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November 30, 2009

Ring! Ring! Telco 2.0 News Review, 30th November 2009

Last week’s top Telco 2.0 news stories

As part of the Telco 2.0 Americas event, we’ll be debating the value of AppStores with American delegates to see if they differ in their views from their European counterparts, who we asked to vote on this question: “How successful will the current focus on consumer apps and app stores be for operators?”

Watch out! Salesforce.com has introduced a new product called Chatter, a social networking platform for users of its CRM systems. Michael Krigsman of ZDnet Project Failure reckons it’s unlikely to be one of his regular topics, and that Salesforce has taken the lead in a new field of enterprise computing. There’s more detail at Salesforce; one of the most interesting features is that your Salesforce applications can be members of the social network, as well. An interesting question - if applications can publish events into the social network, can they also receive them from it?

And how long will it be before the good folk at Salesforce add voice to Chatter? The de facto standard for rich messaging and publish-subscribe functionality is XMPP, which has the huge advantage in this scenario that the message payloads are XML, just like the enterprise data your applications are crunching. There’s an extension to that standard for voice-over-IP. We don’t know if that’s how Chatter works yet, but we wouldn’t bet against it.

On the video front, the BBC and ITV announced that they’re integrating the iPlayer and its ITV equivalent into the Freesat satellite platform they share. It’s not entirely clear how this works, but they’ve been testing with one of the set-top box suppliers; we’d like to remind you all that satellite broadcast really beats everything else for delivering bulk video at low cost per bit.

Informitv, meanwhile, has data on the iPlayer. It’s currently reaching 5 million viewers a week, or 6% of the TV user base, but only achieving 135,000 peak concurrent users; the vast majority of viewers are using it as a complement to broadcast TV rather than a replacement, too, with 96% of usage being video-on-demand rather than simulcast. Broadcast is clearly still very much relevant. However, there’s an issue of quality here - 900,000 users wanted to watch Question Time in the same week it attracted 3 million TV viewers. Now there’s a highbrow user base.

There’s also a full-service client for the iPhone coming, just as Tesco announced it was going to sell iPhones. Think exclusivity deals are a useful strategy? Think again, and stand by for iPhones that come with Every Day Low Pricing. In the US, WalMart is pushing out Google Android devices for $30 a go. Commoditisation is here.

After the first iPhone worm, we now have the first one with a malicious payload, at least if you don’t count Rick Astley as malice. The new worm targets jailbroken iPhones that are running an SSH daemon and using the default root password - so that’s two layers of blatant stupidity right there - and then tries to scarf details of ING Direct bank accounts. It also enrols the device in a botnet controlled from Lithuania, and changes the root password to “ohshit”.

Meanwhile, the original iWorm author gets his reward - a job with an Australian mobile developer shop. In other iPhone news, you can’t easily roll back an update.

There’s a review of the first Vodafone 360 handset here; apparently you have to sign up for 360 for its features to work. Who knew? The UI certainly looks cool, though. if it gets any take-up at all, it surely won’t be long before interesting applications appear, as it’s a LiMo Linux device at bottom. Speaking of Linux, here’s the next version of Nokia’s Maemo Linux running on a TI-based netbook.

Qualcomm, meanwhile, has signed a deal with a Taiwanese chip maker that is best known for providing the components that get into China’s world of grey-market devices. In a sense, it’s the hardware equivalent of the iWorm guy getting a job…and there’s now a Web site for people whose iPhone apps were rejected.

Lenovo has changed its mind about being a mobile devices OEM; they’re buying back the business unit they sold last year. For about twice what they sold it for.

Fring, it seems, has added video calling to the feature set of its mobile SIP client for Nokia S60 devices. It remains to be seen how long it will be before anyone actually makes a video call. In other news of services nobody needs, Twitter founder Biz Stone promised that the service would start to make money in 2010 through the magic of “non-traditional advertising”.

In broadband news, Clearwire announced it’s secured $2.78bn of extra capital it’s going to use to keep building out its WiMAX network. Unfortunately, they have no plans to cover this village, where the only person with broadband is the chairman of BT. It may not matter - Finland’s 2.6GHz auction is a big disappointment.

In Spain, the regulator recently issued rules under which the incumbent, Telefonica, would be obliged to let alternative operators wishing to deploy fibre use its ducts, poles, and trenches. Inevitably, this was too sensible to last and they’re going to law to appeal the decision.

Kenya, meanwhile, gets its seventh fibre network as the Kenya Power & Light Company starts rolling out down its rights-of-way, although we’re talking backbone rather than access here. However, they have some rather different problems; Mickael Ghossein, CEO of their rival Telkom Kenya, says in an interview that his fibre network is sabotaged on average 10 times a month.

In the UK, hotspot operator The Cloud is sued over someone downloading copyrighted content in a pub. Relatedly, Virgin Media apparently wants to deep-packet inspect all its user traffic with a system from Detica.

However, the Internet Service Providers’ Association is the latest body to come out against the proposed three strikes legislation. And then came the mobile operators. Chief among them is of course Vodafone, which is trialling tiered pricing in Spain, with the special feature that the lower classes of service can have more bandwidth when the network is quiet as well as getting less when it’s congested.

O2 UK is home to a new kind of MVNO - GiffGaff wants to be “run by its customers”, which in practice means that you get a reward for signing up other people or answering their questions. And you get free data for the first six months, as well as competitive voice and messaging rates. Let’s see what happens in six months’ time.

The former CEO of Vimpelcom is now the CEO of new Vimpelcom, and a huge quantity of pager messages from September 11th, 2001 has been leaked. That should perhaps encourage us to take David Burgess’s warning about the security consequences of ultra-cheap telecoms gear seriously.

And the cloud sometimes crashes to earth.

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November 24, 2009

Shareholder Value 2.0: Investors now rating telcos as ‘utilities’. What to do?

[Ed - this is a summary of the Shareholder Value session at the 7th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm, held in London on the 4th-5th of November. We’ll be covering the same issues from a North American perspective in the 8th Executive Brainstorm in Orlando on the 9th-10th of December.]

This session covered the broad strategic and financial issues facing the telecoms industry, and its relationship with the capital markets. The presenters were Richard Kramer of Arete Research and Chris Barraclough of Telco 2.0. This article comprises a Report of the Session, and a Telco 2.0 Summary Analysis.

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Report of the Session

SmartPhone Profit Smash in 2010
Richard Kramer opened on the future of the devices market. He argued that an epic battle for the device market is ahead; a combination of heavy investment in eye-catching new gadgets and savage price competition means that the smartphone industry profit pool will probably be net zero this year. A similar phenomenon can be seen happening with the network vendors - who have the further problem of growing competition from IT vendors, the replacement of expensive specialised hardware with generic IT equipment, and the pricing power of a consolidating telecoms industry.

