Saturday, September 30, 2006
Friday, September 29, 2006
Creating the second monopoly
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
xG IPO = cojones de acero
- Sprint/Nextel's >$3bn WIMAX investment contrasts poorly with xG's claimed ability to give full US coverage for $15m (this is not a typo, that's 99.5% discount folks);
- to justify the $650 - 700m valuation: "...over the two years of the forecast period, xG need only achieve a roll out of 500 base stations at 20% capacity to achieve our numbers; it already has LOIs (letters of intent) indicating demand of $20m, the equivalent of demand for 400 base stations.";
- "On a reverse DCF model, on the basis that bid interest from established participants needing to cover their technology bets is likely, and on the grounds that the shares will represent a "hedged option" equivalent in any clients' portfolios exposed to the telecoms sector, we suggest that xG's shares are the only genuinely compelling investment we have seen in years."
I have to say, the last quote is fairly incendiary phrasing for a broker intimately involved in the IPO. That is a trivial concern, however. What really matters is the gap between presentation and reality. For a company to come to market with such a punchy story without substance would be a totally unnecessary, suicidal act, particularly when the amounts of money to be raised (£30m) look so trivial relative to the disruptive potential. So, we must give the company the benefit of the doubt - or is that part of a head-fake? This is going to be a fascinating deal to watch.
High fiber diet
UPDATE: My buddy Dave Burstein, one of the hardest-working men in telecom (and one of the earliest and most supportive of all mega-uber value readers), has a great piece on FiOS, with lots of behind-the-scenes details. Most fascinating to me is his revelation that in future the set-top box is also to be an open window to video on the net on the TV - perhaps an open gate from the walled garden would be a better analogy. If this is true, I think this marks the first time that an incumbent telco has genuinely acknowledged in an integrated manner what is going on in (cringe) Web 2.0, and how acceptance, accomodation and adaptation is the only sensible course of action.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
All about FiOS, the authorized biography
Untrivial bandwidth usage
"As the majority of broadband customers are still experiencing bandwidths below 1Mbps, the migration to higher bandwidth is not expected to take place in the immediate future. It will become visible in a couple of years. Most markets, including Switzerland, France and Austria, will have the highest demands in the 1 - 6Mbps range in 2011. Still, 30 - 50% of broadband households will have 6 - 30Mbps in 2011; not more than 10% of households are expected to exceed 30Mbps in 2011. An analysis of up- and download bandwidth requirements of next generation broadband services suggests that 8Mbps upload and 50Mbps download rate will be sufficient by 2011..."
However, mega-uber value reader number one said that at IBC he heard the BBC and Sky saying that for a true HD experience, the channels need to "breathe" at 16Mbps, even in MPEG-4. Apparently, the BBC's HD trial over DTT has a bitrate of around 20Mbps (check out the lower section of this thread). Get a couple of HD streams running around the house, with the teenagers uploading HD v-logs and downloading some ripped HD content from the internet while playing World of Warcraft, and the family better hope it's not among the 90% of broadband "have-nots" which Little expects in 2011.
Moreover, I think the industry has become a tad myopic, assuming this is totally driven by video, when there are also other important things to be considered. My second mega-uber value reader sends in this piece from Trouw in the Netherlands, which deals with a grid computing community set to officially launch tomorrow in the Dutch city of Almere, itself an early adopter of fiber. Some grid members with fiber connections are already taking part in a study of bone aging being carried out by the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, which involves files of up to 5GB in size.
Who's to say what applications and innovations will flourish if we focus on unlocking abundance (wink, Martin) rather than counting the reasons why we don't need too much bandwidth?
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Breaking news, three months on
"Henry Sinnreich has joined Adobe. Contemplate for a moment the number of desktops globally which support some version of Flash (think "all of them"), then consider the growing number of sites/communities built in Flash (YouTube for a start), and then think about how Adobe might want to capitalize on that valuable real estate position by incorporating voice, video and presence. Then be afraid, be very afraid."
Obviously, I picked up the news from the wonderful Richard Stastny, but I also had spoken with the project head at Adobe at Stockholm VON in May to get a view on where things were heading, which informed my subsequent post on the subject.
