Thursday, September 28, 2006

FCC: Wireless Competition Leads to Surging Usage, Lower Rates

The FCC issued its annual report on the state of competition in the mobile telephone -- or Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) -- industry.

Although the mobile telephone market has become more concentrated as a result of mergers of Sprint/Nextel and Cingular/AT&T Wireless, the FCC concludes there is effective wireless competition, based on several factors, including: the number of competing carriers providing service in an area, market shares, pricing behavior and trends, technological upgrades and product innovations, subscriber growth, usage patterns, churn, and service quality.

Highlights of the report include:

  • During 2005, the number of mobile telephone subscribers in the United States rose from 184.7 million to 213 million, increasing the nationwide penetration rate to approximately 71 percent.

  • Average minutes-of-use per subscriber per month ("MOUs") jumped again in 2005, to 820 minutes, or more than 13 hours of use, for the average subscriber of a nationwide operator in the last quarter of the year. This is an increase of 110 MOUs, or almost two hours of additional use, from a year earlier. Sprint Nextel, the nationwide operator with the highest MOUs, averaged over 1,000 MOUs per month per subscriber for most of the year.

  • The amount of time mobile subscribers spend texting on their mobile phones has also increased and the volume of text message traffic grew to 48.7 billion messages in the second half of 2005, nearly double the 24.7 billion messages in the same period of 2004.

  • Revenue per minute, which can be used to measure the per-minute price of mobile telephone service, fell 22 percent during 2005 from $0.09 in 2004 to $0.07 in 2005.

  • The J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Wireless Call Quality Study found that the quality of mobile telephone service improved in the past year, with reported problems per 100 calls reaching the lowest level since the inaugural study in 2003.

  • The U.S. population living in counties with access to five or more different mobile telephone operators declined as compared with the previous year, due largely to the merger between Sprint PCS and Nextel in August 2005.

  • As of year-end 2005, there were four, nationwide mobile telephone operators: Sprint Nextel, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Cingular Wireless.

  • Churn rates have shown a slight decline over the past year. Most carriers report churn rates between 1.5 percent and 3.0 percent per month.

  • Since 1999, following a decade of declines, CTIA's estimate of ARPU began increasing, rising to $50.64 in December 2004, a 28 percent increase from the low of seven years ago. However, in the last year, ARPU declined slightly to $49.98. Analysts attribute this decline to a variety of factors, including further declines in the per-minute price of mobile calls due to more offers of free minutes and other promotions, an increase in the share of subscribers who typically spend less per month on mobile calls (such as prepaid and family plan customers), and a decrease in the elasticity of demand below one.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said "Competition among mobile telephone carriers has lowered the price consumers pay for mobile telephone service, stimulating rapid subscriber growth and greater usage of mobile phones. Competition has also encouraged mobile telephone carriers to improve service quality and to begin deploying significantly faster broadband technologies on their networks. These results demonstrate how a competitive marketplace -- rather than economic regulation -- provides the greatest benefits to the American consumer."http://www.fcc.govIn a written critique, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said the report fails to provide a full accounting of "effective competition" because it neglected to take account of the effects arising out of the cross-ownership of wireless and wireline companies.

"In this era of convergence, we often hear that new technologies will bring competition to markets currently dominated by incumbents. But what about when the same company or companies dominate both the new and the old markets? Will a parent company really allow a subsidiary to introduce products that cannibalize existing revenue streams? I expect that this issue will become increasingly important in the wireless industry—especially with the next generation of broadband services—and I hope that future CMRS reports will take account of it," stated Copps.

NTT Sets Optical Record: 14 Tbps over a Single Fiber

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) set a new optical transmission record -- 14 terabits per second (Tbps) over a single 160 km long optical fiber. Significantly, the demonstration ran optical signals at 111 Gbps over a DWDM system supporting 140 channels. This greatly exceeded the current record of about 10 Tbps over a single fiber.

NTT said its reach is driven to increase the core capacity of its optical transport network, which currently stands at about 1 Tbps. Current networks use wavelength-division-multiplexing (WDM) of 10 Gbps signals.

While 10 Tbps transmission over a single optical fiber has been achieved in the laboratory, NTT said it was necessary to use linear amplifiers that covered two or three amplification bands because of the limited range of existing amplifiers. However, this multi-band configuration is not cost-effective. To increase the transmission capacity, NTT set out to achieve two goals simultaneously: WDM transmission with high spectral efficiency and optical amplifiers with greatly enlarged bandwidth.

Some key points of NTT's optical transmission breakthrough:

  • The experiment used the carrier suppressed return-to-zero differential quadrature phase shift keying (CSRZ-DQPSK)*1 format and ultra-wide-bandwidth amplifiers.

  • 70 wavelengths with 100-GHz spacing were modulated at 111 Gbps using the CSRZ-DQPSK format and then multiplexed and amplified in the bandwidth of 7 THz.

  • Each 111 Gbps signal was polarization-division-multiplexed so the number of channels was doubled to 140. This yielded the total capacity of 14 Tbps. The 160 km distance was achieved by amplifying these signals using newly developed optical amplifiers.

  • The experiment also demonstrated that it is possible to transmit 100 Gbps signal with forward error correction bytes and management overhead bytes of the OTN frame over long distances allowing the construction of large capacity optical networks that offer 10 Tbps or more.

