The last full week of spring brought no big announcements. As usual, however, we saw a smattering of interesting news and insightful commentary. Here are some highlights:
Newcomers Aplenty in the ONF
Software-defined networks (SDNs) have the potential to radically upset the networking apple cart. Big, established vendors understand this and are investing great amounts of time and money in protecting their status. But, as with all new technologies, a lot of the real fuel is coming from startups that are cash poor – but idea rich.
The industry has been around the block enough to know this. The Open Network Foundation, one of the main groups working on SDNs, in January established a special membership category for startups. This week, the consortium said that 24 companies have joined. A full list can be found at the ONF website.
It’s a good deal: Regular membership in the ONF is $30,000 per year. The annual membership fee for startups is $1,000, according to PCC Mobile Broadband.
One of the downsides of the smartphone revolution is that they get stolen – often. Indeed, the problem is so bad that the attorneys general of New York state and San Francisco started the “Secure Our Smartphone” initiative a year ago. One of the key elements of the program is a “kill switch” that renders stolen phones inert and, consequently, makes theft less attractive.
Despite misgivings that hackers could trigger the switches, the idea has caught on. Apple already has the feature, and Microsoft and Google are jumping on board:
That's significant, considering that Google's Android runs on more than half the smartphones in the U.S. and Microsoft Windows Phone runs on Nokia's handheld devices. The news means that 97 percent of smartphones in the United States will soon have a kill switch, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.
The story offers evidence cited by the group that indicates the idea is working. Theft of iPhones dropped, for instance, when the Apple included the switches, while crimes related to phones without the feature rose.
This week, Sprint announced 12 roaming pacts with small rural and regional carriers that serve 34 million people. WirelessWeek says that the deals are part of an agreement Sprint announced in March with NetAmerica and the Competitive Carriers Association.
The idea is to push LTE:
Sprint will be helping along the LTE aspirations of the carriers signed on to the agreement by providing access to its spectrum and by establishing Band 12 support in its headsets as soon as early 2015. Device support for Band 12 should help incentivize carriers with spectrum licenses in the lower 700 MHz block to deploy LTE.
Truth in Advertising
People are accustomed to not getting what they pay for. But, at least in one case, they are in for a pleasant surprise. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently completed a study that suggests people are getting a fair shake:
The bottom line in the FCC report is that most of the big ISPs, especially those that include fiber for the network infrastructure, deliver at least the performance they advertise. Some, including Verizon FiOS, Comcast and Cablevision, routinely deliver as much as 120 percent of their advertised download speeds.
The study featured 10,000 volunteers using off-the-shelf routers with special software. The “formal part” of the study took place in September 2013.
“Beach to Breach”
And, finally, comes a story about vacation. A nicely titled Sourcefire study in the UK found that 77 percent of workers take their Wi-Fi devices “on holiday” and 72 percent spend as much as two hours per day keeping up with work.
The story at Continuity Central on the “Beach to Breach” study doesn’t clarify whether the 72 percent figure is of the entire study group or a portion of the 77 percent who pack their devices with the sun screen. In either case, the figures, which vary somewhat according to the seniority of the workforce, show uniformly high usage. Sourcefire is now part of Cisco. The study focused solely on UK respondents. There is little reason to think that the situation is different on this side of the Atlantic, however.