This is not a criticism of anyone, especially not my man Om. It just calls up some questions for me about our ability to absorb and retain information in an increasingly chaotic media landscape, and ultimately points to a lot of the same power laws of the old media world being reincarnated in Web 2.0.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Message in a bottle
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I'm finding it daunting for a number of reasons. One is that I'm writing for an audience which includes a lot of non-specialists, which necessitates explanation of a lot of background which I take for granted in the blog - because the blog is a cumulative record of events in near-realtime, which often links freely to others and my own previous output without much need to explain. I find having to construct a coherent narrative from the events of recent months daunting, particularly when the medium - a linear narrative with discrete thematic sections - is ill-suited to the multi-dimensional nature of what is happening. For example, how exactly do you deal with having to divide VoIP, social networking, and user-generated content into separate sections, when they are ultimately inextricably linked?
Anyway, I trudge on, and along the way somehow find time to practice what I preach. I have tried out Truphone on a Nokia kindly supplied by the company for review purposes. So far I'm impressed - it was easy to set up and sounds great, though I've only had time to make a few test calls to my work voicemail. I look forward to some more time at the weekend to put it through its paces.
I also decided, long overdue, to give birth to myself in Second Life. My Second Life name, in case you run into me, is Jimiinc Mikazuki (Mikazuki, incidentally, is the Japanese word for "crescent moon," though it's not a real Japanese surname - it seemed both so poetic and ridiculous that I had to have it). I have to say that the graphics are amazing, but it's a CPU and bandwidth hog, at least in the context of my dull Dell laptop and anemic broadband uplink capacity. While other new arrivals on the Orientation Island seemed to be galloping around like excited yearlings (these people must be on fiber connections), I was a bit jerky, at one point suddenly ending up in the stream when I should have been crossing the bridge. Oh well, fascinating nevertheless.
There's some clever stuff going on here. For example, as new arrivals enter, there is a prompt to change appearance from one of the standard character templates on offer. When another person is editing their appearance, what you see is a generic character looking in a mirror, but the reflection in the mirror is of the new character they are becoming. This alone fascinated me, but then I wandered into the stream, and back in the real world I looked at the clock and thought I should get back to attempting to explain Second Life to the uninitiated.
Off to bed now, see you tomorrow, in this world or some other...
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Nobody does it better
Hear all, see all, say nought?
The other day a valued friend and mega-uber value reader said I should shout more loudly about past predictions I have made which have come to fruition. I won't bore you with a list now, but one of which I'm proud is that in January 2004 I wrote a long note in which I highlighted UTOPIA, Stokab, and a handful of citizen-driven projects as indicators of a coming wave of tension between the agenda of telco/cable broadband service providers, and the social/economic development agendas of local and regional governments, in their pursuit of broadband self-determination. Well, it's happening all around us now, and finally in the UK, so hold on to your flat caps.
UPDATE: A mega-uber value reader writes in to say that this project may not be strictly comparable to Amsterdam, as Amsterdam is explicitly a FTTH project, whereas specific technologies are not mentioned in the Digital Region brief. Additionally, he argues, the lower housing density in South Yorkshire would make FTTH a more expensive option, so they're probably starting with FTTC and VDSL, possibly eventually migrating to FTTH. I would suspect the same, and I should have made this clear in the post. However, as an example of a muni (actually multi-muni, quad-muni?) broadband initiative, it would still be bigger than Amsterdam, if not faster.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Lessons to telcos number 56
The secret life of mobile yoof
Monday, September 18, 2006
What a weekend
- Yesterday Telecom Italia took another step forward in its cross-border broadband incursion strategy, getting a decent price from AOL for its 3.2m customers. Adding AOL's 1.1m broadband customers to its own base (745k in H1) brings it pretty much level with market number two United Internet.
- Meanwhile, Tiscali was throwing the gearbox into reverse, getting out of the Dutch market on a relative high note. As I argued here, it looks like KPN's FTTC strategy may be succeeding in discouraging some of the more marginal players from remaining in the market. With this deal, my numbers suggest KPN will have over 75% of the retail DSL market in the Netherlands - I wonder at what point the regulator begins to get uneasy?
