Merry Christmas to one and all!

We're taking a bit of a break to be with our loved ones over the holiday, and we hope you are too. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, and we'd like to pass along a heartfelt "Thank You" for your readership. We'll be back posting again tomorrow once we can burn off some of the egg nog!

Nextlink Wireless comes to three new cities

Nextlink Wireless, the backhaul company that delivers on the back end of the wireless broadband Internet market, has entered the Chicago, Houston and Atlanta markets, bringing its total to nine cities that have been launched this year.

Although Nextlink isn't really a household name in the wireless consumer industry, it's a very important link for many carriers. Nextlink's technology is designed to replace the parts of the backhaul network that are copper-based using point-to-point and point-to-multipoint solutions that work through line-of-sight connections of up to seven miles. That's nice since digging up roads and the ground all over the place is so 1990-ish.

Insider blogging: Sprint Nextel's VP of Broadband Strategy

I sat down today -- virtually, at least -- and spoke with Mr. Bin Shen, VP of Broadband Strategy with Sprint Nextel, about this afternoon's rather intriguing announcement that Sprint Nextel will be partnering with Motorola, Samsung and Intel to deploy a fourth-generation (4G) wireless broadband data network in the U.S. within the next 24 months. I asked Mr. Shen about four important questions regarding the announcement, presented to readers below.

1) Describe the involvement of the mobile WiMAX partners announced with Sprint Nextel today: Motorola, Samsung and Intel:
  • Motorola -- With the RAZR's success and commitment to advancing WiMAX worldwide, Motorola will bring technical and marketing support to Sprint Nextel in our rollout of mobile WiMAX service
  • Samsung -- Will supply mobile WiMAX device support and marketing/promotion assistance on a world-class scale
  • Intel -- Intel has a firm commitment to WiMAX technology and a perfect partner for development and deployment, based on the success of the wirelessly-integrated Intel Centrino platform
2) Will EV-DO and the upcoming EV-DO revision A standard be replaced by Sprint Nextel's mobile WiMAX solution, or will the technologies and markets co-exist and service different customer segments?
  • The networks will co-exist, since they will serve different markets. Sprint Nextel will be rolling out EV-DO revision A at the end of this year and during 2007, and will remain firmly committed to that technology as our just-announced mobile WiMAX solution is being developed and released to the consumer during 2008.
3) Do you see Sprint Nextel's 4G WiMAX plans competing head-to-head with established, non-mobile broadband alternatives like cable modems and DSL services?
  • Sprint Nextel does not see head-to-head competition with cable modem or DSL providers, although we plan to take broadband services out of the wired environment -- home or office -- and provide that solution anywhere mobile WiMAX coverage will available. So, it it will be mobility-based and state-of-the-art alternative to wired broadband solutions like home-based cable modem or DSL service, but with the all-important mobility-anywhere factor.
4) What timeframe does Sprint Nextel envision on completing backhaul operations, testing and deploying a working customer solution for this 4G announcement?
  • Within 24 months from now, a working, nationwide customer solution should be in place with our mobile WiMAX network. We plan to have our mobile WiMAX network covering areas in the U.S. that 100 million people live and work in by 2008.
With this announcement and Motorola and Intel's recent financial and technical investment in pre-WiMAX company Clearwire, things are indeed shaping up very fast and very nicely for WiMAX technology. Sprint Nextel just trumped quite a few wireless telecommunications companies with the announcement today, so my hat is off to them. Many of us will finally have a wireless broadband Internet solution that can go with us anywhere, but that also gives us the speed of a wired broadband connection. Times are really becoming nice, yes?

Clearwire in a tizzy over 2.5 GHz spectrum re-use from community college

It goes like this: Clearwire signs lease with Peralta Community College last December to lease its 2.5GHz radio spectrum so that it can offer its wireless broadband Internet service. Then, all of a sudden, Peralta cancels contract without notice and Clearwire gets miffed -- and asks judge to block that action.

Peralta Community College, located around the San Francisco area, says that the lease stipulated that Clearwire would give a major cash infusion or key equipment to the college, which is has not done -- hence, the lease was terminated for that reason. Ok, who is telling the truth, here?

