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Thursday, October 25, 2007

One and a Half Million Secrets In Syria

A Middle East news correspondent who has lived in Beirut for more than 30 years recently had this to say about Syrians:

Syria has accepted almost one and a half million Iraqi refugees – caring for them, providing them with welfare and free hospital services – while Washington, when it isn't cursing Iraq's prime minister, has accepted a measly 800 Iraqis.

And Lebanon? No one realises that this tiny Arab country has accepted 50,000 Iraqis since the great refugee exodus began.


Those are the words of Robert Fisk, a man who always gets his information from the source, at great personal risk. Before people in the United States jump to any conclusions about Syria, they need to know the facts. Unfortunately the Washington Post, New York Times, and all the other big corporation news sources in this country have neglected to report the real impact of war on civilian populations. Yes, there have been a few stories on the Iraq Civil War refugee crisis but have you ever heard the numbers Mr. Fisk cites anywhere else before?
Anti-War Protester 70527
Fisk goes on to mention this about the Iraqi refugee groups he has encountered in Beirut:

Of course, the Shia Iraqis have moved into the Shia southern suburbs (home of Hizbollah), the Sunni into Sunni areas of Beirut and Sidon, the Christians into Christian east Beirut and the Metn hills. And because the Lebanese have always called the Iraqis brothers and sisters, there has been no friction between the different Iraqi groups...

It seems strange that no other news source found it important to investigate and report these basic facts about the Iraqi Civil War. It is long past time for U.S. troops and assorted bands of hired mercenaries to pack up their weapons and go home.

Links: Independent article by Robert Fisk

How Could A Fire Start In Orange County?

Concepcion said onshore winds Thursday morning should help firefighters "get the upper hand on this thing."

The arsonist's motive was a mystery to Concepcion.

"That's the part that I really can't figure out, to tell you the truth," he told CNN. "That individual knew on Sunday when this fire started that we had, really, the perfect storm, if you will. We had the heavy Santa Ana winds, we had the low relative humidities, we had the high temperatures.

- Orange County Fire Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion

Chief Concepcion really seems to lack even rudimentary knowledge common to most fire investigation teams. It could also be that he deliberately does not want to provide reasons to any potential arsonists. In any event, here are some common and not-so-common possibilities for why the Santiago Canyon fires were started. They are listed in no particular order.
Goose Bay House Fire 0004
POSSIBLE REASONS FOR ARSON

- Insurance scam

- Resident was unable to afford rising mortgage payments and about to default

- Pyromania or sickness related to starting fires could easily be a reason

- Years of watching California state and federal funds pour into Orange County while the arsonist's community is neglected

- Revenge for some ongoing dispute with individuals or organizations in the affected region, most likely downwind of the fire origin point(s)

- Eco-terrorists seeking to "save the environment" from some perceived threat.

- Fire fighting personnel needing money starts fire(s) to generate more work

- Deranged real estate agent or builder with some plan to generate more business

- Foreign operative seeing an easy opportunity to attack U.S. citizens

- The concentration of wealth in Orange County must be despised by more than a few people. The arsonist may have grown to hate arrogant super-rich Orange Co. residents who flaunt their wealth.

OTHER POTENTIAL REASONS FOR FIRE

- Children playing with matches or lighter

- Cigarettes tossed from car windows.

- Catalytic converter lights dry grass while a car is idling by the side of the road.

- Incorrect backlighting procedures followed by poorly trained fire fighters.

SUMMARY

These are all legitimate possibilities for how a fire could have been started by other than natural causes such as lightning or friction. As a researcher specializing in man-made and natural disasters, I can usually provide lengthy lists of potential reasons for any calamity. It remains the job of experienced investigators to pinpoint actual causes.

Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of any actual causes of these fires and have not visited California in the past 12 months.

Links: CNN article

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

California: What the Real Estate Agent Neglects To Tell You

(composed to be the script to some stand-up act or Ted Talk or speech with beautiful scenes of California on the screen behind the speaker. It is intended as a tongue in-cheek piece, not necessarily to be taken seriously, people!)