- Also in the Netherlands, problems with UPC's digital migration strategy, which I covered here, have now reached the attention of the Dutch parliament.
- Just as Telecom Italia is piling into Germany, Reuters is this morning running a story apparently quoting a Deutsche Telekom insider as saying that the new DSL/voice bundles offered by the company have signed up 200k customers already, ahead of internal expectations.
- Back to the Netherlands, DT is launching a home-zone mobile product there for EUR6.95 per month.
- XG Technologies is going for an AIM listing in London.
- Rounding out in the Netherlands, a Palladium Club mega-uber value reader points me to a successful example of a FTTH collective in the town of Nijmegen. A group of citizens carried out a feasibility study and began a trial three months ago with 23 of the town's 2,500 homes. Now they are ready to scale up, with a cooperative ownership structure and maintenance/operations outsourced.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Lost in cyberspace
UPDATE at 11:50 AM: We're back live again, after an hour.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Check out this lovely photograph from the Gadu-Gadu blog, where he winner of a company-sponsored contest appears to have stumbled across (presumably) a cafe while on holiday in Cyprus (his prize in the contest), which has a sign outside announcing free internet access and a number of VoIM options. Gadu-Gadu is mentioned prominently (notice he is also pointing to his own T-shirt, which says "Gadu-Gadu"), in fact more prominently than a couple of other "global" household names. Notice that Skype, apparently a very Polish phenomenon, isn't mentioned at all. I guess this points up, probably more for the American audience which might be tempted to believe that the usual suspects have cleaned up globally, that there are still pockets of the world which have not been subdued.
UPDATE: A mega-uber value reader in Poland pointed out my stupidity in the earlier version of this post, wherein I initially assumed that the man in the photo was the founder of the company. Indeed, it was a stupid assumption to make. My informant continues, very informatively:
"The Polish internet is quite interesting. As you probably found out, Gadu–Gadu is by far the most popular IM communicator in Poland. Global IM software is rather not popular, and other Polish based communicators are also much less accepted (most are compatible with Gadu – Gadu). The GG phenomenon is caused by the fact that it was the first Polish communicator (first version delivered on 2000 15th August, author was inspired by ICQ). Besides it was easy to use, though not advanced and easy to sniff. The specific character of the "Polish Internet" is mostly visible when one looks at traffic stats. Until Q1 2006 a local player, onet.pl (this site was founded by a Polish based PC manufacturer, every machine shipped by this company had the site address imprinted below the monitor display – a few years ago the portal was separated from the PC producer), has been the site with the highest reach, now it's losing out to google.pl (but only when reach is taken into consideration).
Other high-ranked sites are also of Polish origin - global players, except for Google, are quite far down in the stats (short guide to vocabulary: zasięg = reach among Polish Internet population; czas = time spent on the site; odsłona = number of times the site was loaded). And going back to Skype, it is used rather for international voice communication (it became popular because of relatively high charges for international calls in Poland), whereas Gadu-Gadu is used almost only for instant messaging, though it is VoIP-enabled (GG Nagłos). Skype is used by the relatively young Polish population, among others, to speak with friends from abroad (train their language skills using SkypeMe), so IMHO it is not just about the Polish Diaspora around the world.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Surrealist or futurista?
"Let me enjoy this. Rise above the humiliations that have been suffered in recent years as users and as shareholders. The Board of Directors sacked by its real shareholders through a comic. Something that has never in the world been seen before. An 11 September of the capitalists without capital that weigh on our society."
Asterisk new release: For all the Asterisk enthusiasts out there I'm sure there are a lot of features here which will please and excite, but what interests me is the new compatibility with GTalk/Jingle/Jabber. The Asterisk ecosystem just got a lot bigger.
Low-fat pipes?: Apparently, at the IBC show in Amsterdam, UPC has presented the results of a study it commissioned from Arthur D. Little, which finds that even by 2011, 50Mbps down and 6Mbps up will be sufficient, even for "heavy users". I guess all these fiber projects, especially the municipal ones, are misguided then? Glad we cleared that up.
