In June of last year Google unveiled Google Loon
, the latest in a long line of similar projects that will use hot air balloons to deliver broadband and wireless services to under-served or emergency prone areas. Project Loon will use hot air balloons 49 feet wide stationed 12 miles above the planet, well above the range of commercial aircraft. Ground base stations set some sixty miles apart communicate with solar-powered radio transmitters affixed to the balloons, and Google steers the balloons using wind as they ride the 40th parallel.
Not everybody has been optimistic that Google Loon will ever be more than a fun hobby for Google. Avid balloonist and aeronautical engineer Per Lindstrand stated that the company was wasting their time on the effort
, saying the winds up there are simply too fierce to keep reasonable control of the balloons over longer periods of time (more than a few days).
But in an update on the Loon project posted today by Google on Google+
, the company says they're making great strides in making Loon commercially viable. Google says they've been able to make their Loon balloons last 10 times longer in the stratosphere than the company could last year, with many lasting 100 days or more.
In addition to learning lesson about building balloons and keeping them afloat, the company says they've made great strides in keeping the Loon balloons on course:
As we’ve launched more long-lasting balloons in the stratosphere we’ve needed to ensure that we can accurately maneuver them to where they need to go. By constantly computing thousands of trajectory simulations it turns out we can get pretty close to our targets. For example, one flight came within 1.5km of our target destination over a flight of 9,000 kilometers, purely through predicting and sailing with the stratospheric winds.
There's still no word on when these tests will result in a viable commercial product (if ever), though Google appears to be proving some of the earliest doubters wrong in terms of improving on broadband-by-balloon technology.
The New York Times
recently explored the statewide protectionist bans paid for by incumbent ISPs that hinder or outright prohibit communities from building their own networks. As we've long covered, these bans don't really care if ISPs aren't willing to service these same areas, and some even block public/private partnerships.
T-Mobile continues to slowly but surely expand market availability for the company's "wideband" 15x15 MHz channel LTE upgrades, which should dramatically improve speeds in launch areas. According to a T-Mobile announcement
, the company's latest launch market is Boston and the surrounding areas, including Springfield, Worcester as well as Providence and Warwick, Rhode Island.
Sandvine's latest Global Internet Phenomenon report
(spotted over at Ars Technica
) offers up some interesting insights into the traffic loads on Sandvine's client networks (aka large ISPs). While the idea that Netflix traffic comprises up to 30 to 35% of global Internet traffic during peak hours, the report also notes that Netflix surprisingly (or not) also utilizes around 9.5% of upstream Internet traffic during peak hours, second only to BitTorrent at 25.49%.
After launching on November 13, the auction of AWS-3 spectrum today broke the record for spectrum auction prices and shows no sign of slowing down. Total bids for the spectrum today soared past $18,567,380,500
($2 billion of which covered the NY market alone), and should cross the $20 billion mark with ease. While specific bids of the 70 participants are anonymous, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Dish are all expected to be the top bidders in this auction, all hoping to add to their LTE spectrum holdings. BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk notes
bidding topped $1.04/MHz/POP and reached $2.50/MHz/POP in several large markets. Dish stock was up 9% today
at one point based entirely on the success of the auction.
Not only was Kansas City the first market to get Google Fiber's symmetrical 1 Gbps service, but a smattering of competitors are responding by offering similar (or better) options. A company by the name of Consolidated Communications this week announced
that they'll soon be offering everyone within range of their fiber footprint symmetrical 1 Gbps connections for $70 a month with no installation or other fees.
Netflix streamed roughly 6.5 billion hours of video or 19,500,000 terabytes of data during the first quarter of this year
. At that rate, it's estimated that Netflix will stream 78,000,000 terabytes of data in 2014 alone. That's quite the jump from last year, when Netflix is estimated to have streamed 4 billion hours of video or 12,000,000 total terabytes of data during the first quarter. These numbers are based on consuming around 3 GB per hour for HD programming, so the numbers will jump significantly should Netflix see meaningful consumption of their new (and more expensive
) 4K offerings, which eats around 7 GB every hour.
Not to be outdone by Time Warner Cable's recent "Maxx" upgrades, New York-area overbuilder RCN today announced they're going to soon start offering a 330 Mbps tier of their own. According to the company announcement
, the 330 Mbps down, 20 Mbps up tier will be made available to the company's entire New York City footprint starting in December. According to RCN, the service will run new customers $65 per month, with no long-term contracts and a three-year price assurance. "With our new 330Mbps service running across our fiber-rich network, RCN customers will enjoy seamless and smooth Internet connectivity, which is essential for streaming, uploading and downloading without interruptions,” proclaims the company.
