Wireless Moldova

Business travelers worldwide fight a constant battle of connectivity.  Can I call Home?  Can I “Skype” with my family?  Do I have adequate Internet access?

During recent business trips to Chisinau, Moldova, I have had the pleasure of working in a country with excellent, if not superior, Internet access within hotels, parks, Internet cafes, and really any other location within the capital city you would like to “jack in” to the Internet.

As I watch my Slingbox connecting to Channel 2 Evening News in Los Angeles, I am enjoying anywhere between 500Kbps and 900Kbps throughput, more than adequate to keep homesickness under control and keep up to date on the community.

CH2-cap2 Moldova has several Internet Service Providers available for public access, including StarNet, Orange Moldova, MoldTelecom, and lots of resellers of other company Internet capacity. 

The cost of accessing high performance Internet is a fraction of what you would expect to pay in the United States or other “developed” countries, and the performance is among the best I have experiences traveling in at least 15 countries during the past year.

Starnet and Orange take advantage of new terrestrial fiber optic capacity connecting Moldova through Romania, and then directly interconnecting with the global Internet community at Europe’s major Internet Exchange Points, including the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), the Frankfurt Exchange (DE-CIX), and London’s LINX.

A traceroute (following the path an Internet packet takes from my computer to my webhost in California) shows excellent routing outside of Moldova:

Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7600]
Copyright (c) 2009 Microsoft Corporation.  All rights reserved.

C:\Users\John R Savageau>tracert http://www.pacific-tier.com

Tracing route to sbs-p4p.asbs.yahoodns.net [216.39.62.190]
over a maximum of 30 hops:

  1     3 ms    10 ms     2 ms  itns.md [93.113.118.1]
  2     5 ms     3 ms     3 ms  10.11.16.254
  3     7 ms     6 ms    14 ms  ex-starnet.starnet.md [89.28.1.177]
  4     8 ms     5 ms    10 ms  95-65-3-161.starnet.md [95.65.3.161]
  5    68 ms    49 ms    49 ms  ge-1-3-0.pat2.dee.yahoo.com [80.81.193.115]
6   135 ms   137 ms   136 ms  as-1.pat2.dcp.yahoo.com [66.196.65.129]
7   135 ms   134 ms   205 ms  ae-1-d171.msr2.re1.yahoo.com [216.115.108.31]
8   137 ms   137 ms   137 ms  gi-1-45.bas-b2.re4.yahoo.com [216.39.57.5]
9   136 ms   139 ms   136 ms  p4p2.geo.re4.yahoo.com [216.39.62.190]

Trace complete.

Disposable Income Demands Additional Considerations

Market conditions in Moldova are different from the US and other economically developed countries.  Those living below the poverty line in Moldova, according to the CIA World Factbook,  is around 30% .  Disposable income continues to be low, and a small percentage of the population owns or has access to private personal computers.

Thus the cost of Internet access, to develop market, is possibly artificially low.  or the US Internet access providers are artificially high…

Cost of accessing prepaid wireless Internet per month through Liberty WiFi Internet Access, a StarNet reseller:

Capture

NOTE:  1 US$ = ~12 Moldovan Lei

During a recent visit to Moldova I used Orange’s wireless Internet product, which was about 2 times the price of Liberty WiFi, but with equally impressive performance.

Internet Access is Essential for Moldova’s Development

As Moldova continues to struggle through the challenges of building a market economy, dealing with the issues of a newly democratized country, poor rural infrastructure (roads, telecom, power, etc), and socially coming to grips with their place in the European and Eastern communities, Moldova will need to quickly bring their citizens up to speed with technology and wired everything.

chisinau Cloud-based software, such as Microsoft Live Office, Google Docs, Yahoo Mail, and other hosted services will allow Moldovans access to Internet utilities without the high cost of software licensing, further allowing better use of shared resources in Internet cafes, schools, and other public locations.  The government is aggressively pursuing modern eGovernment projects to help the citizens reduce the burden of bureaucracy on their lives , and children are exposed to technology throughout the education system.

With Moldova’s Internet Service Providers delivering some of the highest performance network access in the world, Modovans will further be relieved of the burden of constructing large and small data centers, taking advantage of cloud and SaaS service providers located within Europe and North America, returning precious funds to building business – rather than ICT server and services infrastructure.

Moldova Supports Private Enterprise

While there are some items that could use some adjustment, such as high tariffs for importing computer equipment, Moldova has at least supported both domestic and foreign telecom companies in developing both fixed line and wireless infrastructure.  Orange (France Telecom), MoldCell (TeliaSonera),   and Starnet continue to build fiber optic and wireless network infrastructure, with nearly 100% 3G coverage throughout the country. 

The entire wireless system is 4G-ready, and deployment is planned within the next couple of years.

Impressive.  Really.

Verizon Gets it Right – “Bye Bye” Land Line Telephone

The FCC says US telephone companies have incurred a 26% increase in the cost of annual maintenance on traditional copper telephone lines over the past 5 years. Verizon makes 25% better margin on wireless phone than “land line” phones. FiOS is making it possible for Verizon to get into the high value video and cable television industry with a next-generation fiber optic infrastructure.

So why would anybody find Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg’s announcement at a Goldman Sachs investor conference that “his company is simply no longer concerned with telephones that are connected with wires” a surprise?

Bye Bye TelephoneWell, there are still many people on the street who believe copper “land Lines” offer better quality, security, and value. There are those who believe it is necessary to continue pumping money into technologies which are expensive to maintain, and offer little additional value to subscribers.

There are those who believe expansion of high performance wireless infrastructure such as LTE (long term evolution) and 4G (4th Generation Wireless) will not meet the needs of individual subscribers in both rural and urban areas.

Of course, they are wrong. Copper lines still fail, and are definitely location sensitive. A person with a heart condition will have a much better chance sending the alarm with a wireless device than a fixed line copper phone, so the more we dig into the copper argument the more it appears folks still are simply reluctant to embrace or endorse change. And change is needed in the United States.

We lag the industrialized world in broadband Internet deployments and availability. LTE/4G/FiOS all support and deliver broadband. Verizon is aggressively moving ahead on all broadband deployments. This includes broadband wireless to rural areas normally not available through either copper or in many cases cable television. In the United States (and most of the world) telephone users are either using low cost mobile phones, or using Internet phones (VoIP) on their home cable TV, or even in many cases wireless Internet connections.

So why is it surprising or concerning to anybody that Verizon is turning its back on their copper infrastructure, and focusing their capital and operational investments on a next-generation of technology? Is it better to spend more money maintaining old copper outside plant infrastructure, or is it better to spend that money reinforcing deployments of high performance wireless infrastructure and fiber optic FiOS technology?

Seidenberg added that “Video is going to be the core product in the fixed-line business.” Yes, thinking of a cable coming into your home as a “telephone line” is no longer an acceptable categorization. The telephone line is gone. Never to return. It is obsolete. We need to delete that from our mental SD chip, and reload with “Wired Humans Version 2.” Cables coming into the home and business are not for telephones, they are for the whole three dimensional concept of communications.

The answer for both the American consumer and for Verizon is clearly to reduce the operational expenses of supporting copper telephone lines, and start forcing the adoption of technologies that are better, cheaper, and offer much more service opportunity (such as high speed Internet access, video/cable TV, additional interactive communications services <such as video conferencing and video telephony>).

Americans need to applaud the courage of Mr. Seidenberg and Verizon to take this aggressive stand on new service and technology delivery.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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