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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

OFDM Patents Resurface

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The curious case of the OFDM patents owned by Qualcomm has taken a new twist. QC has finally licensed its OFDM patents, which came into the bag along with Flarion, to SOMA Networks. It does not disclose which exact patents are being licensed. The press release is even more frightening.
patent license to develop, manufacture and sell OFDM/OFDMA subscriber units, modem cards and infrastructure equipment.
That includes virtually everything. A big reason for the WiMAX forum to be worried. QC is not known to be a backer of WiMAX and if they do start enforcing those patents vigorously, as they have done before, there will be trouble.

Interestingly this news comes just a few days after QC's warning that the CDMA patents licensing deal with Nokia might not be renewed at all, which might hurt its revenues this quarter. QC it seems takes an astounding 4.5 % of the cost of each CDMA mobile phone sold! No wonder its raking in millons.

But then the next generation networks are being built upon open standards, with an effort to keep licensing costs out of the way. And if it goes as expected then QC's business model is doomed. Unless they get some of thier patents somehow in. As evident, they have succeeded with WiMAX.

Previous Posts: BigBRO. QC Penalised. EVDO vs DSL. QC Media.

Tags: WiMAX OFDM IPR QC Nokia Flarion
posted by Rajiv, 1:59 PM | link | 3 comments |

Normalcy Restored

My connectivity woes have been finally resolved. Normal transmission resumes!
posted by Rajiv, 1:48 PM | link | 0 comments |

WiMAX In India

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I have been suffering from the lack-of-broadband-connection syndrome recently. Its amazing how much you can take broadband connection for granted. I signed up with Aritel DSL service about two weeks ago but the fat pipe is nowhere near my home yet. It seems that the they have to do some digging and lay some cables! That in turn means that I can forget about the broadband connection for a few more weeks.

Given that background, this study is of relevance. It states that WiMAX will succeed in India since there is no 3G deployments till now. Laying DSL cables takes time and the maximum they can go up to is a measly 256 kbps! The situation is similar to what it was when Wireless Telecom was introduced. The state owned Teleco's had a huge backlog with the waiting list running into years, whereas the demand for it was increasing. The demand for broadband is also increasing but without quick viable solutions in sight. If this can happen in Bangalore, I wonder how would it really be in the smaller cities.

Thankfully there are ongoing efforts. The policy is in the works and supposedly the 3.5 GHz spectrum will be allocated to it. Although it will take another one to two years till the services are widely available. Its the perfect technology for India to leap frog on.

Tags: WiMAX ADSL Airtel 3G TRAI Broadband
posted by Rajiv, 4:16 AM | link | 1 comments |

UWB Soap Opera

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Techworld nicely sums up the soap opera being played out in the UWB forum. UWB is a wireless access method which offers very high speed data at short distances, perfect for Home Networking and Personal Area Networking. The two competing factions are DS-UWB (Direct Spreading) and MB-OFDM (MutiBand OFDM) backed by Freescale and Intel respectively in the IEEE working group. Both have a very different take on the applications of such a standardised UWB. Whereas Freescale is gunning for using it as the physical layer for wireless USB which can interwork with existing products in the market, Intel backs on deploying new products which can communicate wirelessly with each other.

A point worthy of mention is the Telco's huge dislike for UWB, the reason being interference.
No serious evidence of interference has been put forward, but it operates in spectrum the telcos have paid to license, and it gives phones yet another high-bandwidth I/O channel that the telcos can't bill for.
They have paid a lot of money for their spectrum and its only natural that they will try and protect it. Makes solid business sense. But from an engineers point of view, my point of view, they are trying to block a new technology which offers a lot of promise. Combine UWB with Mesh Networking and you can think of so many possibilities. Not surprisingly both these IEEE working goups are riddled with politics and going nowhere.

Even within the FCC's guidelines, which states that USB devices should emit lesser power than the "unintentional radios", UWB still has a lot of teeth. The early products are already on the market or are scheduled to hit. Once they become popular, the demand for applying this technology to other areas will increase.

MB-OFDM will finally make it into the mobile phones then.

Tags: UWB Intel Freescale Motorola DS-UWB MB-OFDM FCC Mobile Wireless USB 2.0
posted by Rajiv, 6:18 AM | link | 0 comments |

Consolidation Wave

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The consolidation wave after the Lucent-Alcatel merger seems to be picking up steam. The latest is that Seimens is looking to exit its Telecom Infrastructure business and Motorola and Nortel are the interested parties. Other ideal combinations have also been touted, Motorola-Juniper and Motorola-Tellabs. But the insider news points to Seimens-Motorola. In the past Seimens has sold of its loss making mobile phone business to BenQ.