In yet another retransmission dispute where customers get to pay the same money for less content, CBS and Dish appear stuck in negotiations
ahead of a contract expiration at the end of the month. "Dish has been deliberately dragging its feet for months," CBS is warning customers. "Now, as the deadline nears, Dish appears willing to drop the most popular programming in its entire channel lineup because it won’t negotiate the same sort of deal that other cable, satellite and telco companies have struck with CBS." Dish, meanwhile, insists that "only CBS can force a blackout of its channels."
AT&T and Verizon continue to tinker with pricing and promotions on their most expensive tiers as they try to counter T-Mobile disruption without entering into an all out price war. According to AT&T's latest announcement
, the company is bumping the data allotment of their 10 GB Mobile Share plan to 15 GB at no additional cost. The plan currently runs users $100 a month (plus assorted fees and service charges) for 10 GB of data, unlimited voice and unlimited SMS. The promotion is available to new and existing AT&T customers starting today, and is running for an unspecified "limited time."
As we noted last week
, AT&T's reaction to the President's clear support of Title II was to bluff and claim they were freezing all fiber investment to "up to" 100 cities. However if you've been around here for a while you know that AT&T's plans to deploy fiber to 100 cities was already smoke and mirrors to begin with
, and the company has actually been repeatedly slashing their fixed-line investment projections (they had just cut CAPEX by $3 billion just three days before the President's announcement).
As expected, DirecTV has slowly dipped a big toe into the 4K TV space, launching a smattering of 4K video on demand content. According to the company announcement
there's a few caveats -- like you have to use DirecTV's Genie HD DVR -- but you'll also need to own a Samsung 4K-capable television set. Company CEO Mike White has recently stated
DirecTV is being cautious after the bomb that was 3D television. Once the company launches their DirecTV-14 satellite in December they'll offer live 4K options once the satellite is commercially functional -- likely February or March.
While Seattle residents wait for Comcast and CenturyLink to follow through on promises of eventual 1 Gbps speeds, Wave Broadband appears to be the first in line to light up portions of Seattle with ultra-fast service. The Seattle Times
notes that Wave has started offering 1 Gbps service in several select neighborhoods for $80 per month.
Verizon has agreed to pay $1.37 million to settle an investigation into the company's FiOS billing practices in Maryland. According to the The Baltimore Sun
, the settlement settles a six-year investigation into misleading Verizon promotions (like those televisions the company had a hard time ponying up years back
) incorrectly charged early termination fees, and instances where Verizon failed to adequately outline equipment fees. "Verizon's activities when it was rolling out FiOS established it as one of our office's biggest complaint generators," Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said in a statement. "I'm pleased that Verizon is changing its marketing practices to accurately reflect the total cost of its services and that a significant number of consumers will receive restitution as a result of this agreement."
Last month reports emerged
suggesting that policy folk and lawyers at larger ISPs like AT&T and Comcast were annoyed with Verizon for suing the FCC and successfully overturning the agency's net neutrality rules. Those rules, as we've noted repeatedly, omitted wireless and didn't really do much of anything outside banning the outright blocking of websites (something ISPs have no interest in).
Sprint continues to tinker with pricing in an attempt to turn around the company's flagging fortunes, this week announcing they're reducing the data access charge on the company's $80 and $90 Sprint Family Share Pack Plans to $15 per month per line. According to the Sprint announcement
, the promotion will run from November 14 to January 15. The data access charge for those plans was previously $25 per month, per line. Earlier this month Sprint announced
that the carrier lost 272,000 subscribers on the quarter, and that the company would be trimming another 2,000 employees as it attempts to restructure under new owner SoftBank.
In response to the President's announcement this week that he unequivocally supports Title II reclassification to protect net neutrality
, AT&T has unveiled a rather amusing political ploy. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson this morning proclaimed that the company is halting investment in next-generation fiber networks until the government wimps out and backs off tougher rules to protect consumers.
Netflix has released the company's October rankings
of the top ISPs for streaming Netflix performance. According to the company's announcement
, Bright House Communications has jumped into the third-ranked spot behind Verizon and Cablevision after Time Warner Cable (who manages a portion of Bright House's network) struck a direct interconnection deal with Netflix deal earlier this year.
·more stories, story search, most popular ..
Recent news contributors