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Telco 2.0 News Review

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We are delighted by the response to the inaugural Telco 2.0 Best Practice Live! virtual event, broadcast online to 3 geographies worldwide on 28-30 June. Senior execs from around the world are preparing special presentations for this FREE event - including Olivier Baujard, new Group CTO, Deutsche Telekom and Sally Davies, CEO, BT Wholesale. Support also from MIT, the World Economic Forum, Vodafone, Telecom Italia, Telenor and others. You can register for FREE here.

More information on the accelerated BT fibre roll-out: the European Union has spoken, and it has decided that the carrier will have to offer so-called “virtual unbundled line access” to its wholesale customers in the first instance. This seems to be an odd hybrid of a wholesale generic Ethernet product and unbundling, which will still use BT’s electronic kit. However, although OFCOM thinks that will be enough, the EU insists that eventually they will have to transition to full LLU with physical third-party control of the fibre and colocation of third party equipment.

We were ploughing through the BT Investors’ Day transcripts for unrelated reasons, and one thing that stands out is that they seem to have come up with some handy new tricks about fibre deployment - for example, they’ve been trying out laying plastic conduits on the pole infrastructure, so that the fibre can later be blown to the premises in a one-shot manoeuvre. The people who are going to carry out that manoeuvre, meanwhile, are going on strike for the first time since privatisation in 1985.

In other infrastructure news, this was the week AT&T brought in tiered pricing for mobile data. Crack financial blogger Felix Salmon has some questions for them, notably about why you can’t just be switched automatically to the heavy user plan for the rest of the month if you burst the cap. He also wants to know why low users can’t roll over unused capacity from month to month. The answer is probably because the costs are driven by peak busy hour usage on the heaviest cells, so letting people save up their megabytes and then drink the lot doesn’t help AT&T manage its outgoings. It is, however, true that operators who want to put up prices for heavy users ought to look at cutting them for low users - otherwise, there’s a structural incentive for the BlackBerry users to buy more capacity than they need, which is both uneconomic for them and an encouragement to guzzle the lot rather than let it go to waste.

Wired points out that this means doom for mobile streaming-music services, as the $15/month data plan would be consumed with 7 hours of music. But this was never a good idea anyway. The typical commuter use case involves trains, railway tunnels, and such, and the availability of multi-gigabyte storage and iTunes on the device undercut the whole rationale.

Undeterred, the founders of Skype have launched a streaming music service with social features (a bit like Last.fm, really, or rather, quite a lot like it).

The New York Times interviews some app developers who are concerned about the move. They also mention that the development of the iPhone itself is tending to increase data demand. Notably, the arrival of a front-facing camera for video telephony looks likely to increase uplink traffic - as will improvements in the camera in general (and just wait for the Nokia N8 users…). Qik, for example, is offering VGA-quality video free and high definition video for $5.

Hewlett Packard is planning to give all its printers their own e-mail address, in order to let smartphone users print to them more easily - which is another uplink heavy application (“Let me print you this 10MB PDF file…”). Notoriously, many HP printers are accessible from the Web by default, by dint of a well-known Google search, so this is something of an improvement (although the spam filter better be good).

TelecomTV has a series of discussions - not so much a webinar as a whole web symposium - on the subject of net neutrality and mobile.

In the light of all this traffic, which is best - HSPA, LTE, or WiMAX? We’ve been arguing about this, but PhoneScoop went out and drivetested various devices and applications against T-Mobile USA’s upgraded HSPA and Sprint’s WiMAX networks. The results are interesting - both of them are acceptable, but HSPA+ can sometimes beat WiMAX for downlink, usually beats it for uplink, and also beats it for latency. The latency issue may tell us something about their comparative network architectures, specifically that T-Mobile is probably using a product like NSN’s iHSPA 2.0 base station that breaks out Internet traffic at the lowest possible level.

WiMAX is meant to be a flat architecture technology, of course, which only makes the point more telling. They may also be doing something interesting with regard to their peering, colocation, and CDN strategy. Anyway, it’s a fine example of the enduring truth of kaizen.

It’s been a grim couple of weeks for WiMAX - as Wireless Watch points out, a major force in this has been the arrival of a TDD (Time Division Duplex) version of LTE, which opens up a lot of unpaired spectrum for LTE use. The WiMAX Forum headquarters in Beaverton, meanwhile, shuts down.

And Clearwire has discovered one way of monetising WiMAX spectrum: wait until AT&T is gagging for data capacity, and sell it.

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs is disappointed with take-up of FLO TV - it is still very much the case that people who want to watch TV - broadcast, big content, long format, non-interactive video - usually watch TV. It works, a lot of it is free-to-air, there is a nice big screen, and a comfy chair. Web video isn’t the same stuff. It’s worth noting that Jacobs is worried that his operator customers may decide to use the FLO spectrum for their generic mobile data service.

