Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What is Mobile VoIP?

by Mark Hewitt

From my "Ask the Expert" monthly column

Mobile VoIP is defined as an extension of mobility to a VoIP network (as described in Wikipedia). Thus, it is a method of expanding the utility of VoIP in our everyday lives and not just a technology.

At the CTIA (Cellular Telephony Industry Association) show in Las Vegas recently, I saw several innovative approaches designed to tackle the power problem with WiFi and WiMax devices – Broadcom, for example, introduced a system-on-a-chip that reduced the power requirements by 50%. This is the single most critical obstacle to the deployment of direct mobile handsets with “Always On” connections required to support a direct SIP client.

It is this “Always On” nature of a future Mobile VoIP product that we are beginning to see in hybrid Cellular phones, and for any of you playing with them it becomes quite clear that battery life cannot keep up with a pure SIP client mobile solution.

We have yet another major issue in North America with the capacity of Internet Bandwidth falling behind the world quickly, while our costs are not declining as rapidly as in many foreign markets. I note in Jim Baller’s April 10th broadband newsletter that Japan’s price per Mbps for its highest bandwidth offerings ($0.13/Mbps) is considerably lower than the US ($2.83/Mbps), and that the average download speed in Japan is now 93.7 Mbps, while the US is more than 10 times slower at 8.9 Mbps.

It is for this reason that current practical implementation of a Mobile VoIP solution must remain a “bridge” to broadband networks and operate over existing Cellular infrastructure and in a cooperative fashion with the incumbent providers.

Look out for the WiMax 802.16m standard to settle the score between networks and devices. I predict the convergence of 3G technology and WiFi to mature into a 4G standard offering 100 Mbps (mobile) and 1 Gbps (fixed) coverage by 2010. I can only hope that this timetable helps explain the “gap” we face until both technology and business models adapt to a very rapidly changing environment. Mobile VoIP is just the beginning – soon expect the “V” in VoIP to also mean Video.

Monday, September 8, 2008

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The Information Center

by Mark Hewitt
From my "Ask the Expert" column

During the past decade, we have watched with interest the adoption of mobile phone technology throughout the world. As examples, we have seen remote villages use prepaid phones to exchange money where no banking system exists, and an American Presidential candidate has reached out to millions of supporters with a text message.

As creatures of “Connectivity”, we build networks around ourselves, friends, family, co-workers, and community. The mobile phone has become a critical link in this chain, as it fits naturally into our lifestyles. Since information interlinks human networks, the mobile phone has become an anchor in our daily lives by allowing us to store contact information, schedules, news items, and events that are central to our everyday activities.

The global success of the Blackberry device relies not on its flashy screen, text keypad, or any single application like email (we all remember the Blackberry email crash in April 2007). Instead, Blackberry’s success revolves around RIM’s ability to bridge the “walled garden networks” of the carriers. My Blackberry on Verizon’s network allows me to interact with my co-workers and my enterprise application server, regardless of which network each is connected to.

This is the promise of “Mobile VoIP” -- the future dismantling of barriers between platforms and networks. Any mobile device with software or connectivity to a core platform outside of a “Walled Garden” warrants classification as a Mobile VoIP device. I still include the “V” (as in “Voice”) in this definition, because a communications device that does not support voice transmission is simply not a communications device.

The future of Mobile VoIP lies in the plethora of applications that can “bridge” platforms and networks. These range from enterprise applications that manage medical, mobile, service, repair, and inventory systems, to shopping and social networking possibilities.

In the evolution of mobility, we also need to recognize the anchor for this range of new products and services. Apple has proven the power of the Applications Store. However, the Google Android mobile O/S has more recently announced yet another application anchor -- the Android Market -- with one very critical difference: Google provides developers and consumers with the ability to make their own decisions. The Google Store will not be run like Apple’s iTunes store, as developers can build to their hearts’ content without constant threat of being disconnected.

I predict that Google will achieve the same market dominance in the Mobility market that it has accomplished in the Search Engine world. Apple may soon find itself in the back seat, much like Yahoo did when Google’s “Open” approach provided savvy consumers with the one thing they all want – “Choice”.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mote Afternoon

A great morning at the Mote

Jerry Seinfield - Gates Commercial


I couldn't help but laugh at this one!!


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mobile Services

From my Ask the Expert September Column

By Mark Hewitt

Last month the European Union (“EU”) funded the MUSE project, which stands for Multi-Service Access Everywhere; George Lucas funded the Media Lab “Content Anywhere, Anydevice, Anytime” at USC; and “BT” British Telecom acquired Ribbit for $105 million.

