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The NotShort blog is restarting in 2013. Let's hope some content appears . . .

Updated: 2016-09-17T18:27:18.811+07:00


Meet Rozy


Rozy is the new member of the Long family, a pure-bred Rottweiler.


A new toy



If yr drilling through thick concrete, ROTARY hammer the way to go. Can't believe how much easier it is compared to standard drill. Cheapish these days too :-)(image)

While I was away . . . (Richard Flanagan)


One of the consequences of being overseas for so long is you find there are big holes in your local media knowledge, whether it's TV shows, books or even events that totally by-passed you. In my case I was away for most of the decade from 1998-2008 -- in Hong Kong, then Singapore and for the biggest chunk of time in Thailand. So while I'm passable in my knowledge of Asian cinema and Thai current affairs, I got caught out when someone threw me a few lines from The Castle on my return. I also missed the whole Kath and Kim thing, which I can surely live without from what I've seen. But one of the things I'm now realising I missed out on, to my detriment (but I'm catching up), is the writing of Richard Flanagan. I'd been meaning to jump into Death of a River Guide, which I picked up in $5 Books, but didn't really know much about him or the book. Then more recently I found a compilation of his non-fiction writings called "And What Do You Do Mr Gable?" Most of them have appeared in major newspapers and magazines previously, but as I suspected most were written in the decade I was away. Wow, this guy can write and I can't wait to start his novels. Good to plug at least some of the gaping holes in my book list.(image)

NotShort 2.0 . . .


We used to blog here, but looking at the site the last time I posted anything was in 2008. I guess starting a business from scratch will tend to put minor activities like blogging on the backburner -- it certainly did in my case. Of course starting a business and then running it for a few years also gives you a few more things to say, if nothing else, and it certainly has in my case. So let me get this blog thang reworked and refreshed and hopefully I'll be back with a few interesting bits and pieces. Back in five . . .(image)

It's time YOU were given more control


It was back in 2006 that Time magazine declared that "You" were the person of the year for taking control of your digital world, yet for all the hype on user-control there is still a lot "you" cannot do. For example, you can't legally open up and modify an iPhone, at least you can't according to Apple and its legal team. And they're not alone, with many other electronics makers wanting to lock you out of the innards of their gadgets, in the process locking you in to their way of doing things.Phone and internet connections are similarly hobbled. We're only now starting to see so-called "naked" DSL, where you can have a Net connection without having to pay for a phone service you don't want, but it's still fairly scarce. And as a number of friends have found out after moving house recently, when it comes to getting a new phone connection you're still at the mercy of telcos and their antiquated practices.For example, one acquaintance moved into a place where they'd only just hung up the Telstra phone, yet when he wanted to get his own Telstra connection back he had to wait for a technician to come and connect the wires. You'd think that there would be systems in place that would allow for an automated service initiated by the user. But as another vendor friend noted, the whole area of connecting and disconnecting lines is a huge revenue earner for some telcos.And then there's the ability to control your own domain name and the services attached to it. I wrote about my experience with Melbourne IT a few weeks back: how I couldn't change some DNS records so that I could use the free Google Apps services. Despite pleas to Melbourne IT, they would not allow me to change my own DNS records -- something common with most other domain registrars. Since then Melbourne IT has got even bigger, with the acquisition of VeriSign's Digital Brand Management Services (DBMS) business, but they haven't got any more user-friendly. On the contrary, I had many emails from people with similar problems with the company and many requests for getting around them.Thankfully, when "You" are in control you can find a solution. In my case, I initiated a transfer to another domain registrar, one that allowed me to control the DNS settings of my own domain name. The process to transfer the domain was all automated thanks to the enlightened policies of the dot-au domain space and took about 48 hours to come through.The registrar I chose to park my domain name with was Domain Central, mainly because they assured me that I could alter the domain name records whichever way I chose, including pointing them to the free Google App services. In particular, I could alter the CNAME records to point to Google and also change the MX records so that I could take advantage of Google's free email hosting using my own domain.In the process of doing all this, I discovered another user-centric service I like -- web-based live support. Online support is another area that's been hyped over the years but hasn't really been widely embraced. Just think of all the major company web sites you visit and then try to recall how many have live support via chat and so on -- there aren't too many. Domain Central has gone to the other extreme, doing away with phone support altogether and relying on online support via web FAQs, email and live chat. While you might suspect it's simply a cost-saving measure that offers poorer support, I was pleasantly surprised at how effective it was.In my case, I needed help getting the right formats for my DNS records. I clicked on the live support button and within a minute or two I was in a chat session with someone who obviously knew their DNS and how to change the settings to suit my purpose. The guy even did a backup of my records on the spot and sent it to me for safe keeping, then went on to patiently explain what the problem was.Having read the major part of a few novels while waiting for regular phone support, I'd happily look for live [...]

The beginning of the end for unlimited Net plans?


Given that the average user absolutely loathes pricing based on the quantity of data downloaded, it's interesting to hear that carriers and ISPs in places such as the US, Canada and Japan are considering doing just that.

In Japan such pricing is still in the discussion phase, but ISPs there have expressed concerns over an explosion in P2P and video traffic and some see "per-byte" charging as a possible solution. Bell Canada is also looking at its options, according to media reports, which stated that an industry group representing more than 50 independent Canadian ISPs is suggesting that Bell Canada's plans to throttle the web traffic on its networks is part of a larger plan to implement a tiered Internet pricing scheme. And in the US, Time Warner has already started trials in Texas of pricing schemes based on how much bandwidth the user consumes.

Users in Australia and New Zealand have long been used to Internet "caps" and associated charges that see them pay for the extra data they download. But in the rest of the world, "unlimited" data plans are taken for granted. There are a number of other countries that have capped data tariffs, but mostly these are outweighed by unlimited plans, as a study by New Zealand's Wairua Consulting found in 2006. NZ had the distinction of having the highest percentage of capped products among OECD countries surveyed, while the study also found that the top three countries in terms of broadband uptake -- Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway -- all "have significantly more choice, faster plans and either no usage restrictions or limits that in most cases are unlikely to ever affect customers."

Over the past 12 months I've been a user of both unlimited and capped services and have noticed a massive difference in my broadband habits depending on which I'm using. Using an unlimited broadband connection gives the user the opportunity to embrace the digital world fully, whether that's contributing to or accessing video sites like YouTube, sampling the world's radio stations via the Internet or creating a virtual meeting place on a social networking site.

A capped service, as I've experienced the past four months, can see users severely throttling their broadband activity and nervous about experimenting with anything online that might send them over their capped broadband limit and paying exorbitant charges for the excess data. In my case, the cap is 5GB -- a limit the carrier and a few friends suggested would rarely be exceeded. Wrong!

I don't consider myself a heavy surfer, particularly of video, but I've still found it easy to exceed the 5GB threshold. One change of habit as an example: I no longer have music services such as Last.FM playing constantly in the background while I work. I also have to be careful of automatic updating services, such as the security and other updates from Windows or application updates from the likes of Adobe.

