot Guides, Kentucky Parks Get WiFi, Ad Supported Wireless Net, Revenue for the “Free” Cloud, Rebuilding Media, Cellular Ads, Gizmondo’s Handheld Ads, Free Mesh Clouds, Iowa’s Highway Free Spots, Washington State Unwires Parks (& History), Skyhook Locates by WiFi, Ad Supported FreeFi, Directional Advertising Grows, Wireless Advertising on Buses, Dayton’s Ad-Supported Cloud, Neighbornode, 360-degree Messaging, McDonald’s + Sony Music, Demographic Mapping, Streetcar Ads, Adware, FreeFi, AMD’s FreeSpots, DotSpot Ad Server, Bridging the Divide and WiMax Handsets.