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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 8th June, 2009

In Today’s Issue: Verizon launches cloud computing offering; APIs coming up this year; the problems of being cloudy; beware potential plutonium privacy problems; hackers claim to steal entire T-Mobile USA billing database; SingTel on Bharti/MTN: “In for a billion!”; Apple App Store to start subscriptions, volume pricing; Google’s cash for developers scheme; MIDs fail; WhyMAX femtocell; satellite TV for your car; problems of network-based DVRs; Carphone Warehouse demerger on the way; “Twitter phone” = SMS; Pre SDK coming right up - eerily similar to JIL; has the Pre chased O2 off the N97?; DARPA mesh networks; Sarin’s exes are a gas; wave of missed call fraud; Pirate Party gets elected; Angola lays fibre, but not that sort yet; BSNL reissues WiMAX tenders after corruption panic

Verizon launches the first telco cloud-computing service; at the moment their “Computing as a Service” offering is enterprise-focused, letting you run your applications or their applications in the cloud, but what’s this? Open APIs are promised some time this year, to match the existing device-centred ODI program.

“The API is available today, and we’re using it for our own user interface. But we’re looking for the right use cases; we’re still doing due diligence to make sure we understand what customers are looking for when they want to interface with the environment in that type of manner. I’d say by the end of this year we’d have a published API that customers could leverage.”

Speaking of clouds, here’s an interesting discussion of the problems of working in the cloud at Ned Batchelder’s blog.

We’ve said before that Verizon is proving to be remarkably permeable to Telco 2.0 ideas; with the cloud computing, open APIs, and open device projects pulling away from the station, the P4P research project in the works, and significant fibre deployment going on, that only leaves the frontier of subscriber data to check off the list. Wired has a good cautionary tale about increasing regulatory interest in behavioural ad programs at Google and elsewhere; remember not to mix up the potatoes and the plutonium.

And look what just happened; hackers claim to have stolen “everything” from T-Mobile USA. This could be the biggest carrier data loss in history, right up there with the Vodafone Greece incident in the annals of telco security disasters. Or it could be a hoax; read the blackmailers’ note here and make your own mind up. Of course, subscribers can take heart from the thought that it’s very unlikely that the data is well enough organised for them to do anything criminal with it without lots of time and effort.

The Bharti-MTN deal has become more likely; SingTel says it’s in for 30 per cent of Bharti, having gone down to 19 per cent in the past.

Meanwhile, in the Apple world, they’re gathering for a shindig; but the serious people want to know what is happening with the new pricing options for the App Store. Apple is expected to announce that they will soon provide the ability to charge subscriptions or usage-based fees as well as one-off sales; it’s almost like a telco billing system, in a way.

Google, meanwhile, is taking the shortest way to attract developers to code for Android; give them some money, as Milton Friedman said about the poor. Specifically, a rich set of prizes are offered for the best applications. Relatedly, it’s not looking good for so-called MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices); these are a device class that Intel essentially invented a few years ago, at least in part as a target market for WiMAX connectivity, which fit in somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop. Unfortunately, fitting in between a 2005 smartphone and a laptop of the same vintage is a strategy that makes less sense in 2009, with much less space between new smartphones and netbooks.

So we’re more than a little sceptical of a plan to make a WiMAX femtocell. Well, we suppose it might come in handy…perhaps. Similarly, is there really a demand for this new product from AT&T? “CruiseCast” is essentially satellite TV for your car, and although we have to recognise that nothing could be more American than the combination of a car and a television, it all sounds far too much like something that escaped from the bubble years. Especially as it costs $1300 to install and $28 a month.

A lot of carriers are interested in implementing DVR/STB/whatever functions in the network, thus saving on all those boxes and the problem of deploying them to the users. Telephony Online makes the very good point that, although this is a quick win and relatively cheap, it doesn’t do anything to solve the video problem; if anything it means even more video hammering the wires. And you don’t even get to offer the subscribers a shiny gadget.

Speaking of video and the broadband incentive problem, Carphone Warehouse held its dividend for this year, but it can’t get the TalkTalk DSL and multi-MVNO business demerged fast enough. No wonder.

Meanwhile, INQ plans to launch a “Twitter phone”; the obvious comment on this is that it’s not going to be hard, as Twitter messages are essentially SMS that gets logged on a Web site, so anything with basic GSM functionality and a Web browser can do it, which means essentially every device on the market. Sounds like a great way to sell really cheap devices; probably better than SUV TV in today’s economic climate.

According to Palm’s VP of sales, the developers won’t have to wait much longer for the Pre SDK. It sounds remarkably similar to Vodafone, China Mobile, and Softbank’s JIL; the whole user interface is a Web browser and everything is an HTML/CSS/Javascript entity. Everyone seems to like the gadget. Rumours suggest that the lack of Nokia N97s at O2 is a signal that they have signed up the GSM/UMTS version of it.

DARPA is investing in a new approach to military radio - they want to use large numbers of cheap radio nodes working together in a mesh network, rather than a few heavily engineered ones. This may well tell us quite a bit about future radio networks - especially as Mapesbury’s UKO1 is apparently using a mesh GSM network.

Special mention for Arun Sarin; in his last year at Vodafone he made £7.5m, but still needed £500,000 of expenses to relocate back to the US.

There’s been a wave of phone-related fraud in the UK, says regulator PhonePayPlus; apparently deliberately generating missed calls from a super-premium rate number is a common practice.

This weekend saw the European elections; and the Pirate Party responded to the Pirate Bay convictions by getting elected. Apparently they took over one-fifth of the youth vote; they are planning to join the Green caucus in Brussels (and of course Strasbourg).

Angola is laying fibre; international, submarine fibre, that is. And the story of the week: Indian state carrier BSNL is re-tendering for its planned WiMAX network, after the first lot of contracts went to “family members and confidants” of the telecoms minister. Whoops.

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