In many ways, excess data charges can be compared to international roaming charges: they're often exorbitant, they create billing uncertainty for the user, and they end up inhibiting usage. Yet while there is plenty of action aimed at bringing down mobile roaming fees, there seems to be less momentum for removing data caps and excess charges. In fact, as the recent announcements in the US, Japan and Canada suggest, the trend could be towards more rather than less per-byte charging. And that would seem a distinctly backward trend given all the rhetoric about moving towards digital economies and the need for communities to take up broadband. -- Geoff Long(image)

Five tech blogs you should have on your list


A while back Mark Cuban, tech entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, blogged about his two favourite technology magazines: one was about the broadband marketplace ( while the other was the title Communications Technology ( The thing I like most about this blog entry was that I'd never heard of either site/magazine, and given that the recommendation came from Cuban (, who is himself a compelling read, I (rightly) figured they'd be worth adding to my reading list.Not that I needed any more reading sources -- my RSS reader (if a blog/web site doesn't offer an RSS feed these days, I simply don't read it) has over 100 feeds and normally a backlog of articles in the thousands. As such, I'm in the process of culling my reading list to something of more manageable proportions. Before I do that, however, I thought I'd offer my own recommendations. Herewith, then, are the first five of my top-10 tech blogs and information sources, in no particular order. The second batch will be dispatched in a coming column.TECHDIRT: There are a whole bunch of players that churn out scores of stories per day via a team of reporters, the online equivalent of the quickly-fading IT trade press. They all tend to cover the same stories, all reasonably well, so you really only need one of these on your list. Some of the sites in this category include Om Malik's GigaOM, The Register, Ars Technica, and Tech Crunch. However, the one that I tend to use most is Techdirt (, mainly because I find it provides more analysis and context to its stories. The Register would be a candidate, especially as it's not US-centric like the others, but it's not at all friendly towards RSS readers so doesn't make the list.O'REILLY RADAR: Many will have heard of O'Reilly through its books and conferences and may also be aware that founder Tim O'Reilly is credited with coining the term Web 2.0. As you'd expect, the publishing company has a great online presence and practices what it preaches when it comes to social networking and blogging. While there are numerous blogs available on its site, the one I turn to most is its Radar blog (at, which has a range of contributors and is especially strong on its coverage of Web 2.0, social networking themes and emerging technologies. In their own words, "we draw from the wisdom of the alpha geeks in our midst, paying attention to what's interesting to them, amplifying these weak signals, and seeing where they fit into the innovation ecology."TELCO 2.0: If you want insights into future telco business models, then go no further than the Telco 2.0 blog (, which is produced by research and analysis firm STL Partners. Their Telco 2.0 initiative aims to look at how the telecom industry can make money in an IP world and includes regular brainstorming sessions and conferences around the same theme. While there are some obvious plugs for the conferences and research products, there's also a lot of good information and tidbits from their research results as well as commentary on telco news. Incidentally, I came across this site thanks to the blog of Martin Geddes, who is now part of STL Partners. While Telepocalypse is not updated as often as it was in the past, it's still worth a read.SCRAWFORD.NET: If policy and regulatory matters matter, then try Susan Crawford's blog at Crawford is on the ICANN board of directors and also teaches Internet and communications law at Yale Law School. Typical topics on the Crawford beat include an in-depth look at the 700MHz spectrum auctions in the US; discussions around network neutrality; goings-on at ICANN and the implications of filtering/blocking. It's telecom regulatory issues through the rigourous mind of a legal practitioner.SILICON ALLEY INSIDER: Remember Henry Blod[...]

Master of your own domain? Probably not


So who really owns and controls our domain names? Unfortunately, just because a domain is registered in your name or company doesn't mean you have complete control over it. Take the case of Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders, who was planning to upload a controversial film critical of Islam on to his web site. Before he could do so, Network Solutions -- the company that controls the ".com" and ".net" domain space -- decided to take preemptive action and suspend his web site ( Network Solutions has, in effect, expanded its role from domain name registrar to first-stage gatekeeper and censor. But it's not the only one making, or capable of making, such decisions. According to Karl Auerbach, a former ICANN board member, many domain name registrars have similar policies that allow them to take over a domain name registration on very subjective criteria.Commenting on the Wilders case on a mailing list recently, Auerbach suggests that we now have a de facto law of the Internet in which registrars can impose their private view of Internet morality and acceptable use. "Given that most registrars are for-profit companies they will generally take the path that is most likely to avoid conflicts -- which tends to mean a rather puritanical outlook and a willingness to sacrifice a $10 domain name registrant," he said.The Wilders case is only the most recent in a long list of examples of censorship via domain name -- a trend that seems to be growing. As most already know, there are many services that baulk at having anything to do with sites critical of China and will pull such sites if they think it will dampen their business. However, even freedom-loving America has been at the forefront thanks to the takedown of whistle-blower site (it's now back up).For those who missed it, a US district court judge ordered a domain registrar to delete from the domain name system (DNS). The reason? Because it posted some documents from a dodgy bank in the Cayman Islands, that bastion of dodgy banks. Given that the US is trying to clean up banking in places like the Cayman Islands, you'd think the authorities would have been happy, but no, they didn't even give Wikileaks a chance to defend itself in court -- it was simply and swiftly cut off.The scary think about the case is that the authorities knew they could not simply ask the hosting service to take it down -- in this case it was hosted in the more freedom-conscious Sweden. So they went directly to the service that hosted its DNS records in the US. Thankfully, there are always ways to route around censorship, and you could still get to the site via alternative domains in the likes of Germany ( and Belgium (.be) or via an IP address.LOCAL CONTROLS: The stories of domain control got me thinking again about how important it is to find a domain name registrar that is as flexible and non-controlling as possible. Recently I've been working with a web site that had a domain name registered via Melbourne IT, one of the region's largest registrars and hosting services. The domain has been dormant for a while so I wanted to get a basic site up and running quickly as well as attach a few email addresses to the domain.One of the quickest and cheapest ways of getting a web presence is to use the services at Google Apps, which I'd done before. So we decided to get something up with this and then plan a more elaborate site, perhaps with third-party hosting, through the new ".Asia" name that has also been acquired. The problem is, Melbourne IT doesn't seem to work well with Google Apps, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that Google's free service is likely to steal business from Melbourne IT's paid-for web and mail hosting services.Specifically, to use Google Apps you first have to prove that you own the domain. You[...]

