Verizon to introduce next-gen wireless data network

Verzon has announced that they’re introducing a CDMA 2000 1xEV-DO (Evolution Data Only) wireless data network in the San Diego and Washington, D.C. areas later this summer. 1xEV-DO is considered a 3G technology.

During preliminary tests that Verizon Wireless conducted in an area from Falls Church [Virginia] to Rockville [Maryland], people could download files while on the go at speeds from 300 to 600 kilobits per second, or about five to 10 times as fast as a dial-up modem. While stationary, users could access the Internet at speeds up to 2.4 megabits per second, about 60 percent faster than a cable modem.

Although 1xEV-DO has a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 2.4 Mbps, typical datarates will be closer to 100 Kbps. In contrast, CDMA 2000 1xRTT (currently supported by Verizon and Sprint) has a theoretical maxiumum bandwidth of 144 Kbps, with typical datarates around 50 Kbps. [via Slashdot]

First ARM-based, Palm-powered smartphone

Late in January I posted an entry about Kyocera’s new Palm-powered smartphone, the 7135. I was hoping to upgrade to it from my 6035, but it’s still not carried by any major carrier, and now Samsung has a phone that looks a lot more interesting than the 7135.

The SGH-i500 is a smart-looking smartphone with flip-phone form factor, and is first to use Palm OS 5. Palm OS 5 requires an ARM processor, and the SGH-i500’s runs at 300 MHz. The phone has a built-in 640×480 camera (with flash, even), and two color displays — a large true-color TFT display on the inside, and a small OLED (!) display on the outside for time, caller ID, etc. The phone has 32 MB of RAM built-in, and an SD slot for storage and I/O. Nice!

The SGH-i500 is expected to be available this fall, which really means that it probalby won’t be available through your favorite wireless carrier until 2004. If the goal was to make potential 7135 customers defer their Kyocera purchase, they’ve succeeded in my case.

Ricochet's ricochet

I’ve always dug the idea of Ricochet, which seemed like science fiction when I first heard about it years ago. As much as I like Wi-Fi, I’d prefer slightly-slower high-speed city-wide wireless WANs to “hot spots”, although a roamable combination of both would clearly be best.

Aerie Networks, which bought Ricochet’s assets, is in the process of lighting up the network again in Denver and San Diego.

Part of the challenge lies in logistics. Ricochet technicians have to systematically switch on the shoe box-sized repeaters that hang from thousands of street lights — some 3,200 in the San Diego area alone. First, the company must broker agreements with the cities and towns that own the light poles. Ricochet hopes cities will provide free access in exchange for allowing police officers to have access to the network wherever their patrol cars roam.

As much as I like the idea of Ricochet, it’s impossible for me to justify at $45/month. (Thanks, Kevin!)

"Mastering Compression" class

My friend and streaming expert Ben Waggoner will be holding his next two 5-day Mastering Compression classes on June 30 and August 11.

These classes are held on the Stanford University campus. They’re part of Stanford’s Digital Media Academy program, so you get Stanford Continuing Education credits for taking the class — that means that your employer might even pay for them!

If you can’t attend,

  • Digital Media Academy: Mastering Compression
  • Posted in MPEG-4, QuickTime, RealSystem, Streaming, Windows Media, Wireless
  • Kyocera's new Palm-powered smartphone

    I’ve had a Kyocera 6035 Palm-powered smartphone for a couple of years. It has its quirks, but overall it’s the best phone and the best PDA I’ve ever had.

    The 6035 is tough (I give it a good drop at least once a month…you know, to seat the chips), syncs with all of my stuff, and (most importantly) frees me from having to carry both a phone and a PDA. Plus, the thing goes three days without a charge — a fantasy for Windows-powered smartphones. There are other Palm-powered smartphones, but I prefer Kyocera’s phone-first/PDA-second design over the PDA-first/palm-second design of other Palm-powered phones.

    Cruelly, Kyocera announced the 7135 Palm-powered smartphone six months ago, and I’ve been thinking unclean thoughts about it ever since. It’s smaller (about the size of a pack of cards), faster, has a color screen, and is GPS-ready. Just recently a U.S. carrier called ALLTEL (never head of them, have you?) finally launched the 7135 on their network. Kyocera promises that major carriers will announce support for the 7135 within six weeks.

    |

    DoCoMo and MPEG-4 and QuickTime (oh my?)

    On Monday, DoCoMo will unveil three new 3G phones (made by Fujitsi, Mitsubishi and NEC) for its network. The bigest news from DoCoMo’s point of view (see the AP and Reuters articles below) seems to be that (1) all three phones support digital cameras as an opition, and (2) the phones’ battery life is much better, offering battery life closer to that of pre-3G phones.

