Exede’s Average Broadband Speeds Rank With the Elite in the World
More times than not, Exede satellite broadband subscribers are finding that they have the fastest Internet connections available in their service areas. In a few cities, fiber and coaxial cable-based connections deliver up to 50 megabit per second (Mbps) in downstream throughput. But according to the Fourth Quarter, 2012 State of the Internet Report published by Akamai Technologies, Cambridge, MA, Exede’s performance is more than twice the average speed that a typical American broadband subscriber receives.
Akamai, a cloud computing platform company, uses data from its servers to estimate the speeds and amounts of Internet traffic in various regions of the world. It estimates the average Internet connection in the United States at 7.4 Mbps, eighth in the world behind South Korea, which leads with an average speed of 14.2 Mbps.
The Federal Communication Commission’s recent report, 2013 Measuring Broadband America, found that Exede service from the ViaSat-1 satellite provides 137 percent of its advertised 12 Mbps speed (NRTConnects, March 2013). That is the equivalent of an actual sustained download speed of 16.46 Mbps…2.46 Mbps faster than South Korea’s global high average speed in the Akamai report.
The Akamai report also looks at broadband speeds in the United States on a state-by-state basis. It finds that subscribers in only three states and the District of Columbia enjoy average download speeds greater than 10 Mbps. Vermont tops the list at 10.8 Mbps.
The business community is beginning to sense that the dramatic difference in the performance of advanced satellites, such as ViaSat-1, is having an effect on subscriber growth. The latest generation of broadband satellites delivering up to 12 Mbps of throughput to the home is more than a year old, and a second provider has entered the competition to challenge Exede.
Patrick French, an analyst for Northern Sky Research, has been impatient with what he believes have been “excessive industry expectations” for satellite broadband. But looking at year-end global 2012 subscriber figures, he recently concluded “the satellite broadband access market is beginning to see the payoff of moving to the next generation of very high capacity [satellites].”
French estimated that ViaSat had a net gain of 80,000 combined Exede and WildBlue subscribers in 2012 thanks to the launch of the ViaSat-1 satellite. He estimated total Exede/WildBlue subscribers at 467,000.
“While satellite broadband access services are not out of the woods yet and still face real challenges from the dominant terrestrial services in the highly competitive global broadband market, the first signs are beginning to show that this new class of satellite broadband services is making its mark,” French said.
NRTC to Offer Parseous Radios for Utilities’ Wireless Data Networks
NRTC has completed an agreement with Parseous Systems of Orlando, FL,to offer data radios for SCADA operating in the 217-220 MHz band using FCC Private Land Mobile Radio Service (PLMRS) licenses. With a Parseous wireless network the user has a range of over 20 miles for a single link. The good physics at 200 MHz allows for propagation through foliage. The Parseous cognitive features automatically switch channels depending on wireless transmission congestion and atmospheric conditions to provide a more robust connection.
“This is a true IP network…a true digital radio network that delivers distance and protection from interference. It is as simple as Wi-Fi to deploy, but instead of going a few hundred feet it will go miles and you are protected from future interference of those who apply for licenses after you,” said Parseous Chairman and CEO Brian Andrew.
Parseous has two main product lines. The Parse 10/20 (pictured) provides 10-20 kilobits per second (kbps) of speed perfect for traditional SCADA applications. They operate in point-to-point, point-to-multipoint and mesh configurations. The radios find the best channels to transmit on as well as the best routing. They can be software upgraded over-the-air and each unit can operate as a base or remote device. They have both serial and Ethernet interfaces and as well as Modbus ASCII, RTU, PHP3, BSAP MTP, and DF1 protocols.
“This is a classic SCADA radio… The beauty of these radios is that they deploy themselves. Cognitive radios can work out what channel to use by themselves and then they will operate as a complete network,” Andrew said. A web-based interface simplifies remote operations.
The second product is the Parse 20/30 “Aggi” radio. In addition to the features of the Parse 10/20, the patented cognitive features include the aggregation of non-contiguous narrowband channels to deliver data rates up to 192 kbps. The radio also dynamically adjusts power as well as the number of channels it uses based on real-time throughput needs.
