My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: CLARO and The Coming of Municipal Wi-Fi - Shadows of the Empire

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

CLARO and The Coming of Municipal Wi-Fi - Shadows of the Empire

{11:4} He that observeth the wind shall  not  sow;  and  he  that  regardeth  the  clouds  shall  not
reap. 
{11:5}  As  thou  knowest  not  what  [is]  the  way  of  the spirit,  [nor]  how  the  bones  [do  grow]  in  the  womb  of  her that  is  with  child:  even  so  thou  knowest  not  the  works  of
God who maketh all. 
{11:6}  In  the  morning  sow  thy  seed, and  in  the  evening  withhold  not  thine  hand:  for  thou knowest  not  whether  shall  prosper,  either  this  or  that,  or whether they both [shall be] alike good.

Ecclesiastes 11 vs 4 to 6

Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) has finally arrived, after seven (7) years from its original suggestion in 2002 by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) as stated in the article “802.11n Wi-Fi standard finally approved”, published September 11, 2009 5:33 PM PDT by Dong Ngo, CNET News – Wireless, (https://www.cnet.com). The drafting of this firmware upgrade to Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11g) which maxes out a 56 Mbps theoretical, is much welcome as Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) is a significantly faster 300 Mbps theoretical …..and that is street legal speed folks. Not even WiMax 4G Fixed (IEEE 802.16a), chipmaker Intel’s baby, also conceived in 2002, which curiously enough was based on a suggestion of mine to the IEEE to which I was a member at the time and Intel before the WiMax Alliance was formed, to add sectors, use an unlicensed spectrum and boost the power on the specs for Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11g) was as widely received as Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) – and I shall not tire of saying this – has a speed of 300 Mbps theoretical and a minimum radius of two hundred (200) meters, maximum one thousand (1000) meters whereas WiMax 4G Fixed (IEEE 802.16a) has a speed of 80 Mbps theoretical but with the advantage of a radius of over thirty (30) kilometers, both of them of course not offering handover, albeit Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) is capable of doing it as Wi-Fi Routers, akin to GPS-enabled mobile phones, are often used for geo-location services once enabled.

Thank God (assuming that he exists of course) for the 802.11n Task Group is part of the 802.11 Working Group, which placed their John Hancocks on the final draft of Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) and the Wi-Fi Alliance, which suggests new protocol enhancements and ensures compliance and interoperability of all Wi-Fi enable products. My only grouse is that Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) was stalled so long since its initial drafting. In hindsight, I suspect that it may have been due to the then development of 3G networks by the GSMA But it is the last bit of information that has me giddy: you do not need to run out and buy a new Wi-Fi Router compatible with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n), just merely upgrade the firmware. No rain clouds, but reader, beware the coming flood of Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n). But of what do I ramble?

Thus a business opportunity presents itself for the technical minded who is aware of the thirst Jamaicans have for internet-on-the-go after the success of the JDX (Jamaica Debt Exchange) as stated in the article “JDX ends at 99 percent; minister says thanks”, published Thursday, February 25, 2010, The Jamaica Observer in February. It was widely expected that the effect of the lower interest rate spreads would be felt immediately. Early signs been seen, green sprouts if you will, with business people encashing their Government Paper and looking to invest in other areas of higher growth or possible future growth in the economy, as suggested by the Jamaica Exporters Association(JEA) president Titus Evans in the article “JDX makes exporting more attractive”, published Wednesday, April 21, 2010, The Jamaica Observer, (http://www.jamaicaobserver.com), mostly the production of farming produce for export, as this is a ready earner of foreign exchange, which is still rising gradually in value against our Jamaican Dollar.

Albeit this early article appears to be merely speculation, statistical evidence of the nascent growth spurt now is beginning to flesh out with nice milk teeth, hair and a little wagging tail to complement its faint heartbeat. There is apparently an odd anomaly has been spotted in the form of the low level of turnover in profit but the unusual level of borrowing and possibly investment noticed in the Micro and Small Business Sector, collectively called MSE (Micro and Small Enterprise), “micro” being defined as having less than ten (10) employees and “small” being defined as having between ten (10) and fifty (50) employees according to the Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica (ESSJ) as stated in the article “Small businesses post JA$96 billion sales decline – Firms borrowing more and commerce worsens”, published Sunday June 2010 by Avia Collinder, Business Writer, the Sunday Gleaner (https:.//www.jamaica-gleaner.com).