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In the devices world, a major driver of these changes was the arrival of Silicon Valley in the device market. North American vendors - Apple, Palm, Motorola, RIM, and Google as the main sponsor of Android - are finally pushing back after years of domination by the Scandinavian and Korean vendors, but this is likely to be the last hurrah, as vast numbers of Indian and Chinese engineers arrive in the industry. In the short term, Samsung is likely to benefit the most, but eventually, the chipmakers will start to hollow out the device makers. As the technology shifts towards system-on-a-chip packages, their makers will tend to work directly with carriers.

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Telcos are rated as Utilities

Kramer expects that the big distribution players will win video, and the big Web 2.0 players will win applications; so it should come as no surprise that it is a fact, not a judgement, that telcos are now viewed as utility players by investors in all markets. In practice, this means that telco shareholders expect a focus on operational efficiency (cost reductions) and a strong dividend yield. They do not want to see free cash flow invested back in the business on the basis of expected growth, and no investors want to see separate LTE networks for each operators in each country.

As a result, the media and tech industries, despite being of comparable size and profitability, are rated significantly higher by the markets.

A maturing market in a recession is a tough place to be

Chris Barraclough also emphasised a realistic view of the industry’s prospects in these times of recession. Summarising the strategic trends affecting telcos at the moment, he pointed to the increasing availability of substitutes for their products and the associated rising price elasticity of demand, the rapid rise in costs generated by the demand for bulk data (especially in wireless), and a regulatory environment that has been distinctly unfriendly in Europe for some years and is now becoming more stringent in the US.

It’s probably not the time to change into a content player…

Further, there is little reason to imagine that the industry will change this through innovation in products or services. The experiences of investing in content providers and mobile TV demonstrate this clearly. Exclusive agreements to sell the latest shiny gadgets are by definition a short-term fix only, as the vendors have no interest in restricting their addressable market. App stores may be interesting, but they also generate significant traffic costs. As prices in the core business of voice and messaging are still falling, it’s no surprise telcos are considered utility players.

… though there are other ways to create value from core assets

But there is hope. When Amazon was facing plateauing sales and heavy competition, it was able to fundamentally change its business model; the classic example of this is Marketplace, the service through which other businesses sell their products via Amazon. Marketplace enabled them to increase the number of SKUs on offer by a factor of 10, which means that it now represents 5% of revenues and 30% of profits. This seems counterintuitive - it meant letting competitors sell next to Amazon’s own product lines. But, being a two-sided business model, it means that Amazon benefits from their success.

What do operators need to replicate this? Leadership - it’s vital to get support from the top. Data-mining skills - Google makes money from a fraction of the telcos’ data resources, because it exploits them efficiently and provides value to both sides of the model. And industry collaboration, because no operator is big enough to provide the ubiquity that upstream customers need.

Panel - Telcos can get something done…

In the panel discussion that followed, an important point that arose was that tech stocks are much more highly valued than telcos’ even though they have a high failure rate. Richard Kramer pointed out that Google, for example, frequently shuts down failed projects. Investors in the tech industry - including big, reliable companies like IBM - are willing to tolerate repeated small-scale failures as the cost of progress. But telcos are rarely forgiven, so there is a significant deterrent to innovation - probably because the telecoms industry seems to struggle to come up with strategies to limit its commitment when it experiments, so the cost of failure is cripplingly high.

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Providing they underpromise and overdeliver…

However, as Werner Vogels of Amazon remarked at a past Telco 2.0, it’s probably best to start a project and deliver on it, and let the market be pleasantly surprised.

…and invest intelligently…

Telcos are currently businesses that employ a lot of capital, and which are under constant pressure to defend their margins. Chris Barraclough presented a chart showing asset utilisation against profit margins for different companies; Amazon, for example, operates at low margins but utilises its assets at very high intensity whereas most operators generate relative strong margins but have relative low asset turnover. Two-sided businesses tend to start with relatively high asset utilisation (ie they need limited capital investment) and low margins (they price low to win customers and build scale). However over time, as Google has shown, they can progressively lower opex and increase margins through capital investment. If they get this right and develop a leadership position, as Microsoft has done, they can yield very strong returns. Telcos need to get away from the obsession with margin. Too many projects at operators are blocked purely on the basis of margin. Yet a low(er) margin, low capex two-sided business model can still generate similar (or higher returns) than their existing high margin, high capex one-sided business model.

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Delegates: the Future is Uncertain
Delegates were asked to vote on possible future scenarios. Several picked that operators should cut costs and become “Much More Efficient” while a signficant minority felt that they should continue witht the Telco 1.0 business model but do it better: “The same but better”. 25% of so felt that a Telco 2.0 future was the answer (Progressive Change) while around 10% felt that the answer for Telcos was to harvest and accept a ‘Slow Death’. All in all, no clear winning overall scenario emerged. These is because as an industry we are currently entering a phase of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) and there is no industry consensus on what the future holds.

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Richard Kramer remarked that the scenarios delegates were asked to vote on didn’t include two key limiting cases - ‘Explosion of Innovation’ from Telcos (an aggressive move to Telco 2.0), and ‘Implosion of Telecoms’, or to put it another way, telepocalypse.

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Summary - Telco 2.0 Analysis

Investors aren’t showing much faith in most Telcos’ futures today…
Years of average performance have bred investor cynicism in Telco growth abilities, though at least most have reasonably stable cash-flow, so that Telco stocks were turned to for a dividend-rich harvest during the stock market volatility of the credit crunch.

…and Techs are valued, but risky

Likewise in Tech stocks, despite some strong recent performers such as Apple iPhone, the high points are likely to short-lived given the market outlook.

So, how should Telco and Tech companies respond?

Investors don’t set strategies, CEOs do…

Most investors follow the success of yesterday’s strategy in today’s results and the majority of their interests are therefore logically locked-in on near term issues.

Yet they love CEOs and companies that beat the market norms with smart moves, and it is clear that maintaining or marginally improving the status quo will not be a formula for beating the average in these markets. New growth strategies are needed (see the unambiguous delegate votes from the May 2009 and Nov 2008 Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorms).

… and some Telco 2.0 Strategies will work…

Some of the positive themes emerging from this session and the EMEA brainstorm overall were as follows.

• Telco 2.0 ‘two-sided’ telecoms business model strategies are seen to be one of the few contenders for strategies to produce new growth in Telecoms and indeed in some related Tech markets, relying as they do on the evolution of core assets and capabilities rather than the complete invention of a new industry and set of assets.

• In the last 12 months there has been a significant increase in interest in and activities demonstrating Telco 2.0 Strategies, as shown by the senior delegates attending Telco 2.0 brainstorms, and many of the speakers and exhibitors.

• Many Telco 2.0 strategies are well suited to low-cost innovation and market testing, as many carry in-life Telco 1.0 advantages such as better retailing capabilities, and require relatively small amounts of investment given smart planning and alignment of resources. O2’s Top-up Surprises is a good example of this.

• The new Telco 2.0 Use Cases presented were received well, with the majority of attendees concluding that they represent real market opportunities that can and should be addressed - or at least tried.

