Archives For Broadband

On Motorola and Google TV

Mari Silbey —  August 15, 2011

There are a thousand and one ways Google could move forward with today’s announced acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Certainly Google will use Motorola’s mobile assets to further its Android ambitions, and this is a big shift in the landscape for mobile players including Samsung, HTC, and Apple. However, I’m far more curious about what this means for Google on the IP video front. Last year I posted my skepticism about the Google TV launch over on the Motorola blog. Read the excerpt:

I believe that Google may have a chance at being successful in TV, but not ultimately by offering only an over-the-top solution… On the other hand, could Google make a go of it in TV by working within the cable and telecom model? It’s certainly possible. Particularly since that model is moving toward IP (not Internet) delivery. In my very personal opinion, Google is experimenting on the retail front, but that doesn’t mean that’s where it will stay.

Google has a fascinating opportunity now to become a serious player on the pay TV front if it so chooses. Motorola’s cable/telco network technology, consumer hardware base, and software solutions all give Google a working platform in the TV biz. Perhaps even more importantly, Motorola’s relationships in the traditionally insular cable industry give Google a new place at the table. Throw in Google’ Gigabit network experiments, and you’ve got a tantalizing combination of assets. It’s certainly a far different picture today than Google presented just last year. Talk about a Google TV reboot.


Sprint added 1.7 million WiMAX subscribers in Q2 (mostly wholesaled from Clearwire), while Verizon added 1.2 million LTE subscribers in the same time period. Long-time analyst Paul Kapustka tracked the WiMAX win over at Sidecut Reports, but he’s the only person I’ve seen report the comparison. Instead, most of the press has focused solely on Clearwire’s announcement that it’s planning to add LTE services to its portfolio. That’s great. Fantastic. But reporters have been using it to pit LTE against WiMAX, and to extend the odd “WiMAX is dead” narrative. WiMAX is not dead. And not only is it not dead, but there are several reasons to applaud the technology’s success.

  1. WiMAX was first out of the gate in the US. I started using it in Philly back in 2009.
  2. Competition is good. Even though Clearwire is shifting away from retail sales, it pioneered the no-contract 4G service, which was enough to get me to give 4G a trial run. And Sprint maintains an unlimited data plan with its WiMAX service, something other carriers have refused to do.
  3. The Sprint/Clearwire push for WiMAX deployments has sped up network upgrades across all US carriers, bringing us more 4G access on a faster timeline than we would have had otherwise.
  4. Although we focus on mobile WiMAX here in the States, fixed WiMAX technology has been a boon in numerous emerging markets around the world, particularly in areas where wireline broadband connectivity isn’t available. (The WiMAX Forum reports there are currently WiMAX deployments in 150 different countries.)
  5. There is overlap in WiMAX and LTE technology, which means lessons learned in WiMAX development can be applied in further LTE rollouts. Even as Clearwire starts adding LTE services, it will rely on much of the technology it’s already deployed with WiMAX.

So why all the WiMAX haters? I don’t know. LTE is great, but WiMAX continues to play an important role in American and global network upgrades to 4G. And that’s worth a little recognition.

The latest incarnation of the Samsung Galaxy Tab will go on sale this Thursday, marking the launch of the first 4G LTE tablet in the US. Part of me wants to run out and buy it. It’s Android with a 10-inch screen, which matches my personal tablet requirements, and I live in an area with great LTE coverage. Unfortunately, as much as the idea is tempting, the data plans aren’t. I’d be paying $30/month for a measly 2GB plan (even though I already pay that amount for 4G data on my phone), and it would go up to $50 and $80 for 5GB and 10GB respectively. That’s just not in my budget. And I’m not alone.

IDG analyst Bob O’Donnell told Computerworld earlier this month that 3G tablet sales are suffering. According to O’Donnell, “hundreds of thousands” of the devices are still sitting unsold. Research also shows that the large majority of traffic from tablets is over a Wi-Fi connection. I gained access to stats from Limelight Networks recently (disclosure: I do contract work for Limelight) showing that when users watch video on tablets, they access the highest bit-rate streams more often than not. Higher bit rates mean Wi-Fi, not mobile broadband.

The latest Galaxy Tab sounds great on paper, but unless carriers lower their data pricing, or at least let users share data plans across multiple devices, I don’t know how much demand there can possibly be. Mobile broadband is just too expensive.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance website, there are now 230 products certified for Wi-Fi Direct support. And yet, despite tracking the standard’s progress for more than 18 months, I’ve seen virtually zero traction at the consumer level. I can think of three reasons for this. First, some of the products certified likely haven’t been released yet. LG’s got a list of products a mile long, but many were only certified in the last six weeks. Second, as a reporter at Wired noted last October, different Wi-Fi Direct devices support different types of connections. This is odd because the new standard is supposed to be compatible even with regular Wi-Fi products. However, apparently depending on how a new product is designed, it might for example, support Wi-Fi Direct printing, but, not a Wi-Fi Direct connection to an external display.

