Transit Connectivity Makes Money

The battle between buses and trains to entice passengers with WiFi is heating up, with a string of announcements by bus and luxury coach operators in the UK, the US and Europe.

Mass transit connectivity was a topic of several conference sessions at the annual International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) last month in Las Vegas. It was originally a two-way radio conference with its roots in public safety. Now IWCE addresses community networking, M2M, Wi-Fi, and issues such as narrowbanding and 700MHz interoperability, with speakers from transit agencies, such as Portland’s TriMet and Santa Clara’s VTA.

The Joint Council on Transit Wireless Communications believes that providing wireless broadband connectivity to their passengers is the way to improve ridership.

  • Arriva Trains in Denmark use small banner ads on the landing page of its Wi-Fi on trains service. It makes money.
  • SJ Trains in Sweden lure passengers into purchasing a film or TV program. An onboard media server delivers the movie via 1Gbps fibre backbone that travels throughout the train, delivering content to passengers via two 100Mbps Wi-Fi access points in each car.
  • Amtrak offers free WiFi on some of its trains. I tried it last week and made a short Skype video call to test it out. It worked (sluggishly). Fiber was buried all along the route.

“Connectivity is part of making transit more appealing and getting people out of their cars and onto trains and buses,” said Jim Baker, founder and CEO of Xentrans, a San Francisco–based consultancy that specializes in communications for mass-transit agencies. Caltrans is installing fiber-optic cables in the median of Interstate 5 to install more closed-circuit television cameras, message signs and traffic monitoring stations.

TriMet launched an online performance dashboard that tracks ridership, cost per ride, on-time performance, revenues, and collisions. “It provides the needed transparency,” general manager Neil McFarlane said about the dashboard.

But the real action may be on the 700 MHz Regional Planning Committee. That’s where the frequencies get carved up amongst the users. But there are no consumer stakeholders in that group. Why not?

City-wide, regional, and state-wide transportation agencies are in the driver’s seat. They have the rights of way, the fiber plant, and the need for a broadband regional network. It’s another reason to auction the 700 MHz “D block” for public/private use.

The bottom line? Mass transit connectivity makes money.

Related Dailywireless stories include Nomad Digital for Amtrak Nationwide, Municipal Wireless and the Open Wireless Movement, Intelligent Transportation Gets SMART, 4G Mobile Routers at CTIA,WiFi on Trains Conference, Amtrak WiFi Going National, How to Create Transit Applications, Realtime Ferry Tracking, Dubai WiMAXes Metro Train, Microsoft’s Streetside: Indoors via Stills & Video, Global Ship Tracking via Microsat, NJ Transit to Be WiFied, Free WiFi on Acela Express Trains, Icomera Buys Moovera, Portland Commuter Rail Readies Wi-Fi, Portland Commuter Rail Wi-Fi, Mobilizing WiFi on Trains & Cars, Chrysler Rolls Out U-connect, Hotspot for Bedouins, TrainFi On the Move, PePWave Mobility: Connectivity for Vehicles, Belair Radios: On the Move, The Connected Bus, Kyocera KR2 Mobile Router, TrainFi: One Million Served, and Free TrainFi in UK.

Google Mobile Chat

Google Talk with video and voice chat will gradually roll out to Nexus S devices in the next few weeks as part of the Android 2.3.4 over-the-air update and will launch on other Android 2.3+ devices in the future, says Google on their Mobile Blog.

Other Android apps already offer video chatting, but Google has built the feature into the OS. It works between Android phones and tablets and computers. A video or voice chat button will appear in the Google Talk friends list next to your contacts. While video chatting, any text chats from that person will also appear overlaid on the video.

The Nexus S features a 1 GHz Hummingbird processor with 16GB of memory and popular features like true multi-tasking, Wi-Fi hotspot, Internet Calling, NFC support, and full web browsing. It’s available from M1, O2, Orange, SFR, Singtel, Sprint, StarHub, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone.

Other cross-platform, mobile video chat applications include:

Skype has about 150 million users and Google Voice has 200 million users. But T-Mobile’s new Bobsled application could give them a run for their money. T-mobile launched free calls on Facebook using Bobsled. But less than a week after T-Mobile launched its Bobsled VOIP application, T-Mobile shut it down. T-Mobile said that in Facebook’s current design it’s not clear that the service is from T-Mobile. Or it could be that T-Mobile is being acquired by AT&T.

Explained: A-GPS on the iPhone

Glenn Fleishman has the best explanation I’ve seen on Advanced GPS on the iPhone, and how mobile phone tracking works.

