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Robert Syputa

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  • There Is More Alibaba Magic In Sprint Than Yahoo [View article]
    I disagree wit two of your premises:

    "-Softbank's stake in Alibaba can fund Sprint's ambitious plans.

    Sprint's plans are, thus far, not fundamentally as ambitious as competitors plans. Sprint has a penchant for coming out with plans from the marketing department: "Network Vision"... "Spark". Those are attempts to dramatize plans that are simply following others on a common path to use of harmonized LTE networks. LTE-Advanced provides the means to efficiently build multiple-carrier band networks. That is, networks that use the same 'all IP' signaling and network technology that includes low latency and ability to use more than one bandwidth channel at the same time or switch data and voice communications seamlessly. Spark is the right approach - the problem from a competitive perspective is this is just what Verizon, AT&T and T-Mo are on the way to doing as well as they field LTE-A networks and compatible devices. A problem for all carriers, most of all Sprint since it lags behind in usable spectrum coverage, is to field not just base stations with new capabilities but also to saturate the subscriber base to make use of it. Moreover, Sprint has a fundamental problem achieving wide area coverage in 2.6GHz.

    At best one can say that S is delivering '20% Spark' because coverage of the heavy lifting 2.6GHz band only reaches about that percentage of the population. By the end of next year it is planed to reach about '40% Spark' coverage.

    If you rate competitors multiple band LTE coverage, they all fall higher in having the combination of wide coverage and higher bandwidth band use. If their plans are plotted, they currently all beat out Sprint for at least 18 months... and Sprint will need to disclose a new set of plans to change that.

    -By driving out T-Mobile and spending over $6 billion/year, Sprint can kill the Verizon-AT&T duopoly."

    No doubt Softbank's funding of Sprint is important to their survival, however, what is critical is driving well reasoned innovation and efficient operation into the business. Mr. Son can't grow Sprint to reach his goals by somehow clobbering T-Mobile, an operator with 1) better performing networks, 2) lower cost of operation, 3) networks further along in harmonizing around LTE, using 4) more balanced/lower more efficiently utilized portfolio of spectrum bands.

    Sprint under Softbank has made good moves but faces an ongoing struggle to just get to an equal competitive position. I suspect Masa Son knows that which is why he blew right past his prior promise to make Sprint competitive in its own right to the somewhat easier task of 'sizing up' by acquiring T-Mobile.

    I guess if you cannot beat the duopoly through innovation in networks and markets, then 'join them' to become a 'tri-opoly".. whee!, so that is how becoming number one works!

    The DoJ and FCC won't allow it and the price to acquire T-Mobile, the only 'Maverick' in the space thus far, is possibly growing too high. Sprint-Softbank needed to get to business innovating in networks and markets. It will take 2+ years, if 'ambitious plans' are executed, just to meet competition to participate in expanding BB, mobile commerce, medical, MtM, and TV/video markets. Two more years to beat even T-Mobile at what is now 'their game'.
    Apr 20 06:39 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Sprint Spark Won't Spark Sprint [View article]
    The mobile business does not only sell speed in some places. The droning on about max rate speed if properly connected to a good signal is a wasted on the majority of the only audience that matters - mobile services consumers.

    Sprint Spark is, as you pointed out, an implementation of LTE-Advanced channel aggregation and handover. This has been one of the goals of the shift to 'all IP' OFDM networks - 'best connected' use of spectrum channels since before 3G rolled out. If an operator has sufficient spectrum to deploy LTE-A, they can, and most of them are, doing something comparable to Spark.

    Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are on course to use their combination of 700MHz, AWS other available bands to implement multiple carrier LTE. The need to do this is not as much out of frustrated necessity, perhaps, as it is for Sprint which is the low man on the network performance totem pole. At this point, carrier aggregation is being trialed. The needs of the market are not such as to demand it.

    For that matter, the needs of the market and Sprint's 'Framily' service plans do not demand higher bandwidth carrier aggregation because usage is tiered/capped at relatively modest levels. Talk about 60+Mbps speeds are, for the most part, ridiculous because users would rapidly run through their bandwidth allotments.