  • NTT said CSRZ-DQPSK modulation and its new high-speed optoelectronic device technologies make it possible to generate dense WDM signals with bit rates of 100 Gbps and beyond per channel and transmit them over long distances.

Further details on the technology are posted on the NTT site.

iSkoot Develops Thin-Client VoIP App for Dual-Mode GSM/WiFi Phone

iSkoot, a start-up based in Cambridge, Mass., introduced a thin Java-based client for enabling dual-mode phones (supporting both GSM/CDMA and WiFi networks) to connect with VoIP services, such as Skype, GoogleTalk, AIM, Microsoft Messenger and Yahoo Messenger.

iSkoot's Java-based thin client phone application and network server enables VoIP over three different network connections, WiFi which is typically free, 3G/GPRS data which typically is offered for a fixed monthly charge, and GSM/CDMA voice which typically is billed by the local-minute.

In addition iSkoot's thin client technology, which is approximately 100K in size, utilizes the standard resources available on the telephone so that the widest variety of devices, including lower power CPUs, can take advantage of this capability.

Dual-mode phones with iSkoot's new client software allow a user to make telephone calls over the Internet using all three networks utilizing one small application.

Fonpods Debuts Mobile Podcasting Service

Fonpods, a start-up based in Los Angeles, unveiled its new podcast by phone service. Fonpods' proprietary platform is designed to provide convenient, cost-free mobile access to digital audio content -- podcasts in particular - through the mobile phone.

The Fonpods service provides users with PC and Internet content optimized for an on-the-go mobile experience -- creating a fusion of interactive content and portable media -- and allowing users to access their audio content from a landline, mobile or VoIP phone.

This experience is supported by Fonpods' back-end services featuring a searchable catalog of available podcasts. A Web-based interface allows users to customize and create their own listening "channels," as well as produce their own content, share content, or collaborate with friends and colleagues. Additional functionality allows users to organize, tag, or rate podcasts - from any web-access device - with all major browsers being supported.

Tektronix Offers TD-SCDMA RF Field Tester for China

Tektronix announced the addition of TD-SCDMA -- the mobile telecommunications standard developed for China -- as an option to its NetTek Wireless RF Field Tester.

Tektronix said it is the first manufacturer to provide TD-SCDMA RF field test and measurement capabilities in a handheld form, enabling network providers, network equipment manufacturers and contractors to more easily diagnose TD-SCDMA Node B transmitter problems and effectively manage the roll out of the new technology.

The NetTek Tester is a rugged portable platform with multi-standard measurement capability. The instrument's modular architecture supports a range of wireless RF measurements for standards, including UMTS/WCDMA, EDGE, GSM, CDMA2000 1x EV-DO, CDMA2000, cdmaOne (IS-95), and IS-136.

DSL Forum Completes VDSL2 System Integrator Interoperability Event

The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) and the DSL Forum hosted the first BroadbandAccess VDSL2 System Integrator Interoperability Plugfest last month, attracting the participation of over 20 companies. Participating companies included system integrators, silicon vendors and test equipment providers.

The 20 participating companies brought over 45 engineers from around the world to the UNH-IOL facility. The participating companies were:

2Wire, Actiontec Electronics, Adtran, Alcatel, Amedia Networks, Aware, Broadcom Corp., Cisco Systems, Comtrend Corp., Conexant Systems Inc., ECI Telecom, Ikanos, Infineon Technologies, JDSU
Lucent Technologies, Netopia Inc., Siemens, Spirent Communications
Westell, ZyXEL

The interoperability event build on three DSL Forum Chip Vendor Interoperability events to date.

Upcoming BroadbandAccess VDSL2 events include:

  • November 27-December 1, 2006, DSL Forum VDSL2 Chip Vendor Test Event

  • January 29- February 2, 2007, DSL Forum VDSL2 Chip Vendor Test Event

  • February 26- March 2, 2007, DSL Forum VDSL2 System Integrator Test Event

California Approves Video Franchise Bill

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a statewide video franchise bill that will make it easier for new IPTV competitors to enter the market.

"The Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006," which goes into effect 01-Jan-2007, replaces a decades-old, city-by-city video franchising model with a streamlined, state-issued authorization.

AT&T cheered the news. "AT&T has begun a $1 billion initial investment in California to upgrade our digital broadband network, which will deliver faster Internet access speeds and new, competitive TV/video services. This investment is in addition to the nearly $20 billion we've invested in our California network over the past decade," stated Ken McNeely, President, AT&T California.

Verizon also hailed the news. "Gov. Schwarzenegger's signing of the Digital Infrastructure and Cable Competition Act is a huge victory for California's consumers. Under this law, California sets a new standard for accelerating cable-TV competition, and customers can expect new choices, greater value and improved service in terms of video providers. This landmark legislation unlocks the vast potential of Verizon's all-fiber network and enables us to more rapidly offer a new alternative to cable -- FiOS TV -- in dozens of communities where we have already built our 100-percent fiber-optic network. The new law also provides the certainty for Verizon to commit hundreds of millions of dollars in additional investment to accelerate fiber deployment in California, creating hundreds of new jobs and stimulating our state's economy," stated Verizon West Region President Tim McCallion.