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Telco 2.0 News Review

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Verizon Wireless is signalling that it may resume paying a dividend to Vodafone next year. At VZW’s current monthly free cash flow, the company’s debts should reach zero some time in 2011; Verizon itself is as keen as Vodafone to get its hands on VZW’s profits, although they have been insistent on paying down the mobile operator’s debts first. A resumption would increase Vodafone’s free cash flow by 30%.

Meanwhile, VZW’s CFO said that they would soon introduce a mobile data cap. Apparently, Verizon’s smartphone users are consuming between 600-800MB of data a month. Connected Planet also notes that AT&T femtocell users will see their data usage on the femtocell counted against the cap - which is cheeky, seeing as the point of a femtocell is to radically reduce the costs of delivering mobile data. (Operators are always tempted by this. Recall the early version of BT Fusion, which worked at a business level by making your friends subsidise your cheap calls.)

They point out that such users are very likely to use Wi-Fi anyway, which renders the whole issue moot. Now they can do so at Starbucks, where the Wi-Fi is now free, as long as you sign in with a single identifier for advertisers’ convenience.

On the other hand, AT&T has cancelled a trial of capped fixed-line DSL service, on the grounds that it costs too much.

Vodafone Portugal has launched a triple-play FTTH service, offering up to 300Mbps Internet service, HDTV to an unlimited number of TVs, and of course, voice. The service rolls out first in the Lisbon area and then expands to 200,000 homes in the first wave of deployments. Vodafone will, no doubt, be making use of open access to PT’s ducts.

There’s also news from Vodafone 360, the app store/social network platform they launched on two Samsung LiMO handsets earlier this year. Vodafone is now looking at integrating Android apps on 360, in order to get more developers involved (currently there are 8,500 apps on 360, compared to 50,000 on Android Market) and push the platform to a broader base of devices.

Vodafone UK has invited its customers to join the network engineering department. If you twitter which device you have, where you are, and how many bars are showing to #vodafonesignal, you’ll appear on a Google Map on their website. Why you’d want to do that is another matter, as there’s nothing obviously in it for the subscribers. It’s telling, though, that it was easier to come up with this than pulling in the data from Vodafone’s radio network. (Another data point: Foursquare, the LBS hit that doesn’t bother with GPS or network location, and just asks users to say where they are.) The map is here and it’s not particularly impressive.

In Australia, meanwhile, the NBN project took a step forward, as Telstra agreed to provide its layer-zero infrastructure and to undertake further universal service projects in return for A$11bn in payments from NBN Co over several years.

Reliance is preparing to sell off its towers and other civil works infrastructure, in a new business unit called Reliance Infratel, which will be the biggest non-operator owner of telecoms infrastructure in the world. They are hoping the deal will pay for their expensive spectrum commitments and permit them to pay off a substantial debt, while the new company looks likely to be a multi-tenant provider. In other network sharing news, Maxis is planning to share infrastructure, and may join the existing joint venture between the other two main operators in Malaysia.

BT, meanwhile, claims it’s going to deploy fibre to 87 per cent of London by next year’s Olympics, which will require some 114 local exchanges to be upgraded and another 2 million customer premises to be passed.

Brough Turner has been conducting automated tests on his Verizon FiOS link, and he’s not happy about the quality of service. Download speeds vary between 1 and 21Mbps.

The FCC is looking at cracking open 90MHz of Mobile Satellite Service spectrum, possibly on the basis of a “hybrid” system like the one Harbinger/SkyTerra are proposing. It still doesn’t look sensible to launch satellites so you can also deploy thousands of base stations. The Feds are also going to start taking comments on whether or not to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service in the meaning of the Communications Act, moving it under their Title II authority and giving them the ability to impose common-carrier status. This would functionally replicate most of the Net Neutrality concept, and possibly render ISPs less liable for alleged copyright violations, as well as having an impact on wholesale markets (“special access”).

Unsurprisingly, the RBOCs are not happy. Connected Planet doubts if their threats are credible.

Spain is preparing to break out the 800MHz band and have a spectrum party sometime next year. Submissions to the Ministry must be in by the 15th of July.

Bad news for WiMAX: Infotel, a big winner in the Indian BWA auction, is planning to deploy the TDD flavour of LTE rather than WiMAX. On the other hand, the technology is now available in two more frequency bands. In the UK, Daisy, the current owner of what was the Pipex wireless broadband network is selling up to concentrate on its unified comms business. Its rival, Freedom4, acquires the assets and spectrum.

IBM is making a pitch to outsource entire operators’ back-end activities.

Microsoft has announced another mobile operating system: ZDNet reckons that makes seven. As well as the old Windows Mobile, there’s also the new Windows Phone 7, and then a whole range of different takes on Windows for various kinds of embedded, netbook, smartbook, TV, ruggedised, M2M, and other uses, which descend from the old Windows CE platform. There’s a little more here.

While all that’s going on, they’re trying to work up buzz about Windows Phone 7 among the developers. One way is to offer them cold cash, which is precisely what MS is doing with some iPhone games developers. On the other hand, Windows Phone requires a compass in the hardware, but doesn’t provide an API to it.

Twilio has launched a virtual PBX product that extends their VoiceXML-like API and acts as a sort of hybrid cloud/local application, running on your Web server but getting its telephony functions from Twilio’s infrastructure. The upshot is that it provides a graphical tool for designing Voice 2.0 applications in your business. At the link, Thomas Howe is impressed.

Google is endeavouring to make Android OEMs stick to a common user interface, although surely part of the point of Android is that it allows for a maximum of customisation. Google has been described in the past as the world’s favourite command line, but now they’ve gone the whole way, and released a software package that implements exactly that.

Apple has released some improvements to MobileMe, including an application for finding that iPhone 4 you left in a bar. Nokia has promised to integrate NFC in all its smartphones. Toshiba has a neat ARM-based netbook, sorry, smartbook.

Project Failures’s Michael Krigsman experiences the iPad data breach, and confirms that the attackers did indeed carry out a dictionary attack by generating lots of possible ICC-ID numbers.

Facebook may be making $800 million this year. Everything is a platform. Should you give up on voice? F-Secure Labs give away Nokias.

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