Aahh, California with its perfect streets, perfect homes, and perfect weather. Workers there earn higher salaries than almost anywhere in the world. Most California days are sunny days; not too cold,
not too hot. To tell you the truth, I would enjoy living in California this very minute.

But maybe not the next.

These myths perpetuated by real estate salesmen and other con artists belie the reality that is life in California for most people. If you a privileged enough to live close to the Pacific, California can be a very healthy place to live. Fresh salt air, good food, sunny days, and generally friendly people make it a fun place to be. I lived outside Santa Cruz, up in a giant redwood forest.  Silent as an empty cathedral up there. But relatively few people live up in those mountains. They live in very large communities found all over the state. I drove all over the place most of the time I was a resident of the Redwood State.

Most of the major population centers in California are adjacent or directly over major active fault lines in the Earth's surface. It is the nature of the Pacific Rim. In a sense not that much different than residents of Alaska, Russia, Japan, China, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Peru and central America face. Major earthquakes devastate some areas of the state every decade. So they rebuild and everyone that survived has a story to tell. Annual wildfires spread rapidly every year when the Santa Ana winds blow. Sometimes water table gets so low most natural foliage does not stand a chance of surviving. Volcanoes threaten the northern part of the state. This is also California.

It's a big place, Californians often shrug off state events that happen outside where they live. Too much to keep track of. Northern California and Southern are almost two different nations, culturally.

The price of everything in California including, but not limited to, housing, food, fuel, education, taxes, and clothing is typically much higher than in any other state. New York City is comparable, I suppose, but not so far as the cost of waterfront homes off Long Island are concerned.

Californians spend more time stuck in their cars in huge traffic jams, than the residents of any other state. The air quality in many parts of the state is abysmal at best. Taxes and government fees drain the pockets of the middle class faster than any other state. If you plan to move to California you should also plan to pay much more for the right to live there. Too many people neglect to consider the costs and end up moving back out of California or living in a barrio on welfare. Those few months or year or two will be memorable but moving back East is like giving up the garden of Eden. I eventually  moved away to Puerto Rico so I didn't go through that trauma.

California is the source of much of the nation's food and entertainment. Hollywood movies and television programming perpetuate a national culture of violence, promiscuity, and blind consumption. But most people just watch these films and shows and go back to living the same way they always have. Comfortably numb. A few movies are actually pretty interesting.

The West Coast is almost Biblical in proportion to other places. Plagues of insects and disease are kept at bay by farmers only through the use of cancerous pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. There are plenty of organic farms but commercial farming still deposits incredible amounts of poison on the land. The poisons are better designed but not the best way to grow food for consumption. They have no other choice, to meet demand every technique from genetic modification to cloning to DNA modifications are apparently on the table. I think two of those are essentially the same thing but it seems a shame to throw away millennia of farming with seeds from the plants themselves. Only to substitute some Frankenberry, to get that much more out of an acre. Rice, corn, wheat and just about any berry important to all humans are in the lab, getting modifications done under the hood, like a Detroit-build hot rod.

A prized genetic modification for most plants is to make them more drought-resistant. A drought resistant variety of rice could prevent millions from starving, in the event of a long dry season. Drought-resistant corn might make the difference between a farmer going bust and a farmer getting by with little rain some weeks.

I don't know the answer, I just know the prior ecosystem had a very long track record of supporting human civilizations. Natural disasters will always happen, anywhere. It just seems that all of them, except hurricanes, are common in California. The 2017 "rivers in the sky" rain events certainly mimicked a hurricane's rains, but not the wind.

The fresh water supply for California's citizens and farmers could be doomed by declining snow packs in Colorado and the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. 2017 snowpack broke some records, California's is becoming a feast or famine rainfall record.  The agriculture industry dries up just like the state's lakes and rivers, then an El Nino event roars in to fill the the deserts a little too quickly.

he food production chain is also dependent on gasoline and other fuels, transportation is a significant part of the price we pay to have food shipped across the country. Many farmers have switched to natural gas on farm equipment. Food still is affordable, but wouldn't it be better for the environment to consume food that didn't need to be trucked 3,000 miles?