Calculating a phone’s location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data. Assisted GPS shortens the wait by relying on live downloads of position data to estimate location.

Apple first unveiled Wi-Fi and cell-tower positioning with the original iPhone in an update to iPhone OS in early 2008. The original iPhone lacked a GPS receiver, which didn’t debut until the iPhone 3G.

In CDMA networks, such as that used by Verizon, GPS-synchronized atomic time is required for the network’s basic operations, making it a simple matter to have such information available.

You can see either or both of these in action whenever you bring up the Maps app. Typically, you see a large blue circle appear nearly instantly, a result of what must be a consultation of the local database. The circle becomes smaller as more information is used, still from cellular and Wi-Fi sources, to create a better trilateration. This data is also used to provide more clues into decoding the best GPS satellite information, allowing the use of quite small fragments of data or even raw signals to get a better lock. Finally, the circle becomes a single dot when iOS is confident it has a solid GPS lock.

Apple switched from using Skyhook Wireless as a data supplier starting in iOS 4.0 for the iPhone and iPod touch, and with the iPad-only 3.2 release.

There’s a reason for that. When your iOS device uses Wi-Fi positioning, it sends a snapshot of the current signal landscape to Apple, which says in the Q&A that this information is used anonymously to crowdsource better data. But this is incredibly useful market intelligence, too, about how often users are relying on location updates, and where those users are clustered. It can be used for ad targeting and other purposes beyond those in apps that look for location data.


Interestingly, Japan’s i-Space program, operated by JAXA (Japan’s NASA) has a dedicated GPS satellite for their country that reduces lock time by loitering directly overhead using a Molniya orbit.

Jaxa’s QZSS GPS satellites loiter over Japan’s zenith. In order to have at least one quasi-zenith satellite always flying near Japan’s zenith, at least three satellites are necessary in Molniya orbit. They are compatible with the currently operated GPS as well as the new GPS, which is under development in the U.S.

Related DailyWireless stories on GPS and transit connectivity include; Both iPhone & Android Surreptiously Track, Where 2.0 – 2011, Spotlight Mobile’s Meridian: Indoor GPS, Apple Responds to Tracking Questions, Mobile Portland Demos , DOT Mandating GPS Tracking, Google + General Motors?, Ford Mobilizes Smartphone Apps, Hands-free Vehicular Calling, Tracking Tools, In-Vehicle Infotainment: Death Race, CradlePoint: Mobile WiFi/WiMAX Hot Spots, Mercedes myCOMAND, BMW iDrive Gets Makeover, Handheld Intelligent Transportation, Chrysler Offers Internet Access, Chrysler Rolls Out U-connect, Ford Sync, Google Transit Maps + WiFi, Orbcomm’s Space-based AIS Fails and GPS: Four Global Systems.

Consumer Groups Fight AT&T Merger

The FCC should deny AT&T’s plan to buy US$1.9 billion worth of Qualcomm’s wireless spectrum, several consumer groups said Wednesday. The FCC should combine its reviews of the two AT&T deals, according to Free Press, Public Knowledge, and Consumers Union, reports Network World.

Cellular South, Dish Networks and the Rural Cellular Association are also asking the FCC to block the AT&T $1.9 billion purchase of Qualcomm’s Flo-TV spectrum in blocks “D” and “E” in the lower 700 MHz band. The deal would transfer 11 “unpaired” licenses for lower block spectrum in the 700 MHz to AT&T, in key markets like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Verizon bought the bulk of the “C” block for nationwide LTE, while the “D” block remains unsold.

AT&T acquired 700 MHz spectrum from Hiwire in a $2.5 billion deal in October 2007, and in the FCC’s 700 MHz auction in 2008, where they bought dozens more licenses in the B & C blocks. AT&T plans to combine that spectrum with their 12 MHz from Qualcomm to deliver LTE service. But since the spectrum is not contiguous, AT&T hopes to delay their LTE rollout until new multi-carrier LTE technology is available.

In December, the AT&T said it intends to buy Qualcomm spectrum licenses in the lower 700MHz band for $1.9 billion. T-Mobile has no spectrum in the 700 or 850 MHz band. Most of their spectrum is currently being used. AT&T announced in March its plans to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion in a bid to utilize spectrum for efficiently.

“The proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile would reshape the entire American wireless industry in a single stroke,” the consumer groups wrote. “With possible approval of this transaction lingering on the horizon, the Public Interest Organizations can no longer imagine conditions that could outweigh the risk of competitive harm posed by the further growth of AT&T through acquisition of additional beachfront spectrum licenses from Qualcomm.”