Brushing the wording aside, the statistics indicate an increase of borrowing from Private and Public sector lending agencies in excess of 100 percent moving from JA$753.1 million in 2008 to JA$1.622 billion in 2009, with the bulk of borrowing being gender and age centric, with JA$98.6 or 65.9% being female borrowers and persons over the age of 36 years old borrowing 67% percent of loans on offer, compared to 33% of persons in the age range 18 to 35. A glimmer of hope pre-JDX or is this a trend set to increase as reports are now coming in of an increasingly stable interest rate spread that the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica, Mr. Brian Wynter is lowering on a monthly basis now in single digit territory? The Bank of Jamaica appears to be confident, signaling further rate cuts in the coming months as stated in the article “Interest rate cut signal Bank of Jamaica optimism” published Sunday June 2010 by Sabrina Gordon, Sabrina.gordon@gleanerjm.com, Reporter, the Sunday Gleaner (https:.//www.jamaica-gleaner.com), with all that is needed being a CBD (Credit Bureau Database) as being urgently requested by the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica, Mr. Brian Wynter as stated in the article “Credit rating bureau needed quickly - Wynter”, published Friday January 22 2010, The  Daily Observer, by Alicia Roache roachea@jamaicaobserver.com. 

The Commercial Banks, namely RBTT (Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago), BNS (Bank of Nova Scotia) and the NCB (National Commercial Bank) seem reluctant to lower their interest rate spreads, as the losses incurred due to the JDX possibly still hurt and they are at least trying to ride out the difference between their rates to make up for the short term losses due to the surrender of their short term (read 30-day, 90-day, 180-day) Government of Jamaica Bond instruments, as those days are over for them as well, as it is back to the traditional business of Banks – loans and borrowing. But it is the investment in the Services Sector that catches my eye with its borrowing to the tune of JA$132 million as reporter Avia Collander cribs al dente possibly in her bid to keep it to the point. If this is a trend, it is an interesting trend, as aside from the Service Sectors mentioned in her summary; there is one Service Sector that will soon start popping up in this Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica (ESSJ) in the next two (2) years: Wireless Municipal Internet Services. Spoken here first!

Ever since Telecom Providers have begun launching the affordable and iconic Blackberry PIN Messenger cum email goddess-of-a-phone, the RIM Blackberry and its trim line of smart phones, namely the Blackberry Curve 8900 as stated in the article “LIME launches the Blackberry Curve 8900 smart phone”, published Monday, 09 February 2009 by TechJamaica.com (https://www.techjamaica.com) with Digicel also introduced the same Blackberries, such as the Blackberry Bold and the Blackberry Curve 8900 at the same time as stated in the article “Digicel introduces the New Blackberry Curve 8900 smart phone in the Caribbean”, published Monday, 09 February 2009 by TechJamaica.com (https://www.techjamaica.com), Jamaica has caught smart phone fever!

CLARO is not to be outdone, carrying the full lineup of Blackberries and competitively priced Data Plans, namely the Blackberry Pearl Flip 8220, The Blackberry Curve 8900, the Blackberry Gemini 8520, the Blackberry Bold 9000, the Blackberry Bold 9700 (finally they got rid of the trackball!!) and Blackberry Storm 9500 (Apple iPhone imitator, its flattery most sincere!!) and of course, the only “smart” phone in the line-up and definitely NOT a blackberry, the Apple iPhone, my obvious bias towards Apple eruditely displayed for all to see. The Apple iPhone, despite being third (3rd) in the United States of America, if not the World as confirmed by statistics by NPD as stated in “CNET Buzz Report”, aired May 13 2010 by Brian Cooley, CNET News, CBS Interactive (https://www.cnet.com) and hugely popular worldwide, even to the point of readying another twenty four million (24,000,000) Apple iPhones running the new improved iPhone OS 4.0 as stated in the “Report: Apple readying 24 million units of next iPhone”, published May 17, 2010 10:25 AM PDT by Erica Ogg, CNET News - Circuit Breaker, (http://www.cnet.com).

 There is even a drop in the price on the Apple iPhone 3GS to US$97 on a two (2) year contract from AT&T as stated in the article “Get a new 16GB iPhone 3GS for US$97”, published May 25, 2010 5:18 AM PDT by Rick Broida CNET News - The Cheapskate, (http://www.cnet.com) on the soundings in the market place that indicates an increasing demand for smart phones as stated in the articles “Prepaid wireless outpaces contract services”, published April 5, 2010 3:35 PM PDT CNET News - Signal Strength by Marguerite Reardon and stated in the article “Smart phones come to prepaid wireless market”, published May 19, 2010 4:00 AM PDT by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - Signal Strength, (http://www.cnet.com). smart phones, however, are yet to make a noticeable impact in Jamaica, mainly due to the lack of support for Apple Products, an inability to access the Apple Apps store without a Credit Card, the close nature of the smart phone and probably most notable, the prevalence of Chinese dual SIM knock-off that look and operate like the real thing, as dual SIM phones are currently trending among Jamaicans…………..but that is a topic that I am currently researching for another story.

