Death to WiMAX?

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me… Tim.
Search for the Holy Grail

Motorola said Friday that Ed Zander will step down as chief executive on Jan. 1 after months under pressure for the sharp decline of the company’s once-hot cell-phone business.

Zander, 60, will be replaced by President and Chief Operating Officer Greg Brown, 47, as CEO.

Zander, who will stay on as chairman until the company’s annual shareholders meeting in May 2008, maintained that the decision to go was his alone despite the severe criticism he received for the company’s struggles over the past year and calls from some shareholders to replace him.

This is what I wanted to do,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. The cell-phone unit, Motorola’s biggest, saw quarterly sales plunge 36 percent to $4.5 billion and recorded an operating loss of $138 million. That was nearly $1 billion worse than a year ago but only about half the $264 million loss of the second quarter.

“You’d like to leave when you’re at the top of your game. … You don’t like to leave when you have a year like this with mobile devices,” Zander said. “But I think we have enough structurally done with this company that when mobile devices does get back to its execution, we’re a stronger company than we were four years ago.”

Sprint forced Gary Forsee out last month. SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest wireless carrier, sought to buy a stake in Sprint Nextel this month and install Nextel’s former chairman, Tim Donahue, as chief executive. Sprint didn’t bite. Meanwhile, Sprint pulled out of its partnership with Clearwire on Mobile WiMAX earlier this month.

Since both CEOs were heavily committed to Mobile WiMAX, some observers, like Fortune and Glenn Fleishman of WiFiNetNews, believe it may be a referendum on Mobile WiMAX:

With Forsee out of Sprint and Zander out of Motorola, you have two major firms that were committed to WiMax looking for leaders who will come in and not continue doing precisely what lead to their predecessors being forced out. Which means WiMax will be on the chopping block.

Motorola could write down its Clearwire investment and spin off its Expedience division bought from that company, while refocusing on 3G and 4G cell. Sprint could decide to deploy something entirely different in 2.5 GHz, even if that delayed network buildout, rather than investing billions in something that they’re now not clear they want to move on.

Sprint and Clearwire planned to interconnect their WiMax networks, sharing costs and offering services to about 100 million people by the end of 2008. Sprint would focus its efforts primarily on 185 million urban dwellers, including 75 percent of the people located in the 50 largest markets, while Clearwire would focus on areas covering approximately 115 million people. That’s virtually everyone.

Proponents of Mobile WiMAX say:

  • Mobile WiMAX is here. Now.
  • Sprint and Clearwire picked up their nationwide spectrum for a song.
  • Sprint says the infrastructure costs are one tenth that of cellular.
  • Faster 100 Mbps 802.16m, in a couple of years, will be compatible with today’s Mobile WiMAX.
  • LTE technology won’t be available until 2010-2012 and will require new everything.
  • Meanwhile Sprint and Clearwire could grab market share from AT&T and Verizon.

Mobile WiMAX, with OFDMA, has the ability to dynamically assign a subset of subcarriers to individual users while Scaleable-OFDMA can use a variety of bandwidths and carriers to get a signal through. The ruggedized, efficient and open architecture have many engineers confident they have a winner.

Incumbants and their supporters would like to declare Mobile WiMAX dead. It’s not dead yet.

Google’s 700 MHz Plans

The deadline for declaring an intent to bid on 700MHz is December 3rd. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google isn’t waiting. They will announce their 700 Mhz plans today.

What Google plans to do with the spectrum is anyone’s guess. Google could experiment with different revenue models such as a one-time licensing fee with no monthly access charges, subsidized with advertising. The Yankee Group estimates U.S. cellular revenues were $95 billion last year.

That’s real money, even for Google.

Google’s worldwide gross revenue will total $11.8 billion in 2007, up from an estimated $9.3 billion in 2006, according to eMarketer, most of it generated from Adwords and AdSense.

UPDATE: Here’s the official word; Google Will Apply to Participate in FCC Spectrum Auction:

“We believe it’s important to put our money where our principles are,” said Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google. “Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today’s wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet.”

Schmidt also praised the leadership of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and his fellow commissioners for adopting the new rights for consumers earlier this year.

Google’s formal application to participate in the 700 MHz auction will be filed with the FCC on Monday, December 3, 2007 — the required first step in the auction process. Google’s application does not include any partners.

Google-owned spectrum would likely provide downward pressure on cell phone rates. Capacity on the 700 MHz band could be a problem, although 22 Mhz on the “C” block seems plenty for now.

With Clearwire as a partner, mobile and IP-TV could be an option. Clearwire has the spectrum. FCC rules require satellite connectivity is built into to at least one handset operating in the D Block. That would likely be MSV. TerreStar could team with Frontline for satphone connectivity.

