by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 25th 2011 4:01am
by Michael Ho
Tue, Jan 11th 2011 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
Got antenna problems? Perhaps solid-state plasma antennas will be the answer. This kind of antenna definitely won't be exposed on phones -- and it's a bit ominous that this technology is also being developed for "pain beams" by the military. [url] Verizon's modem hand-offs from 3G to LTE can take two minutes. Clearly, the solution to this problem is to just upgrade everything to LTE. [url] T-Mobile is trying to get 4G speeds with 3G equipment. Hopefully, the alphabet soup of wireless acronyms will be completely obsolete in a few years. [url] To actually make reliable calls, perhaps we just need wires still -- and have femtocells to let people go cordless. The femtocell workaround seems like a strange kludge... you really have to love your cellphone to set up a dedicated 5-bar area for it. [url]
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 13th 2010 12:28pm
from the we-were-for-it-before-we-were-against-it dept
On the flip side, Google is trying to defend itself against these attacks by pushing back on a few points. Unfortunately for Google, there's a wonderful search engine called Google, which can be used to dig up things said by a company called Google in the past. Over at Broadband Reports, Karl Bode has noted some of the... changing sentiment of Google policy lawyer Richard Whitt. For example, in the latest blog post defending the Verizon
First, the wireless market is more competitive than the wireline market, given that consumers typically have more than just two providers to choose from. Second, because wireless networks employ airwaves, rather than wires, and share constrained capacity among many users, these carriers need to manage their networks more actively. Third, network and device openness is now beginning to take off as a significant business model in this space.But... here's the very same Richard Whitt in 2007 (pdf), making the argument that mobile providers were already abusing mobile networks and required more openness:
wireless providers block many common Internet applications and services outright, frequently do not allow network attachment of any device but their own, and reserve the right to terminate service arbitrarily for using other services that do not conform to a short and vaguely-defined listAs Bode notes, nothing has magically changed to make this competitive market any better. Instead, what's changed is Google's heavy investment in the mobile space:
So what changed? Google did. In 2007, Android wasn't a major mobile OS, and Google didn't have multi-billion-dollar wireless advertising relationships with Verizon and AT&T. You'll also recall that Google had hopes of bypassing the carrier retail experience completely -- hopes that flamed out rather spectacularly with the death of the Nexus One and their online phone store. The policy shift is clear and indisputable, as is the motivation: Google doesn't want consumer protections (be they privacy, or network neutrality) to impact wireless ad revenues.Again, none of this should be seen as a surprise, but just a reminder that, in the end, Google is going to do what it believes is best for Google. There's nothing wrong with that -- it's just that, in the past, Google tended to realize that what was best for consumers was also best for Google. Now... it doesn't seem quite as sure of that. I think this is generally a mistake that Google may come to regret. Even if this
by Karl Bode
Thu, May 6th 2010 1:53pm
from the ripping-off-retirees-is-our-business-model dept
"Kevin Brannelly, an official at the state Department of Public Utilities, tried to help the St. Germain family fight the bill because it did not seem right. "Never in my 25 years here have I seen such stubborn and senseless resistance to what is obviously a mistake," he wrote in an e-mail to St. Germain."
As with all these stories, Verizon justifies this absolutely insane markup over cost on their data service by insisting they at least made their ridiculously-constrictive pricing clear to consumers. Apparently not, given we've been watching a steady parade of these stories for years now. What has been made clear is that the cap and overage billing model isn't working for many customers. It also continues to be clear that carriers are doing a miserable job educating their users, and an even worse job implementing effective systems that alert a user before their bill goes utterly apocalyptic. While carriers often do reduce these charges after they're exposed in the press (though in this case half-off is still obnoxious) -- you have to wonder how many of these over-billing stories aren't being told.
Some carriers appear to be realizing that the millions to be made from ripping off retirees and the kilobyte confused isn't worth the endless bad press, and that helping your customers understand their bills might just help you differentiate your services. T-Mobile for instance is moving away from this cap and overage model, and last week announced they'd simply start throttling users back to slower (usually around 128 kbps) speeds should they cross their monthly cap. It seems like wireless carriers can either continue to rip people off until regulators get involved (or customers flee to more user-friendly carriers) -- or they can provide users with the tools necessary to help them adequately understand and control their monthly bill -- before it requires loan shark intervention.
by Derek Kerton
Thu, Mar 11th 2010 3:09pm
from the New!-Improved!-Exclusive!-Broken! dept
- Skype has had a highly functional VoIP client for Windows Mobile devices for a few years. It allowed smartphone customers to use most features of Skype over WiFi OR a carrier's cellular data network. It was distributed around the carriers direct to customers of Skype, and was designed for those customers' benefit.
- March 2009: Skype on iPhone is launched, but is unable to do VoIP over the 3G data channel because AT&T and Apple blocked that functionality. Skype, Google, the FCC, and consumers cried "foul" at AT&T and Apple.
- Oct. 2009: After considerable FCC and consumer pressure, AT&T relents, and allows VoIP over 3G (and was even publicly applauded by Skype's CEO Josh Silverman). Skype users, naturally, expect an updated Skype version that will leverage 3G data.