At this point the reader may have been lost in the myriad of hyperlinks and tripping adjectives, nouns and verbs, but the point I am gunning for is that most of these smart phones, Netbooks not to mention the beautiful Apple iPad Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) and Apple iPad Wi-Fi 3G + (IEEE 802.11n), now all the rage in Europe, Australia and now even in Japan as stated in the article  
iPad lands big in Japan, other foreign Markets”, published May 27, 2010 10:29 PM PDT by Brooke Crothers, CNET News Nanotech - The Circuits Blog, (http://www.cnet.com) despite a problematic Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) service as stated in the article “Apple Addresses Complaints about Weak iPad Wi-Fi” published Wednesday April 7th 2010 by Barry Levine, Yahoo! News (newsfactor.com) have one thing in common: Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n). Their ability to access Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) in towns and the two (2) cities in Jamaica, Kingston and Montego Bay at the various “hotspots” presents an interesting business opportunity for a keen eyed investor, whom I shall heretofore refer to as a Local Entrepreneur, who should notice that a lot of these devices being sold by the Telecom Providers come with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n), and Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) is not disabled on these devices. Smart phones are the most obvious choice for Mobile Handset manufacturers to enable with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) according to a report that ABI Research published in March 2010, stated in the article “Wi-Fi smart phones to dominate”, published March 23, 2010 3:01 AM PDT by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - CTIA 2010, (http://www.cnet.com).

The research firm, In-Stat, expands this further, however to a virtual armada of Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) enabled devices. In-Stat postulates that with the prevalence of Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) enabled smart phones, Netbooks and Laptops being projected to increase from five million (5,000,000) to sixty five million (65,000,000) by 2014 based on statistical data collected from Research firm In-Stat in May 2010 as stated in the article “More people buying Wi-Fi enabled devices”, published May 4, 2010 10:03 AM PDT by Lance Whitney CNET News - Wireless (https://www.cnet.com), with the strongest growth area being smart phones, projected to be embedded in five hundred and fifteen million (515,000,000) such devices. Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) is now creeping into other devices that never had Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n), such as 3-D HDTV’s set to launch this Summer of 2010 as stated in the article “Samsung, Panasonic start selling 3-D TV's this week”, published Tuesday March 9 2010, 11:04 am ET, By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Write, AP, Yahoo ! News, (http://news.yahoo.com).

Game consoles, Receiver Boxes for Broadband Cable and even picture frames are all part of the mix, a curious correlation to AT&T’s plan to connect everything to their 3G, GSM and Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Networks as stated in the article “AT&T connects everything to its network”, published March 24, 2010 6:55 PM PDT by Marguerite Reardon CNET News - CTIA 2010 (https://www.cnet.com). AT&T has been expanding its network of free Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) “hotspots” in possible anticipation of the traffic loads from the Apple iPad, even placing one oddly enough of all places, in empty New York’s prosaic Time Square, which as Molly Wood, Executive Editor from CNET indubitably opines while sarcastically twisting the knife in AT&T soon-to-be-obvious debacle in her video CNET Buzz Report, aired May 2nd 2010, CNET News, CBS Interactive, (https://news.cnet.com) is probably being done for the “Wal-Mart” people.

Even “feature” phones, a most descriptive nomenclature alluding to the unused internet capable features on some of these more advanced US$30 mobile phones “custom fitted” towards a younger generation as “Breadfruit girl” Mary J. Bligh states in her AT&T advertisement (search “AT&T Mary J Bligh” on YouTube),  are coming with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) as apps are being made and built into some of them, such as  quick SMS (Short Messaging Service) phones such as the LG Zeon, Neon and Karma as stated in the article “AT&T pushes quick messaging phones”, published March 24, 2010 6:10 PM PDT by Marguerite Reardon CNET News - CTIA 2010, (http://www.cnet.com). Even “feature” phones without Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) can get the capability, if the Japanese have their way as stated in the article “Wi-Fi finds back door into ordinary cell phones”, published July 23, 2009 3:04 PM PDT by Mats Lewan CNET News – Crave, further lending credence to In-Stat’s claims. This is not even mentioning the seven (7) gigabits per second wireless WiGIG protocol developed by the Wireless Gigabit Alliance of such Industry Technology heavyweights as Intel, Dell, NEC, Toshiba, and Microsoft to be used on high end home entertainment and computer products for point to point high speed data transfers of video and audio between multimedia devices such as HDTV screens and Blu-Ray players and computers as stated in the article “WiGig group finalizes new wireless standard”, published December 11 2009 by Lance Whitney, CNET News - Blog Network, (http://www.cnet.com).

