Friday, October 22, 2010

Telecom Providers and SMS - The Dead Zone


You write with ease to show your breeding,
But easy writing’s curst hard reading.

R.B. Sheridan, Clio’s Protest

What bad timing, my adoring International fans, as Tropical Depression 19 is now bearing down on Jamaica, soon to become a Tropical Storm and linger with us until Saturday October 23rd 2010 AD. Oh, bother dash and OMG. More rain again and being cut off from May Pen, Clarendon - again.

Speaking of storms, teens [definition: ages 13 to 17] are texting more than they talk as per the article “Teens crazy for texting, but losing interest in voice calls”, published Thursday October 14, 3:28 pm ET By Ben Patterson, Yahoo News and supported by the article “Teens: Dont' call us, we'll text you”, published ay October 15 2010, CNET News.

Surprised? Why should you be? After all, these little ones are forever on their Blackberry’s and their slider mobile phones. But what is most surprising is that they are talking a lot less than they text.

Is Voice Telecoms going to eventually become a The Dead Zone (1983) in the distant future, as per the Stephen King novel? Voice Channels on Data Networks that will no longer be used, a Spectrum landscape going to waste and eventually discontinued or just utilized for SMS only? Are we come close to a tipping point for Video Calling, the merging of Voice, Text and Video over Data?

This The Dead Zone (1983)Theory was an idea about which I used to get pilloried about while I worked at C&W back then as a Network Maintenance Technician (2001 to 2004), as most of my bosses then back at C&W disliked what my idea implied: Spectrum in the 850MHz to 2100 MHz bands allocated to GSM Voice, for which they had paid millions in the past, laid to waste, empty and barren of Traffic.

While Video Calling Traffic built up on Spectrum allocated to Data Services in the new 54MHz to 824MHz (Analog Television NTSC and FM Radio Channels 2 to 72), ostensibly in some future time when Broadcasters gave up their Television and Radio Broadcast Channels, with the “White” Space Frequencies being used for Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Data Services.

The Management at C&W, who disliked my futuristic day-dreaming, did not see it that way, viewing such future Data Services as being in the distant future (2056 AD ??) and Data Services itself as merely a VAS (Value Added Service), along with SMS (Short Messaging Service), which they did not understand and so did not foresee being used – at all! Not any more folks, as times have changed!

According to the article by Ben Patterson, Technology writer for Yahoo News, the Nielsen Co. survey with a sample size of six hundred thousand (60,000) Wireless subscribers indicated that teens, as defined above, send and receive more than three thousand, two hundred and twenty nine (3,229) SMS messages, more commonly and colloquially called text messages a month, or roughly one hundred and seven (107) in a thirty (30) day billing cycle.

Amazingly, the next segment of the sample size being surveyed by Nielsen Co. survey, that being young adults [definition: ages 18 to 24], managed a less than stellar effort of one thousand, six hundred and thirty (1,630) text messages a month, or roughly fifty four (54) in a thirty (30) day billing cycle.

Their Voice Minutes are a lot less, however, coasting in at an average of six hundred and thirty nine (639) Voice Minutes, on average about twenty one (21) minutes in a twenty four (24) hours day, a decline of 14% from last year.

Adults, as usual, are yapping away on their mobile phones, as per usual, accounting for the bulk of Voice Minutes. Texting is now hip………finally [rolling eyes] despite the dangers of “sexting” as per the article “MTV's sexting show to air stark message for teens”, published February 13, 2010 2:48 PM PST by Larry Magid, CNET News - Safe and Secure.

Guess the adults, inclusive of myself, falling in the 25 to 34 age bracket, still are not into the texting thing as yet, albeit I beg to disagree, as while working as a Network Maintenance Technician at C&W (2001 to 2004) and then later at CLARO as a RF Technician (2008 to 2009), I ONLY communicated in SMS, much to the ire of the Management, as they love talking, which I dislike, as I do not see the point when the company issued Blackberry comes with QWERTY keypads, messenger app you can download and BB Messenger, thus making texting far faster and more concise than talking, as per the personal anecdotal observations of Ben Patterson.