Catering to the tele-nomads


These days I'm somewhat of a telecom nomad, spreading my time between Thailand and Australia with occasional forays into other parts of Asia. I realise this is not a unique situation, in fact there is a growing band of people who are permanent roamers and who need connectivity in multiple destinations. Strangely, there are few operators tapping into this potentially high-spending market.I realised this when I tried to get a pre-paid mobile data account in Australia -- most retail outlets thought they didn't exist and in fact most of the operators don't have such a package. Where pre-paid mobile data offerings do exist, such as through Telstra's Next G network, it's so expensive as to be unusable ($59 for 200MB that must be used within 30 days). Yet in the less mature market of Thailand, pre-paid data offerings are relatively common and great for travellers or business people wanting to connect wirelessly from just about any location. Better yet, they have affordable packages (unlimited data for around US$30 per month).Another drawback across much of the region is the onerous requirements for signing up for telecom services, with seemingly no allowance for anyone that doesn't fit their view of a regular citizen. For example in Thailand, anyone without a Thai identity card, or work permit in the case of foreigners, can just about forget signing up for post-paid phone or Internet service. And my recent experience in Australia has, if anything, been worse.Downunder you can have a full suite of identification documents -- passports, residence certificates, healthcare cards -- but if you don't have a utility bill with your current address you can't sign-up for wireless broadband. So someone travelling around the country for a year, or working on a contract for six months or a new migrant or -- in my case -- someone who hasn't lived in the country for some time simply can't get service.At least the retail outlets could see the irony of not being able to sign someone up for the utility of telecom service because they didn't have an existing utility bill with their address on it. The problem was that there didn't seem to be any flexibility in the service ordering process to account for non-standard cases. And with just about every organisation having similar identification requirements, you end up being stuck in a limbo land where services are not available.Of course the reason we telecom nomads want to get a local SIM card or sign up for service in every country we visit is because the roaming charges are so extortionist. The situation seems to be getting better via some of the big roaming alliances, which are now, finally, taking into account data services. That said, you'd still want to have deep pockets or a corporate sugar daddy if you're a regular data user.For example, the Bridge Mobile Alliance -- which counts as its members SingTel Optus (Australia), Airtel (India), AIS (Thailand), CSL (Hong Kong), CTM (Macau), Globe Telecom (Philippines), Maxis (Malaysia), SK Telecom (Korea), SingTel Mobile (Singapore), Taiwan Mobile (Taiwan) and Telkomsel (Indonesia) -- is expected to charge US$30 per month for roaming across the member networks, but it's capped at 15MB. Go over that (which is not hard to imagine doing) and you're back to the uncertainty of not knowing what you're spending and bracing for the shock once you get your bill.The other major regional alliance is Conexus, whose seven members are Far EasTone Telecommunications in Taiwan, Hutchison Telecommunications (Hong Kong), PT Indosat in Indonesia, KT Freetel in South Korea, NTT DoCoMo in Japan, Smart Communications in the Philippines and StarHub in Singapore. It's deal sounds better -- if it weren't for the fine print. This year Conexus will be offering flat rate data via a daily-rate plan. So if you're in, say, Singapore for three days you just pay the d[...]

Apple's iPhone paves the way for Android


As a telecoms commentator, I always find it's important to get things wrong occasionally. After all, if you were always right it probably just means you've been sitting on the fence or that you write a boring, predictable column. So I'm happy to report that I'm changing my position on both Apple's iPhone and Google's Android mobile platform.Let me recap. Just before Apple unleashed its iPhone on a suspecting world, I made a bold statement that it would fail, at least in its first incarnation. Perhaps I should have just said I won't be buying one, because I don't like its closed nature and because it lacks 3G. But thanks to the hackers, we now know that there are hundreds of thousands of people around Asia that are willing to snap up an iPhone and, more importantly, they're loving it.One grey vendor friend of mine that sells unlocked iPhones in both Bangkok and Singapore can't get enough of them to satisfy demand. The other day he managed to get a shipment, told a few friends via email and they were snapped up within the hour. Another friend who had managed to buy one earlier was an instant fan -- and not just because it made him the centre of attention everywhere he dragged it out. It was also because, finally, someone had made the mobile Internet usable. That alone -- making web sites easily viewable on a mobile screen -- should be enough to cement Apple's place in mobile history.Another interesting stat I came across: Google is apparently getting 50 times more search requests from iPhones than any other mobile handset. That stat, according to the Financial Times, was so extraordinary that Google first thought it had made an error with its data. It hadn't and it just shows how much more people will use the mobile Internet if you make it easier for them.Which is where Google steps in. There's no doubt that one of the keys to the search giant's success is the way it makes its services easy to use. Presumably, it will bring that talent to its mobile phone efforts. But more importantly, it can harness the immense power and developer base of the open source movement. Already that's happening, with many local software promotion boards across Asia getting behind it and Google offering significant prizes for developers through competitions.To date, the two dominant smartphone operating systems -- Windows Mobile and Symbian/System 60 -- have not exactly attracted a fanatical user base. Get the open source community behind a mobile OS, however, and that's exactly what you'll have: a growing and fanatical base of users and developers. And as we have seen with Apple, fanaticism can go a long way.In a recent research note by Saugatuck Technology, they pointed out that Google's Android and other Linux-based mobile initiatives, notably LiMo, are potentially disruptive influences on the mobile space. The main reasons cited were scalability and portability, affordability and maturity. Another significant point was the ability to work with other open software that can be delivered as a service, either from telecom providers or from pure-play SaaS vendors.In short, Android (and LiMo) have "the ability (and promise) of becoming game-changing influences – and within a very short time," the research house stated.If the introduction of the iPhone is any guide, users of mobile devices and services are looking for ease of use and better offerings than they have had in the past. Which is why I (now) think that Google's Android also has a great chance of following the iPhone and succeeding. -- Geoff Long[...]

Google shouldn't fear Microsoft!


The iPhone was undoubtedly the tech story of 2007, given the number of column inches and blog posts it managed to generate. And despite only being two months into 2008, it would seem we already have a major candidate for this year's top tech story: Microsoft's planned takeover of Yahoo. Neither Jerry nor Steve has asked me what I think of the proposal, but if they did I'd politely tell them I think it's a dumb idea. If the takeover does go ahead, however, they should at least consider my suggestion for a new business name: "Microsoft!"Seriously though, what makes Microsoft think it can compete better against Google with the addition of Yahoo? The integration of the various services alone will take more than a year to complete, by which time Google will have enhanced its lead even further, no doubt helped by the addition of the disgruntled top Yahoo talent banging on its door. And lets face it, there's a very simple reason why Google thrives while similar offerings from Yahoo and Microsoft struggle: it simply makes a better product.It's not just about search either, although I regularly compare each of the big three offerings and end up coming to the same conclusions: Google turns up more, and more relevant, pages. Yahoo and Microsoft also both have comparable web-mail services, yet most of the tech-savvy users I talk to prefer Gmail. Similarly, its products like Google Reader encourage loyalty to the brand because they just work damn well.Both Microsoft and Yahoo both have the services, but what they need to do is refine them so they work better than anything Google has and encourage users to switch. Again, some unsolicited advice: Imagine what Steve Jobs would do with the service and improve from there. Let's face it, if Jobs got hold of Yahoo you could guarantee that he would create the best user experience on the planet and scare the hell out of Google.I like some of the stuff that Microsoft is doing with its Live offerings but I get confused by the various brands -- why have MSN and Live and Windows Live and Windows Live Mail and Hotmail and so on. And what is Windows Live Spaces? I'd wager the majority of users have no idea. Adding in the various Yahoo services and brands is going to confuse everyone even more.And we haven't even started on the lead that Google is forging with the integration of its services as well as its software as a service offerings. As I've mentioned in this column before, I now make use of most of the Google online offerings and particularly like the way you can create things such as blogs, email accounts, web sites and so on off your own domain, making use of tools such as Google Analytics, Calendaring, Notebooks and the rest of it. I'm also starting to make use of the online apps like its word processor and spreadsheet offerings.Microsoft, as many have pointed out, has no real desire to do something similar because of its cash cows in Windows and Office. Let's face it, if Microsoft had been serious about software as a service it could have made a better fist of it by now. It hasn't and it's unlikely to anytime soon. Yahoo, on the other hand, has no such existing market to protect and could have over time done a much better job in competing with Google (and still can), particularly with acquisitions such as Flickr and other Web 2.0 services.Which all points to Microsoft-Yahoo being a great story but a lousy merger. I do think it's possible for someone to challenge Google's online supremacy, but I also think we'd have better competing services with all three companies in healthy competition. Here's hoping that's an outcome that can still emerge. -- Geoff Long[...]

