More on Wireless

So clearly I’m all over wireless for Thanksgiving – it’s due in large part to Tim Finnerty sending me so many helpful articles and the tryptophan is keeping me indoors.

First there’s an interesting piece on using cable’s model for promoting R & D; “Former Cable Labs chief Dick Green wants the government to promote the kind of collaborative research that resulted in the DOCSIS standard for cable high-speed modem data delivery and to find ways to incentivize research through government contracting.” I’m always a fan of investment and it feels as if investment is the only way that the US will finds way back on top of International ranking lists of any sort. Unfortunately, it seems as if the economy has left people a little gun shy for long term investment – but I read an article where investment in other countries has paid off and I’m reminded that we need to invest.

Maybe encouraging investment and collaboration through the government is a good way to get the ball rolling.

Almost to make the point, Comcast recently announced 361,000 net additions to its broadband subscriber base in the third quarter, roughly doubling the combined numbers reported by AT&T, Verizon Communications and Qwest Communications. They are working on an underground IPTV and video convergence project (called Excalibur) that should set them in good stead for the future of video (Side note: Apparently Excalibur is hiring!) 

Also, there’s the whole foray into wireless, that I wrote about yesterday. For their part, Mediacom expects to launch wideband modem services in 11 markets total in December, with nine starting with a 50-meg tier, and the balance offering 100-meg services.

Does Clearwire have more plans for the Twin Cities?

I love when someone smarter than I am follows up on a story. The other day Tim Finnerty sent me a great update on the world of wireless after I posted an update on Clear Wireless coming into Savage.

To start, Clear Wireless is a subsidiary of Clearwire, the wireless company that is affiliated with several big communications players, including some cable operators. According to their website:

“CLEAR is the brand name for next generation mobile internet products and services offered by Clear Wireless, LLC. Combined with significant spectrum holdings, our WiMAX network provides unmatched capacity to deliver next generation broadband access.” “Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR) currently provides CLEAR 4G WiMAX service in Baltimore and Portland, and provides pre-WiMAX communications services in 50 markets across the U.S. and Europe. The company offers a robust suite of advanced high-speed Internet services to consumers and businesses. It is currently building a 4G WiMAX mobile internet wireless network, bringing together an unprecedented combination of speed and mobility. Clearwire’s open all-IP network, combined with significant spectrum holdings, provides unmatched network capacity to deliver next-generation mobile internet access. Strategic investors include Intel Capital, Comcast, Sprint, Google, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.”

You can read more about Comcast/ Clearwire Mobile WiMax’s move into Portland. Or here.

Tim suggested that “since Comcast is a partner in the Clearwire venture, perhaps Clearwire will piggyback on the cable system infrastructure within other communities in the Metro that are served by Comcast. Comcast might be able to accommodate antenna locations that are already available (thus no need for municipal approvals). Although I have not researched this in great detail, my gut sense had been that Clearwire might use Comcast’s infrastructure in some markets for co-location of equipment and backhaul data transport.

Clearwire has made big news with its recent deployments in Portland and Philadelphia. Maybe this is an indication that the Twin Cities is the next big market.”It sounds as if Apple Valley has received a request from Clearwire to approve tower locations in three parks. (That will be discussed by the Telecommunications Advisory Committee at their Dec. 7th meeting.)

On a potentially related note, Clearwire just raised $920 million more to fund a WiMAX buildout. With it, “Clearwire expects more than 30 million people to be covered by its 4G WiMax service in more than 25 markets by the end of 2009, and with the new financing is targeting network coverage for up to 120 million people by the end of 2010.”

On another potentially related note, John Shepard recently wrote about the FCC and how they “cleared the way for broadband deployment by establishing timeframes of 90 days for collocations and 150 days for all other tower siting applications reviewed by state and local governments. This action will assist in speeding the deployment of next generation wireless networks while respecting the legitimate concerns of local authorities and preserving local control over zoning and land use policies.”

I like John’s take on the announcement, which is super practical – mostly where are the planning and zoning professionals and how is this going to play out? John talks about his experience with a cell tower,

“When Alltel finally put up a cell tower a couple blocks from my house, I really didn’t care that it was a nasty ugly lattice tower. It’s a tower. I get a signal. So what if the out-of-state corporate powers-that-be didn’t think my hometown deserved a mono-pole let alone a stealth cell tower…. Not that I’m bitter or anything.”

He’s funny about it – but really don’t you feel like maybe the tech providers could save themselves some nasty phone calls buy some good will if they worked with the planner to take care of the non-tech details?

Minnesota Broadband videos

At the Blandin Broadband conference I had hoped to video folks talking about how and why they use video – but unfortunately it turns out there are only so many hours in a day. I might try to video folks when I’m out and about – but in the meantime I’ve run across two videos in the last week.