For those thinking I am rebellious, anti-establishment spirit [I and I a bun’ a small fire fi’ Babylon!], I have loads of company in this regard, not only in the obvious Messenger obsessed Blackberry crowd, clutching their “precious” like Gollum, never missing an update.

But in a recent survey by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union), the United Nations arm that deals with telecommunications, which states that not only do 90% of the world population have a mobile phone but it is estimated that six trillion, one hundred billion (6,100,000,000,000) text messages will be sent by the end of the 2010 AD as per the article “6.1 trillion text messages to be sent by 2010”, published October 19, 2010 4:20 PM PDT by Don Reisinger, CNET News.

Guess I was just ahead of my time back then, as I was always one for comic books, video game playing and designing outlandish electronic Telecoms concepts and circuits. But of what significance is this to the Telecoms Community, Management et al? Well, as I used to say back then, brash and talkative against the older, supposedly more experienced Engineers, it is an indication of the future of Telecom: Less Voice, More Data. Amen to that!!!

At this point, people might be saying that not only was this obvious, as after all, it is generally accepted that Generation Y [definition: ages 13 to 24] are more proficient at expressing themselves in the written than in the spoken word, what with their love for Social Networking giants such as Twitter and FaceBook, exposing their private lives online as per the opinions of CNET News Blogger Declan McCulagh in the article “Why no one cares about privacy anymore”, published March 12, 2010 4:00 AM PST by Declan McCullagh, CNET News - Politics and Law, CNET News

But the implication for Telecoms Providers lies in Messaging Services, as the concept of SMS as a vehicle of communication, along with Data and Voice over 3G and 4G (LTE or WiMaX) Networks.

This is because VoIP Services, long since been restricted by Telecom Providers as Services that rob them of their lucrative International Voice Minutes, has now been growing at such a phenomenal rate that Data Services, by virtue of the Network capacity usage on Telecom Providers, are making Telecom Providers consider getting more capacity to provide Data based on the Spectrum now available thanks to Broadcasters in the United States of America achieving DSO (Digital Switch Over) and going HD (High Definition) for both Television (HDTV) and Radio (HD Radio).

The good, lucky people in Wilmington N.C. (North Carolina) and the surrounding areas of New Hanover N.C. who are putting the Wireless Broadband Network based on these “White” Space Frequencies through its paces as stated in the article “TV White Space Networks tested”, published February 24, 2010 4:06 PM PST by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - Signal Strength are the first such reported glimmers of hope this side of the Western Hemisphere.

Such Wireless Networks based on “White” Space Frequencies will soon become commonplace along with packages that take advantage of them, such as Skype, Fring and Google Voice. In fact, Silicon Valley tech heavyweights probably know this implicitly, as Skype is in a strategic partnership with a prominent FaceBook integration as stated in the article “The New Skype: Now with Facebook integration and group Video Calling”, published October 14, 2010, 12:28pm PDT By Sam Diaz, Between the Lines - ZDNet.

Fring is going after VoIP to mobile and landline Calling, both Local and International as stated in the article “Fring revs up VoIP Calling competition with SkypeOut-like FringOut”, published September 20, 2010 4:02 PM PDT by Jessica Dolcourt, CNET News - The Download Blog.

A market that Google Voice already owns in terms of American students according to the article “Students now get priority access to Google Voice”, published May 14, 2010 10:03 AM PDT by Josh Lowensohn, CNET News.

Google Voice is an integration into Gmail as stated in the article “Google: 1 million Gmail calls during first day”, published August 26, 2010 12:38 PM PDT by Stephen Shankland, CNET News - Deep Tech.