Parseous radios support some limited mobile operations. The radios will hand off from one unit to another, but signals tend to be subject to multipath interference in a mobile environment. It is possible to overcome multipath using diversity antenna systems.
In addition, Parseous radios can also be re-configured to operate in the 220-222 MHz band. NRTC can provide leases to members using 220-222 MHz in many parts of the United States through licenses it acquired in 1998. (See box below.)
In the long term, NRTC hopes that utilities will be able to operate with radios combining all 6 MHz between 217 MHz and 222 MHz. “In areas where we would like to get more throughput, you could borrow channels from 217-220 MHz and use them on a dynamic basis, but still rely on your fundamental licensed deployment for typical data payloads,” said Kurt Schaubach, NRTC’s vice president and chief technology officer.
Congestion in some areas of the country makes combining the bands an attractive alternative. A cognitive radio able to manage channels over a wide area of the spectrum would be important to meeting that goal.
For near-term, utilities operating Parseous radios on 217-220 MHz will find the process for obtaining FCC authorization is not difficult. Licenses are available on a secondary basis under Part 90 of the FCC rules by applying to the Commission’s coordinator in the band, the Utilities Telecom Council. The cost is $150 per multi-point base license for 10-year terms.
Past Investment in 220 MHz Licenses Paying Dividends in 2013
The demand for IP-based data communications in both the consumer and industrial markets continues unabated and each year, the market looks for adequate spectrum to support ever-advancing and more sophisticated systems. NRTC holds nationwide licenses in the 220-222 MHz band for its members’ voice and data needs. It has a spectrum-leasing program for 220-222 MHz which grows in importance each year as NRTC members seek affordable solutions and spectrum low enough in the band to support a rural utility’s typical coverage area.
“We continue to believe that 220 MHz is a great solution for things like SCADA. We see strong interest in that, as well as for AMI backhaul and distribution automation,” said NRTC Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Kurt Schaubach.
NRTC, working with a number of members, formed NRTC LLC in the late 1990s to acquire multiple 220 MHz licenses in one of the FCC’s early spectrum auctions. Most of the original NRTC LLC participants retain rights to utilize the 220 MHz spectrum in their respective states. NRTC more recently has made available 220 MHz spectrum for lease to support member voice dispatch and grid automation applications.
Over the years, NRTC has maintained the licenses by following the FCC’s minimum construction requirements. “At the end of last year, we got FCC approval of our construction showing. That renewed one license through 2014 and the remainder of the licenses through 2019,” Schaubach said. The license that will be due in 2014 will have a different benchmark for renewal, he said. “NRTC is confident that this spectrum will be available for member’s voice and data communication needs for many years to come,” Schaubach said.
In addition to keeping up with network construction, NRTC is actively protecting its members’ interest in the spectrum, which is gaining increasing attention from other industries. For example, NRTC filed comments in April with the FCC requesting that it take caution when deciding whether to allow a nationwide waiver of the existing 220 MHz rules for the railroad industry. While supporting the use of Positive Train Control (PTC) technology, NRTC said that it opposed elements of PTC advocates’ proposals that could “unfairly undercut NRTC’s license rights and degrade its ability to expand its system in the future.” NRTC’s filing goes on to note that the PTC proposal could negatively affect all 220-222 MHz licenses, not just NRTC and its members.
DISH Bids for Sprint Nextel in a Push to Become National Wireless Competitor
DISH Network Corp. stepped up its attempts to break into the national wireless voice and broadband business by making a $25.5 billion bid to buy Sprint Nextel. The bid counters an earlier offer by Japanese wireless carrier Softbank to buy 70 percent of the number-three national wireless carrier for $20.1 billion.
“This combination will create the only company that possesses the spectrum portfolio and collection of owned network assets to provide customers a fully-integrated, nationwide bundle of in- and out-of-home video, broadband and voice services,” DISH Chairman Charlie Ergen said in a letter to shareholders after the bid. “This unique, combined company will have a leadership position in video, data and voice and the necessary broadband spectrum to provide customers with rich content everywhere, all the time.”