    However, all three phones also support the 3GPP standard, which means that they support MPEG-4 (although not the ISMA “flavor” that QuickTime supports today). Although DoCoMo is not emphasizing 3GPP or MPEG-4 in its announcement — this makes sense, since consumers could care less about codecs or formats — Apple is doing its best to ride DoCoMo’s PR coattails. As Rhonda Stratton, Apple’s QuickTime Senior Product Line Manager, told MacCentral:

    This is the next step in the delivery of a promise we made when we announced QuickTime 6 with MPEG-4 capability. We started to see some things on the Internet with MPEG-4, but now we are seeing another industry pick up the standard for 3GPP, which is based on MPEG-4.

    It’s gutsy to try and spin the DoCoMo announcement as part of an Apple master plan, since DoCoMo’s plans to support 3GPP (and therefore MPEG-4) had nothing to do with Apple or QuickTime. (You could really only get away with this kind of positioning with a non-telecom savvy reporter working for a Mac-specific publication.) Also, 3GPP is not “based on” MPEG-4, although a 3GPP “flavor” of MPEG-4 is specified as part of the standard.

    In a News.com story, The Yankee Group analyst Ryan Jones seems confused. “The real story is that Apple is building a presence in the device market with QuickTime,” he said, apparently not understanding that QuickTime has nothing to do with the MPEG-4 support on those devices.

    Rhonda also announced that a dot release of QuickTime will support reading and writing 3GPP-compatible MPEG-4 files before the end of the year. That’s great, but Apple has far more important things on their To Do list (like fixing QuickTime’s industry-trailing MPEG-4 Video encoder). | AP story | Reuters story | MacCentral story | News.com story

    First 3G call made in live U.S. network

    Yesterday, AT&T Wireless and Ericsson completed the first WCDMA/UMTS call in a live network environment. The new 1900 MHz WCDMA/UMTS network they used for the test will have more than 100 cell sites in Dallas by the end of this year.

    All I want for Christmas is 802.11x most everywhere, 3G everywhere else, and phones and computers that can switch between them automagically. (Next Christmas, maybe?) | Ericsson press release

    "Open Spectrum: The New Wireless Paradigm"

    Kevin Werbach is a respected independent technology analyst and consultant. He was most recently the editor-in-chief of Release 1.0, and before that led internet policy for the FCC. And, as he puts it, “Almost everything you think you know about spectrum is wrong.”

    The assumptions underlying the dominant paradigm for spectrum management no longer hold. Today¬ís digital technologies are smart enough to distinguish between signals, allowing users to share the airwaves without exclusive licensing. Instead of treating spectrum as a scarce physical resource, we could make it available to all as a commons, an approach known as “open spectrum.” Open spectrum would allow for more efficient and creative use of the precious resource of the airwaves. It could enable innovative services, reduce prices, foster competition, create new business opportunities and bring our communications policies in line with our democratic ideals.

    A short while back I posted a piece on cognitive radio and open spectrum. Kevin’s paper is a must-read for folks whose interest was piqued by that piece, and who want to better understand the technology and politics of open spectrum. | “Open Spectrum: The New Wireless Paradigm” (PDF) | Interview with Kevin Werbach

    Sendo kills Z100, drops Microsoft for Nokia in future handsets

    Sendo was one of the earliest supporters of Microsoft’s “Windows Powered Smartphone Software” OS. (Microsoft marketing: You may want to work on that name thing.) However, today they announced that they’re dropping WPSS in favor of Nokia’s Symbian OS and killing the Z100 handset, which they announced just days ago. From Sendo’s UK home page:

    It has been a very difficult decision for Sendo given its leadership position in the development of smart devices. We are disappointed that we will not be able to ship the Z100 given the high level of interest shown in the device.

    Reuters quotes Symbian CEO Hugh Brogan as saying that one reason for the switch was that they couldn’t get access to source code for WPSS, but could for Symbian. There must be other reasons, since Sendo had planned on selling millions of Z100s, and won’t be able to introduce a Symbian-based phone for at least nine months.

    Nokia and Microsoft are the two players to watch in the smartphone OS market, with Palm in a very-distant third place. The early leader here will have a strong influence on which digital media technologies become the lingua franca of Little Internet. Nokia appears to have the early lead, which means MMS (a limited profile of SMIL 2.0), MPEG-4 and J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition).

    Handset manufacturers are terrified of both Nokia (which competes with them directly) and Microsoft, but appear to be more terrified of Microsoft. The Symbian vs. WPSS fight will be very interesting to watch. Link

    Nokia's 6 new phones: All color, all MMS


    At the Nokia Mobile Internet Conference (NMIC), Nokia introduced six new phones (bringing the total for the year to 30!). The important thing for digital media developers is not the phones per se (although I really dig the 6800 pictured above), but that all support color and MMS.

    MMS is Multimedia Messaging, which you’ll either consider an enormous enhancement of SMS (if you’ve ever taken a close look at what’s possible with SMS) or an eensy-weensy subset of the SMIL 2.0 specification (if you’re ever taken a close look at what’s possible with SMIL 2.0). It basically lets you send really simple image+audio presentations to phones and other extremely constrained devices.

    MMS is defined as part of the 3GPP specification. TS 26.140 defines MMS and TS 26.234 (Section B and Appendix B) define the SMIL MMS profile.