Last throw of the dice for WiMAX


Like it or not, this is the year that will prove whether there is a business case for mobile WiMAX. If it doesn’t take off in a substantial way in 2008, I think you can safely proclaim it another broadband wireless niche platform that has come and gone, similar to the likes of LMDS, MMDS and some of the proprietary stuff that came before it. It will live on for providing fixed “DSL-equivalent” broadband in remote areas and emerging markets, but it will have missed its chance of becoming a ubiquitous broadband technology for the roaming masses.If it hasn’t solidified its base by the end of the year, then it will be because carriers have chosen to stick with HSPA and wait for LTE, which will by then be just around the corner. And that will mean that WiMAX has been pushed down to become yet another footnote in wireless broadband history at the expense of the GSM juggernaut. (And the same goes for the other proposed 4G standard, Qualcomm’s UBM, by the way.) Of course, it could be that WiMAX really does prove itself in 2008 and there are already some encouraging signs. In Japan late last year the government awarded two licences in the 2.5GHz band to consortia headed by KDDI and another to Willcom, with equipment vendors already lining up to provide gear. One thing to bear in mind, however, is that in the case of KDDI, trials are only expected to kick off in February 2009. Similarly, 2009 is expected to be the year that another potential WiMAX market, Taiwan, really gets underway. Taiwan also sees itself as a major supplier of WiMAX equipment to the world, and it is interesting that there are already grumblings over there about the cost of WiMAX compliance testing. According to Digitimes sources, it will cost about US$25,000-31,250 for the makers to complete the certification testing of a single fixed WiMAX item. In addition, the WiMAX Forum is charging US$10,000 per mobile WiMAX product to use the WiMAX Forum certified mark compared to US$5,500 per fixed WiMAX model. The news report also noted that a fee of up to US$200,000 is being estimated for the testing of some items. The WiMAX camp also got a generally favourable report from Juniper Research last week suggesting that the mobile WiMAX 802.16e market will grow to $23 billion by 2013, with half of that total coming from Asia. However, that will still only represent “a single digit proportion of the Asian mobile broadband base by 2013,” according to the report. The Juniper report also warns that both the availability of suitable devices and the awarding of licences will be important factors in determining the success of Mobile WiMAX 802.16e, both in Asia and globally. Interestingly, it also tips licences in India and Thailand as being crucial to the WiMAX camp. Warning bells should ring right there, given the two countries’ notoriously slow licensing regimes. In the case of Thailand, you can almost guarantee that it won’t be issuing licences for WiMAX this year, given the political environment and the need to create a new regulatory body. When it comes to devices, one of the WiMAX camp’s trump cards is the backing of Intel, which will see it become standard in every new notebook computer, much the same as Wi-Fi is today. The only problem with this is that if there is no network to connect to, it doesn’t really matter if the notebook is WiMAX-enabled or not. In contrast, if the push to include HSPA in new devices takes off, the HUGE advantage they have is that the networks and service are widespread already. And the momentum to include HSPA chips in notebooks is likely to happen this year. Throw in all the HSPA-capable mobile phones, and the economies of scale certainly don’t favour WiMAX and won’t any time soon. Despite some vendo[...]

Busted: Facebook bans my sexy virtual friend


Update: Anyone who wants a more in-depth discussion on the current privacy debate should read Alec Saunder's "Privacy Manifesto for the Web 2.0 Era".Blog pundit Robert Scoble is not the only one to have been banned from Facebook of late – it happened to me too! For those who missed it, Scoble had his Facebook account disabled because he tried a test feature being developed by Plaxo (the online address book) that allowed him to “scrape” details from his Facebook friends to use in other programs: names, email addresses and birthdays. Apparently that’s against the terms of service. For my part, I created a “virtual friend” for test purposes to check out some features as well as some theories anonymously. Also against the terms of service, it turns out. Actually, I initially thought my virtual friend would be a bit too obvious, given that I’d named her Maya V. Freund, but she quickly – very quickly – attracted her own set of friends. Perhaps people are naturally drawn to someone who grew up in Columbia, studied in Australia and had recently relocated to Thailand thanks to parents in the diplomatic corps (she even joined the Third-Culture Kids group on Facebook). Then again, it could be the attractive photos I’d chosen to represent her. Either way, she was befriended, poked, messaged and invited to partake in all sorts of Facebook activities. The experiment proved a couple of things that many will not be surprised about. Firstly, a lot of people use social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace as a virtual pick-up place. We’d all like to point to the higher social functions of this type of networking, but let’s not get too carried away at the same time. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with mindless fun and flirting. The second point is that if you wanted to collect personal details from a lot of people, it’s very, very easy to do. And it really is quite scary how much information you can get with very little effort. In the end, I killed off Maya V. Freund by announcing what I’d done in a status message, which led to the account being disabled. The experiment did make me think about what I reveal on social networks in future though. For Scoble, the question was one of data ownership and why Facebook can take information from say your Gmail account, but then you can’t re-use it in another application. And that issue is going to become a huge one. There are many proposals floating around for social networking sites where the user has more control over their own data, and it will be such features that will encourage users to move away from Facebook and on to new social networking platforms in the future. Of course Facebook is also introducing new features that allow users to control more of the information they make visible, so called “granular control”, but it still doesn’t give them ownership of their data so they can transport it to whatever platform they wish. I also predict that users are going to move away from the “monolithic” social networks into more fragmented but like-minded communities. One example is Ning, which was co-founded by Marc Andreessen of Netscape fame. It’s a platform that allows users or communities to create their own social networks. In fact, there are already more than 100,000 such social networks that have been created on Ning. So that’s my first prediction for 2008: waning interest in Facebook and a move to smaller, specialised social networks that give you ownership of your data. And if you happen to create one, perhaps you can invite me and Maya V. Freund. – Geoff Long[...]

