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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 11th January 2009

In Today’s Issue: DTAG, unlikely stock market darling; broadminded German VDSL operators share the love; wholesale prices out by CeBIT?; Telefonica beats eurotelcos, Big IT to DHL übercontract; UK broadband insufficiently broad; IPWireless bought back for pence from $100m buyer; Chinese forgers accidentally invent new phone; UIQ bites the dust; Palm’s iClone puts all your Web2 thingies in one handy e-puck, you smug git; NYC wants to turn off mobile networks when you actually need them; Nokia batteries bulge; in predictable news, EFF bashes DRM; Tata fills warchest, goes looking for a war; Jordanian government attempts to adjust camel/GSM balance

DTAG is apparently back in favour with German investors, after a ghastly 2008 marked by customer flight, clashes with regulators, and ceaseless privacy scandals. Unfortunately the reason isn’t anything the company is doing as such; it’s because the economy is so awful no-one can think of a better place to keep their cash. DTAG shares are down 11%, but the all-share index is down 40%. After all, didn’t we tell you telcos were still a highly defensive sector?

But perhaps this is too harsh. One consequence of the annus horribilis is that the German monstercarrier has lost its hang-ups about structural separation and is ready to share the love. Handelsblatt reports that negotiations between Telekom, competing operators, and the Federal Networks Agency are close to completion, both on wholesale pricing for DTAG’s VDSL deployment and on technical interconnection issues.

So far, the parties have agreed that all the VDSL networks DTAG has already installed will be open to competitors on nondiscriminatory terms, and that DTAG will have reciprocal privileges on VDSL networks installed by its competitors, who further undertake to extend the same privileges to each other. They hope to agree prices in time for an announcement at CeBIT.

Perhaps, however, the whole thing is a distraction? DTAG eventually decided to keep their T-Systems unit and build it up as a BT Global Services clone, but this hasn’t helped them with the Deutsche Post contract. Telefonica has grabbed the job of providing the German post office - and DHL - with all its telecoms needs, for some €350 million. For that, the posties get 150,000 LAN ports among much else.

Meanwhile, in the UK, OFCOM looks at the broadband market and finds that the breadth tends to vary, usually in a downward sort of way. An ADSL link marketed as “up to 8MBits” provides on average 3.6; one marketed as 2 provides on average 1.6, and a reasonable mobile link should now beat that, especially on uplink (an issue OFCOM didn’t even mention). To say nothing of technologies like UMTS-TDD, FLASH, WiMAX - so what did happen to the guys at IPWireless anyway?

It turns out they’re independent again; NextWave has decided to get out of network infrastructure, and has sold the company back to its directors for not very much, having paid $100m for it. As well as having a damn good mobile-TV technology, they must be some mean poker players.

Forgers in China, it seems, have missed a trick by going into production with their version of an Apple iPhone Nano, before being certain that the real thing actually existed. Which raises an interesting question; if it’s a fake of something that doesn’t exist, how can it be a fake? Haven’t they actually developed a new device?

Perhaps we should count it as a new mobile platform; TriadOS. However, at least one of the mobile-OS options has now vanished; farewell UIQ, which appears to have been rendered irrelevant by the open-sourcing of Symbian. Palm, however, is back with a well-received iClone. Yes, that’s right - another device with a really big touchscreen and a development environment focused on Web technologies. This one does, however, have a new user-interface metaphor (applications are “cards” which merge into the standard UI) and a lot of interesting ideas - and a keyboard.

New York City apparently wants to shut down mobile service in the event of a terrorist attack. Well, in practice, terrorist attacks often do a decent job of shutting down the mobile networks just with the panic peak load and the higher peak/mean ratio characteristic of newer comms systems. Perhaps an access-overload control system would be more useful? After all, without cellular service you can’t do this.

Nokia is recalling batteries that have begun to bulge sinisterly, and the EFF takes a look back at another year of DRM failure.

In India, meanwhile, Tata Comms is tapping the market for 30 billion rupees. And what will they do with them? Acquisitions in the US and UK are on the menu, as is a bid for WiMAX spectrum.

And finally, Jordanian telcos are angry over a new tax the government has imposed on them in order to subsidise livestock farmers.

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