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Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

Telco 2.0 “Idea Watch” No. 1: AT&T is testing managed offload of cellular traffic to WLAN around Times Square in New York - managed offload is something we analyse in depth in our report “New Mobile, Fixed and Wholesale Broadband Business Models”.

The special detail here is that AT&T is actually deploying more WLAN hotspots in order to augment its capacity; they’re a lot cheaper than Node-Bs. Interesting quote from Connected Planet:

It’s not too hard to imagine a network architecture where the vast majority of 3G device data actually passes over local area and femto networks. The femtocell or Wi-Fi router at home downloads the morning paper and traffic conditions; the 3G network takes over during the commute; and once at work the phone links up with the office LAN then transfers to the sidewalk hotspot at lunch time. After another stint on the 3G network on the way home, it’s back on the home network

[Ed: There will be even more on putting Telco 2.0 ideas into practice at the ‘Best Practice Live!’ free online event on June 28-30 June 2010.]

Telco 2.0 “Idea Watch” No.2: T-Mobile USA plunges with HSPA+ upgrades and calls it 4G anyway, vastly hiking its capacity with minimal investment and without waiting for that Late, Tempting, and Elusive stuff, analysed recently here.

Telco 2.0 “Idea Watch” No. 3: when we interviewed Crick Waters from Ribbit a few days ago, he suggested that BT wanted to provide more of its core services using Ribbit technology. Here goes; BT’s Onevoice business voice product now comes with the whole Ribbit feature set, and of course, access to the developer API. They’ll be rolling it out in the next few months. The Register points out that unlike Google Voice, of course, they won’t be selling adverts based on your phone calls:

So basically Ribbit Onevoice has everything Google is offering with Google Voice, but it’s backed by a telecommunications company which will integrate it with your existing systems. BT also won’t listen into your communications for demographic profiling purposes. The catch is that the service costs money.

Telco 2.0 “Idea Watch” No. 4: at Safaricom, meanwhile, profits were up 44% on strong performance from data service and MPESA fees.

Telco 2.0 keynoteer Sanjiv Ahuja has been looking for a new gig, and he’s found one - he’s the boss of Harbinger, the company that wants to build a new half-satellite half-mobile LTE network across the US. The investors behind it have backed more than one national satellite buildout before; it looks like they’re in need of a gnarly GSM network builder - to say nothing of a bit of luck and a lot of capital.

Potentially significant video news: Apple prepares to relaunch the Apple TV as a much cheaper and more limited device. The original Apple TV was so overspecified for its primary mission that one British ISP used a flock of them as low-cost dedicated Linux servers, on the grounds that for most applications, an Intel or Sun-based rackmount server was hugely underutilised, and the Apple hardware was next to indestructible. (They have a HOWTO here.) Now, Apple is proposing to cut back on the good stuff that goes into them, so they’d be dependent on streaming content from the cloud (although there will be an option to use their Time Capsule backup drive as a local media server).

The $1bn questions, of course, are “whose cloud?” and “what content?” Part of the answer is probably a huge data centre project Apple is building; the other part, your keen and agile minds will not have missed, will be “your network”. Presumably, Apple will be looking to extend the existing deals with major rights holders that keep iTunes filled up with content.

Early iPad shipments, meanwhile, aren’t quite as great as the iPhone 3G (arguably the tipping point for iPhone) but more than the first iPhone. The Guardian, true to its commitment to data-driven journalism, collected statistics on the queue in Regent Street.

But Interface Lab has hard, hard words for both the iPad and Wired - “it’s like a CD-ROM”. Ouch.

This is, of course, just a warm-up for this week’s big Apple story: Apple is now bigger than Microsoft. Who’s the daddy now? In fact, the telling detail in this Wired piece is in the stock chart that heads it up - it’s not so much that Apple stock took off after the iPhone launch, but rather that Microsoft shares have gone nowhere at all in the last ten years. On a ten year scale, in fact, they’ve barely moved at all. We wonder whether investors will now be clamouring at the doors of Redmond for special dividends, share buybacks, and in general for the return of capital?

There’s a round-up of Microsoft’s mobile OS projects here. There is something intriguing about a company that invents a radically new operating system, names it Singularity (!), and then just leaves it in the lab for the next four years.

There’s a gallery of notable moments here; we think the key one was number 7. Hint: it’s some sort of mobile phone. How we all regret being snarky about it.

Nokia, meanwhile, was not idle this week - the first production version of MeeGo was launched to N900 users, after the Maemo and Moblin distributions were successfully merged. The new Nokia software development strategy we described after this year’s MWC is being put into effect - MeeGo’s primary development environment is indeed Qt 4.6, which should permit write-once development for MeeGo, Symbian S60, or Maemo devices (it’s a question of setting the Qt Creator IDE to compile your code with MeeGo or Symbian as the target). Or Maemo? Yes - they’re going to keep supporting it, and indeed they pushed out software updates for it this week.

(Note that LiMo wasn’t idle, either; the Samsung Wave is coming.)

Nokia also deepened their cooperation with Yahoo!, with the announcement that the Ovi Mail and Ovi Chat services will be provided by Yahoo, while Yahoo! outsources its maps service to Nokia (well, Navteq really). This makes a lot of sense - there’s not much money in consumer e-mail, and Nokia has no relevant expertise, while Nokia now has a ton of geographical data assets and software. Yahoo! is already a customer of Novarra, the mobile content-munging firm which Nokia acquired not so long ago. So customer behaviour data for Y! applications is being captured on Novarra machines, and used in Yahoo advertising - how interesting!