The Year of Living Online


For my final post of the year, I thought I’d highlight what, for me, was the most significant aspect: the move to working and playing online and taking advantage of many of the new web services out there. I’m not there yet, not by a long shot, but I finally got to experience the promise of broadband. Key to that has been getting “decent” broadband. While places like Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea are spoilt for choice when it comes to high-speed access, Thailand is like a lot of Asia in that coverage is still sparse, including in the capital Bangkok. So it was with great relief that I welcomed TOT broadband into my part of town this year for the first time. The first thing to change was that I started using Google and its associated services as they were intended to be used – online. I know there are still many people who prefer to download their Gmail into a traditional email program, but for me it’s a better overall experience doing everything online, from where I can see which other Gmail colleagues and friends are connected and even kickstart a quick chat session when I need some information in a hurry. It also makes things easier when travelling. Before I had multiple email accounts that I would divert to Gmail, which I considered my roaming account. Now I have ditched the other email accounts and just use predominantly Gmail. If I think I might need a certain document while I’m away, I simply email it to myself knowing that I will be able to retrieve in whatever city I am. I’m sure Yahoo and Hotmail are just as adequate when it comes to this, it’s just I happened to get hooked on Gmail first (although I’m making it a goal to get acquainted with the other services in the new year). The other thing I like about Google is the associated services and how they’re all starting to work well together. This year I finally put my domain name ( to use and parked it with Google Apps. Not only can I give family members their own email account, I’ve also started this blogging thang for the first time. I chose Blogger as my blogging platform mainly because it seemed to pick up more hits on Google’s search engine than other platforms. And thanks to Google Analytics, I can see how few people really visit the said blog. Sticking to Google, its Reader is the best thing for reading RSS feeds by a long shot. I’d experimented with desktop RSS readers, but doing it online fits in better with the way I’m now working. And again, if I’m overseas I just fire it up and all of my regular feeds are there. I’ve also made limited use of its online word processing and spreadsheet offerings, though mainly to open up files for a quick look – if I want to keep them, I still tend to download them to the desktop. I haven’t yet made use of any online storage services, but I’m sure that’s going to happen soon for backups. Now lets get on to the fun stuff. Like a fair chunk of the Internet population, I signed up for Facebook this year. Great if you haven’t got enough procrastination aids at hand. And yes, I did get slightly addicted to begin with, although that addiction is starting to wane. Slightly. Probably the most useful aspect of it is keeping in touch with people in other states or countries. I’m crap at sending personal emails, so this one lets people see what I’m up to and send the occasional message. Not to mention challenging me to a game of Rock, Scissors and Paper, Pass the Soccer Ball and other mindless diversions. I’m guessing that something bigger than Facebook will arrive in future, particularly a social network that lets you “own” your personal data, but in the meantime it[...]

The iPhone comes to Thailand


There’s nothing quite like being an “early adopter”, and I guess getting one’s hands on an iPhone in Thailand qualifies for the title. I’ve even got the phone working on my telecom operator’s network, without the need to head down to the geek section of Maboonkrong (MBK) centre to unlock it or looking online for a hack to open it up. That’s because my iPhone is actually of the Linksys variety, the CIT400 Skype phone. The “iPhone” might be forever associated with Apple now, but it’s Linksys and its parent company Cisco that originally owned (and still do) the registered name. If you cast your mind back to when the Apple iPhone first came out, you might remember there was a bit of public sparring over who had rights to the name. They resolved that dispute in February 2007, with the result that both companies are free to use the “iPhone” trademark on their products throughout the world, although other details of the agreement were undisclosed. And the Linksys iPhone is every bit as innovative and stylish as its Apple namesake: It’s a dual-mode cordless (DECT) phone that makes Skype Internet calls over a broadband connection or regular calls through the phone network. And it will even make the Skype calls without the computer being turned on . Setting it up is a breeze, at least it is once you get your home network prepared. The unit comes with a wireless “base station” that connects to your broadband connection via Ethernet. In my case, the ADSL modem used the only available Ethernet port on my computer, so I had to get an Ethernet hub. My hub came from a neighbour, who retrieved one from his electronics “spares” box. It didn’t come with a cable, so I rustled one up out of my own junk gear collection, which is how I came to find out that not all “Cat 5” cables are the same. Turns out that cables that connect two computers together look exactly like those that connect a hub to a computer – only they won’t work. So finally the neighbour also supplied a spare Ethernet cable and I plugged the hub in and it “just worked.” As an aside though, this is one issue with anything to do with home networking – there’s a dog’s breakfast of standards and formats out there. Even just getting a power board that will accept the different electrical plugs can be a challenge, so as we move into the era of home networking there needs to be a lot more work on getting standard equipment. At a recent Cisco press event in Singapore, Nick Fielibert, the chief technical officer of Scientific Atlanta (now a Cisco company), summed the situation up like this. “The best you can say is that devices in the home don’t connect well. Everyone talks about [the connected home] but I don’t think anyone’s seen it yet. It’s a bit like the Lochness Monster or the Holy Grail.” Needless to say, Cisco and just about every other networking vendor on the planet will be working to rectify this, with Fielibert suggesting that there should be some progress in the next 18 months or so. So assuming you have an Ethernet port to plug into, you simply plug the base station into it (cable supplied). Then there’s a cradle for the phone that plugs into the mains power outlet. The phone itself is powered by two AAA batteries, which are again supplied. Turn the phone on and it will automatically open to the Skype sign-in page. If you’ve already got a Skype account, you enter your user name and password and you’re ready to go – all of your regular contacts will show up on the phone. Skype has had some bad press of late, particularly when it informed some users that they would have to change their Skype In numbers. [...]

Do we want our IPTV?


Video is clearly the “in” thing on the Internet, with new peer-to-peer television offerings, user-generated video services, Internet video channels and telco interest in IPTV. So it was a shock to see such a low turnout at last week’s IPTV World Forum Asia in Singapore. You’d think every telco in the region would have sent out a delegation to find out what the latest thinking is and how the pioneers are doing. Or perhaps it’s in everyone’s too hard, too costly and too much government meddling basket? Let’s face it, Asia hasn’t realised its promise when it comes to IPTV, particularly given the much touted high-density, high-bandwidth economies like Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan. The region was at the forefront thanks largely to PCCW’s Now offering, which first started more than four years ago, but since then there’s largely been a vacuum. PCCW/Now still accounts for the majority of IPTV subscribers in Asia with its 850,000 signups, and it was only a few months ago that it was joined by a serious telco IPTV offering – Singtel’s Mio. In the meantime, it seems there’s now more IPTV activity in Europe and the US, particularly in conjunction with some of the new fibre rollouts. The Asian numbers haven’t been helped by some world-class dithering by regulators, which continue with 20th Century models to regulate Internet and new media. South Korea, for example, should be an IPTV showcase by now if it wasn’t for the insistence by regulators that they can’t broadcast in real-time and other hobbling policies. Most of the other regulators around the region seem not to understand the new digital media landscape either. Nevertheless, there were still some interesting lessons to be had from last week’s IPTV event, first and foremost that it will remain a very expensive business to enter into and one that will have a very long return on investment. Speakers from PCCW/Now and Singtel/Mio both stressed that they viewed the business as a pay TV service – meaning it required all of the various agreements with content producers, advertising and a reliable platform rather than an Internet “best effort” platform. In the case of PCCW, it’s yet to turn a profit after four years and has recently ploughed US$200 million into getting the broadcast rights for English Premier League football. Singtel has also been sourcing original content and is not expecting to turn a profit on its IPTV service for 10 years. Low Ka Hoe, the director of Mio TV and content, also pointed out that nothing less than a 20Mbps connection (or ADSL2+) was good enough for delivering the service given that they wanted it to be seen as reliable as regular satellite/cable TV. For all the talk of “video 2.0” and user-generated video content, most of the big telcos seem to think they need to be a pay TV operator first, then add the social networking/user-generated content frills later. This could well be the case because, let’s face it, everybody across the whole media landscape seems to be still playing a guessing game when it comes what consumers want and are willing to pay for. The real convergence hasn’t happened yet – consumers still go to a TV set to get regular shows and head to the Internet/PC to get niche content. Whether the two come together remains to be seen. Content producers are also still guessing. Yew Ming Lau, VP of business development for Turner Broadcasting Asia Pacific, said Turner and other original content producers were still working out how to tap into the “long tail” of niche content by experimenting with various web channels and other delivery models. Telc[...]