    Sprint is forced to limit bandwidth due to lack of usable spectrum: scarcity of lower frequency bands have resulted in the worst bandwidth-coverage of any major US operator. Multiple field studies/crowdsourced measurements, show that Sprint delivers about 1/2 the average bandwidth per coverage as the nearest competitor. As the author points out, the Spark plan is to cover 100 million of the US citizens by next year, roughly 1/3 of the populace.

    The problem resides with lack of 'innovation in the network'. Sprint has been a laggard in implementing new technologies despite having ventured into pre-4G WiMAX. That showed the lack of technical capabilities at ushering in the new wave of 'spatial domain' technologies. Lack of innovation should have included mode of deployment, which Sprint-Clearwire did worse than to ignore, they denounced.

    As a result of backwards thinking on the use of technology, Sprint now suffers losses in subscribers and shareholders money.
    Apr 17 08:25 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Forget T-Mobile U.S.: Telecom Is Still For Spenders [View article]
    T-Mobile is riding their wave of capex spending on LTE in common 'World Phone' international bands of spectrum. That provides TMUS with devices that work across other operators networks at low expense because they are already developed.

    T-Mobile is able to capitalize on their network deployments that deliver lower cost per bit and better network performance. That has allowed the company to offer lower prices. Its similar to the principle of "Moor's Law" of semiconductors. The cost of delivering services goes down as the performance and density of the network increases per dollar spent. T-Mobile is able to ride the wave of prior and ongoing capex in the network due to aligning their development of network with availability of technology and commonly adopted spectrum. That is not rocket science.. but takes good planning and execution... something companies like Sprint have apparently lacked.

    The consolidation of Sprint + T-Mobile is unlikely and unnecessary. Sprint needs to get off their hind legs and stop complaining that they cannot succeed unless they can acquire T-Mobile. The idiots have not brought use of their vast amounts of unused spectrum and thus should be given no quarter to be allowed to acquire their way out of incompetence.
    Apr 15 09:22 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The Road To Approval For A Sprint / T-Mobile Merger May Run Through DISH Network [View article]
    No phones used by any other operator besides Sprint work on Sprint's combination of 800MHz, 1.9GHz, and 2.6GHz LTE networks. Its unlikely that any competitor will sell devices that work on all of Sprint's networks until international use of 2.6GHz (LTE Band 41 and included sub-bands) becomes adopted as a mode of common 'world phone' devices.

    China Mobile will officially launch their TD-LTE service this Sprint (2014). Combined with Softbank and other TD-LTE operators, this will create a market of close to 1/2 billion potential subscribers covered by the service. Sprint will comprise only about 100 million of them by the end of 2015.

    The mobile chipset and device market is shaping up to make TD-LTE more available by year end 2014. However, it won't instantly rise to be a common mode similar to GSM or 1.9GHz CDMA.

    For people to use a network devices must be in their hands to use it.. not just in the imaginations of posters on stock boards or company spokespersons.
    Apr 3 12:14 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • VirnetX / Apple Appeal: Bad News For VirnetX And Other Patent Assertion Entities [View article]
    A small point of recent reference: In the press announcement and review of the new HTC One M8, HTC pointed out the use of Qualcomm's RF360 chipset solution. HTC specifically pointed to QCOM's antenna load balancing feature as providing improved ability to receive signals regardless of the user's hand position or device orientation. They also mentioned wide range of spectrum, but said it was up to operators to make choices of which spectrum bands their devices supported. They made no mention whatsoever to RF performance that PRKR claims is due to use of their alleged technology.

    What drives the market for devices has more become the functionality of the device, the apps that run on it, the marketing image and promotion by operators. If the RF matters in the sale, it is as a sub-component of the connection that is deeply embedded and largely undifferentiated from competitors products. Since Apple had problems with antenna coupling, HTC seizes on Qualcomm's refinements in that area to pronounce a benefit to consumers... however, as nice as it is, it will likely be drowned out by the virtues of the high resolution screen, dual back-facing cameras (for depth perception image processing), sleek design, etc.

