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Telco 2.0 News Review

Happy New Year! Top Telco 2.0 Stories this week:

[Ed. - Please help Telco 2.0 improve our analysis service to you, via a short online survey of your research interests for 2010: brief survey here.]

It was probably inevitable that 2010 would kick off with a Google story; the rumour machine is operating at full power ahead of an announcement scheduled for tomorrow. It looks like it’s going to involve Google’s own Android handset, but at the moment it’s hard to say what if anything is special about it. Certainly, selling them for $530 a pop isn’t going to start any revolutions although the margins are probably decent, as they are with the iPhone.

Facebook had a sizable 2009 - huge growth, privacy rows, and increasing fascination with its API. It’s still no QQ, though. Letting that pass, we’re interested to see this Chris Messina article which argues that if they want to reach a billion users, the only way to do it is to get them off facebook.com and instead rely on integrating it into millions of other applications, sites, and services. Perhaps we should rebrand as Facebook 2.0?

A bad start to 2010 for Zhang Chunjiang of China Mobile and former chairman of China Netcom. Having made a career as an advocate of better corporate governance and transparency, he’s been summarily fired as VP and Communist Party Secretary (now there’s a job title for you). The Party announced the sacking using a phrase - “suspicion of serious violations of discipline” - which is usually a code-word for allegations of corruption.

Neither was it a great 2009 for SpinVox, once a British tech darling, now exposed as being made of poor people among other things. TTS specialists Nuance have just bought the company, for $102 million - or roughly half the total capital investment a string of VC funds poured into the company. Invesco Perpetual has already confessed that 90% of the cash it advanced to SpinVox is permanently lost.

Carphone Warehouse/TalkTalk and Sky are pressing BT both to hurry up with rolling out FTTC, and to improve its products and pricing in wholesale. With 30% market share for broadband, wholesale will be crucial to the project’s success - just as access to wholesale fibre will be crucial to the independent ISPs’ success…

Amazon announced that it had sold more e-books than books, for the first time, on Christmas Day. However, they didn’t actually provide any numbers, and you have to make allowances for the fact that the week between Christmas and New Year is a very easy one indeed if you want to get a press release in the papers. We’d also suspect it isn’t the busiest week of the year for Amazon either.

What impact did piracy have on the new Star Trek movie? Remarkably little, points out Fred von Lohmann of the EFF. According to industry analysts, it may have made as much as $100 million in profits despite being touted by its makers, Paramount, as the “most pirated movie ever” - after spending a further $100 million on ads as well as the $140 million it cost to actually make the thing. The EFF were also out to defend bloggers against the Transportation Security Administration.

Microsoft is looking for someone to integrate the Xbox with Windows Mobile and Live - as The Register points out, it’s eerily similar to Nokia’s failed N-Gage project, but there’s nothing obvious that makes integrating mobility, gaming, and peer-to-peer a stupid idea.

Here’s an iPhone game developer making money; Tapulous claims to be selling $1m a month. It’s best known for its rhythm game Tap Tap Revenge 3, but we’d point out that a large chunk of its revenue consists of sales of songs in-game - a Strategy 2 two-sided business model.

Le Monde has a round-up of 2009’s appstore wave, with duelling numbers from Screendigest and Morgan Stanley. According to the first, Apple might make €1.3bn from now to 2013 from the App Store, on volume of 7 billion downloads, with a total market size of €8.6bn across all the app stores. According to the second, Apple might make $217 million in 2009, with $500 million going in revenue shares to developers, and may get to $1.6bn in 2012, with $4bn going out in revenue shares.Try reconciling those numbers - if you dare. Certainly the first lot seem to be expecting rapid growth in all the other app stores, if Apple is going to account for one-eighth of the market…

How many “social media gurus” are there? WhatsNextBlog decided to find out, by searching biogs published on Twitter. They found 15,740 of the things. Don’t miss the breakdown between different silly job titles (even if there wasn’t even one VP and Communist Party Secretary). Peter Drucker did say, after all, that we only use the word “guru” because “charlatan” is too long to fit in a headline…

He’d probably agree that this was more important - India has decided to put back the launch of mobile number portability by three months in order to get it right, and Tata/DoCoMo is offering rates as low as 0.0002 US cents a second.

It’s probably not good when the innovative voice application on your developer forum is a major competitor’s mobile version of their core product, but that’s what’s happened at Forum Nokia with Google Voice Search for S60. On the other hand, they do have all the N900 videos heart could desire. They better be good - the smartbooks are coming.

Orange UK is about to launch high-definition (WB-AMR) voice, having tried it out in Moldova.

RIM confesses to breaking the BlackBerry network with a botched software update; Renesys has a scoreboard for IP transit providers in 2009. The big winner is Level(3).

IBM’s CEO, Sam Palmisano, is confident that Google will not run banks, airline reservations, Indian mobile networks or the like. However, as Connected Planet’s Rich Karpinski points out, we can’t be anywhere near as certain of that for the customer-facing side of telecoms. His colleague Sarah Reedy, meanwhile, sums up key trends in 2009 - apparently they were wholesale, outsourced network operators, policy-enforcement, mobile broadband, and vertical solutions like smart grid applications becoming the main driver of growth.

Brough Turner has an excellent series of blog posts on the nature of traffic, and how it changes over time and with the statistical averaging that comes with big scale. Here, you’ll learn that essentially all the peak/mean variation in traffic on backbone links and Internet exchanges is driven by the time of day, but that the variation is radically different in the access network - so big links can be rendered packet loss-free by providing 10-20% spare capacity, but the access layer is much more difficult. Here’s an explanation, with data, of how packet loss impacts performance and why. And this post puts it all together to explain why you need to overprovision capacity and how much in order to deal with the bursty nature of TCP traffic.

This year’s CCC hacker conference in Germany suggests that a lot of interesting things are likely to happen this year on GSM networks - for some values of interesting. Talks included SCCP hacking, attacking the SS7 & SIGTRAN applications one step further and mapping the phone system, Playing with the GSM RF interface, and Understanding Telecommunications Interception - the Intelligence Support Subsystem. And Karsten Nohl demonstrated a way to crowdsource an attack on the GSM A5/1 encryption protocol. David Burgess explains the latter here, as well as the GSMA’s response (“that’s against the law, knock it off sonny”, in short). But we actually preferred the proposed denial-of-service attack in the second talk, that floods the RACH with spurious setup messages and brings down cells.

Finally, meet the French call centre that hasn’t taken a call since the 25th of November.

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