T-Mobile and Cee Lo Green: It’s Not Me, It’s You

When my older son was in middle school, my wife and I found out that he had a “girlfriend.” (I put the word girlfriend in quotes because, apparently, having a significant other at that age does not involve partaking in social events together such as movies or trips to the ice cream shop, or even carrying books or sitting together at lunchtime. As best I could tell, it was strictly an honorary title. Also, I say that “we found out,” because this information did not come from our son, but from other parents. It does indeed take a village…)

Not long afterwards, we found out that he and the young lady in question had broken up. Much to my horror, I learned that he had broken up with her…. via e-mail. We had an immediate father-son chat, about respecting the feelings of other people, about the importance of being up front and direct in those circumstances where emotions are involved, and about when it is appropriate to make use of modern technology and when the old-fashioned ways are best. I think he understood—and didn’t have another “girlfriend” (that we were aware of, anyway) until his senior year in high school.

I thought of this story when I read that T-Mobile is offering new customers the equivalent of a quick and easy—if not necessarily well-mannered—means of ending a relationship. The company has offered to pay off the early termination fees of incoming customers, and will even help “to write the break up letter.” Read more

Police Department Beta Tests Google Glass, Plans for Nex-Gen Apps

Last week Venture Beat reported that the New York City Police Department is beta testing Google Glass. For those of you who have not heard of this emerging hardware, Google Glass offers an Android-powered wearable computer built into a set of eye glasses, which, frankly, look and function a lot like the specs warn by Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

The glasses offer a heads-up display, allowing the user to interact with the Internet and his surroundings at the same time. In other words, information is displayed in the user’s eye-line which saves the user from having to stop what he is doing to access a radio, smartphone, tablet, laptop or other device. The glasses also offer wireless facial recognition software and the ability to record audio and video, and complete commands via vocal queues.

For the police department, Google Glass offers new and innovative applications, such as enabling officers to match a suspect’s name and face with information contained in various databases, such as the National Crime Information Center, and then display this information in front of their eyes, hands free, as they interrogate and question a suspect. Read more

Survey: NTCA Members Continue to Surmount Obstacles to Provide Wireless Service

Small rural carriers are providing high-quality wireless service to the nation’s hardest-to-serve areas, but must face serious ongoing challenges to do so, according a recently-conducted NTCA survey of its member companies’ wireless operations.

NTCA’s 2013 Wireless Survey Report collects the results of the survey, which was distributed to member companies in the fall of 2013. More than 100 NTCA member companies participated.

Eighty percent of survey respondents provide wireless service to their customers. Of those, 82% offer fixed broadband, 49% mobile voice, 43% mobile broadband and 29% fixed voice service.

Among the challenges cited by survey respondents was obtaining financing for wireless operations, obtaining access to spectrum and competing with nationwide carriers. More than 40% of survey respondents described the process of obtaining financing for their wireless projects as “very difficult” or “virtually impossible.”

Forty-six percent of survey respondents reported utilizing unlicensed spectrum to provide some wireless services, despite interference and line-of-sight problems.

NTCA member companies are rewarded for their efforts by customer loyalty: 41% of survey respondents experience annual customer churn of less than 10%, and 50% reported average churn rates between 10 and 25%, well below the FCC’s most recent estimate of an industry-wide churn rate of 24 to 35% annually.

The Shark Tank and a CES Sensor-Driven World

I am a fan of Shark Tank, which airs on ABC on Friday evenings. The quirky entrepreneurs, the business strategy, even the Sharks themselves are entertaining. For those of you who have not seen the show, small-time entrepreneurs present their various start-up businesses to a panel of venture capitalists, a.k.a. the Sharks, and request the financial investment and brainpower of the successful panel.

A couple of weeks ago, the show featured Scan.me, a QR code application available on various mobile operating systems for a nominal fee. Despite more than 50 million downloads attributed to the app, I was struggling to see the compelling and unique value proposition or a long-term business case. Will anyone use QR codes in the future? Mark Cubin, one of the Sharks, offered a concise and, surprisingly insightful reason for refusing to invest in the business. Mark had these words for the entrepreneurs:

I’m a big fan of the sensor business. I think that’s the future of technology. The fundamental problem I have [with investing in your QR code business] is scans versus sensors. In a sensor-driven world, the information is accumulated and gathered everywhere with no action by the user. Whereas, in your world, whether it’s Google Glass where you have to talk, or where have to take your phone and scan, in a sensor-driven world, these [QR codes] don’t exist. For that reason, I’m out.

I too am a big fan of sensors. Already if I can attach a wireless device to an everyday item, or purchase an upgraded Internet-connected model — sign me up. Read more

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

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