Google I/O 2014

Google I/O, June 25–26, 2014, is the year’s biggest nerd party, says The Verge, and lists 11 things to watch out for.

Google’s Nexus line could get at least one more Nexus device, an HTC 8.9-inch tablet powered by a Nvidia Tegra K1 64-bit processor, according to a report by Android Police.

The tablet features a 2048 x 1440 8.9-inch display, 2GB of RAM, and Nvidia’s desktop-class Tegra K1 processor. That processor, which to this point has only been included to the Xiaomi Mi Pad, is 64-bit and can produce some incredible graphics for a mobile device, beating even an I-5 Core with 4400 graphics.

The tablet is rumored to start at $399 for the 16GB version, with 32GB costing $499 and LTE connectivity possibly in the $600+ range.

June 25th’s two-hour keynote may introduce new products such as Android Wear, its new platform for wearable devices with announcements of new smartwatches along with new Android TV devices, home automation and more.

Other Google projects include Project Ara, a modular smartphone, Project Tango, a tablet that can map rooms in 3D, Google Fiber, Google Glass and Project Loon.

Amazon Smartphone to Feature “Sponsored Data” from AT&T?

The Wall Street Journal says Amazon’s new smartphone will be an AT&T exclusive and may be the first example of AT&T’s controversial “Sponsored Data” plan.

AT&T currently provides cellular connectivity for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader and tablets.

Amazon’s “Prime Data” for the device, which might allow users to access things like the Amazon store without impacting their usage cap. Amazon offered a flat rate pricing for its LTE tablet, although the promotional $49.99/yr data plan has ended.

Amazon’s handset is anticipated to feature 3-D viewing capabilities that don’t require glasses. Amazon may also introduce a new pricing structure like Republic Wireless that offers cheaper monthly plans because the service uses Wi-Fi whenever possible, instead of connecting to a wireless network.

Free Mobile, a French carrier, has built a mobile network using Wi-Fi hotspots provided by its wireline broadband subscribers, and has proven to be a success.

By introducing a handset, Amazon can more directly push access to its online store, or digital content like music, movies and games, to consumers, notes Bloomberg.

Amazon.com has tested a new wireless network that would allow customers to connect its devices to the Internet, reports Bloomberg.

Ruckus Wireless and Globalstar recently announced a successful test of Wi-Fi spectrum using Globalstar’s adjacent licensed Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) spectrum.

Globalstar’s Terrestrial Low-Power Service service (TLPS), would use their 2483.5-2495MHz downlink band. The “Wi-Fi extension” would be a new 22 MHz channel within the 2.4 GHz band.

Globalstar uses 1610-1618.725 MHz for uplinks. But satphones are rarely used in urban areas (or indoors) so it’s apparently not a big problem for Globalstar.

FIFA World Cup 2014

The FIFA World Cup, the world’s largest sports spectacle, is expected to be watched by 4 billion people and capture the attention of a cumulative TV audience of over 30 billion worldwide.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 20th World Cup, is an international men’s football tournament that will take place in Brazil from 12 June to 13 July 2014. The action starts tomorrow in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, at 4 p.m. ET, with Brazil taking on Croatia at Arena Corinthians.

Twelve venues (seven new and five renovated) in twelve cities were selected for the tournament. The BBC and ESPN have venue tours.

Here’s how to watch the World Cup live on Your PC, Smartphone or Tablet. Mobile Apps will help you stay with the action. Most popular apps are the FIFA official app, ESPN FC, BCC App and Yahoo Sport.

Disney and Univision hold the U.S. broadcast rights. It will be carried by ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN Radio; Univision and Univision Deportes; and on the Fútbol de Primera radio network in the United States. CBC, Radio-Canada and TSN Radio will carry it in Canada.

Real-time Ultra HD broadcasts of World Cup 2014 will not apparently be widely available.

Globo – the largest broadcasting group in Brazil – is working with both Sony and FIFA to showcase Ultra HD 4K technology, reports Bloomberg. The broadcaster is setting up 65in screens locally to broadcast the three matches being covered by Sony and FIFA in 4K, which includes the final and two other knockout games.

