Wireless Broadband in Rural Austria

While UMTS operators are starting to upgrade their networks for high speed Internet access (HSDPA) it seems the competition is already a step ahead in some areas. During a walk in the countryside in Austria (to be exact: Gaspoltshofen, 3000 inhabitants, about 60 km from Linz) I saw an interesting antenna tower on a hill (see pictures). Turns out that the antenna belongs to Flashnet, a local company providing fast wireless Internet access to the local population.

It looks like they are using Wireless LAN as technology and directional antennas which are installed on the rooftops of their customers houses. Prices are quite interesting, €30.- a month for 2 gigabyte data traffic and 1 MBit/s up- and downlink. Their website also provides a map of the coverage area and they say on their website that they are now serving over 1000 customers in the area. Too bad that they don’t specify how many sites they use to cover the area.

Great stuff!!!

Audible on S60 revisited

Back in January I expressed my frustration with the Audible player for S60 that would only download audio content over the air (via GPRS, UMTS, etc.) but would not play audio content that I’ve already downloaded to my PC and from there to the phone. Well, it looks like it was worth writing the blog entry because Bruno Santos kindly enough left me a message with a solution:

The audible player for Series 60 can only decode category 2 and 3 files but not the highest quality category 4 encoding with which (of course) I’ve downloaded all my audio files to the PC. After downloading one of my audio books again with category 3 encoding to the PC and then to the mobile phone, the audible player just asked once to connected to the Internet to verify that I have the rights to listen to the content. Since then no more costly connections to the Internet. The player works fine even if used over several hours at a time. Thanks very much Bruno, your tip will save me a lot of work (see blog entry from back in January).

Wireless VoIP Demystified – Part 4: Skype

This blog entry is part four in my mini series of looking at the different Voice over IP systems (VoIP) that can be used over wireless networks such as UMTS or CDMA 1xEV-DO. Part 1 focused on UMA, part 2 on SIP, part 3 on IMS, and this part will take a look on the use of Skype over wireless.

UMA, SIP and IMS are all centralized systems. That means that they use a centralized server which is responsible for authenticating users, for establishing connections between users for voice, video, instant messaging or any other kind of media transfer, and also for billing. Skype uses a fundamentally different architecture as it does not rely on a centralized server for most of these tasks. Skype is a Peer to Peer network in which end points of the network help out each other to establish and maintain a connection.

A peer to peer network has a number of advantages over a centralized approach:

  • Centralized servers are costly to buy, maintain and operate. The more people use the service the bigger the server has to become. In a peer to peer network such as Skype, however, signaling load at a central point does not increase in the same way as in centralized systems.
  • Individual peers help out each other to establish a connection. This is especially important as many users are behind firewalls or network address translation (NAT) routers typically used at home. Thus, they can not communicate directly with each other. Skype peers that have no such restrictions help out peers that do and forward traffic between such users. This is the main reason why Skype is so easy to set up on PCs and other devices compared to other technologies like for example SIP. For those of you who would like to find out more about Skype, here’s a link to an analysis of how Skype works which has been published by Philippe Biondi and Fabrice Desclaux of EADS.

While most other VoIP systems use legacy voice codecs to transport the media stream over IP, Skype uses its own resource efficient codecs which which on top even have a superior voice quality. Thus, Skype works quite well over UMTS and I use it on a regular basis when traveling. It should also work quite well over EV-DO as well, as bandwidth is also sufficient. Personally I’ve never tried so this is just a speculation.

Many operators (carriers) are scared of Skype and other VoIP systems as they are afraid that such services will decrease their revenue on traditional voice minutes. I think there is no such risk in the near future as there is still a PC required to run Skype over a wireless link. However there are first signs that Skype is also moving to mobile devices. A beta client for Windows Mobile is already available and a non official beta of Skype on a Nokia S60 6680 has also been spotted by the author (see picture above). So operators should hurry up and develop strategies to integrate such innovative applications into their concepts. Some have already done so, like for example E-Plus in Germany. They even offer a UMTS flatrate together with the Skype software and a headset. An interesting first step, certainly not made too soon as new devices such as the Nokia N80 with built in WLAN will spur the interest of a wider audience to cheap VoIP over wireless.

At this point I close my wireless VoIP mini series for now. Four different VoIP systems, four different basic ideas and four ways for every one in the industry and of course the users to benefit. I think it will still take several years before Wireless VoIP becomes mainstream but the first signs are already here.

AOL joins Google to adapt pages for mobiles

AOL is about to start competing with Google and others in the mobile space. This includes adapting pages for mobile viewing with an automatic re-rendering service.

"AOL Wireless Director of Emerging Technologies Raine Bergstrom told BetaNews […] "We’re not just re-rendering, but reorganizing as well," he explained. Bergstrom said most, if not all pages will initially be rendered using the automatic system, and would change based on necessity. [….] "One size does not fit all" ". Here’s the full article.

While I have put my thoughts on the positive sides of such technology in one of my recent blog entries, a lot of other people don’t like it at all. Looks like the front widens…

Mobile Monday Paris April – Pictures and Report


My first Mobile Monday in Paris. I was very positively surprised to see so many people there and had many good discussions. As you can see in the pictures the number of people has easily surpassed 200. Here are some details of the event as it happend.

Presentations: (here’s a link to most presentations)

The first presentation was by Vincent Veran of Axalto, one of the leading SIM card manufacturers. Their latest ideas they are working on are large memory SIM cards for preloaded content and storage of content such as eMail, a SIM card based web server for applications such as easy access to the operator portal and contact less applications embedded in the SIM. For the later, applications such as contact less payment in the metro (similar to the Felica service in Japan) come to mind.

