Sunday, November 28, 2010

Verizon and Rural Fixed 4G LTE Wireless

The turkey's just about gone at our house, transitioning from a Thanksgiving Day bird to turkey sandwiches, turkey salad, turkey chili and maybe (just maybe) some turkey soup. It was a nice relaxing holiday and like most people, I enjoyed watching some football on Thanksgiving day - it was especially good this year because the New England Patriots were playing the Detroit Lions. Go Pats!

During the game on Thursday I found one commercial particularly interesting - the new one from Verizon Wireless 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution). If you have not seen it - here it is.

What's so interesting?
  • The commercial is rural focused - no fancy city slicker stuff here and no mobile/cell phones are shown. What looks like an old farm that could have been taken out of the 1940's - the kind of location telcos like Verizon have avoided or, at most, have been trying to push low bandwidth DSL service to.
  • The farm in the commercial looks like it only has electrical power strung on poles - take a look around 6 seconds into it - there are some poles running down a very long driveway. I only see one cable and it looks like power to me. I guess they could be telephone wires or the copper could be buried for phone service.
So, we've got this rural farm out in the middle of nowhere with this big long driveway/access road. Not a place anyone would expect to find any kind of internet access beyond dial-up or maybe some kind of satellite service. The kid runs back with the Verizon package and.... you see the rest..... broadband!

Picking the commercial apart here's what I see for today and the future:
  • Verizon will be pitching LTE as a both a mobile and a fixed service. Fixed service will be pushed especially in rural areas where other broadband options are not available. LTE won't just be for mobile devices and the commercial makes this clear.
  • Initially fixed voice and data services will be available but in time, we'll likely see a video service being sold. But - with all of the major networks streaming now along with companies like Hulu and Netflix delivering online content - the line is rapidly blurring between data and video services.
  • Can video be delivered over LTE - yes. There are capacity issues when it comes to the number of cell towers and backhaul fiber that needs to be run to the towers to handle the load. Over time this will be taken care of. I think we'll see something similar to the Optical Network Terminals (ONT's) used for FiOS installed in people's homes - they will be called WNT's (Wireless Network Terminals) or something like that.
  • Verizon FiOS is basically finished - what's there and in the process of being negotiated is there. Nothing more at least from Verizon when it comes to fiber to the home (FTTH). For now. the push is wireless.
Things are (finally) going to start moving - Verizon Wireless claims they will have full nationwide LTE coverage by 2013. AT&T is not far behind when it comes to roll-out plans and Sprint/Clearwire has had WiMax (a competing 4G service) availble for the past year or so.

Living in rural New England with only one broadband option I'm pretty excited about the kind of competition LTE is going to bring. When it comes to the Patriots though - I'm not real excited about the competition those New York Jets are bringing - they are a really good team!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This is a temporary demo video for the  Survival Master game for STEM learning -  Knowledge and Skills Builder 2B - Catapult level. In the video the learner uses Heat Flow knowledge to negotiate the single-player platformer gameplay. This is a first playable temp build.

You can follow along via the project website at

Win a $100 Amazon Gift Certificate & Help Out Our NSF Center

Last week we launched a 3 minute survey - complete it and you will be entered into a monthly $100 Amazon gift certificate.

You can enter using your Facebbook or Twitter ID, email address, phone number, etc. You can also fill out the survey without giving any contact information - you just won't be eligible for the raffle.

We promise not to spam you - we only need this information to contact you if you are a winner.

Here’s a link to the survey

If you could take a few minutes to describe who you are and how you are using our National Science Foundation material (blog, web site, following on Twitter, YouTube, podcast, etc.) it would really help us out.

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

This is a temporary demo video for the Knowledge and Skills Builder level 2A - the "Delta T Challenge" in the Survival Master game for STEM learning.

You can follow along via the project website at

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

State of the Internet Industry

Yesterday, at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker gave an incredibly paced presentation on the state of the Internet industry. Here’s some highlights from her presentation compiled by Ben Parr at Mashable:

  • 46% of Internet users live in five countries: the USA, Russia, Brazil, China and India.
  • There are 670 million 3G subscribers worldwide, 136.6 million in the U.S. and 106.3 million in Japan.
  • iOS devices reached 120 million subscribers in 13 quarters, far faster than Netscape, AOL or NTT docomo’s growth rates.
  • Nokia and Symbian used to own 62% of the smartphone market (units shipped). Now it’s only 37%, mostly due to Android and iOS.
  • The average CPM for social networking sites is at only $0.55. Meeker thinks this will increase and normalize in the next few years. She also believes that inventory on Facebook is one of the most under-monetized assets on the web.
  • It took e-commerce 15 years to get to 5% of retail. Morgan Stanley predicts mobile should get to that same level in five years.
  • Streaming video is up to 37% of of Internet traffic during traditional “TV hours.” Netflix is the biggest contributor to this, followed by YouTube.
  • Seven of the companies that were in the top 15 publicly traded Internet companies in 2004 are not in that list in 2010.
  • Interest payments and entitlement spending is projected to exceed government revenue by 2025. In other words, the U.S. government is facing a real financial crisis soon.
Here’s an embed of Mary's presentation:

Internet Trends Presentation -

Monday, November 15, 2010

Working from the Command Line

I’ve been involved in some recent curriculum discussions about an ICT end-device technician’s (think typical telecommunications and cable company technicians that come into your home) ability to work from the command-line on end-devices - things like computers, tablets, hand-helds, etc. Not routers not switches, and not servers!