Point to note: these Services are offering the assumedly “Flat Rate” Video, Voice, SMS and Messaging for a thirty (30) day billing cycle for far lower costs than the Switched Networks of the Big International Carriers such as Telecom Provider AT&T using a Data Connection, which you are effectively paying for, whether or not the smart phone you are using has a Data Service enabled or is even Data capable, as VoIP can be provisioned to work that way a la Google Voice on smart phones, which uses GSM Voice Networks but routes your voice over a Data Trunk circuits within the Telecom Provider via conversion.

Messaging, which is based on IRC (Internet Relay Chat), is the forerunner of SMS, its sibling, and is a close cousin of SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), can be used to power SMS over Data, as SMS uses the discrete Messaging Channels in Switched Voice Calling and can be converted to IRC or SMTP for delivery to the clients software on the user’s smart phone via 3G or 4G Data Services.

Or back to the Messaging Protocol used on the UE (User Equipment), which may be a regular SMS enabled “feature” phone with no Data service and a slide out QWERTY keyboard optimized for texting -  my kind of mobile device. Video Calling is not far behind, something which I think should be a feature of the next Nielsen Co. survey and ITU survey for the Summer of 2011.

So, as Data Services become more ubiquitous, whether it is on the future up and coming 4G Networks, be they LTE (Long Term Evolution) as stated in the article “AT&T, Verizon execs talk LTE expansion”, published September 16, 2010 11:05 PM PDT by Kent German, CNET News - Dialed In.

Or WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d,e) Networks as stated in the article “Clearwire brings limited 4G to New York and Los Angeles”, published September 13, 2010 2:15 PM PDT by Kent German, CNET News - Dialed In or “White” space enabled “Super” Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n), thanks to FCC (Federal Communications Commission) Chairman Julius Genachowski’s license free Spectrum.

Start looking out for a shift towards less voice, more messaging and texting, and an increasing amount of Video Calling as trend to watch in 2011 AD. This will be the Year of the All-Electric Vehicle and 2012 AD, the Year of Ubuntu, as these High Speed Broadband will enable typing and Video centric communication of Generation Y, based on the strategic repositioning of the above.

Generation Y, who are more into Social Networking and may be their SOLE means of communication as stated in the article “Pew: Gen Y to remain active Social Networkers”, published July 9, 2010 11:16 AM PDT by Don Reisinger, CNET News - The Digital Home approaching the year 2015 AD, the year of Peak Oil and 2056 AD, the Year when the Bomb will drop: Oil Runs out.

Best of all, its relevance portends to us, as now Jamaica, firmly planted in the 100MBps “Usain Bolt” Club as per the article “FLOW to bring 100Mbs to Jamaican homes”, published Saturday October 16 2010, The Jamaica Observer, and rumours now swirling of an impending push towards LTE by Telecom Providers CLARO and Telecom Provider LIME.

Customers may soon begin experiencing these higher speed Networks as the Government of Jamaica hastens to increase its taxable revenues from Local and International Telecom Providers via the sale of Spectrum in a soon coming DSO for the local Big Three (3) Broadcasters, possible license free “White” Space Spectrum for Local Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) operators and eCommerce in an Internet enabled Society.

What of the Spectrum that the Telecom Providers already occupy when they purchase these low attenuation Spectrum to provision Data Services? A The Dead Zone (1983) a la Steven King is possible, as Telecom Providers, in such a futuristic scenario, cannot afford to continue to pay for underutilized Spectrum with little occupancy, so its sale or utilization for more lucrative backhaul or Mobile tower interconnectivity Data Services e.g. Microwave Radio Links is inevitable.

Worse, with Fiber Optic and FLORA (Fiber Less Optical Receiver Array) backhaul Services soon to come on stream, the use of these higher Spectrums in the 1900MHz to 2100 MHz region may eventually become fallow ground, unoccupied by intelligent Traffic. The Dead Zone (1983), just as I predicted, at least for a while.

OMG indeed!
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