By The Associated Press - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 0 Comments
BARCELONA, Spain – A car that tells your insurance company how you’re driving. A bathroom scale that lets you chart your weight on the Web. And a meter that warns your air conditioner when electricity gets more expensive.
Welcome to the next phase of the wireless revolution.
The first wave of wireless was all about getting people to talk to each other on cellphones. The second will be getting things to talk to each other, with no humans in between. So-called machine-to-machine communication is getting a lot of buzz at this year’s wireless trade show. Some experts believe these connections will outgrow the traditional phone business in less than a decade.
“I see a whole set of industries, from energy to cars to health to logistics and transportation, being totally redesigned,” said Vittorio Colao, the CEO of Vodafone Group PLC, in a keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The British cellphone company has vast international interests, including its 45 per cent ownership stake in Verizon Wireless.
By Jesse Brown - Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 12:08 PM - 0 Comments
Yesterday Industry Minister Christian Paradis emerged from the secret invisible fortress he’s been hiding in since his appointment to announce the new rules that will govern the upcoming auctions of wireless spectrum. He revealed a number of conditions designed to foster competition and extend services to rural areas, chief among them being the welcoming of foreign capital into our newer, smaller wireless providers. Let’s hope the measures achieve these goals, and more. If ever there was an industry in need of disruption, it’s Canada’s wireless sector.
It’s not that we pay too much (although we do). It’s not that our services are lagging behind international standards in speed and coverage (although they are). The real problem is that we’re getting left behind. Wireless networks are getting so fast in other parts of the world that they are rendering moot the infamous “last mile” problem of networking. First, each and every home needed its own telephone line. Then cable. It looked like fibre would be next, and the costs would be enormous, especially in a country like Canada where we’re all so darned spread out.
But while we’ve been wringing our hands over this problem, countries unlucky (read: poor) enough to have skipped telephone and cable networking have entered the wireless era with guns blazing. Foreign mobile firms have entered 2nd and even 3rd world economies in South American, Eastern Europe and Africa, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in state-of-the-art wireless infrastructure and then charging whatever the people can afford for access. Eventually the investment is returned and almost all new income is profit. Governments have eagerly welcomed these companies, as they connect entire populations in a handful of years. The benefit to these economies has been incredible. After decades of digital isolation, entire populations are rapidly getting online, joining the information economy, performing digital services and starting businesses.
And then there’s Canada.
If wireless service here were comparable in price and speeds to wired service, Canadians would quickly grow uncomfortable with the many bills we pay for our data. Why pay a cable TV bill, a phone bill, a broadband Internet bill, a cellphone bill and a datastick bill when all of these services boil down to zeros and ones we send and receive through the air? It would be like having to pay one bus ticket if you’re only wearing pants, another if you wear a shirt and another for your shoes. The bus doesn’t know or care what you’re wearing, and zeros and ones don’t know or care if they add up to a Skype call, an episode of 30 Rock or an MP3 download.
But our incumbents do. If we leave wireless innovation to our handful of massive telecom firms, we can expect to remain a digital ghetto. Sure, they have and will invest in next generation wireless networks, but they can be counted on to mete out these services in drips and drabs, charging us through the nose for every minor incremental improvement in speed. Worst of all, they will fight tooth and nail to segregate our data, resisting the natural convergence I’ve described. If they don’t, they know that wireless will cannibalize their incredibly lucrative “last gen” services. They know this will happen eventually, but they want the process to take as long as possible. We can’t afford that.
Ottawa’s last wireless spectrum auction, with its set-asides for new entrants brought us WIND, Mobilicity and Public – bargain providers who largely piggyback the incumbent networks in order to offer us reasonably priced cell phone service (CORRECTION: since launching, the new carriers have built out their own networks and only “piggyback” for roaming services. Thx Jamie). In just a few years, they have succeeded in driving prices down across the board. They have challenged the fictions of “system access” fees and domestic long-distance charges. But all together, they only comprise 4% of the market.