So, last week, we learned that AT&T (and by extension, Apple) were now cool with a Skype app for the iPhone, as long as iPhone-to-iPhone calls were charged for. This week, it emerged that Verizon Wireless users will still get the full benefit of Skype - and their Android devices will let it run as a service (Android’s term for what other Linux/Unix systems call a daemon) in the background, as well. Connected Planet speculates that the difference may be that VZW is getting a share of SkypeOut revenues.

There’s a fascinating thread at Skype Journal, which confirms that the Skype for iPhone (Skyphone?) app is a proper Skype node, rather than either a special SS7 dialler or a SIP client - which means that Skype is proposing to charge AT&T subscribers for calls that don’t pass through the Skype infrastructure, something of a first. Unsurprisingly, users are not pleased, and Phil Wolff points out that they can no longer say “Skype to Skype calls are free”, rather “Skype to Skype calls are free except when they’re not”. This isn’t the best sales pitch ever.

Verizon, meanwhile, added its own carrier-VoIP service to more FiOS bundles, thus demonstrating still further the approach of a post-PSTN world. After all, VZ line technicians are in the habit of cutting the copper wires when they install a fibre connection.

VZW has formed a new partnership to promote itself as a smart grid enabler - specifically, it’s keen on extending corporate networks out on mobile, something we’ve often cited as a role for telcos in the future.

RLECs oppose the National Broadband Plan…because the nation is planning for insufficient breadth in their view.

Brough Turner has a list of the top 10 cities for average broadband speeds, based on Speedtest.net’s aggregate statistics. Seoul is top, unsurprisingly, followed by Riga and Hamburg, giving the list an odd Hanseatic flavour (herrings, probably). Stockholm is up there, but it’s interesting that places 7-10 go to Sofia, Bucharest, and Kharkov - Brough theorises that this is the result of extreme open access, aka “just hang your damn fibre on the lampposts!” That’s borne out by Lisbon being no.9 - Portugal is one of the earliest markets to get open access to ducts. This post applies.

So, India’s mobile operators are waking up from the 3G spectrum auction to the hangover, the buyers’ remorse, and all that good stuff. Reliance Communications has an instant fix for their huge bill - flog a 26% stake of the company. Apparently, Etisalat and AT&T are in the running.

Samsung’s LiMo-powered, WAC-standardised Wave launched in the UK this week…and delivered assorted malware to German users’ Windows PCs. Rather than shipping an install CD for the various utilities that the gadget comes with, Samsung decided to ship the gadget with a big microSD card, and to load the installer on that - when the user connects it to a Windows PC, the AutoPlay function executes the installer, and in this case, the virus.

Microsoft promised Windows tablets, while Intel demonstrated some MeeGo ones, and a range of Linux distributions lined up their flavours of the new mobile Linux standard, including Novell, makers of the enterprise SUSE Linux. Netbooks are coming next year.

MS also cancelled a slightly odd scheme under which it paid random users to search the Web with Bing, and before that, Live Search. The idea was that advertisers would kick back a percentage of the purchase price to anyone who bought from them having searched with MS. Hilariously, someone worked out that they might be able to sell money for more than its face value, and share the reward with the buyer in such a way as to make them both come out ahead at Redmond’s expense.

Microsoft’s mobile strategy is apparently to let you get at all your stuff from your phone, by putting it in the cloud. This seems to be a lot like Nokia Ovi, or for that matter, Google services on Android.

Apple is going to announce the next iPhone, which looks likely to be a lot like the last one, with some incremental improvements. Kaizen again. Daring Fireball advises Apple to beat the charge that the iPhone OS is too closed by offering a configuration option to turn off all the security features.

Felix Salmon, meanwhile, learns that Apple iAds are much more expensive than the usual Web rates - as we predicted - and that they’re dependent on an active Internet connection.

In ironic news, Apple has deployed a demonstration of HTML5, boasting that it was “designed with Web standards”, and made it detect the browser user-agent and only run on Safari. In fact, Firefox, Chrome, and IE8 support HTML5, although there are differences between them and the Apple browser - one wonders if it works with other WebKit browsers like the Nokia browser and Konqueror. Actually, we don’t wonder - we checked, and it doesn’t, although the demos do work on the developer site.

At Foxconn, meanwhile, a second round of pay rises adds up to 96% for some workers by the end of 2010.

Nokia’s developer contest is out. It’s also added more gadgets to its Remote Device Access testing service.

A cautionary tale: Digg learns that even super-high traffic Web platforms can lose customers as fast as they gain them. Zuckerberg speaks, doesn’t say much. Yahoo! tries to opt-in all its e-mail addresses to a social network product. And Twitter increases its intellectual level, with Twitter for cats.

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