Archive for November, 2004

I ran across this article linked at DSLReports and I was struck by both the passion and the ability of the author to express not only his concerns but his reasoning behind these concerns.

Gilder has long been a vocal advocate of the Korean model of 75% broadband Internet penetration.

“I live in rural Massachusetts. The only broadband available is between my hard drive in my computer and my Samsung screen,” he quipped, adding that the United States is far behind at just 18%.

“Koreans will kill TV!” he said, pointing to the “massive dinosaurs” of influential American TV networks proactively stifling U.S. broadband to levels that cannot support full motion video in order to hold their market share.

I am not sure if I can believe anyone’s numbers any more. Mr. Gilder clams the US has an 18% broadband penetration rate while the FCC claims a significantly higher rate – even though the FCC’s claims have been pretty thoroughly debunked by Alex Goldman in this article.

The underlying fact that seems to be getting ignored is that broadband will change the way many things get done in this country and more importantly these changes will happen relatively quickly. Think, for a moment, about the effect that advertising has on our economy. Radio, television, newsprint and magazines all depend on the advertising dollar to stay alive. After the dot com bust there was a significant drop in the gross amount of money spent on Internet advertising. However, this is now starting to swing back the other way with sites like this one starting to see a surge in advertising revenue. Advertisers are now finding they can target exactly the audience they want by honing in on web sites that cater specifically to the interests of their subscribers.

If the trends we are seeing here (and as also mentioned in the article with Korea’s broadband vs, television time) continue we will see more and more people spending more time on the net and less in front of the TV set. I have noticed this in our household as many of you have. So, what happens to the business model Television thrives on if the viewing audience drops in large numbers favoring spending their time on the net instead? I’m guessing the advertising revenue will follow their audience. What does this mean to television as we know it? I hope it means they will start providing more interesting programming to increase viewer interest but I’m afraid this won’t be the case.

What does this mean for the net? More money and a need for more bandwidth as the advertisers will be willing to pay more for more effective advertising. This will mean more bandwidth will be needed for the average viewer to view this animated or full-motion content. But if we as a nation only have 18% of our entire population capable of accessing this technology we will not see this shift happen as quickly as countries that do have the infrastructure in place.

This is the crux of what I am trying to say here. It’s not just about broadband, it’s about the complete shift we will see as a society when we have this infrastructure in place.

Change is coming – we will either adapt or be replaced. This timeless wisdom is just as true now as when Charles Darwin phrased the concept over a century ago.

We just came back from the WiMAX World conference in Boston. Over the years and a few too many shows I have learned to not try to guess what I will walk away with from these shows. Probably the most uniform experience I see from show to show is that if you are willing to be outgoing and talk to people you are going to make some great contacts and just maybe, if you are very fortunate, some new friends.

I will admit that I really wasn’t all that excited about this show for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the show, by comparison, was rather small advertising only about a dozen manufacturers. I usually make quite a few industry connections by talking to people at the booths but I knew, in advance, this was not going to be the case this time.

Next up (for me) is the lineup of speakers.

I was impressed with the group Trendsmedia had assembled.

I knew of Dr. Mohammad Shakouri and had been told that I should catch his talk. I was also keenly interested in what Gordon Antonello had to say being one of the people who founded the WiMAX forum.

Let me tell you, this show turned out to be one of the best experiences I have had in quite some time. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last four 802.11 shows we have attended that were put on by Jupiter Media (and no, I am not saying that because I spoke at the last show in Baltimore) there was something different about this show. There was an excitement, a newness, a feeling that was in the air about how this technology was going to make a difference.

The first session we attended was put on by Gordon Antonelo. He was very candid, supplied an honest look at the WiMAX forum and managed to present a very clear understanding of what goes on behind the scenes when something like this is put together. I was kind of surprised (as were several of the people surrounding us in the audience) at the complete lack of comprehension of the subject by some of the attendees.

When Gordon was finished with his presentation, he opened up the floor to questions. The first eight or ten questions were excellent and probed several points that were either omitted or lightly touched on and Gordon did a great job of providing clear answers.

The next round of questions proved to be substantially more difficult. I will hand it to Gordon, he was patient, kept a very businesslike demeanor and answered questions like, “What kind of antennas will the WiMAX forum specify?” and “How much output power will the WiMAX forum set?”

I have often said that there is no such thing as a stupid question but rather the stupidity occurs when people who need answers are too afraid to ask questions. I may have to rethink that statement.

Gordon answered the first question by explaining that he was not a “hardware” guy and that the WiMAX forum would leave specifics like antenna design to the individual manufacturers as they saw fit. He quickly added that he thought that there would be choices that ranged from the standard omni and sector antena right through to smart arrays. On the second question Gordon explained that the output power was set by the governing body in each respective country and that the WiMAX forum had no control over this.

The next couple of questions that came up were of a totally different caliber. I was amazed at the grace Gordon showed when he was asked, “Will the WiMAX Forum publish a list of manufacturers that fail certification?”

How does someone answer a question like that?

My personal favorite was, “How big do you expect it to be?”

After some questioning it was determined that the question was meant to elicit an approximation of how big a basestation and the CPE would be.

What I did walk away with was the knowledge that we have a lot of educational work to do.

The next session we attended was put on by Dr. Mohammad Shakouri. I can tell you that this segment was fantastic. Dr. Shakoouri blended a mixture of charm and humor that was coupled with an explicit understanding of exactly what information a WISP needed to hear. He managed to keep the entire audience riveted right through the session.

One point that was clearly made was that WiMAX can make you money. If you ever are accorded the opportunity to see him speak I would urge you to attend. It will be time well spent I can guarantee you that.

Now, having said all of that, I want to introduce to my favorite speaker of the entire show. Monica Paolini has to be one of the few people I have heard speak that really gets it. No kidding, she had our industry nailed. While I had sat through a couple of presentations wondering if I was going to fall asleep (more because the speaker was tough to follow due to poor acoustics or an inability to hold an audience’s attention) this woman had me nodding in agreement and hanging on her every word.

I have a lot more to say about this show and as soon as I sift through the overload I will be writing more here.

Stay tuned.


Ken DiPietro