The offer to buy Sprint Nextel is the most aggressive move DISH has taken to date to break into competition with the leading carriers, Verizon and AT&T, as well as with number-four carrier T-Mobile. For a number of years, DISH has attempted to get FCC approval to use former satellite communications spectrum in the 2 GHz band for terrestrial wireless use. Earlier, the Commission approved the creation of the new AWS-4 licenses for such usage, but the FCC process has been slow and Ergen has often publicly expressed impatience with it.
Later DISH made an offer to buy Clearwire Corp., a mobile broadband company with extensive nationwide spectrum holdings that has been unable to take significant market share from the top four carriers. DISH’s bid to buy Clearwire was a counter offer to one Sprint Nextel, Clearwire’s majority owner, submitted earlier (NRTConnects, February 2013).
It is possible that DISH could win on all three fronts – Sprint Nextel, Clearwire and AWS-4. Such a collection of spectrum holdings could go far toward challenging the current Verizon and AT&T market dominance. Some believe that DISH, with significant spectrum holdings and its experience in video distribution, could develop mobile video services to surpass the current carriers’.
Shifts Among Major Wireless Carriers Draw Attention to Antitrust
It is too early to know how federal regulators will react to a possible joining of DISH and Sprint Nextel (see above). While the deal would put increased competitive pressure on Verizon and AT&T, it does not increase the current number of four national carriers.
The latest DISH moves came as the FCC released its annual wireless competition report to Congress. As in past years, the Commission could not determine whether there is “effective competition” among commercial wireless carriers today. “We find that the mobile wireless ecosystem is sufficiently complex and multi-faceted that it would not be meaningful to try to make a single, all-inclusive finding regarding effective competition that adequately encompasses the level of competition in the various interrelated segments, types of services, and vast geographic areas of the mobile wireless industry,” it concluded.
But on other fronts, there are signs that the government seeks to oppose future Verizon and AT&T attempts to increase market share. For example, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice sent an ex parte letter implying that the FCC should limit Verizon and AT&T access to increased spectrum assets through the coming 600 MHz incentive auctions, currently expected to happen in 2014.
“Due to the scarcity of spectrum, [DoJ] is concerned that carriers may have incentives to acquire spectrum for purposes other than efficiently expanding their own capacity or services. Namely, the more concentrated a wireless market is, the more likely a carrier will find it profitable to acquire spectrum with the aim of raising competitors' costs,” the Antitrust Division said.
The Antitrust Division acted in the past to slow major carrier growth by suing to block a proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile in 2011. The suit eventually led to AT&T’s decision to abandon the deal.
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In This Issue
• Exede’s Average Broadband Speeds Rank With the Elite in the World
• NRTC to Offer Parseous Radios for Utilities’ Wireless Data Networks
• Past Investment in 220 MHz Licenses Paying Dividends in 2013
•DISH Bids for Sprint Nextel in a Push to Become National Wireless Competitor
• Shifts Among Major Wireless Carriers Draw Attention to Antitrust
• ViaSat Preparing to Provide Cloud Service
• Pai Says QRA Benchmarks “Have Issues”
• Documentary Tracks “Silicon Prairie”
• Spectrum Auctions Have Raised Nearly $52 Billion
• Where You Can See NRTC
ViaSat Preparing to Provide Cloud Service
ViaSat, owner of the Exede and WildBlue satellite broadband businesses, recently acquired LonoCloud of La Jolla, CA, a cloud services developer. ViaSat CEO Mark Dankberg said that the ViaSat intends to use LonoCloud to add value to its satellite broadband businesses. The cloud platform will “will both enhance our existing offering as well as shorten development cycles for new service offerings,” Dankberg said. The LonoCloud technology provides a simplified approach for enterprise organizations to access private, public and hybrid clouds from fixed or mobile networks.
Pai Says QRA Benchmarks “Have Issues”
Out of the many complex matters connected the FCC’s Universal Service Fund reform, one issue rising to the surface in recent months has been the state of the quantile regression analysis (QRA) benchmarks. The QRA methodology is supposed to limit the size of payments to rural telcos for high-cost loop support, but at predictable amounts. Commissioner Ajit Pai has admitted that a February 2013 order reforming QRA does still does not produce predictable results.