    RF, worth fractions of a percent of the total device... which has as much 'marketing content' wrapped in it than all else.
    Mar 27 09:12 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • VirnetX / Apple Appeal: Bad News For VirnetX And Other Patent Assertion Entities [View article]
    Since when are the Apple patents in question for embedded technology.. you are mincing apples and orangutans for your comparisons. come on, grow a brain... or stop being lazy.
    Mar 27 08:44 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • VirnetX / Apple Appeal: Bad News For VirnetX And Other Patent Assertion Entities [View article]
    Apple has asked and won a ruling against Samsung that has, naturally, been appealed. The amount has already been knocked down from the initial award of $1.05 billion to $450 and then to $290 million. Further appeals are likely. Samsung, which has expressed that there was a prejudice in favor of Apple in the US court, has fared much more favorably in battles in EU and Asia.

    The Apple vs. Samsung case is much different than for embedded technologies and most comparisons are misleading. The basic difference is that Apple wisely chose to sue over design patents particular to the iPhone. These included among the most visible aspects of the device: the arrangement and use of icons on the first/home screen of SmartPhones for example. The use of patents on appearance and initial use of icon menuing caught Samsung flat footed: Samsung has been among leaders in development of OFDM technology starting with S. Korean sponsored WiBro technology that folded into WiMAX and then into LTE. Their leadership in underlying 4G+ wireless technologies and devices led to over-reliance on embedded aspects of the device. Rather than take a position that placed some of their similar, allegedly earlier, case and software-interface design patents into the fight, Samsung used wireless patents. That pitted Apple with a much more visual presentation to the jury: it is much easier to show images of the landing screens of a device or explain how basic functions are used than the task Samsung cast for themselves - ie explaining the complex wireless patents.

    Bringing up generalities like this are nearly worthless. If you want to make a point, show details of how the cases overlap and how value is derived. In the Apple vs. Samsung case the fight was over patents used in the case and user interface software design visible on landing and subsequent menued screens. If you want to discuss valuation methods used, then bring up the facts. In the Apple award, that has been reduced to about a fourth the initial award. An analysis of the details probably would show that to be a low percent per device sold. VHC's patents do not similarly apply to the entire device in a similar way. The company does not make the whole device or chip, they are a contributor of a part of an embedded function.
    Mar 24 11:18 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • VirnetX / Apple Appeal: Bad News For VirnetX And Other Patent Assertion Entities [View article]
    Nice story. That points out a basic problem with how cases on embedded technology can get warped out of proportion by pandering to the jury's emotions... good job in making that clearer.

    The problem in determining value by a jury is the focus is necessarily on the specific technology and its use. Security is important to various classes of users. However, how important is it relative to all of the other functions of the device or the chip firmware-software it may be embedded? If you approach that question from the perspective of the personal instance, a kid talking to his grandparents or a couple sharing intimate photos, it is distorted by emotions.

    The "security" of devices was not created by VHC. Their alleged part of security has a finite part of the value of the function.

    How much is Facetime or other communications dependent on many other technologies? If the communications is not robust, having good quality, low latency delivered by the network, wireless chip, Facetime is worthless. If the graphics processor is insufficient or the screen is too low of resolution, or the Facetime program is too hard to use, security does not matter because people would not buy the devices.

    If all the several thousand patents used in SmartPhones got three tenths of a percent license royalties, the devices would cost more than people could afford and nobody would make a dime. Fortunately, most IPR is cross-licensed or licensed at low rates. That has led to over 6 billion devices being used in the first truly world-wide use of anything manmade. More people use phones that use wheels.
    Mar 22 06:59 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • No Country For Sprint [View article]
    Thanks for the objective article.


    Sprint has joined all other major US operators to head towards common use of 3GPP standard networks. The transition from one generation or standard of technology to the next major 'upgrade' takes 3-5 years due to both the time to full deployment and, more so in Sprint's case, the time for devices that can work on the new/refarmed networks to saturate the operators subscriber base. Each operator must juggle deployments into new, 'greenfield', spectrum and conversion of prior networks. The degree of disruption and time before the majority of subscribers are able to use the new networks and, thus, the older technology network can be switched off depends on alternative spectrum, and whether the new network is a true software upgrade that is also accommodated with backward compatibility by the majority of subscriber devices.

