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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 7th January 2008

BT strikes in the set-top box market; they’re the first to ship Xbox360 consoles as IPTV endpoints. And there’s more; BT Vision gets an “on-screen magazine” based on the same single platform. We’ve often said that the fixed-line world doesn’t get user equipment, and that this creates interesting opportunities; BT has just leapt right on it. See our case study on Iliad’s Freebox in the Broadband Business Models report.

PS: we’re trying out a new format for Ring! Ring!…

Rumour: are those Chinese 3G licences coming at last? It’s one of the industry’s perennial stories; will China eventually get on with its 3G licencing, or are they still hoping that TD-SCDMA will turn out useful? The real problem now is that even if they get it working, “it” is a moving target; since 2005, “3G” top speeds have gone from 384Kbits/s (if you’re lucky) to 7.2Mbits/s, WiMAX has burst onto the scene (Czech Vodafone may jump straight to it), and if it’s cheap connectivity for the bush you’re after, GSM is cheaper than ever and EDGE (as well as the future Evolved EDGE) will get reasonable data rates out there. Speaking of which, here’s Mobile Monday Mumbai with more on value-added services for the countryside.

Tesco MVNO is angered by spectrum refarming. Tesco Mobile is apparently scared that refarming the 900MHz band will stop O2 offering GSM service; perhaps no-one’s told them that UMTS is significantly cheaper as a way of delivering bulk voice? Meanwhile, the UK Government and the European Union are falling out over the big spectrum review; the EU wants to technology-mandate, while OFCOM wants technology neutrality with interference restrictions.

AT&T gets into CDNing; this is being framed as a Net Neutrality story, for some reason. But part of the beauty of CDNing is that it doesn’t imply the real sin of non-neutrality, which is that making some bits go faster means making others go slower unless you have spare capacity, in which case there’s no point anyway. You just deliver from somewhere else; nobody is being discriminated against. If neutrality and AT&T are your worries, far better worry about their grandiose IMS schemes.

There’s also a cracking Wired article on the fate of your data slipstream. It’s already becoming a feature of many social network sites that they have a really closed-minded attitude to yout data; not only can you not take it with you, but they aren’t at all keen on you building anything interesting with it. (See the great Scoble vs Facebook row.) Now imagine what happens if and when a mobile operator gets a clue and does something interesting with their CDR stream; we’re going to have this problem writ telco-large. This is the issue Keith Wallington of Truphone so presciently raised at the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in October. He reckoned it would be at least as important as number portability.

Sony tinkers with Mylo; but far more interestingly, introduces Skype on the PSP. Our Broadband Business Models survey showed expectations of a surge in “embedded voice” in the next 10 years; that’s voice communication included as a function in unlikely devices like games consoles. There’s even a BT angle…as the FT reports, there may be a video/voice messaging service coming for PSP players who are also BT customers.

Tiscali, meanwhile, has decided that what it needs to go with its low-margin ISP business is….a low-margin discount MVNO. Clearly.

The other Sony, of course, is the media-entertainment giant; interestingly, it looks like they are becoming the next crack in the DRM fortress. Despite having historically been the most aggressive DRM proponents, they’re going to start selling music without it; anyone remember the Sony rootkit? How things change.

A war is breaking out for leadership among the mobile development platforms; everyone’s getting open. The OpenMoko Linux distro just announced a new version of its Neo1973 gadget that won’t require you to compile the kernel; phew, frankly that was only a couple of steps from asking your users to fab the chips. Meanwhile, they’ve got their first major customer; it’s not a mobile phone vendor, but GPS specialists Dash Navigation. We wonder whether their next satnavs will have some voice capability. The Register is doing a series comparing the rivals here; OpenMoko is first up, with Google Android coming soon.

But they’re still proliferating. Evolving: here comes Yahoo! with its own mobile webdev platform. An SDK is expected soon.

Giant electronics show CES is on this week, so the Web is littered with gadget stories; here’s another version of the perennial “project your mobile screen on things” idea, if you care. Sony Ericsson and Motorola launched new gadgets; Microsoft’s next version of Windows Mobile will support touchscreens; Nokia put more memory in the N95. Woo.

Far more significantly, something called “Pudding” has invented something evil. It’s software that listens in on your phone calls! Software that picks out specific keywords! Software that listens to your phone calls, picks out specific keywords, and uses them to send you advertising! And they claim it works for VoIP and Web-voice/callback operators, too. It was nice when it was only the government who listened to your phone calls…but seriously, this sort of thing is a kind of strange attractor for telcos. It holds out the prospect of lovely ad revenue, whilst also playing to their natural centralising instincts; and it’s going to be absolutely loathed and despised by all good people, which is why it will probably fail (to say nothing of the fact that if you’re speaking on a mobile phone, by definition you’re not looking at the screen).

And you can be certain the government will want the logs. Nokia’s Gabor Torok, meanwhile, points out that mobile advertising may cannibalise operators’ data revenues, rather than substituting for voice revenues; it’s traffic and has to be carried, after all, so data prices must come down to make it work. Alternatively, you could fork out the capex for a huge dynamic charging/rating/DPI system. Hmmm.

His colleague Robin Jewsbury, meanwhile, considers the parallels between those new mobile development environments and the golden age of Unix. What is the equivalent of the Internet for mobile, he asks? Could be the Internet, perhaps.

David Lynch, meanwhile, is not happy about mobile video:

Curiously, Osama bin Laden doesn’t agree with him.

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Comments

I have pretty solid information from Sina that 3G licenses will not be coming out before the Olympics, and likely not in 2008. The information comes from a conference call.

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