How to Text a Landline

The next time you are in Middleton, Wis., the police department wants you to text them if you have a problem. Anyone with a text message-enabled cellphone can type out nonemergency questions or complaints and send them to the same phone number that dispatchers at the station use to answer voice calls. The text is delivered to computers used by the dispatchers, who can then reply or direct assistance as needed. The Wisconsin State Journal covered the story.

How is it that residents can now send SMS messages to a phone number that is not connected to a cellphone?  Zipwhip Inc., a cloud-based text messaging service, directs text messages sent to users’ landline phone numbers to the users’ computers, tablets or smartphones

This might be a fun or convenient product for some consumers, but the technology really shines in business applications. Most companies still have landline telephone service, and their phone number might be part of their brand. Using Zipwhip combines a form of communication customers are familiar with – text messages – with phone numbers customers already use. In other words, customers can contact the businesses with text messages through a point of contact that they already associate with the business. Read more

A New World Record

Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent, announced that it has set a new world broadband speed record over traditional copper telephone lines: 10 Gbps symmetrical.

Bell Labs achieved the 10 Gbps speed with a prototype technology known as XG-FAST, which utilizes an increased frequency range up to 500 MHz to obtain faster speeds than prior technologies but over shorter distances.

In tests, Bell Labs was able to achieve speeds of 1 Gbps over 70 meters on a single copper pair, and 10 Gbps over 30 meters by using two pairs of copper lines.

“Our constant aim is to push the limits of what is possible to ‘invent the future,’” said Bell Labs president Marcus Weldon. “Our demonstration of 10 Gbps over copper is a prime example: by pushing broadband technology to its limits, operators can determine how they could deliver gigabit services over their existing networks, ensuring the availability of ultra-broadband access as widely and as economically as possible.”

“Achieving 1 Gbps ‘symmetrical’ services…will enable operators to provide Internet connection speeds that are indistinguishable from fiber-to-the-home services, a major business benefit where it is not physically, economically or aesthetically viable to lay new fiber cables all the way into residences,” Bell Labs stated in a press release. “Instead, fiber can be brought to the curbside, wall or basement of a building and the existing copper network used for the final few meters.”

Our Homes are Getting Smarter

According to a recently-released report by Swedish market research firm Berg Insight, there will be more than 23 million smart homes in North America by 2017. Given Berg’s estimate of approximately 3.5 million North American smart homes in 2012, this represents a compound annual growth rate in excess of 45% over the five-year period.

Berg defines “smart homes” as those including one or more connected products that work in conjunction with an app or web portal. These products fall into the general categories of energy management and climate control systems; lighting, window and appliance control systems; security and access control systems; home appliances; audio-visual and entertainment systems; and healthcare and assisted living systems.

Combined, Berg estimates that European and North American smart homes will total 36 million by 2017. Berg further estimates that revenues from shipments of home automation systems in Europe and North America will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 43%, from US$ 2.2 billion in 2012 to nearly US$ 12.8 billion in 2017.

Berg attributes much of the growth in smart homes to the emergence of a new breed of more reliable and affordable whole-home systems, relying on smartphone apps as a primary user interface. “Smartphone apps will soon be an integral part of the user experience for a number of household products,” said Lars Kurkinen, Berg’s senior analyst. “Alarm systems and thermostats are the most popular categories today, but the trend is spreading to a wide range of products as diverse as light bulbs, home appliances, wall plugs and garage doors.”

AT&T to Bring 1 GB Service to Winston-Salem, Durham

AT&T announced that it has reached an agreement with Winston-Salem city officials that will bring 1 Gbps broadband service to the businesses and residents of the city. AT&T U-verse with GigaPower will deliver advanced TV services and Internet speeds up to 10 times faster than what is currently available.

The deal emerged from a North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) initiative. NCNGN is comprised of six cities, four universities and local business leaders united to develop high-speed networks in North Carolina.