The Internet is collapsing: again


It’s been a while since we’ve had a really good “the Internet will collapse scare”. Ever since Bob Metcalfe – Ethernet co-inventor, 3Com founder and pundit – suggested in 1996 that the Internet would collapse that year, it’s been touted as a possibility. Of course the Internet didn’t collapse and Metcalfe went on to eat his InfoWorld column that predicted it in front of an audience at that year’s World Wide Web conference. It didn’t stop him, and others, from making follow-up predictions, however. The issue came up again in 2004 at a conference to discuss “Preventing the Internet Meltdown”, where organiser Lauren Weinstein noted that a “continuing and rapidly escalating series of alarming events suggest that immediate cooperative, specific planning is necessary if we are to have any chance of avoiding the meltdown.” It seems we avoided that meltdown too, but now the alarm bells have been set off again, this time people warning that the surge in video use through sites such as YouTube is going to overwhelm the Internet. The most recent “collapse” warning came via a report from Nemertes Research and warns that in as little as two years we “potentially face Internet gridlock that could wreak havoc on Internet services.” The Nemertes report is called “The Internet Singularity, Delayed: Why Limits in Internet Capacity Will Stifle Innovation on the Web,” and warns that consumer and corporate Internet usage could outstrip network capacity worldwide in a little more than two years. And it also advises that the financial investment required to “bridge the gap” between demand and capacity globally is around $137 billion, primarily in broadband access. The result of demand outstripping supply, according to Nemertes, is that users could increasingly encounter Internet “brownouts” or interruptions to the applications they’ve become accustomed to using on the Internet. “For example, it may take more than one attempt to confirm an online purchase or it may take longer to download the latest video from YouTube,” the research firm said. “Overall, the impact of this inadequate infrastructure will be primarily to slow down the pace of innovation. The next Amazon, Google or YouTube might not arise -- not from a lack of user demand, but because of insufficient infrastructure preventing applications and companies from emerging.” All pretty scary stuff, but then again these type of reports seem to be written for their shock value. Perhaps even more scary is that the research was partly funded by a group going by the name of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), which a net neutrality coalition called “Save the Internet” has helpfully outed. According to Save the Internet, the IIA is a lobby group for the big telcos and funded by AT&T. Nemertes counter-claims that its research is “independent”, but needless to say the big telcos are going to latch on to it as a way influence the regulators and protect their patch. Here’s what Save the Internet had to say: “These types of studies often boil down to pure posturing and polemic against Net Neutrality, bought and paid for by AT&T. When researchers stumble across inconvenient points, such as the current boom in infrastructure investment, they dismiss them in favour of doomsday scenarios and call for an end to the one rule that allows online users to innovate without permission.” Another thing to keep in mind, and which others have picked up on, is that innovation tends to happen where there is scarce bandwidth -- developers have to innovate [...]

A broadband tale of two countries


What a remarkable contrast between the two election campaigns that have recently been on-going in Australia and Thailand. The elections might be just one-month apart (Australia 24 Nov, Thailand 23 December), but in terms of ICT issues and the realisation that broadband infrastructure is a critical economic and social policy matter, they’re generations apart. Sometimes I think the media and parts of the industry in Australia don’t appreciate that the country has a healthy, competitive ICT environment, both in terms of the infrastructure in place and the regulatory framework surrounding it. Sure, it could be a lot better, but then again you’re never going to satisfy everyone. And sometimes I think the media and parts of the industry in Thailand don’t appreciate that the country is falling behind when it comes to infrastructure and a regulatory framework that promotes investment. Not just falling behind the likes of Australia, but neighbours such as Malaysia and perhaps even Vietnam. Sure, it could be worse, but not much. This week in Australia is probably going to see a major announcement on broadband, given that it was a central plank of the new Labor government’s election campaign. But to be fair, you have to give credit to both parties for realising the importance of broadband and putting it on the political agenda. And the result of that is, no matter which party was elected, there was always going to be a political push to improve the country’s broadband infrastructure. At least something will happen. In Thailand, by contrast, the only safe bet is that nothing will happen. And the telecom sector has pretty well been in limbo for the past decade. Ask most people who the current ICT minister is and you’ll likely get a shrug of the shoulders, although they’ll probably remember Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom, who resigned as ICT Minister last month. However, they won’t remember him for his forward-thinking ICT policies, but rather his somewhat bizarre behaviour and occasional disjointed thoughts on improving ICT. In his brief reign as ICT Minister, he managed to ban YouTube, tell foreign reporters that state-run telcos would be fully-privatised while at the same time telling Thai reporters that they would never be privatised, and proposed handing over all telecom networks to be managed by the listless Telephone Organisation of Thailand. At one of his few meetings with the international media, at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Bangkok, he managed to talk more about his sexual history than telecoms policy. He’s also well known for a collection of more than 300 guns, carrying around his own personal euthanasia machine (which he invented), and being the inventor of the Bangkok taxi meter. Yet at least in terms of education, he had something in common with his Australian counterparts – he boasts a PhD in Solid State Electronics from the University of New South Wales in 1975. It would be wrong to blame Sitthichai, however, given that he was drafted into the position by the military junta – whoever held the reigns until the next government was always going to keep things in a holding pattern. However, that doesn’t excuse the previous years of inaction. In the past five years there have been numerous stories of foreign businesses relocating to other parts of Asia because of poor and costly telecoms infrastructure in Thailand. Now the local business people are getting outspoken as well. As noted in CommsDay last week, a panel of some of the top Internet and telecom experts slammed the country's regulatory environment at a r[...]