Some believe Google will partner with its Android partners, T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel, to provide towers and service provision with Google providing spectrum management and an open access software platform.

If Google is seeking to become a cellphone operator in its own right, this wouldn’t be well received by T-Mobile or Sprint Nextel, notes TechCrunch.

AT&T will participate in the 700 MHz auction this January, according to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson this week. AT&T is already committed to 700MHz. They bought, spectrum from Aloha Partners last month for $2.5 billion, getting two 6 Mhz channels (on Channel 54 and 59). MediaFlo is already on Channel 55.

Verizon is in. They’re a part of the massive IWN project. The $10B Integrated Wireless Network is an ambitious multibillion-dollar, 15-year program — set to build a nationwide interoperable 700MHz network intended primarily for federal law enforcement agencies. Verizon also announced open platform access to 3rd party applications this week, the preferred approach for the adjoining (shared) public service band.

Verizon may likely face off with Frontline Wireless on another 22 MHz chunk; combining the 10 Mhz of the “D block” with 12 MHz on the public service band. Front end costs are lower, but infrastructure costs would be higher since it requires anywhere connectivity, all the time. In an emergency, first responders can get priority access to the commercial segment. The “D Block” can be wholesaled to third parties (pdf), after building a network that meets public safety specifications.

Reed Hundt says if Frontline gets their “D-Block”, then it planned to “build the nation’s first fourth-generation broadband wireless network from coast-to-coast” and “sell services to police and firefighters to create the nation’s first interoperable network for all of public safety.”

Google could lease the “C” block to somebody like Sprint or Clearwire, speculates The Inquirer. Google bought Ubiquisys, the #1 femtocell developer, this July. It provides a local 3G base station in the home and plugs into DSL. The box also provides WiFi, Ethernet, USB and ordinary telephone access.

A 700 mhz connection could be handy for providing rural users with phone and data services while WiMAX connectivity has more capacity for high-density urban dwellers. Like Google’s YouTube.

Will the air interface be Mobile WiMAX or LTE? It could go either way. If everyone used the same technology for interoperable broadband 700 Mhz communications, however, it would be advantageous. Pick one. Verizon & AT&T seem likely to go with LTE. Let’s go with that.

Google’s Chris Sacca, Head of Special Initiatives has more on his Public Policy Blog:

Monday, December 3, is the deadline for prospective bidders to apply with the FCC to participate in the auction. Though the auction itself won’t start until January 24, 2008, Monday also marks the starting point for the FCC’s anti-collusion rules, which prevent participants in the auction from discussing their bidding strategy with each other.

These rules are designed to keep the auction process fair, by keeping bidders from cooperating in anticompetitive ways so as to drive the auction prices in artificial directions. While these rules primarily affect private communications among prospective bidders, the FCC historically has included all forms of public communications in its interpretation of these rules.

All of this means that, as much as we would like to offer a step-by-step account of what’s happening in the auction, the FCC’s rules prevent us from doing so until the auction ends early next year. So here’s a quick primer on how things will unfold:

  • December 3: By Monday, would-be applicants must file their applications to participate in the auction (FCC Form 175), which remain confidential until the FCC makes them available.

  • Mid-December: Once all the applications have been fully reviewed, the FCC will release a public list of eligible bidders in the auction. Each bidder must then make a monetary deposit no later than December 28, depending on which licenses they plan to bid on. The more spectrum blocks an applicant is deemed eligible to bid on, the greater the amount they must deposit.

  • January 24, 2008: The auction begins, with each bidder using an electronic bidding process. Since this auction is anonymous (a rule that we think makes the auction more competitive and therefore better for consumers), the FCC will not publicly identify which parties have made which bid until after the auction is over.

  • Bidding rounds: The auction bidding occurs in stages established by the FCC, with the likely number of rounds per day increasing as bidding activity decreases. The FCC announces results at the end of each round, including the highest bid at that point, the minimum acceptable bid for the following round, and the amounts of all bids placed during the round. The FCC does not disclose bidders’ names, and bidders are not allowed to disclose publicly whether they are still in the running or not.

  • Auction end: The auction will end when there are no new bids and all the spectrum blocks have been sold (many experts believe this auction could last until March 2008). If the reserve price of any spectrum block is not met, the FCC will conduct a re-auction of that block. Following the end of the auction, the FCC announces which bidders have secured licenses to which pieces of spectrum and requires winning bidders to submit the balance of the payments for the licenses.

If you’re interested in keeping track of the publicly available details of the auction, check out this page on the FCC’s website or Google News.

