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November 2008

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Clearwire's 100-Day Agenda: Devices, VoIP and Roaming

November 30, 2008

Just like a hungry uncle devouring Thanksgiving leftovers, the new Clearwire wasted no time tying up the loose ends of its WiMax assets merger deal with Sprint Nextel, finishing the deal Friday while everyone else in the country was busy digesting the previous night's feasts.

With a conference call scheduled for early Monday morning, some business details that have been waiting for the merger's completion (like when the Chicago and D.C. networks will be live) should finally be made public. While you will be able to read that news here soon after we learn it, today we're setting out our own agenda for the new Clearwire and some things we think it needs to get done in the first 100 days to keep its market lead over the eventual competition in the rapidly expanding mobile-data market. Specifically, there are three things that Clearwire needs to do well and quickly to increase its chances of success, not just against the coming Long Term Evolution deployments from telcos like AT&T and Verizon, but against the already existing 3G services, which are still used only by a small minority of the Internet community.

Taking a Deeper Look at the Clearwire Deal -- Again

November 24, 2008

With the shareholder approval finally taken care of, the massive deal to build a new nationwide WiMax network under the Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR) name can (finally!) now begin in earnest. While those of us who have been following the events over the past year know pretty much what is on Clearwire's immediate to-do list, for those who are playing catch-up may we suggest you order the new, updated version of our WiMax report, which includes a comprehensive study of the "new" Clearwire WiMax deal and its $3.2 billion of investment from a group that includes Google, Comcast, Intel and Time Warner Cable.

When you read the report you will learn:

-- The new opportunities and challenges for Clearwire's national focus, which is a departure from previous plans

-- The motivations for Google's $500 million investment, which go beyond business goals for search and mobility to include public-policy goals

-- Why the big telcos, AT&T and Verizon, may not see WiMax as a prime competitor (even as they step up marketing and lobbying efforts to make life harder for WiMax)

-- Why cable providers like Comcast may be looking to WiMax to expand their user footprint beyond its current regulatory limits

The report also contains a WiMax technical and historical backgrounder, as well as an updated look at the WiMax business opportunities for enterprises, investors and entrepreneurs in markets including mobile Internet businesses, software development, and mobile device manufacturing. Titled "Game On, WiMax! Why the "new" Clearwire gives WiMax its best chance at success in the U.S.

WiMAX: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times...

November 20, 2008

A new report has just come out from Informa, and the findings have the report's author channeling Dickens.   "It's the best and worst of times for WiMAX," says Mike Roberts, principal analyst at Informa, and author of WiMAX Broadband Convergence: Emerging Fixed, Portable & Mobile Internet Markets - 2nd Edition.   According to Roberts:   WiMAX is a tale of two markets - one being WiMAX as an emerging technology gaining significant momentum in the last year, and the other being the larger converging broadband market, where the runaway success of rival mobile broadband system HSDPA and the acceleration of LTE threatens the opportunity for WiMAX in some markets.   On the WiMAX side of the ledger, we find the launch of services by major operators such as Sprint/Clearwire, commitments to WiMAX by major proponents such as Google, and the long-awaited arrival of WiMAX notebooks and other devices.   On the flip side, HSDPA has reportedly become a runaway success in many markets worldwide, and emerging LTE technology is ramping up and has secured the support of many major mobile operators.   Of course it remains to be seen what will be written in the final chapter of this "tale of two markets." It's clear that we all have great expectations, and while in telecom there is always ample opportunity for at least two market entrants, it's a distinct possibility that for one of these two combatants, it will indeed be a bleak house.    

White Space in the White Mountains

November 20, 2008

When you get away from the yellow spots on a map, the odds are likely you are going to be confronted with very little to watch on TV.    Three stations and one cable affiliate station does not make for a competitive environment.  The utilization of white space spectrum should allow for rural areas to have some advantages when trying to avoid interference.

Now the question is, will that be how White Space gets deployed.  Will the product lines developed for white space be products with out a service provider model?   Some friends I had who lived in glen of the mountain and was one of 30 houses on a road next to the stream is the terrain I think of when thinking about this technology.