…but the clock is ticking…
However, a key conclusion of the Telco 2.0 Team following the EMEA brainstorm is that the ‘clock is ticking’ for Telcos in particular, who face an increasing challenge to exploit these opportunities for the following reasons:

• Telcos are not the only type of business capable of realising many of the opportunities. The national infrastructure interests of governments are increasingly setting some national broadband agendas, and the actions of adjacent market players such as Google have rapidly eroded the value of assets once thought to be Telco-specific such as location services.

• There has been a major global recession that has impacted opportunities overall and particularly in previously attractive industries such as Finance and Insurance, and which has also even more sharply focused Investors’ interests in Telcos’ cash and dividend flows.

• Telcos generally have a poor track record of innovation, and while some of the larger Telcos such as Vodafone appear to be taking significant steps in collaboration with partners in other regions, most telcos appear slow to embrace the level of legitimate intra-regional collaboration required to produce the sufficient scale in shared commercial platforms required to create new competitive ‘upstream’ markets.

…and Fortune Favours the Bold

In our view, the mixed outlooks of EMEA delegates on the prospects ahead reflect both the uncertainties and differences in perceptions of the large variety of organisations and markets represented.

As Kramer commented - “There has never been a more interesting time in my 15 years covering these (TMT) sectors. The one certainty is that the status quo will not be maintained. There will be some spectacular losers and some spectacular winners.”

In short, the “big ideas” are beginning to encounter reality, and the opportunities to create new value are in the critical, market-defining stage. Not all of the opportunities will be realised, but it looks increasingly possible that some will, and that the winners - those that lead and participate, rather than the fast-followers - could ultimately emerge in a very strong position relative to their peers.

[Ed - if you missed the EMEA event we’ll be exploring the American perspective at the 8th Executive Brainstorm in Orlando, 9th - 10th December.]

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November 23, 2009

Monetizing the App Store: Guest Post, Fergus O’Reilly, SAP

Fergus O’Reilly is a chief solutions expert at SAP. In this guest post, he explores the drivers of Apple’s success with the iPhone/App Store system and what it means for rival app stores, telco developer communities, and your core billing systems. Telco 2.0 Europe delegates were notably concerned that app stores were turning into “Crazy Frog 2.0”, and that not enough effort was going into enterprise CEBP, as the chart below shows. Crazy Frog 2.0 would characterise a market dominated by impulse buys of low value products by consumers, with minimal stickiness or brand awareness.

Clearly, our delegates preferred the possibility of a bigger and more sustainable market in the enterprise, and one that would preferentially consist of recurring service revenues rather than one-off sales.

Which of the following markets are most profitable for telcos to focus on?

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Apple wowed the world with the iPhone (I am a happy owner) and then had more glory heaped on them for their App Store concept. Since the App Store was launched in July 2008, the demand for mobile applications has exploded and more and more companies - from telecom operators to wireless device manufactures to media companies - are racing to launch their own versions. For instance, RIM has launched the BlackBerry App World, Google has the Android Market, the TV set-top box maker Roku will soon launch their own version, and BMW recently introduced its Concept BMW Application Store.

While the app store is arguably the hottest topic in the telecom and high tech industry right now, the concept of paying for downloading apps to your phone is not new. Operators have been doing it for years. Starting in the late 1990s, end-users would pay either a one-time or basic subscription fee to download small arcade games, ringtone, etc. on a mobile web browser or microbrowsers. In addition, the concept of a device manufacturer or other non-operator entity running the store is also an old idea; check out what was done in the past by Palm, Handspring, Handango and many others.

What Apple did when it introduced its App Store was to revitalize the idea with some tweaks to the model:

  • Better platform: the iPhone offers a development environment and a developer-relations community that has triggered a race among handset manufacturers to match it.
  • Better revenue share model: the simple Apple 30% / developer 70% split is generous to the developers while covering Apple’s costs plus a little margin. Apple is interested in shipping lots of iPhones and that is where they make their revenue. Encouraging application development makes the iPhone a more attractive device and Apple will sell more phones. They do not really need to make money off the applications sales directly. This is an advantage any device manufacturer can have if they have a proprietary platform. Operators have not and cannot use the same business model.
  • Better retailing: Apple did some simple things in their store like allowing consumer ratings and rankings of popular apps per category. Simple stuff that Amazon showed the world how to do 14 years ago! But many of the operator walled garden portals did not even do this. There is still plenty of room left to improve the store with application recommendation systems - “people who bought this also bought those.”
But these are just tweaks to an existing model. None of this really fundamentally shakes things up. This is what Apple is very good at: taking an existing market full of mediocre products and dominating it by doing exactly the same thing, but just doing it really well. The App Store is an example of their historic expertise in user experience design and developer communities being deployed together as a formidable operations excellence play.

App Store or Services Platforms?

Right now, the App Store is very much a product-centric model: you buy an application, it is an atomic transaction: you pay once, you own it. Apps have unitary prices which are the same for everyone shopping in the store.

A Services Platform would be quite different. Instead of buying applications you would sign up for services. This is much more like the telecom operator model. Service pricing would depend on who you were, how you used the service, whether you bought related services or optional extras. So service pricing requires packaging, bundles, cross-product discounts, rewards and discounts for regular users. There are already a number of developers on the Apple App Store that complain that they do not have this kind of pricing flexibility available on the platform.

Service pricing could also be used as an incentive to attract high-end developers. In this increasingly competitive market, cultivating and fostering the app developer community is critical. This means efficient and repeatable partner on-boarding, such as putting in place a rapid submission and approval processes and offering packaged access to secure test environments, sandboxes, beta testing services, etc. It also means allowing developers to choose between charging a set fixed price for their apps or a services pricing model with recurring fees, bundles, discounts, promotions, etc. The developer sign-up and contract negotiation process needs to look different and follow different approval rules when a small developer applies compared to a large brand powerhouse. But it all needs to be automated to allow for scaling to tens of thousands of developers.

A Service Platform would also support online services and give developers a platform to connect to and use for creative mash-ups. For instance, your phone knows who you are and your SIM card provides watertight identity management. A Service Platform could leverage this to provide things like single-sign-on, anonymized identity management, or user preference management across all online apps like Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! email, etc. This turns an operator platform into a Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) offering. And if operators band together to standardize how these NaaS platforms are accessed, using unified APIs and ensuring inter-carrier interoperability, then that becomes a very powerful value proposition for developers: develop once and deploy across multiple global carriers, reaching hundreds of millions of subscribers.

Are Your Systems Ready to Support Services?