The second presentation was given by Alex Kummerman of Clicmobile and he gave an overview of a current proof of concept application his company is trialing in Geneva at the moment which deals with finding out if some of your friends are near you while being at a certain location.

Mobile Gaming was the theme of the third presentation of Nicolas Caris of Acute about Urban Rivals. urban-rivals.com is an online game which seems to be an adaptation of a game initially launched back in 2001 in Japan (my interpretation as in 2001, iMode was only available in Japan). How I would have liked to have that in my pocket back then in school 🙂

Finally, the fourth presentation was given by Valérie Beaudouin of France Telecom about perceived and real usage of mobile and mobile services.

Discussions:  Glad to have met Stuart Mudie at the MoMo to discuss many on and of topic things. Other people I have spoken to include someone who promotes tracedog.fr, a cool utility for dog owners how get tired of searching their dog. I really like the application, check out their web site!

Operator and supplier attendance: Thanks for hanging out the list of attendees and separating the participants in operators, suppliers, mobile media, etc. Interesting to see many people in the the operators category, lots of people from Bouygues and Orange, only few from SFR though. To my surprise only few people from suppliers at the meeting. Some from Ericsson and only one or two from Nortel and Alcatel. I find that somewhat strange.

Summary: All in all a great evening, a big thank you to the organizers and the speakers of the evening. Looking forward to the next MoMo Paris on the 5th of June.

WLAN is catching on in Paris

When I moved into a new appartment in Paris last summer there were ‘only’ two WLAN networks in the air in the range of my PC except of my own. Today, there are already six (see picture). All of them but one are protected and some even use WPA. Not too bad for a country in which three years ago Minitel was considered state of the art 🙂 The main reason for this explosive growth is probably the fact that a fast DSL connection has become affordable for most people. 20 euros per month for a 20 MBit/s ADSL 2+ connection with an unlimited data volume or 30 euros a month for a subscription that includes a phone flat rate for fixed line calls and TV (both over IP). I wished wireless Internet access via UMTS was already available at a similar price.

.Mobi is coming – That’s good and bad

So .mobi, the top level domain for mobile friendly web sites finally took the last hurdle and we should see the first sites soon. As everything in life there are good and bad sides. In this particular case I see extremely good sides but also extremely bad sides of the idea.

The good side:
There is a large community of proponents including mobile operators and device manufacturers. That ensures that it won’t take long and we will see a large number of mobilized sites which can then be advertised very easily (e.g. amazon.mobi, nokia.mobi, ebay.mobi, etc.). That’s great when you see it on a poster somewhere while out in the street or in an advertisement in a magazine. It also seems like there is a code of conduct for creating web pages for the .mobi domain which can even be enforced. Good thing! BTW: I wonder how iMode proponents feel about .mobi and those rules!?

The bad side: It’s gonna separate the PC Internet from the mobile Internet. That’s bad as links in the future might even be more intended at either only PC or mobile users. Take the following case: I like reading blogs with my blog reader on my mobile device More often then not, interesting blogs contain links to other sources. I don’t think these links will direct me to .mobi sites in the future… So Google’s mobilizer for PC world sites is necessary more than ever. Maybe it can be made smarter to detect that there is a .mobi equivalent to the PC world link. But that requires the same URL structure for the .com and the .mobi presence of a site.

In the end, you can’t have them all…

Will S60 ProfiMail bring the breakthrough?

One of my most difficult mobile challenges these days is to find a mobile phone and software for my girl friend to allow her to take notes and access her eMails while commuting to and from work. "So what’s the problem?" many people like me who use a mobile phone for these and many other connected tasks may ask. Well, here they are:

  • Dimension: Of course it has to fit in a small bag
  • Spam: The eMail account to be mobilized gets lots of spam and due to ‘legacy’ reasons we can’t open a new one for mobile use. Thus the eMail program must be capable of downloading and displaying many mails quickly (like 30 a day out of which 27 are spam…)
  • Notes: A good keyboard is necessary, a communicator with a small keyboard will just not do.
  • Patience: The targeted user (girlfriend) has no patience with technology, the device just has to work…

I’ve been leaning havily towards an S60 device together with a Bluetooth foldable keyboard (e.g. the Nokia SU-W8) to solve the issue. Even if the dimensions will get some critisism I am sure the size of a, let’s say, Nokia 6680 would be acceptable. Unfortunately two things have hindered me so far to take action: There just does not seem to be any usable notes application with easy synchronization to the desktop and the ability to write more than just a few lines. Secondly, the native S60 eMail application is nice to receive an eMail or two a day but is in no way suitable for the 30 eMails a day described above. It’s just too slow and it doesn’t use the display in an efficient way.

So here’s hopefully the solution: ProfiMail. I’ve installed it this evening and used it for two hours. I am enthusiastic. It’s fast opening mails, seems to handle HTML content quite well, and can handle attachments and multiple eMail accounts. Furthermore, the program allows to efficiently create eMails and is able to store drafts;  that looks like it could fulfill the notes requirement including synch to the PC (via eMail).

For a detailed review have a look over at AllAboutSymbian. Thanks to Ewan for the review, you ‘ve brought me a big step forward!

So I am going to test this one for a little while and if it doesn’t choke on 30 eMails a day, it will be a winner for me.