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Showing posts from August, 2009

Mobile Broadband Makes a Shambles of "Broadand Penetration" Statistics

At the end of 2009, Forrester expects mobile Internet penetration to reach 17 percent in Western Europe, the same adoption rate for the PC Internet a decade ago. If the growth rate remains the same, mobile broadband would hit something on the order of 60 percent to 70 percent penetration in 10 years.

That would make a shambles of efforts to quantify broadband penetration in Western Europe, as similar trends in the U.S. market likewise would make most current concerns about broadband penetration likewise irrelevant.

We have seen this sort of thing before in the global communications business. Policymakers used to wring their hands about voice penetration in developing countries. But monthly costs of $5 to $10 a month now are making mobility the way many people are getting access to voice. Increasingly, wireless handsets will be the way most people in developing regions get access to Internet communications and applications as well.

U.S. policymakers thought a major revamp of communicati…

Netbook Growth Rate Twice That of Notebooks

If you have looked around the table at your last conference room meeting, you have noticed that netbooks already have grabbed significant user share. A new study by NPD Group confirms the traction. In the second quarter of 2009, the netbook segment grew 40 percent sequentially, while notebook sales grew 22 percent sequentially.

In some markets, such as China and Latin America, netbook sales already are greater than notebook penetration.

Still, the installed base of netbooks is about 22 percent of the portable computer market. Asus, the pioneer in mini-note PCs, has been steadily losing share because tier one brands like Acer, HP, Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba have become increasingly aggressive in the segment, NPD Group says.

In many regions, telecom providers have been offering subsidized mini-notes for several quarters, which helped propel growth. In Western European countries, a number of telecoms are subsidizing 100 percent of the price of the mini-notebook devices when the customer sig…

Hulu Cannibalizes Pay Per View, DVR

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There's one take-away we ought to gain from looking at the number of subscribers to multi-channel video entertainment services or users of Hulu.

And the take-away is that Hulu cannibalizes pay per view or on-demand programming or digital video recorder income that otherwise might be gained by linear video providers.

On the other hand, we might also note that the revenue potential to be gained from time-shifted services is not all that great at the moment.

The issue is much the same as now experienced by content publishers in most other areas. Namely, that although online distribution costs are lower, revenues are much lower. There remains a revenue gap for online distribution compared to legacy distribution that is not yet fully understood, yet.

Some service providers think the answer might be "TV Everywhere," where a user paying for a linear video subscription can watch that content on mobiles or broadband-connected PCs. The business issue there is just about as challeng…

The Difference Between Video and Music Business Models

The video business is different from the music business in one significant respect: where people routinely prefer to own their personal collections, they rarely want to "own" news, sports and most serial TV fare. That has some fairly signficant implications for business models. "Buy to own" makes logical sense for consumers of music. "Rent to view" makes more sense for most video and movie fare.

The historic example is the difference between adoption of cable TV and adoption of subscription music services. There are perhaps 20 million XM Sirius subscribers, compared to 63 million cable TV subscribers, plus three million telco video subs and 31 million satellite TV subscribers. In other words, there are 97 million video subscribers, compared to 20 million XM Sirius subscribers.

Most video watchers want to see news, sports and other events only once, movies once or twice. Most music listeners want to own and listen to some favorite songs over and over again…

iPhone to Go Multi-Network in 2011?

One likely would bet against Apple extending its exclusive U.S. distribution deal with AT&T past 2010, based on market share statistics gathered from around the world, including markets where Apple has an exclusive carrier partner as well as markets where Apple has a multi-partner distribution. Consider the Frech market, where Apple has multiple distributors.

"In France, the company now enjoys dramatically higher market share (in the 40 percent range vs. about 15 percent in ROW) than in countries with exclusive carrier agreements (such as AT&T in the U.S. where the iPhone has market share in the mid-teens).Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray senior research analyst.

Those market penetration figures should prove more compelling than the lower revenue per iPhone unit Apple gets in countries with multiple distributors, Munster argues.

Smart Phones, Broadband: Less and More, Respectively

One never should mistake media hype for end user reality. At the moment, perhaps 10 percent to 11 percent of U.S. adults actually use an iPhone, a BlackBerry or any other "smart phone." Most of the market has yet to adopt any smart phone.

Conversely, the mass media, and some within the specialized communications media, continue to insist that there is a major problem with broadband access. There are isolated issues, to be sure. But 70 percent of U.S. adults now use the Internet. Average household size is about 2.59 per home. About 74 percent are 18 or older. So adjust the household stats to 1.9 adults 18 or older per home.

Assume those 1.9 adults share a single fixed broadband connection at each location. In other words, a 70-percent "per capita" use of fixed broadband does not directly translate to "70 percent household penetration."

Conversely, 30 percent of U.S. adults do not use the Internet, according to Rubicon Consulting. Assuming those non-Interne…

Smart Phones Start to Differentiate, Because Users Do

Smart phone uses are starting to self sort themselves by lead application, it now appears. Though much could change as adoption becomes more mainstream, it now appears that Apple iPhone users value Web access while RIM BlackBerry users value email. To a lesser extent, Palm users favor calendar apps.

