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Top Ten Best New Services

Light Reading
4/24/2006
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Welcome to Light Reading's Best New Services list – our fun-filled, action-packed, hyphenated-wordly way of helping you stay on top of what communications services are new, innovative, and just plain cool in the world of carriers, cable companies, Internet firms, and other concerns.

This list has very few rules. And even fewer people following the few rules that are in place.

We've endeavored to include only services that are (1) currently available and (2) less than six months old. And each service has to demonstrate a cutting-edge technology, a mass-market phenomenon, or it must in some way illustrate how a particular segment of the carrier landscape is forever changing.

With that said, feel free to let us hear about our hits and misses by sending a note to [email protected]. Now, please put your cellphone and your mind on "vibrate mode" and enjoy Light Reading's Best New Services.

1. Cingular BroadbandConnect 3G Service
In December, Cingular Wireless launched its highest-speed data network service in 16 major U.S. cities. Based on HSDPA (high-speed download packet access), the BroadbandConnect service provides average throughput rates of 400 kbit/s to 700 kbit/s, with bursts of up to 1 Mbit/s. [Ed. note: Mmmmm… Bursty!] BroadbandConnect supports voice and data simultaneously, and the speeds are on a par with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s and Verizon Wireless 's EV-DO networks.

The service has a big footprint now, and it should be available in most major markets by the end of 2006. Of course, Cingular must still deal with merging its legacy networks with those of AT&T Wireless, which Cingular bought in 2004. The company has merged its networks in only 38 of its 63 markets. But even with possible rollout delays, a major mass-market 3G service definitely qualifies as a hot item. (See Cingular's Got Big FMC Plans.)

2. Yahoo's Phone Out and Phone In
Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) launched its paid PC-to-phone VOIP service in March, giving the world yet another reason not to use landline phones for every single call. But to heck with the old telcos – Yahoo really wants to be closer to Skype (now owned by eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY)). (See Yahoo Launches VOIP Service.) Skype's services have been around a lot longer, but Yahoo voice product manager Jeff Bonforte believes his company’s service, embedded inside its popular Yahoo Messenger IM client, will catch up and even overtake Skype. Well, them's fightin' words, ain't they, hoss?

3. BT Fusion for Business
In February, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) became perhaps the first major carrier to deliver on the promise of "dualmode" phone service. And we don't mean dualmode as in "on" and "off." The carrier's new BT Fusion service allows enterprise users to switch from cellular service to the broadband voice service when they come in range of the office LAN. BT says that calls made inside the office come at half the price, and that, in fact, 22 percent of cell phone calls are made inside the office anyway. (See BT Offers Fusion to Businesses.) Calls made in the office are routed over a business BT Broadband connection via a BT Hub, the company says. BT doesn't have its own mobile network, so it resells Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) connections. Well, no one's perfect, are they?

4. Verizon's V Cast
In January, Verizon Wireless laid claim to the "nation's first 3G wireless broadband multimedia service for consumers." We're inclined to agree. And what's especially great about V Cast is that it gives consumers access to 3D games, music, and videos without requiring a PC or any other kind of bulky appliance, though V Cast can send songs to your PC and phone at the same time. (See Verizon Gives Update.) Will it send your MP3 player to an early iGrave? Well, we won't go that far. But the leap to making a cell phone a true entertainment device is one worth taking – and Verizon's getting a running start.

5. Sling Media's SlingPlayer Mobile
In March, Sling Media Inc. jumped out in front of the mobile video craze by enabling owners of its Slingbox device to send the TV services they pay for so dearly at home to their cell phones and PDAs. (See Sling Media: We're Good for Cable.) The SlingPlayer Mobile software is available for free today, and Sling says the uptake has been substantial so far. Why buy specialized mobile content when you can just plain watch your own TV?

6. Time Warner Cable's Start Over
The video time-shifting craze has taken a cool twist with Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC)'s Start Over service. The service allows Time Warner cable viewers to pause shows for up to five minutes, to rewind the shows, and to restart live TV shows any time during their normal run. No fancy hardware required. No TiVo subscription needed. Just hit a button and let the network do all the work. The catch? You can't fast-forward through commercials. Well, we didn't say it was perfect. (See Cable CTOs Tee Off on Telco TV.) But it is popular. Time Warner Cable says that around 137,000 customers in South Carolina are using the service now, and the operator plans to roll out the service in several other markets this year.

7. Akimbo for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center PCs
Broadband video service provider Akimbo Systems scored big late last year when it showed up as an integrated service within Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center PCs, the new "It Girl" of the home entertainment center world. Even more impressive, though, is that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) will begin using Akimbo's service as an adjunct to the DISH Network satellite TV package it resells as part of its AT&T HomeZone bundles. It will launch late this summer. Akimbo launched in 2004 and has amassed more than 10,000 video titles of every classification and description. And its distribution scheme has given it an edge so far over competitors like Dave.tv . (See Akimbo Pairs With HDNet and Will Telcos Want Their Dave.tv?)

8. Carphone Free Broadband
Carphone Warehouse Group plc (London: CPW)'s wireless phone and broadband bundle signals the commoditization of broadband. The British mobile phone retailer is taking advantage of local loop unbundling to add an 8-Mbit/s broadband connection to its TalkTalk voice package at no extra charge. (See Carphone Teases Free B'band.) After a one-off connection fee, customers pay only for line rental and unlimited national and international calls – they then get the broadband for free. The move has shaken up the U.K. telecom market, and competitors are already trying to follow suit. (See Biscit Does Free Broadband.) Although the service won't be available until early July, Carphone had signed up 25,000 customers within the first 48 hours of announcing the package – five times the takeup it had expected.