The BBC will be running a 4K Ultra HD trial broadcast of three World Cup matches, sending a live 4K feed from Brazil to selected BBC facilities.

LTE Broadcast can deliver the same content simultaneously to multiple devices and support a virtually unlimited number of users.

Ericsson, IBM, Qualcomm and Samsung recently helped KPN, a wireless network operator in the Netherlands, to a conduct live LTE broadcast trial from Amsterdam’s Arena stadium.

The 4G wireless broadcast leveraged Ericsson compression and distribution switching technology that supports three standards: eMBMS (a point-to-point interface specification designed to deliver broadcast and multicast services), HEVC (H.265 compression) and MPEG DASH (a video streaming format).

In another test, on May 5, Elemental Technologies, a supplier of software-defined video solutions for multiscreen content delivery, supplied the Vienna State Opera with “the world’s first” live 4K production in using HEVC compression delivered via MPEG-DASH over the public Internet.

Elemental Technologies also encoded 4K content in high-efficiency video coding (HEVC) for terrestrial broadcast delivery over Japan’s ISDB-T to Ultra HD TVs. The ISDB-T standard covers television, radio and data services.

The 2014 World Cup will be most hi-tech football event ever.

Brazilian telecoms company Oi, an official Fifa partner, has been furiously gearing up for the tournament. They’ve grown from 78,000 hotspots in April to more than 700,000 now – the largest network in Brazil. It has also increased the coverage and capacity of its 2G, 3G and 4G mobile networks at key points throughout the tournament cities.

In preparation for the games regulating telecom agency Anatel mandated that host cities with more than 500,000 people must support universal 4G coverage by May 31, 2014. Telecom operators have since installed 164 miles of fiber in the stadiums, 3,700 antennas for 2G, 3G, and 4G access, and 1,014 WiFi antennas, at a cost of US$226 million.

Google Buys Skybox Imaging for $500 Million

Google said on Tuesday it had bought Skybox Imaging, a company that provides high-resolution photos using satellites, for $500 million in cash, reports Re-Code.

Skybox provides sub-meter imagery as well as 90-second videos from its network of satellites. It points them at specific spots to provide analytics about how they change over time. The first images taken by a minifridge-size satellite launched in late November were publicly released Dec. 11 by Skybox.

In November, Skybox sent its first Earth observation satellite, SkySat-1, on a Russian Dnepr rocket. SkySat-2 is slated to piggyback on a Russian rocket in June carrying the Meteor M2 weather satellite.

After building its first two satellites, Skybox hired Space Systems/Loral to build the next 13 spacecraft. Orbital Sciences will launch six in late 2015 from Vandenberg in California.

Weighing roughly 120 kilograms, and launched in 2015 and 2016, these satellites, based on a Skybox design, will capture sub-meter color imagery and up to 90-second HD video clips at 30 frames per second. Once the 13 satellites are launched, Skybox will be able to revisit any point on earth three times per day.

Skybox’s 1-meter-resolution satellites can be built and launched into orbit for well under $50 million each, with a planned operating lifetime of four years. Skybox raised $91 million before the Google announcement. Each of the $50 million Skybox satellites cost about a 10th as much as a traditional earth observation satellites.

Satellite swarms are revolutionizing Earth imaging. The Skybox satellites are significantly larger and orbit higher than the Planet Labs 3U CubeSats. Planet Labs, another Silicon Valley startup, uses an ultra-small 3U Cubesat design, and promise to shake up the field of satellite imagery.

Planet Labs launched 28 mini-satellites from the space station this February.

Their design is based on 10-centimeter-square CubeSats. They use a “3U” — or three-unit — CubeSat design. Flock 1 capabilities include near real-time imagery.

The 28 satellites that make up Planet Lab’s Flock 1 were carried aboard Orbital Sciences’ robotic Cygnus vessel on a run to the space station. All 28 satellites orbit at an altitude of 400 kilometers, powered by solar panels.

Perhaps not co-incidentally, Google’s rumored fleet of LEO Comsats would weigh about the same as their new Skybox imaging satellites, or about 250 pounds (113 Kilograms).