Certain parts of California do not exactly reflect ideal living. Watts and Compton are hardly ideal places to live. San Diego, major Navy Base, is also the capital of pornographic film production.  Of course, like all of California, there's a huge mix of different businesses in the San Diego area.

The extreme concentration of wealth and greed in places like Cupertino, Malibu, or Wiltshire Boulevard concentrates wealth and the fear of losing it all, behind locked iron gates. There are more illegal aliens living in California than any other state. A massive church in Orange County helps people justify their gross over-consumption of natural resources while people in the Sahel or central Asia cook scraps collected from dumps over dung-fueled fires.

California is not paradise. California is not heaven on earth. California is an extremely overcrowded place known to burn, shake violently, and empty your wallet faster than a clever pickpocket. When the next major fire or earthquake devastates some part of California, the people living there will cry out to their idols and ask "Why?" Yet the answer is always right there in front of every resident of California. A beautiful place to visit but a very dangerous and expensive place to live, that is California.

Note: The author once lived in California but the earthquakes, smog, traffic, taxes, and crowds drove him away.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Is This Really Old-Fashioned Investing?

I was recently accused of being an old-fashioned investor. I was proud to own up to that fact in this response:

You are right I am a long term investor. I bought a serious amount of Apple (AAPL) in early 2004 and on dips since. That whole position is up over 300%. And some old T Rowe Price funds back in 2004, PRMSX and PRLAX, again only up a few hundred percent. You're certainly on the money I bought old fashioned VZ early last December, that position's only up 37%, I should sell it and continue to buy more IFCAX, that fund has been a wild ride. Some very old JNJ and BAC positions keep sending me bigger and bigger dividend checks every quarter. My India funds including IIF and IFN are up 70% since I took 'em on board. You are also dead on in that I could have retired anytime in the last ten years without depending on Social Security or a pension, can you say that?

I like Hon Hai in Taiwan and Posco (PKX) in Korea, my investments there are all up over a hundred percent.
Seoul Korea Congestion
This kind of experience makes me extremely sensitive to firms like Beacon Power Corp with a -1255% Net Profit Margin. This whole flywheel-based energy storage scheme is a little shaky as far as technology ideas go. I mean the ancient Romans and Chinese used flywheels to throw pottery thousands of years ago. This is not exactly bleeding-edge technology here. Flywheels are in use all over the place including an old wrist watch I once owned.

A few years working in a patent law office taught me to be extremely cautious about certain things like perpetual motion machines and flywheel schemes. Nevertheless Beacon Power Corp. could do all sorts of lucrative things with their particular flywheels. I'll still take my rapidly growing ICICI Bank (IBN) investment since 2005 any day of the week.
Monk, Bihar, India 002
I see the future taking place not only here in America with firms like Apple (AAPL) or Broadcom (BRCM) but especially in Brazil (PBR, RIO) and throughout Latin America (AMX), which is also part of America last time I checked my globe.

Russia and Asia contain some real fast growing economies, except maybe Japan and Burma. Australia's mining firms have been fun as have some New Zealand resource stocks.

For now Beacon Power Corp (BCON), even at 134% YTD, remains too undocumented for me. Give them time to start production somewhere. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Careful Now Turkey, You're Toying with the New Empire

Instant Karma's gonna get you,
Gonna knock you right on the head,
You better get yourself together,
Pretty soon you're gonna be dead,
What in the world you thinking of,
Laughing in the face of love,
What on earth you tryin' to do,
It's up to you, yeah you.
- John Lennon

Americans finally want to recognize the "1st Genocide" of the 20th century. The Armenian Genocide, authorized by specific Ottoman Empire legislation, is a historical fact. Nearly two million Armenians were systematically put to death by the Ottomans in the years between 1894 and 1923. Contemporary accounts in the New York Times, along with detailed historical research, leave little doubt about the events that took place. Men, women, and children of Armenian descent were rounded up in huge numbers and systematically put to death, just like Germany did to millions of people in the 1930s and 40s.
U.S. Capitol 19914
U.S. Congress, the enabler of the new Empire's armies of colonization in the Middle East, wants to pass a resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. President George W. Bush, increasingly an irrelevant lame duck leader, effectively denied the existence of the Armenian Genocide in a statement earlier in the week. Bush sees no benefit to the Republican Party in the whole affair so he ordered the White House to join with the people of Turkey in the cover-up of the mass murders.

