One of the Motorola news announcements I didn’t cover last week was the introduction of the company’s CDMA femtocell. Femtocells keep getting buzz, and the latest stats out of ABI Research suggest there will be 70 million femtocells in the world by 2012 and roughly 200 people using them. (That’s up from ABI’s earlier prediction of 150 million femtocell users in 2012.)
As far as I can tell, there are two reasons wireless carriers want the home base stations. First, femtocells mean fewer dropped calls in the home, which should keep people talking longer – maybe even get them to drop their landlines – and improve customer satisfaction. Second, femtocells will make it easier for consumers to use revenue-generating mobile data services at home. My gut reaction to that is: why would people use mobile data services if they have Wi-Fi at home already? But on the other hand, I use text messaging at home, so my gut may not be good for much on this one.
The latest out of IMS Research shows that nearly 8.4 million IP set-tops shipped worldwide in 2007, and the research firm predicts IPTV households to grow 52.2% annually through 2012. Primary markets include Asia (China and South Korea) and Europe. However, AT&T is on target to hit one million IPTV households by the end of this year.
As of the end of 2007, Motorola had shipped 3.4 million IP set-tops total.
Editor’s Note: I mistakenly posted a pic of the DCX set-top originally. The current image above shows Motorola IP set-tops.
Taking a break for the moment from the highly technical posts, here’s some news that was somewhat obscured by yesterday’s corporate announcement that Motorola will split into two parts. (There, I’ve said it. No, I don’t have any more information. No, I can’t speculate on how the split will occur.) In a spate of pre-CTIA news, the company announced the Motorola Mobile TV DH02. It’s a follow-on to the DH01, but adds in GPS navigation, maps and traffic alerts. The announcement also comes just after the European Commission announced that DVB-H (the DH01 and DH02 run on DVB-H) is to be the official EU standard for mobile TV.
Get ready for a flood of wireless news and analysis in the run-up to CTIA. Among the topics of discussion will be fierce debate on the current state of WiMAX, and in fact it’s begun already. I opened up TechMeme this morning and was greeted by the news that several cable companies are looking to add funds to a proposed Sprint/Clearwire WiMAX network. This brings up two issues as far as I’m concerned: cable companies attempting once again to harness the quad play (adding on wireless to voice, video and data), and the “fight” between WiMAX and LTE. I’ll leave the first issue to other experts except to agree with Om Malik that the timing is appropriate given the recent 700 MHz spectrum wins by Verizon and AT&T. Regarding the second issue, I have a bit more to say.
News of the death of WiMAX has been wildly overstated. There’s confusion between the state of WiMAX in the US and the state of WiMAX in the rest of the world, where, except for an odd Aussie deployment, WiMAX is doing quite well. And in the US, despite dire predictions about the resources behind WiMAX, there is simply too much investment already made to pull back, even if people (namely Sprint and Clearwire) wanted to. This is a good thing! Let’s continue to give love and development resources to LTE, another 4G technology, but since WiMAX is going to bring higher-speed wireless broadband to the US faster than LTE, folks should be all for it.
Which brings me to my last point. WiMAX and LTE have a lot in common. Motorola’s Fred Wright stated back in January that between 70% and 80% of the development work being done for WiMAX can be used for LTE. The proof is in the pudding, right? Motorola announced today a new common hardware platform that will be used to support both WiMAX and LTE access points. It’s not the first hardware on the market to be used for both purposes, but it’s Motorola’s third-generation OFDM platform, smaller than earlier versions and benefiting (in terms of cost, size, and power consumption) from the company’s extensive experience with commercial WiMAX deployments.
There will be a lot more discussion about both WiMAX and LTE around CTIA, but the important thing to remember is that both have a lot of potential upside for everyone: hardware manufacturers, service providers and consumers.
Back in the cable modem termination system (CMTS) lab a couple of weeks ago I had several colleagues wandering around with video cameras capturing conversations and lab shots throughout the day. Above is a snippet of Kevin Sullivan, senior director of engineering at Motorola, talking about integrated CMTS versus modular CMTS. (Amateur editing done on my computer…) The gist is that operators are going to choose different paths along the way to DOCSIS 3.0 capabilities, and Motorola can help them whatever path they choose. There’s more detail in the clip on what equipment each path entails.
Adding on to Kevin Sullivan’s point, Motorola has found that in the short term operators want to get to downstream channel bonding (the highest-priority DOCSIS 3.0 feature) without necessarily buying all new hardware. In other words, modular CMTS is generally not a short-term priority as long as operators can get downstream channel bonding on existing integrated CMTS… like the Motorola BSR 64000.
The lunchtime speaker at last week’s Policy Symposium was Meredith Baker, acting administrator for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). And although the session didn’t have much to do with the rest of the conference, Ms. Baker was chock full of updates on the federal DTV converter box coupon program.
First, the NTIA has already received more than eight million coupon orders. I figure they can’t all be from the Engadget staff, so at the very least there are a few educated consumers who have heard of the program and have already acted to get their own coupons. Unfortunately, these consumers may not be educated enough. One conference attendee admitted last week that she ordered her coupons and then realized she didn’t need them because she has cable. Those coupons will end up in the trash, and I doubt they’re the only ones.
Coupon reimbursement rates are one reason the NTIA has very little way of knowing when it will run out of money. The organization has already run through roughly $320 million of the $890 million allocated to it by Congress, and Ms. Baker suggested the NTIA would be asking Congress for an additional $450 million in the near future, just in case. The other reason it’s difficult estimate funds is because order volumes are not consistent. There were surges, for example, when the program first started and around February 17th of this year, one year before the official transition date.
From a consumer perspective, I learned a few things about the program that I wasn’t aware of yet. For example, the mailers that go out with the DTV coupons include certified converter-box retailers in your area determined by zip code. Convenient. You can also place coupon orders through the end of March 2009. (That’s for folks who don’t clue in to the transition until D Day.) Finally, there are no certified battery-powered converters for battery-powered TVs yet. Got a battery-run, portable television? So far, you’re out of luck.
If you want more detail on the DTV transition, take a look at the NTIA website. The cable industry’s Cable Tech Talk blog also had an interesting post up recently on the subject.