Our guest is Warren Woodward of XMission. The audio quality is much better than last time (did a mic check this time through), though a connectivity hiccup halfway through kind of broke up the conversation.
Forum commenter mabuxton reports that they’re getting UTOPIA installed at their Layton home in just two weeks. XMission and two other providers (I’m guessing FuzeCore and Nuvont) are reportedly going to have residential service available in the area and you can sign up for the install right now. If you’ve been waiting with baited breath to get UTOPIA service in the city, now is the time to call!
On the DVR front, AT&T has finished deploying whole-home DVR in 69 markets. This will allow customers to watch recorded programs on any TV in the house and is a smart move on AT&T’s part to drive DVR adoption. While there’s no fee for this service, AT&T does charge for the STBs for each set. Dish Network, meanwhile, will be deploying a new kind of DVR next week that can record from satellite broadcasts, analog over-the-air and HD over-the-air and function as a digital-to-analog converter box. Not all is good in DVR news, however. The Supreme Court is going to hear appeals in the Cablevision networked DVR case and the content cartel is aggressively lobbying to make sure it gets outlawed. This will be an important case to watch as it will have a lasting effect on video innovation.
Forget triple-play: welcome to the quad. Cox Communications plans to use recently-purchased spectrum to deploy cell-phone serivce in its markets. Since Cox can leverage its existing infrastructure to keep transport costs low, the profit margins should be substantial. They will also deliver video services to handsets for existing video customers as they had tried to do with Pivot. AT&T and Verizon have been using wireless revenues to help subsidize the construction of their next-generation networks for quite some time with a lot of success. Qwest, meanwhile, has had poor financial performance as it does not offer its own video or wireless products.
While many cablecos and telcos are holding the line on broadband pricing, UTOPIA may be stepping it up a notch. FuzeCore lists pricing for Internet connections that is more money for less bandwidth than we’re used to getting. XMission lists similar pricing for UTOPIA services in Tremonton, though the prices for other UTOPIA cities is largely unchanged. Neither Nuvont nor Veracity disclose their pricing up-front (at least as far as I can tell).
Commenters who contacted service providers for pricing in Tremonton have gotten quotes of install costs in the $30-60 range. It’s entirely possible that UTOPIA is trying out some new pricing models that build the cost of the install into the monthly fee similar to what cable and phone companies already do. The real question is if pricing will drop once the install is paid for or if customers could choose to pay off the install cost in exchange for a lower monthly fee. I’m also wondering if the pricing in Tremonton will be rolled out to other UTOPIA markets should it prove successful.
After many months of waiting, UTOPIA has launched a new website (warning: sound and Flash ahead). It also includes a form for you to submit contact information to UTOPIA to check for service in your area and express your interest in signing up when it becomes available, apparently they hired a business web design firm that help with all the problems the old site had. It also lists FuzeCore and Fibernet as providers (in addition to XMission, Veracity and Nuvont), but Mstar is still absent from the list. None of the providers on the website are shown as providing video, definitely a cause for some concern. The site is also lacking any kind of newsletter sign-up or RSS feed for updates. Still, this is a marked improvement over the presumed-dead static site that had been up for years.
Good news for those that haven’t heard yet: UTOPIA service is now available in Tremonton. Both XMission and Nuvont are selling services and the word on the street is that the install fees are rock-bottom (under $60). If you’ve been waiting for UTOPIA in Tremonton, wait no more!
Meanwhile, details of Comcast’s new DOCSIS 3.0 deployments is coming to light and, while good news for current subscribers or those switching from DSL, it’s hardly competitive with offerings from UTOPIA. In addition to a 50Mbps/5Mbps tier at $150/mo, Comcast plans to upgrade current subscribers to 12Mbps/2Mbps at $42.95/mo and offer a 22Mbps/5Mbps tier at $62.95/mo to compete with a similar offering from Verizon. Compare that to a 15Mbps/15Mbps plan at $40/mo or 50Mbps/50Mbps for $55/mo from either MSTAR or XMission. Just be thankful you aren’t a SureWest customer. They charge around $192/mo for a 50Mbps connection.
Today’s meeting of U-CAN in Orem went really well with some good attendance. Residents are largely frustrated at the delays and lack of information as to when UTOPIA would be deployed in their area and are very interested in having the network succeed. We had one of the UTOPIA NOC employees on-hand today (he moved from the iProvo NOC) as well as a consultant who’s been working with some of the new prospective service providers and a lot of good information came forth.
An established triple-play provider is really close to joining the network once they negotiate transport fees and they plan to market primarily to residences. This should be announced within a few weeks. Those of you looking for an Mstar alternative, look no more!
It’s possible to order different services from different providers, but the providers don’t really know how to do it. One example of this is a subscriber who has data from XMission, voice from Nuvont and video from Mstar. If you have trouble getting the provider to offer you an unbundled service, contact your rep on the UTOPIA board to get it moving.
UTOPIA isn’t currently equipped to handle adding new pledging cities. If you’ve been trying to get your city council on board, you need to step back and wait for a bit. Most city councils want to see how things function with the new financing and leadership before committing anyway.
Paul Recanzone was kind enough to show us some footprint maps of where service can be found in Orem. Stick to central parts of the city to ensure that service is available and always do a check for it before moving.
One interesting possibility was to market UTOPIA to cell phone providers to offer backhaul for their towers. The decreased transport fees make sense for Cricket, Sprint, AT&T, etc. and UTOPIA could bag a lot of revenue in the process.
UTOPIA may look at adding wireless to the fiber backbone, either via 802.11g/n or 802.16 (WiMax). This would allow voice providers to do cellular service. In the case of WiMax, it would also allow roaming on Clearwire and allow for service outside of the Wasatch Front. That’s just in the idea stage, so don’t count on seeing anything soon.
One meeting attendee said that he was aware of Qwest and Comcast purposefully planting moles in UTOPIA providers to try and sabotage the companies from within and that this was a primary cause of Mstar’s near-collapse. I know they’re underhanded, but I’m not sure to what extent they’d try and do something quite this dirty.
High placed sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, have confirmed that Veracity has pulled out of the merger with Broadweave and that Sorenson Capital may have withdrawn financial backing as a result. The 60-day delay cited by Broadweave in the papers is rumored to be buying time to find new backers. The loss of Veracity combined with the iProvo NOC employees who have left means that video experience is almost non-existent and staff resources will be stretched dangerously thin. This may account for anonymous commenters who have reported issues reaching customer service over the last several days. When asked about these details, Provo City employees involved in the deal were unaware of the failure of the merger.