    Sprint is now selling some Spark tri-band devices while they are rolling out the tri-band networks. However, this stage of deployments uses the large staunch of 2.6GHz spectrum as a metro-zone BB overlay, resulting in low competitive figures for average broadband/coverage - the roughly half (2.41Mbps) compared to the other three operators (~5.0Mbps) as mentioned in the study. Other surveys, such as by RootMetrics, confirm the relative position... or have Sprint coming out lower in overall performance. Its clear, imo, the basic problem is lack of lower than 2.5GHz bands to use for high speed broadband access while also achieving competitive coverage. Simply put, the lower frequency networks appear OK at making and keeping a reliable connection but are not able to deliver similar bandwidth. This should come as no surprise: competitors hold the edge in wide channels of 700MHz, PCS and AWS spectrum. Sprint can make up ground through similar industry pursuit of 'network densification'. However, Sprint will remain behind in ability to unify their networks by saturation of field devices that work on the Spark network. That is significantly do to making use of bands that re outside of the mainstream and, thus not covered by 'international' phones or those used by competitors in the market who have put more greenfield spectrum to use in LTE sooner.

    This problem requires more than 'just money' to be thrown at it by Softbank. Even if very wisely spent, the use of 2.6GHz remains a problem for achieving coverage. So long as the network is built using primarily macrocell base stations, the coverage map, as viewed using network analysis software or surveys of user device performance (usually via Android or iPhone apps), will continue to look like 'Swiss Cheese' - replete with coverage gaps that bring down the average bandwidth and consumer satisfaction scores.
    Mar 18 07:13 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The Road To Approval For A Sprint / T-Mobile Merger May Run Through DISH Network [View article]
    Your basic point, that DISH could be instrumental in Sprint-Softbank acquisition of T-Mobile is valid. The DoJ and FCC are both opposed to the consolidation of the operators that share less than 1/3 of the market between them and currently enjoy practically none of the profits.

    The problem they have does get into the details, such as combined spectrum license holdings, marketshare and how much the combined entity would detract from competition recently seen as having more vitality. However, the regulators look beyond the details to the structure and trends in the industry to see broader problems that Sprint-SB and TMUS-DT must fill in. Thus far the arguments put forward by Softbank-S appear to be that the combined company would have a lower/more efficient cost structure and synergies that would allow it to deliver more innovation and lower prices. However, there is good reason to question if that will be the long term outcome. Economic/antitrust experience and theory suggest that consolidation beyond a certain point leads to less innovation and competition as the barriers to new entrants is squashed.

    The only way, imo, for DoJ and FCC to approve the merger is
    1) for Softbank-Sprint to put together a set of assurances that would be further reaching than any yet experienced that price competition and innovation will be pursued. Somehow that would have to be made a long term commitment. Just how to do that, since I cannot think of it ever being done, is a question. It comes down to 'trust us because I (Masa Son) have done that before."

    2) For Sprint and/or T-Mobile to fall behind the competition (VZW and T) causing further financial difficulties that rise in severity, and given a reluctance of the patent companies to throw good money after bad to shore up escalating debts, forcing DoJ and FCC to allow consolidation as the better of necessary evils of reduction in number of major ICT operators.

    3) Sprint-SB, TMUS-DT and DISH come to an understanding in which S-SB proposes to to the regulators that the merged company would go into agreement with DISH to make use of shared networks using D's spectrum while allowing DISH to compete for share and sell access and content services to Sprint-TMUS. A part of this arrangement could be setting up a forth entity: a spectrum and shared networks holding company owned between them. This holding company would operate as its own profit center and would be required to show no favoritism. Furthermore, it could be made to offer assurances that MVNOs, small operators, fiber optic players including Google, Verizon and any new entrants would be given the opportunity to buy wholesale access to the amalgamated spectrum and networks on fair terms.

    The combination of T-Mobile, Sprint, and DISH could unleash a vast amount of spectrum that is made more effective and capital efficient when used for multiple TV, broadband and mobile purposes. If a structure is proposed that provides for open competition to flourish, even while greatly enhancing the prospects for Sprint-TMUS-Softbank, the FCC and DoJ would be inclined to look at this favorably imo.
    Mar 18 01:03 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • VirnetX / Apple Appeal: Bad News For VirnetX And Other Patent Assertion Entities [View article]
    You are misled: MF's article is as much or more about how valuation methods are being considered by the circuit court. It does center around VHC but it might just as well be a different set of companies, the overriding issues have been trending for many years as part of the evolution and convergence of ICT, Information and Communications Technologies, used in the chips, devices and infrastructure equipment and software/algorithmic components.

