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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 28th September, 2009

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

Vodafone boss Vittorio Colao wasn’t kidding about social networks the other day. In a major product announcement, the carrier presented its new Vodafone 360 client, which is a single interface for multiple third-party social applications. Most of the handsets that will run this suite of applications will be running LiMo Release 2, and will provide an HTML/CSS/Javascript widgetry API for the app layer. As well as an app store, there’s a cash reward out for the most compelling application - as this is presumably going to be linked up with the other JIL carriers, it’s a case of “gentlemen, start your engines”. Gadgets are expected by Christmas, with the various associated services rolling out in Vodafone’s core markets by then.

360 isn’t, however, coming to Verizon Wireless, which seems to have opted out of the Voda-wide push to twitbook the mybebo out of the planet. Despite that, they are committed to deploying the LiMo R2 gadgets. So it looks like three things have happened: Vodafone has drawn a line under the era of “content” i.e. footy clips, LiMo has got a launch customer, and JavaScript developers are taking over the world.

Speaking of which, Google’s mobile team is working on the next version of Gmail, using the new HTML 5 standard. They have discovered something interesting about designing those HTML/JavaScript widgets everyone loves - namely, it takes much longer to read and parse the code than it does to load it over the network (or even more so from a local file). So they hit on an elegant solution - stash all the code you don’t immediately need as comments, and strip the /*comment*/ tags as you need the functions they contain. They’ve reinvented just-in-time compiling, in JS.

Palm this week poached two key coders from the Mozilla Foundation to work on its WebOS.

It seems that the end of iPhone exclusivity is at hand; they’re coming to Orange UK, while China Unicom will be selling them with a little help from our old friend, handset subsidy. Not that the decision for Unicom was tough - they’re the ones with the GSM network.

The UK catches up with the US, and has a blocked iPhone app row. Not just that, but one related to voice and messaging - so there’s this bloke who’s written a client for the popular saynoto0870 Web service, which lists alternative phone numbers for companies whose public phone number is premium-rate. When you tap in an 0870 number to the iPhone, the client intercepts the number, does the database lookup, and offers you alternative options.

Of course, this isn’t good news for either BT, the provider of 0870 numbers, or O2 - 087x nongeographical area codes aren’t covered by inclusive minutes, so they’re a nice little earner. And it turned out that the application sat stuck in a pipeline at Apple for about a year, while the Google Android version went through on the nod. Naturally, everyone’s denying any interference.

Meanwhile, CNET reports a wave of dissatisfaction with the iPhone’s phone element. It’s not the first time the gadget’s RF performance has been criticised.

Kineto Wireless is trying to interest mobile operators in a client that offloads voice traffic from their networks onto WLAN and the public Internet. The idea is to simultaneously compete with Skype and save some backhaul and switching costs.

A new MVNO sprouts at O2; GiffGaff claims it’s going to be run by its subscribers, which may well be code for “don’t expect any tech support, sunshine”. It also says it will offer rebates to users who take part in its decisions…

In other voice & messaging news, a Jamaican student has been given bail on fraud charges after hacking Digicel’s BSS and allegedly stealing $115,000 worth of calls. (Telephony - the original killer app.) And a French court ruled that “texto” isn’t a trademark.

The Indian prime minister has intervened in the Bharti-MTN deal, out of concern that the South African regulators aren’t playing fair. No-one ever said this was going to be easy…

In the enterprise, you can always expect to encounter two companies - IBM and RIM. No surprise, then, that they’re teaming up to offer fixed-cost, flat rate support for BlackBerries - you just need to pay for the gadgets and the data traffic.

In their satin tights, fighting for your digital rights, it’s..the Electronic Frontier Foundation! They’ve secured the release of papers which detail the US telcos’ efforts to lobby for immunity over their involvement in illegal surveillance; the telcos must dump documents by the 9th of October, after which, we may confidently predict, there’s going to be a hell of a row. They’re also suing Texas Instruments over a superbly geeky dispute - users of their high-end graphing calculators cracked an encryption key so they could install their own operating system on them, and TI immediately threatened them under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

In broadband and video news, Wired has an interesting article on Netflix and its efforts to become a streaming-media company. This is curious; famously, you shouldn’t underestimate the bandwidth of walking to the video store, and Netflix’s traditional strategy nicely got around all the problems of the local loop by pushing bits on physical media. After all, they didn’t have to be live or bidirectional, so it made sense to use the network for signalling and the sneakernet for bearer traffic. DSL operators, another wave of bombers is approaching the coast. Tangentially, David Isenberg has a snark at Global Crossing for discovering Ethernet.

Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, wants to roll out LTE all at once; no wonder the FCC is asking if there is a need for more spectrum. Telephony Online looks at US public-sector fibre projects and notes that a surprising number of them are managing to roll out without needing federal aid from the stimulus plan; mmm, fibre.

Brough Turner posts a talk from last eComm in which he argues that structural separation and open dark fibre are vital to the success of fibre deployment; he also has a really interesting chart of actual mobile data speeds and research on the motivations of acquiring a mobile phone in the emerging markets.

David Burgess’s series on deploying open-source GSM at Burning Man goes on; there’s a lot of detail on the problems he had with his Asterisk server-as-HLR, and there are rather cool coverage maps here, including how he went about instrumenting the network and what the data says. (It looks like he may have given the small community of Gerlach, Nevada a surprise at over 15 kilometres’ range; now what roaming tariff does AT&T levy on calls made from within a +883 country code?)

HOWNOTTO market your data centre; nick your competitor’s customer list, spam them, and then hand the suckers who signed up a mammoth no-notice outage.

Le Monde has grim things to say about the internal culture of France Telecom.

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