Patterns for users or Microsoft and Android operating system devices are less distinct. But that might be one reason new sales of Microsoft-OS devices are declining, relative to others. To the extent there is any distinction, Google G1 users put heavier emphasis on maps.

The clearest example that users are segmenting themselves by applications is that "the best-selling smartphones are the ones that most strongly associate with one or two particular features," says Michael Mace, Rubicon Consulting principal.

BlackBerry and iPhone each have one or two standout features that more than half their users rank as extremely important, he says. As you would expect, email access is unusually …

June Online Video Viewing Up: Unusual News Events the Reason

Summer normally is a time of reduced video viewing, as users are out and about. But online video viewing was up 14 percent year over year in June, according to The Nielsen Co.
But it appears unusual news events, not a permanenet change in behavior, account for the upsurge. Unusual media events, including the memorial service for Michael Jackson and the civil unrest in Iran, likely were driving the heavier usage, comScore says.

Is there a business model for mobile TV?

The number of mobile TV users continues to grow but there is still no proven business model so far to market the service, researchers at Infocom say.

"Japan, South Korea and Italy are the leading markets for broadcast-based mobile TV services but mobile TV subscriber growth in these markets is driven mainly by free or partly-free access and rather large handset availability, Infocom says.

Much could change with time, but there are some features and services for which there is in fact no apparent stand alone business model. Consider the Wi-Fi hotspot business. For an increasing number of service providers, the business model is fixed broadband, and Wi-Fi access is simply an added feature of the broadband service.

The same thing appears to be happening in the multi-channel video business, as service providers test the idea of "TV Everywhere," where paying for a fixed video subscription also allows access to video from PCs and mobile phones.

Advertising might help, but possib…

Can Open Access FTTH Work?

Open access can work for fiber to home access, says Yankee Group analyst Benoît Felten.

Most observers might tend to agree that the thesis works better in countries without robust cable TV broadband penetration, where construction costs are high and where regulators allow a reasonable rate of return on wholesale activities.

Felton argues a wholesale approach does not reduce overall take rates or average revenue per user for the network owne, an assumption that obviously makes better sense where virtually all retailers use a single access network.

"When DSL networks started opening in Europe in 2002 to 2005, although there was often a small impact on the incumbent’s ARPU in the early stages, that ARPU climbed back to its pre-unbundling levels within a few years due to offer differentiation and the development of value-added services.

Incumbent retail market share of course drops. Felton notes that very few incumbents in Europe currently have less than 50 percent market share of broad…

Social Networking Now Nearly Universal

More than 80 percent of online Americans are active in either creating, participating in, or reading some form of social content at least once a month, say researchers at Forrester Research.

About 24 percent of online users create content, while 37 percent post responses. About 21 percent use real simple syndication. Some 51 percent maintain personal profiles. Fully 73 percent of online users read blogs, watch online videos or listen to podcasts.

Among online users 35 or younger, social networking is nearly universal, with 90 percent participating in some way. Among those 55 and over, about 66 percent now are participating.

AT&T will Mandate Smart Phone Data Plans Sept. 6, 2009

Beginning September 6, 2009, AT&T will mandate subscribers who activate or upgrade to a smartphone to also pick up a data plan. One might argue that a smart phone without a data plan is about as useful as a PC without an Internet connection, or a TV without access to a multi-channel video plan.

Beyond that, as the mobile industry transitions to a revenue model based on data plans, not voice, the move is to be expected. There is no inherent reason why the cost of access to the global network, which increasingly includes Web services, should be based on use of voice applications.

On the other hand, users who simply want access to voice or text messaging only need phones with that basic level of functionality.

Will AT&T Wireless Support VoIP?

For Apple and Google, the recent inquiry by the Federal Communications Commission into VoIP blocking on iPhones and Android devices is a reminder that the communications business is rather more suscepible to political pressure than the software business.

For AT&T the inquiries are just part of the background of doing business, but AT&T's response to the FCC inquiry suggests that what typically happens, will happen again. Namely, when regulators decide it is time to do something, market contestants typically try to head off more onerous rules by making voluntary business decisions that reduce the need for such rules.

So it is that AT&T now says "we plan to take a fresh look at possibly authorizing VoIP capabilities on the iPhone for use on AT&T’s 3G network," says Jim Cicconi AT&T Services senior EVP.

That doesn't guarantee clearance for unlimited VoIP use on AT&T mobiles, but it is a sure sign AT&T does not want to regulated into such a posi…

Google Voice for Active Duty Military Now Available

Any active U.S. service member with a .mil email address can sign up for a Google Voice account at and start using the free service within a day. It's a good thing.

Google Says Skype Not Blocked on Android Phones

As Apple now it admits it alone was responsible for the initial rejection of the Google Voice app for the iPhone, and AT&T reaffirms that it had no say in the decision, Google has found itself in a bit of the same position as Apple, as Android mobiles are alleged to use a "less than fully functional" version of Skype on Android devices.

