Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 6/9/2006 Perhaps it's oversensitivity, but a little part of my soul sinks when I first come across a brand name like Ubiquisys. It's not just that there are an infinite number of ways of misspelling it with Ys and Is interchanged — at least it avoided using Zs for Ss — but it has that vaguely plastic sheen of a branding company at work, trying to impart general feelings of warm fuzziness without giving too much away.

Wednesday 6/9/2006

Perhaps it's oversensitivity, but a little part of my soul sinks when I first come across a brand name like Ubiquisys. It's not just that there are an infinite number of ways of misspelling it with Ys and Is interchanged — at least it avoided using Zs for Ss — but it has that vaguely plastic sheen of a branding company at work, trying to impart general feelings of warm fuzziness without giving too much away. Give me General Electric any day of the week. And you know, even before you get to the web site, that they'll have some swoopy meaningless logo and pictures of pretty people Interacting Meaningfully with technology in an unspecified fashion. Which they do.

Enough of that. What does Ubiquisys do? ZoneGate, that's what. Your own personal 3G picocell — which Ubiquisys has renamed femtocell — which connects your mobile to your broadband when you're at home. And why would you want to do that? Because 3G is so crap, it doesn't work in buildings? No, you cynic! Although it does help build out coverage in a cost-effective fashion, oh yes: nothing cheers up an operator more than you paying for its infrastructure so it can charge you for more services. But it can charge you less, so you can use your 3G phone at home instead of having to have a landline. Only you probably need one of those for the broadband... hey, details, details.

This is different from UMA — the Wi-Fi equivalent — because you don't need a Wi-Fi enabled phone, and Wi-Fi phones take more battery power while giving you less choice. Well, yes, but Wi-Fi phones also work from hot spots and your office wireless system.

The more I hear about systems that patch your mobile phone service to your broadband, the more they seem like a con. You're building the mobile operator's network for it and paying for the bandwidth, while it's charging you (and more significantly, people who call you) a healthy wedge for the privilege. At the same time, it's increasing what the industry calls its ownership of you.

Ownership is a term that telcos and operators try not to use in our hearing, because it's not very nice. But they like to think about it. A lot. An owned customer will buy everything from the one supplier: broadband, TV, mobile services, media, games and so on. The industry is agreed that in the future we will all be owned by someone; they just disagree on who's going to do the owning. Stuff like ZoneGate is important to mobile operators because it prises customers away from fixed line telco ownership.

If you don't want to be owned, then stick to open standards, open software, open networks. Even if they don't have expensively engineered brands and pictures of attractive young couples in soft focus.