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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 6th July 2009

In Today’s Issue: Virgin after 4th French licence; SFR basks in iPhone glamour; India trebles teledensity, heads for 500 million subs; Indian military gets fibre in exchange for spectrum; Sarawak gets WiMAX; Oregon gets WiMAX; Portugal gets 100Mbits broadband; Econet rolls out in Kenya, Zimbabwe; Eurovendors - still got it, Ericsson edition; ignorant senators; Smart Comms’ next move; GrameenPhone IPO is go; Iran says no to Zain; Vodafone and CPW make nice; latest T-Mobile UK rumours; O2 gets Palm Pre, but Orange gets Blyk; T-Mobile: we can’t spy on our customers, we’re doing too much network-address translation!; BBC: Canvas makes sense, you know; Joost sneaks off quietly; new ad spec from CableLabs; Nokia immediately updates new phone; HOWTO make N97 homescreen widgets; rumour: Nokia to do an Android gadget; yet another dead Nokia service; Ericsson has an app store now; VCs throw money at iPhone start-ups; Zer01 launches, Tracfone is cheap; US broadband grants come with net neutrality; EU finally ends the charger madness; bad connectivity makes a fool of Bloomberg

Stalking the French fourth mobile licence; Virgin Mobile is apparently interested, with a “strategic partner”. Presumably this means that a big enough MVNO, in the opinion of its own management admittedly, now qualifies as a launch customer for a greenfield UMTS network; looks like wholesale really is becoming crucial. According to French government sources, the tender should be issued before the end of July for a decision in January 2010. Relatedly, SFR claimed it had a “good” Q2 in terms of subscribers, probably driven by the iPhone halo effect.

Meanwhile, the Indian government’s annual Economic Survey reports 414 million lines as at February, 2009, putting the country well on the way to its goal of 500 million by 2010. Teledensity has actually trebled since 2006. The Indian government also said, presenting its budget for 2009-2010, that it wants to push back up to 9% annual growth as quickly as possible; so it wouldn’t be any surprise to see a fair amount of state money going into the sector either. After all, the Indian military is getting a national fibre-optic network in exchange for disgorging spectrum the 3G networks will need.

Sarawak - that’s the northern half of Borneo - is getting WiMAX from PacketOne; Comcast has started up-selling its cable customers with mobile broadband, supplied by its investment in Clearwire’s WiMAX network. And Portugal is getting 100Mbits to the kerb - cable operator Zon expects to pass 2.8 million homes by the end of the year.

Econet Wireless is deploying in Zimbabwe; they also secured financing from the Pan-Africa Infrastructure Fund to roll out more GSM in Kenya. So who’s landing the infrastructure contracts in all this rolling out then?

Boring old-fashioned European vendors, that’s who. Ericsson is upgrading Kyivstar’s network to handle a surge in data traffic, as well as kitting out Econet in Zimbabwe, and Alcatel-Lucent is putting in new HLRs for China Mobile’s Shaanxi provincial network. It’s almost as if they knew something about this business; unlike US Senators Schumer and Graham, who not only don’t know that all cellular networks have lawful intercept features, but they don’t know that this holds for the ones made by Motorola and…Motorola either. This isn’t stopping them from binge-legislating, though.

A new 3G play launches in the Philippines; it’s a partnership with Smart Comms, better known as pioneers of mobile money transfer, so expect interesting things to happen. Apparently they’ve already tried ad-funded connectivity.

GrameenPhone, Bangladesh’s biggest mobile operator by subscribers, announced that its IPO is back on, which will no doubt please their strategic partner Telenor, always keen to realise gains on its heavy investment in emerging markets. Meanwhile in Iran, Zain’s troubles continue, as the Iranian government made clear they don’t have a chance of getting the third mobile licence. Perhaps not so much of a problem after all; they’ll only turn it off for weeks on end.

Back in the UK, the dispute between Carphone Warehouse and Vodafone has been settled; it looks like being good at retail is a valid strategy after all. Who knew? Of course, everyone’s watching the T-Mobile UK situation - especially 3UK, which is of course a half-owner of the actual network under the MBNL joint venture.

O2 UK landed the exclusive contract for the Palm Pre, just like it did with the iPhone; we theorise that their secret is “money”. As with the iPhone, Orange got the wooden spoon; in better news, they have just become Blyk’s wholesale partner in the UK, as the ad-funded super-MVNO begins a new strategy of seeking operator partnerships.

Meanwhile, the operators pushed back against government surveillance; T-Mobile UK’s head of data protection told a parliamentary committee that it would be very difficult to track URI requests from their network because of the degree to which they re-use IP addresses between subscribers. 1,000 subs, apparently, may be sharing one IP. Not many Internet people will have thanked an operator for using NAT to this extent before…

The BBC has been pushing its Project Canvas integrated video delivery platform again; meanwhile, the hugely hyped Joost is quietly retrenching, having first dropped its native P2P application and now abandoned its customer-facing brand and become a pure white label video service.

CableLabs, however, has responded to the abandonment of its community targeted advertising specs with the launch of a new standard for advanced advertising.

Having just launched the N97, Nokia announced a major firmware update for it; they also have a nice HOWTO guide on making widgets for the device’s home screen using their Web Runtime. It’s all in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript; so very like a Palm Pre, iPhone, or JIL widget then. It’s further rumoured that they might do something with Google Android, although this could be just another Linux-based tablet.

Meanwhile, The Register notes that yet another Nokia services acquisition has bitten the dust; Widsets, the early widgetry platform for Java developers, has been quietly shut down as the Ovi Store opened for business. Speaking of which, both Ericsson and Qualcomm now have their own app stores. Will it never end? Not just yet; with $100 million in VC funding being thrown at iPhone start-ups, the hairy developers and their shiny-suited bizdev types have got quite a lot of money to spend before the inevitable shakeout yet.

Zer01, the US-based mobile VoIP operator, has launched its unlimited voice & video for $70 service; you can get that without the video for $45 from Tracfone.

Net neutrality - you better get used to it. If you want any of the US Government’s $4bn in broadband funding, that is. It looks like anyone who accepts a grant, whether to get basic service into the boondocks or to lay fibre-to-the-home, will have to respect neutrality by law.

An end to the mobile charger insanity is at hand; only 18 months after agreeing with the European Union to use micro-USB rather than the current hellbroth of proprietary plugs that are all just slightly wrong, the industry signs an MoU to actually go ahead and give all their future gadgets a single micro-USB charging and data socket.

And finally, even if you’re Michael Bloomberg, it’s still the infrastructure, stupid.

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