Solving the problem of getting broadband to the sparse population of the Australian outback could help advance wireless communications everywhere. It’s impossible to justify the cost of fiber infrastructure to serve a small number of subscribers over a very long haul. Microwave has always been a viable solution, but it has had bandwidth limitations that increase exponentially over distance, making it more appropriatate for 3G cell towers than for modern broadband service.
Australian researchers claim that they have advanced microwave technology to provide 10GBPS over of distances of 30 miles.
CSIRO has begun talks with global manufacturers to commercialise microwave technology it says can provide at least 10 Gbps symmetric backhaul services to mobile towers.
The project, funded out of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund and a year in planning, could provide a ten-fold increase in the speed of point-to-point microwave transmission systems within two years, according to project manager, Dr Jay Guo. (IT News)
If this technology proves to be commercially viable, it could extend the reach of wireless broadband and improve mobile service everywhere by providing cheap, high bandwidth backhaul.
There are still a number of performance issues that will continue to keep microwave in the role of second choice to fixed line backhaul. Most significant are very long latency and and interference from weather. Current understanding of the laws of physics dictates that these limitations can’t be overcome. Perhaps we’ll see these laws revised with future developments.
While Microsoft isn’t exactly hurting, the company has had very mixed success entering new markets for some time. In fact, without the OS and Office cash cows, it’s failures would have torpedoed most companies. One thing Ballmer and company do seem to have is tenacity. That tenacity can be seen in action with Windows Phone.
Windows Phone is a well executed smart handset platform that came to market a little to late. It’s also lacks any real advantage over the established Apple and Android platforms. Add to that the obstacle a its licensing fee and there’s not much to make Windows Phone compelling to potential manufacturing partners. That gives Android a price advantage while Apple holds the overpriced designer label space. Microsoft has tried to remove that disadvantage by patent trolling Android manufacturers, with mixed success. There are also rumors that the company could acquire the ailing Nokia, likely giving Windows Phone a stable hardware partner. None of this will open any shelf space for MS as long as devices are joined at the hip to service plans that are sold exclusively by carriers.
That brings us to Skype. The VoIP company that Ebay notoriously overpaid for, was acquired for far less by Microsoft last year.The company is currently testing an app that will add the mostly free to talk service to Windows Phone 8. Tight integration of Skype into the Windows Phone OS has the potential to accelerate the end of by the minute mobile voice plans forever. That is assuming the carriers cooperate. While the mobile hardware space continues to become more crowded, the carrier space is not with incumbents scrambling to consolidate. Despite what we keep being told, mobile data is enormously profitable. That profitability is eclipsed by the margins on voice by the minute and messaging. Without major changes in the wireless connection business, Skype will do nothing to improve Windows Phone’s fortunes. (more…)
Look for the cable guys to get a little more aggressive adding wireless to service packages. After selling spectrum to Verizon Comcast and Time Warner entered into agreements to sell wireless products that will utilize V’s network. Customers connected via Clear’s network will be transitioned to Verizon, ending the Clearwire partnership.
While this will be a big revenue hit for cash burning Clearwire, it also frees it from the product and price restrictions the cable guys had imposed. Unfortunately Clearwire, it’s probably too late to take advantage of this new freedom even if it’s management was up to the task. I expect for Clearwire will go bust early next year with Sprint absorbing most of its assets and customer base.
The new Verizon arrangement does give the cable guys tremendous opportunity to innovate and disrupt. I don’t expect we’ll see much of either. Cable management tends to drive looking through the rear view mirror. Nothing that could be seen as a threat to the walled garden pay TV package will ever see the light of day. Only monopolies can survive doing business this way.
As for Verizon, look for more deals like this one. While quality of service has much more to do with tower density and backhaul, Verizon and AT&T are on a quest to lock up all available spectrum. Unless they control virtually all spectrum, their broken wireless business model can’t be sustained.
There’s plenty of tech media coverage of Republic Wireless’ new hybrid mobile plan that was launched today. It’s great to see some new entrepreneurial blood in the stagnant US wireless market. The only real innovation in Republic’s offering is in its partial de-crippling an Andriod smart phone and setting up a deal to use Sprint’s network as a fall back for it’s potentially disruptive service. The low cost is possible because Republic’s service is only truly unlimited on WiFi connections, with a limit on 3G network usage.There’s also a pretty big investment for the consumer in the unproven service that entails buying a $199 locked handset up front.