9. Exponential-e Vaunts VPLS
With its new Layer 2 Ethernet wide-area network, this cheeky carrier is now offering Virtual Private LAN Services (VPLS) with service-aware quality of service (QOS) to medium and large enterprises across the U.K. The network was announced in January, and services are already available on it, even though Exponential-e Ltd. hasn't ramped up its marketing just yet. Specific applications coming down the pike include video surveillance, e-commerce applications, voice telephony, bandwidth on demand, and unified messaging, to name a few. (See Exponential-e Intros VPLS.)

10. MovieBeam
MovieBeam Inc. 's in-home movie rental service uses National Datacast Inc. 's digital TV broadcast signals to broadcast movies directly to consumers who buy specially designed set-top boxes. This is incredibly cool, if only because it's a way for content providers to reach consumers without a traditional cable, satellite TV, or phone company network to reach its customers. MovieBeam sells its boxes through retail outlets pre-loaded with 100 movies and, thanks to its datacasting arrangement, it will add up to 40 new movies a month to the consumer devices. The venture is backed by The Walt Disney Co., Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), among others. (See MovieBeam Raises $48.5M.)

— The Staff, Light Reading

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DCITDave
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DCITDave,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:56:17 AM
re: Top Ten Best New Services
What service do you currently pay for that you wouldn't want to live without?

For me, it'd be my Sirius subscription. Once you go commerical free, you never go back.

Secondly, my Fotki photo sharing service. Well worth the $30 for a lifetime subscription.

ph
DCITDave
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DCITDave,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:56:11 AM
re: Top Ten Best New Services
So your entertainment center is turning into a central office? That's a problem, for sure.

But what services do you think are hot?

ph
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"Ill" Duce,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:56:11 AM
re: Top Ten Best New Services
I'm buying a couple of 19 inch data racks so I can have some storage for all these damn boxes!
And I'm adding a chiller!

Duce
materialgirl
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materialgirl,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:56:09 AM
re: Top Ten Best New Services
Dear Phil:
I listen to vendor comments, from service providers to gear vendors. The service they ALL tout, that I have not used, and you have not listed, is Google Local. Have you looked into that one?
zoinks!
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zoinks!,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:56:09 AM
re: Top Ten Best New Services
I'm suffering from information and technology overload and am barricading myself in my bedroom with a good stack of books.

zoinks!
DCITDave
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DCITDave,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:56:07 AM
re: Top Ten Best New Services
mg,

I have heard of Google Local (Google Maps for your cell phone), but haven't used it.

http://www.google.com/gmm/inde...

It's in beta and hasn't "officially" launched. But the premise is to serve location based ads while giving walking or driving directions on a cell phone screen.

ph
ozip
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ozip,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:56:01 AM
re: Top Ten Best New Services


- Got a media center with an Xbox remote. Not crazy about it. Its really "clunky" (another technical term) and the DRM is a pain.

- MAC Mini Intel-Duo. Fantastic little machine, if it only had a TV/DVR capabilities it would be bye-bye media center. (the last windows machine we have)

- Sling. Havent got one but have come close to the cash register holding one. Im just not sure that we will use it much. Not sure if there is a business for those guys.

OZIP
alchemy
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alchemy,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:56:00 AM
re: Top Ten Best New Services
Phil Harvey asks:
What service do you currently pay for that you wouldn't want to live without?

For me, it'd be my Sirius subscription. Once you go commerical free, you never go back.

Secondly, my Fotki photo sharing service. Well worth the $30 for a lifetime subscription.


It's hard to imagine living without Netflix. ...and a DVD burner.

With BitTorrent and an iPod, there's really no point in paying for satellite radio. I get my music the old fashioned way.... I steal it. It's funny because both of my cars came with satellite radio but no iPod jack. Something to keep the aftermarket people in business.

I have my own domain name with a web hosting & email hosting service. If I need to share photos, I drag them up onto my web site. I find it useful to have an email address that will never change for the rest of my life.

Like everybody else, I can no longer live without a cell phone. I still have wireline service but probably not for much longer.

It's hard to imagine not having a broadband connection.

I still haven't made the leap to HDTV. My 6-year-old 36" Sony Wega XBR is looking awfully long in the tooth these days. I pay for a jillion channels of garbage on a digitial set-top box. A side benefit is they throw in a bunch of music channels that get used more than the video feed.

I do pay for quality information. The Economist. Zagat.com. The Wine Advocate. If you can eat well, drink well, and speak intelligently about topics not covered on Light Reading, you're good to go.
DCITDave
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DCITDave,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:56:00 AM
re: Top Ten Best New Services
re: "- Sling. Havent got one but have come close to the cash register holding one. Im just not sure that we will use it much. Not sure if there is a business for those guys."

There is on the mobility side, provided they don't get sued or run out of business. I think I'd use one an awful lot. Why pay extra for a mobile TV service when you can watch your own TV anywhere?

re: "- Got a media center with an Xbox remote. Not crazy about it. Its really "clunky" (another technical term) and the DRM is a pain."

Do tell. What's causing the problems? I ask because I almost got an Xbox as my sort of home gateway. Opted for a Sony DVD/tuner instead.

ph
DCITDave
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DCITDave,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:55:59 AM
re: Top Ten Best New Services
re: "It's hard to imagine living without Netflix"

good one. has anyone tried the newer movies on demand services -- like movielink or moviebeam?

i wonder if those will make netflix, blockbuster, etc. seem dated.

ph
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