Tuesday

Cox Announces Limited Gigabit Broadband Expansion Plans -


Cox Communications today announced that the company will be expanding its "Gigablast" gigabit service to limited portions of four states. According to the Cox announcement, Gigablast is now being offered in portions of Phoenix, Arizona; Orange County, California; Omaha, Nebraska and Las Vegas, Nevada. However, the company still isn't saying just how many customers overall can get -- or have signed up for -- the speedy service.

Just about one year ago Cox announced it would be delivering gigabit speeds via fiber to select, high-end housing developments, then offering gigabit service via DOCSIS 3.1 and coaxial starting sometime next year.

In today's announcement, Cox said the company would be offering Gigablast to limited portions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Virginia starting this summer.

Again, you can expect the service to primarily be targeted at higher-end housing developments where fiber was already in the ground and the return on investment is high. Prices vary by market and regional competition, but start as low as $70 a month when bundled with TV service, $100 standalone.

"We started in Phoenix last fall, but we have not stopped there. We are excited to have the choice of gigabit speeds available to more customers today, and we re adding new building projects every month, Cox president Pat Esser said in a statement.
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NVIDIA Plans To Wind Down Icera Modem Operations In 2016

Today NVIDIA announced plans to wind down their Icera modem operations in the latter half of their fiscal 2016. Icera was originally an independent British semiconductor company before they were purchased by NVIDIA in 2011 for $367 million dollars. Their operations primarily focused on software and hardware design for wireless modems, with a strong focus on the software side. Their main product offering was their line of software modems (often shortened to softmodem) for use in cellular hotspots, computers, and mobile devices.

All modems function through a combination of hardware and software. However, at the time of NVIDIA's purchase, Icera's solution was significantly more software based than Qualcomm's. Since Qualcomm was really the only big name in modems at the time, NVIDIA's purchase of Icera made sense in order to ship future Tegra chips without having to rely on external basebands. Unfortunately, NVIDIA's efforts to ship SoCs with integrated modems in the mobile space haven't worked out as well as planned. While there have been some past design wins for discrete Icera basebands such as in the ZTE Mimosa X, NVIDIA wasn't able to drive adoption of their Tegra 4i SoC with its integrated Icera i500 baseband, and Tegra chips since that time have relied on external modems from Qualcomm or other manufacturers.

NVIDIA's press release states that Icera currently employs around 500 employees, which are mostly located in the United Kingdom and France. They are open to a sale of Icera's technology or the company itself. It's unlikely that they'll be able to sell the company for anything near the original $367 million dollars that they paid, as many different companies have begun to offer their own softmodem products in the years since then.

Intel Releases SSD DC S3510

In February Intel refreshed its enterprise SATA SSD lineup with the DC S3610 and S3710 SSDs, but left the entry-level S35xx series untouched. That changes today with the launch of the DC S3510, which succeeds the popular S3500 that has been around since late 2012.

Similar to its big brothers, the S3510 features Intel's second generation SATA 6Gbps controller that was first introduced in the high capacity S3500 models late last year. Intel has remained quiet about the specifics of the second generation controller (and the SATA 6Gbps controller as a whole), but we do know that it adds support for larger capacities, which suggests the internal caches and DRAM controller could be larger.

The most significant change in the S3510 is the NAND. The S3510 switches to IMFT's latest 16nm 128Gbit MLC NAND node, which is a rather surprising move given that all Intel's client SSDs are still utilizing 20nm NAND. The reason lies behind the fact that Intel didn't invest in IMFT's 16nm node, meaning that Micron produces and owns all 16nm NAND output. Intel and Micron reconsider the partnership and investments for each generation separately and for 16nm Intel decided not to invest -- likely because Intel's focus is in the enterprise nowadays and 16nm is more geared towards the client market given its lower endurance, and Intel also wanted to concentrate more heavily in the companies' upcoming 3D NAND.

That said, Intel and Micron do have strong supply agreements in place, which gives Intel access to Micron's 16nm NAND despite not investing in its development and production. I suspect the use of 16nm NAND is why the S3510 wasn't launched alongside the S3610 and S3710 earlier this year because validating a new NAND node is time consuming and might be that the 16nm node wasn't even mature enough for the enterprise back then. In any case, the S3510 is the first enterprise SSD to utilize sub-19nm NAND, which is a respectable achievement on its own already.