Supposedly, the LEO comsats would operate in circular orbits of 800 and 950 kilometers inclined 88.2 degrees relative to the equator. Google may try for a regulatory deadlines of between late 2019 and mid-2020 to enter service by the ITU, using the Ku band (12/14 GHz).

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Fleet of LEO Comsats for Google?

Google plans to spend more than $1 billion on a fleet of satellites to extend Internet access to unwired regions of the globe, reports the Wall St Journal.

The project reportedly will start with 180 small, high-capacity satellites orbiting the earth at lower altitudes than traditional satellites, and then could expand.

Google’s satellite venture is led by Greg Wyler, founder of O3b Networks , a medium orbit satellite constellation that delivers backhaul to cell sites, which Google has also invested in. Google has also been hiring engineers from satellite company Space Systems/Loral LLC to work on the project.

Google has also invested in Project Loon, a series of high-altitude balloons to provide broadband to remote parts of the world, and Titan Aerospace, which is building solar-powered drones to provide similar connectivity. Facebook has its own drone effort.

O3b has been planning to launch about a dozen satellites, aiming to serve large areas on either side of the equator. Each O3B will weigh approximately 700 kilograms (1,500 lb) with the beams covering 700 km in diameter (435 miles). The O3b and Iridium NEXT systems (700kg and 800kg respectively) cost at least $40M per satellite to build and launch.

Google’s LEO satellites would weigh less than 113 kilograms, as opposed to the 680 kilograms of O3b’s current design. O3B’s satellite has 12 steerable Ka band antennas (2 beams for gateways, 10 beams for remotes) that use 4.3 GHz of spectrum (2×216 MHz per beam) with 600 MBit/s per direction.

With a budget of 250 pounds (113 Kilograms), stuffing any fancy pants MU-MIMO on-board Google’s LEO would be a challenge. Google’s Ku band LEO satelites, among other things, would have to stop transmitting when within 10 degrees of the equator to prevent interference with geosynch satellites.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which regulates satellite orbital slots and spectrum, shows L5/WorldVu filings as promising to start service in late 2019.

SkyBridge had a similar idea using the Ku-band. It was abandoned for lack of financing, and it is the legacy SkyBridge frequencies that L5/WorldVu proposes to use.

The SkyBridge system would use 80 satellites orbiting at 1,500 km, in 20 orbital planes with four equally spaced satellite per plane. The circular orbital planes would have been inclined at 53 degrees from the equator, 18 degrees apart.

Google’s satellites, apparently, will operate in circular orbits of 800 and 950 kilometers inclined 88.2 degrees relative to the equator, have been given regulatory deadlines of between late 2019 and mid-2020 to enter service, according to ITU records, using the Ku band (12/14 GHz).

Google’s approach might be contrasted with Iridium NEXT spacecraft, the successor to the current constellation, and due to begin launching in the first quarter of 2015. Iridium’s satphone service uses a lower frequency (1.6 GHz), but are no speed demons for internet access.

Iridium NEXT may cost a total of $3 billion. It will have 72 operational satellites and in-orbit spares, orbiting at 780 km × 780 km, cicular orbits, inclined 86.4°.

Each Iridium Next spacecraft employs an L-band (1.6 GHz) phased array antenna for generation of the 48-beam, 4,700 km diameter cellular pattern for direct communication with users. The cross-linked 66 satellite constellation forms a global network in space. Ka-band links provide ground-based backhaul and in-orbit crosslinks.

Satellite consultant Tim Farrar estimated that Google’s rumored 180 small satellites could be launched for as little as about $600 million. But the full 360 satellite system would likely cost $3B for the 100kg satellites and $4B-$5B for the 200-300kg satellites.

Farrar says the planned system is expected to involved 360 LEO Ku-band satellites using a filing by WorldVu in Jersey. He believes the constellation will have 18 planes of 20 satellites, with half at an altitude of 950km and the remainder at 800km. The higher altitude satellites provide global coverage, and the lower satellites being added later, in between the initial 9 planes, provide additional capacity.

It’s not immediately clear how the end user terminals and backhaul could work. Kymeta’s new flat panel beamforming antenna, might eliminate the need for tracking dishes, but they’re not practical on mobile phones. Secondly, if the satellite footprint covers the size of a state (with a million people), then supplying the needed backhaul capacity could be problematic.

