Volume 12, Number 10, March 23, 2009 - Cell Phone Users Cut Back On Services, Contracts

Industry Events

Telcom Executive Forum
(Apr 5-7)


IP Possibilities:
A New Road to Revenue
(Apr 21-23)


PR & Marketing Conference
(Apr 26-28)


ANPI's 2009 Annual Meeting (May 4-5)


The Marketplace


New Products Available from FRS


Femtocells and Wireless Substitution: 2009 Prospects


DTV Transition Q&A for Telcos


Log On, Link Up and Learn




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Volume 12, Number 10, March 23, 2009

Cell Phone Users Cut Back On Services, Contracts

FCC's Adelstein to Head RUS

Majority of TV Stations to Keep Analog until June 12

Laser Amplified Fiber Increases Broadband Coverage Area

AT&T Offers Wireless Smart Grid Technology to Utility Companies

...And last but not least, our video of the week

Cell Phone Users Cut Back On Services, Contracts

As fears about the recession become more widespread, 60.3 million Americans are on the verge of disconnecting cell phone plans.

Two out of five (39%) of Americans with contract-based cell phones are likely to cut back on mobile services if the economy gets worse over the next six months, according to new survey released by the New Millennium Research Council, a Washington-DC based think-tank.

In fact, 8,740,000 Americans (19% of consumers) report that they already have discontinued cell phone service in the last six months because of financial concerns.

The study also found that cell phone extras – such as Internet connectivity, email and texting – are likely to take a hit in the economic downturn. A total of 19 million Americans – one in five cell phone users with extras - have considered cutting back or actually have cut back on such features in the last six months because of the economy.

To save money, many consumers may wind up switching to prepaid plans, which tend to be cheaper. Cellphone users with contracts spend about $60 a month, on average. Monthly prepaid plans start at about $10 a month.

Only about 17% of U.S. cell phone consumers currently use prepaid, but the figure is steadily increasing each year. Nearly one-in-five consumers who have prepaid plans say they have switched from a contract in the past six months because of recession-related concerns. Two-thirds of prepaid cell phone customers report they are saving money when compared to a landline phone or contract-based cell phones.

View the release.

FCC's Adelstein to Head RUS

Last Friday President Obama announced his intentions to nominate Jonathan Adelstein, a two-term Democratic commissioner of the FCC, to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS).

As Administrator for RUS, Adelstein will oversee handing out about $2.5 billion in grants and loans to fund broadband in rural areas.

With this nomination Obama will now have two seats to fill at the FCC: one Democrat and one Republican. Also keep in mind that the Senate has yet to act on the nomination of Julius Genachowski (D) to become Chairman. (See the January 19 issue for more on Genachowski.)

Read the official release.

Majority of TV Stations to Keep Analog until June 12

According to the FCC, 927 stations have told the agency that they plan to pull the plug on analog June 12, while 158 stations want to make the switch to digital earlier than that. Almost half of that group indicated that they want to transmit all digitally April 16, the earliest the FCC will allow them.

The FCC considers major network affiliates a key news and information outlet. As a result, major network affiliates that want to pull the plug early can't all go in the same market, unless one stays on with at least an analog nightlight service, similar to the rules for stations that made the switch February 17.

More than 600 stations already have made the digital transition, but the remaining thousand-plus serve the majority of the country.

In related news, more U.S. homes are prepared for the DTV transition, according to an update from The Nielsen Company. As of March 15, only 3.6% of all TV homes remain unready for the June transition, compared to slightly less than 4% at the start of the month.

Homes where the head of household is 35 or younger showed the most notable demographic improvement, improving from 7.2% unready to 6.5%. This leaves roughly 4.1 million homes unprepared, an improvement of nearly 350,000 in the last two weeks.

Of note, the National Association of Broadcasters is concerned that the figure is misleading because it may include homes that have converter boxes, but just haven't hooked them up yet, or that may have applied for a DTV-to-analog converter box coupon but just haven't received one yet.

View Nielsen's blog posting.

Laser Amplified Fiber Increases Broadband Coverage Area

Dr. Ka Lun Lee and other researchers at the University of Melbourne and NEC Australia are experimenting with a new way to boost the reach of broadband using existing technologies, and perhaps close the digital divide that separates people in cities from residents in rural areas.

Gigabit passive optical networks (GPON) - used, for example, by Verizon's FiOS service - provide the lowest cost at higher bitrates, says Lee. These networks carry data long distances over optical fibers to passive optical splitters, which split the signal to individual households. Currently, the reach of this technology into rural areas is limited by the loss in signal strength along the optical fiber, and each line can only radiate out approximately 19 miles from a central office.

Lee and his team have developed a device called a Raman amplifier to boost the reach of GPON. Installed in the central office of a network provider, this high-powered laser feeds the optical signal that carries information with energy as it heads out over a fiber. According to the researchers, this increases the power and reach of the signal by a factor of almost ten.