Third and finally, nobody’s made a good case to consumers yet on the benefits of Wi-Fi Direct. The simplest use case for the new standard might be the one for easy wireless printing. Unfortunately, I’ve only seen one printer listed as supporting Wi-Fi Direct, and it turns out the HP LaserJet Pro 100 will require a firmware upgrade in the future to get the additional wireless feature. It would seem that a Wi-Fi Direct connection for a TV or monitor would also be an easy sell, but I’ve seen nobody market it well. Think about it. How nice would it be to be able to throw a video up on the TV from a laptop without having to connect to the Internet? No router configuration, and no worry about bandwidth caps.

I assume it’s only a matter of time before Wi-Fi Direct takes off, but with the first products certified last October, I thought we’d be a little further along in the process by now. Where’s the marketing machine?


As a proud resident of Montgomery County Maryland (again), and a new FiOS subscriber, I’m happy to report that Verizon is rolling out IMG 1.9 in the DC metro area. We had FiOS installed yesterday with the 25/25 Mbps Internet tier, and one DVR – complete with the latest software update – for our living room. Unfortunately, I won’t have a chance to test out IMG 1.9’s enhanced multi-room streaming capabilities, but I do get the new guide as part of the update, and the ability to add an external hard drive. Somewhat ironically, I was presented with a Cisco set-top box, unlike Dave who got the much sleeker Motorola QIP7232. It does have the 500GB hard drive, however, which sure beats the 160GB box we had with Comcast before.

Dave noted last night that Tampa and Pittsburgh received their FiOS software updates earlier this week. A national rollout should be complete within the next two months.

Can’t Trust The Cloud?

Dave Zatz —  July 6, 2011

As we increasingly construct virtual identities and migrate our digital possessions into the cloud, it’s a worthwhile exercise to periodically reflect on these increasingly amorphous services. And my top two concerns are security and dependability.

On the security front, my guiding principle is an assumption that just about any host can and will be hacked. Which is why we turn to encryption for additional layers of defense. Unfortunately, some companies offer insufficient protection or overstate their capabilities. For example, it now appears that cloud file storage and sharing provider Dropbox embodies both. Whereas the company originally claimed user files were encrypted in such a way that even employees couldn’t access the data, it turns out encryption is handled on Dropbox servers and they maintain the encryption keys. Meaning, yes, employees can and have accessed user data… leading to a FTC complaint. Additionally, a recent service update inadvertently left all Dropbox accounts without password protection for about 4 hours – a startling development. Is Dropbox unique in their shortcomings? Continue Reading…

I’ve always been wary of rooting any phone with a two-year contract, but the appeal of being able to tether my smartphone wirelessly to get an Internet connection on other devices has been tough to resist. Luckily, Verizon has solved the problem for me. At least until next Wednesday. Back in March, Verizon started offering a free Mobile Hotspot app on new 4G phones, and a couple weeks ago, the telco extended the limited-time promotion through July 6th.

The good news? Verizon’s Mobile Hotspot is ridiculously easy to use, and it worked flawlessly for me. One click turns the hotspot on. Then it’s just a matter of selecting the (WPA2-protected) network on your secondary device and typing in a short password. I used the hotspot on the DC metro to extend network access to my Wi-Fi-only iPad. My mobile broadband speed was limited in the subway, but it was enough to download a new iPad app, and it would be enough to publish a blog post from my netbook if needed.

The bad news? When Verizon’s promotional period ends next Wednesday, the Mobile Hotspot isn’t going to be cheap. We don’t know the pricing details yet, but current guesses hover around $30 a month, or possibly $20 a month with a 2GB data cap. Given how often I’m likely to need tethering, either price is way above my comfort zone. It took years for me to suck it up and get a $30-per-month data plan. I’m not going to double that just to be able to share an existing wireless connection. Usually I either have access to Wi-Fi or can make do with my smartphone. If I had to share my mobile broadband connection, I’d certainly be willing to pay a fee if I went over my monthly data allowance. However, just paying for the privilege to share an existing connection? That’s a bit much. Verizon could sucker me in for a small fee, say $5 a month, but at $20 or $30, forget it. I’ll enjoy my hotspot for a few more days, and go back to a sad, but affordable tether-free existence on July 6th.


While 2011 marks the first year in ages we failed to hit The Cable Show, we’ve fortunately got friends with boots on the ground. Who kindly went on a TiVo booth recon mission to bring us photographs of the brand new TiVo Premiere Q four tuner DVR and non-DVR TiVo Preview. Sadly, TiVo’s rep clearly stated that they have “no plans” to make this whole-home DVR hardware available to anyone but cable company partners (with RCN up first). However, I’ll continue to hold out hope that the Preview makes it to retail in some fashion later this year.