The support of the White House for Turkey seems strange considering that Turkey refused to allow U.S. armies to pass through to Iraq at the start of the U.S. War of Occupation. Turkey has also been told to stay out of the Kurdish sector of the new U.S. colony. The U.S. Air Base, at Incirlik Turkey, was later permitted to support the brutal invasion and subsequent colonization of Iraq.

A committee in the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the Armenian Genocide resolution on Tuesday. Bush quickly dispatched his loyal servant, Secretary of State Rice, to Turkey to apologize for the U.S. Congress. Bush is worried that Turkey might use the whole affair as an excuse to steal part of the new U.S. colony of Iraq. This would upset his dear friends the U.S. oil companies. Exxon Mobil and the rest of the gang have their hearts set on exploiting Iraqi oil reserves they were promised by Dick Cheney.

How Do The Jews Feel About Genocide?

One surprising detail in the historical records since World War II is the total silence of Israel and the Jews about this event. A day never passes where people in Europe or North America are not reminded of Nazi Germany's slaughter of the Jews, homosexuals, and other peoples deemed undesirable by Nazi leadership. Significant evidence even points to the Armenian Genocide as an example used by Hitler to support his own systematic slaughter of certain ethnic population. The silence of the neighboring Zionists in this new debate is almost deafening.

Turkey's Short-Sighted Response

Today the focus switched to the Turkish response to the U.S. Armenian Genocide Resolution. Turkey recalled their ambassador to the United States. Years ago this would have been seen as the last step before war breaks out between two nations. Now it simply means another diplomat is leaving a luxurious residence in Washington for an inconvenient stay back in his homeland. The Turkish Ambassador's wife probably misses shopping in the United States already.

Over the years Turkey has received billions of dollars of aid from the U.S.. The financial benefits of having a fraction of the Empire's fleet based in Turkey are significant to the economy around Incirlik Air Base. That flow of U.S. dollars is about to come to an abrupt halt.

Turkey's neighbor, the European Union, has long been skeptical of Turkey's human rights record. The rise of Islamic Fanaticism in Turkey is another source of concern for the E.U.. For years Europe has been considering Turkey as a possible new addition to their expanding union of nations. However Europe's relationship with the United States is significantly more important than any benefits Turkey might bring to the EU at some future date.

The Future

It seems more likely that the Turkish economy will suffer far more from this debacle than U.S. consumers. A shortage of designer jeans and other clothing imported from Turkey will be quickly covered by Communist China's sweatshops, no doubt. U.S. tourists, just beginning to discover the delights of a holiday in the Eastern Mediterranean, will be dissuaded by the U.S. State Department. Turkish visitors will continue to be harassed upon arrival at U.S. ports of entry, like all Muslim visitors since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the U.S. investment community will hesitate to flood any more capital into a region demonstrating hostility towards it. In this way the murders of all those innocent Armenians in 1915 will come back to haunt the descendants of the killers, as it should be in the end. Justice sometimes has a strange way of surfacing so many years after the crime is committed.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

How To Slice An Apple

From Sunday's pool party out in the 'burbs:

An old accountant asked me how my stocks were doing these days. Of course I mentioned Apple along with my Brazilian and Chinese plays.

"Heard Apple shares might split soon." he quickly added.

That got me listening closely, of course. I almost coughed up my beer. At first I thought he was asking me. We always talk Apple stock when he sees me. I suspect he owns a few shares himself but he never talks directly about his portfolio.

New York City 08674

He plainly said the split would be entirely about liquidity. There are some on Apple's board that do not like the fact that 70% of AAPL shares are owned by institutions, like university endowment funds, mutual funds, and state worker pension funds. They want to increase the ownership base. Stocks like Exxon (XOM) or BAC (Bank of America) are only 50% or less owned by institutions.

