Exploring the impact of broadband and technology on our lives, our businesses, and our communities.

5G needs fiber

There is a tremendous opportunity for community-owned networks to leverage spare fiber by working with 5G cellular providers to identify where 5G small cell poles are going to place and getting fiber to them.

Technology News:

I welcome our robot overlords...

Two stories today suggest the future may be exciting, but not in a good way.

In Las Vegas, a driver-less shuttle bus had an accident less than a hour after starting service. No one was hurt, but the bus failed to notice that a large truck was backing up and failed to move out of its way.

In Germany, while the owner of an apartment was out late, his Alexa device (the Amazon "smart home" widget) turned itself on at 2 AM and started playing music so loudly it woke all the neighbors. Police couldn't get anyone to answer the door, so they called a locksmith to break in. They turned off Alexa, changed the locks, and left. The owner was stuck with the locksmith bill and no clue as to why the Alexa gadget did what it did.

5G wireless is going to deliver the promises

This article is long but readable, and it is a real eye opener. Many have been hoping that fiber could be ditched in favor of 5G wireless. The cable companies have been testing a variety of "5G" frequencies, and found that they all have significant shortcomings. The much-touted "...5G will deliver near Gigabit speeds..." turns out to be "mostly true" in a Billy Crystal "mostly dead" kind of way. If you are more than 150 feet from the tower and have any foliage in the way, the speed drops by about 90%.

The higher frequency millimeter wave systems are drastically attenuated by rain, snow, windows, and leaves. And yes, pine needles are still very bad.

In the next couple of years, expect to see some companies using the 5G radio systems to eliminate fiber drops from the street to the home--both Google and AT&T have been talking about doing this. But the short distances involved means lots of radios on the street, and to get the throughput up, you need those radios connected to fiber. And what everyone forgets is that everyone of those radios has to be connected to electric power.

We see that as a major issue. You need to get the radios as high as possible on existing utility poles, but that means putting them in the electric space, which raises the cost of installation and the cost of maintenance. If the electric service is underground, you have to install poles, which is also expensive.

Is the dumbphone now smart to own?

According to this article, some people are ditching their smartphones and replacing them with "dumbphones." The typical dumbphone offers phone calls and texting, and that's it. All of the distractions and "there's an app for that" are gone.

If this trend gets people back to using the phone to actually talk to people again, it would be good thing.

In other news, Apple's iPhone X, which costs $1,000, is selling like hotcakes. So I don't hold out much hope for the dumbphone trend.

Happy birthday, iPod!

The iPod is ten years old, and in that short time, the concept of a multi-function device that fits in your pocket has transformed the way we work and play--not necessarily always for the better. There were other pocket size music devices before the iPod, but Apple provided easy to use software (iTunes) with an easy to use interface on the iPod itself that lent itself to rapid and easy browsing of your music library.

The original iPod had a 5 Gig hard drive--an actual rotating device, that was replaced in just a few years with solid state hard drives with no moving parts and much lower power consumption for longer battery life. The iPod led directly to the iPhone, which has largely rendered stand along music players obsolete--Apple only offers one iPod model now--the iPod Touch.

Here is the first commercial for the iPod.

The decline of the West: cellphone airbags

In a sure sign of decline, the city of Salzburg, Austria is putting airbags on lamp posts on city streets because so many people were bumping into them while looking down at their cellphones.

Yes, it is a publicity stunt to raise awareness of the problem of "smartphone zombie," but even having to use that phrase is an sad indictment of our culture, in which we are so obsessed with our technology that we can't walk down the street without bumping into something.

Death of TV: Part LXXIX: Google drops TV

Google Fiber has announced that it is dropping TV packages from its content offerings in Louisville and San Antonio. The wide range of content available from OTT services like Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu, and other services makes the traditional cable/satellite TV packages seem quaint by comparison.

iPhone 8, iPhone X, Apple TV, and LTE, cellular

Apple announced new iPhones yesterday. Faster, brighter displays, and better cameras. Ho hum.

What interested me was the Apple TV announcement--the new Apple TV supports 4K video, which uses FOUR TIMES more bandwidth than HD video. Apple continues to improve the user experience with its products, but many Internet services are not going to be able to deliver 4K streaming video, or at best, only one stream at a time. Meanwhile, the average household has more than ten Internet-connected devices, and that is going to keep growing.

T-Mobile is not happy with iPhone X because it does not support T-Mobile's new LTE frequencies.

In the race to try to squeeze more bandwidth out of wireless radio systems, more frequencies are being used, which means device manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have to build more radio technology into their devices, which means more weight, poorer battery life, and less space for other stuff.

What phone do I use? I'm still completely happy with a three year old iPhone 5S. Fits in my pocket, has long battery life, and rings every time someone calls me. I don't need much more than that.

Eldo Telecom: Rural copper won't be replaced by small cells

Eldo Telecom points to an article that suggests that small cell cellular access points won't be the cure-all for rural residents.

Technology News:

The emerging Space Economy

It's been a long time since I wrote anything about the Space Economy. I was, perhaps, overly optimistic about the timing, but lately all the signs are that the private sector now has sufficiently mature payload to space technology to completely change the nature of space research and business.

SpaceX seems well ahead of competitors, with two launches in a just a few days, and both times, the first stage booster returned successfully to the launch pad.

In other developments, Virgin Galactic is apparently nearing final development of its near space tourism offering. Bigelow Aerospace, an early entrant, has signed a contract to supply NASA with inflatable space habitats. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin round trip space vehicle continues advanced testing, and NASA and the European Space Agency continue to pursue their own plans.

Space really is starting to look like the final frontier.

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