AT&T CEO Calls for End to Cell Phone Subsidies

Speaking at an investor conference last week, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that wireless carriers can no longer afford to subsidize their customers’ phones. Instead, he said that carriers need to focus on increasing customer use of their networks.

“When you’re growing the business initially, you have to do aggressive device subsidies to get people on the network,” Stephenson told attendees. “But as you approach 90% penetration, you move into maintenance mode. That means more device upgrades. And the model has to change. You can’t afford to subsidize devices like that.” Read more

Verizon Offers Secure M2M, Device Transmission

I missed an opportunity last week to mark my 100th post to the New Edge with something spectacular. Instead, I wrote about cloud computing.

But since this post commences my “second hundred” I’ll reach back to my high school days to illustrate a conundrum that faces consumers as society becomes more deeply entrenched in the “Internet of things.”

Rumor has it that a wealthy donor once approached my high school and offered to underwrite the construction of a swimming pool. Concerned about liability issues, the school declined. When the donor persisted and asked why locking the building after hours would not suffice, the administration, aware of its students’ proclivity for surmounting security measures, replied, “In our school, there is no such thing as a ‘lock’” (I won’t share the details here, but I once participated in an effort that rivaled Spy vs. Spy in a quest to obtain a ring of keys). Read more

My Christmas List

I still write to Santa Claus (a.k.a, my lovely, generous and patient wife who makes more than I do) every year. In years’ past my list has been mostly confined to “manly” gear like power tools. This year I thought I’d branch out a bit in my interests and tie my Christmas list to things that piqued my interest while writing for the New Edge.

So, my list is below, what it is, why I want it. I’m not going to send it directly to my wife; I’m going to see if she actually reads the New Edge. She say she does, so this is like a test.

Xbox One!

When I first started looking into game consoles, I wrote about how they are becoming much more than mere game consoles; they’re multimedia entertainment hubs (“MEH”, a term I made up, by the way). MEH refers to an all-in-one device that funnels games, live TV, video-on-demand and even Web chat and other apps to users. Microsoft’s Xbox One fits the MEH category, according to reviews. Sony’s Playstation 4 is being marketed more to the hard-core gamers, and early reviews say it’s the best choice for those folks.

As one reviewer wrote when discussing the Xbox One, “[y]ou can even multitask, watching TV while playing a game. If the thought of this makes you misty-eyed about the future (or if you just like the idea of your TV and game console sharing a single HDMI slot), and you don’t have any particular attachment to either game library, buy an Xbox One.” Read more

Report: Americans to Consume 1.7 Trillion Hours of Media Annually by 2015

By 2015, Americans will consume on average more than 15 hours of traditional and digital media daily per person, or 1.7 trillion hours annually, according to a new report released by the University of Southern California’s Institute for Communications Technology Management.

That quantity of media is equivalent to 8.75 zettabytes annually, or 74 gigabytes — roughly 9 DVDs worth — of data sent to the average consumer per person per day. (A zettabyte is a million million gigabytes, or 1021 bytes.)

According to the report, entitled “How Much Media? 2013 Report on American Consumers,” hours of media consumed grew by more than 5% annually between 2008 and 2013, while consumption measured in bytes grew by 18% annually over the same period. (For purposes of the study, researchers did not include media consumption at work.)

While television and radio contribute 60% to the hours of consumption, newer digital sources are contributing to the gains in bytes consumed. Mobile computers are the fastest growing segment: in 2008, mobile computers accounted for 3% of all bytes consumed, while in 2013 they were responsible for 10%, corresponding to a year-over-year growth rate of 27%.

The report’s authors note that “[w]hile in the past media consumption was overwhelmingly passive—we sat and watched TV or listened to radio—new media consumption is increasingly interactive, with time-delayed, multi-tasking and interrupted viewership fast becoming the typical consumptive behavior.”

AT&T, Crown Castle Reach $4.85B Tower Deal

Last week, AT&T and Crown Castle International Corp. announced a deal whereby Crown Castle will purchase or lease 9,700 of AT&T’s towers in exchange for $4.85 billion in cash.