Intel SSD DC S3510 Specifications
Capacity 80GB 120GB 240GB 480GB 800GB 1.2TB 1.6TB
Controller Intel 2nd Generation SATA 6Gbps Controller
NAND Micron 16nm 128Gbit Standard Endurance Technology (SET) MLC
Sequential Read 375MB/s 475MB/s 500MB/s 500MB/s 500MB/s 500MB/s 500MB/s
Sequential Write 110MB/s 135MB/s 260MB/s 440MB/s 460MB/s 440MB/s 430MB/s
4KB Random Read 68K IOPS 68K IOPS 68K IOPS 68K IOPS 67K IOPS 67K IOPS 65K IOPS
4KB Random Write 8.4K IOPS 5.3K IOPS 10.2K IOPS 15.1K IOPS 15.3K IOPS 20K IOPS 15.2K IOPS
Avg Read Power 1.93W 2.14W 2.21W 2.32W 2.39W 2.61W 2.69W
Avg Write Power 1.91W 2.14W 3.06W 4.45W 4.74W 5.24W 5.59W
Endurance 45TB 70TB 140TB 275TB 450TB 660TB 880TB

On the performance side, the S3510 provides slightly better random write performance at larger capacities than its predecessor (you can find the S3500 specs here), but other than that the S3510 is a very close match with the S3500. Typical to enterprise SSDs, the S3510 features AES-256 hardware and full power loss protection that protects all data, including in-flight user writes, from sudden power losses.

Comparison of Intel's Enterprise SATA SSDs
S3510 S3610 S3710
Form Factors 2.5" 2.5" & 1.8" 2.5"
Capacity Up to 1.6TB Up to 1.6TB Up to 1.2TB
NAND 16nm MLC 20nm HET MLC 20nm HET MLC
Endurance 0.3 DWPD 3 DWPD 10 DWPD
Random Read Performance Up to 68K IOPS Up to 84K IOPS Up to 85K IOPS
Random Write Performance Up to 20K IOPS Up to 28K IOPS Up to 45K IOPS

The endurance is also equal to the S3500 and comes in at 0.3 drive writes per day for five years, which is a typical rating for entry-level enterprise SSDs that are mostly aimed for read intensive workloads like media streaming. For more write-centric applications, Intel offers the S3610 and S3710 with higher endurance and better write performance (but at a higher cost, of course). I didn't get the S3510 MSRPs from Intel yet, but I suspect that the S3510 is priced around $0.80 per gigabyte, but I'll confirm this as soon as I hear back from Intel.

All in all, even though the industry is transitioning more and more towards PCIe and NVMe, there is still a huge market for SATA drives. Many applications don't necessarily benefit much from higher performance and especially hyperscale customers are looking at cost and compatibility, which is where SATA is still the king of the hill.

Pricey

THERE was an interesting factoid that we did not have room to mention in our recent piece on the rouble. Though it is still much less valuable than it was a year ago, by some measures it is still very overvalued. The chart below, from Zsolt Darvas of Bruegel, a think-tank, shows the “real effective exchange rate” for four currencies: the rouble, the dollar, the “German euro” and the “Greek euro” (the last two indices adjust the value of the euro for inflation in Germany and Greece). It is indexed to May 2000, the month that Vladimir Putin first became president of Russia.

The real effective exchange adjusts the market exchange rate for inflation. This is an important adjustment. If the exchange rate between two countries is fixed, but their inflation...Continue reading

Sprint Still Struggling, But Holds Third Place Spot (For Now) -


This week's earnings report for Sprint was a heavily anticipated one, given it should provide whether or not new owner SoftBank and CEO Marcelo Claure are turning things around for the struggling operator. The results are rather mixed. According to Sprint's report, the company continues to lose core postpaid customers, but the rate of decline is slower than this time last year.

Sprint added 1.2 million total users, compared to 967,000 customers gained a quarter earlier, and a net losses of 383,000 customers during the same quarter last year.

In a small victory for the company, Sprint actually managed to retain its third-place position in terms of the total number of carriers, despite all of the noise T-Mobile is making with its consumer-friendly branding. With T-Mobile leading all carriers in terms of subscriber additions and the difference now of only around 305,000 users, that victory may not last long.

Meanwhile, Sprint's network continues to lag in latency and speed performance when compared to the other three carriers, but the company continues to insist it's working on a new round of "Next Generation Network" upgrades I'll have a follow up post on. A big criticism of Sprint is that the network everybody wants seems perpetually around the next corner.

All told, Sprint reported a loss of $224 million during the first quarter, up from a loss of $151 million the same quarter one year earlier. Sprint also saw overall revenue drop from $9 billion to $8.28 billion, thanks in large part to heavy marketing and promotions.

Still, the company's CEO was quick to highlight the fact that Sprint has seen subscriber growth two concurrent quarters with the company's total net addition of 170,000 new monthly subscribers. "We continue to focus on both quantity and quality," Claure told attendees of the company's earnings call.
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AnandTech Call for Writers: 2015

The Call for Writers has become something of an annual tradition over here at AnandTech. As anyone who follows the site knows very well, the list of things we have to review/cover usually exceeds our available time. So the call for writers gives us a chance to find new talent and new opportunities to grow, be it into new coverage areas entirely or just covering more of the existing products our readers have come to enjoy over the years.