Some have suggested that Skype had been similarly blocked from Android phones, but the issue really is the functionality of Skype on Android devices. Google says on its blog that the Android operating system did not, at first release, support any full-featured VoIP applications.

That now has been rectified, Google says. That said, both Apple and Android devices are subject to any existing carrier policies on use of VoIP over their mobile networks, though it does not appear any such policies are involved either in the initial attempt to make Google Voice available on the iPhone, or the initial attempt to get a full-fledged version of Skype…

Apple, Not AT&T, was Behind iPhone Google Voice Rejection

So it turns out AT&T was telling the truth all along: it had nothing to do with Apple's rejection of the Google Voice application for the iPhone.

"Apple is acting alone and has not consulted with AT&T about whether or not to approve the Google Voice application," Apple says on its Web site. "No contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T have been a factor in Apple’s decision-making process in this matter."

AT&T has been insistent on this from the start of the controversy. "Let me state unequivocally, AT&T had no role in any decision by Apple to not accept the Google Voice application for inclusion in the Apple App Store," says Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs.

To be sure, Apple claims the rejection of the application was because of user interface implications, not a blanket rejection of VoIP or Google's approach to providing services, which is bett…

Smart Phone Sales Soar, Feature Phones Narrow Gap

Feature phone sales fell five percentage points to 72 percent of new handset sales in the second quarter of 2009, while sales of new smartphones reached 28 percent of overall consumer purchases, a 47 percent increase in the category’s share since last year, according to The NPD Group.

Lower prices appear to be the reason. “Despite their ties to pricey data plans, the rich Internet access capabilities of smart phones are attracting consumers wooed by lower device prices,” says Ross Rubin, NPD Group director of industry analysis.

Overall handset sales volume in the U.S. grew 14 percent year over year in the second quarter, as sales revenue increased 18 percent.

The average selling price of all mobile phones increased four percent year over year, reaching $87.

Wi-Fi capability increased three-fold since last year, with 20 percent of all new handsets equipped with this capability. Touch screens on both feature phones and smartphones grew to 26 percent of all new handsets purchased in the qu…

VoIP Pioneer Elon Ganor Starts New Firm

Former VocalTec CEO Elon Ganor has started a new company, Nucleix, in the life sciences area. You might say it is a case of an entrepreneur doing wht entrepreneurs do: start new companies.
Though anecdotal, you might also conclude something else: venture capital is looking at life sciences more than VoIP, and entrepreneurs are responding to what they see as higher-growth, more-lucrative fields.
It's anecdotal, but possibly telling. Lots of others are focusing on micro-blogging or wireless, especially mobility applications.

Rural Broadband Penetration Close to 100% of Internet Users?

Use of broadbnd in rural areas now is close to 100 percent of Internet users, new data from comScore suggests. In 2007 the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service estimated that 63 percent of all rural households had at least one member access the Internet.

If rural broadband penetration now is up to 75 percent, as comScore indicates, that would imply that Internet usage is at least that high, allowing for some households that continue to use dial-up access.

That would seem to have implications both for setting of national broadband policy and policy in rural areas. For starters, the new data suggest that rural broadband is growing robustly, without any additional government activity.

Some might argue that broadband usage remains lower in rural areas than in metro areas, and that remains true. Metro broadband penetration is at 89 percent. But virtually every study has shown that Internet usage also is lower in rural areas.

Broadband pentration in U.S. rural areas incr…

Cost to Acquire, Sustain, Retain Customers Rising, Execs Say

There is fairly broad agreement among chief marketing officers at global telco, cable, wireless, satellite, Internet service provider and long distance carrier firms that competition is having a huge effect on customer retention, acquisition and broad company strategies, primarily affecting product pricing and customer retention.

Over 84 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by the CMO Council report increases in the cost of acquiring and sustaining customer relationships and, not surprisingly, 63 percent are seeing higher rates of customer churn and attrition.

The new global study by the Customer Experience Board of the Chief Marketing Officer Council also shows that price competition, for example, now is a chief issue. According to 55 percent of respondents, emerging competitors and market disrupters are undercutting or discounting prices, with an additional 37 percent indicating these contenders often target the most lucrative customers.

So there's a new focus on custome…

People Would Give Up Vacations Before Broadband

Recession-hit consumers would sooner give up vacations and dining out than spend less on communications services, Ofcom, the U.K. regulator says. While 47 percent of people would cut back on eating out and 41 percent on vacations, just 19 percent would lower their mobile spending , 16 percent their TV subscriptions and 10 percent broadband.

And while customers are making adjustments, those attitudes seem to mirror what we also have seen in the U.S. market.

Those findings are roughly in line with recent surveys of U.S. consumers, which tend to find that broadband access is the single most-important service.

Does Netflix Model have Legs?

One of the enduring lessons of new technology adoption is that the transition from older patterns to newer patterns can take quite a long time. One of the other lessons is that older ways of doing things sometimes do not fall before the new.

