This page is an archive from our previous website. Please check out our new website where you can read new COMMENTARY eNewsletters, TELL IT LIKE IT IS blog posts or Press Releases.
Amazon does not make a big deal out of the wireless portion of the Kindle, it only talks about wireless in the context of being able to deliver content to the Kindle,

Wireless: 300 Percent Penetration

Monday, January 07, 2008

I just received my new Kindle, the electronic book from I have set it up and already downloaded a book using “Whispernet” wireless access. Whispernet, Amazon’s way of masking the high-speed broadband service from the customer, is actually Sprint’s EV-DO Rev A service. With the Amazon Kindle, you turn Whispernet on when you need it and, if you are in range, it works seamlessly for purchasing and downloading books. There is even an indication of signal strength and a short blurb in the set-up manual about the fact that performance might vary depending on your distance from a cellular tower location.


The only files I have to transfer to my Kindle by attaching a USB cable are MP3 and Audible files―everything else is sent wirelessly, including my new Kindle email address (name) From the Website, you can basically configure and download books, newspapers and other materials to the Kindle. (As you might expect, someone has grabbed and it is up and running, offering a number of other services including hotel reservations, rental cars, flights, dating and more. It is not clear if this is an official site, but I am willing to bet it is not!)


But this blog entry is not meant to be about the Kindle, which I am only beginning to learn to use. It is meant to be about the fact that Kindle is the first consumer product I know of that includes high-speed wireless data as a function of the product and not as a selling point. Sprint is simply the network Amazon has chosen to deliver new books, magazines, newspapers and other materials.


Amazon does not make a big deal out of the wireless portion of the Kindle, it only talks about wireless in the context of being able to deliver content to the Kindle, some email and perhaps some access to the Internet. In fact, there are no wireless airtime charges (or at least none I have discovered). Instead, when I subscribe to receive the New York Times, for example, it costs $13.99 per month including wireless delivery. A subscription to Time Magazine is only $1.49 per month, again, including wireless delivery. This makes the Kindle the first consumer device I have seen on the market that makes use of a commercial wireless network but does not require customers to pay a monthly fee, sign a contract or otherwise become a network customer.


We will be seeing more devices such as this―CES will probably be full of them this week. These are not voice-centric devices; they simply make use of high-speed wireless data delivered by wireless networks. The communications is two-way, so within a few seconds of my book being delivered to my Kindle, the Website reflected that it had been delivered.


The Kindle uses CDMA EV-DO Rev A on the Sprint network but Intel believes the bulk of such devices will be on the WiMAX network going forward. However, the Gobi chipset by Qualcomm provides new ubiquity of wireless broadband access around the world, so my bet is that we will be seeing many more of these devices making use of UTMS/HSPA and CDMA EV-DO than WiMAX. Imagine two people sharing experiences, one using WiMAX in the United States and one using the Sprint EV-DO network. For a number of years, WiMAX coverage will be spotty at best (assuming the network is built) while the CDMA EV-DO network is already fairly robust and offers great coverage in many places around the nation. WiMAX will have a long way go to catch up.


But this is not about WiMAX, either. It is about the fact that our wireless penetration rate is about 85% of the U.S. population and more than 100% in some areas of the world. The final figures may well reach 300% as a result of devices such as the Kindle, standalone navigation systems, game consoles, automobiles, perhaps our electronic wallets, dog and cat collars and lots of command-and-control functions so we can check our houses, garage doors and all manner of things.


With the addition of my Kindle, I now have a wireless phone, a BlackBerry and my notebook with embedded EV-DO. I’m probably not a typical consumer, but I’m certainly not atypical either. The Kindle is a better product because I can download books no matter where I am, my iPod not! If I am sitting in an airport and want to load a new book before I board the plane, I can easily find one I have not read, download it and walk onto the plane. While I will get a bill at the end of the month, I won’t get two bills, one from Amazon and one from Sprint!


Wireless is no longer about a wireless device over which we can have voice conversations and gain access to our email or Websites. It is now also about other devices we want to use that will become more valuable because they are wirelessly enabled. While wireless makes a major contribution to the success of the device, it stays in the background and does not get in the way. My Kindle service did not require that I sign up with Sprint, commit to a two-year contract or decide whether I wanted an unlimited data plan. This service is simple―the cost of delivery is embedded into the price of what I buy, and I don’t get a second bill.


Amazon and Sprint have done a great job with this product. Except for those who have a problem using a standard wireless phone, customers will have the Kindle up and running quickly and easily.


Andrew M. Seybold

COMMENTS: This is an archived post. Commenting is no longer available.

Liz Dordal - 01/08/2008 06:38:44

Excellent article Andy! (Which I happen to be reading from my Sprint Mogul)!

Andrew Seybold - 01/08/2008 09:59:44

Thanks Liz--and Happy New Year!

Jim Jones - 01/08/2008 11:55:52

It is great to finally see this pricing model from a technology vendor.

