Friday, August 24, 2012

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Smart-phone booths

Phone booths and phone banks, relics from a pre-cellular day, may be set for a come-back. We’ve all walked by the vacated spaces where banks of pay phones used to be affixed to walls in airports and hotels, as well as the stands on busy street corners.

Obviously phone booths are connected via the two wires needed for a POTS line which could easily be augmented with a DSL session.  Along with power, the locations can easily be re-born to a ‘smartphone’ world.  Maybe we can dub these “smartphone booths”. 

(Ed note:  That is *not* me walking shirtless in this photo...)

Putting Wi-Fi access points into un-used phone banks makes some sense, particularly with the new Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) and HotSpot2.0 initiatives.  Acompany can use their right-of-way to install and maintain the access points while changing back-end service providers (Boingo, iPass, AT&T, …) to enable their subscriber’s access.  

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Declare Your Cellular Independence!

In honor of America’s Independence Day, which we will celebrate tomorrow with hotdogs, burgers and fireworks, some lucky folks can declare their cellular independence.

Mobile subscribers that use Orange UK’s Signal Boost service or T-Mobile US’ Wi-Fi Calling can rely on Wi-Fi for calls and texts in areas they use their phones the most.

That’s why Kineto has teamed with UK technology site MoDaCo in a contest to give away an HTC One X equipped with Signal Boost, powered by Kineto’s Smart Wi-Fi technology. Find out how to enter on the Signal Boost contest page.

With London preparing for the Olympic onslaught of an estimated five million visitors, most armed with smartphones, clever people who can make the most of the Wi-Fi on their mobiles will have a leg up. Wi-Fi has become a critical part of the network capacity solution. Virgin Mobile is deploying Wi-Fi in the Underground. Plus, fixed-line provider BT has pledged it will make 500,000 Wi-Fi access points available.

It will be great. But don’t just take my word for it. The technology continues to get rave reviews.

“I used it on the first Orange San Francisco and the Monte Carlo, and it’s a fantastic app,” commented Christian E. on a recent MoDaCo article. “I really can’t understand why every operator doesn’t have a version for every phone. It saves them money/bandwidth and gives the customers better service, it’s not often you get such a win-win.”

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Booster Brolly - Providing all types of coverage

This just in – the Booster Brolly – an umbrella co-developed by Vodafone and University College London which has a micro antenna in the canopy – providing both cellular and atmospheric coverage.

And in the (unlikely) case of sun (at least in the UK), the brolly will also ‘recharge’ your (figurative and literal) battery – keeping you cool in the shade while using solar panels in the canopy to charge your mobile phone.

This is a true multi-function peripheral.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see at the Sharper Image in a few months.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The race is on to get a piece of the VoIP market

I have a guest blog post on Total Telecom about how mobile operator-provided VoIP services are hitting the headlines as players move to protect revenues from the likes of Skype. AT&T's Call International, T-Mobile US's Bobsled and Telefonica's TU-Me are all proof positive that operators are taking steps to address this competition. 

Do you think operators should offer their own VoIP services? Take a read of  The race is on to get a piece of the VoIP market over on Total Telecom and let me know what you think. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wi-Fi/Cellular Handover - The State of the Market

In the mid/late 2000s, one corner of the mobile universe was focused on (some might say obsessed with) the seamless, in-call handover over a voice session to (or from) Wi-Fi  from (or to) the cellular network. 

At the time, this was known as “fixed-mobileconvergence”.  There were companies trying to solve this from the network angle (Bridgeport, Outsmart, NewStep, Convergin,…), others from the enterprise side (DiVitas, Tango, Agito,…).  There were even industry associations like the FMCA and MobileIGNITE.  Nearly all of these companies/approaches are dead and gone. 

In the end, there was and continues to be, only one technology which supports seamless handover, 3GPP GAN (aka UMA) technology. 

Originally T-Mobile marketed this as “HotSpot @Home”, withsome very funny commercialsOrange, Rogers, BT and others all has similar services and seamless handover was a key requirement for suppliers to this service.  Watch a PhoneScoop video of the cool Nokia 6086 phone from T-Mobile showing in-call handover from 2007. 