For many of those entering this space, figuring out how to monetize their assets is an enormous challenge. In contrast to a product-centric model, service-based business models are necessarily multi-sided and highly interlinked. As this app space continues to develop, there is likely to continue to be much experimentation in the areas of pricing, packaging and revenue sharing. Those who can establish a firm place controlling the flow of transactions between users, developers and advertisers, stand to gain the most. Business model flexibility is therefore a strong requirement, as is putting in place the right revenue billing and revenue sharing solution to handle:

  • End-Customer Billing: all services built by the community of developers should be promoted using a mix of eCommerce-style onetime payments and subscription or usage-based pricing models. Although pricing and promotions for a third party application or service should be under the developer’s control, the operator should be able to manage packages and pricing for groups of services sold together as bundles.
  • Operator Revenue Sharing: operators running an app store for their developer partners need to craft win-win revenue sharing deals depending on the partner and the application.
  • Developer Billing: direct billing of third party developers for their use of the NaaS platform itself and the different operator services and APIs that are exposed on it. This needs to support a wide range of different types of developer from large enterprises with negotiated volume discounts, to small independent developers or individuals who may need to be on credit-limited or prepaid plans to protect against credit risk.
  • Billing-on-behalf-of: developers who roll out applications can choose to charge their customers in a direct relationship.
  • Inter-Partner Settlement: some partners may use services developed by other partners in their applications, consequently inter-partner settlement should used reconcile shared revenue.
  • Multi-lateral Clearing: The operator is the platform provider who sits in the middle of the money flow between all the different customers and partners and can, potentially, take the valuable position of managing the credit risk for all parties while doing a form of multi-lateral netting (i.e. offsetting the receivables and payables among the different players, with corresponding periodic payments to or from the platform provider).

To meet these demands requires radical changes in business models, business processes, and business support systems. Companies will require a pricing and charging system, such as SAP Converged Charging, that allows them to monetize services dynamically and in real-time, manage revenue sharing between diverse business partners, and sustain massive transaction volumes while rapidly changing their business models and optimizing profitability. In addition, they need to be able to define pricing strategies, test and apply them in real time, manage transactions between partners and feedback historical usage data into the evolution of pricing policies. All of this assured with accurate forecasting and follow up in order to secure profits. The tools to do this are already available today - all companies need to do is apply their creativity to use them to their full extent.

[Ed. - SAP will be giving a stimulus presentation in the M2M session at the 8th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in Orlando from the 9th-10th December.]

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Ring! Ring! Telco 2.0 News Review

Last week’s top Telco 2.0 news stories

Vodafone is keen to find new ways of deriving revenue from its soaring data traffic. One way, according to Vodafone Europe CEO Michel Combes, might be to charge end-users or perhaps even content providers for guarantees of better QoS. This could go either way - two-sided triumph or IMS-headed fiasco. After all, it’s not clear to what extent a mobile radio network really can guarantee quality of service over the air.

Before this even becomes relevant, though, Vodafone may face a worse problem; without cross-industry collaboration, content providers, clouds, etc may not be interested in negotiating with every mobile operator in Europe and integrating with their diverse technical solutions. Delegates at Telco 2.0’s EMEA Brainstorm agreed that appropriate collaboration on APIs is now necessary to create the market.

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The CEO of Getjar, the world’s second biggest AppStore after Apple, is to speak at the 8th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in Orlando from the 9th-10th December.
Wired News has a warning about the dangers of committing to app stores dominated by one huge vendor.

Hiring David Isenberg was a good idea; the FCC held what sounds like a fascinating meeting on how to deploy fibre in the US. It’s well worth noting the CTO of Verizon’s remarks. He reckons that every wireless carrier wants to pull fibre to their cell sites, and that the real limiting factor for capacity on mobile isn’t spectrum, but the availability of fibre for backhaul. 40% of Verizon Wireless’s towers are already fibred-up.

Telephony Online cites a report from Infonetics that claims that spending on backhaul grew 59% last year and will grow 60% this year. Point-to-point microwave Ethernet kit is apparently in especially heavy demand - it saves trenching, and at least it operates in fairly obscure tracts of the radio spectrum.

It sounded like a crazy idea when David Isenberg first suggested it, but according to Brough Turner, some US communities are building user-owned fibre to the home. You find between $1,700 and $3,000, and they lay your very own strand of glass. Interesting detail - the take-rate is by definition 100%. And in Australia, the first service provider has confirmed it will move its customers onto wholesale service from the National Broadband Network.

It’s worth remembering that it’s bread and butter issues like coverage and capacity that are making the headlines in the US telco market. AT&T and VZW are suing each other over the ad blitzes both carriers are conducting. Both parties are bombarding the public with ads claiming to have more coverage - of course, that depends what you mean by “more” and “coverage”, and so the lawyers have been rolled out. In the latest shots, AT&T tried to force VZW to stop showing a particular spot, failed, and announced another wave of ads.

Fortunately, US advertising rates are as low as they’ve ever been, with huge ad buyers like the car industry and the real-estate sector on the ropes, so the temptation for any marketing department with cash on hand is to hose ‘em down. P for Plenty, as they say.

Verizon is hoping that the Motorola Droid gadget will be a strategic match for the iPhone. Among other things, their ads have been boasting about the camera on the Droid. So it may be a little embarrassing to have to rush out a firmware update to make it work better. Palm is also patching this week.

Palm’s entire future is staked on the idea that all the applications on your device run in a Web browser; now Sony Ericsson is going the same way with a new SDK. Apparently it’s based on BONDI and implements the open-source PhoneGap framework. Meanwhile, Nokia developers try to work out what on earth various Symbian capabilities are for. Perhaps it’ll come as a relief to find that they have a spanking new user-interface toolkit for Nokia Web Runtime widgets. (You can preview the UI here.)

Perhaps it may also come as a relief to hear that Nokia may decide to use Maemo Linux on the top-line Nseries phone instead of Symbian S60.

Google, meanwhile, announced its Chrome OS - basically the Chrome browser running on a canned linux system. Apparently they’re hoping to make it a standard for netbooks.

The UK government is suddenly vexed by big-file upload sites, and nobody quite knows why. On the other hand, TalkTalk is protesting vehemently against the planned “three strikes” legislation and promises to refuse to disconnect anyone until forced to do so in court. Charles Dunstone is angry:

“We don’t support copyright infringement in any way but we live in the real world and understand that no amount of policing and censorship will solve the problem,” said Charles Dunstone, CEO of TalkTalk Group. “It doesn’t matter how many websites are blocked, how many services are shut down or how many individuals are pursued, people will always find ways to access copyrighted content for free.

When we asked Telco 2.0 delegates about their expectations of the legislation, 80% of them agreed with Dunstone.

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On the other hand, there’s a catastrophic breach of user privacy. T-Mobile UK employees were caught this week selling the details of subscribers whose contracts were coming up for renewal, so the competition could cold-call them. It’s as yet unclear how many people were spammed as a result, but the Information Commissioner thinks jail time might help. (Perhaps that’s why they want to jam mobile phones in prisons?)

In a related issue, security guru Bruce Schneier has a taxonomy of user data in social networks. He also reports on an unintended consequence of data-retention legislation - the standard 64Kbits circuit used to carry the surveillance data is a potential denial-of-service attack target.