Spectrum Block B, with 12 MHz of paired spectrum, is divided into 734 Cellular Market Areas (“CMAs”) for auction and licensing. The CMAs are made up of: 1) 305 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (“MSAs”) as defined by the Department of Commerce, and 2) 429 Rural Service Areas (“RSAs”), which are clusters of rural counties specified in the FCC’s rules.

Blog Runner, TechMeme and Yahoo’s Full Coverage have the latest.

Related DailyWireless stories include; FCC Finalizes Rules on 700MHz: Limited Open Access, No Wholesale Requirement, 700 MHz Scenarios, AT&T Buys 700MHz from Aloha, Google Android hits G-Spot, Android Developer Challenge — $10M, Google: We Got Trouble. . . In 700 Mhz, AT&T, Verizon & Frontline Want 700Mhz Changes, ICO Wants Its Mobile TV – via DVB-SH, TerreStar: I-HSPA for Satphones, Sprint Exits SpectrumCo, AWS Visual Guide, AWS: It’s Done, Oregon’s $500 Million Statewide Wireless Network, General Dynamics Wins IWN Contract, The Free Triple Play, Google Invests in Femocell Company, T-Mobile UMA Goes National, Qualcomm Buys Flarion, Joint Commecial/Muni Proposed for 700Mhz, AT&T’s WiFi TV, Mobile TV War at NAB, Small Ops Squeezed Out of 700MHz?, HiWire: 24 Mobile TV Channels, Rural Broadband Gets A Plan, Verizon Makes its Move for Universal Service Fund, The Smartest Guy in the Room, 700 MHz On The Line?, 700 Mhz Worth $28B, 4G Auctions, RUS Funding for 700 MHz, The 700 Mhz Club, Channel 54: Where are You?

Leopard Causes Macbook WiFi Glitch?

Owners of Apple’s 13-inch notebooks are reporting that their Wi-Fi access is much less reliable after installing Mac OS X Leopard or more recent updates to Mac OS X Tiger, especially when the systems switch to battery power, reports Apple Insider

The exact behavior of affected systems can vary slightly, but appears to largely be connected to the computer’s power supply. While the connection remains largely stable when plugged into an AC adapter, switching to battery power renders the wireless link intermittent and in many cases drops network access entirely when idle.

Users often can’t detect nearby networks after restarting the card through software, but can almost always regain a dependable connection after reattaching the power plug. A handful of owners report having to restart the computer to restore the Wi-Fi connection, however.

To date, the intermittent connection issue has not been publicly acknowledged by Apple and affects systems regardless of subsequent Mac OS X updates. Both the recent 10.4.11 update and all current versions of Leopard continue to exhibit the symptoms of the problem, although some note the situation improving for their systems after the most recent upgrades to both Leopard and Tiger.

“Wi-Fi works OK under other OS X releases and also with Windows Vista running on the MacBook hardware,” says one report. “Apple’s engineers need to quit playing with their iPhones, roll up their sleeves and look for bugs.”

In other news, Google Gadgets are coming to Mac reports Om Malik. Google’s new Desktop for Mac will allow you to run Google Gadgets (thus far available on Windows OS only) on OS X-based Apple computers. The application needs 10.4 or higher versions of OS X. The widgets run inside of Apple Dashboard. Many different Google Gadgets are available such as YouTube and the Weather Globe.

iPhone Going HSPA

Apple will introduce a version of the iPhone next year that can use HSPA, AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said today at a meeting of the Churchill Club in Santa Clara, California.

“You’ll have it next year,” Stephenson said in response to a question about when the 3G iPhone would debut. He said he didn’t know how much more the new version will cost than the existing model, which sells for $399. Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs “will dictate what the price of the phone is,” he said.

Jobs plans to sell 10 million iPhones worldwide in 2008, which would give Apple a 1 percent share of the mobile-phone market. Apple has sold 1.4 million handsets through the end of September.

Other remarks by CEO Stephenson:

  • On Verizon opening the network: I think it was overblown. Go back in time, the wireline network became open, the broadband network, the same thing. We are one of the most open networks in the world. All the handsets we sell are Java equipped. If you want to buy handset without a contract, fine, just pay retail price for the handset.
  • On Google handset alliance. Six operating systems out today. Blackberry, Microsoft, Symbian, Palm. Here is new entrant that has never made an operating system. Will be interesting to see if they can develop a world-class operating system. If our customers want the phone, great. Our customers don’t say I want that operating system, they said they want a particular phone.
  • The average household spends $127 a month on wireless. With broadband that becomes $200.
  • On the 700 MHz auction: It is beach front property. It doesn’t get any better than this. (They will be bidding.)
  • U-verse will be at 8 million customers by end of this year. Turning on one market every month. Turned on Austin this week. Dropped number from 18 million to 17 million by end of 2008.
  • The company offers satellite service from EchoStar and DirecTV in areas it doesn’t reach with its own TV plan. Offering satellite will be “a long-term solution until we can get the video built out in those areas,” Stephenson said.

