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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 1st September 2009

Top Telco 2.0 Stories

  • Apple App Store “selling $200m a month”?
  • Hulu pulls ahead of Time Warner Cable
  • Nokia dives into mobile banking; Orange buys digital ad network
  • EBay/Skype - the end of the affair
  • Hackers assail GSM A5/1 encryption

In other news: Apple accepts Spotify app; broadcast still the best way to deliver live content; now that’s what we call LBS; 12% broadband growth in France; Brough Turner forecasts LTE for 2012; Maemo Linux gets telephony API; IMS still hoping for video-sharing; mystery Vonage surge; heads roll at Clearwire, again; Intel: data centres can safely warm up; SkyTap’s VPN cloud; Cloudera vs VMWare; semiconductor sales up 5.3%; new Motorola Android gadget; iPhone goes to China - no revenue sharing there; Samsung’s app store; why m-banking is right for Canada; taking over the Internet; Home Office gets it wrong

Just how many applications is Apple selling through the App Store? According to AdMob, it could be as much as $200m worth for the month of August; there’s a good row going on over at GigaOm as to whether their methodology is likely to have produced valid numbers. It’s probably worth pointing out that the release and huge sales of the iPhone 3GS might have skewed the month, what with all those new iPhones getting apped-up at once. But it does tend to suggest that the App Store is a genuine business.

Meanwhile, they’ve finally accepted the Spotify iPhone app; despite all the hype about Spotify, this seems to suggest Apple is confident that owning your music beats renting it and that download beats streaming. One of the basic rules of any mobile application is that connectivity will be interrupted and you’d better deal with it, so Apple’s approach has an advantage to begin with.

The big streaming application is of course video; Telephony Online reports some interesting data on the demographics of US TV networks. Essentially, TV is becoming a taste for the elderly; the youth get their TV on the Internet or at least via DVRs and the like. The median age of a CBS viewer is now 55. Fascinatingly, Hulu now has 38 million viewers, or rather more than Time Warner Cable, although this is a long way behind YouTube in terms of sheer audience numbers.

(For the record, Telco 2.0 attempted to watch a major live sporting event this weekend via the BBC’s Internet feed; despite everything Akamai EdgeFCS could do, the feed went down just after Warrington scored their second try and never came back up. For some things, broadcast will never die; it’s a question of the right delivery mechanism for the content in question.)

At the opposite extreme of the content spectrum, mobile payment is the purest example of bits that carry disproportionate value. Nokia has leapt into the field this week, announcing a new service called - obviously - Nokia Money. It’s a white-label version of Obopay, the m-banking application Nokia acquired not so long ago; apparently, they are setting about recruiting agents for it, and more details will be forthcoming at Nokia World. We’ve said before that the real Nokia services strategy might be their Life Tools project for developing-world small businesses; this seems to be an obvious fit, a useful and good enough service (perhaps a bit like craigslist?).

Orangeacquired Unanimis, a British company that acts as an aggregator for digital advertising. Orange is hoping to increase its revenue from “new growth areas” from 9% to 20% by 2012, and much of this is expected to be advertising; no terms were made public, but Unanimis made revenues of £21.7 million last year.

Meanwhile, you’ve heard of LBS adverts? Here’s Nokia with a rather different take on the idea; rather than your phone going off with an advert as you pass the shop, the shop goes off with a phone as you pass the advert. Seriously; live video screens are demonstrating the N97 home screen’s live RSS ticker with actual data feeds from the Internet, to anyone who passes by.

The horrible tale of EBay and Skype is coming to an end. A group of private investors led by Marc Andreesen is going to take the service off their hands; it’s not clear how they will deal with the founders’ inconvenient ownership of the core intellectual property, but it is fairly clear EBay lost a fortune on the deal. It’s going to be interesting to see what Andreesen does with 10% of the world’s international telephony.

In France, broadband penetration is growing at a 12% clip, and there are already 5.6 million households who have cancelled all France Telecom services. With Free.fr, probably the best ISP in the world, around, who wouldn’t?

Brough Turner looks at the history of 3G standardisation and forecasts LTE deployment for 2012, based on the usual time taken to move from specification freeze to substantial deployment. GSM, meanwhile, passes the four billion subscriber mark….and attracts a team of hackers determined to breach the air interface encryption. The man behind it is the same guy who cracked the NXP MiFare smartcard in 2007.

The aim is to force carriers who haven’t already dropped the A5/1 crypto to upgrade to A5/3, considered a quintillion times harder to breach. Unfortunately, the GSMA’s response has been to point out that the task needs a lookup table of 2 terabytes, or “a pile of books 20 kilometers high”. Or to put it another way, a pair of 1TB hard drives you could buy in any computer shop for £70 each.

Meanwhile, Nokia’s Maemo Linux platform is getting a full telephony stack, which promises more innovation than this story:
With the introduction of IMS, there will be a fundamental shift from plain vanilla voice calling to rich multimedia calling( Video, Picture, message sharing ).
Video sharing. That’ll do it. Again…of course, the king of applications is still voice. Vonage shares surged this week, for no reason anyone could make out except perhaps the possibility of doing something interesting with a mobile application. They certainly need it, as falling prices are wearing down all the PSTN-clone operators across the board.

More heads roll at Clearwire; chief strategy officer Scott Richardson is out, and the job itself has been abolished, while the CFO David Sach has been replaced by Morrow’s old boss at Borland Software, Erik Prusch. And there’s a new post of “president of strategic partnerships & wholesale” for Teresa Elder, who was the CEO of Vodafone Ireland while Morrow was at Vodafone Europe. There’s more about her here.

Richardson was hired from Intel’s WiMAX program; whatever happens at Clearwire, however, Intel will always be important for the whole industry. Because they do things like this - according to their research, major data centres are usually cooled more than they need to be, wasting power. Tests apparently show that Intel chips are more tolerant of heat than previously thought. In other infrastructure news, SkyTap is the next cloud computing company to provide an IPSec VPN, so you can link the cloud directly with your internal network - Amazon did something similar last week with their Virtual Private Cloud. Cloudera’s Google-clone cloud, meanwhile, is moving into VMWare’s facilities.

No surprise, then, that the semiconductor biz is looking up, with sales up by 5.3%. Motorola has a new Android gadget out using a Qualcomm MSM chip; and the iPhone is going to China. Note that China Unicom said no to the revenue-sharing deal Apple drove with everyone else; they’re just going to wholesale them.

Sony will be shipping Google’s Chrome browser on new PCs; Samsung Europe has an app store. There’s an excellent post here on why mobile banking is a good idea for Canada; and the US government wants significant powers over the Internet.

And finally, the UK Home Office publishes security instructions for a business that doesn’t exist, commissioned from an organisation that doesn’t exist either.

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