Tag Archives: Clearwire

Live from CTIA 2 April 2009: real time tweets

by Steve Blum • , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Checking out ISC show at Sands, lots of vendors, buyers & energy. Bull market for security these days.

vendors split between ISC & CTIA, focus is on 2.5 GHz for Clearwire, lots of competition at other frequencies.

Back at CTIA, LTE has the support of the big guns at this show. WiMAX US hopes are pinned on Clearwire, more happening internationally though.

Finally found disruption! Magmito.com is phone-top publishing, can do for mobile apps what Pagemaker did for newsletters.

Magmito has three revenue streams: ads, SMS, white label sites. Platform lets Grandma build a mobile phone app.

IMS/NGN Forum working on common mobile standards from within system. Is there middle ground between open source & walled gardens?

Multitech Systems
started making modems 38 years ago in a Minneapolis basement, now building M2M radios.

Multitech puts chips in defibrillators to talk to ERs. And other apps. Could be key to Craig Barrett’s 1,000 radio per person vision.

makes Wimax 802.16e CPE (and mobile USB dongle) chips for Clearwire, others. Competes with Sequans, hope both win. Slick user hardware will make the WiMAX biz model.

Another happy hour on CTIA show floor with free drinks. Good vibe, good show, not a bad business to be in given the economy.

Leaving CTIA and Las Vegas with optimism. Looking forward to ride home on Virgin America. Disco balls & WiFi – the perfect airline.

Mobile Carriers’ Walled Garden Under Siege

This little beauty ties a 3G modem (this one is running on the Verizon network) to a WiFi router. Lots of people can share one mobile data connection, all at the same time. Netgear thinks they’re doing a favor for the mobile phone carriers. Oddly enough, they don’t have relationships with any yet.

The Consumer Electronics Association identified four major trends that will drive the consumer electronics in 2009. Two depend on the wireless data industry to make it happen: mobile devices that provide the same user experience as in-home or in-office gizmos, and devices with embedded Internet capability. (The other two are evolving display and control technology and anything that’s green. Anything.)

In the long run, it’s good news for Clearwire. They see themselves as providing connectivity to the growing ecosystem of wireless-capable gadgets. Unfortunately, the CE guys aren’t thinking of Clearwire. They want to sell millions of units now. That means going with the lowest common denominator: a 3G, or even 2G, data modem. But it’s not such great news for the current mobile phone business model.

From the point of view of a mobile carrier, you plug your wireless data modem into one device, such as your laptop, and that’s it. If you want to use a second device at the same time, you get a second modem, pay for a second data subscription plan and away you go, playing happily inside the walled garden.

The CE industry isn’t thinking along those lines. The very concept of a walled garden is foreign to them: the last thing they want is to have to sell a separate data subscription for every device they sell. They treat the mobile market the same way they treat the fixed data market. You pay for a connection, run it to a router, then load up on the gizmos.

It’s early days yet at CES — the show floor doesn’t even open until tomorrow. But judging from the press conferences and product previews, consumer electronics manufacturers (at least the ones who aren’t already playing in the mobile phone sector) are moving full steam ahead on a couple of assumptions:

  • Tethering to a mobile phone’s data connection is every consumer’s right.
  • Mobile phone companies should thank (if not pay) them for building devices that allow multiple users with multiple gizmos to share a single mobile data connection.

So far, I haven’t spoken with any CE manufacturers who have a deal with a mobile carrier (again, except for the guys who are already selling phones and modems to carriers) . They plan to push the products into consumers’ hands, and let the market sort things out. We saw a preview of that approach at the CTIA show in San Francisco last year, when TapRoot Systems demonstrated WalkingHotSpot.

Mobile carriers control access to their walled gardens via technology and subscriber contracts. They’ve been able to control the technology so far, because they buy the devices from the manufacturers. But that control will break down as consumers buy their own products and ignore the contracts. Carriers might be faced with a choice: cripple or even eliminate generic data modem service, introduce some kind of packet filtering, or cede control of bandwidth usage to consumers.

Given the rough time that terrestrial ISPs have managing consumer bandwidth usage, I don’t expect mobile carriers to have much success filtering or metering usage. Third party technology providers will work hard to defeat any such efforts. Regulators always keep at least one eye on populist sentiment, and judges are none too enthusiastic about holding ordinary consumers to the impenetrable fine print of terms of service.

Easy, widespread mobile data access is a golden ray of hope in an otherwise dismal outlook for the coming year. It’s an opportunity for CE manufacturers to sell consumers a new version of a gizmo (any gizmo!) they’re already buying, using and loving, by making it mobile. Any manufacturer who is outside the walled garden right now will do whatever it can to break down the walls.

Carriers will fight it. But they’re facing powerful forces: CE manufacturers, content providers (who love the trend), consumers and, likely, regulators.

As Damon Runyon wrote: “the race isn’t always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”

Live from the Wireless Communications Association International symposium

by Steve Blum • , , , , , ,

Best quote: “Survival is the new growth”. Tim Chang, Norwest Venture Partners.

Also from the Wednesday, 5 November 2008 sessions at the San Jose Fairmont…

  • Clearwire CEO Benjamin Wolff upbeat about market for mobile Internet access, compares it to mobile phone opportunity 20 years ago.
  • Alvarion VP Mohammad Shakouri saying Wimax is about mobile service to non-phone devices at a cost per bit that’s affordable for users and profitable for network operators. Says there are 400 WiMAX networks operating now in 130 countries, with 480 devices manufactured. Only 55 of those devices are certified, however.
  • Shakouri predicting 100 million WiMAX subscribers by 2012. A nice, round projection several years in the future always looks good in a presentation, but it’s not news you can use.
  • 3.65 GHz regulatory scheme adds paperwork to unregulated chaos, everything should be fine now!
  • Cisco guy says they’re putting big bets on mobility.
  • Aperto guy talking about fixed service at 3.65 but his numbers say the money is in mobile.
  • Green tech & wireless sounds nice, but lacks meaningful metrics. Market opening for a hard-science based standards setting body?
  • Uniform watt per Gigabit metric would be a good start.
  • Not impressed by 3.65 opportunities, onesy-twosy applications, gap fillers.
  • Intel pushing high capacity mobile broadband, sees small form factor mobile devices as driving their future, according to Sriram Viswanathan, Intel Capital’s VP & GM of the WiMAX Program Office.
  • Intel Wimax focus on supporting Clearwire/Xohm with multiple devices per subscriber.
  • Netbooks will be “explosive in developing markets” says Intel Capital’s Viswanathan. Atom processor sales beyond expectations.
  • Dust still clearing from FCC white space decision yesterday, but expect another round of litigation & lobbying – chance of more lawyers 100%.
  • VC panel: M2M (machine to machine) mobile datacom getting good buzz.
  • Hot wireless stuff for venture capital’s “nuclear winter”: connected, specialized, small form factor devices (ebooks, cameras, utility meters), bridges between mobile devices and corporate networks, security, enterprise focused mobility services.
  • Sign of the times: WCA’s VC panel usually draws 2-300 people, this year it’s about 60.
  • At Santa Cruz Tech Meetup now. Digital signage will track me with targeted ads. Wherever I go, someone figures out what I need to see. I pity the fool.