Cellular Penetration: Half the World

Today, worldwide mobile telephone subscriptions reached 3.3 billion — equivalent to half the global population, according to research firm Informa.

Since the first Nordic Mobile Telephony (NMT) networks were switched on in 1981 in Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Norway, mobile phones have become the consumer electronics sector with the largest volume of sales in the world.

“The mobile industry has constantly outperformed even the most optimistic forecasts for subscriber growth,” Mark Newman, head of research at Informa said in a statement.

In recent years the industry has seen surging growth in outskirts of China and India, helped by constantly falling phone and call prices, with cellphone vendors already eyeing inroads into Africa’s countryside to keep up the growth.

The Nordic start for mobile telephony was the basis for the success stories of Nokia and Ericsson.

Fast growth in Asian wireless markets has since helped Korean Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics as well as China’s ZTE take their place among the top six cellphone vendors globally.

But although mobile subscriptions have reached the equivalent of 50 percent of the population, this does not mean that half the people in the world now have a mobile phone, since Informa said 59 countries have mobile penetration of over 100 percent — where some owners have more than one phone.

“The economic difference between the more mature markets and those in developing countries is highlighted by the vast differences in operators’ revenues per user,” Informa said. Hutchison Whampoa’s 3 has an average revenue per user (ARPU) of just over $70 a month in Britain, while Hutchison’s Sri Lankan operator counts revenues of below $3 per user.

According to the International Programs Center of the U.S. Census Bureau, the total population of the world reached 6,634,294,193 on Thursday.

According to global trade body GSM Association, about 80% of cellular users world-wide use the GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) technology, or 2,571,563,279 people. The second largest mobile technology, CDMA (Code Division, Multiple Access), had 421.4 million users at end September.

Last year, on passing 2 billion GSM users, the GSM Association said China was the largest single GSM market in the world, with more than 370 million users, followed by Russia with 145 million, India with 83 million and the USA with 78 million users. In India, mobile has even become the fastest selling consumer product – pushing bicycles to the number two spot. “India Broadband Wireless and WiMAX Market Analysis and Forecasts” estimates that there will be up to 21 million WiMAX subscribers in India by 2014.

Verizon: It’s LTE

Verizon Wireless said on Thursday that it plans to use Long Term Evolution (LTE) to upgrade its wireless network and will run tests of the technology in 2008.

Britain’s Vodafone, which owns 45 percent of Verizon Wireless, also plans to build a network based on LTE. A common network infrastructure will allow roaming between the services. Verizon has used Qualcomm-developed CDMA which is not compatible with the GSM/HSPA systems used by Vodaphone and other countries. GSM enjoys an 80% penetration world-wide, according to the GSM Association trade group. The number of LTE subs will approach 24 million by 2012, according to recent research by analyst firm Juniper Research.

Verizon conducted WiMAX trials with partner Vodafone as part of its 4G technology selection process, Verizon CTO Dick Lynch said Thursday. Lynch said Verizon weighed all options including CDMA’s Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB). But the 3.5 GHz frequencies of designated European bands have much lower penetration and shorter range than the Advanced Wireless Spectrum (AWS) frequencies that VZW currently holds and where it intends to initially launch its 4G network.

It’s bad news for Qualcomm’s competing UMB technology and backers of WiMax. AT&T Mobility will likely migrate to LTE as their 4G solution. T-Mobile, also in the GSM camp, is expected to follow suit. HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) is part of the GSM 3G network and is (predominately) a software upgrade of the network infrastructure. LTE is a forklift upgrade.

UMB is part of the 4G evolution path laid out by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, which Qualcomm is largely responsible for founding. CDMA Rev. B is not so much a new technology as an added feature to existing EVDO Rev A, explains Telephony Magazine.

Rev B takes multiple 1.25 MHz channels into one super channel, allowing users to share the compounded capacity of the combined spectrum. Qualcomm’s UMB, also called Rev. C, incorporates OFDMA, CDMA and other air interface techniques with MIMO and advanced antenna technologies. UMB is expected to become commercially available on a global basis in 1H2009 (pdf).

