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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 3rd August 2009

In Today’s Issue: Strategy: Sprint’s WiMAX plans leak; Sprint loses contract customers; buys and closes Virgin Mobile; BT cleans up after Satyam SatScam; BT, FTel, Telefonica, Motorola shares up on non-awful results; ALU wants to sell more assets; Telefonica saved by Latin American businesses; 900MHz refarming is go!; what a mess at Nitel; Bharti Airtel/MTN - support the merger, we promise we won’t really merge; Core Services: Secret of the iPhone - telephony; AT&T accused of Telco 2.0 in reverse; Blyk swaps 200,000 MVNO subs for 12 million as a managed service; B2B Platform: TWC squeezed between Web video and IPTV; Google uses SMS for verification; BREW, RIM integrated with VZW app store; Enablers and APIs: Qualcomm, VZW plan to “explode” M2M applications; new Nokbrowser out; Technology and Devices: 1.5% of Indian Symbian devices virus-ridden; hackers explode iPhone with special SMS; spying on Amazon EC2; no MSFT phone; Intel gives “MIDs” the humane killer; upgrading your hacked TiVo; HOWTO stage the jewel heist of the century; the best papers on internetworking, ever


A Sprint document leaked, giving details of their next wave of WiMAX deployments. Interestingly, they aren’t in the places you might expect; perhaps they are doing the easiest radio plans first? It would hardly be surprising, seeing as they made a large loss, as valuable contract customers left the building and they also decided to buy out Virgin Mobile USA for $420 million. The plan is to fold the Virgin customers into Sprint mainline; so what did happen to the wholesale strategy?

An interesting wholesale play at BT; they are assisting in the clean-up at Tech Mahindra after the spectacular fraud that brought down Indian outsourcing giant Satyam, providing advice on corporate governance. Perhaps it could become a regular line of business? “Post-Fraud Consulting”? The markets seemed to like it, though; BT shares were up sharply, although it probably had more to do with reasonable first quarter results.

Similarly, France Telecom’s numbers weren’t fantastic, but were far from awful in the context of a horrible economy, and the markets reacted with a certain degree of enthusiasm. Apparently the project of buying part of Zain is still on the cards, as well.

Similar news at Alcatel-Lucent; they made an operating loss in this quarter, but expect to break even for the year, and the shares went crazy. Ben Verwaayen put the business on notice that he plans to sell more divisions and enter into more partnerships like the one with HP to sell their telecoms products. And Telefonica saw earnings down 6.5% in Spain, as the recession bit hard, but a game-saving performance from their Latin American businesses put them just into positive territory.

There’s some major news for European operators: the EU has given the go-ahead for 900MHz spectrum refarming. Expect more trouble between the British operators as the spectrum/consolidation game starts for real.

Even Motorola had results that weren’t entirely terrifying this week - shipments actually rose for the first time in too long…

The Nigerian Comms Commission says sorry; this comes after a ship (probably) cut the SAT-3 cable’s Benin branch and Nitel failed to pay its dues to the cable consortium for the use of the Nigerian branch. Which is especially embarrassing as Nitel is a part-owner of the cable.

And Bharti Airtel and MTN are so convinced of the underlying industrial logic of their merger that they are promising the shareholders that the two companies will be managed entirely separately. Does this really make sense?

Core Services

The purpose of a telephone is to make telephone calls; so could this story be an important part of the iPhone’s success? A comparative test of a range of smartphones showed that the current iPhone was easily the best for voice performance; the Nokia E71 came out worst.

As if to pass an ironic comment on this, Apple made a last-minute decision to drop Google Voice from the app store, after they had originally welcomed it; rumour suggests AT&T was behind the decision to zap it, which would suggest the opposite of a Telco 2.0 strategy. Rather than trying to facilitate new forms of voice and messaging, and come up with a strategy to make money from that, they’ve made them verboten. And this after they bought into the biggest developer community in mobile…

Perhaps it’s wiser than it looks, though; Google has started asking new Gmail users for their mobile phones, supposedly so they can use them for two-factor verification in order to stop the spambots getting in. Paranoid response: they’re harvesting phone numbers for Google Voice! Less paranoid: don’t you wish you’d started offering Mobile Signature before this happened?

Meanwhile, Blyk wants to stop being an MVNO and start white-labelling its service to whole carrier subscriber bases.

B2B Platform

Time Warner Cable is complaining that competition from Web-video and from telcos offering IPTV is squeezing its margins on two fronts.

Qualcomm is working hard to escape its past as a CDMA specialist and to build a developer community. Verizon Wireless this week announced that it was going to integrate Qualcomm’s BREW platform in its new app store. Aye, one of them. VZW announced this week that its V CAST appstore would offer a 70% revenue share and guarantee a 14 day turnaround through the testing process, which would be free. An early partner is RIM, whose co-CEO Jim Basillie said:
“Does the world need another app store? Absolutely.”

Enablers and APIs

There’s also been some news about VZW’s partnership with Qualcomm on machine-to-machine applications, which will be a 50:50 JV. Said Tony Lewis, head of VZW Open Development:
“The opportunity here for Verizon Wireless is to explode its open development business”
You are sure you want it to explode?

The latest version of the Nokia browser is out.

Technology and Devices:

It emerged that 1.5% of a sample of Symbian devices in India were infected with malware, on the same day as it turned out that hackers had discovered how to crash iPhones (and many others) remotely with a specially crafted SMS message. And, as if to fuel the paranoia, attendees at the Black Hat convention discovered how to create an Amazon EC2 virtual machine that spies on other people’s EC2 virtual machines.

Microsoft, meanwhile, announced that no, there will be no Zune phone; they intend to stick to a software-only strategy, which is fair enough coming from a software company. The real question is whether their doomed quest for cool will continue, or whether the fact that they specialise not just in software, but in software called “Office”, will bite and induce them to concentrate on enterprises.

Intel, however, looks like it’s going to let the Moorestown chips, developed for “mobile Internet devices”, go quietly; the problem being that both smartphones, and the netbooks that mostly use Intel processors, do all the mobile Internet you might need. Come to think of it, MIDs were never really a sector to begin with - perhaps it would be honest to accept that they were something of an Intel marketing concept all along.

Jamie Zawinski talks about the problems of replacing the hard disk in a TiVo when you’ve been applying your own unauthorised innovations to it. There’s also a lot of interesting advice about how to download dodgy TV really fast and organise it really well in the comments. In other video delivery news, there’s yet another smart set-top box coming, this time from Metrological, Miniweb, and Intel - this one includes the management server as well.

And hackers demonstrated at DefCon how you can break into a video surveillance or teleconference system, capture video from it, then play it back in to the system in a loop, so that the CCTV picture keeps showing perfect normality while you steal the jewels.

Via David Isenberg, here’s a suggested list of the most important scientific papers on the Internet.

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