In tests, the network successfully transmitted data over 37 miles of single mode fiber, error-free, at a speed of 2.5 Gb/s.

The biggest drawback of the system in its current form is the question of safety. The supercharged signal will require additional safety measures, and a more careful inspection for breaks in fibers.

"We have proven that long-reach PON is cost-competitive with other broadband technologies in rural areas and can easily provide much higher access speeds," says Lee. The next steps are to investigate ways to enhance the system performance further and to construct a prototype.

View the release.

AT&T Offers Wireless Smart Grid Technology to Utility Companies

Last week AT&T announced a new alternative for electric utility companies looking to provide the benefits of smart grid technology to the residential sector. AT&T and SmartSynch are partnering to provide utility companies with a suite of service plans designed specifically for machine to machine (M2M) communications.

This new solution offers a point-to-point configuration model in which each meter communicates directly with the utility over the AT&T wireless network. Smart grids combine "smart meters," wireless technology, sensors and software so customers and utilities can closely monitor energy use and cut back when the availability of electricity is stretched to its limit.

The IP-based smart grid model ultimately helps consumers understand the economics of their consumption patterns so they can make intelligent decisions about their power consumption.

The smart grid technology will also help to enhance reliability and energy efficiency, lower power-line losses and provide utilities with the ability to remotely automate service, providing cost-savings for consumers.

Read the press release.

And, last but not least, our video of the week: Snow Vehicle Concept 1924, courtesy of Kathleen Davis, Director, Dakota Central Telecommunications Cooperative.

Have you recently seen a funny, entertaining or informational video? "The New Edge" would love to hear from you. Please send your suggestions for the next "video of the week" to jward@ntca.org and your video might be featured in an upcoming issue.


The Marketplace

New Products Available from FRS
The Foundation for Rural Service has recently released two new products for telcos. The “Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft” mailer provides essential information on how to prevent identity theft from occurring and tips on what to do if identity theft does occur. FRS also has updated its popular DTV Transition Mailer to comply with the DTV Delay Act of 2009. The updated mailer is being offered in PDF format only for telcos to purchase from FRS and provide to their customers at their convenience. The new product has been condensed into a one page fact sheet on the DTV Transition. To order your copies of these useful products, please visit the FRS marketplace. For more information on the foundation’s products, contact Cara Garfield at 703-351-2026.

Femtocells and Wireless Substitution: 2009 Prospects
2008 was hyped as the year of the femtocell, billed as the next big thing in fixed-mobile convergence (FMC). Industry analysts predicted widespread market roll out. It’s clear this goal was not achieved.Where do we stand now? Will the technology ever come to fruition? How should a traditional landline provider respond to this competitive threat? Read the ePaper to learn more.

DTV Transition Q&A for Telcos - Updated with Delay Info!
NTCA has prepared a question and answer document for telco customer service representatives to use to address customer calls about the digital television transition. The document features explanations for a broad range of typical questions. Also, this information piece may be used by telcos for posting on your Web site or in your upcoming newsletters. NTCA encourages you to use this downloadable document for your efforts to educate customers about the upcoming changes to DTV. If you have any questions, please contact Steve Fravel at 703-351-2012.

Log On, Link Up and Learn. Join NTCA’s Tech Community
As you well know, the telecom industry is evolving at an increasingly fast pace. Rural telecom professionals need to maintain access lines and trouble-shoot existing issues, while also developing new, cutting-edge technologies. Learn new strategies to manage the chaos and keep up with industry trends. Join NTCA's Tech Community today and utilize one of your best assets – your peers. Visit http://tech.ntca.org to learn more.

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Industry Events

Telcom Executive Forum (Apr 5-7)
Meet with your colleagues in Santa Monica for this year's Telcom Executive Forum, April 5-7. TEF is an exclusive event - designed for top executives to discuss issues and foster networking. Learn how to stand out in the age of advertising deficit disorder. Get solutions. Register.

IP Possibilities: A New Road to Revenue (Apr 21-23)
How can a rural telecommunications provider thrive in a down economy? It is critical now more than ever that you discover untapped revenue streams for your organization and make essential decisions about implementing IP-based technologies. Two days of panel discussions at the IP Possibilities Conference & Expo will showcase best practices that you can adopt to keep your telco out in front of your competitors. Register by March 23 to qualify for substantial savings, and sign up to receive e-mail updates about the conference.

PR & Marketing Conference (Apr 26-28)
Learn how to deliver the ultimate customer experience and increase your business bottom line. Speaker Scott Deming will provide the opening keynote and provide key insights and tactics that will enable you to create loyal and happy customers. The conference includes sessions on target marketing, copywriting and social media. This conference to be held April 26-28, 2009, Albuquerque, N.M. Register.

ANPI's 2009 Annual Meeting (May 4-5), Scottsdale, AZ
Visit the Web site for more information!