Here’s a great video promoting video in Dakota County created by the Dakota County Broadband Committee

I want to thank Jennifer Armstrong for sending me the following video; it’s all about the Ultra High-Speed Task Force recommendations:

Video is a quick visual way to promote communitywide broadband. For some communities these videos might spur a similar video (if so please send them my way and I’ll post them here too); for other communities it might make sense to point folks to one of these videos to help spur conversation and planning.

Savage is getting wireless

Here’s the latest news on wireless in Savage from the Savage Pacer:

Clear Wireless provides wireless broadband high-speed Internet and is expanding its network to serve homes and small businesses in the metro area. Coverage of Savage will require six antennas: three will be located on city water towers and two on existing antenna towers.

The Savage City Council, Savage Planning Commission and the Savage Parks Recreation and Natural Resources Commission each approved the wireless tower plan. I’m not sure if this next tidbit is good news or bad news but apparently notices went out about the various meetings to discuss it and no one showed up. I’m going to optimistically call that an unanimous vote for broadband.

Rural India going Mobile

Rural India appears to have cell coverage – and they’re making the most of it. According to the Wall Street Journal, “In the furthest reaches of India’s rural heartland, the cell phone is bringing something that television, radio and even newspapers couldn’t deliver: Instant access to music, information, entertainment, news and even worship.”

In light of Minnesota’s not-so-stellar cellular coverage, this caught my eye. Apparently there are about 750,000 isolated villages in India – but a decade of concerted effort by operators means that these areas have good cell coverage and the residents are making the most of it. Folks dial in to listen to music. Sports fans get hourly text updates of cricket matches. Farmers get daily weather reports *and* Tata Teleservices has a service which lets farmers use their cell phones to control the pumps that water their crops. You can even phone in to hear prayers.

It’s great – and the article goes on to talk about the economics behind the various businesses offering these services. Right now these service make up only 10 percent of the business but that is expected to expand to 25 percent. Also the rural communities have been better insulated from economic hardship; so this may be a less lucrative but more stable revenue stream. Maybe that’s a shift that needs to happen here in Minnesota. We can start thinking of rural markets as more stable, that might attract more providers is the cell and broadband industries

Telehealth applications

Thanks to Ann Higgins for sending some great examples of broadband in action in the health care arena:

Modified Bluetooth Technology Has Telemedicine Potential

Apparently a telemedicine system based on a modified version of the Bluetooth wireless protocol has been created that can provide faster and more reliable patient assessment data transfers between mobile devices. It sounds like it will be faster (four times) and more reliable than current methods.

The virtual doctor visit

This article from the Washington Post tells the story of seniors using telehealth applications. It illustrates how easy the devices are to use these days, how effective than can be at monitoring patients and keeping them in their homes and the potential cost savings of instituting telehealth applications.

Final Reflections from the Blandin Broadband Conference

I’m excited to be able to post final notes on the 2009 Blandin Broadband Conference, Realizing Our Broadband Future: Getting from Here to There from Bernadine Joselyn. We’ve got her immediate takeaway messages in video and written reflections from the car trip home. If you have reflections to add – please post them as comments below. We’d love to read them.

It was great seeing folks at the conference. On my drive home I did some thinking about what we’d heard:
Getting from Here to There turned out to be a powerful theme. Our student guests from Mankato and Morris made it clear that they expect the world they step into to be wired; I think that will happen only if we do the work ourselves. That’s the main message I got from listening to our friends from the “Intelligent Communities” of Eindhoven and Fredericton. And even though the task is daunting, our morning discussions suggested that we’re making some progress.

It was encouraging to hear – from Mike O’Connor and John Stanoch, among others – a new optimism about prospects for deepened cooperation and collaboration, including in places like Grand Rapids and Monticello where they have failed in the past. As a number of community champions pointed out, public-private partnerships are one of the key strategies identified by the Task Force to help Minnesota achieve it’s “among top five” goal. Now we need to turn our attention to creating the regulatory environment and designing the incentives needed to help make more of that happen more easily. The Blandin Community Leadership Program’s adage, that leadership is ‘something you have to do yourself but can’t do alone,’ is truer than ever.

One aspiration everyone seems to share is to be “good ancestors” as Jim Baller said.

John O’Brien’s eye-popping presentation of a future in which my umbrella will change colors with the weather was arresting. And hearing about software that can save me from sending embarrassing emails late at night and teach me typing with the help of vampires was only vaguely reassuring. John’s challenge to see the contradictions in work place policies that simultaneously tolerate personal phone calls but forbid visits to Facebook (especially in the light of one student’s confession that 8 hours without Facebook would be a demotivating hardship for her), made me look long and hard at the face of the woman in his C.A.V.E. slide (Colleagues Against Virtually Everything). Is that me? Is that our organization? Our employers?

In the coming days we’ll be loading up the conference website with as much content as we can harvest from all the presentations. The Blandin Foundation’s Broadband Strategy Board is serious about responding to Mike O’Connor’s exhortation to scour the Task Force recommendations and be alert to ways we can contribute to the work of getting them done. There are lots of possibilities.