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3.5 GHz Spectrum: Bells want it but WiFi clearly a better choice
Sunday, 17 August 2014 19:33

China Mobile giving up after $3B, 4.3M small cells. 100 MHz of spectrum - enough to build 3 networks the size of Verizon - will become available in much of the U.S. The military has agreed to share the 3550-3650 MHz spectrum in much of the U.S. They primarily use the frequencies on the coasts so they don't need the MHz. The high frequencies have a short range so can't be used from towers but are great for WiFi and other small cells.

     Bill Smith, now of AT&T, taught me "The sooner the bit gets to a landline, the less it costs us." Every plan for the urban wireless future is based on WiFi, small cells or short range high frequency transmitters. You can usually have 10-30 small cells in the space covered by a tower, each reusing the same spectrum. The most efficient method turns out to be public WiFi rather than monopoly use, which is becoming obsolete.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 11:42
"This argument is utterly farcical."
Friday, 15 August 2014 09:36

Straight talk in a DC world of obfuscation. The automakers want to restrict users of WiFi despite having 75 MHz of monopoly spectrum of their own. That's enough to build two Verizon sized networks, far more than makes sense to monopolize in 2014. TIA, the manufacturers' group, is right to call it farcical. http://bit.ly/Autofarce  The car guys want to hobble the WiFi band near the spectrum they control above 5850 MHz. I'm tempted to petition the FCC to return 40 MHz of the auto spectrum to the public domain. 35 MHz is plenty for even safety-related car communication.

     Denise Coffey and Dileep Srihari of TIA were blunt, "The Automakers state that the FCC must protect the 'reasonable interests and expectations of its operators' – with which TIA, of course, concurs. However, what the automakers assert to be their “reasonable” expectations is entirely unreasonable, bordering on unbelievable."

     In five or ten years more people will understand that we already have too much monopoly spectrum. WiFi provides enormous benefits with much more to come.  Soon, adding WiFi to today's 100 megabit vectored DSL would allow nundreds of megabits to most homes without needing expensive construction. (The tech works although the business side needs to be developed.) Requiring car makers to add 50 cents or so of parts to make their radios work right is a very small price for major public benefits.

    'Use it or share it" - Mike Calabrese's compelling slogan, is the way to go on all spectrum.


Last Updated on Friday, 15 August 2014 10:10
DSL beating cable yet again
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 19:12

Winning in Canada and England.  DSL upgraded since 2005 goes 25-50 megabits (VDSL2) and competes well with cable. 1998 ADSL (3-6 megabits) gets clobbered by cable. The dismal results from areas with obsolete equipment, especially in the U.S., have convinced many that the race is over. It's a different story where the DSLAMs aren't 10 years out of date.

    British Telecom "added 104,000 retail broadband customers." Cable competitor Virgin Media actually lost 300 subscribers. Bell Canada added 18K and Telus 15K. Rogers and Shaw cable added only 14K, combined. In a recent quarter, AT&T actually beat cable in U-Verse homes, about 60% of their network.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 August 2014 14:58
Berlin, Paris, Palo Alto, Brooklyn Gigabits everywhere
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 17:25

As I travel, world class engineers are telling me what's coming is almost ubelievable. Palo Alto 6 February �Wireless capacity will go up 50 times in the next 5-10 years,� Stanford Professor Andrea Goldsmith predicted at a Marconi webinar. Her Stanford colleague A.J. Paulraj and Broadcom�s brilliant Henry Samueli thought 50X reasonable. Both have won the Marconi Prize, the "Nobel Prize" of communications.

Berlin. 8 April 2014 G.fast came out for the first time at the Informa Fixed Access Summit.  Deutsche Telekom, British Telecom and France Telecom all described active programs and an intent to deploy. European and American telcos want the hundreds of megabits from G.fast to match cable speeds going to a gig. I�ve been skeptical: the cost is nearly as high as fiber all the way home, it will take until 2016 or 2017 to get the kinks out and the coverage is more like 100 meters than 500.