Sometimes you could watch the morning fog hide their home and the mountain top was clear other times the clouds would look like a sombero shadowing the mountain.  Woods, clouds, mountains, lakes and streams make for difficult antenna strategies and we may see a lot of adjunct antennas being sold to support the use of white space spectrum in different situations.  Kansas, Rocky Mountains, White Mountains of New Hampshire, probably have a lot of trial and error ahead.

It may be that local integrators become established that allow the homes to mesh, more likely we will still a service provider model.

My own personal view is that the service would be a great business for those local stations to augment their business.  But it takes a while for groups to get into the if you cant beat them join them mode.

One thing I am not sure I like is the idea of an ICANN for white spaces.  If its an issue of having addressing, I would like to see IPv6 be the model for the deployment.

So while the technology has been approved there is a white space on the board of how it will be deployed.

Qualcomm gets off the UMB sidetrack and embraces LTE

November 18, 2008

Having lunch with our future speaker Dr. Hyung G. Myung from Qualcomm, I get the impression that LTE is in good hands.  Mr. Myung is working the Single Carrier technologies I mentioned in my first post  on this site. 

But this is CDMA (George Gilders dream team) Qualcomm!  They acquired Flarion and have been the advocates of UMB ultra mobile broadband as a standard.  Why in the world are they LTE now?

The answer is in the evolution part.  Twenty years ago before the Internet, the ability to have geographically separate standards was possible.  Now the Partners of 3GPP clearly understand that they are going to be delivering the same platform eventually and it's the Wireless Internet.
So the CDMA world is going to blend into the rest of 4G via the LTE side of the equation. But wait there is more. 

Qualcomm is building something they have called Kayak. It's not a phone.  It's a computing device.  And they are with Adobe on the Open Screen Project.

So while I am continually trying to understand if the device in my future is a computer that communicates or a phone that computes,  this device sound like a good compromise.

WiMax Test Drive -- Roamin' on Xohm in Chicago

November 14, 2008

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a video worth? We can't think of any better way to illustrate how WiMax could change the consumer broadband experience than with a bird's-eye view of mobile WiMax in action -- albeit on the Xohm "beta" network in Chicago, which at the time of this filming was not yet commercially available.

Thanks to the folks at Clearwire and their mobile demo van, we took a little ride and put mobile WiMax through some tests, including streaming audio and video. If you don't believe this technology works, just watch this short video and then ask yourself how could WiMax change your broadband experience.

For Russia, With Love: WiMax/GSM Phone from HTC

November 13, 2008

Engadget Mobile has the story (and a full gallery of phanboy photos) of the WiMax/GSM smartphone that Denis Sverdlov was talking about at WiMax World last month. And if you can read Cyrillic, you might get even more out of this link to the HTC phone advert on Yota's site. The cool look is understandable in any language, though. (Hat tip to Engadget commenter Tim for the link.)

In the race to 4G, LTE takes upfront lead

November 12, 2008

Source: RCR Wireless
The ever-evolving nature of the wireless market has its eyes set on so-called 4G technologies. These are expected to be higher-capacity networks based on Internet Protocol standards that will support wireless broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second. While there is no definition yet set for such 4G networks, despite the best PR efforts of certain camps, it appears the early winner is the Long Term Evolution standard, which has gained backing by most major wireless players around the world.

Sprint, Clearwire Get Set to Merge

November 11, 2008

Thanks to the FCC's approval, the clock is now really ticking forward on the Sprint-Clearwire merger that will create the "New" Clearwire and its nationwide WiMax network. While we still need to see a Clearwire shareholder vote later this month, the number everyone wants to know -- how many folks have signed up for Xohm services in Baltimore -- is still unknown, since neither Sprint nor Clearwire reported any Xohm user numbers in their recent respective earnings calls.

There were some WiMax nuggets, however -- one from Sprint's report last Friday said that the company spent $134 million in capex on WiMax during the quarter, we are guessing probably not all in Baltimore but in some soon-to-launch markets as well.

