AT&T to Battle Google Fiber in Austin

Carl Weinschenk

It has been bone-chillingly cold in New York, and winter doesn’t even start for a week or so. Much of the country already has had a few brushes with snow and other conditions that are more common in January and February.

Despite this discomfort, the usual amount of news and commentary has materialized during the past week. Here are some highlights:

Which Mobile Devices Are Proliferating? All of Them

Insiders and close observers tend to see various small subgroups of devices – tablets, smartphone, feature phones, laptops and so on – in isolation. Once in a while, however, it’s helpful to step back and look at the category as a whole. IHS reports that annual shipments of wireless-enabled devices will reach 503 million by 2018, more than 10 times the number anticipated this year.


The organization says that growth will range from 60 percent to 120 percent during the first years of the term of the study. It will moderate to some extent during the last two, the report said. ISH’s definition of such devices is interesting:

A high-speed wireless-enabled device, as defined by IHS, is one that includes at least one of the following technologies: WirelessHD, WHDI, 802.11ad (WiGig) or multi-stream Wi-Fi (802.11n 3x3 higher or 802.11ac 2x2 and higher). These technologies, in turn, are known for featuring wireless speeds several times faster than that of 802.11n and earlier, which offer velocities anywhere between 72 megabits per second (mbps) to 530 mbps typical of Wi-Fi.

Canonical’s Ubuntu Scores

A battle is ongoing, over which mobile operating system will be the third banana behind Android and Apple’s iOS. The two that are heard about most often are Microsoft’s Windows Phone and beleaguered but still powerful BlackBerry.

Several lesser-known wannabes follow, such as the Firefox OS, Jolla’s Sailfish, Tizen and Canonical’s Ubuntu. This was a good week for the last name on that list: Canonical said that it has signed a deal with a mobile phone company to use Ubuntu, though Founder and Product Strategy Leader Mark Shuttleworth would not say which company. Shuttleworth said that the company is in high-level talks with other vendors.

AT&T Tests Its Limits in the City of Austin

Last week, I blogged on what seemed like the uncertain level of demand for 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) networks. It seems that these networks are easier than ever to build, but that relatively few consumers really need them.

This week, AT&T announced that it is rolling out its GigaPower network in Austin, Texas. The announcement includes two interesting elements. One is that it sets up direct competition with Google Fiber, which also says it will bring Gigabit service to the city. Secondly, the 1 Gbps speed is only a goal to be reached at some point next year. Initially, speeds will be a more pedestrian 300 Megabits per second (Mbps). The story at PCMag says that people automatically will be upgraded when the network acceleration is ready.

Unlocking the Future

NewsFactor and other sites report that the Federal Communications Commission and major cellular carriers have agreed to provide subscribers with unlocking rights. New FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said that the agreement will compel carriers to let subscribers know if their phones can be unlocked, and if so, how. They will need to let the customer know if they can do so within two business days of a request, the story says.

Some issues, such as the treatment of prepaid phones, haven’t been resolved. The agreement suggests that there will be more flexibility on unlocking a phone for use on that network or a competitor’s at the end of a subscriber’s contract.

Using Nonsense

And, finally, comes a story about creating passwords using a method that high school students use to master material. Teachers often tell their kids to use mnemonic devices to remember lists. One such approach is to think of a nonsense sentence in which the first letter of each word corresponds to the first letter of the words on the list that must be memorized.

This idea rests at the heart of a suggested password system being developed at Carnegie Mellon University. The idea is to think of some ludicrous imagery – the example in the ZDNet story is Bill Gates swallowing a bicycle – and use letters from that story to create a password.

Once the image and its related word combination are established, changes – such as having Gates swallow the key twice – will change the password for different uses. The idea is twofold: Unlike most password creation, this won’t tend to use numbers or words that are related to the life of the user and therefore discoverable by a hacker. The approach also can result in passwords that aren’t written down.



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