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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 9th June 2008

In Today’s Issue: FTel/Teliasonera nightmare off; Singtel/Indosat off; visual voicemail for all; iPhones to be 50% subsidised; David Isenberg, underworld spy; DTAG, spy; VZW buys Alltel; secret Phorm docs; Android-Access row, but mobile Linux marches on; 3GPP femto standard less unready than before; 3UK crash; Qtel spends a billion in Iraq

FTel backs away from a fresh round of value-slaughtering M&A - that’s sense, Withnail. Apparently there have been so many leaks that the French stock market regulator won’t let them go ahead - as if that would be a problem for a French state company wanting to make a huge deal. Sounds like a good pretext to back down with dignity - especially as the deal involved paying €24 a share in shares, with France Telecom shares at €18.

In other news related to sensible restraint, SingTel and Temasek step away from their stake in Indosat - fortunately there’s still Qtel in the market for huge and legally entangled telecoms M&A. Perhaps we could all go away and work on improving our key voice & messaging products? Or, alternatively, we could give the customers money to buy our stuff with. That always works…and there’s no chance anyone else will, right? YouMail, meanwhile, introduces a better voicemail service for a wide range of gadgets.

Guess which one they chose? The new iPhone, it turns out, will go on the market with the help of a $200 slug of AT&T’s cash for every gadget. Surely, surely, Apple can’t have managed to get the telcos to pay a revenue share and subsidise the selling price? But then, it’s not as if the telecoms industry hasn’t had its fair share of crooks.

David Isenberg remembers some of them in a post about the early days of Telecosm and the ruffians who could be found there, from Gary “Global Crossing” Winnick to Henry “Broadcom Secret Bunker” Nicholas via Michael Milken. This week saw even more relevations about the spying scandal at DTAG, as Der Spiegel poured forth more and more detail on how the company systematically made use of an informal network of corporate security men to put journalists and members of its own board under surveillance. As well as traffic-analysing their calls, they also mapped their movements from the CDR stream and correlated this with bank information, oh, and introduced a mole into a magazine’s editorial staff.

Which is interesting - T-Mobile USA was, next to Qwest, the only telco to resist illegal surveillance in the US. We always thought this was because they were concerned about legal action in Germany, especially as roaming customers from their German, UK, Dutch and other European networks could have been spied upon as well. But that hardly fits with the image of a firm that was busy monitoring half the German press.

No other company, after all, had internal transatlantic roaming - AT&T isn’t present in Europe, and Verizon Wireless/Vodafone straddles the standards divide. They, meanwhile, have bought Alltel for $26.5bn, which makes them the biggest US operator by a nose. Chris Gent would have been proud. Especially as, like all his big deals, someone else is paying for it. The someone being Verizon and Vodafone shareholders - basically, the acquisition is being funded out of VZW’s cashflow, which means there won’t be any dividend for even longer. Perhaps Chris Gent would have been delighted.

Secret BT documents are leaked over the original Phorm trials - apparently they’ll only need up to 300 servers for the damn thing, so that’s OK. Meanwhile, OFCOM wants some rules about how you advertise broadband. Your breadth may vary.

Open-source expert from Access demands to know what’s up with Google Android - is it really all that open? Perhaps it’s the wrong question. Access’s Linux gadgets really impressed Telco 2.0 at this year’s 3GSM, and it looks like there’ll be space for a few competitors, as Windows Mobile is expected to fall behind Linux by 2013.

The 3GPP has decided on an architecture for femtocells - but it’s not “I bring you tidings of great joy - we have a standard” time yet. They have an architecture, but that isn’t the same thing as a standard, even if it appears to be the same as the existing GAN. Still, it’s progress. Speaking of architecture, 3UK is looking for a clue, after the server operating its pre-pay reload fell down. The server.

And Qtel is planning to invest $1bn in more towers in Iraq. We can’t imagine what might possibly go wrong.

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