On the Clearwire side, the company all but stopped promoting its previous "WiMax-like" service, signing up just 8,000 new subscribers during the most-recent quarter. However, on the mobile WiMax side Clearwire said its Portland, Ore., network is ready for an "official" launch in Q1 2009 (though it will probably be working before the end of the calendar year) and that it also successfully tested the implementation of a mobile WiMax overlay in one of its previous technology markets. Having lots of spectrum is what will let Clearwire upgrade its past markets to mobile WiMax without having to rip out the earlier technology.

WiMax Wardrivers Won't Wait

November 10, 2008

Pretty funny to see the "WiMax Wardrivers" emerging, as geeks start finding networks before they're ready. Dave Zatz of Zatz Not Funny fame is the latest entrant, using some Baltimore Xohm hardware to start surfing on the yet-to-be-formally-opened Washington D.C. Xohm network.

Since he's the only (illegal) one on the net, so far speeds are pretty darn good, according to Dave. But don't be too surprised if the Sprint police hunt him down and shut him off -- we haven't heard any warnings yet but Dan Jones over at Unstrung is passing the word that those who try surfing before the new wireless beach is open might get shut down from time to time. (And we know from personal experience that the Chicago Xohm network is running pretty well already.)

Just one of the inconveniences of getting in ahead of the crowds, eh?

FCC Green-Lights Globalstar for Rural WiMAX

November 6, 2008

Rich Tehrani has a must-read post today about technology and the opportunity for an Obama administration to embrace tech like no previous administration.   One of the things Rich highlights is Obama's pledge to maintain an open Internet and ensure that broadband gets into the hands of rural Americans.   Well as this TMC Newsroom video report shows, the FCC has approved a modified license proposal from Globalstar, paving the way for the California-based satellite Internet operator to deploy WiMAX-based wireless broadband services to more rural communities across the United States.   According to Jay Monroe, CEO and chairman of Globalstar:   "Those living in underserved small towns and rural communities will, for the first time, have access to services that urban and suburban residents and small businesses now take for granted. FCC action is an important step in closing the digital divide in America.   The FCC hopes to support WiMAX-based wireless broadband coverage in 546 rural communities by 2013.

The Black President the White Space

November 5, 2008

Yesterday as the Wireless Innovation Alliance pointed out, there was more than one important vote.  Before Obama was elected President, the FCC unanimously approved the use of white space for wireless broadband.  As the President Elect looked forward to his Presidency, he spoke of the changes that Ann Nixon Cooper had experienced in her 106 year lifetime, which included "a world [was] connected by our own science and imagination."

This is a president who is going to be in favor of a broadband policy.  I am friendly with some people who have worked with him in Illinois and have been advocates of a new future.

So as the meaning of 4G gets debated and whether LTE is the only real strategy as we now have new life in WiFi and unlicensed services, another opportunity for wireless broadband needs to be heard.

As the President Elect noted "there is much more to do"

I look forward to a historic future.

It Looks Good on PAPR.

November 3, 2008

Why did ATT commit to Verizon choose to use LTE for new nationwide 700 Mhz spectrum?  The answer is peak-to-average power ratio (PAPR), which is a measurement of a waveform, calculated from the peak amplitude of the waveform divided by the RMS (time-averaged) value of the waveform.  In other words the amount of power needed to capture the signal. 
Lots of people with lots of math will tell you that Frequency Division Multiplexing -[FDM] is a good way to carry the signal, but its the critical capture that drains the battery of the device.  So the uplink is the issue.  While the cellular industry has increased bit rates steadily, the 4G network represents a huge leap in delivery of the wireless Internet. 

3GPP's adoption of Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing [OFDM] as part of LTE, enables an easier migration from the legacy US networks.  And while single carrier and OFDM are normally different strategies, SC-FMDA is the secret sauce in the migration path for us in North America. 

I could bore you (and confuse myself) with all the math involved in understanding how SC-FDMA in effect lets you have your cake and eat it too, but the real story is the impact on the mindset of the carriers. 

What this has done is put the landline carrier to the side.  While we could make a case for the WiMAX Fixed Wireless being the next step for the ILECs, the LTE story is compelling enough to steal the thunder of the WIMAX solution for the US market.

As wall street turns up its nose on the CenturyTel, Embarq story, its clear that LTE is the best story in the US market.  At least until after the regime change in January 09.

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