Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Telco TV Subscribers Predicted To Double by 2011

Here's some interesting numbers from a new ABI Research report:

  • Global pay-TV subscribers will number more than 730 million by the end of 2011.
  • North America has the highest subscriber penetration and should reach 115.4 million by the end of 2011.
  • Western Europe has the highest Telco TV penetration rate and continues to increase in subscriber numbers, especially in France, Italy and Germany.
  • North America and Asia-Pacific regions are the second and third highest in Telco TV penetration. The numbers of subscribers in those regions are forecast to exceed 9 million and 15 million respectively by the end of 2011.
  • In the Asia-Pacific region South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan are the leading countries in Telco TV adoption.
  • Telco TV subscribers will number 47 million by the end of 2011, with a CAGR of 22.5% over the next five years (2009-2014).
Traditional Telco providers (like AT&T and Verizon in the U.S.) should continue to push hard and try and lock customers into broadband-based voice, video and data (triple play) contract offerings. What about the other providers? ABI Research associate Khin Sandi Lynn is quoted - Other type of pay-TV platforms, satellite, cable and terrestrial are also found to be increasing, although at a slower rate.

Wireless providers are not specifically mentioned in the summary but I'm guessing they will be next year as higher-bandwidth fourth-generation (4G), LTE and WiMAX service offerings grow in 2010.

You can get more information on this ABI Research report here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

First Impressions: Barnes and Noble's Nook

Yesterday I finally got over to the Barnes and Noble (B&N) store in Hadley, MA to check out the new Nook e-book reader. I have not purchased a Nook and only had about ten minutes with it. Not a lot of hands-on time but since I've owned a first generation Kindle (Kindle 1) for a couple of years now I think I can at least compare the devices. I also had a chance to watch my thirteen year old daughter use the device for the first time. Here's my first impression pros and cons:

Nook Pros:

  • SD card slot - my Kindle 1 has a slot but the subsequent Kindle 2 and Kindle DX versions do not.
  • The Nook battery is user replaceable. Users can't replace Kindle (2 and DX) batteries - these devices need to be sent to Amazon for battery replacement. Kindle 1 batteries can be removed and replaced by the user. [Thanks Pierre T. for making this clear - see below comment]
  • The color touchscreen below the e-ink screen. It is very sluggish (see cons) but it's programmable.
  • Integrated WiFi radio - the Nook has it and the Kindle never has. There's a couple of reasons why I like this option:
    • My Kindle 1 connects over Sprint's 2G network, the Kindle 2 and DX use Sprint's 3G network. 2G is slow, 3G is not bad. WiFi is faster.
    • Also, by not providing a WiFi connection option for the Kindle, Amazon has likely had to keep the Kindle price a little higher to pay for provider connectivity.
  • The Nook has a LendMe feature that allows you to share books with your friends. It is limited to only one 14-day period per book, if the publisher gives permission. You also cannot read the book yourself if it is lended it to another Nook friend. LendMe seems like a good idea but needs some work.
  • The Nook has a touchscreen keyboard. Many will argue this point with me but I'm not a big fan of mechanical keyboards on mobile devices. They add weight, take up space, collect dust and (because they are mechanical) are more prone to breaking.
  • The Nook Operating System is Google Android based.
  • Google Books access.
  • Hackability - some users have already got Pandora, Tweet (Twiiter client), Facebook, Google Reader and web browser running on the Nook.
  • Just like the Kindle, users can also read Nook books on iPhones and iPod touches using a Nook app (users can also read on a Blackberry using a Blackberry Nook app).
  • Compared to the Kindle, Nook controls are much better positioned on the device for left-handers like me.
Nook Cons:
  • The interface is sluggish - New York Times tech writer David Pogue wrote that the Nook is slower than an anesthetized slug in winter. You need to navigate slowly or you will get ahead of the device and end up lost. But you know, my Kindle interface is sluggish too. I really did not notice much difference. They both use the same e-ink screens and this is likely the source of many of these sluggish criticisms.
    • David Pogue actually got out the stopwatch and found... It takes four seconds for the Settings panel to open, 18 seconds for the bookstore to appear (over Wi-Fi), and 8 to 15 seconds to open a book or newspaper for the first time, during which you stare at a message that says “Formatting.” Too slow!!!!
  • The interface is not intuitive (I consider the iPhone interface to be intuitive as a comparison). Pouge refers to the interface as balky and non-responsive. But.... comparing - the Kindle interface is probably just as unintuitive.
  • The LendMe feature is both a pro and a con - only one 14-day period per book and only one loan for the life of the book. LendMe is just in beta now .......
Overall the Nook looks like a strong piece of hardware that needs some operating system and software upgrades/work. These should be relatively easy fixes. I'm also hoping (and predicting) we'll see a custom Nook Android Software Development Kit (SDK) soon.

