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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 22nd December 2008

In Today’s Issue: Virgin Media loves DPI, goes shaky on Phorm; do you really want to compete with iTunes?; Phorm declares victory, execs leap overboard; bizarre disinfo campaign over Google’s homebrew CDN; “Stellar Wind”, it’s like OpenSocial for spooks; Yahoo! makes nice with privacy advocates; Vodafone crunches CDRs, asks for more; Telstra left standing by SingTel, turns to Chinese spy stories; gloom descends on vendors, even iPhone vendors; traditional Christmas Cable Cut Crisis; TV studio in a box promises more, heavier UGC. Joy!; Holland, France, and Brazil sort out their fibre issues; UK - no nearer to real broadband in 2008

Much churning and stirring in the world of digital rights this week. So Virgin Media is buying a gaggle of DPI gear from Israel. Teh horrors! On the other hand, they are blowing distinctly hot and cold on Phorm and behavioural advertising in general. And they are talking about restricting BitTorrent traffic in particular as opposed to having a bandwidth cap in general, on the grounds of “fairness”.

Well, not really, as this quote makes clear:
For example, Virgin Media is known to be in advanced talks to launch a legal, licensed peer-to-peer music service. DPI would be used to monitor the popularity of music files, enabling it to fairly divide subscription revenues among record labels.
It seems an incredibly baroque way of launching what is essentially yet another MP3 shop; and what with iTunes, Amazon and several record label-owned players in the field, that doesn’t sound like the first market you’d leap into. Meanwhile, there was more “corporate action”, as they say, at Phorm, where the company announced BT still wanted to go ahead with their superduper behavioural-advertising scheme, and half the board promptly resigned, including UK chief Hugo Drayton [a speaker at the last Telco 2.0 event - interview here]. You could call it a mixed message.

Meanwhile, there’s been a bizarre furore after the Wall Street Journal claimed Google had secretly abandoned network neutrality and was making side-deals with the telcos that violated it. However, strangely enough, the activity the report described was clearly a content-delivery network, closely akin to Akamai; which isn’t a neutrality issue, as for every bit that is served out of the CDN, one less is carried over the backbone, or whichever link the CDN is intended to relieve. David Isenberg was unsurprisingly one of the first to dish the story; but the question is, as Telecom TV points out, whose interests are served by what looks a lot like an anti-neutrality propaganda campaign?

Gradually, more details are seeping out from the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance project. It’s now confirmed that, as most telecoms people guessed, it was a huge CDR-crunching exercise which ran from September, 2001 to March, 2004 and which went under the codename of Stellar Wind. It was this project that led to mass resignations from the Justice Department and the infamous late-night hospital confrontation between Alberto Gonzales and Thomas Comey. There’s an interview with the whistleblower here.

Yahoo!, meanwhile, has promised to eliminate all personally-identifying information from its logs after 90 days. Which is handy, given that some of their new projects like OneConnect, FireEagle, and YQL add up to a sort of pocket NSA. Vodafone in the Netherlands is very pleased with its data-mining efforts.

In Australia, meanwhile, someone’s decided to shake out the old Huawei conspiracy theories one more time. Recap; the new Australian government wants to build a big fibre access network, the National Broadband Network or NBN. It issued an RFP to that effect, which attracted a couple of bids. One, from the incumbent Telstra, essentially ignored all the requirements set out by the government - no open access, and no offering for small businesses. The other, from SingTel’s Australian division Optus, offered something along the lines of Singapore’s new national fibre network, which provides for openness at layers zero to three. Unsurprisingly, Optus took the cake.

The serious question now is whether SingTel has the capacity to do the Singapore deployment plus the equivalent of three or four more, at the same time. The unserious question is whether the Optus bid is a sinister Chinese opium conspiracy, probably orchestrated by Fu Manchu in person, to sell Australia’s routers into white slavery. Whoever is pushing this story surely knows that if Australian telecoms is anything like the rest of the world, there will be a fair amount of Huawei gear in there already. Including all those E220 3G dongles…

If the contract goes ahead, at least Huawei will have some orders. Not many other vendors can say that; not even Balda AG, makers of the iPhone’s touchscreen.

We’re coming up to the end of the year, and as Renesys points out, a major submarine cable break or other global telecoms disruption is almost traditional. This time, SEAMEWEs 3 and 4 and FLAG were cut somewhere between Tunisia and Sicily, causing serious disruption in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. For some reason, Egypt seems to be the place to be if you don’t want Internet connectivity; just like last time, it was the champion in terms of numbers of lost prefixes and also in terms of the percentage lost. France Telecom’s ship Raymond Couve was reported to be on the scene with 20 kilometres of spare fibre.

Don’t expect any drop in the flood of video over your network any time soon; check out the Tricaster, a miniaturised live-TV studio in a box.

Meanwhile, fibre is coming, as the KPN-Reggefiber joint venture is signed off. Telia is invited to unbundle its fibre access network. French fibre operators have settled details of how they will share infrastructure and where they will compete. And five Brazilian cities get 100Mbits/s GPON from Brasil Telecom.

And the UK is officially no further forward than it was this time last year. Merry Christmas!

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