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Telco 2.0 News Review

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iSuppli has finished costing out the bits of a dismantled Google Nexus One, and they conclude that the $530 device costs about $174 to make, which is a fascinating margin by anyone’s standards. It’s worth noting that the silicon in the gadget is almost entirely Qualcomm - the main processor, and most expensive single component, is a Qualcomm Snapdragon, and the radio hardware is Qualcomm as well.

However, the first week sales may have been a bit of a disappointment, as TelecomTV reports. Their data source is a company that is using information from the Android app store to see which devices are slurping up apps - on the fairly sensible basis that anyone who pays $530 up front for a Googlephone is probably an app addict, they estimate that as few as 20,000 gadgets have been sold. Google followed up the launch with a software-development kit for the device.

It was also the week of the great Google crisis. Google astonished everyone by announcing that it would no longer accept censorship of search results on Google.cn, alleging that it had detected a major effort to get access to Gmail accounts and to Google engineering information by hackers it believes are working for the Chinese government. Google was immediately accused of taking advantage of the affair to exit a lacklustre business. However, even if Google.cn only got 17% of the search traffic, it was making 33% of the total search-ad revenue in China, which suggests that it had a good grip on advertisers and high value users. Unexpectedly, within hours of the statement appearing on an official Google blog, members of the public began leaving flowers outside Google buildings.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Danny O’Brien has a useful roundup on the issue. Technically speaking, the attack involved a specially crafted PDF file that exploited bugs in Adobe Reader and Microsoft Internet Explorer to install a remote-administration application on the target PC. The attacks were apparently tailored to individual Googlers as well as employees of several other tech companies, notably Adobe, Yahoo!, Juniper Networks, and Symantec, which suggests one of its aims was to keep up to date with security precautions against the attack.

An implementation of the attack against IE is in the wild; Adobe released two urgent patches for Reader, Illustrator, and Acrobat simultaneously with the Google statement. As a result, the German Government has warned the public to replace Internet Explorer as a matter of urgency. One could have said that at any time in the last 10 years…

The US Government, meanwhile, handed in an official protest to the Chinese foreign ministry. Yahoo! issued a supportive statement, which annoyed their Chinese ad partners. Computerworld, meanwhile, reported that the Chinese hackers got access to a lawful-intercept system.

Meanwhile, academic security experts at the Weizmann Institute demonstrated a possible attack on UMTS encryption. Time to move to A5/3.

In other Google news, some people wondered how Google would react to a recession. We thought they were in a position to adjust their prices to very fine tolerances; it turns out that’s what happened. When the crisis hit, Google responded by increasing the volume of ads it served (by as much as 57% in terms of ads per page) and cutting prices in order to make up for lost spending; now, as the economy recovers, they’re cutting back the volume and rebuilding margins.

More seriously, T-Mobile USA, followed by several other wireless carriers, announced it was waiving all call charges to and from Haiti after the earthquake. On the scene, the only submarine cable to land in Haiti was reportedly cut, but the Port-au-Prince NAP was operational with microwave connectivity to the Dominican Republic, and Reynold Guerrier, treasurer of the Haitian NIC, was appealing to the NANOG list for help in getting diesel to refuel the backup generators. A major donation drive by SMS is underway, although one wonders how much the operators are going to stick to, going by experience with some similar projects in the UK.

That’s probably the right moment to mention RapidSMS, an open-source project for dynamic data collection and supply-chain management using SMS and the Django Python web framework. Great stuff; a combination of low-bandwidth, low cost, high-reach GSM technology with open-source Web development to help deliver aid, public health, and education.

In Rwanda, the fibre-optic backbone that will extend the new submarine cables in east Africa inland is expected to reach Kigali in April, said Rwandatel. They’ve recently ordered another 155Mbps commit on the SEACOM cable. Relatedly, MTN Ghana and Huawei installed the first 900MHz UMTS system in Africa. Huawei may have got the test network contract for TeliaSonera, but the production build was split between Ericsson and Nokia-Siemens Networks.

In other networks news, South African UMTS-TDD operator iBurst was being sued by a group of people who claimed that “radiation” from a new cell site was making them ill. It emerged this week that the transmitter had been off for six weeks while they were supposedly experiencing various symptoms and nobody noticed the difference.

Brough Turner has a table showing that faster, cheaper broadband correlates with open access to lower layers. The second round of the US Government’s broadband stimulus plan is opening, with a major difference; it’s splitting in two. Originally, two different federal agencies, the Rural Utilities Service and the National Telecommunications-Information Administration, shared power over the scheme. Now, they’re dividing by function. NTIA is dealing with middle-mile and backhaul projects; RUS is dealing with the last-mile and remote area satellite ones.

Deutsche Telekom is worried about stagnation and hopes IPTV will help. More interestingly, they’ve made a second offer to the German regulator about prices for Layer 0 and 1 access and sub-loop unbundling (i.e. access to the street cabinet). They want to charge €354 a month for the use of dark fibre from the exchange to the cabinet, €173 a month for access to the cabinet (although, if you can get two other competitors to join you and DTAG, you’ll pay a quarter of that each), and 43 cents a metre a month for access to ducts.

In other regulatory news, the EFF has something to say about the proposed net neutrality rules, and the GSMA is yelling for more FDD spectrum in the UMTS Extension band.

LG wants to be the world’s second biggest mobile phone manufacturer, setting the scene for an epic battle of the Koreans next year. As LG is heavily committed to Android, whereas Samsung has both its own OS and interests in LiMo, this is likely to have an impact on the OS ecosystem.

Nokia, meanwhile, has put a new user interface design for Symbian out for discussion, and flipped on the Ovi Store for the N900 Linux smartphone. They’re also claiming that the Ovi store has reached 1 million downloads/day.

Amazon has opened its publishing process for the Kindle globally.

And finally, NASA is working on a cloud, called Nebula, which is expected to eventually host all the US federal government’s applications. TSTT and Digicel fight over Beyonce. And panic over “Internet addiction” in China leads to teenagers being subjected to electric shocks.

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Small error in the article. A5/3 was broken by the Weizmann institute. So the trouble is, that the backup to A5/1 is unsafe and we don't have a backup for the backup. Lots of arms flailing and screams of horror

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