    My observation is that the district courts are out of step with the broadened context. The precedent for valuation no longer fits, if it ever fully did. That has been made clear by recent rulings of which Mike has been kind enough to educate investors: Parkervision used various valuation methods to derive a value out of step with general practice found in RF and very out of step with IPR valuation for similar sub-component technology used in mobile devices. VHC, although I have only a surface knowledge, appears to similarly have issues with valuation methods. The problem is a broad interpretive/precedent issue that the circuit court should have addressed before now imo... its pressing now that political will to reform IPR laws and general sentiment gives the courts some additional backbone to set new precedent.

    Is VHC 'the case' for doing so? MF sets out cogent argument that the court is looking at it that way.

    If not, then Parkervision looms as a more dramatic case because of problems in the basic case that make the valuation stand out imo.
    Mar 18 12:25 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • VirnetX / Apple Appeal: Bad News For VirnetX And Other Patent Assertion Entities [View article]
    I appreciate your comments.

    "...It could be argued that without it they would not have had as much market success without it." It was argued in the form of the survey which came up short of showing VHC's contribution being the motivating factor for all but ~10% of sales (per the Chen exchange).

    iPhone may have stressed Facetime in some of its advertising, however, I think some are falling victim to the 'I see a Toyota' roadtrip game: If you focus on occurrences of something, ie an ad on TV or a model automobile while on a long drive, studies have shown a common tendency to overestimate the percentage in the subject population. My own recollection is 'Facetime what?' - I can only vaguely recall it being mentioned because I was focusing broadly at the ads. 10% was what VHC agreed was the result of the survey.
    Mar 18 11:57 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • VirnetX / Apple Appeal: Bad News For VirnetX And Other Patent Assertion Entities [View article]
    Your description of being very narrow in scope is based on what precedent or logis?

    That is a grand leap of assessment in such a dumbed down couple of sentences. What's your reasoning?
    Mar 14 06:29 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Qualcomm: A Huge New Frontier Makes It A Shrewd Buy [View article]
    Qualcomm does not have a lock on OFDMA and related MIMO-AAS, SDN/networking and other sets of technologies that have folded into the converged ICT networks and device market. However, Q has been able to extend their position in CDMA through contributions of technology that has gone into 3GPP standards based LTE. This has led to long term licensing of their 2G, 3G, 4G and extended technologies patent portfolio.

    What is also apparent is that in order to secure a position in 4G LTE licensing QCOM has lowered rates. This was an inevitable outcome of broadening of the base of technologies used in wireless broadband that rolls in other sets of technologies as well as the 'wireless' domain and amidst broader international participation in wireless standards development, including more contributions from Asian countries including South Korea/Samsung, China/Huawei/ZTE, Japan, Taiwan.
    Mar 14 09:15 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • VirnetX / Apple Appeal: Bad News For VirnetX And Other Patent Assertion Entities [View article]
    Your point of view shows the absurd misunderstanding of the common layperson in how to place value on contributing embedded technology. Each component of valid IPR is worth in the tenths of percent as a general rule. To be worth more than that requires very unusual circumstances... true innovations that push the envelop of capabilities in a segment of tech beyond what might be expected through refinements or incremental improvements that makes up most of the evolution of the field.

    The problem in the wireless device field has been described as 'the patent thicket': the numbers and inter-dependency of patented technologies has grown to the extent that a single patent or patents in suit can be used to 'hold up' the field in litigation, literally if out of proportion to contribution wins are gained in court awards. Although trade stoppages in mobile devices is rate in the US today, the threat remains in some other countries.

    That sets the bar for legal enforcement of IPR used in popular software and device applications very high.. to the point it could be looked at as unfairly burdensome. That is partly a problem of the legal system not being well suited to the task of evaluating technology and the high cost of a profession that has become overbloated in expense. The legal system is a monopoly and economically acts that out to the detriment of the justice it is created to protect imo. However, that has to be remedied through the Noblesse oblige self-reform of our judicial system, not addressed directly.

    Small patent holders are required to diligently pursue their cases through efforts to gain adoption in standards groups and carve out licenses with the involved companies. If the amount asked for is within the accepted FRAND framework, it may still be expected to be a tough battle but has been shown by others to be a path to fair rewards... often in the few millions over time rather than the windfall awards sometimes seen.
    Mar 13 02:14 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment