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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 12th October 2009

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

BT says it’s actually going to do a lot more FTTH than previously planned, and it’s going to overbuild as well as install in new construction. Apparently, this is because they’ve discovered that it doesn’t cost as much as they thought, and (according to various press reports) they can use their existing ducts. Wasn’t this obvious? Or is this a reference to the secret cable-stripping tech they bought into?

Alternatively, the opposition hasn’t said much about telecoms, but they are keen on regulated access to ducts, poles, and trenches. With an election a few months away, perhaps the prospect of competitors putting fibre in their ducts has smoked out BT? Meanwhile, Telstra issued a list of objections to the Australian government’s plan to impose structural separation.

BT also has an interview with Martin Geddes on the corporate Web site, discussing new business models and Voice 2.0 (what else?) Swinging off that particular Web-liana, there’s an interesting blog post from Richard Veyrard here.

Speaking of voice, AT&T has caved in and will now permit iPhone users to make VoIP calls over their cellular network, thus essentially ending the whole charivari about Google Voice and the iPhone’s XMPP capability.

If you’re wondering why Verizon was only half on board with last week’s Vodafone 360 announcements, here’s the story: they’re betting heavily on Google Android devices, even if they’re also keeping an anchor out to windward by investing in LiMo gadgets. This may mean that Motorola is no longer a zombie company - even if the old staple market of Verizon’s CDMA investments is gone forever, they’re looking at a steady stream of Android work for VZW. As if on cue, Moto trimmed its commitment to LiMo, withdrawing software VP Christy Wyatt from the board of the foundation, although they remain on board as an associate member.

As a result of all this Android activity, Gartner re-assessed its forecasts for 2012 smartphone market share; they reckon Android will be marginally ahead of both Apple and RIM, with Symbian still well in the lead. Despite this, does it worry anyone that Eric Schmidt thinks handset subsidy is a great idea?

Whatever he may think about handset subs, though, you can’t odds a total IT outsourcing contract for 35,000 workstations, which Rentokil has just signed with Google.

Etisalat, meanwhile, is planning to launch a handset of its own and is negotiating with the Chinese manufacturers. You can expect a “customised user interface and broadband connectivity” for $80, it appears.

The new version of Amazon’s Kindle is here and it has a GSM radio, at last. The Guardian’s blog has an interesting piece on a rather curious two-sided business model they are using; users in the UK are paying rather less than AT&T’s bulk data roaming rates, and the secret turns out to be that US Kindle users are charged a premium for roaming internationally, which subsidises the service for international users. There’s more, including the interesting point that Sony’s rival device uses a Qualcomm dual mode chipset to handle both civilised and US networks, here. Despite that, traders at the Frankfurt book fair report that nobody buys e-books very much.

If it’s broadband connectivity you’re after, in much of the world outside the OECD, your best chance is WiMAX. And the best option for WiMAX is to see a specialist; Safaricom has just signed a contract with Alvarion for a national broadband wireless network, while Airspan expects to cover the gas-rich Bolivian province of Santa Cruz in broadband within four months. On the other hand, the South Korean government is not pleased with the rate of investment in either WiMAX or IPTV - the latter goes without saying, but the former just helps to make the point that WiMAX is the solution for the emerging markets, rather than UMTS 2.0.

The iconic - almost stereotypical - emerging market application is mobile money. Uganda’s New Vision reports that, six months after launch, MTN and Zain have signed up 250,000 customers between them and that 47% of money transfers in Kenya are now carried out through M-PESA.

Nortel, meanwhile, once a WiMAX pioneer, is being broken up piece by piece. Fibre specialists Ciena have acquired what was once the pride of Canadian industry, the Nortel unit that produced optical networking and carrier Ethernet equipment based on its treasure of patents from STC and BT.

TIM Brasil announced that it’s bringing forward a $4bn investment plan to expand its network and integrate a long-distance fibre operator it bought.

There is much havering about the proposed unlimited music download service from Virgin Media; and the behavioural ad industry mourns Phorm, while EU regulators howl at the gates. They’re already coming for the spammers; did you know the UK has never prosecuted a spammer?

In other regulatory news, it seems that the FCC knows what it wants and it knows how to get it; if the carriers want that juicy 800MHz spectrum, they’ll have to accept net neutrality. Basta! And the Federal Trade Commission wants to make bloggers disclose their freebies. (There are freebies for blogging? Who knew?)

Deutsche Telekom is accused of “saving its network to death” after it failed a much-followed quality test; it doesn’t help that they’ve still not been able to fill in a coverage hole between their HQ in Bonn and the airport, despite this personally embarrassing Kai-Uwe Ricke. Nothing like the embarrassment Didier Lombard subjected himself to - we linked to the rant from earlier this year where he accused workers outside Paris of spending all their time going fishing. Now, after dozens of employees committed suicide, who’s sorry now?

As it happens, Microsoft and T-Mobile USA are pretty sorry, in every sense of the word; all the data stored by Sidekick users in the cloud operated by Microsoft’s Danger division has disappeared. Given that the whole point of the Sidekick was that all your contacts, photos, etc were kept on a remote server and synchronised with a Web page, we’re in epic fail territory here. Users are currently advised not to switch off the gadget under any circumstances or let the battery run down, because it uses the cloud and only the cloud for persistent storage, and until the servers are back up, all your data is gone if you switch the thing off.

Famously, Cisco Systems eventually adapted to the idea that its users would hack the specialised version of Linux that runs on some of their Linksys WLAN routers. Now, they’ve taken it further; there’s a cash reward out for the best app that runs on a Cisco AXP-series router’s embedded Linux distro. The first winner created a building management system. There’s geeky for you.

Telephony Online visits the Nokia lab that tests mobile phones to destruction; and finally, this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics goes to three scientists who pioneered fibre-optic telecommunications. We’d especially like to note Charles Kao, who went from the then Woolwich Poly straight into the old Standard Telephones & Cables (STC) R&D operation, and discovered that the main obstacle to working fibre-optics was chemical rather than physical - too many iron ions in the glass, typically. (STC eventually became Nortel UK, and then, history.)

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