According to AT&T, “The merger will not literally create new spectrum but it will allow efficiencies in the use of spectrum that are the functional equivalent.

Related stories on DailyWireless include; Traffic Forecast: Congested, Combining AWS and 700 MHz: Why?, AT&T Gets Heat on MediaFLO Spectrum, U.S. Wireless Growth, T-Mobile’s Secret Sauce: 2x10MHz, T-Mobile’s Secret Sauce: 2x10MHz, FCC Finalizes Rules on 700MHz: Limited Open Access, No Wholesale Requirement, Qualcomm Buys Flarion, Joint Commecial/Muni Proposed for 700Mhz, AT&T’s WiFi TV, Hiwire Moves on Mobile 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?,

iPhone No. 3 in U.S.

According to NPD, Apple leapfrogged both HTC and Motorola to move into the No. 3 spot in the United States, with 14 percent of the overall phone market, boosted by the arrival of the iPhone on Verizon. Samsung still tops the U.S. market with 23 percent, followed by LG at 18 percent.

The iPhone 4 was the top individual phone model, followed by the iPhone 3GS, Motorola Droid X, HTC EVO 4G, and HTC Droid Incredible.

Android’s share of the smartphone market dipped in the quarter, NPD said, to 50 percent in the first quarter from 53 percent in last year’s fourth quarter. Apple’s iOS rose nine percentage points, accounting for 28 percent of smartphone units sold, while BlackBerry lost five points of market share, falling to 14 percent.

A report by research firm Nielsen earlier this week found thirty-one percent of consumers surveyed plan to buy an Android-based smartphone in the next year, while 30 percent were going with Apple’s iPhone instead.

Overall, smartphones accounted for more than half of all phones sold in the U.S. for the first time, with consumers opting for a smartphone 54 percent of the time.

Worldwide smartphone sales will reach 468 million units in 2011, a 57.7 percent increase from 2010, according to Gartner. According to IDC, the global mobile phone market grew 20 percent in the first quarter of this year, year-over-year. U.S. smartphone sales are expected to grow from 67 million units in 2010 to 95 million units in 2011.

Network Crashes for Verizon, Sony and Amazon

Verizon Wireless said on Thursday morning that its high-speed 4G LTE network is once again working, following a nationwide outage that began on Tuesday evening.

Verizon did not offer details on what caused the outage.

Our 4G LTE network is up and running.” the company said in a statement. “Our network engineers and vendors quickly identified the issue and solved it.”

The company said those using its ThunderBolt LTE smartphone should have normal service, while laptop users with a USB modem may have to reconnect to the network when moving between 3G and 4G. “This will continue to improve,” Verizon said.

The company was slated to start selling its second 4G LTE Phone, the Samsung-made Droid Charge, starting today. However, a Verizon representative said that launch has been delayed, with no details immediately available on the new launch date.

In other network disaster news, Amazon’s huge EC2 cloud services crash permanently destroyed some data in addition to taking down the sites of dozens of high-profile companies for hours (and, in some cases, days), reports Business Insider. The data loss was apparently small relative to the total data stored. Amazon has yet to fully explain what happened when its mission-critical and supposedly bomb-proof systems crashed.

Meanwhile, the Sony PlayStation Network and Qriocity outage this week was caused by a criminal intrusion into their network, Sony admits.

The network’s 77 million account holders learned that the hackers obtained personal information, like their names, street addresses, e-mail addresses and PlayStation account user names and passwords. If you were unlucky enough to be one of the 77 million card numbers whose account information ended up being resold for criminal purposes, you might see the suspicious charges on your account.

“We know you are upset, and so we are taking steps to make our services safer and more secure than ever before. We sincerely regret any inconvenience or concern this outage has caused, and rest assured that we’re going to get the services back online as quickly as we can. We are reading your comments. We are listening to your suggestions. Please keep them coming.”

“This malicious attack against our system and against our customers is a criminal act and we are proceeding aggressively to find those responsible,” said Sony.

Sony’s still hard at work attempting to restore operations after the security breach, and is moving the PSN network infrastructure and data center “to a new, more secure location.”

Subscribers to DSLReports.com may have had their e-mail addresses and passwords exposed during an attack on the Web site earlier this week, reports C/Net.

DSLReports.com was targeted in an SQL injection attack yesterday and about 8 percent of the subscribers’ e-mail addresses and passwords were stolen, Justin Beech, founder of DSLReports.com, wrote in an e-mail to members. The site, which likes to point out breaches to other sites, did not appear to mention their own breach, however.