Carl Ford : 4G Wireless Evolution
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What's Good for GM is Good for Ed Whitacre, Jr.

June 9, 2009

First of all a personal note, Ed Whitacre and my father were friends, so I have never stated an opinion about Ed, despite my affiliation with people who did not like him.

But the story here is one beyond the man, but by the government that chose him.  Ed Whitacre is a very logical choice if you consider what he was doing at ATT/SBC and what he has to do now.

First of all, his role as a Union Negotiator is pretty well understood.  And the IBEW, CWA is proabably as close to coping with the UAW as you can get.

He has history of trying to do the most with the least (his plant upgrade strategy was loved by wall street), so I am sure that the big plans that some of us hope for electronic cars and visionary thinking will now be safely in check.

Likewise he has a history of consolidating things and making it so that he stays on top, so if GM is acquired he wont mind a bit.

In the last few days the story about Hummer and Saturn being sold were leaked out and I am not sure if they were approved of by the primary owner.

And that certainly the best thing Ed is known for,  managing Washington.  So the man may have been picked for that specific job.

This administration is not short on vision, but the team is showing the fact that they are stretched beyond their means.  I expect that Ed will bring a sense of stability to the discussion.  I also expect some Telecom lawyers / lobbyists are going to find a new home. 

For the telecom sector as the battle about Special Access and InterCarrier Compensation continue to drag on perhaps it will be easier to find a solution with less of our brethern focused on telecom (unless OnStar has an issue).

Good Luck Ed,  If you are good for GM you have to be good for the country because its no longer whats good for GM is good for the country its whats good for the country is a good GM.

All Glory is Fleeting- The Genachowski / McDowell Hearings

June 17, 2009

Finally the hearings happen, but what a strange love fest.   In some ways it reminds me of the old adage, everyone hates congress but loves their congressman (95% of the incumbents got reelected last election).

Future Chairman Genachowski, was praised by Senate Committe Chairman Jay Rockerfeller with the telling line, 'If you do not have the credentials to be the Chairman, I don't know who would".

But the love fest was full of the reminder that all glory was fleeting and within the hearing were statements that made it clear the committee had their priorities of agendas.

The one that caught my ear (and seemed to have a rough concensus), was the desire for a nationwide emergency service system. 

NENA is ready with a next generation design that needs funding and it would be interesting to see if somehow the rules for $ 6.7 B stimulus can be modified to include the support of this build out. 

Whenever I think of the next generation of 911, I remember what a kludge funding for the existing network was and in this country every state's 911 is testament to how taxation has worked in the past.

Which is why I think the glory for poor Julius is fleeting.  The rules are old and the needs are new.  Its a bad combination and he will need to be adept at bringing the telecom act of 2010 into some useful model.

Congress wants him to succeed as do I.

Commissioner McDowell was very gracious and put his role in perspective.  I was very impressed with his opening remarks.

From Congresses perspective they have a monkey on their back with the issues of media ownership.  It was clear that their were expectations of shot clock of 6 months for the approval process for all future mergers and acquistions. 

Like Genachowski, McDowell was given the we want you to succeed despite our conflicting objectives (save the newspapers expand the ownership).

I also want to concur with the praise of Acting FCC Chairman Copps, he was the half vote on the pulver order and am glad to have as much of his guidance as possible.

Now that they are about to take their seats I want to put in my own two cents on their priorities.  I want to echo Senator Hutchison's call for the unserved to take priority over the underserved when it comes to broadband.  The Yellow spots on the map can fit into the definition of underserved even though if you were to use the cable model of homes passed the bandwidth is greater than the need.  Fix the problem for the unserved first. The underserved need solutions that are not directly associated with high cost and the need for tax dollars.  (imho A few rules in support of network neutrality might do the trick).

Indirect Consequences - As the FCC settles down

June 19, 2009

Just got off a call on some hiring that I have been advising.  Its been since October and its somewhat political.  Why has it taken so long?  The beauty of Washington Politics is that the change or Parties at the top put a lot of people in flux. 

By in large Washington actually works pretty well the politicians and their lobbyists know each other and act in a civil way (despite the noise you see and hear on TV).

But when the music starts again after an election and everyone has to find a new chair it turns out that in this version of musical chairs, some chairs are better than others.  And that causes a log jam. 