Brooklyn, 30 April Ted Rappaport�s NYU 5G Summit had an amazing group of speakers. AT&T #2, John Stankey, keynoted and is damned serious about moving to 5G before the end of the decade. CTO Seizo Onoe of giant NTT Docomo was also there and soon after the event announced plans for 5G in 2018 with Ericsson, Samsung, Alcatel & Huawei. (3 of which sent CTO level speakers to Brooklyn, flying from around the world.) The enormous support for Ted and his NYU Brooklyn Institute has made him �The Prince of the 5G World.�Rappaport is concentrating on 28 GHz, a top down build which needs access points on nearly every crowded urban block. Others raised the possibility of WiFi �bottoms-up� to deliver similar capacity. The debate is raging, with FON, Free in France and probably the U.S. cablecos on the �bottom-ups� side.

Paris May 20-22 2014 A dozen of the absolute top engineers developing G.fast came together at the outstanding Upperside G.fast Summit. Les Brown provided an in-depth overview of the 300! page standard. CTOs and their peers from Sckipio, Broadcom, Ikanos, Lantiq and more spent three days trying to resolve the details. Top folks from BT, FT, Alcatel & Adtran joined in. Sckipio promises full standard chips in 2014. Broadcom�s customers are being told they will have something in 2014, probably far less than the standard. Some folks thought deployments were possible in 2016. Others thought later. (Deutsche Telecom�s CTO has said trials in 2014. He misspoke.)

Paris May 21 At that same G.fast event, John Cioffi introduced his remarkable plan to get to a gigabit using 100 meg vectored DSLs and gigabit WiFi. It sounds impossible but it definitely could work. In my apartment I see 20-25 WiFis. There�s no technical reason we couldn�t all share bandwidth; WiFi is already at 1.3 gigabits and going higher. Even if 25 homes were watching 2 HD TV and surfing, there�s over a gigabit unused that could be shared. Check http://bit.ly/GIGADSL   

Forbes: India has more net users than the United States
Sunday, 13 July 2014 20:59

Their 243 million Internet connection estimate is high but the result is inevitable soon. I wouldn't count 2G smartphones with minimal data allowances who rarely if ever connect to the net, so my figure would be lower. However Indian 3G & 4G connections will soon pass the 315 million population of the U.S.. Fewer than 20M of these connections are fixed, mostly DSL. With fewer than 40M landlines in place, the Indian future is inevitably mobile.

    Newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about the "broadband highway" and has promised almost $10B over five years for broadband, smart cities, wireless in Naxalite territory and more. Much of that money will be needed to prop up ailing government carriers BSNL & MTNL. There's an ongoing project to connect 250,000 villages that's two years behind schedule. Completion is now set for 2017, but the local loop is not included. 69% of Indians - 700M - still live in villages.

   New Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is promising to meet the revised schedule. He may be the right man to overcome the inertia and corruption that has plagued so many Indian projects. Prasad prosecuted a corrupt Governor of Bihar state and put him in jail. 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 23:46
16 Week Chip Logjam Driven by 1B Smartphones & China Mobile's 500K Basestations
Friday, 09 May 2014 17:07

Both Alcatel & Nokia can't keep up with demand. Smartphones take a lot of chips and sales are up 25-30% this year. China Mobile is installing nearly a thousand base stations per day, and China Telecom is now rushing to catch up. "Supply is tight," Dan Heyler of Merrill Lynch believes, and Digitimes reports TSMC, the largest foundry, has a four month backlog. As word gets out, companies are double and triple ordering. The result: what probably would have been a small problem now has become a crisis.

    "An apparently disastrous shortage of components for the Sony Xperia Z2 means we may not see the thing landing in the flesh for another seven months" http://bit.ly/1m8wyDq Ray LeMaistre of Light Reading, one of Europe's best reporters, hears from Nokia "a shortage of 'certain components' hurt sales during the first three months of this year. The company expects the problem to persist." Alcatel "has identified the same problem."

    Bitter experience is that serious slumps often follow shortages like this. When people believe the factories are catching up, they slow orders and "work off inventory." I learned that lesson many years ago selling computers. Epsons were in such demand that you couldn't get them from the wholesalers. Suddenly, all my back orders came in C.O.D. It was a true crisis.