This is now confirmed by the follow-up article as soon coming as stated in the article “Wi-Fi to cultivate speedy 60GHz band”, published May 11, 2010 11:08 AM PDT by Dong Ngo, CNET News - Wireless (https://www.cnet.com) and as running on the 60 GHz spectrum, an unlicensed frequency relatively unused at this point and be in direct competition with proprietary standards WirelessHD and Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI). Wi-Fi Direct, the self-described Bluetooth assassin as stated in the article “Wi-Fi is about to get a whole lot easier”, published October 14, 2009, 12:01AM EST by Olga Kharif, Business Week - INTERNET (https://www.businessweek.com), supported by the Wi-Fi Alliance that turns smart phones into Wi-Fi “hotspots”, is also on the horizon. Frank Dickson, In-Stat's Vice President of Research, puts it all into perspective when he rounds up his research firm’s finding by stating “Wi-Fi swept through the computing market, driven by the need to access and share broadband connectivity. That same consumer desire is now resulting in Wi-Fi adoption across the entire range of connected consumer electronics, driving significant Wi-Fi volumes. The ubiquitous adoption of Wi-Fi in consumer electronics is Wi-Fi's manifest destiny.” I could not have expressed it more succinctly and with such eloquence if I was an English Bull Mastiff or Yorkshire terrier with a RFID chip in my hip.

Thus the obvious becomes simple: Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) is a potential money spinner as devices will be coming pre-embedded with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n). After commissioning a survey of the area to ascertain demand or just working off a hunch, as I am doing, a Local Entrepreneur can purchase some head-end (that is T1 circuits for internet access for the non-technically inclined) from either FLOW Broadband or LIME ADSL, whichever offers cheaper Leased Business circuits and do a mapping of the area, to ascertain  the highest points, as setting up a WLAN (Wide Area Local Area Network) based on Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) does not require much technical expertise, save for basic electrical skills, manual dexterity and a lack of fear for heights. Each Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Base Station, coined from the term RBS (Radio Base Station) as Digicel calls their Mobile Cell Sites setup or BTS (Base Transceiver Station) as CLARO and LIME call their Mobile Cell Sites Setup, would consist of a stub tower with three sets of Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) transceivers, with 60 GHz Unlicensed Spectrum Microwave Repeaters carrying the broadband signal from the Central Office onwards to the rest of the Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Base Stations in the Local Entrepreneur’s WLAN Network.

It is best to keep the network small and the contention ratio (the number of people who can log on simultaneously when in range of the WLAN on Sectors Alpha, Beta and Gamma at any given time under “best effort” conditions) set in such a manner to at least guarantee each user at least 1.5 Mbps theoretical, otherwise people with Netbooks and other data-hungry devices such as smart phones (other than the Blackberry, which is somewhat more efficient in its usage of data) will use the service and start complaining about slow downloads and uploads. Security is a must, and is best initiated by authenticating, validating and verifying devices based on not only assigned login and passwords to access the wireless network, but also the MAC Address and computer name of the Netbook or Laptop or the Phone Numbers, Phone Instruments (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMEI and SIM Cards (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMSI, information being placed in a database table along with the registration information using Government of Jamaica approved identification i.e. Voters ID, Drivers License, Passport, TRN, Birth Certificate to not only identify users logging onto the network by name but also identify unauthorized access to their Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) network and thus guarantee security from criminal elements by allowing for easy monitoring and control of network activity.

Capped megabyte usage would also be a smart way to go, as an “all-you-can eat” package is unwise for high speed mobile broadband. This is in light of AT&T decision to end the days of “all-you-can-eat” Data Plans, essentially what Telecoms Providers in Jamaica have being doing since the inception of 3G Wireless Broadband as stated in the article “For New AT&T users, no more "all you can eat" data”, published June 2 2010 By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer, Yahoo News (https://www.yahoo.com), in the article “AT&T phases out unlimited data plans”, published Wed Jun 2, 12:07 pm ET, by Ben Patterson, Yahoo News (https://www.yahoo.com), in the article “AT&T to end unlimited use of mobile data plan”, published Thursday June 2 2010, by Ryan Kim, Chronicle Staff Writer (https://www.sfgate.com), in the article “AT&T's new pricing takes smart phones to the masses”, published June 3, 2010 4:00 AM PDT by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - Signal Strength and in the article “New AT&T data plans for iPhones, iPad, more”,  June 2, 2010 2:39 AM PDT CNET News - Crave by Matt Hickey, (http://www.cnet.com) from my favorite news aggregator, CNET, more than ample proof that this announcement is huge in its implications and scope.