I've got a few more pics of the Nook posted here.


To access Mike Q and my 22 minute and 50 second podcast titled First Impressions: Barnes and Noble's Nook, click here.

Listen to it directly in your web browser by clicking here.

If you have iTunes installed you can subscribe to our podcasts by clicking here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Reader Question: Is Someone Jamming My WiFi?

I recently received the following email message from a reader:


I read some of the information you provided regarding Internet signals getting jammed intentionally and otherwise. Perhaps you can shed light on an issue. When our neighbors are NOT home, I can use a PC with wireless internet (set up in a room of my home facing their home) without ever getting knocked off the internet. When they ARE home, the signal repeatedly is lost. However, A laptop in another part of the home is rarely affected.

So I set up the laptop in the PC room and lost signals (when neighbor was home) on both machines (Provider rep. suggested I do this). Neighbor walks dog or otherwise is not on their property and there is no issue with signals. AND it is random. Usually neighbor comes in for lunch break and the Inet signal is lost.

Home from work and it is lost. I unplug wireless and it comes back. On and off. This is a new development (maybe two months. After the local police informed said neighbors to stop calling 911 to report bogus complaints on us, the signals began to drop. So we believe after police warned them to stop wasting 911 resources, they got a jammer and jam our signals at every opportunity to harass us. (Honestly, this is our first and hopefully last neighbor war. We don't know why they hate us so much but have been informed they hate everyone so we try not to feel too special.)

Question 1 - How can we test or otherwise determine the signals are being jammed (we are sure they are but need proof) and pin point the source? Prove or show great reason why the source is illegal.

Question 2 - How can we protect the signal from getting jammed?

Thanks for your insight.

I've written here in the past about the jamming of cell phone, GPS and Wi-Fi signals. Here's some ideas and possible answers to the reader's two questions.

Question 1 - How can we test or otherwise determine the signals are being jammed (we are sure they are but need proof) and pin point the source? Prove or show great reason why the source is illegal.

The best way to confirm someone is jamming is to use something called a spectrum analyzer. Wireless frequency spectrum analyzers are commonly used measure signals and interference. You could spend thousands of dollars on a full blown analyzer from a company like Agilent or use a 2.4 GHz USB spectrum analyzer from a company like MetaGeek. The company sells a 2.4 GHz analyzer for $99 that comes with software that will run on both PCs and Macs. According to MetaGeek, this analyzer will track all radio activity from any 2.4GHz device including WiFi, cordless phones, microwave ovens, Zigbee and Bluetooth. The software that comes with the device also graphically shows which channels to use and which ones to avoid. Here's more of when you would want to use a device like this from the MetaGeek website:
  • If you install, maintain, or troubleshoot access points, find the open channel and minimize the interference.
  • If you work with consumers, avoid a revisit by using a Wi-Spy in case they own a microwave or cordless phone.
  • If you experience WiFi interference on a regular basis, discover competing access points.
  • Conduct site surveys.
You could purchase one of these and, attached to your laptop running on battery, walk around your home looking for jamming/interference signals. If you want to get up unto the higher frequencies where the 802.11n devices have the option of operating (802.11n can use both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies.), it will cost you quite a bit more money to measure interference. MetaGeek sells something called the Wi-Spy DBx, a 5GHz analyzer, for $599 that also comes with software.

You may also want to first try KisMac or iStumbler on an Apple machine or NetStumbler on a PC. These applications run on the computer and give you access point information including channels being used. Sometimes just swapping a channel can fix interference problems. For example, if your neighbor is using channel 6 you may want to change your access point to use channel 11.

Question 2 - How can we protect the signal from getting jammed?

If your neighbors are jamming your signal with a well designed jamming device, determining and using an open channel on your wireless access point won't work. If the jamming has been going on for a while chances are the jammer they are using functions only at 2.4 GHz. I'm I think the best thing to try (if you are currently running a 802.11g network) initially would be to switch over to an 802.11n access point and upgrade to 802.11n on your computers. If you have newer computers that may have 802.11n support built in.

You could run the 802.11n network at the higher 5GHz frequency which would be immune to the lower 2.4GHz jamming signals. This would be an inexpensive attempt that would also give you the bonus of much better network bandwidth and immunity from other interference sources (e.g some cordless phones, microwave ovens, etc) in you home.

I'm looking forward to hearing if this works.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What's DNS And Why is Google Doing It?