     Although sales of DSL chips and the like are not booming, they require much of the same production lines as wireless. The result is that even slow-selling items will see spot shortages and perhaps worse.

      TV host Johnny Carson once made a joke about a (nonexistent) shortage of toilet paper. So many rushed out and bought a supply the next day the shortage was real. 



Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 18:06
$200 for Fiber to the Basement in East Europe
Sunday, 06 April 2014 13:20

I didn't believe Rupert Wood's estimate but he has strong evidence. The going estimate for fiber to a typical neighborhood is $300-$500/unit, based on actual experience at DT, BT, AT&T and others. Analysys-Mason's Rupert Wood surprised me with the $200/unit estimate so I asked for details.

    This is an actual figure from several, not just one, Eastern European carriers, Rupert tells me. He shared enough details to convince me $200 corresponds to what these operators are seeing. Unfortunately, client confidentiality prohibits my publishing the specifics. 

New York, Los Angeles Getting 400 Meg Cable
Saturday, 16 August 2014 09:37

300-400 Meg (shared) now standard off the shelf. I've heard from an engineer that the gear for New York is being installed and tested. They've been losing customers to both Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse in LA, Time Warner Cable  is upgrading download speeds. My 15 down, 1 up service ($63/month) is set to go to 50/5 for the same price.

Going from 160 shared to 300-400 shared in DOCSIS 3.0 is only a software change on most equipment. Extra backhaul costs are minimal. Now that the analog switch-off has freed spectrum channels, expect that change almost everywhere. Giant Liberty Global is upgrading across Europe and offering 200-250 meg service routinely.

Time Warner has also committed to a gigabit (shared) in 2016, per this strong LAT article by Paresh Dave http://lat.ms/1rEQZrY.  No one except the engineers believed John Chapman of Cisco in 2004 when he promised the gigabit in DOCSIS 3.0 but now equipment is starting to ship. Last year, TWC also offered a gig in 2016 to North Carolina.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 09:45
5M U-Verse Homes on Hold
Thursday, 14 August 2014 22:06

Biggest current U.S. broadband build virtually stopped  I haven't confirmed Paul de Sa's suggestion that the AT&T/DIRECTV deal is a cause. 

"Prior to the DTV deal, Project VIP (announced November 12, 2012) planned to expand AT&T's U-verse video footprint from 24.5m customer locations as of 4Q12 to 32.9m by 4Q15.6 At the end of 1Q14, we estimate the project was ~45% complete, with ~28.2m locations offered U-verse video." 

    I have double confirmation that the AT&T neighborhood DSLAM (FTTN build) is barely moving forward. I've asked AT&T if they'd release the actual deployment figures for the last three quarters to get a precise measure of what's going on. 

Last Updated on Friday, 15 August 2014 14:38
Verizon ends unlimited service
Friday, 25 July 2014 18:35

Verizon until now hasn't imposed caps on some of their older customers, knowing many would leave if they did. Customers hate caps and limits are not required most places most of the time. They've changed that now, with what could be very modest restrictions that would have little impact on customers. There's not immoral - or neutrality breaking - about modest limits honestly related to actual congestion and costs.

    Fortunately, technology is improving so fast that today networks can be built for reasonable cost with truly minimal congestion. That should continue well into the 5G future and next decade despite steadily rising traffic. Very few traffic limits limits are necessary for network purposes today. The caps are for raising prices by collecting more from heavy users, not avoiding congestion.

    Verizon's actual proposal should be rejected by the FCC because it actually doesn't disclose what they are doing. How often would I be throttled? How much slower would I go? In nearly 4,000 words, Verizon doesn't answer those basic questions. Comcast's similar plan in times of congestion reduces some customer up to 30% but no more. 12 meg would fall to 7 meg when one of their engineers described it a while back. The fall would only be for 15 minutes and very rarely even several hours/month. That's so unobtrusive I don't think anyone has even noticed it in practice. I certainly would accept it, especially because the minimum speed on most Comcast networks has gone up.