There was a time when TCP/IP was considered a transitional signaling method that would be replaced by the open systems interconnection model promulgated by the International Organization for Standardization. That never happened.

There was a time when Integrated Services Digital Network was seen as a replacement for time division multiplexing networks, on the way to a next generation network based on B-ISDN using asynchronous transfer mode. ATM proved a modest success, but has been eclipsed by IP.

Everybody "knows" that linear video will someday soon be eclipsed, possibly replaced by, Internet-delivered video, consumed on an on-demand basis. So far, that transition is proceeding slowly, which is typical for most technology substitutions.

Wh…

Internet Ads Work As Well as TV Ads, says comScore

Internet advertising is just as effective, if not more effective, than traditional TV advertising, comScore has found in a recent study.

Over the course of twelve weeks, online ad campaigns with an average reach of 40 percent of their target segment successfully grew retail sales of the advertised brands by an average of nine percent, says comScore. This compares to an average lift of eight percent for TV advertising as measured by Information Resources, Inc.

About 80 percent of the Internet campaigns showed statistically-significant sales lift, compared to 36 percent of the TV campaigns, comScore says.

The comScore research was based on results from 200,000 panelists who are members of supermarket loyalty programs and whose retail buying behavior was measured through point-of-sale UPC scanners when the panelists presented their membership cards at the checkout lanes of participating supermarket stores.

Those results are for campaigns supporting consumer packaged goods. It is not clear h…

Prepaid Slowdown?

There's a bit of a cloud now hanging over the mobile prepaid segment as some larger prepaid providers have reported financial results that indicate slower growth.

Most-recent MetroPCS, Leap Wireless and Virgin Mobile USA quaterly results show slower customer growth. This will bear watching. Prepaid had been on a tear over the last year or so so investors are a bit rattled by the slowdown.

Prepaid wireless has been much more popular in Europe and elsewhere in the world than in the United States. About 19 percent of U.S. accounts are billed using prepad mechanisms, according to Pali Research.

In Western Europe, the prepaid share of total mobile connections varies significantly by country, but on average it was 57 percent at the end of 2008, according to the Yankee Group. That might decline to 47 percent by 2013.

In developing markets, prepaid dominates. For example, in Latin America prepaid accounts for 84 percent of mobile connections today. Yankee Group is predicting this percent…

For Mobile Web, "Developed" and "Developing" Markets Are the Same

Is “Developing Market” a meaningless term where it comes to use of the mobile Web? Declan Lonergan, Yankee Group analyst, thinks so. That doesn't mean the markets are identical. Developing markets rely on handsets whose monthly cost is $5, developed market users often pay $40 to $80 a month.

Despite those differences, consumers everywhere want access to the mobile Web. When they get it, their usage profiles are surprisingly consistent, Longergan says.

The top 10 countries for Opera Mini usage during June 2009 were Russia, Indonesia, India, China, Ukraine, South Africa, U.S., U.K., Poland and Nigeria. India continued to move up the rankings, overtaking China for third place, Opera reports. These results demonstrate the huge appetite for access to the mobile Web in developing markets.

Yankee Group in 2008 found use of the top-10 most popular mobile phone services were almost identical in developed and developing regions.

Penetration of mobile Web browsing in the Gulf (11 percent) and…

How Long Before Mobiles Eclipse PCs as Internet Platform?

It long has been the conventional wisdom that mobile phones will be the way most people in developing markets access the Internet. And though that likely will not prove true in developed markets, it does seem inevitable that a significant percentage of total Internet and Web usage originates from smart phones.

Whether it is ultimately 25 percent or 50 percent of usage that is initiated from mobiles is not clear. What is clear is that the percentage of Web and Internet application usage from mobiles is growing with no natural limit in sight.

And at least some observers think 2010 could be the year more sessions originate from mobiles than from PCs. To be sure, that prediction assumes heavy use of social networking, instant messaging and other communications activities, plus Web-based entertainment, will drive mobile Web activities.

The prediction likely would not be correct if one counted the length of sessions or Web browsing activities. But social networking is an application growing …

Leap Wireless Applies for Stimulus Funds

Though major telcos and cable companies, as well as many independent rural telcos seem to be passing on applying for broadband stimulus funds, it appears wireless firms are active.

Leap Wireless says it has applied for a grant to supply 23,000 low-income families in Baltimore, Houston, Memphis, San Diego and Washington, D.C. broadband access and digital literacy training.

Yonder Media, a Reno-based wireless broadband provider to rural communities, also has applied for funds to deploy 150 3G rural wireless broadband networks, serving 400 communities.

Qwest, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon did not apply, and that was not unexpected. The Rural Utilities Service rules generally bar firms such as Qwest from applying for support for their rural operations if they also serve at least one metro market in a state. And none of the major providers were too happy about strings attached to the receipt of funds, which affect the business models and practices the companies can use.

Level 3 Communications…

Sprint Launches 4G in Las Vegas, Atlanta and Portland, Ore.