Several reasons have also been cited; the preceeding acquisition wave amongst the carriers, Sprint joining Nextel, AT&T buying BellSouth and so on, leaving the equipment vendors with lesser but powerful customers and more imporantly competition from low-cost suppliers from China (read Huawei). Its amazing to see how low cost products disrupt the whole market.

Its been predicted earlier that the Chinese equipment companies would easily beat out the incumbent bigger players in the years to come. The industry it seems is gearing up for the challenge.

Tags: Siemens Motorola Nortel Lucent Alcatel Huawei ZTE M&A
posted by Rajiv, 12:21 AM | link | 3 comments |


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A very nice primer from IHT on the everything Wi. As per IHT WiBRO trail happened during the Winter Olymipcs in Turin. Sounds like a very hush hush thing since neither Telecom Itialia nor Samsung actually did any publicity of it. Is there a need to keep WiBRO that secretive? There's nothing secretive about the Korean trial but.

Seems that WiBRO enabled mobiles are also slated to come out once the sandard is finalised. And there are already some sightings of it. And Qulalcomm's seemingly wants to embrace it with a fallback option to EVDO or CDMA 2000! Not to mention the OFDM patents (acquired from Flarion) its trying to push in the standards as well.

So are the 3G telecom services, all the EVDO's and HSDPA's, supposed to play the second fiddle?

Previous Post: QC Penalised.

Tags: WiFi WiBRO WiMAX QC 3G
posted by Rajiv, 2:09 AM | link | 1 comments |

Customary JBoss Post

Monday, April 17, 2006

The JBoss acquisition by Red Hat has Information Week investigating it in depth. They have three articles back to back; first one examining the impact for Red Hat, second one proclaiming a new era in OSS and the latest one on Marc Fleury, CEO of JBoss. Interestingly, Slashdot had featured an article on Marc Fleury from BW just two days before the deal was finalised which had painted him as the villain. In just a week, he is the new pin up guy for Open Source as per Information Week!

The best part of this deal is the vindication that there is an exit strategy for Open Source companies as well. Although the deal was not that huge in terms of numbers, it still will rake in a lot of money for the investors. The explosion in open source investments by VC's has indeed borne some fruit. Inspired by this deal a lot of new open source software startups will crop up which in time will lead to an open source bubble as well.

The company that I have formed, Tantra Telecom, is also into Open Source. And it has drawn a lot of criticism from the naysayers of Open Source. The halo of Open Source is always associated with altruism, a community of developers who take it up as a hobby rather than profession. And its difficult to shake off. This deal will do a lot of good for commercial open source software.

Previous Posts: Open Source Century. Open Source Web. Managed Open Source. New Frontiers.

Tags: JBoss RedHat OSS OpenSource Venture Capital M&A
posted by Rajiv, 3:22 AM | link | 10 comments |

QC Penalised

Friday, April 14, 2006

Techdirt points us to a news item of the Justice Department penalising Qualcomm for its haste in acquiring Flarion Technologies. Flarion was the inventor of FLASH-OFDM technique which lay claim to more effiecient use of OFDM compared to the Intel backed WiMAX technology. Qualcomm viewed it as the competitor to WiMAX which itself was a competitor to 3G telecom technologies!

Although insignificant as it may seen, it does raise a question on was it intentional on part of QC? QC would have surely known about the Justice Department restrictions but it was ready to pay a fine rather than wait. Was there a business urgency for that? Or was it just a mistake? We'll the Justice Department thinks so!

The games people play!

Tags: QC Flarion OFDM WiMAX Intel
posted by Rajiv, 5:53 AM | link | 2 comments |

Confusing Report

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Motorola recenlty relased a report on the impact of 3G mobile voice and data services. The report itself is pretty exhaustive with case studies and seeks to illustrates how adoption of these services change the behaviour pattern. The overall outlook is very bright in the report which is expected since a lot of Morotola's investment has gone into 3G.

But now the same report is being used to downplay 3G as well. Its bascially a copy of the press release of Motorola which has been altered to highlight the negatives. Although the report has been much publicized, nobody yet has come out with any summary conclusions of how good or bad the impact is going to be. It has just added to the already existing confusion in the market.

The jury will be out once the 3G adoption outgrows the 2G penetration. And the revenues increase. Till then keep guessing.

Update: More positive analysis.

Tags: 3G 2G Motorola Telecom Wireless
posted by Rajiv, 8:37 AM | link | 0 comments |


Qualcomm's promise is finally being delivered. The EVDO Rev B modem which can match speeds of a fixed line DSL is in the works. The funny thing is, there will be no operator support till at least another year and the standard is not even published. Verizon Rev A deployment is at least another year away and there is no word of the development of Rev B starting yet.

