Archive for December, 2009

Observations: Services – December 29, 2009

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.)

Cyberguy on 4G

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Observations: Devices – December 27, 2009

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.)

The first smart mob?

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Wikipedia defines a smart mob as “a form of self-structuring social organization through technology-mediated, intelligent emergent behavior…. A smart mob is a group that, contrary to the usual connotations of a mob, behaves intelligently or efficiently because of its exponentially increasing network links. This network enables people to connect to information and others, allowing a form of social coordination.” and “The concept was introduced by Howard Rheingold in his book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.”

Roughly two millennia ago we hear of this story involving angelic communications technology:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:8-20 ESV)


Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:1-12 ESV)

Merry Christmas!

Enabling Technology: December 23, 2009

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility in are being obliterated week after week. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Observations: Applications – December 22, 2009

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.)

CCM Cover Story: What is 4G?

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

My most recent column for Christian Computing Magazine is the cover story for the December issue. I think the topic is of interest to my loyal blog readers as well!

Check out the full story, but here are a few excerpts. As I’ve noted before, the CCM audience is a bit less wireless-savvy than readers here, so I apologize that this is a bit over-simplified in places:

Now that it seems the whole world has adopted mobility for more than just talking, everyone’s focused on the data network as the critical element for the future. In fact, while most of us are just getting our arms around 3G, you may have started seeing ads for 4G services. So what is 4G and why does it matter?

4G is shorthand for fourth generation cellular services. The first generation of cellular was a simple, analog voice-only network. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started auctioning spectrum for 1G networks in 1982 and by 1985 there were 340,000 wireless subscribers. The second generation was digital, which provided significantly better utilization of the radio frequencies (spectrum) to support more calls. 2G also supported data transmissions, roughly at dial-up modem speeds (generally up to 64kbps). The first 2G network was deployed in Finland in 1991. In the U.S., 2G networks eventually evolved to either GSM (based on Time Division Multiplexing or TDMA) or CDMA (Code Division Multiplexing) technology standards.

Starting in the mid-1990s, people began speaking of advanced mobile communications services that often were referred to as “personal communications services” (PCS). A third-generation cellular architecture, with high-speed packet switching at the core, was expected to support these new services. The FCC began auctioning new spectrum for these services in 1994. However, it took over a decade for 3G networks to actually be ready. In between, most carriers launched networks that were referred to as 2.5G. These interim networks inserted a packet network, but only stepped up the bandwidth to about 144kbps.

Finally, in 2005, Verizon and Sprint started rolling out true 3G services. Today’s 3G services (EV-DO for Verizon and Sprint, HSPA for AT&T and T-Mobile) deliver roughly DSL speeds – typically about 1Mbps downstream and about 400Kbps upstream. 3G coverage is fairly comprehensive for Verizon and Sprint, while AT&T and T-Mobile cover the major metropolitan areas. Outside of 3G coverage areas, most carriers still provide 2.5G services, so you aren’t completely out of luck.

As cellular technology, 1G, 2G, and 3G all operate with a cellular architecture, meaning that a cell site (think of the towers you see alongside the highway, although many cell sites are more discrete these days) covers a given area, typically with a radius of 1 – 5 miles. As you reach the boundary of that cell, your signal is handed off to the next cell. If you’re on a call, the call continues through the handoff. If you aren’t on a call, the network recognizes that you’ve switched cells in order for it to route the call to you when someone dials your number.

So, what is 4G? As you would guess, fourth generation cellular networks take it to the next level. Architecturally, packet switching is more deeply embedded, creating an end-to-end IP network. Technologically, time division multiplexing and code division multiplexing are replaced by orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM). 4G networks make much better use of spectrum. Individual connections are typically in the 5Mbps range or higher (think cable modem speeds). And the cost to operate is expected to drop to about 20% per megabit compared to 3G networks.

Sprint launched the first 4G network, starting in Baltimore in October 2008. Today, Sprint has expanded the service to about 25 cities covering about 10% of the U.S. population. The company expects to have about a third of the country’s population covered by the end of 2010. Verizon expects to launch its first 4G markets late in 2010 and similarly expects to cover about a third of the country by the end of that year. Sprint is using a 4G technology called WiMax. Verizon plans to use a technology called LTE. They are both OFDM-based technologies. Neither AT&T nor T-Mobile plan to launch 4G during 2010.