Hiring the right person has been hard since so many candidates are trying for better positions.  And the floor and ceiling is in flux.  Like a person, it may turn out you are their second choice because they are waiting for the appointment of a friend or have their own name in the mix of the administration.

Have a job you may want, it may be held up by the lack of a leader at the department.

So the appointment of the Chairman allows the freeze at the FCC to thaw and for the applicants to have a better understanding of their chances.

Why do I bring this up now, because as the music stops and the chairs get filled the next thing to happen is the noise level is about to increase.  Agendas and lobbying are going to find their pecking order as well.

I have already hinted at what I thought was coming up thats new.  But before we go their Intercarrier Compensation and Special Access are going to become the big stories.

And they have a lot to do with Wireless.  If you see a call with a bad called ID you can suppose that its on purpose and a wireless originator was probably involved (even thought they used VoIP to terminate). imho when Intercarrier compensation gets done this issues should go away.  And as for special access the building out of the wireless backhaul network is looking for relief from these charges.

Assume you see some documents out of the commission by the end of summer,  making for a very active fall.

4Gee - What happened to Nortel?

June 22, 2009

The road ahead is not as clear cut as people would like to make it.  Case in point is Nortel.  The 3GPP type assets were sold to Nokia Siemens Networks.
Previously the WiMAX side of the shop was scuttled.

So what does this mean for the rest of Nortel?

Candidly I am not sure.

They have other assets they sell to carriers, but I would consider it more marginal and not specifically wireless.  Metro Ethernet, Call Center Solutions including directory, etc.  I would not be surprised if those assets also ended up in other companies.

The part of the company that is enterprised focused is surely in trouble to and acquiring that asset would be best to those who have a weakness in call center capabilities. 

Actually these assets make sense for an Asian buyer.  Although I could make a case for two others.

I can always make the case for Cisco because some of the best assets are in research and I would like to see some people land in the right place. 

As Nortel was failing its R&D was still amazing. 

So what is the lesson for the rest of us?  I would submit that 4G is not a simple migration.  Using the same technologies as the Internet and consumer wireless requires a massive rethink of what a carriers assets are and what they need.

Architectually it looks the same, but in the delivery of services and applications its a new ball game.  Thats been the focus of my travels lately and the speakers that are coming to 4GWE in LA on Sept 1-3 are also focused on the nature of the future.

Nortel had many redeeming qualities and as the assets get integrated natural selection will evolve into something new.

Apple Peals - Bob Borchers leaves.

June 26, 2009

Yesterday Bob Borchers informed the world that he was going to Opus Capital Ventures.  The Opus website says "Early-stage venture investing is what we like to do. And we're good at it. The team at Opus Capital has been active in the seed and Series A funding of technology companies for more than 20 years, having invested in such companies as Airgate PCS, EFI, Galileo and Harmonic at their very early stages."  Borchers experience is definitely the valued proposition for Opus.  Perhaps their is an Internet App market that is vendor neutral in our future as a result. 

As for Apple.

I keep getting told that Steve Job has made a legacy group that survives him, but the departure of Borcher and Rubinstein indicate some shake up is happening. Is this about the internal politics of Apple, has Steve's heirs been selected and that is why the departure?

Out in the Open Oracle

June 29, 2009

Reading the Wall Street Journal, I saw the Justice Department is extending the review of the Sun acquistion by Oracle.  Ben Worthen, pointed out in the article,  In April, Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison called Java "the single most important software asset we have ever acquired."

This is the critical issue in the Justice department mind.  Hardware no worries, Databases no worries.  JAVA not so fast.

SUN has done a great job enabling the third parties to adopt the JAVA and as they have said continually,  IBM is the largest JAVA developer. 

Given the ecosystem of JAVA, I am not sure there is much to worry about.  I can imagine some optimization for Oracle and as long as the Java Community Process continues.  Having said that, it would be nice if JAVA became more stabilized as a standards effort.  This is the one place I would focus as the Justice Department.

After that I am hoping that Larry gets his Internet Toaster.  Back when I was in the carrier, I kicked the Oracle folks out since they had an expectation that I was going to provide local loop Ethernet. 

Today the vision can be accomplished and Larry should bring it back and with an Open API.  You would be surprised what things are available when the database can be networked.  New federation opportunities exist and SUN asset will prove its value.. 

Nortel Enterprise: Two Buyers (Together) are Better than One

June 29, 2009

First of all congrats to Nokia Siemens.  I always wondered why the domain is NSN.  From now on this will be Nokia Siemens Nortel in my head.

