Tag: telecommunications

Netflix Confirms It Has Been Throttling Video Quality

marc bombenon phone streaming

We live in a society where media and entertainment are constantly being consumed. It’s an arms race to be the phone and/or internet provider that wins over the largest portion of the general public. The most recent frenzy revolves around Netflix, the media streaming giant that is dominating the streaming market.

The CEO of T-Mobile, John Legere, recently made an implication that his company’s rivals, Verizon and AT&T were secretly and purposefully lowering the video quality of the Netflix app. His direct quote was,

 “Did you know that when you watch Netflix on T-Mobile you get it at 480p, and the duopoly actually delivers it at 360p? I bet you didn’t know that. Go check. It’s true.”

Claims of this nature are not taken lightly, and both Verizon and AT&T were up in arms about the accusation. They did not have to fight for their honor for long, as Netflix stepped forward and admitted that they were the ones doing the “throttling” of the video quality.

This came as a shock to many, as Netflix has been at the forefront of the “open Internet” movement. They admitted that they have been limiting the video speeds to most of the major wireless carriers; but it was with good intentions. Netflix says they were reducing video quality to protect the consumer. Almost all major wireless carriers have mobile data caps, and Netflix wanted to help their consumers avoid hitting that cap, as that would likely discourage users from streaming in the future.

Netflix has come forward to say that they don’t reduce video quality for Sprint and T-Mobile (so John Legere was not wrong), “because “historically those two companies have had more consumer-friendly policies.” When clients of Verizon or AT&T go over their data limit, the carriers charge overage fees, while T-Mobile and Sprint reportedly just slow down connections.

This is a very interesting situation as it brings to light the pressures that apps are under to provide a quality experience for their users, while taking the powers of the carrier providers into consideration. Now that the news it out, Netflix is working on solutions to the video quality vs data cap dilemma. There are talks of a mobile data server that could be rolled out as soon as May, that would let users “stream more video under a smaller data plan.”


 

To see resources and read more information on this topic, please see the source articles: Telecoms & Wall Street Journal.

“What’s The Real Difference Between 4G and 5G”?

computer connectivity

As I mentioned last month, the telecommunications world is getting prepared for the new wave of 5G technology. Technology is evolving so rapidly, that falling behind the technological curve could quite literally destroy a business, and companies, specifically carriers, are fighting to stay in the race with the new 5G technology. It’s actually moving so quickly, that mobile technology is actually being built around 4G and 5G technology simultaneously.

 

All of this news is creating quite the buzz in the tech world. With buzz, there comes many questions; the most important being “What’s the real difference between 4G and 5G”?

As of right now, there is no individual “disruptor” technology that is spearheading the fifth generation of mobile technology. The major differentiator between the two generations is actually the speed at which the fifth generation is expected to perform.

The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance defined the fifth generation as:

“An end-to-end ecosystem to enable a fully mobile and connected society. It empowers value creation toward customers and partners, through existing and emerging use cases delivered with consistent experience and enabled by sustainable business models.”

With the research and pilot programs that have been building and testing so far, it looks like as though 5G will be exactly that.  EE Limited, a mobile carrier based out of the UK, provides 4G network speeds of 300mbit per second.  Field tests run by Huawei and NTT Docomo were able to reach speeds of 3.6Gbps per second; the field tests alone were able to reach speeds 10 times the available 4G speeds.

The speed is not the only difference between 4G and 5G that we’ll be experiencing though.

  • 5G technology is also going to be more slowly deployed. As those in the industry know, the development and deployment of 4G technology was rapidfire; everyone was just trying to keep up with each new discovery. 5G on the other hand, isn’t predicted to truly be available until 2020.
  • 5G networks are being built to support cloud RAN and virtual RAN to facilitate the creation of more localized data centers
  • The fifth generation of technology is going to be focused on connectivity for internet users everywhere. 4G was focused on just bandwith; 5G technologies are being designed with accessibility in mind.

5G technology will undoubtedly be another giant leap forward in the realm of technology. Keep an eye out for updates and breakthroughs over the next few years; there’s a great deal we have yet to see.


 

For resources on this article, please see the following sites: here , here, & here

 

What’s Going On With The Next Generation of Wireless?

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The realm of telecommunications will be facing a new wave of innovation as companies (and countries) begin to invest in 5G technology. The need for the next generation of technology was inevitable, as it is estimated that there will be “1,000 fold increase” in the amount of data created in the beginning half of the 2020s.

 

5G technology is already being tested in certain areas, and the two major mobile corporations, Verizon and AT&T, are beginning to test their 5G prototypes. Both Verizon and AT&T readily acknowledge that their market domination is due largely to their early initial investment in 4G technology in the past. Countries involved in the Olympic games are looking to have the 5G infrastructure in place within time frames that coincide with when they are hosting the Winter (2018) and Summer (2020) games.

 

This is not to saw that 4G is no longer going to be available. The orders for 4G equipment are by no means slowing. Many countries are still in the process of adopting and offering 4G technology.  Instead, it’s looking like the transition from 4G to 5G will be a very fast one.  There is and will continue to be a wave of initial investment in the 5G technology, as the major players in the industry are set on staying ahead of the curve. The simultaneous continuation of 4G technology development, coupled with the push for 5G technology availability will undoubtedly lead to an easy transition between 4G and 5G in the upcoming years. The speed at which technology changes is starting to make the “early adoption” period for technology shorter and shorter.