Sprint Nextel looks to the future with 4G services

Sprint Nextel, already leading the pack in terms of its mobile television and music download 3G-based offerings, is already looking towards the future with 4G services and data speeds. With the Nextel acquisition just now closed by Sprint, it has an inordinate amount of spectrum holdings in the 2.5GHz range in which to deploy, well, just about anything it wants.

In other words, Sprint Nextel is primed and positioned to leapfrog against the other larger U.S. mobile operators -- Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless and T-Mobile USA -- with spectrum efficiency, advanced data and entertainment services...and revenue streams. No wonder Sprint Nextel won't be participating in the upcoming advanced wireless services FCC auctions -- it already has spectrum, the means and the motive to move forward.

Verizon shutting down Airfone service

As our friends at Engadget Mobile posted on earlier, Verizon will be shuttering its Airfone service -- those ungainly handsets in the backs of airplane seats -- by the end of 2006.  Perhaps JetBlue's LiveTV service will also offer voice calling -- on JetBlue flights -- to replace the Airfone-vacated spectrum? Well, in a few years, at least.

I can't imagine that the Airfone air-to-ground network is cheap to maintain, so Verizon wants to shut it down in order to concentrate on its mobile and fixed-line business. Can't blame them there -- it's hard to imagine that there is profit in the Airfone business.

Music labels sue XM Radio for wireless music storage

Satellites are wireless, right. Just kidding. In this story -- which we just could not pass up -- the good old folks over at the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) now want to ban portable satellite radio receivers that feature recording capabilities. Oh boy, here we go again.

This hilarious quote sums up the true motive behind the lawsuit from the RIAA: "Because XM makes available vast catalogs of music in every genre, XM subscribers will have little need ever again to buy legitimate copies of plaintiffs' sound recordings". Umm, that's the point -- consumer choice on how, where and when they get content.

This reminds me of the 1912 Henry Ford days of the Model T: "The customer can choose any color they want, as long as it is black". Sorry RIAA, adapt to the times or continue to get quashed.

Internet creator lauds upcoming wireless internet spectrum auctions

Vint Cerf, the guy credited with creating a large portion of the internet's infrastructure (well, in design anyway), spoke out about high-speed internet recently, and sees the potential of wireless internet and municipal WiFi as changing -- much for the better -- the competitive landscape of how customers receive high-speed internet.

I couldn't agree more -- Cerf mentions the "duopoly" of cable modems and DSL modems supplied by the same two monopolies there have always been -- the cable and phone companies, respectively. While many areas of the U.S. have three to five wireless carriers to choose from (ultra-good for consumer choice), high-speed internet is stuck in a not-too-competitive mode. The more competitors, the better -- I say.

Boingo adds meaty offerings to international WiFi service

Adding 1,200 hotspots to your international WiFi roaming network is no small order for most operators, even smooth operators. But, Boingo has forged relationships with a French and Taiwanese companies to add 300 and 900 WiFi hotspots to their coffers, respectively.

With over 30,000 international WiFi hotspots now available on the Boingo wireless network, this is a company to watch in the global WiFi race for sure. Boingo's been around for a while, and they'll be around for quite some time by operating such a large domestic and international wireless internet network.

Backup Broadband - Using Bellsouth's WiMAX-like Service

We've all heard of disaster recovery - planning to ensure business contuinity if your main line of, well, something, becomes ensnared in a problem. How about your broadband internet connection, as opposed to just the data sitting on your side of the fence? Many home customers, small businesses, and even large enterprises would be pitching monumental fits if they lost their broadband, like an infant without a bottle. It's a sign of how connected we are and if we lose that tether that we rely on to communicate and gasp, run millions of dollars in commerce through, bad things surface.

So, with that doomsday scenario in mind, Bellsouth is happy to provide you a cable-less broadband backup solution should you ever need it (line from the insurance industry there, sorry), at a reasonable $29.95 per month (it was $69.95). This is actually not a bad idea should you live in a zone where weather or other factors could cut your wired lifeline for a while - like Hurrican Katrina did. The proprietary-delivered service is very similar to WiMAX but not really based on the emerging standard.

DirecTV Is / Isn't Going for Wireless Broadband?