Andrew Seybold - 01/08/2008 12:15:38

Jim--yes looks to me like out ancillary devices, which use wireless for updating or downloading --books in this case--will not require a separate wireless subscribption, I wonder if that makes Amazon a MVNO, but I don't think so since EV-DO is just a delivery method for them and not really a core part of the device.

Greg Lee - 01/09/2008 03:13:39

Andy, I agree with you, it is the Kindle business model that is really interesting. FYI, several rags/mags are reporting that Amazon is an MVNO (e.g. This really seems necessary (to me) in order for them to reduce the costs as much as possible.


Andrew Seybold - 01/09/2008 10:21:50

Greg--while I don't know what the arrangement is between Sprint and Amazon, I would not classify it as an MVNO--an MVNO is a company, to me, that is selling wireless devices--phones, on an company's network and paying for doing so. Amazon is not a wireless company and is only using the network as transport---a very different model than an MVNO to me.

Greg Lee - 01/09/2008 13:22:00

Andy, if Amazon were strictly purchasing accounts from Sprint and putting them on these devices then I would agree with you, and I don't have any information that says that is not what they are doing other than a few articles I have read referring to Amazon as an MVNO with some light details, however, logic leads me to believe that if Amazon wants to scale the Kindle they do have an MVNO relationship with Sprint. I think issues such as billing, back-end servers access, private wireless IP networks, device provisioning, etc. will lead any company who wants to put 100,000+ devices on a cellular network to enter into an MVNO relationship with a wireless provider. Companies like Kore Wireless ( are MVNOs that enable this arrangement for other companies that don't or can't do an MVNO on their own, in Kore's case they are targeting the M2M market and if they are successful you will have to retitle this article "1000 Percent Penetration" since every soda machine and electric meter in North America will have a mobile phone in it.

I think our difference in opinion comes from the fact that I am focused on the technical details of what an MVNO is (billing system, separate HLR, private wireless IP network for the MVNO, provisioning interfaces, etc) while you are focus on the marketing end of an MVNO --- different viewpoints on the MVNO creature.


Andrew Seybold - 01/09/2008 13:40:45

Greg--perhaps you are correct--but if all I do is to purchase airtime from Sprint in bulk, write them a check for it each month and bury the cost of that wireless delivery in the cost of the books I am selling I don't think this is a MVNO--when you have a Kindle you ONLY get billed when your purchase something and you don't get a bill for airtime--it is not broken out anywhere that I can see--and I don't think it really matters what they are called--it is a great business model, it shields the customer from having to sign-up and pay a bill for wireless services, etc. As for Kore, they are one of a number of M2M companies, the largest of which is Aeris, which has many different relationships with networks depending upon what kind of deal they have made--since they have their own SS7 Switch you might call them an MVNO but I don't.
As for phones being in Coke machines etc. this has been discussed for many years--years ago an industry group even got together to design and spec a connector for vending machines so that every radio would be compatible with every machine--and yes, over time we will see more embedded wireless but the Coke machine has been pointed out as an example of M2M at least since Craig McCaw started pushing CDPD in the early to mid-1990's, and before that Metricom was planning the same thing--
I will define a traditional MVNO as a company that resells airtime to customers--and prehaps content, but that is their sole business model, in the case of Amazon, Sprint's wireless connection is an enabler to help Amazon deliver their content, but no body will buy a Kindle because it is on the Sprint network.
Best regards


Chris Purpura - 01/17/2008 16:28:32

Full Disclosure: I'm an employee of Aeris Communications (mentioned above). I do have to say, that Andy's right about a number of things here (as usual). There is a HUGE difference between reselling standard connectivity and airtime, and building new services around that pipe. Not to debate the definitions of an MVNO (I've yet to find a consistent one that fits all cases), but rather to use what Andy has has pointed out as unique about the Kindle to illustrate the difference I mention above. The fact that wireless is simply a featured delivery mechanism for purchased content is what is profound here. It's hidden in pretty much every way (already mentioned). If a company (other than a brand name like Amazon) is looking to build a consumer or corporate product (non-handset based), getting rid of all the complexities of wireless operators is very difficult to do. You first have to try to approach a carrier (good luck). Then you'll have to wrap your business model or product idea around the cell phone business model (it's all they've typically got to sell). Then you'll have to figure out how to get your device through carrier certification (3-6mos). Then you'll have to engineer how to remotely manage the device population (can't assume the user will be able to dial 611 for help - no phone remember?). And the list goes on and on... Or, you can leverage 15 years of experience, technology, tools, and pricing models that companies like Aeris have already built for you, saving time to market and money. I really applaud Amazon's approach to this. It shows real innovation and investment to get the model right. I also applaud Sprint for allowing them to do it this way. For a company that is getting beat up pretty good in the press these days, this shows real vision. It's why we've partnered with them as well.

One things for sure, the term MVNO is really meaningless now. :)