Crown Castle plans to finance the deal through the sale of common stock. AT&T intends to use the cash for network upgrades and new spectrum.

Under the terms of the deal, Crown Castle—one of the world’s largest tower operators– will lease 9,100 towers from AT&T and will purchase an additional 600 outright. AT&T will lease a fixed amount of capacity from the towers and has an option to lease additional capacity, if needed.

“This deal is good for AT&T and our shareholders,” said AT&T senior vice president for network planning and engineering Bill Hogg. “This deal will let us monetize our towers while giving us the ability to add capacity as we need it.”

The deal will, in one fell swoop, double AT&T’s cash holdings. The company had previously announced plans to invest $14 billion over three years to improve its network.

Houston-based Crown Castle also will have an option to purchase the leased towers for $4.2 billion beginning in 2032. “We are very pleased with our agreement with AT&T, which strengthens our position as the largest provider of shared wireless infrastructure in the U.S.,” said Ben Moreland, Crown Castle president and CEO.

Smart Watch, Jeep, and Venture Capital for Rural America

SpockThree things this week made me smile.

The first was an ad taken out by BlackBerry in newspapers across the globe (30 papers in nine countries, to be exact). The open letter touted BlackBerry’s strengths, including security and enterprise mobility. It sought to reassure users, “You can continue to count on BlackBerry.” Of course, as one keen NTCA mind (not mine) observed, “When you have to remind people you’re not dead, you’re dead.” That reminded me of this scene from Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. Still, I think that BlackBerry’s public acknowledgment that “there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone” may signal a turn toward more narrowly focused solutions. Acknowledging that you cannot be everything for everyone is the difference between offering a commodity and offering a product. In that respect, BlackBerry’s apparent recommitment to its core customer base may be useful.

The second was a series of ads for Samsung’s new Gear “smart watch.” It is long-rumored that Apple is developing a watch, and Google is reportedly close to releasing its own. The Samsung ads are at once hip and nostalgic and thoroughly engaging. While I’d wager that many people will ask, “Do I need a smart watch,” it will also be only a matter of time (no pun intended) until the devices become as de rigueur as smartphones and tablets – things we lived without for years, but which now have become inextricably woven into everyday life, particularly as they may (probably?) develop to stand-alone devices.

The third thing that left me not only smiling but laughing aloud was an ad for a used Jeep Cherokee. Here are some excerpts from the more-than-one-thousand word description of the 1997 4WD:

This is a Jeep Cherokee. This is not a luxury SUV, or a maintenance-free disposable import. It has solid front axles, wind noise, and a character.

It’s a Jeep. It rides like a Jeep. It drives like a Jeep. All of these are GOOD things. It is not new, it is not pristine, it is used…

If you have been posting on Facebook all about how excited you are for pumpkin latte season: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU…

If, however, you . . . consider adverse weather an excuse to do stupid things: THIS IS YOUR JEEP.

Have you ever uttered the words, “Hold my beer and watch this…”?…

If you answered in the affirmative to the preceding: THIS IS YOUR JEEP.

And, in another part of the ad, the seller advises, “If you do not own a toolbox, have never changed your own oil…THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.”

Read more

Why the 600 MHz Auction Matters

A Cisco report released earlier this year offers some compelling observations and dramatic observations and predictions about wireless broadband. By way of example:

  • Global mobile data traffic grew 70% in 2012;
  • Mobile video traffic exceeded 50% for the first time in 2012;
  • Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012;
  • In 2012, a 4G connection generated 19 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection;
  • By the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on Earth, and by 2017 there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita;
  • Mobile-connected tablets will generate more traffic in 2017 than the entire global mobile network in 2012.

That’s part one.

Part two: jargon such as “we need to maintain global competitiveness” gets thrown around so much that it begins to assume all the impressive weight of a cliché.

So, instead of talking about global competitiveness, let’s talk about the hand-to-hand combat of local competitiveness – whether one business can compete against another, and what it takes to survive in a world where consumers expect 24/7 “always on” responses. Read more

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