Sprint Nextel has launch its 4G mobile broadband service in Las Vegas, Atlanta and Portland metro areas. The service offers peak downlink speeds of more than 10 Mbps and average downlink speeds of 3 Mbps to 6 Mbps, three to five times faster than the 3G service offered by any carrier today, based on average download speeds, and without bandwidth caps, for $70 a month.

If you are a typical 3G user the unlimited service won't mean that much. Few 3G users use anywhere near the 5 Gbyte monthly cap, costing $60 a month.

Heavy video users might want to consider it, though. The additonal bandwidth is more than adequate for quality video viewing, and the lack of a cap means you won't have to worry about blasting through your cap.

Of course, the decision also depends on where you live, and where you use mobile broadband. If you are a road warrior, the coverage simply isn't wide enough to be of exceptional use, though the modem also will allow you to use the Sprint 3G network anyplac…

DirecTV Launches Broadband-Only Sunday Ticket

Broadband access providers rightly are concerned that their big broadband pipes over time will allow users to bypass service provider voice and video services, and DirecTV just fired a limited shot in that direction.
Though direct competition from Hulu and other sites is a bit muted since those services typically make sure online content is not made available at the same time the same content is showing on the linear networks, the new Sunday Ticket package will do precisely that.
Though I frankly don't know how DirecTV is going to ascertain which consumers, in which locations, actually cannot get a DirecTV signal, users who are in that predicament will be able to buy the National Football League "Sunday Ticket" package as a stand-alone, without paying for a subscription to DirecTV's other linear video offerings, and have that programming delivered over their broadband Internet access connections.
There will be some locations where landlords or property associations m…

O2 Germany Now Fully Supports Mobile VoIP

Generally speaking, potentially-disruptive innovation in the mobile business happens when a smaller provider launches new assaults. That appears to be the case in the German mobile market, as Telefónica's O2 Germany business launches mobile Internet packages that allow users total access to VoIP services at no extra charge.

The operator is pushing two data plans in particluar: Internet-Pack-M and Internet-Pack-L. Pack M gives the subscriber a data limit of 200 MB per month for 10 euros. The larger plan, Internet Pack L, increases this limit to 5 GBytes for 25 euros a month. Neither of the plans actually cuts users off when they hit those limits, but connection speeds are reduced.

“We operate one of the most modern and most rapid mobile data networks in Europe and our customers are to experience it without limitations, no matter whether they surf, email, use instant messaging or make phone calls”, says Lutz Schüler, Managing Director Marketing & Sales, Telefónica O2 Germany. “By…

Is Qwest VOD Coming?

Qwest Communications is a laboratory of sorts for incumbent telcos that do not have the resources and customer heft to justify launching IPTV services. Many small, rural telcos with small subscriber bases find that most customers already subscribe either to a satellite TV service or a competing cable TV service, for example.

Qwest has decided to rely on partner DirecTV for its multi-channel video offering, but has been interested for years in ways to use its broadband access plant to supplement linear TV with true video-on-demand services. Now that Qwest has upgraded many of its metro networks to operate at 40 Mbps in the downstream, with plans to serve 23 metro markets with services that fast, we might finally see some movement in that direction.

That would have important ramifications for many smaller and independent firms as well. If it works, if revenue for a true VOD service, built in conjunctionw with DirecTV does prove financially interesting, the same approach can be taken by m…

BT Rolls Out 20 Mbps, FTTH Danger Remains

BT is rolling out 20-Mbps broadband access services to about 40 percent of its network terminations, up from 8 Mbps possible before BT upgraded many of its Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexers to the ADSL2+ standard.

Actual connection speeds people will see will vary based largely on the amount of metallic cable between their home and the telephone exchange, as always is the case for DSL. Speed increases will be most noticeble in the upstream direction.

Most BT retail customers connect at up to 448 kbps on the upstream when using ADSL, but this will double to up to 1 Mbps using ADSL2+. The new upgrades will be provided at no charge.

Faster speeds are possible if a further upgrade to VDSL is made, but that also would entail deploying much more fiber in the network.

And while BT faces criticism for not deploying fiber to the home, Fitch Ratings investment analysts say FTTH deployments are highly risky for European service providers facing cable operators. Fitch analysts estimate …

National Broadband Plans Not That Effective?

As the Federal Communications Commission starts work on creation of a "national broadband plan," it is worth keeping in mind the relatively slight impact such policies have.

In fact, 91 percent of the differences in fixed broadband adoption rates in the 30 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries can be explained by reference solely to differences in income, education, population age, and other demographic factors that bear little relationship to broadband or telecommunications policy," the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies. says in a new study.

In fact, perhaps 87 percent of the variation in broadband subscription rates across the OECD can be explained by a few inputs.

On average, a $10,000 increase in gross domestic product per capita increases the connection rate per capita by 1.97 percentage points. A 10 percentage point rise in the percentage of a population living in an urban area, or a 10 percentage…

Are Younger Users Cooling to Social Networking?

