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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 22nd June 2009

In Today’s Issue: Nortel - the final curtain; NSN vultures up CDMA, LTE assets; CSL CEO: Chinese vendors are our rightful masters - submit!; Iran: HOWTO strangle the Internet; actually, asking NSN seems to be the staff solution; MTN chafes at the bit; more censorship data; Uncle Sam’s monster e-mail database; Novarra: half the data traffic is from basic phones, and we know because we read it!; Indian 3G auction set for September; WiMAX to follow; the great British spectrum sale?; AT&T/Slingbox/Baseball neutrality row; cablecos can community on Canoe; AT&T gives away MMS; 80% of growth at RIM now consumer; IBM R&D to spend $100m on Telco 2.0-ish agenda; Intel wants to put your phone in a cloud; Free lobbies on, self-funds fibre rollout; Wind faces cash call; BT will deploy more fibre, one day, perhaps; the call centre that can’t; augmented reality, without pills, with Gphones; new Android gadgets at T-Mobile; Palm SDK - still waiting; security alert from OpenBTS; Apple launches some sort of mobile device, apparently

It has come to this: Nortel throws in the towel. The vendor, once valued at $250bn, is to be broken up in an effort to recover some cash; the first vulture is already in, and it’s Nokia Siemens Networks. They’ve acquired the CDMA and LTE infrastructure operation for $650m, which gives them a considerably boosted presence in North America and control of important patents over LTE technologies. Other plums are likely to include the optical networking and carrier-Ethernet businesses.

CSL CEO Tarek Robbiati, proud owner of an HSPA network based on software-defined radio, reckons that in the future there will only be three vendors and two will be Chinese.

Meanwhile in Iran, the government successfully cut Internet traffic in half, imposing a squeeze on transit availability for local ISPs through the wholesale monopoly, DCI. For some reason, as Arbor Networks’ blog points out, AS1299/TeliaNet is now carrying much more of Iran’s upstream traffic than before the disputed elections, while Telecom Italia/Seabone are down to zero.

Fortunately, they had help: NSN, for it is they, sold DCI a complete lawful-intercept monitoring centre for their GSM network. (From our perspective, of course, the big loser here is MTN, which has been investing heavily in its Irancell unit and driving a boom in prepaid GSM subscribers. Now their network is semi-permanently down and the chances of getting their profits out of the country are slim.) There’s much more here, and here.

But who can really complain? Certainly not the US, after the discovery of a huge and possibly illegal e-mail monitoring database.

In other IP-spookery news, Novarra, purveyors of snooping gear to the GSM fraternity, reckon that half of all the IP data calls they monitored came from devices other than the premier-league smartphones. This perhaps shouldn’t be that surprising, as there are an awful lot of non-smart phones out there and most of them now have a Web browser of some form. Interestingly, the traffic is highly diverse, with the top 500 URIs accounting for only 30% of the total. Perhaps the iPhone hype has helped to normalise mobile Web use?

Meanwhile, the Indian 3G auction is a a go at last, planned for August-September. No less than six national licences are going to be offered, with a reserve price of 40.4bn rupees each; a wave of WiMAX auctions is going to follow. Vendors, start your engines.

In the UK, there’s some actual upshot from the Digital Britain report - we may see a giant spectrum sale next year, finally putting the 2.5-2.69GHz band on the block after extensive delays and also chucking in the 800MHz, with the possibility of some deal that would see the Original Two GSM operators hand back some 900MHz spectrum in exchange for 800MHz frequencies.

There’s a row going on; AT&T is accused of banning the Slingbox client on the grounds that its terms of service forbid streaming video, but still promoting an app that streams live baseball. Presumably this is because they have some sort of sender-pays deal with the Major League; but you have to wonder whether they are doing the right thing in offering free MMS messages if network capacity is a problem.

The US cablecos’ Canoe advanced-ads platform takes a step back: its community-targeted advertising features have been canned, after it turned out it would take at least a week to finalise each ad.

Meanwhile, numbers time at RIM. Some people may have lost sight of the fact that they hold 55% of the North American smartphone market; the main news, though, is that 80% of their net adds are now coming from the consumer sector, where the competition from Nokia, Apple, Samsung, and Palm is mightiest and spending is in general flat or falling.

Interestingly, IBM Research is setting a Telco 2.0-tinged agenda for its work. They have $100m to spend on mobile R&D over the next five years, and they have defined three target areas - “mobile enterprise enablement, emerging markets mobility, and enterprise-to-end-user mobile experience”. There is nothing there we’d disagree with.

Intel Research, meanwhile, want a clone of your mobile to run in the cloud, with applications working seamlessly across the two, so the remote server could provide extra processing wallop when needed and hold onto persistent data whilst you’re offline. Given the quality of many mobile data links, they better be good.

As well as emerging markets and enterprises, we’re famously keen on fibre and on integrated video delivery. And the best people to learn from are Free.fr. Xavier Niel argues in an interview with the Financial Times that they could cut the average monthly mobile bill in half, with an all-IP network, if the French government would only ignore the three existing GSM networks’ whining and give them a licence. Very significantly, he also says that his planned €1bn investment in fibre overbuild between now and 2012 is “self-financing” out of OPEX savings alone.

The news is not so good at Italian mobile op Wind, which is trying to renegotiate its debts in order to find €500m…for their eventual owner, Naguib “Orascom” Sawaris. Nor at BT, where they’re looking at perhaps increasing their FTTC rollout, maybe, sometime, if the Government gives them a ton of money.

Also in the UK, an already controversial directory inquiries service has managed to invent the call centre that can’t take calls.

We’re living in the future; here’s the latest augmented reality application, which uses Android devices’ accelerometer, GPS, and virtual compass to orientate itself and shows an overlay of relevant data when you point the camera at something. They’ve signed up various “local information providers”, but how soon will it be that someone does a service to advise you which building to set on fire? T-Mobile, meanwhile, has a new Android gadget.

Palm says that the WebOS SDK won’t be ready for a while yet; if this post on Jamie Zawinski’s blog is anything to go by, it can’t be ready soon enough.

David Burgess of the OpenBTS Project has a grave security warning.

And finally, Apple launched a device of some sort. Apparently it’s faster. Or more expensive. Or something. Carriers should watch out, though; the FCC doesn’t like exclusivity deals.

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