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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 18th May 2009

In Today’s Issue: Participants at 6th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm sceptical about the industry’s transformation efforts; Vodafone opens API worldwide; slashes roaming rates; data traffic surges at Orange and elsewhere; VZW encourages bandwidth hogs with netbooks, global data plans empowered by software-defined radio; more news on VZW LTE speeds, SIMs, timings; first Indian 3G net, powered by ALU; US carriers take credit for iPhone, for regulatory purposes; iPhone as weapon; express your despair with Motorola’s new motion-sensitive device; Sony goes for better sound, but not yet for better voice; “paper” stage of Nokia open-source life cycle removed; another Nokia service acquisition bites the dust; Google outage; zombie nightmare at BT; Wipro gets into nearshoring; court go-ahead for Vodacom, Marxist rage; C&W monster-bonuses; Nortel in “not quite that awful” shock; Bill Morrow woz ‘ere; RLEC consolidation watch; satellite broadband spectrum assigned, spaceship breaks down; Facebook the platform; learning from pirates; Will Page considered right

Participants at the 6th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in Nice were sceptical about the industry’s efforts to transform itself:


Fortunately, some people are listening. Vodafone has announced the next steps in its Joint Innovation Lab project; they’re opening up a set of network APIs across the entire Vodasphere, which will be available to JIL users. That in turn suggests that the other JIL carriers, China Mobile and Softbank, will be on board as well. Notably, the capability suite includes access to the billing system, which of course opens up a wide range of possibilities in terms of monetising your fancy new application on a world-wide scale that hasn’t really been possible before.

Vodafone UK also slashed roaming rates for this summer…fortunately, the data revenue fountain is still going and the capacity crunch hasn’t happened yet. Orange reckons usage doubled in 12 months.

No surprise, really. Verizon Wireless doesn’t just want you to buy a netbook; it wants you to burn bandwidth, it seems. The data caps on its flat-rate tariff have just been increased, and the company is now offering an international data roaming plan through its relationship with the Vodafone empire. It isn’t the first time they’ve done this; the first EV-DO and UMTS data cards also saw an effort to sell transatlantic data plans, but that required two different devices. LTE will of course fix that, but in the meantime, it looks like Qualcomm’s Gobi radio chip is the key - the SDR (Software-Defined Radio) device will permit the HP netbooks in question to do both EV-DO and UMTS. I think we mentioned this before…

Speaking of VZW and LTE, they held a webcast for developers this week, which clarified the schedule of deployment. Test networks should appear by the end of the year; a commercial launch will take place next year; build-out should be complete in 2014. Speeds of 8-12Mbits are targeted (which isn’t so impressive when you think that some UMTS HSPA networks aim for that already). And the devices will indeed have proper SIM cards. They will also have certification requirements “over and above the standard”; Gearlog thinks this means you’ll be restricted in what you can hook up to the network, but it may be a reference to their Open Development Initiative.

Euro-vendor watch: MTNL launches the first 3G network in India, running on Alcatel-Lucent kit.

Everyone loves app stores; Wired reports on a truly odd invocation of the Apple App Store mythos. US telco lobbyists are using it to argue against regulatory demands for open access; which is amusing, seeing as Apple isn’t a telco. It is, however, a slightly unlikely contributor to US counter-insurgency in Iraq, now that there’s an Arabic-English dictionary app for the iPhone.

Meanwhile, the first gesture-sensitive device from Motorola is announced. It uses an accelerometer as a core element of the user interface, which is an interesting idea; apparently, if you clap both hands to your face like the figure in Edvard Munch’s Scream, it recognises the gesture and logs into Motorola’s internal phone system, on the principle you probably work there.

Sony announced an iPod chaser with digital noise-cancellation for better sound. We’ve long been advocates of better voice and messaging, and in fact Telco 2.0 was involved with a high-quality voice product as consultants. So what we’re wondering here is whether Sony might put the fancy audio tech into the rumoured PSP phone, or perhaps just add an Ericsson cellular radio to the new Walkman? Relatedly, the Zune-phone story bubbles on.

Nokia, meanwhile, has simplified the process of contributing code to Qt, the open-source GUI framework it bought with Trolltech and which is used in the KDE desktop for Linux machines. You no longer have to fax in a special copyright form; fax? Good God. After a little more than a year, Nokia has added yet another name to the list of services it’s launched and closed down; Ovi Share, ex-Twango, which went live at 3GSM in 2008, will not actually close but will no longer receive any investment. An analyst quoted by Reuters said that Nokia needs to “stop trying to replace Facebook, Flickr and start trying to collaborate with them” - we couldn’t agree more.

Google had a massive outage; according to Renesys, an as yet unexplained BGP routing issue caused most North American backbone operators’ traffic with Google to be routed into NTT (AS2914) in Japan and then back to Google, resulting in extremely high latency to essentially all the G-services. We’re interested by the fact that at the time of the crash, Google was pulling some 15Gbits of traffic, with a peak of 35; that’s not much more than half the output of the BBC’s iPlayer at the evening peak! Video: it’s what’s in the tubes.

There is anger at BT after last week’s horrorshow profits warning; it looks like the CEO is going to get a cash bonus despite the loss, the job cuts, and the slashed dividend attendant on yet another NHS IT Zombie assault on BT Global Services. Those fleeing the zombie might well end up at Wipro, which has announced that it intends to hire more European and North American staff.

In South Africa, a court challenge has failed to stop Vodafone’s acquisition of Vodacom and its subsequent floating of the carrier on the stock exchange. There was a memorable quote as a result:
Gone are the days when narrow transactions would be undertaken in the interest of the parasitic bourgeoisie!
Well, perhaps.

There has been some relatively good news at Nortel; sales in the optical networks division are falling less quickly than Alcatel’s! The real question here is what on earth Nortel management was thinking when they suggested selling off the division…

Meanwhile, Clearwire needed a gnarly network builder and so they hired Bill Morrow from Vodafone. Thuds and screams inside the palace followed; WiMAX visionary Barry West has been given an “ambassadorial role”, the COO Perry Satterlee has taken his carriage clock early, Michael Seavert of Switchbox Labs has become their new Chief Commercial Officer, whatever one of them is, West’s technical role has been passed to the existing CTO, Kevin Hart has given up being CIO of Level(3) to do the same job at Clearwire, and the head of HR from T-Mobile USA is going to do the same job at Clearwire as well. Apparently cold water will get the blood off that carpet, Bill.

Telephony Online suggests that another wave of consolidation among the RLECs is imminent; Inmarsat and Solaris win spectrum for satellite broadband in the EU, although a teensy prob with one of the spaceships spoils it. Facebook is advised to make money by revenue sharing with app developers; after all, there’s money in unauthorised innovation.

And another report bears Will Page out on the long tail.

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