Shortly after it was reported that DirecTV and Dish Network were interested in teaming together to provide wireless broadband internet to complete with land-based providers, we have a little of a backslide from this announcement:

"Mr. Carey reiterated that the company would spend as much as $1 billion on launching a broadband service, if the move makes sense. Although there are advantages to investing in broadband, the service is quickly becoming a commodity and the market is more competitive. "It's not clear we'll do it," he said.

This smacks of crabwalking (or poor corporate communications), but I can see why DirecTV would say this - broadband is becoming a commodity, and to enter it in a wireless way may be more costly than it's worth. After all, growth in their only market, the U.S., is slowing.

So what is a satellite provider with grand ambitions into providing wireless broadband to do? Continue reselling broadband under co-branding with other companies or launch a nationwide WiFi network and start stealing broadband customers? It remains quite unclear at this time, but we are sure to find out.

Why DirecTV and Echostar's Possible WiMax Is Great For Competition

Competition is good - it lowers prices, spurs innovation, and keeps providers on their toes at all times. It's not longer that hard to change providers, whether it be cellular, paid-TV (name your flavor), or even home phone service (woo hoo, whoo hoo that tune. The winner is, "Vonage"). This is truly an era of competition in the telcom world, and we're all connected at the hip to it.

*When* Murdoch's DirecTV and Ergen's Echostar finally do decide to offer more than standard TV entertainment (in all it's MPEG-2 glory), it will be a watershed day for U.S. consumers. The satellite TV industry has been very successful at getting the cable TV industry off its laggard arse with new and improved service (Digital, VOD, etc.). Like stated above, competition is good (and fierce as a white tiger). Consumers can jump ship and this keeps providers (more deliverers than content producers) sweating.

So, the "battle for the bundled home" could heat up soon. I mean, DSL used to be $49.95 a month, then it fought cable modem service in the ring, got beat up a bit, and changed its tiers fashionably and its prices drastically ($14.95!). Yikes! That's cheaper than a week's dry cleaning bill for most people. And your two-piece suit doesn't give you precious megabits per second (but you look fly, dontcha?).

Replacing Cell Towers With Balloons?

A new technology that seeks to replace cellular towers with disposable balloons is finding support from a number of parties.Two companies, Extend America and Space Data Corp., are developing the technology that uses hydrogen-filled balloons that fly up to 20 miles above the earth and are designed to deliver voice and data service to areas that are hundreds of miles in diameter. For example, it currently takes 1,100 cell towers to cover the state of North Dakota. Using the technology, the whole state can be covered with three balloons.

It sounds really interesting, but this needs further investigation. In the future will we be seeing thousands of balloons flying over the earth providing cellular coverage? What if there are stormy conditions and somehow they drift out of range? What happens to your cell coverage then?

Where In The World Is UWB?

Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego UWB

Competition for Cable/DSL providers would be a start (or not). Although opponents of Ultra-Wideband (UWB) seem to be outweighed by the proponents of this rather disruptive technology, I would love to see a very viable alternative to current home broadband IP services. Current offerings, as most know (and probably have in their home), include cable modem service and DSL service (usually by a telco or affiliate/reseller). Why not a third, nationally-pervasive broadband service (may have missed the boat, with municpal WiFi being an up-n-comer), like a kind of fixed-wireless broadband?

Although existing broadband services seem to have played the perfect part of capitalistic limbo (you lower your prices, I will lower mine), adding a third slice of competition to already-cheap DSL ($14.95/month? That's cheaper than my POTS line 5 years ago!) may not make economic sense, with Muni WiFi, WAN-WiMax and other types of mobile-wireless coming on soon (although most home internet use is *really* not mobile).

UWB has so much excellent potential (although it strikes fears into many a CEO), it just seems like a rather cheap solution for home broadband (and business broadband also). As VoIP, IPTV and other uses blossom (it's all packets to me), I wonder if the existing broadband internet solutions can scale bandwidth for a possible consumer data use explosion? If history is a guide, it will be slowly, oh slowly. Perhaps UWB could jump into the competitive picture in the midst of this scramble? Doubt it, but I don't have my crystal ball handy.

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