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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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I think your comment about the Orange user who received a huge bill for roaming illustrates the importance of providing customers with better and immediate insight into their usage charges whether at home or while roaming. This applies to data services as well which always have a fair usage policy as an inherent part of the contract. Most customers are not aware of this until they are shocked when they receive the next bill for excess data usage beyond the predefined cap.
Service providers need to offer a more real-time view and notification mechanism of usage charges to provide a better customer experience.
Amdocs sees real-time charging as a crucial element of delivering this experience to postpaid customers and avoiding the kind of story you mentioned in the post.

I blogged about this on our website - you are welcome to take a look - i attached the url above

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