    Nowhere in the 3,779 word document below does Verizon tell you how much your speed would be reduced or how often. 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 August 2014 00:04
Triductor, the New Chinese VDSL & G.hn Chipmaker
Tuesday, 15 July 2014 21:51

Yaolong Tan "Our chips are 8% faster than Broadcom's" Yaolong Tan earned his doctorate at UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering in 2000. He worked in Silicon Valley for years, and now is back in China. He's CEO of Triductor, founded in 2006. He is shipping VDSL2 vectored cpe chips to Chinese manufacturers who in turn are distributing the boxes worldwide.

Tan received his UCLA degree directly from Henry Samueli. He has enormous respect for Broadcom. But he's not afraid to take on Broadcom's chips. China is deeply committed to replacing imported chips with Chinese designs. Tan said,"The technology of this chip used to be monopolized by America, so our country had to spend tens of millions of dollars importing from overseas. What my team and I want to do is realize the localization of this chip in the new developing wave of semi-conductor industry, to equip Chinese people with their own high-speed video networks."

Triductor, like HiSilicon, has also announced a G.hn chip. While G.fast is getting the publicity, thanks to an effective campaign by the ITU, it's two years or more away. G.hn, a much simpler system, is already being used to extend "fiber to the basement" to apartments at hundreds of megabits. China Telecom & Unicom, the monopoly landline providers, are fiercely resisting government demands they upgrade something like 100 million apartments from DSL to fiber. Fiber to the basement + G.hn might be an attractive alternative.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 12:57
Broadband Growth in One Chart
Thursday, 03 July 2014 16:55

Africa 5%, U.S. & West ~1%; China huge. This chart from Point-Topic makes wireline clear in 2014. The West is almost saturated, espcially the U.S. China, Latin America and East Europe are going two or three times faster. Africa, with nearly no wires, has the most to grow.

     This would look different if wireless smartphones were included. The countries with few wires - India, Indonesia and most of Africa - are seeing fantastic growth in mobile broadband. By around 2017, there will be more Africans than Americans on the net, I've calculated from Cisco data.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 August 2014 15:31
700M Broadband Subs (Wired)
Wednesday, 07 May 2014 00:20

Broadband sub growthGrowth down from 15% to 5% in five years.  China's about to reach 200M, but even there the growth rate of wired connections has gone down from over 20M/year to closer to 10M/year. The brown line in the chart alongside (and larger below) is the rate of growth. The trend is clear. The main cause of the slowdown until now has been the approaching saturation of the developed world. But with LTE speeds now faster than DSL in much of the world, we're starting to see some homes "cutting the cord" on data as well as voice. That's probably still less than 10% of the current market in the richer parts of the world, growing modestly. In Africa and Indonesia, we're seeing explosive growth in wireless broadband, with Cisco estimating Africa - nearly all wireless - will have more Internet connections than the U.S. around 2017. 

The Point-Topic/Broadband Forum yearend 2013 figure is 679M with growth of ~10M/quarter. Sometime between July and September, the world figure will pass 700M. DSL will be 400M+, Cable and fiber each are less than half the DSL figure.  


Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 01:25
No One Buys Cable Caps at Time Warner
Thursday, 13 March 2014 15:35

MSlavik No DogFewer than 1 in 100 take 30 gig cap for $5 discount. CEO Rob Marcus reports only "thousands" of Time Warner's 11M customers are taking the discount after 6 months. He still supports the idea because he wants to charge heavier users more. "Notwithstanding the low uptake of usage-based tiers, I think it's a very important component of our overall pricing philosophy." Thanks to Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica for catching the comment and also finding a great picture. http://bit.ly/1i8rQmy Another interesting datapoint from Marcus was that only about 8% of data customers buy their own modem. His pr person was unhappy I included the modem rental in my previous articel on TWC http://bit.ly/1hfPIpR but I think that appropriate if more than 90% of customers rent.