U.K. communications regulator Ofcom says the percentage of 15- to 24-year-olds with a profile on a social networking site has dropped for the first time, from 55 percent at the start of last year to 50 percent this year.

Some have suggested this means younger users are abandoning sites such as Facebook that no longer are attractive now that their parents use the sites as well.

The other explanation is that users are starting to settle in at fewer sites, says comScore.

Younger users are increasingly moving towards Facebook as their primary social networking destination, and using other sites less.

Inertia A Challenge for Yahoo, Microsoft

It's always hard to get users to change their habits. That is one reason media and content companies spend so much time and money on promotion and marketing. And it appears that applies to the ways people find content as well.

According to comScore, one obstacle the Yahoo!-Microsoft partnership faces is changing user habits. The reason is simply habit. Users who search on Google tend to stick with Google for most searches, comScore notes. About 69 percent of users conducted their searches on Google-owned sites.

Users of the engines at the combined Yahoo! and Microsoft Sites conducted 32.6 percent of their searches on the combined Yahoo! and Microsoft Sites, but a much higher 60.7 percent of their searches on Google sites.

In the content business as well as in the real world, friction and inertia require inputs of energy to "force" objects to change direction.

http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2009/8/comScore_Study_Highlights_Challenges_and_Opportunities_f…

More U.S. Mobile Internet Than PC Users by 2010?

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"By 2010, the number one way U.S. users will interact with Web is through the phone, not the PC," says Rodney Mason, Moosylvania CMO. That would be a huge change, more in line with what forecasters have been predicting about Internet access methods in the developing world.

If it turns out the mobile device becomes the most-common means of access, the way Web applications and services are designed also will start to change.

Smart phones and mobile broadband networks should lead to "TV everywhere" services, for example. And that could break the hold multichannel video services have on the delivery of video.

Sales of smart phones matter for several reasons, among them the creation of new markets for mobile applications. Handset suppliers and mobile service providers have a huge stake as well.

Nearly a quarter of all handsets sold in the U.S. market during the fourth quarter of 2008 were smart phones, up from 12 percent of all phone sales in the same quarter of 2007, a…

Fixed Wireless Likely Big Winner in Broadband Stimulus First Round

Perhaps the biggest first round winners of broadband stimulus grants, after the close of application deadlines Aug. 14 or Aug. 20, 2009 (larger projects will have the Aug. 20 deadline by virtue of an extension granted for electronic filers) are wireless providers, especially firms using terrestrial broadband for access.

There are several reasons. Wireless networks can be built faster, at lower cost, than wired networks, giving wireless providers a better chance of completing larger projects in the required time frame. The largest wired service providers seem to have decided not to apply, for a variety of reasons having to do with the way the rules are constructed and strings attached to receipt of funds.

Also, existing wireless providers, especially independents, have the infrastructure and business acumen required to run such networks, and huge incentive to build out their networks.

In the last major investment wave in the U.S. telecommunications market, though there were hundreds of …

Zer01 Severs Ties with Buzzirk Mobile

Zer01 Mobile says it has severed its business relationship with Buzzirk Mobile for distribution services, based upon breach of contract. It isn't immediately clear what impact the termination will have, as Zer01 is a mobile virtual network enabler and can supply its unusual and interesting approach to mobile voice to other distributors, but Buzzirk seems to have been the most-active of the MVNO marketing partners.

What remains interesting is the approach Zer01 has taken to creating its "VoIP over mobile" capabilities. Essentially, the company uses what it says are national interconnect agreements with GSM providers, and VoIP from VoX to create its service, instead of the traditional MVNO route whereby customers buy wholesale capacity from networks, repackage and resell those capabilities.

Zer01's approach has been to establish itself as a "carrier" for purposes of interconnection, which allows it to exchange traffic with other carriers using the industry-stan…

Unanticipated Consequences from Stimulus Spending

One of the frustrations many of us have with governments substituting themselves for the market is that nobody is smart enough to figure out all of the unanticipated consequences. Without making any judgments about the broader theory of pump priming Keynesian theory suggests now are appropriate, externalities seem the order of the day.

The undeniably popular U.S. cash-for-clunkers program may be drawing money from other consumer purchases and could also undermine future car sales, U.S. economists now warn. The latest Commerce Department retail sales figures show U.S. retail sales fell 0.1% in July, as opposed to expectations sales would gain 0.8%. Excluding autos, retail sales declined 0.6% versus an expected gain of 0.1%.

So it is hard to discount the notion that spending was diverted from other retail items and towards autos. Worse, many assume the new car sales simply shifted fixed demand forward: people bought cars now when they were planning on doing so later in the year or early i…

Will Broadband Stimulus Work, If So, How Well?

An argument can be made that the "broadband stimulus" program, which has yet to award its first funds, will change very little. Most people who use the Internet already buy broadband services.

People in "underserved" areas might already have several providers (wired and by satellite and terrestrial broadband); the real barrier being lack of PCs, lack of training or simple lack of interest.