So, why would anyone care about 4G? 4G services promise a 5 fold increase in speed at roughly the same price. I believe that unlimited is an important differentiator for 4G, and one that is hard for the carriers to match on 3G because of the significantly higher operating costs.

But moving beyond the immediate “what’s in it for me,” the other reason to care about 4G is the broader picture of available network capacity. In a paper titled “Managing Growth and Profits in the Yottabyte Era,” Chetan Sharma observed that for 2009, the global mobile data traffic will reach one Exabyte (1000 Terabytes). This year, some carriers suffered from not having enough capacity in their networks to keep up with growing mobile data usage. By 2017, Sharma expects the global mobile data traffic volume to reach one Zettabyte (1000 Exabytes). If 3G networks are struggling today, how will they handle a 1000 fold increase over the next several years?

The answer is 4G. The new networks are not only using technology that makes more efficient use of the available radio spectrum, but are being built with big new blocks of that spectrum. For example, Sprint has about 50MHz of spectrum for its 2G and 3G networks. But the company’s Clearwire business holds over 120MHz of new 4G spectrum. That new spectrum with efficient radio technology, combined with new micro-network technologies like picocells and femtocells which offload the needs of users in predictable less-mobile areas like the home and office, will significantly stretch the networks to be able to meet the coming tidal wave of bandwidth demand.

What does that mean for you and me? Most importantly it means that we’ll actually be able to enjoy the speed promised by 4G when and where we need it.

And that’s what mobility is all about! So, I say – bring on the 4G!

Voice 2.0

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Last week I participated in a couple of panels at the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm event in Orlando. The first panel was on “Voice and Messaging 2.0.” Excellent stimulus presentations were provided by Thomas Howe and Irv Shapiro. Thomas introduced the concept of Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) and Irv gave examples of how ifbyphone’s customers are implementing them.

I joined the two of them in a panel discussion. I structured my comments around three concepts:

  1. Voice 2.0 has to evolve from Voice 1.0
  2. However, that evolution requires a “leap of faith” to escape the gravitational forces of Big Bell Dogma
  3. Voice 2.0 has got to be about solutions, not technologies

Starting from the Basics
In moving to Voice 2.0, we can’t leave behind the foundational ingredient of Voice 1.0: reliable networks. It may no longer be about circuit-switched voice networks, but delivering great services still requires reliable and adaptable MPLS, scalable and flexible SIP trunking, increasingly wirelessly-connected endpoints with reliable 3G, or (in more and more places) 4G networks.

Breaking Free of Big Bell Dogma
Although, as a carrier, building great networks is what we’re about, to get to Voice 2.0, we have to move beyond the Big Bell Dogma of holding back innovation by claiming 5-9’s reliability is being threatened (when really it’s cash-cow monopoly profits that are at risk). We have to ease the interconnection of voice networks (while avoiding monopoly fees), enable convergence, and stimulate innovation in the broader ecosystem.

Delivering Solutions
But, at the end of the day, Voice 2.0 isn’t about completing phone calls or operating great networks, it’s about creating value by delivering revenue-boosting or cost-reducing solutions. As a carrier, Sprint will never be the best at developing complex solutions, which is why we partner closely with leaders like Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft (instead of trying to compete with them as some do).

However, sometimes delivering a valuable solution is as simple as helping a customer apply an existing solution to a well understood problem. I gave the example of a Sprint customer in the health insurance industry. Their goal is to improve health outcomes while reducing costs. They looked at the childbirth process as an area for improvement in both. A pregnancy resulting in normal delivery costs in the neighborhood of $1,000. A pregnancy resulting in a Caesarian section birth costs in the neighborhood of $10,000. However, a pregnancy resulting in a premature birth typically has costs exceeding $1 million – a thousand times more than a normal delivery. If there were a way to help the baby stay in the safety of the womb for 37 weeks, it would save a tremendous amount of money, but more importantly be a better health outcome for the mother and a tremendously better health outcome for the baby. Sprint worked with this company to apply Nextel Direct Connect push-to-talk technology to address this need. At risk mothers are now given a push-to-talk phone with “the button” programmed to connect directly to a health professional. Whenever she has questions, she can get immediate sound answers and advice. The result has been a meaningful reduction in premature births –

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and an easier road to a healthy, happy life for many babies.

Needless to say, I’m excited about the potential impact Voice 2.0 is already having!

Observations: Uses – December 13, 2009

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.)

Observations: Devices – December 12, 2009

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.)