There are two basic arguments - one side saying end-device technicians must be able to understand and work at the command prompt level while others believe modern operating systems do not require command prompt access the vast majority of time.

A couple of years ago I would have argued end-device technicians need to be able to work at the command prompt level. I’ve changed my mind though. I’m now sided with the group supporting the second argument - I personally don’t see the need to go deep into the command-line for end-device technicians.

I’ll use my own experience as an example of why I don’t think it is necessary. I’ve been using a Mac as my primary machine for the past 4 or so years, converting over in 2006. I lug a Mac everywhere I go, running lots of different apps and connecting to different networks in different ways. I’ve never once been required to go to a command prompt (using Terminal which is built in to the Mac OS) to fix something, make an installation tweak, connect, etc. I’ve been able to connect and get stuff working quickly and correctly (basically what most end-device ICT technicians do) without going to a command-line interface to get it done. All the applications I've needed to determine, test and troubleshoot connectivity are built into the operating system using Network Utilities. Modern end-device operating system user interfaces are so well designed now it’s just not something you need to do much any more. And then there’s the iPad and iPhone - if you jailbreak them you can get to UNIX command shell and run command-line utilities. I don’t know too many people that have done this though.

I do still find myself going to the command prompt on Windows machines but this may just be a force of habit, having moved from DOS to the Windows world over the years. It’s what I’m used to doing and I feel pretty comfortable with it. Almost everything I do though could be done within Windows, not using the command prompt.

It’s important to understand the command prompt is available and curriculum should cover basic usage. I can’t see spending a lot of time on it though.

Update on 11/15/10
Mike Q passed along a link to a nice post titled
The Designer’s Guide to the OSX Command Prompt. Check it out if you use Terminal or are interested in learning how to use it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Changing Times: Computers, Communications and Coca-Cola

I've been a developer, programmer, consultant, instructor, and consumer of personal computers and applications since the early days of CPM (pre-DOS). My early work started around January 1982 with the IBM PC on the connectivity and coding side, developing communications and custom business applications. Device-to-device communications was slow, commonly running at around 115 Kbps. I used to say I could make any computing device talk to any other computing device - just give me some cable, connectors, a few basic tools, an RS-232 Protocol Analyzer, breakout box, some paper clips to use as jumpers for cable configuration, and lots of Coca-Cola!

Times have changed - when I started almost 30 years ago, technicians typically drove commercial style vans full of tools and parts. Today a friend has a computer technology business where the technicians drive Mini Coopers. He's got one SUV to lug around bigger stuff but it does not see much road time. Times have really changed.

My current interest and technical focus is on connectivity (copper, optical and wireless), converged network (voice, video and data) services, end device hardware, operating systems and applications (that someone else has written!). Basically TCP/IP, Ethernet and everything involved in moving information securely, dependably and reliably from one device to another.

I still do take a thing or two apart these days though. Most recently I changed an iPod battery using a blow drier (to melt the glue holding device together) and guitar pick (get the thinnest picks you can find). Taking apart an iPad (why would anyone want to?) is not much different - here's a video from showing how.

The days of vans full of technician tools, desktop type computers and field swappable components are either gone or rapidly going away. Some things do stay the same though - I'm still hooked on the Coca-Cola.

Friday, November 5, 2010

DSL = (D)ead, (S)low and (L)ousy?

That’s what a post over at Stop the Cap! called Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) after reviewing a report from Credit Suisse analyst Stefan Anninger. Here’s some highlights from that report:

  • DSL will increasingly be seen as the “dial-up” service of the 2010s, as demand for more broadband speed moves beyond what most phone companies are willing or able to provide.
  • DSL accounts sold in the United States top out at an average speed of just 4Mbps, while consumers are increasingly seeking out service at speeds of at least 7Mbps.
  • A growing number of Americans understand cable and fiber-based broadband deliver the highest speeds, and consumers are increasingly dropping DSL for cable and fiber competitors. Any investments now may be a case of “too little, too late,” especially if they only incrementally improve DSL speeds.
  • By 2015, cable companies will have secured 56 percent of the broadband market in the U.S. (up by 2 percent from today), phone companies will drop from 30 percent to just 15 percent, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse, and wireless broadband will each control around 7 percent of the market, with the remainder split among municipal fiber, satellite, and other technologies.
  • An online survey of 1,000 consumers in August found that less than half would consider going wireless only. The reasons? It’s too slow, too expensive and most plans have Internet Overcharging schemes like usage caps and speed throttles.
Regarding the FCC’s recent push for broadband reform by reclassifying broadband under Title II - Anninger suggests that Net Neutrality enforcement at the FCC is not a priority. Anninger goes on to say if action hasn’t been taken by winter or spring of next year, it’s a safe bet the Commission will never re-assert its authority.