In rural areas, there are perhaps hundreds of thousands of locations with no terrestrial access at all, though satellite service might be available. An argument easily can be made that funds should be focused on locations that literally have no terrestrial access at all.

But those locations will be expensive to reach, meaning fewer households will benefit.

Also, building facilities will only improve broadband usage to the extent those new locations have consumers who want to buy broadband. A good percentage will not want to, because they don't use the Internet, do not own com…

Microsoft, Nokia to Challenge RIM

Microsoft and Nokia are working together to bring native versions of Microsoft Office to Nokia smart phones, in a challenge to Research in Motion.

Over time, the companies plan to release applications for Nokia phones (using the Symbian operating system) that include the ability to view, edit, create and share Office documents on more devices in more places with mobile-optimized versions of Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft OneNote.

The initiative also includes enterprise instant messaging and presence, and optimized conferencing and collaboration experience with Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile.

The collaboration also will lead to mobile access to intranet and extranet portals built on Microsoft SharePoint Server.

Apple and Android Gaining, Nokia and Microsoft Losing Share in Smart Phone Market?

Worldwide mobile phone sales totalled 286.1 million units in the second quarter of 2009, a 6.1 percent decline over the year earlier quarter, but smart phone sales rose 27 percent over the same period, surpassing 40 million units for the first time (40.96 million), says Gartner research director Carolina Milanesi.

Apple saw the largest rise in its share of the global smart phone market, rising from a 2.8 percent share in the second quarter of 2008 to 13.3 percent in the same quarter of 2009. Apple is the third most popular provider of devices, with Nokia number one, despite losing new sales share from 47.4 percent to 45 percent. Research in Motion is third.

In the area of operating systems, Nokia's Symbian has 51 percent installed base share, down from 57 percent a year ago, while RIM and Apple grew their shares year-on-year.

Google's Android platform accounted for just under two percent share in the second quarter.

Microsoft's share continued to drop year-on-year to accoun…

ESPN to Limit Social Networking

New technologies, especially those that arrive in the enterprise space from the consumer space, eventually reach some point where corporate managers feel the need to establish policies that serve enterprise business requirements.

In the latest example, ESPN has issued 12 guidelines to its employees about social networking.

The guidelines say that on-air talent, reporters and writers are prohibited from having sports-related blogs or Web sites and that they will need a supervisor’s approval to discuss sports on any social networking sites.

They will also be restricted from discussing internal policies or detailing how stories are “reported, written, edited or produced.”

“The first and only priority is to serve ESPN-sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content,” the new rules say.

Violating the new guidelines could lead to suspension or dismissal.

Similar struggles occurred when mobiles started appearing in the workplace, when email started being used and when Web a…

So far, Mobile, Broadband Revenues Compensate for U.K. Fixed Voice Losses

In 2008, 49.6 percent of U.K. retail revenues were earned providing mobile and data services, while 33.8 percent of revenues were earned from fixed and mobile data services, says Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator.

The long term challenge is that even a majority of current mobile voice revenues are likely to shrink as mobile VoIP services become more widespread.

That doesn't necessarily mean voice usage has been falling. Instead, we essentially have productivity effects, as the per-unit cost of using voice has fallen as volumes have grown. That doesn't necessarily mean voice revenues will disappear, but that voice will be a smaller percentage of total revenues on both the fixed and wireless networks.

And though mobility has been the revenue source primarily responsible for telecom providers managing the transition away from classic fixed voice, that will not always be the case. Mobile voice revenue growth has slowed significantly as penetration has saturated and prices ha…

Mobility, Broadband Drive U.K. Service Provider Revenue Growth

In 2008, 49.6 percent of U.K. retail revenues were earned providing mobile and data services, while 33.8 percent of revenues were earned from fixed and mobile data services, says Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator.

The long term challenge is that even a majority of current mobile voice revenues are likely to shrink as mobile VoIP services become more widespread.

That doesn't necessarily mean voice usage has been falling. Instead, we essentially have productivity effects, as the per-unit cost of using voice has fallen as volumes have grown. That doesn't necessarily mean voice revenues will disappear, but that voice will be a smaller percentage of total revenues on both the fixed and wireless networks.

And though mobility has been the revenue source primarily responsible for telecom providers managing the transition away from classic fixed voice, that will not always be the case. Mobile voice revenue growth has slowed significantly as penetration has saturated and prices ha…

Is Apple's Business Model About to Change?

Though it remains for the moment an unanswerable question, it is probably not too early to ask whether Apple's business model might change in the future, and at what pace.

Until recently, virtually all of Apple's profits were built on hardware sales. Everything else, system software or iTunes music revenue only mattered as a way to drive hardware sales.

The iPhone and iTunes are the best examples of how and where the change might come.

Apple might make $200 to $300 or so selling an iPhone, but $600 to $850 is more like the additional service revenue Apple receives from an AT&T iPhone sale, the difference being the value of the recurring service revenue Apple gets from AT&T, some analysts say.

