Wherever Ye May Roam …

Published October 1, 2007

Wireless service providers must provide automatic roaming services to other carriers upon “reasonable request,” the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ordered in August.

Automatic roaming allows mobile telephone customers to place calls simply by entering a telephone number and pressing “send” even when they’re traveling outside their home service area.

In calling roaming a “common carrier obligation,” the FCC says its order also covers real-time, two-way, switched voice or data services that interconnect with the public network. This includes “push-to-talk” and text messaging services.

The FCC requested comment from carriers and the public about whether the automatic roaming obligation should extend to information services such as wireless Web browsing and to services from companies other than the wireless service providers.

Source: Federal Communications Commission, “FCC Clarifies That Roaming is a Common Carrier Obligation for Commercial Mobile Radio Service Providers,” August 7, 2007: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-275797A1.pdf

Zoom, Zoom, Xohm

As more municipal wireless network projects slip into limbo (Chicago, Milwaukee, San Francisco) or suffer spiraling costs (Philadelphia), the number three U.S wireless service provider announced in August it would spend about $5 billion over the next two years to create a high-speed wireless network using WiMax technology.

Sprint will call its service Xohm (pronounced “zoam”) and expects to offer it to 125 million people by 2010. Sprint estimates the number would include 48 million U.S. households, nearly 5 million small office/home office subscribers, and more than 130 million consumer electronics devices. It would compete directly with municipal wireless systems being built today with older WiFi technology.

WiMax is designed to deliver broadband services at speeds up to five times faster than today’s wireless networks, though it will be slower than DSL or cable. Xohm customers will access Internet search, interactive communications, and social networking tools through a new mobile portal created by Google.

Look for Xohm to start competing against municipal wireless services in the first half of 2008.

Source: Reuters, “Sprint Earmarks $5 Billion for WiMax Network through ’10,” August 16, 2007: http://www.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idUSN1633187620070816

Network Upgrades

Fulfilling predictions made at industry trade shows earlier this year, network service providers continue to buy switching and routing equipment at a healthy clip, the better to upgrade and streamline their networks to carry Internet Protocol (IP)-based traffic.

Global switch and routing equipment sales in the second quarter this year grew to $2.6 billion, a 14 percent increase compared to a year ago, according to Ovum RHK, a telecom industry market research firm.

Service providers spent $2.29 billion, or 67 percent more than they did in the second quarter last year, on technology that enables networks to handle IP traffic such as Internet and broadband services more efficiently.

In the applications area, service providers spent $1.27 billion on IP transport and services, up 27 percent; $906 million on Ethernet transport and services, up 23 percent; and $248 million on subscriber services and broadband remote access servers, up 4 percent.

Ovum analysts attributed the increases to the industry’s continued embrace of IP-based wireless and wireline networks.

Source: Ovum RHK, “Global Service Provider switching and routing equipment sales grow 14% in 2Q07,” August 2007: http://www.ovum.com/go/content/c,377,71656

What the Doctor Ordered

Health care supply chain management has been a technology bright spot for health care providers, with many big supply companies providing order-entry software and just-in-time deliveries of key supplies.

Yet inefficiencies in the supply chain are costing the industry up to $16 billion each year, with ordering errors alone adding almost $3 billion annually, according to industry watchers.

Late this summer, the Healthcare Supply Chain Standards Coalition (HSCSC), a government/industry group acting under the Alliance for Health Information Technology, took steps to determine which standard “organizational identifier” the industry should adopt. That would be the first building block in an array of supply chain standards designed to streamline orders and eradicate errors.

The identifiers delineate either physical areas of a hospital or entities within a hospital to which supplies are delivered. Right now, suppliers and providers rarely use the same identifiers for these areas–or for identifying each other. The HSCSC hopes having common identifiers across all institutions will make it easier for the correct medicine and supplies to reach the correct area and will simplify reporting and billing, all of which should cut waste, errors, and costs.

Recommendations are due this fall.

Brian Robinson, “Health Care Coalition Pushes For Supply Chain Standards,” Government Health IT, August 13, 2007: http://govhealthit.com/article103490-08-13-07-Web

Is Your Site Eco-Friendly?

Designers are joining the eco-correctness fad by designing Web sites to use dark colors, which they believe prevent global warming by requiring less power to display on computer monitors, according to BusinessWeek Online.

While that’s true for older cathode ray tube (CRT) displays, liquid-crystal display (LCD) screens, which are rapidly replacing CRTs, use less energy to display white backgrounds.

The online buzz began in earnest in January when Mark Ontkush, a self-described “green computing evangelist,” scolded Google for its largely white home page. He said switching its background color from white to black could save hundreds of megawatt hours a year. That triggered the creation of numerous “ecologically correct” search sites using black backgrounds and knock-off names such as Blackle and DarkGoogle.

Bill Weihl, Google’s green energy czar, then cited a test by an Australian electronics graduate student comparing the power consumption of Blackle and Google on 27 different monitors. CRT monitors saved an average of 10.8 watts per hour using Blackle, but LCD monitors largely used the same or, in several cases, several watts more energy to display the black background.

The results were published August 8 on the Australian tech news site Techlogg. “We applaud the spirit of the idea, but our own analysis as well as that of others shows that making the Google home page black will not reduce energy consumption,” wrote Weihl.

Catherine Holahan, “Google Won’t Go Dark to Go Green,” BusinessWeek Online, August 15, 2007: http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/aug2007/tc20070814_994723.htm?chan=technology_technology+index+page_internet

Sharon J. Watson ([email protected]) writes from Sugar Land, Texas.