Post Office, Sprint Try Something New (But Not Together)

In case you missed it . . . Sprint became the third major wireless provider to turn away from two-year contracts and will instead require customers to either purchase or lease their phones. Sprint’s announcement came only days after Verizon unveiled a series of new plans in which phones will no longer be subsidized in exchange for a two-year contract. Instead, customers will be able to pay a monthly fee toward the purchase of the phone. T-Mobile has operated under a similar model for several years, leaving AT&T the last bastion of the subsidized smart phone.

Sprint is also tapping into a population of Apple devotees, offering the “iPhone Forever” plan which for $22 per month will permit customers to upgrade to the latest iPhone each year when it becomes available (as a staid Blackberry user, I respect the interests of Apple fans but nevertheless marvel that Sprint can offer a plan built solely around the need to have latest iPhone) (and I say that as I await the Blackberry Venice . . .).

Verizon has stated that its “no contract” model simplifies account management for consumers. Arguably, it also simplifies matters for the carrier by cutting the subsidization factor out of the picture and structuring some phone purchases as an installment plan. It also shifts a greater proportion of phone cost to the customer. A retrospective view of the industry could argue that subsidies were necessary to build large bases of customers who, once captured and acclimated to (if not nearly dependent on) wireless services would then be reluctant to relinquish the benefits of mobile services. Read more

Google Announces Plans to Dip its Toes Deeper into Wireless

Google this week indicated its plans to enter the wireless service market, but hedged expectations that its foray would be limited, emphasizing that the company has no current plans to take powerhouse wireless service providers on in a head-to-head competition.

Google has wireless experience in its line of Nexus devices, which are billed as pure Android: they bear little, if any, manufacturer or carrier modification, including changes to the GUI. In return, Google manages design and development of the products, as well as marketing and post-purchase support.

In remarks at the 2015 Mobile World Congress, Google was coy about its plans, leading to speculation in trade press that it will aim to use both cell and WiFi. U.S. variants of the service are expected to rely upon existing networks, but overseas iterations may utilize Google use of balloons and drones. A launch is expected in several months. 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

Trial by Fire (Island)

In a bid to restore post-Hurricane Sandy service to New York’s Fire Island, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is proposing the installation of Voice Link, a fixed wireless service the company says will save millions of dollars when compared to the cost of replacing damaged copper lines. The New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) has authorized Verizon to install the service for the summer tourist season, when the island’s population can balloon to 10,000, but has deferred a decision on whether Verizon will be permitted to implement the service in other rural areas of the state.  The FCC, in turn, is effectively characterizing Verizon’s Fire Island approach as a “technology trial” of sorts, and is seeking comments on others who might propose to do similar things elsewhere. Read more

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I have a bad habit of reading books twice. Or three times. Or four or more times.

It is a habit I cannot explain, except that sometimes I want to return to enjoy the rhythm and cadence of the writing again, or to see if I can tease out a new understanding of the material. Sometimes, I like to be reminded of the lessons the literature teaches. A favorite is The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s 1953 depiction of the 17th century Salem witch trials. Toward the end of the play, protagonist John Proctor confesses to a sin he did not commit so that he can avoid the gallows, but balks at permitting the court to make his signed confession public. “Tell them I confessed myself,” he tells the magistrates, “say Proctor broke his knees and wept like a woman, say what you will.” When asked why he does not want the signed document to be made public he exclaims, “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life,” and referring to the false confession declares, “How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!” It is a good lesson, worthy of review.

Repetition can be good, at times. In the rural industry, we repeat things we know are true, not for the luxury of repetition but for the point of education and enlightenment and perhaps reinforcement. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to take break, and over the past couple of weeks a few came through. Read more

Summer Reading II: Horses and Windmills

Policy Perspectives

Travel this week enabled me to spend some time with a biography of Abraham Lincoln.  I started the book in 1997, and last weekend realized that I had averaged only about 16 pages per year in the past decade-and-a-half.   And, it wasn’t the only one; I have several volumes at home whose immobile bookmarks seem to glare and accuse me silently of inattention.  Resolved to finish those books before I begin anything else, I took the 600+ page Lincoln hardcover with me on the plane.

I must admit that I felt a bit anachronistic.  On four flights over two days, I saw only one other person with a printed book.  Everyone else was hunched over a Kindle, or an iPad, or a laptop.  Still, the weight (and wait) was worth it, and I worked though about 100 hundred pages covering Lincoln’s election and the early days of the Civil War.  Read more

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