The Video Picture Keeps Getting Brighter

Carl Weinschenk

It makes sense to stay away from IT and telecommunications rumors for a few reasons, including the simple idea that there is so much real news that it makes little sense to focus on what may happen in the future.

However, the prospective acquisition of T-Mobile by Sprint is worthy of note before it happens. For one thing, of course, it would represent a major realignment in the telecommunications industry. In this case, the fact that the pricing of the deal is already being reported suggests that it is a real deal and may come down at any moment.

There was a good deal of interesting news and commentary this week beyond the likelihood of continued consolidation among phone companies. Here are some highlights.

Comcast Eases Wi-Fi


The cable industry has long attempted to establish itself in the small- and medium-size business (SMB) sector. It has had good, but not overwhelming, success. The latest initiative from Comcast involves the burgeoning interest in Wi-Fi by small businesses. Newsfactor reports that the operator is offering a Business Wireless Gateway that serves both customers and employees.

The device was introduced soon after the MSO released a survey, conducted on its behalf by Bredin Research, which examined why some businesses shy away from Wi-Fi. The idea is to simplify matters:

The integrated modem is designed specifically for a commercial environment, and the company said the device and accompanying service are included with most Comcast Business Internet plans. In some plans, it is added at no cost, while in others monthly limits are applied to the public signal. The public signal is offered through Xfinity WiFi, a Comcast brand, and the dual-band router is from Cisco. Comcast also offers dual-band wireless gateways to homes.

Video Continues to Grow

It seems obvious that the cascade of video that has buffeted the Internet for a few years would slow down at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet.

The fact that the rate of consumption is not diminishing is apparent in Adobe’s “Q1 2014 Video Benchmark Report.” The report said that March set a report for video views and that the game console and over-the-top OTT device market grew significantly compared to March 2013. TV Everywhere content was accessed by devices using Apple iOS 43 percent of the time, while browsers’ share dropped from 47 percent to 36 percent.

The story in Telecompetitor offers interesting data from the study, which was amassed from more than 1,300 media and entertainment sites, related to the where and how content was consumed.

Netflix on the Offensive

Expect a lot of back and forth between content companies, carriers and Internet service providers (ISPs) as the Federal Communications Commission begins the process of rewriting the net neutrality rules. A good example is the contretemps between Netflix and Verizon about the access speeds the carrier is providing.

Reuters reports that Netflix is pulling no punches in telling subscribers who is to blame for service slowdowns. The example cited is a shot at Verizon:

"The Verizon network is crowded right now," reads a notice Netflix sent to some customers on the screen when a video is buffering.

Net neutrality covers the last leg of the content’s trip to the subscriber. Netflix and Verizon in April signed an agreement to speed traffic on parts of the network. That deal has not taken full effect yet. The bottom line is that Netflix is using very aggressive public tactics that quite possibly are aimed at taking advantage of the confusion over net neutrality.

Another Mega-Merger on Tap

Often, mega-mergers are a surprise. This one, if it comes to pass, won’t be. Light Reading and other sites are reporting that Sprint and T-Mobile have agreed on the biggest element, the price, of an acquisition. Sprint would pay $32 billion, or $40 per share, for T-Mobile. That represents a 17 percent premium on T-Mobile’s closing price on June 4.

The deal can still fall through. If it doesn’t, it has significant ramifications in creating a more substantial counterweight to AT&T and Verizon.

Google Beyond the Clouds

And, finally, comes a story about rising above the competition. Using orbital satellites for video and/or broadband distribution is not new. It’s very expensive, risky (sending things on rockets into space is pretty speculative), and technically limited due to the great distance the signals have to travel.

Google is up for the challenge, apparently. The MIT Technology Review cites a story in The Wall Street Journal that Google is gambling more than $1 billion on a fleet of 180 satellites. The project will be led by O3b, a company Google helped fund four years ago.

The project aims to couple the satellites with beam forming technology, which apparently reduces the need for the satellites to be geosynchronous, or continually over the same spot on earth, to provide services to the huge number of people in underserved regions around the globe.



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