In the last year of course we were acquired by Purch, which presents us with some additional opportunities we have not had in the past. Purch is making good on their commitment to helping us grow, which means that for 2015 in particular we're aiming higher than ever before.

Anyhow, the ultimate purpose of the Call for Writers is to find new talent. To continue to grow, we need your help. We're looking for writers with a true passion for the technology we cover, a deep understanding of what's out there and a thirst for more knowledge.

We're looking for contributors to help out both with reviews as well as our short to medium form Pipeline coverage. The areas in particular we're looking for help with are listed below:

  • SSDs
  • Monitors
  • GPUs
  • Mobile (US-only, potential for quick promotion to full-time)
  • Systems/Laptops (US-only)
  • Networking
  • Home Automation
  • Professional Graphics
  • Pipeline

If you find yourself at the intersection of knowledge and passion about any of those areas, and have some time to contribute, you're exactly what we're looking for. These are paid, part-time positions that we're looking to fill, with most positions open on a world-wide basis, and certain positioned primed for a quick promotion to full-time. What I need is a writing sample that demonstrates your ability to talk about any one of these topics. Your sample can be in the form of a review, a pipeline post or an analysis piece - it should be something that looks like it would fit in on AnandTech.

Once you've produced it, send it on over to callforwriters@anandtech.com. We'll read through all samples but can't guarantee a reply due to the sheer volume of submissions we tend to receive. If we like what you've sent and there's a potential fit on the team, we'll be in touch.

I'll conclude this post with a passage from our About page:

In the early days of technology reporting on the web the focus was almost exclusively on depth. We had a new medium for content that didn't come with the same restrictions as more traditional forms. We could present as much data as we felt was necessary and we could do it quicker.

As the web grew, so did the approach to gaining readership. In many cases, publishers learned from the tips and tricks of more traditional media to growing their audience. The focus shifted away from ultimate understanding of what was being reported, to producing content significantly motivated by increasing traffic, or revenue, or both. Thorough observations were out; sensationalism, link baiting, and the path to shallow 10-o'clock-news reporting were in.

While I believe it's definitely easier to produce content by going this route, I don't believe it's the only way to build a well read website.

If the above resonates with you and you'd like to help by being a part of something different, I'd encourage you to submit a writing sample.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How old do I need to be to work for AnandTech?
A: You need to be old enough to legally work in your country of residence without significant restriction. Otherwise we have no specific requirements so long as you can do the job well. Anand started the site at 14, after all.

Q: Do I need to be located in the United States to work for AnandTech?
A: Some positions do require that you be in the US for logistical reasons, and those specific positions are noted. However unless otherwise noted, most positions are open on a world-wide basis.

Q: Do I need to supply my own products for testing or contacts at companies? (i.e. do I need to be an insider?)
A: No. Assuming for the moment you have a computer to write on, then you already have the most important piece of equipment that you need. Meanwhile you will need some knowledge of the field at hand, but will introduce you to the people you need to know for your position at AnandTech.

Q: Can I really work for AnandTech even though I don't have a Ph.D in electrical engineering?
A: Yes! We are first and foremost looking for people with a passion to learn, and the knack to make it happen. There's a certain degree of baseline knowledge needed for any given position, but if you can read existing AnandTech articles then you're already half-way there.

Q: Is there a submission deadline?
A: We have a tentative end point for the end of May.

Monday

Comcast Still Experimenting With Offering Electricity -


Early in 2014 we noted that Comcast was toying with the idea of getting into the electricity business in their home state of Pennsylvania. That effort has went live in March of 2014, with Comcast teaming up with a unit of NRG Energy to effectively bundle electricity with Comcast's suite of phone, cable, broadband, and home security services. The program, dubbed Energy Rewards, offered users who signed up for Comcast's new energy services prepaid Visa cards and three free months of HBO, Showtime or Starz.

Comcast discontinued that particular trial back in January of this year, but now appears to have relaunched the trial program with a different utility partner: Crius Energy. Comcast also appears to have expanded the offering, now providing the service to customers in Pennsylvania and Illinois. The program offers two, two-year contract options:

quote:
• SafeSwitch Fixed: Offers a lock-in rate for 24 months, plus a $100 savings rebate if the customer does not save money over the terms of the plan. Comcast noted that this tier is for customers looking for long-term price certainty. Customers taking the SafeSwitch Fixed tier are subject to a $100 early termination fee.

• SafeSwitch Flex: Starts at a rate 5% below the local utility s current supply rate, and a guaranteed rate cap. Comcast said this is for consumers looking for lower rates, plus longer-term price protection. After the 24-month term, customers on the Flex tier will be notified of renewal plan options.
The FAQ for the program is available here.
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