Nokia is mad keen to promote its mapping and navigation products - you would be if you’d paid $8bn for Navteq - and here’s an example. Hail the Nokia-branded cab and get a free ride, during which you can play with an X6. Someone should really hack together a version of Cabulous to find them.

At the same time, it’s now quite likely that Yahoo’s expertise in managing a worldwide data centre infrastructure will be brought to bear on keeping Ovi running. There’s a post on Forum Nokia at the moment that says a lot about exactly this question, app stores, and the economy of data - not that it’s a long read, but rather the fact that it exists says a lot. It seems that Ovi has been under-reporting downloads since May 17th - this, of course, directly impacts revenue share payments to developers and content providers.

“True” Skype for the iPhone is here, but then, what is “true” Skype? The company announced that Skype-to-Skype calls on the iPhone will only be free until August, and after that, charges will be made. To put it another way, they are progressively turning into a telco of sorts. Speculation: does this reflect negotiating concessions to AT&T in order to get it onto the App Store? Has Skype had to offer the operator a share of revenue, which of course it has to raise? And is the new app actually a Skype node, or is it a SIP client talking to Skype’s SIP peering infrastructure, an increasingly important element of the company?

News from the other big mobile platform: Orange is planning to roll out very low cost Android devices into its African markets, starting with the LG Boston, a $120 smartphone with a 5 megapixel camera, GPS, a full web browser, and WLAN. However, Telco 2.0 recently took delivery of an Android device which isn’t a low-cost phone, but just feels cheap.

Skype is also planning to ship an Android app, possibly with video calling later this year. If Skype-to-Skype calls aren’t chargeable for the ‘droids, we’ll know there was a deal with AT&T.

There seems to be increasing interest in videoconferencing and telepresence - will it do telcos any good?

Speaking of voice-over-IP and AT&T, their own, carrier-grade, IMS-enabled VoIP service fell down this week and left millions of subscribers without dialtone service; it didn’t matter, as they could always use Skype…

Of course, if you really want a cool voice-related Android app, nothing beats the one that stops the NSA wiretapping your calls. A few years ago, security guru and PGP inventor Phil Zimmerman designed a protocol to provide strong public-key encryption and authentication for telephony - Zfone. Now there’s an implementation for Android; you might be advised to use a VoIP client and maybe an anonymous proxy, though, as it won’t defeat the traffic analysis they’re running against the telco CDR piles.

More on hybridity as SiriusXM launches a “streaming radio” app for Android. The interesting point here is that SiriusXM is a satellite radio operator. We’ve been waiting so long for mobile TV/radio support to make it into a) significant numbers of handsets and b) handsets that anyone actually wants, that now a company that distributes content using the most efficient means known to man (i.e. satellite broadcast) is going to start using the least efficient form of media distribution - unicast Internet streaming.

Dell gives the Android world its iPad-equivalent.

Latest AdMob data: there are 2 iPhones in the US for each Android.

And Google has stopped letting new hires use Microsoft Windows, on security grounds after the Chinese hacker attack. PowerPoint divas now need CIO-level approval to keep Clippy hopping around their desktops while everyone else is offered a Mac or a Linux distribution of their choice.

Poor Clippy.

We had some examples of Telco 2.0 ideas in practice above. Here’s a Telco 2.0 idea that sadly, still isn’t getting through to operators very well: Bittorrent, Inc has released the code for its new uTorrent protocol, as open-source software. The point of uTorrent is that it’s designed to make way for other applications under conditions of network congestion, thus solving the problem that BitTorrent fills up the network.

Daring Fireball, meanwhile, quotes the Mick Jagger who went to LSE, as opposed to the one who dropped out, saying that the era from 1970 to 1997 was a historical anomaly in terms of the share of music revenue that came from recording and the share that went to artists.

Telco 2.0 ally Alan Patrick has a fascinating systems dynamics take on the privacy crash at Facebook. The inevitable contrarian view is here.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in their satin tights, fighting for your digital rights, has a HOWTO video on asserting your privacy with the new Facebook controls. The EFF also brings us news of a YouTube users’ group intervening in the Viacom/YouTube litigation, claiming that the last people being represented are actual creators rather than rightsholders. And they are not pleased by yet another attempt to sue BitTorrent users.

The tax and spectrum elements of the Digital Economy Act may have failed, but OFCOM staggers on with the three-strikes provisions, which Telco 2.0 delegates voted entirely useless by an 80 percent majority.

Is your business dominated by Easily Replicated Processes or Barely Replicable Processes, and how can you help your customers move things from the second category into the first?

Management shakeup at China Mobile: China Mobile Group, which owns the Hong Kong-listed China Mobile, has set up a board of directors and appointed Wang Jianzhou as CEO. The decision was apparently taken by the Central Organisation Department of the Communist Party of China. Li Yue becomes general manager, while Wang will also hold the post of Communist Party Secretary for China Mobile Group.

In other communist news: Viettel takes over Teleco Haiti, promises to build 5,000 route kilometres of a national fibre backbone in 12 months, deploy WiMAX Internet service. And that was quick: after a wave of concern about suicides at Foxconn, and a wave of strikes, the iProduct assembler has increased wages by 20%.

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