 

This increased interest and investment in 5G technology does mean that there will be far more “cooks in the kitchen” as the saying goes. The obvious Telecommunications giants will want a say in what’s going on, but they are no longer the only key players involved. These days, there are also the mobile phone manufacturers (Apple, Samsung, etc) who are deeply invested in thi new technology, as it directly affects the sales of their hardware. But there are also all of the companies involved in the Internet of Things (IoT). The increased connection and digitization of our everyday life means that more and more companies are going to be invested in the shaping of wireless technology.

 

This shift towards 5G will be interesting to watch. It’s introduction and continued development will literally be changing the face of technology, and the possibilities it can provide are absolutely astounding.


 

To see the article that inspired this blog, click here: The Economist

 

Making City Connectedness More Accessible

marc bombenon homeless connectedness

As technology continues to evolve at exponential rates, it is simultaneously becoming deeply ingrained in city culture. Almost everything that we do on a day-to-day basis revolves around technology and the internet, which in the hustle and bustle means our mobile devices are the key to connecting. Shopping, ordering services, searching for jobs, and almost every other task is almost exclusively tied to having internet access.

This hybridization of technology and city-living means that it is quickly becoming easier and easier for the disadvantaged to “fall through the gaps”. While it is true that 95% of people suffering from homelessness have a mobile device, that is simply not enough to keep them alive, safe, and in a position to regain their footing in society.

Having a mobile phone is simply not enough, and does not guarantee Connectedness in society. Research done by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network found that homeless individuals with phones still had to endure restrictions of service, credit shortages, theft, and even more simple… the lack of access to a charging station. A study found that nearly 32% of the people involved had limited access to power, and difficulty charging their mobile device. The continuous struggle to keep their phones on and functioning leaves very little time for individuals to focus on job hunting and accessing other resources. Not only that, these mobile devices can be the difference between life and death. With public phones being virtually non-existent, emergency situations require access to a private phone. If an individual has had their phone stolen or does not have a charged device any emergency could quickly become lethal, simply because of the inability to call emergency services.

Making Connections, a project based in Australia is working to find solutions to these issues, and help better connectivity and access for the underprivileged in city environments. They have started working directly with youth that have experienced homelessness in order to use their life experience and input to develop innovative solutions to the connectivity problem at hand. The initial goals are to find ways to create free/widespread access to power and WiFi, more flexible mobile payment plans, and a more efficient resource for support services.

To see the article that inspired this blog, click here.

 

Federal Communications Commission 101

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It’s hard to talk about telecommunications without talking about the FCC. The term “FCC” can be seen throughout the media, but many of us find ourselves wondering what exactly the FCC is and why it is often talked about. What do they do and what it is that makes them controversial at times?

The FCC, or Federal Communications Commission, is responsible for regulating interstate communications throughout the United States. This involves communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. Their headquarters is located in Southwest Washington, D.C. The FCC was formed in 1934 as a part of the Communications Act of 1934 in order to replace the radio regulation functions of the Federal Radio Commission. It also regulated the wire communication that the Interstate Commerce Commission had previously regulated.

The FCC’s mission, after being amended in the Telecommunication Act of 1996, is to “make available so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, rapid, efficient, Nationwide, and worldwide wire and radio communication services with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.” Essentially, the FCC overlooks communication services to ensure that everything is running smoothly and everyone is being treated fairly.

Sometimes, circumstances lead people and companies to question whether the FCC is carrying out its mission properly. Many petitions have been filed against the FCC. A number of these petitions are being filed by companies who claim that the FCC is in violation of the TCPA or the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Those who are unaware of Telephone Consumer Protection Act are still certainly thankful for it. According to Wikipedia, it “restricts telephonesolicitations (i.e., telemarketing) and the use of automated telephoneequipment. The TCPA limits the use of automatic dialing systems, artificial or prerecorded voice messages, SMS text messages, and fax machines.” It’s great that an act was put in place to stop telemarketers from calling us too many times, as I’m sure we’ve all experienced those pesky calls. But it’s unfortunate that we still get so many calls, and this is why the FCC has been sued a number of times.

Some of the most recent companies to file petitions against the FCC in violation of the TCPA include Virbac Corporation and Rita’s Water Ice Franchise Company. The FCC is an important part of our society, and that’s why it’s important to ensure that the FCC carries out its mission correctly.

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Binge On and Net Neutrality

The FCC recently lauded Binge On, a program released by T-Mobile that allows customers to stream unlimited video content from certain providers with no cost to their data usage (a process called zero-rating). This decision carries some big implications.

If you’ve been following the net neutrality debate, you may have heard about the FCC’s Open Internet Order, a group of rules aimed at protecting the rights of consumers while still being “pro-competition and pro-innovation,” according to FCC chief Tom Wheeler. The FCC adopted the Open Internet Order on February 26, 2015, and so the effects of it are still being gauged.

