Will Copper Win After All?

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

The Impact of Mobility on the Enterprise

The biggest news of the week actually was a follow up. On February 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it is adopting net neutrality rules that will regulate broadband as a utility. No details were released at that time.

Of course, the phrase “the devil is in the details” is a cliché that has been just about worn out. But it pays to trot it out when discussing the substance of governmental orders. This week, the rules themselves were published.

There was other news and interesting analysis as well. Here are some highlights:

Reasons Wi-Fi Networks Break

Baseline offers an interesting slideshow featuring research by Randstad Technologies on the most common reasons that Wi-Fi networks fail. The reasons include access points that are too close together, interference from water in pipes and leaves in trees, use of the same frequencies in adjacent networks and ceilings that are too high. Other potential problems are capacity miscalculations, interference from electronic devices, premise structural issues, and poor choice of frequencies.

Thieves Among Us

Veracode released a study this week indicating that a “typical” large enterprise may have as many as 2,400 dangerous apps. The analysis uncovered 14,000 unsafe applications overall.

Eighty-five percent exposed SIM card content, including “device IDs, carrier information, SMS message logs, contacts and call history,” the story said. About one third, or 37 percent, could lead to breaches and 35 percent spy on users’ browser history and calendars.

It all is a bit frightening, according to the Datamation story on the report:

The most alarming aspect is what happens next. According to Veracode, those apps often transmit ‘sending sensitive information to suspicious overseas locations.’ Further, that information can be cobbled together ‘to develop a complete profile of users and their social connections,’ setting the stage for corporate espionage, intellectual property theft and other illicit activities that can prove damaging to a business.

IDC: Tablet Growth Less Than Anticipated

IDC is predicting a small gain of 2.1 percent in worldwide tablet shipments this year. That figure, which is based on a total of 234.5 million units shipped, is in a report that scales back the firm’s five-year tablet projections.

The breakdown shows a fluid market. The firm sees Android’s market share increasing by .1 percent, iOS’s shrinking by 3.3 percent, and Windows increasing by 4.7 percent. In raw numbers, Android will drive 158.1 million devices shipped this year, compared to 154.7 in 2014. iOS-powered device shipments decreased from 63.4 million to 60.1 million, while Windows, the big winner, jumps from 11.6 million to 16.3 million shipments.


The 2019 predictions, according to IDC: Android will have 62.9 percent of the market (169.5 million OSes shipped), iOS will have 23 percent (61.9 million shipments) and Windows will have 14.1 percent (38 million shipped).

Rethinking Copper’s Inferiority

The thinking long has been that copper lines are inferior to fiber and coaxial cables as carriers of data. Indeed, some of the biggest bets during the past 20 years focused on when carriers should cut their losses and rip out the legacy copper in their last-mile networks.

That thinking may have been faulty. Several advances over the past decade or so have extended copper’s capacity. In July, LightReading notes that Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs claimed that it sent data at 10 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps) using a copper-based technique called XG-FAST.

The big picture news is that copper is not the liability that it was once assumed to be. The story quotes Marcus Weldon, who is president of Bell Labs and CTO of Alcatel-Lucent, to the effect that the technology is just warming up:

"I'm sure we'll find a way of doing 30 Gbit/s or 40 Gbit/s," he tells Light Reading. "We're getting to the point where copper is almost outpacing fiber in the access domain.”

Building Better Antennas

And, finally, comes a story about a company that is doing something about a common problem. According to eWeek, BluFlux RF Technologies has been working on a clever way of improving an individual’s cell phone reception.

The idea is to embed auxiliary antennas in specially designed smartphone cases. The story says that the cases/antennas can boost signals by two bars in a given locale. Prototypes have been built for the Apple iPhone 5S and the Samsung Galaxy S4.

It seems like a good idea, according to comments by BluFlux RF founder and President Ben Wilmhoff:

The case designs include a small, built-in, flip-out antenna that when extended can raise a smartphone's signal acquisition by two bars, said Wilmhoff. And by using the extra antenna, smartphones get a second benefit—their battery life is also extended on a charge because they are not using up as much of their stored power trying to locate and latch onto a solid signal, he said.

A side benefit is that battery life may be extended by 30 percent to 40 percent, the story says.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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