WiFi and wireless

Facebook gives up on its drones

Facebook has given up trying to build its own drones. The idea was that the high altitude unmanned aircraft would beam Internet access down to the ground in remote areas where Internet was not available via conventional terrestrial delivery.

When "unlimited" does not mean what you think it means

Gizmodo has a very detailed analysis of cellular "unlimited" plans that is a great example of why wireless broadband is never going to be a complete substitute for fiber service.

The carriers would not carry out this wordsmithed subterfuge if they did not have to, but the problem is very simple. We all keep using more bandwidth, and the bandwidth available from free space wireless in any given frequency range (e.g. 3G, 4G, 5G, LTE, etc.) is strictly limited by physics.

Why wireless won't replace fiber...

All wireless "unlimited data" plans come with an expiration date. Once a cellular company's sales targets for new customer has been met, they change the "unlimited data" plan.

In this example, it is Sprint which has announced that once you use your monthly "unlimited" allotment of 23 Gig of data, you get throttled.

...because who needs fiber when wireless will handle everything?

The Wall Street Journal has a article on the shortage of wireless spectrum and the problems it is going to create. It's short--just click over and read it.

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Why wireless can't replace fiber

As part of Verizon's restructuring of its cellular service to allow for shared data plans, the company is going to offer free texting, but overall, your monthly cellular bill could be higher. Verizon is getting rid of unlimited data plans and replacing them with "pay by the drink" plans that will meter bandwidth use.

Verizon rolls out shared data plans

In what will surely cause an uptick in the sale of smartphones, Verizon has rolled out a shared data plan. This will be popular with families with teenagers who have been clamoring for a smartphone, as the parents (known to the kids as "the wallet") may be willing to pay the $10/phone base fee rather than the old $25 or $30 per phone data charge. AT&T is expected to roll out a similar plan.

There's just not enough capacity there

The always insightful Eldo Telecom points to a news item that quotes a telecom analyst who tried to use the much ballyhooed LTE for several months as his primary broadband connection. He gave up and went back to a landline, partly because of the cost and partly because of performance. The money quote is, "There's just not enough capacity there."

Why cellular wireless is not the answer for rural broadband

There is a significant push nationwide to simply let the cellphone companies "solve" the rural broadband problem by rolling out "little broadband" cellular data services in rural areas and proclaiming, "Job done!" This story from the Daily Yonder illustrates, unfortunately, it's not going to be that simple.

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Why wireless won't make fiber un-necessary

Ars Technica has an article on problems with WiMax and cellular wireless networks. As customers increase their use of high bandwidth services, the wireless networks can't keep up, and the result is that companies like Verizon and Clearwire have started reducing the amount of bandwidth they make available to subscribers. Clearwire's much ballyhooed WiMax network, just a few years old, is already congested and inadequate.

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Wireless wars: Confusing the customer

This article illustrates perfectly everything that is wrong with wireless broadband, and in particular with cellular wireless. As Verizon rolls out the iPhone on its older and slower CDMA network, it is also taking a page from the AT&T playbook of three years ago.

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Verizon now has the iPhone. Ho-hum.

Everyone else on the InterTubes is writing about the release of the Verizon iPhone, but I'm having a hard time working up much enthusiasm. Here's why:

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Wireless networks groaning under the load: 30X bandwidth increases per year

AT&T has indicated that the use of broadband data on its cellular wireless network has slowed. Over the past two years, the company has seen data usage increase by 3000 percent. In the past quarter, the rate of increase has "slowed" to just 30X, down substantially from the previous 50x increases.

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Maybe cellphones don't cause cancer

Scientific American has a short article on the supposed dangers of cellphones. This is something I have always been worried about, but there has never been any convincing data for or against the supposed dangers. Many of the studies I have read about hedge a lot. I'm still not sure about what to believe, but this article provides some of the physics behind electromagnetic radiation, and it is seems to provide some hard science-based justification for worrying a bit less.

WaPo: "Tech firms dreaming of wireless boom"

There is so much confusion and mis-direction in this article that it is hard to know where to start, and I don't really blame Cecilia Kang, the Washington Post reporter who wrote the article. She interviewed a bunch of wireless equipment vendors and wireless services firms, and it those firms that are doing the dreaming. And most of it is dreaming.

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WiMax: Death by LTE?

WiMax, which was going to solve everyone's broadband problems three years ago, may already be dead, without ever really being deployed in any meaningful way. This short article suggests that Clearwire is thinking seriously about switching from WiMax to LTE for its primary wireless deployment technology.

AT&T iPhone, iPad service contract changes

AT&T has announced changes to its U.S. data plans for iPhones and iPads. Most current iPhone users pay $30/month for an unlimited data plan. A bit pricey, but you know what you are paying every month, and you don't have to worry about surprise charges on your next month's bill (I've had an iPhone for two years).

Portland City WiFi Being Dismantled

The City of Portland, Oregon's municipal WiFi experiment is coming to an end. It was a public/private partnership between the City and a firm called MetroFi, which reportedly spent between $2 million and $3 million to build the network. But it never worked well, and residents reported it did not work well indoors. MetroFi went into bankruptcy in 2008, and the hundreds of antennas that were mounted on City property are now being removed.

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Google's phone no match for cellphone contracts

Steven Levy has a Wired article that illustrates some of the problems that Google, and by extension, all cellphone users face. The new Google Nexus One can be purchased unlocked and without a cellular contract. You can then (in theory) go to any provider and get a service contract.

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Will the iTablet finally bring true data roaming?

New rumors about the Apple iTablet (or iSlate, or iSomething) suggest that it may come with 3G wireless network access built in. Big deal, since all smartphones already have this, right? No, the rumormongers are suggesting that iTablet owners will be able to pick and choose from several different cellular providers--but only for data, not voice.

It is likely that current cellular roaming agreements that make it possible to use your cellphone on any network would be modified to allow data roaming independent of voice contracts.

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Is public WiFi dead?

The BBC has an article asking what happened to public WiFi. The big WiFi projects that attracted so much attention in the U.S. five and six years ago (e.g. Philadelphia, San Francisco) failed miserably and were shut down or dramatically restructured. Some smaller municipal WiFi projects, like the one in St. Cloud, Florida, had some early rough spots but are still active. But local governments, by and large, found that free WiFi was expensive to support and often very lightly used.

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