He went on to say, "Splits do impact the liquidity of most stocks. There are always going to be more investors ready to buy 10 shares of AAPL at $80/share than Mom and Pop buyers willing to pay $160/share for only 5 shares. Some Apple directors probably want to make more investors out of those young people wearing iPods."

I normally discount any discussion of splits as a waste of time, even when stocks I own split. Nevertheless, this mature gentleman has worked in Finance for 40 years, mostly managing those funds I mentioned earlier.

I told him I bought the majority of the Apple shares I do own a year or so before the last split.

He said, "Has it been fun to see your investment go from approximately $40 a share to, what? $150 a share? Around 250% gains, right?"

"You bet." I quickly answered.

"Made nearly as much on any other stock?"

That answer took some thought, "Uh, 100% gains on some Level 3 Communications (LVLT) I bought in 2005. A fund I own is up 85% since I bought it. And of course, America Movil (AMX)."

"Have you told anybody else about these stocks?"

"You bet." I said again.

"You just proved another point. Splits are almost free publicity. Small investors talk about splits nearly as much as gains. Yet there is really no value added whatsoever by a split. There's some accounting expenses but they're rather minimal." he added.

"So you really think Apple's gonna split?" I said, trying to prod Abe into giving me more details.

"Yes, I do. Now some of my associates do say with Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt (GOOG), the Apple board is stacked with people that would rather just see the price go up and up. The options scandals might make Apple's directors shy of any stock price manipulation of any kind. Those are good points but she'll still split soon.
Say didn't you work for Schmidt in a previous position?"

"Yes, you could say I worked under Eric, way under, for a short period after Cambridge Technology was bought by Novell in 2001. I was a Senior Consultant for CTP. I was a certified Novell Netware network instructor and net installer for 6 years prior to 1998, independently, not as an employee of Novell. Novell did give me plenty of referral work when I was with ExecuTrain though.

How soon before Apple splits?" I still wondered.

"It would typically be announced after a major board meeting. But one more thing, don't buy any shares now just because you're thinking two for the price of one. Remember, the math doesn't work that way. Besides, the price will often dip a little just after a split. Some little investors do not read about the split and sell blindly, thinking they missed something drastic. Automatic price triggers can go off too."

"So when should I buy more?"

"On any significant dips, just like always. Watch it like a hawk just after the split. Definitely, definitely buy it before the holiday sales numbers come in...And one more thing, there's the Beatles thing sneaking up, they already have the solo work of Paul, John, George, and Ringo on iTunes, don't they? Once this McCartney divorce is cleaned up those songs will go on iTunes in a heartbeat. You know it. Not really sure how that translates to significant earnings. It would certainly be nice to have an Apple green iPod loaded with every Beatles song available by December. Might introduce more Boomers to iTunes."

At that point he wandered over to the barbecue and I walked over to a group of women. They all wanted to know what Abe and I were just talking about.

"How to slice an apple." I answered.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Communication at 186,000 Miles Per Second: Woven Fibers Changing Lives

Is Fiber Optic Communication Worth It?

How do we justify massive government and private investment in technology?

Years ago people criticized the French and Japanese for their massive investment in fast trains. Today the citizens of those countries could not live and properly do business without those "bullet trains."

There was plenty of criticism of the United States government when they proposed building the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s. That road network may be rapidly failing today but the benefits remain obvious to most people at this point.

Do I feel the U.S. should have continued to invest in train systems? Private business entities including Union Pacific, Burlington Northern, and Norfolk Southern still do exactly that, profitably.

Japan is about to complete installation of fiber optic cable to nearly every business, government office, school, hospital, and home. Light is available to carry information to millions every second of every day. At an astronomical cost, the Japanese government has heavily subsidized this light-speed communication system. Now people are starting to question the benefits in light of such high costs.
New York City 036590Millennium Bridge 00030Sodom School 0089

Why Improve Communication?

A nation that provides many pathways for young minds to grow and seek knowledge is sure to succeed. Those nations make sure that all children living within their borders receive health care. Responsible nations maintain their school buildings and properly compensate their educators. Education through college should be accessible to all citizens, as they require it, where they can reach it.