    Marcus explained that Comcast deal was much more attractive than Charter because he had "significant concerns about the value of Charter stock" inspired me to look at the price of Charter stock. A market cap of $13B and debt of about $14B values the company at ~$6,000/subscriber. That's very hard to justify on any plausible earnings, even if John Malone is a financial magician and Tom Rutledge a strong operations manager. 

   My latest bill from Time Warner for regular cable modem service was $63/month, up about 40% in just a few years.



Last Updated on Friday, 14 March 2014 13:58
50 MHz of Spectrum Creates 500 megabit DSL
Friday, 15 August 2014 13:22

Today's 100 megabit DSL combined with today's gigabit WiFi, driving to a gigabit. 50 MHz of newly available spectrum may be diverted from sharing to private use, particularly LTE small cells the Bells probably won't build anyway. I'm headed to Colorado for the TPI conference where the 3.5 GHz spectrum will be a hot topic. I wrote this quickly because I wanted a dramatic example of what could be done with that 50 MHz.

How DSL + WiFi can get to hundreds of megabits and more. Nobody believes John Cioffi (yet) but it's easy to understand why it will work. Vectored DSL is delivering 50-100 megabits reliably in Europe. ~40M lines are on order at Deutsche Telekom and others. Vectoring is ready although not all the problems are solved.

Because DSL isn't shared, that means six apartments or nearby homes receive a total of 600 megabits (at 100 megabits/home.) Most places, 99% of the time the total demand will be less than 200 megabits. The result: 400-500 megabits will usually be available to share with neighbors. With WiFi now going into the gigabits (links), that can be shared between 5 - or 25 - families.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 09:51
How to lie with statistics, part 243
Thursday, 14 August 2014 18:52

Any conclusion you want. In France in the first quarter, 3 of the 4 DSL providers grew faster than cable. But if I look at the prior twelve months, cable beat 3 out of 4 DSL companies. Without lying, I could say either DSL is beating cable or cable is beating DSL. I just have to choose which period to use.  In fact, the data is too sparse to firmly support any conclusion.

     9 out of 10 “studies” about telecom policy are similarly weak and prove nothing. Or, as Teresa Mastangelo promises clients, “I can guarantee my report finds you #1.” As she explained to me, she simply looks carefully at the data until she finds some way to slice it to come to that conclusion.

   The classic example in broadband was when Copper Mountain reached a market cap of $1.5B on sales of $120M/year and losses every quarter. Brilliant pr woman Molly Miller invented a new category of “business DSLAMs” in which they were #1. Actually, they were far behind DSLAM makers like Alcatel and went broke a few years later.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 11:43
Deutsche Telekom Installing Millions of Vectored Ports
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 17:44

Still not turned on and not all 100 megabits. Deutsche Telekom has promised 24M lines of vectored DSL at 100 megabits in three years. They are taking delivery on several million ports, many from Adtran. Adtran had a surprising increase in DSL sales this quarter, with profits also up. Adtran's financial call also announced a Tier 1 customer is cutting sales. That's AT&T, which I've separately reported has nearly frozen U-Verse builds to influence D.C. on the DirecTV merger.

   German regulator Matthias Kurth told me five years ago that DT had no choice but to upgrade where they face cable, but they've been delaying in hopes of persuading the government to cripple their competition. Deutsche Telekom loses 89K subscribers because they delayed VDSL upgrades. Cable offers twice the speed for the same price as DT and covers 2/3rds of Germany. They finally blocked most unbundling in 2013 and began the build of fiber/DSL hybrids. CEO Tim Hottges,"The fiber is the answer on what we are doing," but of course he means fiber/DSL. 

   German regulator Jochen Homann and EU Commissioner Nellie Kroes are doing what politicians do, claiming their policy of raising prices created the build when everyone in the industry knew DT would do it anyway. 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 17:58
Huawei/HiSilicon Coming on Fast
Tuesday, 15 July 2014 12:21

Producing a vectored VDSL chip. Like Henry Ford steel & timber mills, Huawei seems to be following the path to "vertical integration." Their latest DSLAM board features vectored VDSL chips from their HiSilicon subsidiary. There is no announcement and I haven't been able to find any article about the chips in either English or (Google-translated) Chinese but I have multiple sources within the industry. HiSilicon also has a G.hn chip close to market.

