Archives For Broadband

cloud-computing

I’ve dabbled in “the cloud” for some time. The majority of my digital photos were (publicly) hosted on Flickr until I tired of repeated theft reports and Yahoo censorship incidents. And for awhile, I was backing up on Mozy’s servers. More recently, I tried to replace iDisk, MobileMe photo galleries, and Mozy with a SugarSync subscription – but it hasn’t really met my, perhaps unreasonable, expectations.

Also, there’s the matter of cloud privacy and longevity… Most services extol the virtues of their data protection schemes. Yet, most are protected by a simple password. Which can be lost. Or that encrypted data may inadvertently be shared. While data loss and downtime can also be issues, a bigger concern is companies pulling the plug. And this isn’t an issue limited to failed startups. Both HP and Yahoo are shuttering cloud services this month. Not to mention Yahoo sucked the life from and then blew up the top worldwide Internet photo repository. If you can’t rely on a major Internet player like Yahoo to keep their doors open for service, who can you trust?

Bringing us to the concept of a “personal” cloud, which probably begins with local networked storage. While many computer geeks are comfortable tunneling home or “terminaling” in, we’re starting to see some more consumer-friendly solutions come to market. Apple’s recently updated MobileMe service ($99/yr) facilitates access to a Time Capsule or external drive (“airdisk”) via Back to My Mac. While the concept is good, the execution appears to be lacking. Gizmodo reports connectivity issues and only OS X is supported.

At CES, I spent some time checking out the promising Pogoplug ($80) – which is both a device and a service. The small Linux device, available next month, turns any USB drive into both local and remote networked storage. Accessible from a variety of operating systems, web browsers, and the iPhone. I hope to take an early look at this hybrid cloud solution (your drive, their web service) in the near future.

pogoplug

One of the selling points of true cloud storage is off-site backup. Which isn’t really addressed by a home cloud solution. Perhaps, it’s time for the distributed storage of a “family cloud”. And maybe more generous broadband caps with a bandwidth meter, Comcast.

sony-style-comcast-hq-philadelphia

In a trip over to Comcast’s Flash Drive building a while back, I noticed the “coming soon” sign on a space designed for a new Sony Style store. I thought it a bit curious to have an unrelated CE store housed in Comcast’s headquarters so I took a quick photo. Turns out Comcast and Sony are teaming up. Sounds like the store will be part commerce site and part Comcast showcase, with the operator showing off 100-Mbps broadband connections and tru2way TVs.

Interesting move for Comcast. It certainly makes sense to have a showcase in the Philly building. The question is: how far into retail will Comcast dabble beyond that? At the moment the operator bundles services with modems in places like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, but is it now looking to follow the Verizon Experience store model? Stay tuned.

The new Comcast/Sony store opens March 17th.

infonetics-jeff-heynen-cpe-report-home-controllers-digital-gateways

The analyst firm Infonetics came out with a report this week on the Broadband CPE market. CPE stands for customer premises equipment and refers to the home devices attached to a broadband network – everything from modems, to set-tops, and lately new gadgets like femtocells and a variety of home management controllers. Jeff Heynen, author of the report, sees short-term, recession-driven declines in the market, but also projects longer-term growth. I interviewed Jeff for a more detailed account of what types of gadgets he things we’ll see from cable and telco providers over the next several years. Here’s what he had to say.

Interview with Jeff Heynen, Directing Analyst, Infonetics Research

Q. One of the things you mention in your report is that you think we’ll see growth in broadband connections from 2010 to 2013 to support “converged” services – “voice, video, and high-speed Internet now, and home monitoring and automation services later.” What kinds of products do you think will support these services? Will we see more devices like the Verizon Hub and the AT&T HomeManager? They don’t seem to be getting much traction now.

A. Those two products are very early concepts for how home communications systems might work. The traction for those products is bad for any number of reasons, including macroeconomic conditions, their price points, and a general confusion among subscribers as to their utility. I really think both providers missed out on integrating some femtocell capabilities in those devices, rather than introducing separate femtocell gateways with yet another recurring fee. Why not combine the two, increase mobile reception in the home, while providing a low-cost, high-featured VoIP line to increase ARPU on a fixed broadband connection?

In the short-term, we really see growth in digital home gateways, which combine a modem, gateway, IAD (EMTA), and some type of home networking function (MoCA, HPNA, G.hn, etc.). Operators will be able to monitor these devices and their performance remotely and effectively move their sphere of influence into the home to ensure the stable performance of all their services, especially video.

Q. With potential growth in home monitoring and automation services, do you think we’ll see more supporting products (like cameras and home controllers) come to market through retail, through service providers, or through a hybrid retail-product-bundled-with-service model?

A. I think the hybrid approach, where operators distribute their own systems, but also have their own areas within retail stores, selling bundled packages is the likeliest scenario.

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verizon-hub-radio6

I swung by the Verizon mall kiosk today to play a bit with the Verizon Hub ($200). Unfortunately, I only had my iPhone with me and wasn’t able to take stellar photographs. But it should be clear (enough) that the promised streaming Internet radio has arrived. Verizon’s initial music source/partner is iheartradio.com, a Clear Channel property. I was able to easily and quickly fire up DC101 for low fidelity music, emanating from the single vertical speaker seen on the right. (Of course, a loud location like this doesn’t make for the best test environment.)

While poking around Verizon’s VoIP & widget station, I also noticed a banner ad (below) for the UPS store. Not sure if this is a one off, maybe a way to integrate package tracking, or if this is what you can expect regularly from a $35/month subscription.

verizon-hub-radio1

Click to enlarge:

Again, Twitter proves to be a useful blogging tool… Paul Alfieri, formerly of Motorola and now with Limelight Networks, directed followers this morning to CNET’s coverage of a proposed sweeping network bill:

politicians on Thursday called for a sweeping new federal law that would require all Internet providers and operators of millions of Wi-Fi access points, even hotels, local coffee shops, and home users, to keep records about users for two years to aid police investigations. “A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user.”

Dave Eckert points out the technical challenges for novices in creating and maintaining those logs. To which I agree, and will take it a step further – nearly five months after instituting a 250GB broadband usage cap, Comcast (CMCSA) has yet to provide customers a means of tracking data usage. They also appear to have difficulty managing their own inventory, sending DMCA notices to the wrong household. And give out other customer’s passwords OnDemand. So, if a commercial ISP is incapable of accurately monitoring and controlling network access, it’s probably safe to assume that most individuals and small businesses would be unable to document access point authorizations.