Advanced nations are just starting to recognize the need to build fast communication systems. Citizens in some places can communicate with each other at the speed of light. Beyond copper-wired telephone lines lies a system of communicating that reduces the disruption of the communication tool to nearly zero. There seems to be a never ending issue surrounding the capacity of our current communication systems.

People want to send and receive video.

High-resolution teleconferencing looks poised to spread quickly through new business, government, education, and medical applications.

Sports programming is paid for and demanded in real-time, no delays whatsoever.

Movie producers want to transmit movies to theaters and directly into homes.

Actors, musicians and other entertainers want more people to see their shows, hear their tunes and, yes, pay for the privilege of doing so.

Television image quality improves dramatically over fiber. Fiber can carry a significant selection of audio and video channels. Capacity also keeps increasing as scientists learn to bounce more data though each fiber glass strand.

Traffic cameras use fiber to make jams visible faster within a metropolitan network, Security and police surveillance camera networks, like 'em or not, are more responsive over fiber.

Education and training benefit from glass wire. Real-time distance training in a rich virtual classroom environment can benefit both the geographically challenged as well as the physically challenged members of our society. That kind of video rich content needs a fiber connection to really work.

Internet telephone calls must be sharp and without pauses. Calls to emergency numbers like 911 must get through to the correct call center, instantly. Phone systems should not be designed to fail during major emergency situations.

An X-Ray image stored in a hospital office must be visible in great detail in a doctor's office, instantly. Surgeons must be able to hold a discussion or conference call with a primary physician or specialist shortly thereafter and be able to point to parts of that X-Ray during the video discussion. This conference could be held at a time when seconds mean life or death.

New product designers need to send and receive designs faster. Factories need to receive updated product designs faster. Product safety issues need to be resolved faster.

Scientists need better images at shorter intervals for myriad reasons.

New mothers, and fathers, must see baby on-screen at the day care center. This may seem like a scene out of Brave New World but it is reality, like it or not. Maternity benefits are only sufficient in a handful of European nations and Singapore. Ironically, these nations typically have already built fiber optic networks.

Soldiers may kill fewer innocents if they had instantaneous access to real-time imagery of the situations they are about to face. One less grieving family, one less devastated soldier, one less mad bomber blowing up in the marketplace, all for a clear, sharp image of what is actually going on out there. This is more about the use of fiber optic cable among intelligence sources. Sometimes every second is important when the person that approves an attack is 15,000 kilometers away. More importantly, rich content could make a difference even though the final leg to the soldier is likely to be wireless.

Protesters living under evil right-wing regimes and juntas need to send images of military and police repression to the "free world" faster. Imagine if there was a channel that carried live remote camera footage of the Darfur region of Sudan or parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo every morning. Fiber is not necessary but rich digital content could be, no it would definitely be very convincing evidence of the atrocities taking place. When the junta in Myanmar shut off the Internet in that country, it taught the world a multi-faceted lesson people are not likely to forget.

Why Not Just Go Wireless?

Wireless services still require a super fast backbone system of communication. Speed and necessary bandwidth issues will remain an obstacle to certain wireless systems. If there was not so much duplication and waste through competition, wireless would succeed in some respects. There is the promise of widespread WiFi Max and G4 phone systems, someday. Nevertheless, the total capacity of fiber optic communication will always exceed wireless channels by colossal margins. It is all about sending information at 186,000 miles a second with very little interference or attenuation. Think about that speed and sharpness.

What About Satellite Communication?

Satellite communication is an important part of the world's communication system but it is not yet ready to provide an instantaneous, high-bandwidth solution for a multitude of new applications. There are too many miles between the nearest satellite and the surface of the earth. One hundred miles of atmosphere creates an unacceptable delay among other stormy disruptions. Still, this author sits here listening to satellite radio programming and using GPS signals nearly every day. Satellite technology will undoubtedly bridge many communication gaps but it has so far failed in respect to upload bandwidth.

Who Is Building Fiber Optic Networks?