“We’re thrilled that Winston-Salem will be in the next round of cities for AT&T’s [1 GB] rollout,” said Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines. “[A] network of this magnitude will help take the work underway in [technology and medicine] to new levels of innovation and achievement.”

Shortly thereafter, AT&T announced that it had reached a similar agreement with the city of Durham.

Agreements in four other North Carolina cities are pending—Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill and Raleigh.

“We’ve already received great input from North Carolinians eager for the fastest available speeds,” said Venessa Harrison, AT&T North Carolina president. “This ultra-fast fiber build will help foster innovation, enhance education and encourage growth.”

SmartAmerica Summit: The ‘Dog and Robot Show’

Smart Emergency Response robot

Recently, I heard about a new tech event sponsored by the government and taking place at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center. Given its cost (free) and its proximity to the NTCA office (a few miles), I figured it was worth the trek downtown. However I was unprepared for, perhaps, the Coolest Expo Ever. Robots, drones, smart sensors, dogs and “Iron Man”-inspired exoskeletons – The SmartAmerica Summit showcased bleeding-edge technologies, many of which were fresh out of the lab.

The Summit was the culmination of the SmartAmerica Challenge, a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow project with the goal to bring together research in Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) and to combine test-beds, projects and activities from different sectors including smart manufacturing, healthcare, smart energy, intelligent transportation and disaster response.

This was my first introduction to CPS, which refers to integrated hybrid networks of cyber and physical elements, creating adaptive and predictive systems using sensors and monitors. In other words, CPS is a name for the combination of the Internet of Things (IoT) and system control. So, rather than just being able to “sense” where something is, CPS adds the capability to control the “thing” or allow it to interact with physical world around it. Read more

Despite QRA’s Demise, Uncertainty Still Impacts RLECs

While the FCC’s recent decision to eliminate the Quantile Regression Analysis (QRA) as a means of determining USF support has removed a significant source of uncertainty impacting NTCA member companies, the question of what will take the place of QRA continues to shape their investment decisions.

According to NTCA’s recently released 2013 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report, 80% of survey respondents indicated that regulatory uncertainty remains a barrier to fiber deployment, second only to cost (92%).

The overall broadband take rate for survey respondents was 72%. The most popular speed tier offered was 3.0 to 4.0 Mbps, the choice of 34% of responding companies’ customers.

Forty-six percent of respondents serve their broadband customers via digital copper loop, while 29% utilize Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and 12% Fiber to the Node (FTTN).

More than half of all respondents—53%—offer “stand alone” DSL service. Nineteen percent of respondents currently offer Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and an additional 62% plan to do so in the foreseeable future.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents currently offer video, while an additional 2% plan to do so by year-end 2016.

Twenty-seven percent of NTCA’s member companies participated in the annual survey, which was conducted in late 2013.

Talking ‘Bout My Generation

The way an individual views his or her home network usage changes with age, a new report from The Diffusion Group (TDG) finds.

According to the report,”The In-Home Video and PC Ecosystem,” three-quarters of all millennials who use a home network describe their use as either equally or primarily media-related. By contrast, two-thirds of those home network users over the age of 65 describe their network use as data-centric.

While the percentage of media-centric users is approximately the same in the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups (74% and 73%, respectively), that percentage falls dramatically throughout each of the successive age demographics. Similarly, the percentage of self-described data-centric users begins at 21% for those between 18-24, then rises steadily, reaching 65% for those 65 and older.

“Most interesting is how rapidly this media orientation drops off as the age of the home network user increases,” said TDG president Michael Greeson. “Beyond Millenials, this emphasis shifts incrementally toward a more data-driven behavior characterized by the use of net-connected, networked PCs for ‘productivity’ or non-media needs.”

The TDG report also examines the type of televisions used in the broadband home, and their placement; the type of IP-enabled video platforms (such as Blu-ray players, DVRs, game consoles and Internet set-top boxes) used; and the specifics of home networks, including in-home router placement.

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