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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 1st September 2008

In Today’s Issue: Vodafone calls serpents out the vasty deep over termination fees; AT&T’s cheaper data roaming - not very cheap; Google nixes XMPP on Android; Nokia kills native SIP on N-series; Mobilkom’s new SIP softphone; Comcast’s huge bandwidth cap; TiVo turns to telcos; new navigation-focused Garmin GPS gadget; what about XOHM and Navteq then?; Skype - not compatible with mortality; Broadcom sues Qualcomm again; 21CN will eat your granny; MTN looking for mergers; Vodacom buys Gateway

WOLF! WOLF! Vodafone reckons changing the termination fee regime will cause 40 million Europeans to stop using their mobiles, and even “bankruptcy”, in a bid to stop Viviane Reding’s effort to cut the termination rates drastically. We’re sure Vodafone has threatened this sort of doom and mayhem before, possibly a year or two ago, without any of it happening. Wolf!

Frankly, if you were to ask us where the telcos are really milking their customers, it would be data roaming; AT&T’s iPhone users can now get all of 100Mb of overseas data service for a mere $119, while in contrast 3UK mobile broadband subs can get 15GB abroad for £15 (approx. $30) under the right conditions.

Of course, the point about the boy who cried wolf was that in the end, there was a wolf. This week’s news gives a strong sense that the alternative voice wolf is howling at the door; everyone was surprised that Android 0.9 was missing Bluetooth support, but far more significantly, Google has quietly removed the GTalkService API from the current build.

Why significant? Google Talk uses the XMPP protocol, familiar to Telco 2.0 readers from MXit and Jabber, for both messaging and voice. And some of the SIP phone people — Fring and Gizmo come to mind — offer interworking between GTalk and other XMPP networks and their SIP-based phone service. So you get your SIP ID for free, and SIP service free, buy a phone number and PSTN peering for cheap, and set it up to forward everything to GTalk; then you whip up something to wrap the Android GTalk API, get a cheap data plan, and you’re doing Voice & Messaging 2.0 service all by yourself. You can see why carriers wouldn’t like this at all.

And you have to wonder if there’s any connection with their big deal to make Google the default search engine for all things Verizon. Still, always worth keeping in mind Intel founder Andy Grove’s famous quote: A fundamental rule in technology says that whatever can be done will be done.

As if by magic, Nokia has quietly disappeared the SIP stack from its latest N-series gadgets, thus breaking at least three mobile-VoIP services. [Ed - Oops! We got one wrong here. See at end. ] You have to assume that N95 buyers tend to be power users and therefore more likely than average to use them; is Nokia being pressurised by operators? However, this is rather ambiguous:

A Nokia VoIP client is not included with the Nokia N78 and the Nokia N96 and VoIP solutions based on this particular client such as Gizmo will not work. However, Forum Nokia will cooperate with third-party developers to support them in porting their applications from S60 3.0/3.1 releases to S60 3.2. One example is Fring, whose popular application will be offered via Nokia’s Download! service for the Nokia N96.

So you can’t have SIP, except when you can. That’s almost as conflicted as…a telco! Meanwhile, Mobilkom Austria launches a new SIP-based VoIP client. And telco PR guru Andy Abramson is using Boingo’s WLAN roaming with Truphone’s mobile VoIP on his E71. Apparently the E-series gadgets get to keep their SIP stacks so those fancy corporate unicomms systems don’t die. Goodbye, mobility price premium (yes, even at 35,000 feet).

Comcast, after its bruising experience with Chinese-style TCP RST forging and the FCC, has announced a bandwidth cap, set at 250GB a month. Which mostly makes us wonder just how many flicks their bandwidth hogs were pulling off BitTorrent.

TiVo, meanwhile, is suffering the loss of its distribution partner DirecTV, which went off to do its own PVR thing. They are now looking to promote the boxes through licensing deals with cable operators — and why not telcos?

Here’s a new threat for you: as well as CE makers adding voice functions to their products, watch out for completely new and different things — like specialist GPS makers Garmin launching a navigation-focused phone. Now there’s an interesting idea, and the device looks fantastic. You could wonder what might happen with Sprint XOHM, as they are talking up the WiMAX service as a location-based platform, and rival GPS firm Navteq is a partner. (And don’t they have some sort of relationship with Nokia?)

On the subject of WiMAX, this chap has an unusual concern regarding his spanking new P1 WiMAX box: will it catch fire? He also raises an interesting point: what happens when a Skype user dies? It sounds morbid, but as he points out, this is a reason why the banks will never accept Skype IDs as verification. Remember those key telco data assets! Managing user identity is a business, not just a cost.

Remember the golden era of Qualcomm-related patent disputes? They’re baaaack; it seems that after coming to an agreement with Broadcom, Qualcomm…err…didn’t pay them the money. Back to court it is, then.

Hard to know where to start with this one, “Experts” promising “deaths” due to the roll-out of BT 21CN. What — someone might choke on an Ethernet packet? No. Apparently some telecare and burglar alarm systems might not work, but doesn’t the system offer backward compatibility with steam voice? We thought it did… so we’ll confine ourselves to noting that it’s the telecare industry lobbyist who reckons we need to buy a whole lot more telecare gear.

After the merger with Reliance flopped, MTN is looking for more acquisitions, and being half as geared as an average telco they can afford them. Good news for African backhaul providers — which is handy, as their arch-rivals at Vodacom just bought one.

[Ed - Correction - An informed reader writes to point out that the Nokia SIP stack was not removed in the N series handsets referred to. Rather, it was the Nokia VoIP client that was removed and only in the N78 and N96. This means third parties can do what they like to make a VoIP client for it, with their own SIP stack with the features and functionality they need. Our mistake.]

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Another (milder) point would be that Google haven't completely killed the XMPP support for Android - they identified security/functional issues with it and withdrew the native API support from the final SDK.

It looks like they are going to create a device-to-device RPC service which will serve the application-layer requirement.

Users will still be able to use XMPP client apps to communicate - it's just that XMPP/gtalk friends won't be part of the platform...

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