Yorkshiremen on the march: Despite having heard some vague rumors over the past year about independent fiber in the UK, I always assumed it would be a cold day in hell before we saw a concerted effort at municipal level - perhaps 11 years in London has left me skeptical of public infrastructure projects in the UK. However, the other day, while speaking to a client, I entertained the idea that an independent-minded city bent on economic reinvention might take the plunge - I used Sheffield as an example. Thanks to a Palladium Class mega-uber value reader, I now know just how close that was, but the truth is much bigger - try all of South Yorkshire (I love the banner line "The 4th Utility?") - and it appears to be more advanced than I could have imagined (preferred bidder expected by the end of this month). There is also something afoot in North Yorkshire, and a bit of Googling uncovers that the county of Somerset is formulating its strategy.
Mobile RFID payments: Anyone interested in this space may find useful a survey from Japan (summarized free of charge in English by yours truly) looking at consumer awareness and usage scenarios. In contrast to much of its peer group, I continue to be intrigued by DoCoMo's transformation into a transaction platform, and its willingness to invest in various parts of the whole mobile value chain.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The timing is also interesting from the standpoint of market adoption - VoDSL offerings from the European carriers are now at impressive levels of penetration (Iliad 87% of DSL subs, France Telecom 28%, KPN 9%). In the age of flat rate calls to much of Europe and North America, having the potential for settlement free termination is probably going to grow in appeal as penetration rises.
Additionally, many of these same carriers are increasingly seeing the value of having their own softphones, which means that being able to preserve the integrity of wideband voice codecs, presence information, and video calling is likely to be more important to them, beyond merely the cost-savings of not touching the PSTN, or indeed the opportunity to recreate PSTN charging mechanisms in an IP world (which this release from Arbinet seems to suggest is its game plan, at least in the short term).
From my point of view, this deal gives XConnect a crucial foothold in the North American market, with what I am told is a state-of-the-art NOC. It also brings Jeff Pulver into the fold, and given his profile, connections, and role in galvanizing the industry, I think he will prove to be an important asset to the company.
Time to unwind
My thesis has always remained that the mindshare of bloggers and other independent opinion shapers inevitably would collectively overwhelm the walled gardens which are brokers' research products. The expertise "out there" is just too great, and the analysis too frank, to be ignored - and it grows daily into something I like to call "open source analysis". I have argued that investment banking research, to remain relevant, would have to adopt the same tools and approach, to create a "point of presence" in this new ecosystem, indeed to create a Media 2.0 profile for its analysts. It's no longer enough to go on CNBC looking buff and hyperconfident.
So, for any depressed analysts on Wall Street, or within the Square Mile, go pour yourself another half-caff skinny latte and consider what it means that David Jackson and his team at Seeking Alpha have struck a deal with Yahoo! to get the insights of the open source analysts into a prominent placing on Yahoo! Finance. David (an early reader of EuroTelcoblog who has offered a lot of moral support and was kind enough to include me as an early occasional contributor to Seeking Alpha) has worked hard to make the site genuinely useful, funding free conference call transcripts, taking on experienced editors who understand what makes a piece relevant.
For the fund manager or independent investor who hasn't had the time, stamina, or knowledge to amass and keep up with a long list of RSS feeds on a wide range of issues, having a trusted aggregator of independent voices within an already trusted and familiar source of financial news and data poses more than a trivial challenge to the brokers for gaining and holding one's attention.
UPDATE: An Eldorado class mega-uber value reader writes in with an appropriate musical quote, challenging me to complete it:
"Once I built a tower way up to the sun
Of bricks and mortar and lime
Once I built a tower, and now it's done ..."
In this case, I think the appropriate tagline is "Buddy can you spare a Ferrari?"
Monday, September 11, 2006
I guess one potential drawback for some users is the need to have Skype and VOX running on a PC somewhere in the world. But I also wonder if this limitation doesn't present Skype and VoxLib an opportunity to offer "hosted presence" for those who may need it from time to time. In other words, Skype could host an "image" of the user's client (the contact list is not centralized in any event) and the VOX for Skype service. Personally I could certainly envisage paying a small fee for the ability to switch to hosted presence on an ad hoc basis, say when away on a camping trip or driving in the car. Maybe this is a far-fetched idea - I would be interested in your feedback.