In the United States, a firm called Corning Inc.(GLW) invented and manufactures much of the fiber optic core. Many others buy Corning's glass and incorporate it into other products and services. In the U.S., Verizon Inc. (VZ) and AT&T (T) pay the most money to install new fiber optics. AT&T actually buys wireless services from Level 3 Communications (LVLT). Verizon markets their own fiber optic network, FiOS, as an alternative to cable television. Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) certainly makes money supporting fiber connections. Other, smaller, firms benefiting from fiber optic investment include ADC Telecommunications Inc. (ADCT), CommScope Inc. (CTV), General Cable Corporation (BGC), and Optical Cable Corporation (OCCF), but there are many others.

What about Dark Fiber?

Dark Fiber or unlit fiber optic glass line is not really the issue it was years ago. Developments continue in the science of using glass to transmit data. Corning, MIT, and NIST (The U.S. National Institute of Standards) seem to be leading the pack of switch designers and connector manufacturers. As fast as Verizon, AT&T, and Level 3 partners sell space in dark fiber, scientists learn to move more data through each strand. Butter's Law of Photonics applies here, the amount of data able to pass through glass fiber doubles every nine months. Therefore, the cost of data transmission drops by half every nine months.

A recent earthquake in the Pacific severed a major undersea communications cable. Fiber optic cables allowed almost instantaneous shifting of that huge data stream to a different network. Spare fiber optic cable capacity can also be seen as redundancy that further supports fiber optic claims of superior reliability. Optical Cable Corp., mentioned above, is one of several fiber optic vendors to military customers. Some cell phone towers and service providers can always be expected to fail in unusual circumstances. Spare capacity in fiber optic networks may be the only available space for data to flow during major emergencies.

The Future

Fiber optic communication appears to be the only answer to huge communication issues, not the least being ever-increasing demand for bandwidth. New applications that make use of optical network capacity appear every year. Fiber optic solutions are being installed every day in every city across the nation. One inventor I know is working on an emergency system to allow police and fire departments to automatically unlock all WiFi routers and connect that network to every cell phone network, using fiber optic networks, of course. The resulting nearly seamless network could be immediately used by First Responders anywhere in the United States. Of course each user would need to be carrying a device with capabilities similar to the iPhone. Spooky project but not without some advantages.

How are you going to use your new fiber optic connection tomorrow?

Link: New York Times article

Monday, October 01, 2007

Investing In Cell Phones (Mobile Phones)

The international boom in telecommunications is only set to continue. Investor focus is naturally pulled into the markets where new customers are signing up in great numbers. Look at year-to-date increases in the value of the shares of a few players:

China Mobile (CHL, 97%)
Brasil Telecom, (BRP, 77%)
America Movil (AMX, 45%)
Millicom International (MICC, 40%)
Bharti Airtel (532454, 35%)

Key suppliers including Nokia (NOK, 88%), Broadcom (BRCM, 15%), Apple (AAPL, 85%), and Sony (SNE, 15%) are hardly in a rut for 2007. Check out the firms that own collections of cell towers: American Tower (AMT, 18%), Crown Castle (CCI, 26%) and SBA Communications (SBAC, 30%)*.
New York City 18656Scribners Building 00008
People living in more and more remote areas are finally getting reliable phone service from someone other than a state telephone company. Cellular towers are springing up in every imaginable place. As much as I dislike the clutter of the cell tower I do appreciate the benefits of the affordable phone service they provide.

Farmers now make a quick cell phone call to check prices before bringing goods to market, buyers check on suppliers with a quick call from the city, sales people cannot live without it, international and domestic tourists take their cell phone along for the holiday, and finally, the Internet often rides those last few miles on a cell phone network. A trend in Africa, banking solely by cell phone, will merge with smart card technology to bring easy commerce to any geographic location. Any location served by cell phones, that is!

In the U.S. and Europe most people already own at least one cell phone. In the UK people appear to own 4 cell phones (children are carrying some of those handsets). In Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, cell phone usage is spreading to the village level. Though the top players could change, look for the overall trend to continue for many years.

*I am currently researching overseas vendors of cell tower equipment.