    Huawei is the chosen supplier for vectoring to Telecom Italia & Fastweb/Swisscom and bids on nearly all other large contracts. The Italian deployment is struggling, however. TI & Fastweb agreed to link their vectored DSLAMs and unbundle local loops. Huawei promised they would be able to have separate terminals, possibly 50 meters apart, but still vector the local loops. As far as I can determine, they haven't delivered yet and the companies are scrambling.

    HiSilicon did $1.3B in chip sales in 2013. Growth is well into double digits although 90% of chips still go to the parent company. Digitimes believes HiSilicon, like Samsung, is actively looking for outside customers. R & D budget is well into the $hundreds of millions. HiSilicon chips are in Hewlett-Packard terminals. They have an 8 core cell phone application processor (ARM Big-Little) that is among the leaders. They are among the first with 300 megabit CAT 6 LTE, possibly beating Qualcomm to market. These are fabricated at 28 nanometers and soon below. TSMC, with massive orders from Apple, is essentially sold out at advanced nodes for the rest of the year. HiSilicon will probably be capacity-constrained.

    TSMC 16nm FinFET chips will be TSMC's best in 2015 and HiSilicon is the first vendor to commit.    

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 August 2014 15:32
DT: "We had in the fourth quarter minus 47, Q4 minus 22, minus 7 in the first quarter"
Sunday, 18 May 2014 20:44

Deutsche Telekom loses 89K subscribers because they delayed VDSL upgrades. Cable offers twice the speed for the same price as DT and covers 2/3rds of Germany. German regulator Matthias Kurth told me five years ago that DT had no choice but to upgrade where they face cable, but they've been delaying in hopes of persuading the government to cripple their competition. They finally got their way in 2013 and began the build of fiber/DSL hybrids. CEO Tim Höttges, quoted above bit.ly/1o5a85S , now hopes that the 24M lines of vectored VDSL saves his company from disaster. "The fiber is the answer on what we are doing."

   BNetzA is playing dumb, acting as though the regulatory changes were the reason that DT did what we all knew they had to do.


Last Updated on Thursday, 14 August 2014 15:34
Gigabit and More Wireless Surprisingly Close
Sunday, 06 April 2014 13:59

Stanford Professor Andrea Goldsmith believes wireless capacity can increase 50 times in the next 5 to 10 years. We'll soon have gigabits rather than the tens of megabits now typical. The cost of delivering each bit - or gigabyte - is dropping at a ferocious rate. Prices are staying high in most countries.

   Inability to sell the capacity coming online at the prices they want is far more of a problem for telcos than the wildly exaggerated spectrum "crisis." The result is a desperate effort to eliminate competitors around the world. It's easy to see price-fixing is the goal behind Sprint/T-Mobile, Bouygues/SFR, Telefonica/E-Plus, Softbank/eAccess, AT&T/Leap and the massive CEO support for ETNO's campaign to shrink the industry.

   Cell phone inventor Marty Cooper points out "we've never had a spectrum shortage." By and large, the "spectrum crisis" has been invented by politicians and lobbyists who pull politicians' strings. In all but  limited situations, there's plenty of bandwidth and spectrum.

Last Updated on Saturday, 31 May 2014 04:11
~$1,000/home Fiber at CenturyQwest
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 18:15

The Enola Gay was built in Omaha 45,000 homes passed in Nebraska. Randall Stephenson of AT&T last year claimed "fiber costs have come all the way down" and Stu Ewing of Century just confirmed a figure of about $1,000 in modestly dense areas. "In Omaha, where we have done fiber-to-the-home to about 45,000 homes and it costs us about $600 per home passed to do that in Omaha. When you enable a house, a home and get the drop and the ONU and the set-top boxes, it’s $1,000 to $1,200 per home." http://bit.ly/1frXuH1 Obviously, fiber costs can be much higher. But Verizon, Bell Aliant and now Century are reaching the majority of homes at a relatively modest cost.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 March 2014 23:00
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