Pai, speaking at the recent NTCA: the Rural Broadband Association Legislative Conference noted that the latest order calls for QRA benchmarks to change yearly leaving it very difficult for telcos to judge how much they can invest in broadband under the rules. Although the Commission meant for the QRA benchmarks to affect only 10 percent of rural telcos, no telco can be certain that it does not exceed the order’s limits, he said.
“By design, the QRA benchmarks create a race to the bottom,” Pai said. “Perhaps that’s why the Rural Utilities Service has told the FCC that carriers aren’t taking out loans to deploy more broadband. Perhaps that’s why we hear from rural carriers and associations, again and again, that investment is not just chilled, but on ice.”
A number of rural telecommunications associations have filed a petition for the FCC to reconsider its QRA order.
Documentary Tracks “Silicon Prairie”
Are small businesses springing up in Middle America taking over as the cutting-edge of Internet innovation? An online documentary, Silicon Prairie: America's New Internet Economy, puts the spotlight on companies outside the usual East and West Coast technology development hubs. The movie tracks journalists in October 2012, concurrent with the presidential election campaign, as they take a six-city road trip from Denver to Danville, KY, visiting online innovators along the way.
For example, the bus visits De Moines, IA, where Dwolla has developed a system to transfer money from a bank or credit union over the web via e-mail or social media at very low cost. SkyVu in Omaha, NE, is a mobile apps developer that is enjoying growing fame for its “Battle Bears” animated games for mobile phones and FaceBook. The movie also takes a look at the Google Fiber project in Kansas City.
The documentary, co-sponsored by the Reddit website and the Consumer Electronics Association, is in part a protest against past efforts to pass legislation such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act ( PIPA), which the producers claim would stifle Internet innovation.
Spectrum Auctions Have Raised Nearly $52 Billion
The FCC in its annual budget request released the president’s proposed budget, includes a chart tracking all revenue raised through spectrum auctions since the program began in 1994. A total of $51,989,246,043 in revenues has flowed into the U.S. Treasury from the auction of 36,397 licenses in 81 different auctions. Auction revenue peaked in 2008 when three auctions raised nearly $19 billion, led by the sale of former broadcast television spectrum in the 700 MHz band. Since 2008 there have only been nine small auctions for a total of only $66 million in revenue.
The Commission plans to begin its next major spectrum auction in 2014 when it plans to offer more former broadcast television spectrum, this time in the 600 MHz band. It hopes to use $7 billion of revenue from that auction to fund FirstNet, the planned nationwide, interactive wireless broadband network for public safety organizations. The FCC is working to develop an incentive program to convince current TV broadcasters to give up claims to the spectrum so that their frequencies can be included in the auction.
In the budget request, the Commission also asks for a total appropriation of $259.3 million for fiscal year 2014 to carry out its functions with a total of 1,821 full-time employees. That represents an increase of $433,000 over its 2013 request.
Where You Can See NRTC
• May 1-3: Telispire Spring Forum, Minneapolis, MN
NRTC staff will attend
• May 9: Indiana Statewide Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives IT Managers Meeting, French Lick, IN
NRTC RBM Mark Davis will present
• May 14-16: Telecom Operators Conference & Showcase, Fargo, ND
NRTC RBM Terry Kucera will attend
• May 21-23: Telecommunications Association of Maine/Telephone Association of New England Annual Convention, Rockport, ME
NRTC RBM Terry Kucera will attend
• May 29-31: Virginia Tech Wireless Symposium, Blacksburg, VA
NRTC Chief Technology Officer Kurt Schaubach will present
• June 4-6: Indiana Telecommunications Association Annual Convention, French Lick, IN
NRTC RBM Terry Kucera will attend
• June 10-12: NCTA - The Cable Show, Washington, DC
NRTC VP, Video Services, Madeleine Forrer will attend
See the NRTC Events page for more upcoming meetings.