In the daddy of all telecoms privacy cases, the so-called “Spitzelaffäre” in which Deutsche Telekom management used subscriber data and information from many other corporate databases to spy on journalists, members of the supervisory board, and trade unionists, former Deutsche Telekom boss Kai-Uwe Ricke’s lawyers say he’s going to spill the beans when he testifies to the state prosecutor for Bonn later this week.

A downside of the hysteria about P2P filesharing is that it acts as a chilling effect on fantastic new ideas. Consider Skifta, an application growing out of Qualcomm R&D that distributes your media content around your devices whereever they may be, using the DLNA set of standards. Unfortunately, they’re subject to music licensing hell; like the streaming service MySpace just bought, which apparently can’t keep up with its licensing payments.

The chaos of Pirate World spins on. Here’s an attempt at a new business model; a manufacturer of set-top boxes wants to include YouTube videos as a channel on the device. Google says no. The key? The manufacturer is being asked to fork over a minimum multi-million purchase of advertising from Google.

News Corp wants to make Microsoft pay it to let them index its newspaper sites for their search engine, in order to worry Google. You can’t help feeling that Murdoch has overestimated the percentage of Web traffic that his newspapers actually account for; especially as Google already has an exclusive search deal for MySpace sites.

In Oman, meanwhile, VoIP is a crime, and there’s a roundtable with Martin Geddes here on the future of voice and the cloud. Motorola, by the way, is investing in iDEN tech.

And, hilariously, The Pirate Bay is suing a Swedish electronics retailer over their intellectual property rights.

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November 19, 2009

Media 2.0: Online Music should be licensed, ‘3 strikes’ won’t work

[Ed - this is a summary of the Media 2.0 session at the 7th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm, held in London on the 4th-5th of November. We’ll be further discussing the issues involved at the 8th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in Orlando on the 9th-10th of December.]

This session covered issues relating to content, the media industries and their relationship with telcos, and the delivery of online video. The presenters were Feargal Sharkey of UK Music, Gerd Leonhard of Mediafuturist.com, and David Touve of the Williams School of Commerce. The panel discussion also featured Francis Keeling of Universal Music, Damian Newton of Sony, Jon James of Virgin Media, Cameron Rejali of BT Wholesale, Rupert Day of GroupM, and Dan Klein of Detica.

Online Music: what’s so funny ‘bout peace love and understanding?
A major theme in Feargal Sharkey’s keynote was the search for a less adversarial relationship between the music industry and the Internet/telco community.

He argued that, notwithstanding what might or might not happen with the proposed anti-filesharing legislation, it was necessary to establish new business models that would encompass the whole value chain. The solution to the piracy problem might eventually be to compete successfully with the pirates.

This would involve offering much better search, discovery, and recommendation functionality, and attractive pricing. Services like Spotify and Amazon’s MP3 download store would be part of the solution, but it would also be very important to develop a workable wholesale business model. Unlimited music downloads might eventually be a subscription product that is bundled in the price of Internet access; with the right wholesale model, it would be possible to offer music on terms that look like free to the end user.

This would imply that the wholesale licensing would have to be priced at a level that would permit ISPs to benefit as well - especially as a significant chunk of their traffic costs are made up of music downloads.

Licensing: Online the same as Radio?
Gerd Leonhard argued for a licensing regime similar to that created for radio. He sketched out important strategic trends - everyone has broadband, the cost of reproducing content is near-zero, advertising spending has moved on-line very quickly and is concentrating in the newest fields like social networking and viral video, and p2p is being replaced by direct download sites and streaming services. For this last point, he referred to charts from the Craig Labovitz presentation referred to in this post.

He argued that scarcity creates economic value, and therefore value had accrued to the music industry when the means of reproducing music were scarce. Now, though, this was no longer true, and therefore value was migrating into a variety of other activities - rather than being a “copy economy”, we are faced with an “access economy”. Again, distribution, search/discovery, recommendation, and aggregation were critical.

Attempts to restore the copy economy, he thought, were either likely to be inefficient - like a traffic jam at a toll booth - or else so restrictive as to stop all activity, leaving the roads empty. The Amazon Kindle was a good idea as far as it went, but this was only likely to work where a hardware device was critical and a major source of differentiation. In an environment where publishing and production were extremely cheap and commoditised, the only important actors were creators and end users. It was necessary for others to facilitate their interaction through a two-sided business model.

In order to achieve this, it’s necessary to have a much simplified public license like that used for radio.

Telco 2.0 EMEA Delegates: ‘3 Strikes’ will not work
The delegates were asked to vote on what effect they expected “three strikes” anti-filesharing legislation to have on piracy. The result was somewhat surprising; 80% of the delegates expected it to have no effect whatsoever, although it wasn’t clear to what extent this reflected doubts about whether the legislation would ever go into force.

vote2-nov2009.png

“License the Joyful Noise”
David Touve attempted to analyse the situation in terms of the characteristics of products versus services. He argued that if something is product-like, it’s also more likely to be a typical rivalrous good, i.e. that if one person consumes a unit of it, no-one else can; however, media is typically neither a product nor a service, but an experience, perceived in sensory and emotional terms and which has personal, social, and cultural significance. Its commercial value is a small fraction of the total experience.

Rivalrous goods, he said, are rivalrous either because they are scarce or because their enjoyment is exclusive; there’s not enough to go around, or it’s possible to keep other people from benefiting from the good. Live performances, specifically, are both scarce and exclusive, and so they are both rivalrous and product-like. Recording used to be scarce, but efforts to maintain its exclusivity artificially through things like DRM have failed to do so. Now, it’s becoming less and less like a product. Delegates were asked to vote on whether they expected media to be more like a product, or more like a service, in the future; 90% expected it to become more like a service.

DRM is popular with rightsholders precisely because it’s a product; similarly, DPI and IMS are popular with vendors because they are products and vendors understand products. But media is no longer a product even if it ever was. Past experience with television and radio, he argued, suggests that a broad platform licensing approach would be optimal for non-rivalrous content.

Drawing attention to the results of the votes held during the session, he pointed out that the overwhelming majority of the delegates strongly supported a policy of tolerance, “licensing the joyful noise” as he put. Delegates had been asked to choose which of two approaches - licensing and filtering - would be best for the media industry, for the telecoms industry, and for the end users. The delegates voted with a large majority - 73%, 75%, and 77% respectively - for licensing and tolerance.

Therefore, he asked, why is the industry so drawn to “three strikes” legislation? Why is it such a powerful strange attractor?

Slide14.PNG

Panel - the end-to-end business model needs to work
The panel discussion centred around the apparent success of so-called “freemium” business models like that of Spotify (where the basic product is free, given away in order to up-sell premium adjacent products). There was little support for DRM technologies, which appeared to be as unpopular with the delegates as they are with everyone else; Damian Newton pointed out that customers dislike the restrictions between devices, regions, time periods, etc, and that they rarely understand how they work.