But still Rev B is an ambitious protocol. It uses multiple carriers on a single terminal to provide more bandwith. In Rev A the average throughput a stationary user can get is around 700-800 kbps. With Rev B the user will be allocated three carriers each with that capacity, thus increasing the bandwidth available. I have not heard about any other telecom protocol which takes this approach.

The marketing spin on this one is even more impressive. The data rates promised should be taken with a pinch of salt. They are for a stationary user in a multicarrier environment on a good RF condition. You need to get lucky for all the three together.

Compared to UMTS, the competing HSUPA is still does not have any such multicarrier support. Another advantage for EVDO. WiMAX does promise DSL like speeds for a stationary user though. Qualcomm is not a big backer of WiMAX. As obvious from this marketing pitch.

Previous Post: DOrA Skype.

Update: ABI Research paints a bright future for EVDO.

Tags: EVDO Mulitcarrier QC Broadband WiMAX
posted by Rajiv, 3:40 AM | link | 5 comments |

UMA Demos

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Dual Mode WiFi GSM phone has been demonstrated by Nokia in the ongoing CITA Wireless trade show. The technology behind it is Unlicensed Mobile Access or UMA. Its a set of specifications for protocols between the UMA Network Controller (UNC) and the GPRS core network elemets such as SGSN, MSC, AAA and HLR. It has now been integrated into 3GPP and is a part of it. But it does not use SIP and cannot interwork with IMS. Although its being touted as a stepping stone to IMS, its incompatible with IMS's philosophy of all IP based services.

But as this demo proves, it is workable on a 2G system. And with the WiFi Networks proliferating the demand for interworking of current GPRS network with the WiFi Hotspots would increase in the near future. Already some MVNO's have deployed proprietary system for this. And till the transistion to 3G happens and when IMS is fully in place, this system can meet the demands of the market.

But in the end it does create somewhat of a qundary for the operators. Go for UMA or transistion directly to IMS? Its the customers who will ultimately decide which telcos. move to UMA. Good times for the consumer.

Via: Slashdot.

Previous Post: VoRIM

posted by Rajiv, 4:10 AM | link | 0 comments |

Cat and Mouse Game

Friday, April 07, 2006

The emergence of the new breed of Mobile Routers has the Telcos. worried, Verizon in this specific case. But the real worry would not be bandwidth. A single account being shared between several users would mean more traffic which in the long term would translate to more business. IMHO the cause heartburn is something else.

EVDO is a fairly new technology which has been designed specifically for asymmetric packet data traffic profile such as internet browsing. Web site surfing has a distinct characteristic; the downlink traffic is much more than the uplink traffic, hence the term asymmetric. But with the advent of broadband and web services (eg. Flickr, YouTube) where user generated content plays the pivotal role, the gap between the uplink and downling traffic is shirnking. Real time applications such as Skype and latency specific technologies such as AJAX are also contributing. And EVDO Rev 0 is not engineered for that.

Broadband is not just the speed of uplink and downlink. Its also about a faster user experience. When the EVDO protocol was designed nobody had forseen that the traffic profile of an average user might completely change by the time its deployed. Its like the worst nightmare of the Telcos. coming true. The next revision, called Rev A (DOrA), attempts to address a lot of shortcomings of Rev 0. But its deployment is at least another year and half away. By that time the user traffic profile would have changed again. Its a cat and mouse game.

Such skewed traffic profiles tend to bring down the performace of the system as a whole. And they have to be limited so that other users do not get affected. In fact Verizon's service agreement restricts the user to run any real time voice application (eg. Skype, Vonage) over their EVDO service!

Even UMTS has the same problem. The Rel 99 is similar to the 3G1X service. The downlink speed is enhanced by HSDPA and uplink by HSUPA. Both CDMA and WCDMA will also see the introduction of OFDM in the physical layer in later revisions because of its superior over the air performance. That is where WiFi and WiMAX scores. They are already on OFDM. Qualcomm caught up with OFDM a tad too late.

Update: The clamour against Verizon is increasing. But Sprint is embracing it.

Tags: Verizon Mobile Routers EVDO Broadband DORA CDMA 3G1X UMTS HSDPA HSUPA OFDM WiMAX WiFi
posted by Rajiv, 2:00 AM | link | 0 comments |

Notepad Journal

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Got to know about this cool hack for MS notepad. I have heard about MS Word and other hacks but this one is really useful. Follow these steps.
  1. Open Notepad, enter .LOG in the first line and a Carriage Return (Enter).
  2. Save and close it.
  3. Double click and open it.
  4. Notice that Notepad has taken the pains to add the date and time and place the cursor at the next line.
  5. Write down your entry followed by a CR.
  6. Repeat the process.
A nice virtual easter egg from Microsoft.

