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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 15th September 2008

In Today’s Issue: Nobody wants landlines; Apple zaps apps, caps AppStore competitors, Winer flaps; Open Hack Day@Yahoo!; implementation of sci-fi dystopia for the iPhone; Vodafone deckchair redeployment; T-Mobile Android phone; C&W builds non-virtual GSM operator for Tesco; free airtime for ad viewers, human or not; attack of the terminators; 3UK says no; KPN-Bouygues MVNO deal; the Internet interprets America as damage and routes around it; screen-scanning check-in; warrants needed for LBS snooping

A sign of the times: David Isenberg points out that the University of Kentucky has stopped providing fixed phone lines in the halls of residence, as nobody wants them. And before mobile operators start to gloat, don’t think those same students will forever tolerate voice and messaging services that in no way integrate with the rest of their online lives. Where are the voice and messaging applications of the future?

Perhaps not on the iPhone, whatever Apple says. Blog legend Dave Winer says you can’t trust them not to kill your application. If you want to market something through the App Store, it has to be approved in advance by Apple. And as usual, once you start censoring for one reason, pretty soon you find all kinds of others:

Yesterday it came out that they rejected an app called Podcaster because it competed with iTunes, an Apple product. Maybe it was better than iTunes in some way, or simpler, more focused, had features iTunes didn’t have? It doesn’t matter, it illustrates exactly why Apple shouldn’t assume this power, or if they insisit on it, you’d have to be crazy to develop iPhone apps. Consider this possibility. Next year Apple announces an app that does what your previously authorized iPhone app does. You have competition, so another competitor, even if it is the platform vendor, isn’t that big a deal, right? Well what if they de-authorize your app because it duplicates functionality of theirs? Think you could live with that?

Read the whole thing. Now that the 3G iPhone is actually subsidised, as well as subject to revenue sharing, by the mobile operators, well… you have to worry. iPhone developer Fraser Speirs agrees. This whole saga is a foretaste of the upcoming tension in the telco business model: partners will want to integrate with core voice and messaging network elements, and this same process places them in a position to compete with those core services. Embrace, extend, extinguish — a well trodden path.

Compare, if you will, Open Hack Day over at Yahoo! They are busy bringing on as many new ideas as they can manage. Mind you, some people aren’t put off by Apple’s heavy-handed approach; here’s an implementation of augmented reality for the iPhone. And you thought reality was bad enough without huge green porn-spider avatars lurching around street corners.

Vodafone, meanwhile, spent the week reorganising; the Europe, Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa division, which despite its name didn’t include France, is being split up, the Verizon Wireless holding put directly under the CEO, and a new job of “Strategy and Business Improvement Director” created. That would make finance chief Andy Halford about the last survivor of the men who were the Newbury Gang.

T-Mobile USA may be launching the first Google Android device in a few days’ time.

There are better things we could all be doing; and here’s one of them. C&W buys a gaggle of Ericsson GSM gear; apparently to build Tesco its very own private mobile network. Not to be confused with Tesco Mobile, the O2-fuelled MVNO. This is going to make use of a sliver of low power 1800MHz spectrum OFCOM sold last year in order to run an internal, fixed-mobile convergence/unified comms system for the supermarket’s 400,000 employees. We also wonder how many non-human customers it might have.

Surely this is crying out for a non-human solution. Cellcom in Israel is offering free airtime to people willing to watch adverts. How long before someone thinks of a way to have a machine watch the adverts, and collect the free minutes? (Remember, people absolutely love free phone calls.)

Meanwhile, a whole gaggle of European incumbent GSM operators joined Vodafone in pushing the line that a cap on termination fees would lead to the mass abandonment of mobile telephony, anarchy, street riots etc. 3UK CEO Kevin Russell disagrees (as it’s very much in his interest to do); he says that the true cost of termination is low enough that there would be no need to charge for inbound calls. His prepaid mobile broadband service, it seems, has attracted the flattery of imitation in the US — Cricket is now offering prepaid EV-DO Internet service.

Whilst this goes on, KPN is buying MVNO capacity from Bouygues. We shall see what’s developing here, but it looks a lot like a cross-European virtual operator of some sort.

The New York Times reports that Internet traffic is beginning to avoid the US; the increasing diversity of submarine and overland cables, more Asia-Europe capacity, the proliferation of local Internet exchange points, and increasing political dread are cited as reasons. Read the whole thing; they interviewed a full house of the right people, including Andrew Odlyzko, k c claffy, and Earl Zmijewski of Renesys. (Renesys’s report on post-Hurricane Ike outages is here.)

Here’s a nice, enterprisey, low-bandwidth, high-value service: get your airline boarding pass sent to you as a QR barcode which the airline staff scan off your screen (neatly circumventing the possible Bluetooth etc security risks). Of course, there’s no mention of a telco being involved. (Does anyone still think upping the size of your minute bucket for Christmas and slashing your prices constitutes a business strategy? If so, click here urgently.)

And finally, a US judge has ruled that the police do indeed need a warrant for mobile location data. How quaint!

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