- Jan 16, 2010: Skype releases a new iPhone version which DOESN'T take advantage of the new leeway AT&T (and ostensibly Apple) allow for VoIP over 3G. Skype points fingers, mostly back at Apple.
- Jan 27, 2010: Apple removes any 3G VoIP restrictions. Now there is nothing holding Skype from doing VoIP over 3G on iPhone.
- Mid Feb, 2010: At MWC in Barcelona, Verizon and Skype announce a special version of the Skype app that will run on Verizon. While most press outlets rejoice at the "openness" Verizon wireless is finally showing, it turns out to be a limited, crippled version, which is designed to fit Verizon's agenda, NOT customer wishes. This version can use the 3G data network, but just for chat and 'control', not for voice. It requires a >$10/mo data plan, is not available for phones with Wi-Fi, and 'Skype out' cannot be used to make domestic phone calls. In this deal, it appears that VZW paid Skype for some exclusivity in the USA.
- Mid-Feb, 2010: Also at MWC, Skype CEO Silverman tells Om Malik that we can expect 3G VoIP on iPhone "Very soon", with no firm commitment.
- Feb. 26, 2010: Skype completely pulls it's very functional Windows Mobile apps with little explanation, and no suggestion of when they might return. The app, which works fine, just goes away. Why pull the most functional Skype mobile app and leave only crippled versions?
Looking at the timeline above, it's pretty easy to guess what's going on here. Skype has been negotiating with Verizon Wireless for some exclusive deal in the USA. But unlike the relatively good, open Skype deal enjoyed by Hutch "3" subscribers in the UK, the Verizon version is crippled with confusing limitations, complications, conditions. It's clear the Verizon goal is to use Skype to upsell data plans to users who don't yet have one, and to drive or retain Minutes of Use of cellular voice traffic. Skype just sold its US mobile users down the river! Skype still promotes "Skype Mobile" on its US web pages, but if you click on any OS like Android or Blackberry, you'll see the bold headline "Coming Soon: Skype on America's most reliable wireless network." And are basically told to wait for the exclusive product.
The only reason Skype offered for retracting the WinMo app is "because we want to offer our new customers an improved mobile experience – much like the version that has proved so popular on the iPhone..." Wait...Is that the same version that annoyed users because it couldn't do VoIP on 3G? And how does killing a product with no replacement offer an "improved mobile experience"? Seems like more of an absent mobile experience.
Going forward, this also could position Skype well for offering a premium paid version of a fully functional app at a future date, when exclusive deals expire. A freemium model would be less unsavory than the exclusive/crippled structure that we apparently have for now. At least with freemium, the free market can choose to pay or not from any given carrier. With the exclusive/crippled structure, customers have little choice - except the choice to use another VoIP provider who is focused on giving end users what they want.
The result of this exclusive deal is, essentially, to deprive an entire country of the value of a good VoIP service (Skype) on mobile phones, and instead to offer us a crippled version that is designed not to delight any user, but to delight a carrier. How ironic, then, that Skype's Silverman has been at the forefront of the push for more "open" networks:
"Nonetheless, the positive actions of one company are no substitute for a government policy that protects openness and benefits consumers. We're all looking forward to further developments that will let people use Skype on any device, on any network."or when he said this from a September lobby trip to DC:
"We have witnessed certain broadband providers unilaterally block access to phone calls delivered over data networks and implement technical measures that degrade the performance of peer-to-peer software distributing lawful content. And as many members of the Internet community and key congressional leaders have noted, there are compelling reasons to be concerned about the future of openness."Compelling reasons, indeed. It seems that in this case, AT&T actually followed through with their promises to be more "open" while Skype and Verizon have just painted a big "open" sign on the gates of the walled garden. Enter at your own risk.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 2nd 2009 4:40pm
from the nice-work dept
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 4th 2009 12:06am
from the doesn't-like-the-maps dept
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 15th 2009 1:13pm
from the what-a-shame dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 4th 2009 11:33pm
from the that-whole-'and-wireless'-bit dept
Meanwhile, Verizon has put up a video claiming to explain why there's plenty of competition in broadband in the US, but it does so by pulling a neat little trick: rather than defining the market as DSL and cable providers, it dumps wireless providers into the mix... So when you add mobile data providers, yes, there are more players in the space, but that ignores the fact that (1) many of the mobile players and broadband players are actually connected (i.e., AT&T has both, as does Verizon) and (2) that the cellular wireless broadband providers are all greatly limited, and use terms of service that tend to forbid using the data account as a primary connection. In other words, they're not really part of the same market at all.
But, most importantly, the video fails to back up its thesis that the US is "one of the most successful broadband markets in the world." It says there's lots of competition, investment in new technologies and consumers are getting more as prices go down. That suggests there is, in fact, some competition in the market -- a point pretty much everyone agrees on. But it does nothing to compare the US to other markets around the world that have much more competition, much more investment and much greater consumer value per dollar spent. Just saying that because there's some competition, the US is one of the most successful in the world, doesn't back up the thesis at all. It's like saying that you won a baseball game because you fielded nine guys. You forgot about the actual game.
Mon, Mar 30th 2009 8:15pm