The CDMA Development Group (CDG) today commented on Verizon Wireless’ announcement:

“CDMA2000 networks will continue to be a major source of their revenue and will be complemented by a number of various other air interface networks, including other advanced technologies such as 802.11n, LTE, WiMAX and Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB). Through our ongoing WorldMode efforts, we will ensure that CDMA carriers and their customers will have the necessary multi-mode devices to support applications on CDMA2000 and the other leading radio technologies. 3G CDMA services will remain the dominant generation of mobile communications services long into the future.”

Instead of CDMA, Sprint has chosen Mobile WiMAX (Xohm) as its 4G solution. That would likely give them a 2-4 year lead time over LTE.

Verizon did not give a time frame for building the network, but Vodafone’s Sarin had estimated it could be 2010 or 2011 before it was possible to start using LTE commercially. He had said it may be 2015 before they are on a common platform. Trial suppliers include Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia-Siemens, and Nortel.

Qualcomm’s Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB) looks orphaned as Verizon and Sprint jump ship. South Korea also utilizes CDMA, but is launching a nationwide Mobile WiMAX thrust. Between 75%-80% of the world’s phones are now based on the GSM standard, and that percentage is increasing.

LTE allows download rates of 100 Mbps and upload speeds of 50 Mbps for every 20 MHz of spectrum. It can handle 200 connections per 5 MHz, and will work in 700 MHz. However, LTE is not upwardly compatible with any current basestation or handset. It’s a big step that may also require new frequencies.

Mobile WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e), by contrast, is expected to evolve seamlessly from its current 30 Mbps platform to IEEE 802.16m, with 100 Mbps mobile connectivity. It will be up to speed (and likely sanctioned by the ITU) long before the first LTE gear arrives.

LTE will support bandwidths ranging from 1.25MHz to 20MHz (pdf). On 2.6GHz, it will be possible to deploy 20MHz carriers. On frequency bands already used by, for example, GSM, the introduction of LTE could be done using a 1.25MHz carrier in the first phase.

LTE is being promoted as an evolution of 3G technology and, therefore, a more natural choice than mobile WiMAX for an existing 3G operator. The trouble is, LTE has not yet been standardized. In the absence of defined technical specifications, critics say it has little in common with today’s 3G, including HSPA, and that rollout schedules are optimistic.

GSM coalitions like 3GPP and 3G Americas have have a plan for 4G evolution (pdf). It includes a move from HSDPA to LTE (in 2-3 years), then on to “4G” (in 5 years).

3G Today and the CDMA Development Group promote CDMA evolution (i.e. EVDO rather than HSDPA). While CdmaOne (IS-95) and CDMA2000 utilize 2 x 1.25 MHz radio channels, future Qualcomm-backed CDMA evolution includes 1xEV-DO Rev. B and Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB), which will enable operators to aggregate up to 15, 1.25 MHz channels in 20 MHz of spectrum.

WiMAX already uses OFDM technology and techniques favored by LTE and 4G. The evolving 802.16m standard will bring 100Mbps-1Gbps speed. Why wait, the WiMAX Forum argues, get WiMAX now and be upwardly compatible.

Senza-Fili Consulting (above), projects 54 million WiMAX subscribers by 2012, with growth driven by emerging markets. By 2012, a third of them will also use WiMAX as a fixed-access technology. That contrasts with 5 million HSPA subscribers today, worldwide, and some 70% of the projected 1.2 billion broadband wireless subs in 2012. Juniper Research guesses the number of LTE subs will approach 24 million by 2012.

Juniper Research also forecasts substantial growth in WiMAX after 2012. “India Broadband Wireless and WiMAX Market Analysis and Forecasts” estimates that there will be up to 21 million WiMAX subscribers in India by 2014.

By 2011, more than 3 billion mobile subscribers are projected, of which approximately 74% will be mobile data subscriber (contributing 20% of revenue for operators). Analysts expect the global mobile content and applications market will be greater than $80B by 2010.

Related WiMAX articles on DailyWireless include; Verizon Jumping to LTE?, Jacobs: WiMAX is Crap, Qualcomm Talks Up Rev. B & C, NTT “Super 3G”, Sprint Exits SpectrumCo, AWS Visual Guide, AWS: It’s Done, Vodafone Joins WiMAX; but HSPA to Dominate, HSPA Chips — Game Changer?, U.S. Cellular Growth, Frontline: Rumble in the Jungle, Sprint’s Barry West, Sprint’s WiMAX Cities, Nortel: WiMAX Train Leaving Station, Mobile WiMAX – The Next Iridium?, Carriers Test “Real” 4G, Will Consumers Prefer WiMAX?, Civil War in 4G and Sprint: It’s WiMAX!.