For the 2009 quarter ending in June, Apple sold 5.2 million iPhones for a recorded revenue of $1.7 billion, or about $324 per iPhone.But iPhone-related service revenue was about$4.4 billion, compared to $3.3 billion in Mac sales. So at least for the moment, iPhone service revenues a…

Big Changes In Mobile Business Last 2 to 3 Months

Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Larsen has cut his rating on Sprint Nextel, arguing that industry dynamics have shifted significantly over the lat two to three months.

The trends of most importance are the higher subsidies service providers are providing on handsets as well as lower prices for attractive pre-paid offers that are likely to put pressure on postpaid pricing, especially as more data intensive handsets become available at lower price points.

The other trend of note is that although the prepaid business has traditionally been viewed as a segment comprised of lower-income or credit-challenged customers, that is likely to change. Already we see more smart phones available for use on prepaid plans, a departure from past practices.

To be sure, mobile service providers will continue to use handsets as a differentiator, but wider availability of capable handsets used with pre-paid plans seems inevitable. At the same time, $45 and $50 prepaid plans that also feature unlimited usag…

Facebook Can Get You Fired

About eight percent of corporate executives surveyed by Proofpoint say they have terminated
employees for disclosing confidential, protected or simply embarassing information put up on socialnetworking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, up from four percent who reported doing so in 2008.

About 17 percent of respondents said they had incidents of that nature this year, compared to 12 percent in 2008.

But email still seems to be a more-common reason for terminations of this sort. About 43 percent of respondents reported they had investigated an email-based leak of confidential or proprietary information in the past 12 months.

Nearly a third of them, 31 percent, terminated an employee for violating email policies in the same period, up from 26 percent in 2008.

About 18 percent of respondents say they had investigated a data loss event from a blog or message board in the past 12 months. About 17 percent disciplined an employee for violating blog or message board policies, while nearly nine …

Malaysia Open Access Network Challenges Business Model

Service providers, end users and policy advocates will be keeping close watch on Malaysia's open access fiber network Jalenasn which will begin building as early as October, says Comms Day International.

Based on an open access model, Jalenas will only own and control the fiber infrastructure, leasing access instead to broadband service, applications and content providers who in turn will offer end user services.

The model probably is not directly applicable to U.S. markets, in part because measurable government support is required, in part because of massive service provider opposition.

But the plan will provide new real-world data about the economics of such methods, which require extreme operational efficiency by the infrastructure provider.

A similar wholesale access approach is being undertaken in nearby Singapore, and both Australia and New Zealand are weighing somewhat similar approaches as well.

The Jalenas network is owned by Pahang state-backed High Speed Broadb…

FairPoint Unhappy About Broadband Stimulus Competition

FairPoint lobbyists and officials say the University of Maine System is unfairly competing with them for federal funds available as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "broadband stimulus" program.

“The fact is, we are competing with the University of Maine,” says Severin Beliveau, an Augusta, Maine attorney representing FairPoint. “I am concerned at what the university is proposing here, because it is receiving a form of subsidy, no, they are in fact receiving a subsidy from taxpayers, in competing with the private sector.”

Jeff Letourneau, the associate director of information technology at UMS, said the proposal is not the university’s but is from a private-public partnership and that the UMS is just one member.

FairPoint is developing a $20 million proposal that builds on its existing Internet infrastructure, the company indicates. FairPoint says the project will bring broadband access to 90 percent of Maine by 2013.

Though the first of the funds have not yet…

Video Tipping Point in 2010?

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The mass-market tipping point for online video will occur in 2010, when online video will be viewed by 50 percent of U.S. consumers, says eMarketer.

Online video also will achieve a 59 percent penetration rate in 2013, up from 47 percent in 2009.

The number of U.S. online video viewers will grow to 188 million in 2013, up from 144 million in 2009, says eMarketer.

Online video viewers will make up 85 percent of Internet users in 2013, up from 72 percent in 2009.

“This will put online video within range of Web activities such as search and e-mail, which are nearly at saturation points among U.S. Internet users,” says Paul Verna, eMarketer senior analyst.

The ability to share video through social networks, blogs, microblogs, e-mail and other social platforms will play a role. So will mobility.

All of that will hasten the day when changes must be made--especially on mobile networks--relating to end user consumption and pricing.

Is the USPS a Natural Monopoly?

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Just thinking out loud, but is mail a natural monopoly?

The U.S. Postal Service has seen a precipitous drop in volume lately.

So they raise their prices, making other alternatives more attractive, which further depresses volume. It sort of looks like a death spiral.

Of course, "mail" can mean messages, so email is a functional substitute, as was facsimile.

And mail and packages can be delivered by any number of competitors (FedEx, UPS and others). To the extent that FedEx, UPS, the Internet and other alternatives aer widely available, perhaps "mail delivery" is not a natural monopoly.

Still, without large subsidies, the network is not profitable. It could not provide universal delivery without subsidies and it certainly does not ever make money. So it is one of the other models one has to look at when thinking about the future of the communications network business.