Yesterday, Google announced a public Domain Name Service (DNS) resolver called Google Public DNS. What's DNS? You may not be familar it but it is something you use every time you use the Internet. I like to describe DNS as a telephone book look-up service (sort of like directory service) provided typically by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Here's an example of how it works.

At home, my ISP is Comcast and I pay them every month for Internet access. I get a broadband connection (cable modem), an Internet Protocol (IP) address (think of an IP address like a telephone number - it uniquely identifies you on the web and allows you to send and receive information), a gateway connection to the World Wide Web and access to Comcast DNS servers. All pieces are important in my every day use of the web:

  • If I don't have a physical connection I can't access the web.
  • If I don't have an IP address I can't access the web.
  • If I don't have a connection (or gateway) into the World Wide Web I can't access any content outside of my own home network.
  • If I don't have DNS I can't use names or URLs to access web content.
Let's take a closer look at how DNS works. Let's say I launch my web browser and in the address bar type the URL (or name) of our Center website How does the site end up appearing on my screen? Our URL is registered which means we've paid a sponsoring registrar (in our case it is to create a domain name registration record. Included in the record is our URL ( and the IP address of the server our website is loaded at. This URL and IP address information gets distributed across the World Wide Web to DNS servers. Now, when I'm home on my Comcast connection and I type in my browser address bar, here's what happens:

A query is made from my computer to the Comcast DNS server my connection is assigned to. The DNS server looks up the IP address of the server hosting and that IP address is returned to my browser. My browser is directed to the IP address and it accesses the server, pulling down the site content. On an average day a user will access DNS servers hundreds of times, all transparently. It's a service that makes the web a lot more convenient - users only need to remember domain names and not much harder to remember IP addresses.

So, what is Google doing? Basically they are offering a competing DNS service. Users can access Google servers for DNS information and bypass ISP DNS servers if they want. It's free from Google and there are instructions on how to make the DNS server swap on the Google Code Blog.

So, why is Google launching this service? According to their announcement page it's to make make users' web-surfing experiences faster, safer and more reliable. Now, in the past ISPs have had some major DNS server meltdown problems. In defense of the ISPs things have gotten a lot better over the past few years.

Sounds great another option and maybe even a backup. Now - is bypassing ISP DNS servers something new? Not really - there are other competing DNS options similar to what Google is doing - on of the more popular ones is OpenDNS.

What's the deal here - If I'm an ISP and Google (or someone else) wants to handle DNS for my customers it sounds pretty good. I don't have to worry about maintaining DNS server hardware and keeping them updated - Google can do it for me.

But - is it really a pretty good deal for the ISPs? No - not really.

Why? Have you ever typed in an incorrect or non-existent URL? A year or so ago you would likely get some kind of server not found message in your browser. Today, depending on your ISP, you may get something called DNS redirection advertising and end up seeing a bunch of linked ads. These ads provide a new revenue stream to the ISPs so most of them are doing it. As an example, try clicking this non-existent URL Most ISPs and OpenDNS will end up taking you to a page of linked ads.

Now to be fair to the ISPs - with Comcast it's real easy to opt-out of redirection advertising by logging in to your customer portal and clicking a single option to immediately turn it off. Most ISPs do provide a similar opt-out option.

Will Google (fundamentally an ad company) eventually turn bad typing skills into revenue with their Publc DNS service? Maybe and maybe not. It will be interesting to watch.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NTCA 2009 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report

Over the last 11 years the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) has run a broadband/Internet availability survey of member companies that measures deployment rates of advanced connectivity services. The NTCA refers to itself as "the voice of rural telecommunications," and, according to their website, is the premiere non-profit association representing more than 580 small and rural telephone cooperatives and commercial companies.

The 2009 survey was run in the late spring/early summer and 156 member companies (31%) responded. Here's some of the survey results:

  • 98% of respondents offer broadband to some part of their customer base, compared to the 58% in 2000
  • 98% of those who offer broadband utilize digital subscriber line (DSL)
  • 59% utilize fiber to the home (FTTH) or fiber to the curb (FTTC) (up from 44% last year and 32% the year before that)
  • 25% utilize licensed wireless
  • 22% utilize unlicensed wireless
  • 15% utilize satellite
  • 10% utilize cable modem
  • 78% of respondents’ customers can receive 200 to 768 kilobits per second (kbps) service.
  • 73% of respondents’ customers can receive 768 kbps to 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps)
  • 77% of respondents’ customers can receive 1.5 Mbps to 3 Mbps
  • 53% of respondents’ customers can receive 3 Mbps to 6 Mbps
  • 39% of respondents’ customers can receive greater than 6 Mbps.
Among the companies surveyed, the overall take rate for broadband service was 37%.

The full report is linked here.