2009_11_05_Telco.2.0_small_289.jpg

An important point regarding content delivery that was raised during the panel was that “piracy” or “music” can’t be considered as the challenge to ISP business models in their own right; instead, the real bandwidth hog is media in general, as Cameron Rejali of BT Wholesale pointed out. After all, there is nothing piratical about the BBC iPlayer, which took average usage from 30 to 150Kbits per user in real time.

Jon James of Virgin Media pointed out that a few years ago, everyone believed P2P filesharing had won, but now the legal streaming services were growing incredibly fast. It was necessary for the users to experience free, looks-like-free, or cheap legal applications - once they were sensitised to them, uptake was very fast.

Live, Vinyl, CD, Paid Downloads, Free are all still part of the experience
It also emerged that recent research carried out for UK Music suggested that the attraction of physical media - whether in the sense of DVDs, or in the sense of the iPod or Kindle - is still a real phenomemon. This was true even for people who regularly downloaded pirate content. A similar preference for download to streaming was observable.

Francis Keeling of Universal remarked that good adjacent solutions that provided excellent search, discovery, and recommendation features were vital, and that if the telecoms/Internet industry didn’t help in creating a value chain, the content industry would partner directly with advertisers and cut out the middleman.

Finally, it was clear that the main issue here was the need for a business model that integrated free, premium, and live.

Delegates’ comments through the Mindshare system emphasised that the issue is still highly polarised, but this seems less important in the light of the evident consensus revealed by the votes. Spotify seems to be universally popular, and it was pleasing to see that the delegates were aware that communications, not content, are the industry’s core business.

[Ed. At the forthcoming Telco 2.0 Americas Executive Brainstorm, David Touve will be helping us explore some more issues arising from this debate. For example, how does Net Neutrality interrelate with the content question? The proposed rulemaking currently contains references to “lawful” content - will this be used as “three strikes” by the back door? Similarly, if ISPs begin to provide wholesale media, does this mean they have to let their competitors’ media store traffic travel on the same terms as their own? And is the migration of media into the cloud now so important that the P2P debate is obsolete?]

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November 16, 2009

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 16th November 2009

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

YouTube is about to turn up high-definition video, with the 1080p standard becoming available from next week. Just watch the backhaul links light up when that stuff starts flowing. Clearly, we’re still going to need a bigger boat - or rather, a better, integrated video delivery system.

Note that Qualcomm’s MediaFLO wholesale broadcast operation is becoming a direct-to-consumer video play in its own right, using an interesting new CPE device, and Adobe wants your TV to run Flash.

3UK, for its part, wants to throttle down video and p2p applications, or maybe just the p2p applications, in specifically congested cells. An early release of the measure suggested that they might limit users to one video stream at a time - presumably this referred to laptop/dongle users, as it seems hard to imagine watching concurrent videos on a mobile phone. Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to let users imagine that dongles were a substitute for fixed broadband - it certainly wasn’t for this man, whose Orange 3G device roamed onto the carrier’s nearby Belgian network without his knowledge, resulting in a €46,000 data-roaming bill.

We’ll be discussing the problem in the Media 2.0 and the Internet Access 2.0 sessions at the Telco 2.0 Americas event at the end of the month.

In other Google news, Google acquired mobile-ads company Admob for a very cool $750 million. Admob’s special trick is serving up adverts inside mobile applications; stand by for more action, as Google promised to resume acquisitions in its Q3 earnings call. [Ed. - Don’t miss our Google - Where to Cooperate, Where to Compete? Executive Briefing.]

And indeed, they just acquired Gizmo5, the long-standing SIP voice-over-IP provider and developer. Gizmo’s been around as long as Skype and is probably the biggest single softphone community, and was a favourite of very early adopters keen to set up their own VoIP systems, as it was one of the first to have PSTN interconnection and widespread SIP peering. Many of the same people also became early adopters of Google Voice, and a lot of them discovered it was possible to use Gizmo as the connectivity for GVoice and thus get more free calls. The acquisition brings added scale, relationships with carriers, and probably some technology as well.

They’re also experimenting with a new version of HTTP, too. Another week at Google.

Meanwhile, another Apple App Store row, as a veteran developer’s application is turned down for using the Apple logo. They eventually replaced it with that of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which points to a more serious case; developer writes something similar to WriteToThem, an application to contact any one of the 544 members of Congress, and it gets declined for “ridiculing public figures” because it’s illustrated with cartoons.

Not that it’s much of a problem for Apple; they made more profit from phones than Nokia in the third quarter. On the other hand, this photo of unwanted Palm Pres on sale secondhand is doing the rounds of the blogosphere; just as the latest version of WebOS and associated SDK is launched.

Apple decided to spill more details of their app store business processes this week, providing updates on how far an app has made it through the approval system. RIM, meanwhile, promised that billing through carrier APIs would be available to developers next year - RIM has an advantage here because it has its own service infrastructure, which means it could take care of the integration with the carriers’ systems itself and provide a single billing API. (We will, of course, be discussing these problems in the APIs session at the next Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm.)

Speaking of carrier APIs, here’s an application that’s painfully recreating a service that Vodafone already provides wholesale. Waze provides traffic information by logging the movements of other Waze users, who have to have the app running and both the GPS and the radio data link active. Several mobile operators actually already provide navigation firms with information about where there are concentrations of users - i.e. traffic jams - on the road.

The head of the Symbian Foundation gave an interview in which he promises to “attack Android like a tiger” while trying to cream off developers from the iPhone, although the news from Samsung isn’t necessarily encouraging. For their part, Qualcomm is promising a major revision of its BREW applications platform for next year.

In still more smartphone news, Dell’s first attempt is going to launch in China. And the discovery that a lot of “jailbroken” iPhones have an SSH service running and their users don’t necessarily remember to change the default passwords has led to an outbreak of malware. And someone’s done an application that makes Android devices and Palm Pres talk to iTunes.

Still in the developer world, Russell Bryant posts an interesting update on the history of Asterisk. It’s a fascinating look at the way an open-source project can scale really fast as new contributors and users swarm in.

Bangladeshi GSM subscribers, in what ought to be a much more interesting story than all those iPhone ones, are swarming into a BBC-backed mobile language learning application; 300,000 people signed up on day one, as opposed to a predicted 25,000. And it’s based entirely on voice and SMS - each lesson is a three-minute phone call.

About three million prepaid GSM numbers are facing cancellation in Spain if their users don’t register them with the government under an anti-terrorist measure. There is an estimated €25m of outstanding airtime credit on the devices.

BT came back up from the horrors of its clash with the NHS IT Zombie, with rather better numbers and a promise of a 5% boost in the dividend. However, the drive for cost cuts has only intensified, with another 5,000 jobs going.

Telefonica tried but didn’t succeed in acquiring Brazilian alternative fixed operator GVT; instead, Vivendi closed the deal for €2.8bn after an extended auction.