It’s an age-old question, that of government regulation in the market. The two big players being government and business, with consumers caught in-between. Opponents of the rules fear that over-regulation will stifle innovation and ultimately competition. Such is the case with John Legere, the CEO of T-Mobile. Legere recently said that he doesn’t want to “let the FCC kill competition with over-zealous regulation.”

Legere speaks for a number of businesses that are afraid to generate new ideas, fearing that they may be shut-down by government. It’s easy to see where he’s coming from. Companies pour a lot of resources into innovation and by necessity are reluctant to release information. To go through all of that work just to be told “no” is a tough pill to swallow. One lobbyist and a number of politicians have touted the line “Mother May I?” in regards to how companies feel about the need for government approval before pursuing innovative projects.

In the case of the Binge On campaign, T-Mobile got what they wanted, however there are those who believe that this may be at the cost of consumer rights. The consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge faults T-Mobile saying, “Under its current model, customers might choose to use a service simply because it doesn’t count towards their data plans rather on its merits.” A valid concern.

But T-Mobile insists that they are not excluding any content providers from the service. All a provider needs to do is sign-up, and in the case of consumers, they can opt out if they want to use their data.

Part of the problem is a lack of specification in the Open Internet Order, which prohibits ISPs and mobile carriers from discriminating against different types of traffic, but does not address zero-rating. Could zero-rating be viewed as an indirect form of discrimination?

The Open Internet Order is a well-meaning policy. However, the FCC’s approval of Binge On’s campaign is both reassuring and troubling. It’s hard to tell in what direction things are going at this stage. As the Order develops, we’ll have a better idea.

For more information on the Binge On debate look here or here.

Telecommunications: Radio Waves

radioantennaIn a broad sense of the word, telecommunication is defined as “communication over a distance by cable, telegraph, telephone, or broadcasting.” Most of us are familiar with Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. Besides him, other notable pioneers in the telecommunications field include Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, Lee de Forest, inventor of the radio, and Philo Farnsworth, inventor of the television.

Modern telecommunication technology has come a long way, rapidly advancing from year to year as science and technology alike becomes increasingly complex. Radio waves in particular have a huge impact on AM and FM broadcasts, cell phones, wireless networks, television broadcasts, police radios, and more. Without radio waves, it would be impossible to use satellite based communication and navigation including modern air travel which heavily depends on a number of intricate radio systems. At its core, radio is amazingly simple technology; however, it’s seemingly infinite uses has cemented it as the key to modern communication.

Radios today use continuous sine waves to transmit information like audio, video, and other forms of data. Although invisible to the naked eye, we are surrounded by thousands of sine waves being used by our mobile devices, computers, and even microwaves. As the prevalence of wearable technology increases, so will the radio waves around us.

A basic radio is set up in two parts: the transmitter and the receiver. The job of a transmitter is to take a message (for example, someone’s voice or a text input), encode that information into a sine wave, and then transmit it into radio waves. Intrinsic to its name, the receiver decodes the radio wave into useful information that we can process as an animated gif or witty email. So, for example, your cell phone contains at least one radio antenna that both transmits and receives radio signals. A 4G equipped cell phone would simply contain an advanced radio system that can transmit and receive more compact data at a quicker speed.

Radio waves are fairly easy to understand, yet they provide a world of opportunities engineers are only beginning to tap into.

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Dreams in 5G

Last week, Verizon Wireless shook headlines as the company claimed that they would begin conducting field tests using 5G technology next year. Verizon’s chief information and technology architect even stated that they expect “some level of commercial deployment” to occur by 2017. Earlier projections were slated for 2020 at the earliest. Yet trials by 2016 would position Verizon as the world’s first carrier to make substantial strides towards fifth generation technology. While we can’t be sure just how large the scope of influence 5G will have, many reflect on how 4G LTE services ushered a new wave of mobile devices, tablets, and consumer goods. Verizon suggests that 5G connectivity will be 30 to 50 times faster than our current 4G LTE services.

Unfortunately, AT&T isn’t biting. Although Verizon turned up the heat by announcing 5G plans, AT&T believes this claim is drastically premature. According to Glenn Lurie, chief executive of AT&T Mobility, “We’re not at a point to be making promises or commitments to customers as to what 5G is. We as an industry have been really good at overpromising and underdelivering when it comes to new technology.” At this time, 5G technology remains in beta stage; no one can agree on what 5G actually entails. Lurie wants to be sure that before wireless companies begin making bold claims, the industry holds a solid consensus.

Verizon countered AT&T’s argument by presenting its strong network connections and facilities. While most heavyweight wireless carriers are dabbling in 5G technologies, Lurie asks the industry to first come together and figure out a standard for the technology. History distinctly recalls Verizon as the first to bat with 4G technology in 2008. Although AT&T initially downplayed the immediate benefits of 4G connectivity, the eventual adoption of 4G LTE by both Verizon and AT&T significantly changed the landscape of the wireless community.

For now, the hope is that 5G will bring speeds higher than Google Fiber optics to wireless devices. A full length movie should be able to download in 15 seconds instead of the 6 minutes it currently takes on 4G. Now that’s fast!

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