Actually, what Herman Wagter of Amsterdam's Citynet said at F2C 2009 was: latency is the cause, bandwidth is the effect. But his explanation matched my title above.
If you are attempting to interact with other people, whether by VoIP or just playing cards together (with video) you need less than 200 milliseconds of end-to-end delay. If it's playing cards together, with video, and you need to exchange 500 Kbps in less than 200 ms, you need a 100 Mbps pipe!
It's latency that drives the need for high bandwidth. Most people won't fill that pipe most of the time, but they need the pipe to guarentee that what they do send gets through rapidly.
Tim Nulty of East Central Vermont Community Fiber. Tim is a veteran network builder and a forceful speaker, so he's happy to tell it like is. He's also got that Yankee mix of liberal politics with extreme fiscal conservatism. He's building fiber networks, in rural Vermont, which pay for themselves.
Ken Biba of Novarum has been measuring actual wireless networks in buildings and in cities for years. While the detail is in a report available for purchase, the summary is that WiFi-based Muni WiFi yields significantly better performance than 3G cellular. Interestingly coverage and reliability is right up there in selected cities, as well. The take-away - 802.11n really rocks. I.e., the next cycle of WiFi is going to be vastly better than what he's been measuring over the past 3 years.
Ellen Miller of Sunlight Foundation was low key by comparison with Tim or Ken, but her stories were compelling - multiple instances of Internet community feedback creating the kind of information that the "open government" initiatives aspire to.
Finally, Dewayne Hendricks is always interesting. This year he seemed more optimistic than last, presumably the result of the recent election. In any event, here's another speaker with deep experience in building networks.
Lev Gonick, CIO Case Western Reserve, who was a key player in creating a 4000 mile fiber network for Cleveland and northeast Ohio under a community organization called OneCommunity. Bill Schrier, CTO for Seattle, which is starting a fiber project, but already has it's own electric power utility. (Although Bill implies they have had to drag their utility brethren into this).
What's interesting is the discussion on the chat backchannel is not about muni vs. commercial, but wireless versus fiber.
Tim Nulty has a strong argument that wireless is excellent for mobility, but not economical for fixed access. In rural Vermont, a WiMAX network would cost $35M if you could get access to the spectrum (which is being horded by others). Fiber would cost $70M but has 50 times the capacity and several times the revenue potential versus the wireless approach. Further, if you deploy wireless as an addon after you have the fiber network (and the customer support infrastructure), the incremental cost is dramitcally less (perhaps $10M) and you get enough incremental revenue to get a good return on investment. IN other words, you make more money if you do fiber first. Tim's key to success is to get as near complete deployment as possible - something that is possible in areas where the incumbents are going. Second, he goes for community ventures as a way to qualify for muncipal bonds.
He points out that receiving a return on the substantial capital investments that a fiber to the home (FTTH) project requires is much more dependent on takeup rates than on the average revenue per user.
Single player large scale deployments usually achive only 20%-25% initial adoption after which growth is exceedly slow. On the other hand, systems which are open to competitors, i.e. with viable wholesale services, attract many more players who market, sell and deliver new services thus dramatically increasing adoption and accelerating the wholesaler's return on investment.
In short, obtaining a regulatory holiday so you can run your new fiber network as a monopoly is actually bad for your shareholders!
Benoît's speech was filmed. For the full presentation (in four segments of < 10 minutes each on YouTube) see Benoît's post.
If you want just the essence, listen to the first three minutes of this:
Here is an enlarged version of the chart that Benoît is using while he speaks:
At eComm 2009 this afternoon,Jonathan Christensen, Skype General Manager for Audio and Video announced that Skype will open their wideband audio algorithms for public use. The blogsphere was pre-briefed under embargo, so multiplepeople have already written this up. But it's a pleasure to see Jonathan presenting things live.
Skype was the first significant company to deploy wideband audio telephony. As a result, with Skype it feels like you are in the same room as the person you are talking to. The algorithm they are releasing is called Silk. It reproduces 50 Hz to 12,500 Hz audio signals versus traditional telephony at 300 Hz to 3000 Hz.
Skype is making this codec available to third parties royalty free. That's important as many (most) audio codecs are encumbered with all sorts of patent royalties. The Silk codec is what's currently used in Skype v4 and it appears there will be a string of related announcements from partners, today and tomorrow.
In response to a question from the audience, Jonathan makes it clear that Skype's direction is to open up as much as they can, in order to seed the market and accelerate the spread of Skype.
Note: this is binary distribution, not source code or a description of the algorithm. On the other hand, Skype is hoping to get this algorithm on as many processors and chip sets as possible. As a result, they are open to working with anyone that has a business case for a port.
One thing (of many) that struck me during this morning's session at eComm 2009 was multiple companies going after cloud-based communications platform services. Three which had their public launch announcements today were Grid.com, Tropo.com from Voxeo and Mobivox. They're not the first to tackle this area and they each have a somewhat different focus, but there's a clear interest in producing Web 2.0 service platforms that developers can use to access communications services without hassle.
Grid.com is from a couple of developers who were frustrated that they could mash up an application quickly but then had to spend months getting SMS short codes and other communications services.
Tropo.com is an offshoot of Voxeo and makes the underlying Voxeo platform services available to Web 2.0 developers.
There is certainly room for someone to get this right. On the other hand, there must be a dozen companies going after portions of this space. The first round were telephony calling platforms like CallFire,Angel.com and five9.com focused on allowing developers to access traditional calling, switching and IVR platforms - call centers and business process automation were early targets. It will be interesting to watch the evolving focus of this new round of entrants.
It's snowing in Boston and my American flight has been cancelled but Virgin America claims their 8:35am flight is going to leave on time. So here I am in the Virgin gate area. Wish me luck.
At this point there are a ton of people I'm hoping to hook up with at eComm 2009. The agenda looks really good. And, of course I'm looking forward to good discussions around two favorite policy topics: broadband access and wireless spectrum.
While the US struggles to define "broadband," high speed Internet access (100 Mbps & above) is widely available at modest cost in several countries and quite a few more cities. So far, US political discussion has largely neglected these successes. Brough will point out what's common among diverse international success stories and propose a path for the US that has proven to work elsewhere, despite established monopolies and political processes dominated by vested interests.
WiFi, UltraWideBand and now TV White Spaces represent new commons-based approaches to radio spectrum regulation. While some advocate commons-based approaches for all wireless spectrum, that's hardly acceptable to broadcasters or the mobile phone industry. By questioning a diverse panel of industry experts, we will expose the roots of today's controversy - technical, commercial and political - and see what's likely to occur over the next two to five years and in the long term.