We need more than for these providers to simply stick around. We need them to disrupt. We need foreign firms to pump money into them, build out their own networks, and offer services that are not only faster than anything we’ve seen, but cheaper and use-neutral.
I’m still parsing the difference between set-asides and caps, but let’s hope Ottawa’s new terms for the next two spectrum auctions will bring revolution to our market- not evolution.
To put it bluntly, the first company to offer Canadians all the high-speed wireless data we can eat, however we care to eat it, for under $100 a month, will win this market. And it’s a plum.
By Julia Belluz - Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:49 AM - 0 Comments
Radiation can give life and take it away. Sunlight, therapy to kill malignant tumors, powerful x-rays, and radio waves are all forms of radiation. Lately, much has been made of the health risks related to another source of invisible waves: WiFi.
In recent years, politicians and leaders in the health field have tried to do something about the perceived threat of exposure to radio-frequency (RF) electromagnetic fields, on which WiFi, cell phone networks, radio signals, microwave ovens, and cordless home phones depend. Public fears about RF fields may have hit a fever pitch when, last summer, the World Health Organization designated them as a “possibly carcinogenic” agent—alongside others like coffee—for which evidence of harm is uncertain. Since then, we’ve heard our nation’s doctors raise concerns about the health risks related to cell phones; politicians, such as Elizabeth May, warn publicly about the potential harms posed by WiFi; and frightened parents say they’d move their children away from the invisible threat, as schools impose bans on wireless internet.
But what do we actually know about the health effects of RF exposure—and, in particular, the health risks related to WiFi?
Different technologies give off different amounts of radiation, explained Dr. Patrizia Frei (PhD), a research fellow at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, who has conducted reviews on the health effects of RF exposure. “While mobile phones cause mostly localized exposure to the head,” she said, “WiFi usually causes far-field whole-body exposures which are usually much lower.” According to the UK’s Health Protection Agency, “the signals are very low power, typically 0.1 watt (100 milliwatts) in both the computer and the router (access point), and the results so far show exposures are well within the internationally-accepted guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.”
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 8:20 AM - 290 Comments
Some Canadians go to great lengths to escape waves of radiation from electronics that are considered harmless
As the mother of two young girls, Samantha Boutet does what she believes is necessary to protect her family. That’s why, with the spread of radio frequencies from increasingly common wireless technology, Boutet is a refugee in her own land. The naturopathic doctor and her two daughters are relocating more than 600 km east of their home in Maple Ridge, B.C., to a small cabin in a remote valley in B.C.’s Kootenay mountains.
The decision was spurred by a series of health problems affecting her older daughter, Amelia, which started in Grade 4. For more than a year, Amelia suffered from deep headaches, nagging nausea, inexplicable muscle soreness, tingling extremities, and insomnia, Boutet says. Eventually, after visiting a number of specialists, the family doctor diagnosed Amelia with electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), a medical condition that involves a range of non-specific symptoms attributed to electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs), much like those described by sufferers of multiple-chemical sensitivity, another environmental illness believed to be caused by low-level exposure to chemicals. “I felt really bad because her body was telling her there was something wrong, and I was telling her there couldn’t be, and I couldn’t understand why she was behaving the way she was,” says Boutet.
EMFs are invisible radioactive frequencies emitted from radio towers, WiFi routers, cellphones, wireless laptops, TV remotes—even the new smart meters that measure water and electricity use and beam information to the utilities. These non-ionizing radioactive waves travel through the air at much lower frequencies than ionizing radiation (which includes X-rays and gamma rays) and are widely considered harmless. And due to the proliferation of technology that releases them, others like Amelia, now 11, feel as if their health is being compromised. They can either live with their pain, or flee to backcountry refuges. “It’s not that I’m just worried,” Boutet says. “My older daughter will be deathly sick, so we have to leave.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 4:56 PM - 33 Comments
The World Health Organization says there is no convincing scientific evidence that wireless networks cause any damage to human health. Yes, wireless devices emit electromagnetic radiation, as do other electronic devices we use in our homes and offices: computers, televisions, even baby monitors. The exposure to radiation from a mobile phone, which is generally much closer to the person using it than a wireless access point, is much higher than that from a wireless network.
