Qualcomm, finding it easier to buy developed technology and the engineers who developed it, has put in a $600 million bid to purchase competing wireless player Flarion Technologies and get its hands on Flarion’s base of orthogonal frequency division multiple (OFDM) technology, including the company’s deep patent portfolio. The move, while seemingly the combination of two mobile wireless players, could have far-reaching repercussions for a cable industry interested in getting into the mobile space. Some observers – including sources at Flarion – had suggested that this base of technology might be the source for a cable wireless play, coupled with 700 MHz wireless spectrum being wrenched away from broadcasters as they transition from analog to digital. “Flarion’s capacity and capability in 700 makes it a very unique and attractive solution for public safety,” said Ronny Haraldsvik, Flarion’s vice president of global communications and marketing, which has attracted attention from federal officials looking at nationwide public safety networks. On the other hand, it’s also seen as “being able to develop solutions that could satisfy some of the cable operators that want to get into the space of wireless,” he said. Be friends? Qualcomm didn’t take the hint and proclaim itself a cable friend. “We’re not at this point talking about what we might do with this technology over time,” said Jeremy James, Qualcomm’s senior director of corporate communications, who was more forthcoming about why Qualcomm really wanted Flarion. “They have a top-notch engineering team and in the wireless industry engineers are not necessarily easy to come by. We’re acquiring Flarion because of their patent portfolio and because of their great engineering team.” -Jim Barthold The E-911 Saga Continues The cable industry’s lawyers in Washington have filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission to ask that it address all voice customers regarding enhanced 911 (E911), not simply VoIP subs. One point of the NCTA’s filing is that on the E-911 issue cable operators have more in common with traditional circuit-switched telephony providers than the IP-based newcomers such as Vonage that ride on top of other’s broadband networks. Pending suspension Meanwhile, some lawyers for those “over-the-toppers” have been busy, as well. VoIP provider Nuvio, for instance, has enough of a problem with the FCC’s November 28 th deadline for ubiquitous E-911 VoIP service that it’s filed an appeal with the federal body and asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to step in and rule on the appeal by November 7. Without a decision by that time on whether the FCC’s ruling is OK to go, and, without further direction from the feds, Nuvio would have to suspend service for some of its small-to-medium-sized business users, the company said. “Our goal would be that the order is ultimately overturned as arbitrary and capricious by November 7,” said Jason Talley, Nuvio’s CEO. The date, he said, is important because Nuvio believes that it cannot meet the November 28 deadline and the FCC has not provided ample information to cover “what-if” scenarios. Not alone “There’s no way that you’re going to have 100 percent ubiquitous coverage of 911 in the Untied States by their November 28 deadline,” he said. “The FCC to this date has not given us any answers of what they will allow, what they are looking for, what they ultimately are going to expect voice-over-IP providers to do.” The biggest question, he said, is who’s liable when subscribers do the natural thing and carry their VoIP phones with them outside their contracted Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). “Quite honestly we view this as affecting every one of our customers because every one of them has the mobility that could affect them,” he said. “We’ve been told by the FCC in their order that we can’t rely upon contracts to keep the customer in our service area. What do we do?” He also said that he’s had “high level” conversations with other VoIP providers who are equally concerned about the FCC order. – Jim Barthold and Jonathan Tombes TalkParade Marches on Broadband John Rissi is the kind of guy who makes cable operators grit their teeth. Rissi, a telecommunications industry veteran is founder of TalkParade, is an example of a person who has taken to heart the phrase, “if you build it, they will come,” much to the chagrin of those who have built it. In Rissi’s case, broadband network providers like cable companies and, increasingly, telcos have built high-speed Internet networks that he, and other highly visible players like Vonage are now climbing aboard without paying for the ride. “We have a standalone laptop service,” said Rissi. “People can sign up with laptop service and not have to worry about signing up for the home service … and when they travel they’re able to make calls to anyone anywhere in the world from anywhere in the entire world.” As long as they have a high-speed Internet connection, provided, of course, by someone who’s built the infrastructure. TalkParade, he said, has a home service where consumers download the VoIP software into their computers and make phone calls over the high-speed Internet from their home or office, effectively competing with cable and DSL providers and companies like Vonage but the product the company is promoting is the laptop service that “allows you to sit at your hotel and make and receive phone calls as if you were in the office,” he said. It’s not necessarily competitive with cable or DSL offerings, even though it uses their networks, Rissi said. In fact, he said, it’s more likely to make yet a third telecommunications provider unhappy. “It’s really designed more to supplement your cell phone,” he said. “Once you have the high-speed Internet connection the quality of the call is terrific, much more consistent than you’d find in a cell phone.” Pick a country, any country The service, which can cost as much as $24.99 a month for unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada and as little as $4.99 for 60 minutes with a 3.9 cents-per-minute fee after that, gives subscribers a wide selection of phone numbers from which to choose. “We have over 5,000 rate centers and that’s double what Vonage has,” Rissi said. “Most voice-over-IP companies allow you to choose your own area code; we also allow you to choose your own town.” The company and its customer care center are based in New Jersey. TalkParade switching equipment and operates a call order center in St. Louis, Rissi said. For the most part, though, the company is like the Internet itself: ubiquitous and software-driven. “People don’t understand, but will start to understand that we really don’t know where you are, ever,” Rissi said. “You have a laptop and you can be in China, Italy, Canada, California. It really doesn’t matter where you are and we don’t know where you are. It’s all done through the Internet. You just download it, like downloading not a very large piece of software.” – Jim Barthold

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