Tags: MS Notepad Hack
posted by Rajiv, 3:59 AM | link | 6 comments |

OLPC Update

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wired has an much needed update on the OLPC project. It seems that instead of a hand crank it may have a AC Adapter with a foot pedal. Thoughts of a bicylce comes rushing to mind. In India bicylces are very common mode of transport in the villages and cities as well. It would be very easy to rig up a AC power generating module using a old discarded bicycle. A Business Opportunity for entreprenuers.

Also it seems that Windows CE is being considered as well. Thats a surprise! I dont see any particular advantage other than appeasement of Gates.

Also check out the Slashdot comments on this article. Good insights.

Previous Post: One Laptop Per Child

Tags: OLPC Negroponte Bicylce Windows CE Bill Gates News Corp Rupert Murdoch Red Hat
posted by Rajiv, 2:01 AM | link | 0 comments |

Crappy Airtel

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Yesterday I realised that why Telecom Services need so much regulations and how the Telcos. can use simply take thier users for granted. They have an immense power with them; the number of the user. In India it is not possible yet to preserve the IMSI across different service providers. And this is used by the service providers to blackmail thier customers. This is what happened with me.

Around three months ago they provided a GPRS Service branded as "Airtel Online" to prepaid customers free of charge to whoever signed up. But on 2nd of April they withdrew the service without any prior notification to the users. On enquiry it was found that the service was available only for three months. But now it has been completely withdrawn and will no longer be provided at all to the prepaid customers.

The GPRS service it seems is available only to the postpaid customers. Even if the prepaid customers are ready to pay for the service, they cannot since Airtel policy does not allow it. This is a highly discriminatory policy. I question the policy on the simple basis that any customer should be allowed to access a service if he or she can be charged for it. Airtel it seems does not believe in that.

Even if the customer is ready migrate to postpaid, it will take a minimum of two to a maximum of four working days. In that period of time number will not be accessible! I dont believe that this is a neccesity. This only amounts to harassment of prepaid customers. The amazing part is that prepaid customers constitue the largest and the most popular segment of Airtel. And instead of wooing them and increasing thier base they are bent on driving them away. At least I can switch to Hutch and use GPRS on my prepaid.

I am not an expert on telecom policy but I have been in this industry for too long to know about the technology. They can easily provide the GPRS service to the prepaid customers and charge them. Even migrating a number from prepaid to postpaid is not rocket science that it would need four days. But then I am just single low ARPU customer who wants to remain prepaid because of the freedom provided by it. Airtel is too big and rich to care for me. I have sent a mail to TRAI to register my protest. And maybe I'll approach the consumer fourm as well.

For the time being but, I am one angry dissatisfied consumer.

Tags: Airtel GPRS TRAI India Mobile Operator Telecom
posted by Rajiv, 2:03 AM | link | 0 comments |

Sunny Dreams

Monday, April 03, 2006

SUN has come up with an Open Source DRM. With RIAA's war against Media Piracy, DRM has a popular subject in the media in recent times. Everyone is coming out with an implementation. While the idea behind Open Source DRM can be appreaciated, and may even get some traction, its diffcult to see how it can solve the tricky question of copy protection. If there is a system, then there will be ways to break it. The idea of DRM is self defeating in fact. It has to ultimately rely on the honesty of the individual involved. That does not leave much of technology in it.

The business model of media marketing has become obsolete with the emergence of storage and sharing technologies. RIAA needs to come up with new business models if this industry has to survive. And the hard fact is that it might not be as lucrative as earlier.

Previous Posts: Amazing DRM.

Tags: DRM SUN RIAA Copy Protection Piracy
posted by Rajiv, 10:58 AM | link | 0 comments |

Whats In A Name?

Lucent is Dead! Long Live Lucent! The name has not been decided yet but Lucatel is doing the rounds. I personally feel that it sounds like the name of a gangster. Alcacent is much better. But then it does not sound like a Telecom giant at all.

The rumor also has it that Huawei and Nortel are going to merge next. That would be a toughie to name though. Huatel. Norwei. Or how about NorHua. More options at least in the case.

The next in line would be one of Ericsson and Cisco. Or Ericsson and Juniper. Horror of Horror's. Juricsson. Or Ciscussion. Or EricJun!

Reflecting on the Lucent and Alcatel merger though, it is a very good deal for Lucent. Lucent has been on the verge of turning around since past one year but has never did. Maybe this will give them the much needed push over the hill. It should be viewed more as an aqcuisition though. Although Pat Russo is still the CEO, it has all been Alcatel's show. Would be nice to see how the wireless business is merged. There are too many competing products there.

I would personally love to see some Indian Service companies acquire some multinationals. Maybe some years down the line. Or maybe Tantra will do it one day!

Update: Om has coined a new term. LuLa.

Tags: Lucent Alcatel Merger Lucatel M&A Cisco Juniper Ericsson Huawei Nortel
posted by Rajiv, 7:21 AM | link | 1 comments |