The Great Mobile Internet Myth


I’d hate to think how many times I’ve seen presentations at trade shows and vendor events where they trot out figures of how many computers there are in the developing world compared to mobile phones and then without missing a beat proclaim that the mobile will be the access device for these markets to get on the Net. Sure, there are more mobile phones in use than PCs in “emerging” markets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will be jumping online with them. It’s only now that I’m using the mobile Internet that I’ve realised this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having another dig at the mobile Internet. In fact, I’m currently enjoying my experience of finding out what it’s capable of (and not capable of). As a tech journo and reasonably early adopter, it’s my role to check out these things – and having access to the latest phones for testing purposes certainly helps. Your average Chinese, Indian or Thai taxi driver, labourer or office worker is not likely to be in the same situation. For a start, the majority of phones sold in emerging markets are low-end devices that are not even capable of getting on the Internet. Even in the developed world, the number of people toting so-called smartphones is still slim, perhaps 10 percent of the market, tops. If they did want one of the new-fangled smartphones, they’re likely going to be handing over the equivalent of a few months wages to get it. Here in Bangkok, for example, the average smartphone goes for around 20-25,000 baht (upwards of US$650). Yet a decent desktop PC can be had for half that amount. Then there’s the mobile data fees themselves. Thailand again is fairly reasonable in comparison to some countries, with an unlimited plan going for around US$30. But for half that you can have a fixed broadband connection that is way faster. It’s also a lot more reliable – let’s face it if everyone suddenly jumps online, a typical mobile cell (3G or 2.5G) is going to be close to unusable. But the cost of the devices, the cost of mobile data service and issues such as speed and reliability are not the only things stopping the mobile from being the dominant access means in the developing world (although together they represent a pretty decent stumbling block). The other thing that I’ve come to realise is that most of the good Internet services for the mobile nearly all require you to be a regular Internet user in the first place. Let’s take the services I’ve been using as an example. One of the most useful has been Gmail on the mobile. Google has created a small app that you can download to the mobile and it works great – but of course you have to have an existing Gmail account first (you could, theoretically, sign up on the mobile, but it would be painful). Another one I’ve noticed a lot of people using is Facebook for the mobile. Again, it complements your regular, desktop Facebook account rather than being purely for the mobile. There are plenty of similar examples, such as my Fantasy Premier League team, which I can manage via the mobile but which we won’t go into given that I’m losing. The point is you only use it on the mobile when you’re signed up on the desktop first. Even some of the services designed specifically for the mobile, such as Nokia’s Widsets (widgets for the mobile) and Mosh (content sharing) require you to sign up via computer and are best configured and managed from the desktop. Sure, they both have some great mobile-only apps, but the people using it are still going to be heavy users of the desktop [...]

UPDATE: ITU not planning a 'boring' show for Bangkok


A while back I was critical of last year's ITU Telecom event in Hong Kong (and a lot of trade shows generally), provocatively labelling them as "boring". Well, in the ITU's defence, they've decided to do something about it (and admit they were getting a bit stale). Needless to say, one good strategy is to confront your critics and give them the lowdown on your plans for improvement. That resulted in me meeting ITU Telecom executive manager Fernando Lagrana in the Bangkok airport Novotel, on a four-hour stopover, for an update on their "exciting" plans for ITU Telecom Asia in Thailand next year. Here's the lowdown as first published in Commsday last week.The ITU Telecom Asia event scheduled for Bangkok next year could get a significant boost with the addition of a high-level government-industry summit similar to the recent Connect Africa meeting being considered, ITU Telecom executive manager Fernando Lagrana has revealed exclusively to CommsDay. A “Connect Asia” Summit would likely be held back-to-back with ITU Telecom Asia and a decision will be made before the end of the year and even as early as this week, he said. ITU deputy secretary-general Zhao Houlin is in Bangkok on Friday for the opening of the annual Bangkok International ICT Expo. Lagrana pointed to the success of Connect Africa, held at the end of last month in Kigali, Rwanda, where US$55 billion was committed by government and businesses over five years to improve the broadband infrastructure across Africa. He said similar expectations could be held for a Connect Asia summit. The idea of holding a high-level summit to coincide with ITU Telecom Asia was one of a number of ideas for revamping the event when it is held in Bangkok in September 2008. Other changes being proposed will include more interactive forum sessions that are less geared towards major sponsors, and the addition of a “theme” to the programme – with possibilities including emergency telecommunications, social responsibility and cyber security – in addition to the more “generalist” exhibition. Lagrana said that more open and informal forum sessions, using a professional moderator from the BBC, were first trialled last month at Connect Africa with great success. Of the seven sessions held, only one used a traditional format of a speaker delivering a speech from a podium, and according to Lagrana the open sessions were better received. As a result, the ITU will adopt the more interactive formats for future events starting with ITU Telecom Africa to be held in Cairo next May. The forum committee will also reject presentations that are deemed too commercial. However, he said in addition to the regular forum there will be a parallel sponsored section where vendors could deliver their commercial messages. The format changes stem from a new organising team, with 80 percent of the forum committee changed along with changes at the management level since last year’s ITU Telecom World in Hong Kong. The forum committee has also been studying other successful event formats and is co-operating with groups including the World Economic Forum that will lead to a forum that is “more substance and less status”, according to Lagrana. Other groups are also being invited to set up sessions that extend the reach into other “communities” involved in the industry. Patrapee Chinachoti, president of the Trade Exhibition Association of Thailand and one of the key people in bringing ITU Telecom Asia to Bangkok, told CommsDay that the event would also utilise Tha[...]

Mobile Internet doesn't need Google to succeed


Wow, November 19 and I still haven't posted for the month! Here's the first of a few to come, this one my take on Google's Android open source for mobiles project . . . We’re entering an interesting time for the mobile Internet sector and I think there are enough encouraging announcements happening that will see it develop into something much more useable in 2008. As I suggested a few months back, perhaps one of the lasting legacies of Apple’s iPhone is that it will push other players in the market to keep up with its innovation. We’re already seeing that – whether it’s a consequence of Apple or not – with much improved technology coming from all of the major players, whether its Windows Mobile, the Nokia/Symbian camp, RIM and its Blackberry, Apple itself and of course one of the most keenly-waited announcements of all – Google and its open mobile alliance. Just a small sampling of the announcements that have been encouraging over the last month include Microsoft and Nokia getting together to pre-load Windows Live services on mobiles (not an exclusive deal, by the way), Nokia finally announcing its roadmap for touch-screen phones and a touch-screen user interface built into its Series 60 software, RIM adding new touches such as Facebook support for the Blackberry, and Apple relenting and allowing third-party apps for the iPhone (although only those that it pre-approves). But the biggest announcement was no doubt from Google last week with its “Android” and the Open Handset Alliance, which features an impressive line-up of founding members. Rather than list who they are, it’s more instructive to list who’s not there: Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, RIM and Sony Ericsson. All powerful players, but then again the likes of China Mobile, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, T-mobile and Telecom Italia among the 34 founders of the Open Handset Alliance are not bad allies either (not to mention the mighty Google itself). According to the Google announcement, the Android platform is (or will be) a fully integrated mobile “software stack” that consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications, with the first phones based on Android to be available in the second half of 2008. It said the platform will be made available “under one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open-source licenses, which gives mobile operators and device manufacturers significant freedom and flexibility to design products.” As its first move, the alliance will this week release an early access software development kit to provide developers with the tools necessary to create applications. It certainly sounds like the real deal, but there are some things worth pointing out. For one thing, late 2008 is still a long way out when we’re talking technology and a lot of new innovations from the rest of the mobile industry will have happened by then. And as a number of people have mentioned that I’ve spoken to recently, bringing out a mobile operating system is no easy feat. Just think how long it took Microsoft to get Windows Mobile relatively stable and established, and even Nokia with Symbian and Series 60 has had more than a few hiccups along the way. Open source mobile phones are not new, either. Efforts to get Linux on phones have been in the works for a few years now, but there’s nothing serious that has eventuated other than a low-level operating system that is really not that compelling. And those efforts and alliances involving the likes of Motorola[...]

Why ITU's backing is bad for WiMax


My most recent column for CommsDay/BroadBand Communities.

At first I didn't really know what to make of the announcement that the ITU has recognised 802.16e, or WiMax, as an official 3G standard. A lot of media and industry groups like the WiMax Forum seem to consider it a game-changing decision. I've got a feeling it will actually change nothing. In fact, it could be detrimental to its progress.