La Ville Numerique
UPDATE: Iliad followed 20 minutes later with another release detailing the offer available in Q1 2007: 50Mbps (presumably symmetrical); unlimited calls to French fixed lines and some international; HDTV; all via the Freebox Optique... for a cool EUR29.99, the same price Free has charged for services for as long as anyone can remember.
UPDATE 2: By 9:00 AM, this was coming to resemble a 9/11-esque attack on France Telecom, with another release outlining that Free, through the Free Foundation, would be "engaging in combat against the digital divide" with a free universal service (for basic phone line with no subscription for emergency calls and calls to social services, narrowband internet access, and access to the free channels of France's DTT service). This package of services will be available throughout Paris and in other areas of France where Free has/will have fiber.
UPDATE 3: Another half hour, and Free announces that it will open its FTTH network to wholesale customers.
UPDATE 4: A Palladium Class mega-uber value reader points out that the releases are in English here. I have always received them via email in French for some reason, and historically there has been a time lag between the French and English versions, so I didn't even stop to look at the English site. Then again, this is huge news, so I guess they mobilized the translators a bit faster than previously.
Friday, September 08, 2006
UPDATE: Of course, first I tried to download the full version from the site at work and got blocked, but then later I downloaded the ActiveX plug-in and set it up. If only I had a headset! One very clever thing here from the ease of adoption point of view is that, since the user registers with an email address, they can be called using that address alone. No separate user ID or handle. Call set-up to the PSTN also seems to be damned fast. Undeterred even without a headset, I had just clicked to make a test call to my desk phone, when said desk phone rang, so I cancelled my Busta call, thinking someone else was calling me coincidentally at the same time - then I realized that the call to my desk phone was from Busta. Given the call set up times for PSTN breakout in Skype or Gizmo (which aren't particularly bad, but noticeable) I hadn't expected that Busta would connect immediately, but it did.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Shameless self-promotion 2.1
These are among the many burning questions which will not be on the agenda at the Telco 2.0 Industry Brainstorm next month, 4-5th October in London. Join us instead for a differentiated, challenging and stimulating consideration of the issues facing telecom. I will be there, or perhaps just my avatar (he's younger and thinner), doing some stimulus speaking (quite possibly stimulating people to hurl furniture at me) and also serving as "analyst in residence" on some sessions. I have had a hand in putting together the agenda and recommending speakers, and I genuinely believe this will be an event with a difference.
The organizers have very kindly offered a 10% discount to EuroTelcoblog readers. All you have to do is contact the event production team and quote “Enck 10% discount” - online: www.telco2.net/event, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: + 44 (0) 207 864 9912.
P.S. - I have no financial interest in this event, but am expecting to do much damage to the buffet lunch and drinks reception.
Pretty damned relevant
Opening up a can of whoopass
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Don't look now
But what the hell, there's still plenty of big news to report: SPIT has arrived in suburban Memphis, my home town and cultural mecca. Sure, when it was just a couple of spoiled little girls mucking about with IP wizardry, it was funny, but buddy, when a Collierville retiree isn't free to mow his own tiny bit of the American dream in peace, you're on the fightin' side of me. Add something like this to the mix and let the nastiness begin.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Ranking full stop
For the map lover in you
UPDATE: Turns out this site was put together by a couple of students. Good work guys!
SMS for MS
A Palladium Class mega-uber value reader in the Netherlands sent in this image from a train platform in Utrecht, where the displays also host this clever charity fund-raising effort. Send an SMS to the appropriate number and your message is displayed for all to see. The majority of proceeds go to MS Research. This message is directed to me ("Hello James," it says), but I assume there must be all manner of weird and wonderful things crossing the screen daily, from "Feyernoord rules" and "I hate my job" to "You're kinda cute, weren't you the bass player in Golden Earring?" and "If you think this is bad, you should try the English trains." If anyone out there happens to have any stats on how much SMS traffic this service is generating, I would love to see them.