If Republic’s service performs reasonably well, it could indeed be disruptive to the industry. What troubles me most is that this sort of utility exists in every smart phone with the addition of an app like Republic’s. If the FCC was truly representing the masses, all smart phones would be unlocked and there would be exponentially more businesses competing to offer wireless and mobile VoIP service via WiFi and other non traditional networks. While requiring the acceptance of unlocked handsets on all networks could create chaos in the marketplace, it would also foster innovation and grow the market for everyone – including the FCC’s wireless cartel.
In broadband policy, one could argue the French have been leading the world. France relies on a relatively open market that has created an abundance of options and very high standards for consumer broadband service. In contrast, American policy relies on bureaucrats and pols picking winners and losers. This has given the US artificially scarce, substandard service at high prices. The average French city dweller has broadband all but a lucky few Americans can only dream about for about the cost of a night out at the movies. What about wireless? Most of us dream of a single connection we could use with any and all of our wireless devices. In France and a few other European countries, that dream is a reality.
For a couple of months now, France Telecom’s Orange unit has been allowing iPad owners in Austria to share one allotment of data with a phone, while other shared data plans were recently launched in France, the United Kingdom and Spain.
Although the plans vary somewhat by country, the basic premise is the same. Users pay an extra couple of dollars a month for each additional device that shares data — similar to the way families and businesses here have long been able to share minutes between multiple phones.
“We believe that’s really a way for the future,” said Olaf Swantee, senior executive vice president for France Telecom’s Orange unit. (Wall Street Journal)
While there is more wireless competition in much of Europe, there are also regulations that separate devices from service. Most Europeans shop for their device(s) before choosing a service provider. To be fair in making comparisons, a single standard (GSM slowly shifting to LTE) makes things a little simpler, but modern technology has pretty much negated that advantage with programmable transceiver circuits on a chip. In other words, network agnostic devices would be readily available here in our multi-standard world too if the market was open. By the way, thanks to a more open market, Europeans also tend to pay less for devices than we currently do.
Why not here, you ask? It’s certain consumers would flock to the carrier(s) who offered all device access via a competitively priced catch all account. After all, that’s essentially how we use our fixed connections. The hard reality is that we have a Wireless Cartel that prefers things the way that they are with a subscription for every device. And… our pols and regulators are aggressively defending that status quo. We could change this, but we’ll need to make far more noise than we’re making today. With AT&T and Verizon consistently placing in the top ten lobbying spenders, that noise needs to be deafening to overcome appeal of the perks reps and regulators enjoy. The message that needs to be delivered is simple: No more than 2o% of available spectrum can be controlled by any single entity, and all devices must be sold unlocked. With these fair, open market rules in place, competition will take care of the rest.
Douglas Rushkoff has championed the idea that the current corporate-controlled internet is far from the open commons we pretend it is.
“If we have a dream of how social media could restore peer-to-peer commerce, culture, and government, and if the current Internet is too tightly controlled to allow for it, why not build the kind of network and mechanisms to realize it?” Rushkoff asks.
Sounds daunting. And expensive, right? Wrong.
Funded primarily by the personal savings of group members and a grant from the National Science Foundation, residents of Jalalabad have built the FabFi network: an open-source system that uses common building materials and off-the-shelf electronics to transmit wireless ethernet signals across distances of up to several miles.
They are building a node in war torn Afganistan for $60 + cost of electronics and the electronics are nothing but COTS stuff. Linksys 54WGRT type stuff, nothing exotic. Same thing is happening in several cities in Kenya. Its about high time we here in the US get off our duff and simply accomplish the same thing.
The tools are not lacking either –
While we like to give the impression that building fabfi consists of simply pointing a couple wifi routers at each other and calling it a day, there’s an enormous amount of development that goes into creating that illusion. The current fabfi system does first-order integration with dozens of open-source projects, including:
And with every day we’re adding new tweaks to improve stability and performance that require testing in the UoN Fablab development network.
So the question is, what is our excuse? We don’t even need to stick with b or g class transmission. Most could afford to pay for a class n node for electronics. That provides a several order of magnitude increase in transmission rates. The essential need would be one of proper access for line of sight presence and a backhaul point to get on the Web.
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