Then in 2010, T-Mobile re-launched their GAN-based service under the brand name Wi-Fi Calling geared towards smartphones – with one technical difference, Android devices with Wi-Fi Calling did not support handover. 

Outrage ensued!

Well, not really.  In fact there was almost no public comment (e.g. Twitter complaints) from T-Mobile’s user base.  While thrilled with the benefits of Wi-FiCalling (specifically coverage), users were ambivalent to handover. 

Let me offer some insight as to why this may be the case:

  • Dramatically larger Wi-Fi coverage area.  Ironically when a phone needs to worry about handover, any dip in Wi-Fi signal immediately becomes cause for concern.  The signal strength threshold for deciding to hand over needs to be sufficiently high so the call doesn’t drop, resulting in a rather modest range (or radius) from the Wi-Fi AP.  People found their phones handing out to cellular in corners of the house/office – sometimes in places where there wasn’t sufficient cellular coverage to ‘catch’ the hand-off.  Whoops.  By eliminating handover, the phone is forced to focus on maintaining a connection to the Wi-Fi signal, thus dramatically increasing the effective coverage area. 
  • Differentiated billing.  By inserting a ‘seam’ between Wi-Fi and cellular, T-Mobile was able to bill differently for calls over Wi-Fi.  In fact, with the new service, domestic calls over Wi-Fi aren’t billed at all.  This enables T-Mobile to be competitive in locations (like the home) where there is a lot of telecom competition – from fixed lines to Skype and other Wi-Fi-based calling services – and maintain a premium for outdoor/cellular service.  (A billing benefit also provides incentive for users to turn on and connect to Wi-Fi, which drives more data offload, but that’s a different story…)
  • More devices supported at a lower cost.  It stands to reason that handover is more complicated than no handover.  The millisecond timing required for handover requires low level of integration.  GAN handover is implemented at the silicon layer, GAN without handover is implemented in the OS layer.  The result is much faster time to market for a broader range of devices ultimately at a lower cost.  

To sum up the state of Wi-Fi/cellular handover today?  3GPP GAN supports it in the specification, it’s been proven in the field, but it seems that from a commercial perspective, it’s time has passed.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Misunderstanding the 10% problem

It's no secret femtocells have stalled in the industry.  

The 90% with a 10% coverage problem
Routinely operators say they believe that approximately 10% (or less) of their subscribers have acoverage problem.  Yet even the largest deployments typically address less than 1% of an operator’s subscriber base.  

Femtocells are at loggerheads – consumers don’t want to buy them to fix something they expect from the operator (namely coverage) and operators can’t afford to subsidize them to the 10% that need them. 

Clearly the problem of coverage isn't solved.  

But I think perhaps the definition of the 10% is mis-understood.  The assumption that 10% of subscribers are coverage challenged implies that 90% of their subscribers don’t have an issue. 

It’s more subtle than that.  Coverage isn’t an all or nothing proposition. 

I think of it like this:  More likely, 90% of subscribers have a coverage problem in 10% of the places they go during the day.  It may be that some of those places aren’t as important as others, but for some, the problem is inside the home, or in their office or a conference room or some place where they really need reliable service. 

In these locations, there is a need for femtocell capabilities, but a physical femtocell has proven to be impractical. 

What’s needed is a dynamic application that gives subscribers the ability to enable femtocell capabilities when and where they need it – basically coverage on demand.

This is what Kineto’sSmart Wi-Fi application provides.  It delivers a femtocell experience (better coverage, offload, capacity) from any Wi-Fi access point, anywhere in the world.  It’s an app that sits dormant on the phone until subscribers need coverage, and then Voila! – any Wi-Fi access point will do. 

The need for a better, faster mobile experience remains, and will only get more urgent as smartphones proliferate.  Smart Wi-Fi is the first, and only tool, mobile operators can give their subscribers that improves the mobile network experience without breaking the bank.