It’s certainly true that exposure to wifi networks has increased over the past few years, and that it might take time for any ill effects to show up in the research. So it makes sense for health agencies to keep monitoring the research and be prepared to change their minds, as is true for all science. The evidence from the research to date, though, is clear and reassuring. There is certainly no reason to start getting rid of wifi in schools and other places where children spend a lot of time.
By Jesse Brown - Friday, February 11, 2011 at 11:44 AM - 65 Comments
WIND mobile may be done-for in Canada; a Federal Court has ruled that because WIND’s parent company is backed by Egyptian investors, it violates Canada’s laws against foreigners owning our wireless spectrum.
This is bad news, right? After all, when WIND broke in Canada (high-five!) a whole new tier of affordable cell-phone plans popped up. The entrance of one new player forced a correction in the entire market! Who could hate that?
ACTRA hates that. Stephen Waddell, the National Executive Director of the Canadian actor’s union, calls the anti-WIND ruling “a victory for culture!”
Ok, here’s ACTRA’s logic on this- follow it if you can:
If cellphone services operating in Canada can be owned by foreign companies, then cable TV companies might also ask for access to foreign capital. And if these scary foreign interests end up controlling our cable companies, then they may escape the CRTC’s jurisdiction. Without CRTC control, these stations may avoid having to funnel their profits back into the production of Canadian content, and the forced production of Canadian television may cease.
And that’s why every time you call your mom on a WIND phone plan, Joey Jeremiah cries.
Of course, the existing Can-Con regime is on borrowed time anyhow. Internet video falls outside of the CRTC’s reach, and with more Canadians watching on their laptops, the days of mandatory, subsidized Canadian TV shows may be numbered.
If that happens, then the only reason anyone would produce a television show in Canada would be if they thought people would watch it. And we can’t have that, can we?
By John Geddes - Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 9:20 AM - 16 Comments
Is Globalive truly a Canadian company? The Tories say yes.
Tony Clement did his best last week not to put himself at the centre of an uproar over Canadian ownership of sensitive parts of the economy. The industry minister announced that the federal cabinet was letting Toronto-based Globalive into the Canadian cellphone business, overturning the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s earlier ruling that the Egyptian-financed company failed to meet Canadian control rules. But Clement insisted cabinet wasn’t “removing, reducing, bending or creating an exception to Canadian ownership and control requirements in telecommunications and broadcasting.” No matter how far he dug into his thesaurus, though, many expert observers weren’t buying it.
The potential implications of the decision, announced Dec. 11, were just too obvious to be smothered under even the wordiest denial. The CRTC had ruled in October that Globalive didn’t satisfy Canadian ownership requirements because Egyptian telecom giant Orascom holds almost all of its debt, owns most of its non-voting shares, and provides its technical expertise. But cabinet exercised its power to overrule the regulator, accepting Globalive’s argument that its corporate structure puts voting shares mainly in Canadian hands. Clement stressed that the decision was “based on the legal facts of the ownership, and not on the government’s position that there needs to be more competition in this marketplace.”
It was the prospect of another competitor, of course, that had led the big wireless companies—BCE, Telus, and Rogers (owner of Maclean’s)—to oppose Globalive’s bid to step onto their turf. The CRTC doesn’t see the Canadian wireless marketplace as too dominated by a few players: it says wireless prices in Canada are about in the middle compared with the U.S., Britain, France and Australia. But the Conservatives perceive a problem. Two blue-ribbon panel reports—one on telecom alone and another more broadly on the Canadian economy—have urged them to open up the industry. “We believe,” Clement said, “that when consumers have more choice, when there’s more competition, that lowers prices and increases quality.”