To understand how all of these events relate, you must understand the increasing demand for mobility and a ubiquitous method of accessing content. I define this convergence broadly as “Mobile Services” and as a natural extension of early generation Mobile VoIP services.

It is also important to understand how Mobile VoIP came into being. First came the pain of different platforms from different carriers, each creating “Walled Gardens” making the lives of consumers even more complex. This was followed by early Mobile VoIP providers creating products that connected “Islands”, or individual “Walled Gardens”, into a common broadband platform.

I believe 2008 will be recognized as the year of the “birth” of Mobile Services, which have evolved as a direct result of changing technology and consumer behavior. People have a basic need to be connected, and Mobile Services represent the evolution of a Mobile EcoSystem linking political and economic borders of former generations of Mobile Networks.

Evolving networks promise ubiquitous broadband access anywhere. While full realization of those promises is still years in the future, today’s Mobile EcoSystem offers network and application providers a framework to deliver a range of products, from critical business and medical applications to current weather and sporting events, across a broad range of mobile devices.

To realize just how important this Mobile Services EcoSystem is to our future success, take a look at the forecasts for increasing penetration of “mobility” in the world:

Table 1. Mobile Penetration 1998~2008

1998 2008 2018 (estimated)
Mobile Penetration
Global 5% 55% 96%
China 2% 48% 99%
India 1% 28% 82%

3G Penetration 0% 18% 90%
Networks Speeds < 50Kbps < 2Mbps < 1Gbps

Smartphone Penetration 1% 10% 40%
Battery Life 2 hours 2.5 hours 24 hours

You can see by this forecast of worldwide mobile penetration that the mobile platform becomes the dominate method for accessing information, services, and content. The improvement of battery life, networks, and cross network service platforms all make this possible.

Thus is born the Mobile Services EcoSystem

Speed Matters

From my "Ask the Expert column located at TMCnet

I was pleased to be invited to a meeting on the “Broadband Revolution” that was hosted at the Senate Hart building hosted by Jim Baller and the New American Foundation. The meeting featured FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, along with Jane Smith Patterson of the e-NC authority; Diana Oblinger, CEO of Educause; and Stan Fendley of Corning (the fiber people).

The meeting focused on a report prepared by Jim Baller and his team that was developed for the e-NC Authority, illustrating the benefits that Broadband is bringing to economic development, public safety, health, education, and the environment. The report compares broadband deployments around the world the impact upon our competitiveness within the world community.

I was not surprised to learn that the US continues to lag in delivery of Broadband via wired networks such as DSL, Cable, and Fiber. We also lag in the delivery of Wireless Broadband services, particularly against Canada, Europe, Japan, and the Nordic countries, each of which are leaders in high speed wireless networks and the associated infrastructure. I also found a report called “Speed Matters” that I highly recommend reading if you have any interest in the economic impact of broadband on your daily life.

Some interesting contrasts came out of the meetings as well. For example, Commissioner Copps referred to the recent FCC auction around Advanced Wireless Services as a “huge success”, while Commissioner Adelstein referred to the implementation of the Swedish Government-sponsored last mile fiber infrastructure as a successful model. These are obviously two diametrically opposed approaches to the same problem.

Commissioner Copps praised the report prepared by Jim Baller for e-NC as the “foundation for America’s National Broadband Strategy”. The Baller document centers on the creation of Private/Public partnerships as a solution for America’s future broadband needs, and it also promotes such partnerships as a solution for a variety of utilities.

The FCC had encountered a wall of resistance when it tried to auction the Public Safety 700 MHz spectrum in the form of a Public/Private partnership. Yet, at the same time the State of Ohio has formed “Connect Ohio” in a move to create a statewide inventory of both public and private Broadband resources that appears to be quite successful and has generated considerable praise from private carriers.

Ultimately the forum’s participants were in strong agreement on one thing: our country must have a “National Broadband Strategy” and, from the remarks of FCC Commissioner Copps, it appeared that most liked what they saw in the Private/Public Utility approach of the Baller document. Others agreed on the need to achieve the political momentum with community action at the local level.

So I encourage you to spend time at the local level with your community leaders to help educate them and your neighbors on the economic and social value of achieving a “Broadband Nation” within our lifetimes.

References from this editorial:

e-NC Report – 3 Mb 100 page pdf document

e-NC Report Summary – 12 page summary

Speed Matters – Report on High Speed Networks

Video of the Broadband Summit – New America Event

Connect Ohio – Interactive Map of Broadband

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