Countries can own their geosynchronous airspace, but Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites like Iridium, Globalstar and Orbcomm, require different rules — they fly over many different countries. LEO satellites currently provide only voice and low speed data. ORBCOMM’s 30 satellites, for example, are capable of sending and receiving alphanumeric packets, but can’t provide real-time internet access or voice, since it provides non-realtime store-and-forward connectivity.

ORBCOMM’s 12 Gateway Earth Stations connect with satellites as they pass overhead on four continents, maintaining satellite connectivity and near-real-time messaging capabilities.

Planet Labs’ mini photo satellites were released from the International Space Station in December, 2013.

Planet Labs wants to create – essentially – a live view version of Google Earth. Four satellites were launched February 2013 in what is expected to become a steady stream of miniature satellites ejected from the ISS.

Skybox Imaging aims to launch at least 24 satellites that will be able to take high-definition video of any spot on Earth and capture details just one meter across. Each of its satellites should cost about a 10th as much as a traditional ones, but are significantly larger than the Planet Labs 3U CubeSats.

Skybox’s 1-meter-resolution satellites can be built and launched into orbit for well under $50 million each, with a planned operating lifetime of four years. To date, Skybox has raised $91 million.

Near-space platforms at 12 miles (20K meters/65K feet) are 20 times closer than a typical 400-kilometer LEO satellite at 250 miles. High altitude UAVs can stare — 24/7 — without blinking or human needs. Mercury’s sigint computers are powered by nVidia GPUs and Intel processors for TeraFLOPS processing.

IEEE Spectrum has Five Ways to Bring Broadband to the Backwoods, including solar-powered drones, MEO and LEO satellites, balloons, blimps, and White Spaces.

The move to “High Throughput Satellites” will be key to success in broadband access around the world, says Northern Sky. The geostationary Ka-band satellites already have a spot-beam solution. But, except for Inmarsat and Intelsat, they’re not global.

LEO satellites are one way Google could deliver global access to the internet. Their investment in medium orbit O3B indicates they are serious. But it may be more of a political solution rather than an engineering solution. And it would be no political walk in the park. Private US ventures such as these may have been essentially killed off by the snoops at the NSA.

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AT&T + DirecTV: $50B?

AT&T is moving quickly to seal a takeover deal with satellite-TV provider DirecTV, reports the WSJ, in a deal that could be worth $50 billion.

Dallas-based AT&T would likely pay a premium for DirecTV’s nearly 20 million US subs. But why?

Media consolidation:

With a combined 27 million subscriber base, AT&T’s subscriber count would rival Comcast’s 32 million subscriber base (after T/W). What other advantage would AT&T get from buying a declining satellite TV business? Defense.

Dish Networks now won’t make an offer for DirecTV, said Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen.

“DirecTV would be too frothy for us, for our board to look at, at those kinds of prices,” he said. DirecTV and Dish attempted to merge more than a decade ago, a combination that was squashed by regulators.

Satellite providers DirecTV and Dish also provide satellite broadband but the capacity of their satellite transponders is limited and latency is excessive for voice or gaming.

One thing DirecTV has is rooftop access — for small cells and (branded) WiFi.

Comcast aims to increase its WiFi network reach from 1 million public access points to 8 million by the end of the year while Cablevision’s WiFi network has more than 100,000 access points and growing rapidly.

Dish, unlike DirecTV, is ready to go mobile. It owns spectrum in the AWS-4 band (40 MHz), the PCS band (10 MHz) and the 700 MHz band (6 MHz). Dish brings access to 14 million rooftops. And Dish is preparing to roll out a new video streaming service that could someday rival the 32 million subscribers on Netflix.

It begs the question; who will Dish go home with.

The suitors include:

  • Verizon (which recently purchased Intel’s settop box)
  • T-Mobile (which has nationwide AWS tower coverage for Dish’s 50 MHz of spectrum)
  • Sprint (which has more 2.6 GHz then they can use)
  • Google (planning fiber in dozens of cities).

Who better than Dish to deliver an “alternative infrastructure” for wireless — without the bloated telco legacy.

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