Such Local Entrepreneurs would best heeds the signs such as were seen by AT&T with the Apple iPad as stated in the article “FCC: iPad use could further strain AT&T 3G”, published February 6, 2010 4:56 PM PST by Jim Dalrymple CNET News – Apple, (http://www.cnet.com) with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson predicting lackluster subscriptions for the Apple iPad possibly as a means of comforting investors in AT&T as stated in the article “AT&T CEO sandbags iPad 3G subscriptions”, published March 3, 2010 12:30 PM PST by Erica Ogg  CNET News - Circuit Breaker, (http://www.cnet.com) even going to the point of instructing Apple on how to make the Apple iPhone efficient in its usage of broadband, which is mostly out of their control, as stated in the article “Report: AT&T schooled Apple on iPhone issues”, published March 30, 2010 10:44 PM PDT by Steven Musil, CNET News – Wireless, (http://www.cnet.com). This would avoid Local Entrepreneurs experiencing user backlash as mentioned in the article “AT&T Sparks User Backlash With End to Unlimited Plan (Update1)”, published June 4 2010, by Hugo Miller and Olga Kharif, Bloom Berg Markets (https://www.bloomberg.com).

Signs of the coming of Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) are already obvious and been headed by Local Entrepreneurs, as a Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Base Station has already been set up atop the Young’s Pharmacy in May Pen and another is going up atop Glenmuir High School to cover the May Pen area here in Jamaica. Pictures I will be posting on my Facebook page soon (https://www.facebook.com/lindsworthdeer) on this exciting and interesting development that would pit Local entrepreneurs in towns like May Pen all across the island investing in a post-JDX scenario vs. the Big Three Telecoms Providers, namely LIME 3G, CLARO 3G and Digicel Broadband and the impending launch of Digicel’s WiMax 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16m) slated to launch at the end of the second quarter of 2010 as stated in the article “Digicel to offer mini Laptops with 4G service next year”, published Friday September 4th 2009 by Lavern Clarke, The Daily Gleaner, (http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com), with ZTE Corp of China as their build out partner of their new WiMax 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) network as stated in the article “Digicel signs ZTE as 4G mobile WiMax Internet partner”, published Sunday, September 27, 2009, The Jamaica Observer, (http://www.jamaicaobserver.com), using the very same head-end and even equipment from the Telecoms Providers to compete with the Telecoms Providers Digicel, LIME and CLARO for customers in the lucrative burgeoning  high-speed Wireless Broadband Service Industry.

I thus would on the basis of the above basic and admittedly unscientific analysis, advise Telecoms Provider to begin aggressively selling 3G-to-Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Routers and 4G-to-Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Routers in an attempt to stave off the impending losses that the Telecoms Providers will definitely experience as Local Entrepreneurs setting up Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) may initially attempt to use an ‘all-you-can-eat” model instead of going the Capped Data Plans  route to avoid the headaches of provisioning such a metered broadband service and may simply opt for Uncapped Unlimited Data Plans based on thirty (30) day usage, much as is the case currently with the poorly regulated illegal Cable TV Industry in Jamaica. Also, FLOW Cable Broadband and LIME ADSL may do well to check the purchase of large quantities of head-end by individuals, possibly even placing caps on their usage or charging for the use of VOIP services such as Skype, which is the current action taken by AT&T on their 3G Mobile Network as stated in the article “Skype for iPhone now support 3G, but free ride's ending”, published June 2 2010,by Ben Patterson, Yahoo! News (https://news.yahoo.com), as they may also be attempting to use their head-end to run Illegitimate VOIP calling, effectively bypass that would cut into their revenues from foreign calling if the problem becomes more widespread.

To the Big Three (3) Telecom Providers, Beware! If unchecked, Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) can become as big a headache as the poorly regulated illegal Cable TV Industry is to the Big Three (3) Broadcasters, TVJ, CVM and Love TV (who I rarely mention). A joining of forces on this issue is a recommendation I would also put forward to the Gang of Six, as I shall now christen the Telecoms Providers Digicel, LIME and CLARO and Broadcasters TVJ, CVM TV and Love TV, as in the bold new future that is Broadband Internet, Telecommunications and Broadcasting merged together, it is good to sow the seeds even when there is no sign of rain, as the Bible ominously intones.
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