With all the lobbying going on behind the scenes, it wasn't an altogether unexpected decision either. One person I asked about it was Ovum analyst Nathan Burley, who also was doubtful the ITU standardisation will have much effect at all. Even the GSM Association has come out all conciliatory over the announcement, saying they were "relaxed" about it. Well, given the relative market shares of 3G/HSPA versus WiMax, they probably can afford to be relaxed.

Ron Resnick, president of the WiMAX Forum, noted that "this is the first time that a new air interface has been added to the IMT-2000 set of standards since the original technologies were selected nearly a decade ago" and suggested that operators would be more willing to adopt it now that it comes with the ITU's stamp of approval.

As Resnick says, 3G has been around for almost a decade -- yet there are still many countries around the world that haven't gotten around to adopting 3G. So somehow I don't think the world's telecom regulators are suddenly going to swing into action and start bringing in WiMax now that the ITU says it's okay. And it certainly didn't stop the likes of Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan from bringing in WiMax licencing frameworks despite not having the ITU's okay.

I'd say the fact that the IEEE itself has been slow to finalise its own 802.16e standard and initiate interoperability has put off more governments than the fact that the ITU approval was missing.

Another outcome of the ITU decision is that it ends the debate once and for all on whether WiMax is a 3G, 3.5G or 4G technology. Settled: it's officially a 3G technology, although I'm not sure that's necessarily a good thing for the WiMax camp either.

It means that WiMax is now legitimately a competitor to W-CDMA/HSPA and CDMA 2000 EV/DO, and in that regard it has a lot of catching up to do. A decade's worth, in fact. Given the huge momentum around HSPA in particular, the traditional 3G proponents must be relishing the coming market battle.

In another few weeks, the ITU's World Radiocommunications Conference will have discussed the various 4G proposals and likely we will have a clearer view of what the timetable for the LTE and UWB proposed 4G standards will be. As a result, any operators planning to move to a higher bandwidth wireless technology are likely going to want to look at a 4G technology rather than the decade's old IMT 2000 3G. And that's going to push WiMax even further on the outer.

So while at first glance the ITU news would seem good for WiMax, personally I think it can be viewed as another piece of bad news. --Geoff Long(image)

Search site for breaking news



I came across a great new search site by the makers of Fon -- they're the guys that are bringing the social networking concept to Wi-Fi, where users share their access points. It's called Unfolding News and as the name suggests it's for keeping track of breaking news stories. It's still in beta but from the few times I tried it seems stable and quite useful.

Interestingly, Fon founder Martin Vasavsky said he came on the idea for the service because the likes of Google and Technorati weren't good enough for his "vanity searches". Apparently he likes to keep track of stories that mention him. Well, if you happen to read this one Martin, perhaps you can add me to your blog roll ;-) And it will also mean your search service is working!

That's also him on the cover of CNBC magazine above.(image)

RSS hijacking??? . . .


. . . Or trouble at Ovum??

I'm a huge fan of Google Reader (and before that other RSS readers, but Google the first for purely online reading). As a result, I rarely go to web sites or blogs directly, I just skim read the headlines in Google Reader and then delve further if something takes my fancy. I also have a huge list of RSS feeds that I subscribe to.

I was adding Ovum to my RSS list today when a strange thing happened. When I added the address (, Google Reader responded by telling me I'd subscribed to a feed called ARmadgeddon. WTF, I thought, so I tried again. Same response. End result is if you subscribe to Ovum's RSS feed you will end up reading ARmadgeddon.

The really interesting thing is that it's not a bad result -- ending up at ARmadgeddon. According to its own blurb, it "has been set up by IT Analyst Relations professionals to relate tales of a symbiotic community: real stories, analyst gaffes and (un)predictions, analinguo, rumours, gossips and more."

Or from my short browsing session, it seems to be an insider's take on the telecom and IT analyst community, complete with gossip, movements, rumours, speculation and everything else that makes for a good read.

While I'm happy to keep it in my feed list, I'm still wondering how Ovum's RSS link manages to take you to ARmadgeddon. A disgruntled Ovum staffer perhaps? Try it out for yourself -- go to and near the top you'll see a link "Latest comments available via RSS". Put that in your reader and see where it takes you (just clicking on the link doesn't work, you have to put it in Google Reader or something similar). And do leave a comment if you get the same result or have any insights . . .

WiMax on the ropes?


Here's a commentary piece I wrote for CommsDay Asean last week, shortly after Sprint Nextel CEO Gary Forsee resigned. Over the past 12 months I've heard so many WiMax vendors suggest the fact that Sprint is rolling out a massive 802.16e network meant that the economies of scale for the technology were guaranteed. But what if Sprint changes its plans?The usual reminder: You can sign up for a free trial subscription to Commsday at www.commsday.comWhen Sprint Nextel CEO Gary Forsee abruptly resigned earlier this week, he probably expected the speculation on his future and the future of the company that he had helmed for the past four years. It's unknown, however, if he expected the questions regarding the very future of the WiMax technology he has helped hype for the past 12 months.Yet that is the biggest story to arise since Forsee left the office on Monday afternoon: whether there is any future in WiMax without a tier one operator to champion it. Not that Sprint has necessarily dumped WiMax, but most commentators and analysts are now seriously questioning whether the wireless operator will proceed down the WiMax route.At best, most expect Sprint to slowdown its WiMax activity, which could equally be detrimental to the future of the technology, as Bear Stearns equity research analyst Philip Cusick pointed out in a note to investors. "We believe that Sprint is likely to de-emphasise the WiMax business, which could result in a slower rollout for WiMax in the U.S., lower economies of scale for Clearwire and shrink the ecosystem necessary to attract consumer electronics companies to WiMax," Cusick wrote. That's quite a damning summation, but it's not the only negative sentiment nor the worst. Patrick Comack, a senior equity analyst with Zachary Investment Research, was quoted by the Washington Post as suggesting the company was negligent in going with WiMax in the first place. "The fact that they bought a $5 billion network without testing it was a violation of fiduciary duty. It's like buying a $5 billion car without test-driving it first," he said.A similar sentiment was expressed to CommsDay this week by Gartner VP of technology and service provider research Martin Gutberlet, who pointed out that the WiMax technology that Sprint is deploying, 802.16e, commonly known as mobile WiMax, had not even started compliance testing yet. And it is widely known that the network had many technical setbacks.Aside from a few niche fixed WiMax deployments in emerging markets, Gutberlet all but wrote off WiMax's chances against 3G and 4G technologies such as HSPA and LTE. He said that a new version of WiMax, 802.16m, had more potential but only if it wasn't hobbled by being made backwards-compatible. As this was unlikely to occur, he suggested that WiMax will never make it as a mass market technology.Even the fact that the likes of Intel was pouring money into WiMax and supposedly making it standard in every new notebook in 2008 did not convince him that WiMax would become mainstream. As Gutberlet noted, Intel has got it wrong before. And it could also be that Sprint has got it wrong, too.Given that the WiMax camp has put so much emphasis on Sprint rolling out the technology, it's fair to say that if they do indeed scale back their WiMax plans, the technology's future doesn't look anywhere near as bright as it did in the Gary Forsee era. -- Geoff Long[...]