Here is a thought about the rest of Nortel.  Nortel Enterprise is not just about voice, its about transport and other tools that are within an enterprise.  So who is the logical choice to acquire?

The rumor mill says that Avaya and Siemens Enterprise are already in the bidding war. However, hedge fund companies adding more distress to the mess is not their normal strategy (think of Chrysler / Cerberus). I can make a case for both and of course Cisco, but I have another idea. 

Digium has a very strong relationship with Adtran.  While it looks like Adtran is losing people the beginnings of Digium started with Adtran. 

The reason I suggest this two partner acquistion is based on the remaining assets of Nortel Enterprise.  The PBX part of the company is only 1/3 of the asset and its a hardware intensive solution.  If Digium were to acquire, an Asterisk adjunct box, (aka app server would be a great add on particularly if it included SkypeIn SkypeOut support).  Heck, Ebay might even put some money in.

Now comes the other parts.  Over 2/3rd of the value is in rock solid government and networking equipment and for Adtran this would represent a new energy into a company that has been strong but needs to augment the porfolio for government contracts.  For the Nortelians this would be a great fit too since it would not be a mashing of personel but an LOB within Adtran that augmented with very little overlap.

Mind you if the dollar numbers I am hearing are true this is kind of a stretch, but I have seen the numbers rumored and the numbers signed to vary greatly. It may be worthwhile for Adtran and Digium to jump in.


July 1, 2009

Okay, First of all I admit I am a fan, but a frustrated one.

Chairman Genachowski announced his staff.  Men and Women (many Harvard trained) that are willing to give themselves to public service.  Thank you all.

So why I am frustrated.  I have been rooting for some IAB, IETF types to be the mix. No Offense to lawyers but changing law to support changes in communication in theory could benefit from some of the best thinkers about where the Internet is going and where it should go.

I am aware of some of the best Interent engineers on the planet's willingness to come work for this administration.  So it was with a frustrated sigh that I read the bios of the chairman's staff.  I wish you all well, but please let some of the brillant minds that are expanding and supporting the Internet be more central to your views of what you are regulating.

The rules of Interconnection and taxation that have driven telecom for centuries are being usurped by the ability to interoperate based on Internet - working meet points and almost universal ethernet structure.  The Universal Service I worked to support in my youth is drawing to a close and the age of a new universal service (called the Internet) should not be judged on the existing service models.

My hope for you all is that the new laws you offer are based on a goal for service in the future and not a restriction of power we have seen in the past.

LG Nortel OY!

July 6, 2009

I never know what to make out of a partnerships, so the announcement out of Finland that K&K is the partner for LG Nortel fiber optics left me asking more questions.

First of all the positive side.  Nortel Enterprise has a strong history in optics and their solutions were part of a rebirth strategy shared with some friends earlier in the year.

But clearly the decision by K&K is more about support of the existing than growth of the new. 

LG Nortel  is more case of what a strange taffy pull it is to extract telecom strategies.  The primary value of Nortel in the mix is in reaching out to carrier enterprise sales with the LG Nortel product line.  Given the Nokia Siemens deal, I am not sure how the LG channel will work. 

It may be that the K&K, part of Lagercrantz) deal is part of the overall trend.  Then again, it may be time for LG to rethink its relationship with Nortel, or become a buyer for the fiber part (which would make my Adtran / Digium strategy even more logical).

Should Skype be redesigned?

July 7, 2009

A friend caught me this morning and wanted to talk about the Skype IPO next year. A few months back I had been trying to get near the discussion because some from friends who had money in hand.

Ebay thinks that the IPO is the right strategy according to reports, but when I was trying to talk to them, the Intellectual property still owned by Niklas and Janus and embedded in Skype seemed to be a stumbling block.

Now in the past Skype has been clever in acquiring their own path to success.  The acquistion of Camino Networks was allowed them to go beyond Global IP Sound.

So how do they go around themselves?

Henning Schluzrinne did a great analysis of this question with his team in 2005. 

Personally, I think they have to come to terms with the patent before the IPO, but stranger IPOs have been in the market that got past these kind of issues.

Perhaps this is a sleeping dog, with 15 Million subs if they were compared to voice service providers they should do better than the 2.6 Billion previously evaluated.

However customer goodwill is not the same as salvage cost, so maybe Skype will be compared to an Oracle or Microsoft?

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