In Hong Kong, City Telecom has gone from being a calling-card provider to offering 100Mbits symmetrical FTTH for $13 a month. How did they do it? A big part of the answer is clearly the population density - it cost them $200 on average to fibre-up a home. But perhaps the most important point here is that once they got the fibre out there, growth took off spectacularly; it’s the Free.fr strategy again - be the absolute best at providing one product.

In other fibre news, David S. Isenberg of “Stupid Network” fame has joined the team drawing up the US government’s national broadband plan, which has probably got to be good news.

For years, reporters on the telecoms beat could be certain of one thing; come what may, there would always be a story about the ownership disputes surrounding Russian conglomerate Alfa Group’s mobile interests. Telco 2.0 recalls being told by one party’s PR agency to consult a particular blog that turned out to be a front operation for the same PR company; this came after spending several days calling the company’s various phone numbers without anyone ever answering. Now it’s all over, and Alfa has roughly come out on top, although the peace treaties with Telenor and Teliasonera leave them with significant stakes in two new holding companies.

Ericsson closed the deal for a chunk of Nortel’s guts - they’re paying a billion dollars for its LTE and legacy CDMA business.

Steven Murdoch of the Cambridge Computer Lab’s security team gives an interesting interview about the problems of banking IT security and specifically of Chip and PIN. It should remind us that identification, authentication, and security are fields telcos are meant to be good at.

And finally, is there an app for that?

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November 9, 2009

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 9th November 2009

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

Last week was Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm time again in London; watch this space for blogs, video, slides, etc over the next few weeks as we run up to the first ever Telco 2.0 Americas next month.

After a panel that included the heads of API programmes at operators representing just under a billion subscribers, two-thirds of the delegates to Telco 2.0 believe that telcos should concentrate their efforts in developer communities on enterprise business processes, rather than consumer applications. “Which of the following markets are most profitable for telcos to focus their API efforts on? (Choose one)”:

enterprisevsconsumer.png

UK Music chief and ex-Undertone Feargal Sharkey’s keynote in the Media 2.0 session at Telco 2.0 dealt with the possibility of peace breaking out between the music industry and the Internet community; he reckons the growth of services like Spotify and DRM-free download stores like Amazon’s may lead to the industry eventually out-competing the pirates. After Pirate World, new players emerge - where have we heard that one before?

In Denmark this week, the local music lobby has abandoned efforts to prosecute file sharers. Telco 2.0 keynote speaker Gerd Leonhard points out that 75% of the delegates expect anti-file sharing legislation to be entirely ineffective.

Not everyone agrees. Negotiators on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement are worryingly close to reviving the idea of making ISPs act as policemen in various ways - specifically, by creating a global equivalent of the notorious DMCA takedown notices. Similarly, new US legislation on securities fraud would require Internet operators to kill sites that are involved in fraudulent activities - which, as with all “ISP as policeman” projects, sounds fair enough until you think about it. What happens when someone files a notice on their competitors? It’s discussed in some detail on NANOG, here.

Another big theme from Telco 2.0 was the role of cloud computing and big data centres. They’re the container ports of the Internet, don’t you know. Juniper Networks, which presented at Telco 2.0, is refreshing its product line to provide more scope for applications development in the IP network. That’s about as cloudy as you can get.

After horrible results, Ericsson is trying to Telco 2.0 it up a tad; CTO Hakan Eriksson is off to the Valley, there to take charge of the company’s Internet-related products, while he also remains as group CTO and keeps his seat on the group-wide management committee. Scandinavian Airlines shares probably rose, but this reflects an accelerated shift away from the AXE legacy at Ericsson. Tellingly, Sony Ericsson chose this week to announce their first Android device.

Juniper has an alliance with Nokia Siemens Networks. That particular supervendor also had awful results recently. They’re responding by sacrificing 6,000 employees to the elder gods and re-organising into three divisions - one for all the data-crunching billing’n’subscriber management things, one for the radio and general packet pushing things, and one for the managed services operation.

Over at Forum Nokia, Robin Jewsbury has a comparison of three clouds for start-ups - Amazon EC2, Google AppEngine, and Rackspace’s simply-named Cloud. And DNS pioneer Paul Vixie has a controversial piece in ACM Queue attacking the evils of “DNS lying”. Everyone can relate to the horror of getting a spammy ad page when you mistype a URI, or worse, getting an ad page when a Web site times out and the result breaking a script, but Vixie is not keen on the core CDN practice of using the DNS to load-balance and localise traffic. He’s not particularly keen on CDNs generally, as it happens.

Is he right, or is he arguing about the Internet of 1995? The debate starts here.

Another big Telco 2.0 theme was payments - both the M-PESA m-banking sort, and the Telenor CPA carrier billing API sort. T-Mobile is the latest operator to do carrier billing; developers who stick their applications in the T-Mobile channel on Android Market can have their customers stick it on their phone bill. (They also closed the deal with Orange UK this week.)

Vodafone’s also going to be doing carrier billing, in the context of its new Vodafone 360 social communications client. Vodafone 360 was shown off to both eComm and Telco 2.0 delegates; it’s a single address book client that wraps around SMS/MMS, telephony, e-mail, instant messaging, and multiple social networks, it’s also got a mapping service, and it sells DRM-free music downloads. There’s also a developer API to device capabilities, probably along the lines of BONDI, and developers will be able to get paid through Vodafone’s billing system.

The most interesting feature, though, is that Vodafone positively encourages other carriers’ subs to download the client. Which raises the question: how soon before they do voice, and what happens then? They’re keeping the cards close to their chest at the moment. However, it’s great news to see a telco innovating in its core business of communication, rather than trying to coerce its customers or sell dollops of “content”.

Not that there are great margins to be had from mapping; as well as Google Maps, now with turn-by-turn navigation, Yahoo! Maps, Microsoft Virtual Earth, Multimap, the Ordnance Survey’s OpenSpace, and the Open Street Map, Nokia’s Ovi Maps will soon offer mapping inside buildings.

After all, Google Voice has got 1.4 million users, as well as a good old-fashioned interconnect row with certain US ILECs. Windstream is planning to boost its revenues from business customers; perhaps they need better enterprise voice & messaging?

In other voice news, Vonage experienced a major outage this week, but that was as nothing to the massive outage on T-Mobile USA that swept across the entire US. There’s a somewhat opaque statement here.

And there’s more action on the LTE voice problem; a group of big vendors announced something called “One Voice”, which turns out to be the MMTel profile in IMS. This will come as no surprise to anyone who’s spoken to Dean Bubley recently; the ex-parrot is being shaken vigorously. Rich Karpinski of Telephony Online, meanwhile, takes a look at activities around RCS and finds a whole lot of not much.

The Skype intellectual property row has been resolved, by the traditional means of “paying the Danegeld”. Friis and Zennström will get 14% of the company and seats on the board, which is pretty cheeky after they already shared a cool two and a half billion in return for it.

On the other hand, things look bleak at the once-mighty AOL. A fine example of what happens when you ignore fundamental business disciplines like listening to your customers and obsessing over operational excellence.

In the inevitable iPhone-related news, the world’s first iPhone worm is in the wild. Fortunately, unless you’re both technically capable and wildly overconfident you’re probably safe. The exploit relies on the fact quite a few geeks who hacked the devices did so in order to install an SSH terminal, so they could log into their Linux servers from the phone. Fair enough; Telco 2.0 has a PuTTY client on his Nokia E71. Unfortunately, unless you also changed the root password from the default, this meant that others could come in through the SSH port. Of course, the combination of technical clue and overconfidence is hardly rare in the iPhone user population. More seriously, an official app has been caught secretly collecting phone numbers, and there’s a rumour of a new iPhone with both GSM/UMTS and CDMA radios. Qualcomm Snapdragon, anyone?

The value of gadget exclusivity is only ever temporary, as Chris Barraclough said at Telco 2.0; it’s in vendors’ interests to shift as many units as possible, so they have no reason to let you keep it. Radio Shack will soon start selling iPhones. Pretty soon, there’ll be iPhones in packets of cereal.
Palm announced a Web-based developer environment for its WebOS, which would let power users create their own apps through a drag-and-drop graphical interface, rather like Yahoo! Pipes. And a hacker who assisted others to get free cable broadband by altering their set-top boxes has gone to jail.

Sprint, meanwhile, is pouring another billion into Clearwire; and Nokia has a new API out to let Web Runtime apps use the hardware’s capabilities. They also have a new photo-focused Nseries gadget out (review here) and a remote testing service for applications that seems to run them on participating devices in the wild.

Brough Turner’s notes from eComm are online; and finally, the famous restaurant on top of the BT Tower is back!

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November 2, 2009

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 2nd November, 2009

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed - The Telco EMEA Brainstorm in London this week is packed to the rafters - so join us at the US Event in Orlando on December 9th-10th instead.]

The standards wars have been over a while now, and here’s the peace treaty; the CDMA Development Group is joining the 3GPP, the GSM/UMTS world’s standardisation community. The specific purpose of this is to represent the CDMA carriers, like Verizon Wireless, who are transitioning to LTE.

Which is slightly ironic, in the light of the quite horrible LTE performance figures Agilent cited during eComm last week, and the continuing travails of LTE voice and SMS; do the CDMAers really want to get involved with this mess? Unfortunately for them, they don’t have the option of doing a quick upgrade to the latest HSPA release, which currently beats the latest LTE release for speed…

On a similar theme, Qualcomm’s open-source shop is joining the Symbian Foundation; unsurprisingly, they are going to be on the board of directors and also on all the four councils that govern the open-source community.

Sprint Nextel has got an app store; in fact, it’s got multiple app stores, including the independent GetJar, and they will all be available to its Windows Mobile and RIM users. Android and Palm users will of course have their own app stores. This is actually better than it sounds; Sprint wants to default to accepting everything that meets certain criteria, and hopes to turn submissions around in a week on average. Competition on those questions is welcome indeed. The appstore will be available across all the S/N business units, including the WiMAX operation, the big prepaid MVNO Boost, and the Nextel iDen network.

Worth noting, meanwhile, the arrival of the humble Sanyo 3320 handset on Sprint’s network; nothing special, but even giveaway gadgets like this now ship with GPS receivers and e-mail clients.

A big theme at eComm was the increasing buzz around augmented reality applications; these are the things that map structured data from the Internet onto the image from a digital camera, going by its current location. TheNextWeb has a post with data on Layar, whose founder Claire Boonstra presented there. So far, they’ve seen 370,000 downloads of the client program, 1,450 API keys issued, and 180 third-party data layers created.

The Palm Pre does appear to be having an impact on Sprint’s customer numbers; gross ads rose for the first time in two years in Q3. However, churn was still brutal, and one post-paid customer was leaving for every new customer attracted by the shiny gadget.

Speaking of shiny gadgets, does anyone remember the N-Gage? First it was a shiny gadget; then it was a Nokia services strategy. Now, it’s an ex-parrot, as the games portal that Nokia moved into the husk of the N-Gage project shuts down and all its content is transferred to Ovi. Which is probably sensible; a survey says tech executives expect the last walled garden to die by 2012.

Forum Nokia has an interesting interview about developing with their Web Runtime widgetry toolkit. Apparently they “love Web technology”. At eComm, Telco 2.0 talked to a software developer fresh from a major WRT project who discovered that the browser engine that renders WRT content and provides the JavaScript virtual machine is actually very different to the one in the Nokia Web browser, and you’re not allowed to just use the Symbian BrowserControl API to embed the Web browser in your app. Take the promises with a pinch of salt.

In other unashamedly techie news, here’s a HOWTO on setting up an Amazon EC2 system loaded with over a billion data records mined from Semantic Web projects, so you can be your own Google, or at least your own sinister government database.

It looks increasingly like Iliad/Free.fr is certain to get its mobile licence. Le Monde explores the details and suggests that they might well rely heavily on femtocells; the sixth generation of the Freebox CPE is coming up, and who knows what the famous engineering team there might have stuffed in it? The licence conditions make clear that carriers must offer national roaming for GSM, but that Free must roll out its own UMTS coverage; this strongly suggests the possibility of a disruptive, UK01-style deployment making heavy use of Free’s fibre assets and user-generated infrastructure. The final word should come before Christmas.

Brough Turner has posted the slides from his eComm presentation on the possibilities of open spectrum and progress in silicon radio technology.

In Hong Kong, you can now get 100Mbits symmetric connectivity for US$13 a month. It’s surely impressive, even if nowhere else on earth is quite as suited to FTTH deployment as a rich, hyper-dense city state with a government that doesn’t take “no” for an answer. Speaking of similar territories, TelecomTV is having a live webcast debate on Singapore’s National Broadband Network, with leading figures in the project. It’s at 0800 GMT on Wednesday, but you’ll all be at the Telco 2.0 event then. Fortunately, the video will be available afterwards.

Juniper Networks announced big changes in its product line-up, as it prepares to address the data-centre market better. About time too.

It doesn’t get any better for Phorm, after the European Union issued a formal legal notice to the UK government charging it with letting them violate BT subscribers’ privacy. Facebook users, however, showed little interest in changes to the terms of service, apparently being distracted by shiny new features. No surprise, really; 46 per cent of the public don’t bother to fast-forward the ads when they watch recorded TV.

And Norway’s Consumer Council says no to the Amazon Kindle for a variety of reasons relating to privacy and the clarity or otherwise of the terms and conditions. Motorola, however, only needed to rename the Droid to get it across the Atlantic.

Cable & Wireless’s planned demerger is back on; Telephony Online reports that VoIP vendor Broadsoft is getting something like…an app store. And the New York Times seems oddly surprised that texting while driving is considered dangerous.

Here’s an interesting article on spamming Facebook; it shows the downsides of social networking and advertising rather well.

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