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Telco 2.0 News Review



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Reflecting the intensive competition in the mobile devices and OS world, as analysed by Telco 2.0 partners Arete Research in their Telco 2.0 ‘Best Practice Live!’ presentation here (you’ll need to register), a strong theme of this week’s news is that many of the main players in the arena are experiencing their own ‘worlds of pain’.

Starting with Microsoft, Infoworld got a preview of the latest Windows Phone 7 gadget, and reported a number of concerns, including a number of regressions from Windows Mobile 6.5 and a very strange user interface indeed. In the light of the idea of sudden extinction events, you might wonder whether Microsoft is going to stay in the mobile game.

On the software side of the company, they’re striving for relevance by getting close to Facebook - as well as LinkedIn, you can now get your Facebook updates integrated in MS Outlook. It’s a sign of the scale of the change in the order of the industry when MS are now the ones hoping to link up with the ‘Big Platform’.

Perhaps fortuitously for Microsoft at least, it was the week when the leaders in the smartphone space seemed to be doing their best to let everyone else catch up. Apple addressed the iPhone 4 radio problems with a press conference at which Steve Jobs offered everyone a free plastic bumper, or perhaps a refund if they’d already bought a case. Apple also admitted that an elementary software bug had been discovered in iOS 4 that caused the signal strength indicator to display inaccurately - a bug fix has been rushed out.

This was arguably the least Apple could have done, but Jobs then pushed his luck by claiming that RIM, Samsung, and Nokia devices were as bad. This gave everyone a chance to mock the iPhone 4 all over again, and then Bloomberg got a scoop.

Apparently, Apple’s chief RF engineer Ruben Caballero predicted that the external antenna wouldn’t work early in the design process - as did engineers at an “unnamed” mobile operator customer. Although Jonathan Ive’s industrial design team came up with several alternative options, Jobs insisted on the external strip antenna. Bloomberg also quotes various sources who suggest that the problem is interaction between the cellular and the WLAN/Bluetooth radios. An actual antenna designer comments here, where you can also read Mike Lazaridis’ rather stinging reaction to Jobs’ remarks.

You’ll also read the very good point that, perhaps, AT&T’s network isn’t helping either. Wired reports that last week’s problems with their data network are still going on, if anything worse. Not only isn’t the network providing the “HS” in HSPA, it’s not really doing basic WCDMA speeds. There seems to have been some sort of inflection point in the first week of July - perhaps a dodgy update. All eyes are on Alcatel-Lucent, which is promising to fix the problem in software…

Even Apple’s creepily-named Global Loyalty Team was having an off week. A judge in San Mateo threw out the warrant they’d applied for to seize the famous lost iPhone from the editors of Gizmodo.

While all the fuss was going on, Google quietly killed off the Nexus One.

TelecomTV wants to know what on earth Nokia is thinking in releasing a flagship device using an operating system they plan to end-of-life immediately after it launches.

It turns out that Apple, Google, and RIM all chucked in a bid for Palm. It also turns out that people expect the future of tablets/iPads/etc to be Linux-based.

So, surely, this would be the moment for a shuddering challenge from Android? Gizmodo reviews the Motorola Droid X, and finds it marred by annoying vendor and carrier impositions. They don’t like the user interface much, and they find the idea of yet another single social network client to be annoying. (Infoworld has a less opinionated take.) Verizon will be shipping them and offering a $50 discount towards a 32GB microSD card, so you can stash a whole local copy of Wikipedia and still have 28GB left for cat pictures.

Android users, it turns out, can get access to any AT&T customer’s voicemail using one of two caller-ID spoofing apps - worryingly, AT&T is relying on the CLI field to control access to voicemail, despite the fact that it often isn’t verified in any way.

And Sprint and HTC are struggling to keep the Evo in stock. Apparently, the Samsung-made touchscreen is a significant bottleneck in the supply chain, and some might wonder if Samsung’s own ‘droids are getting first pick.

Rumours swirl that Sprint’s renewed interest in LTE (it’s not just them - Intel suddenly likes the TDD flavour of it too) is pointing towards another attempt to merge the operator with T-Mobile USA. Whatever radio air interface they use, though, it seems they’re confident they have enough spectrum. Sprint is promising no data caps on the WiMAX network, at least unless the users get up to around 20GB/month. Which is rather like a 20GB/month cap…

Intel had their best quarter ever, as speculation swirled that they might buy Infineon. Sony Ericsson also had a good week. And Alvarion, of all vendors, announced that they were thinking about doing some LTE. Are the standards wars truly over?

Motorola is reportedly considering the sale of its networks division, all except the iDEN unit, to Nokia Siemens Networks.

In other connectivity news, AT&T improves its ideas about femtocells - it’s been writing to selected customers offering free Cisco Microcells, apparently on the basis of loyalty or spending. So far it’s just a trial, but it’s a better idea than asking them to pay for the privilege of hosting critical telecoms infrastructure.

And the World Cup equated to a 24% spike in data traffic.

The FCC has announced its plans to change the rules of the so-called Mobile Satellite Service spectrum in order to release an additional 90MHz of the 2GHz band for generic wireless-broadband use. They’re also trying to fix a problem - although $400m a year from the Universal Service Fund is allocated for rural telemedicine, so far very little of the money has been spent.

Telefonica announced a “global e-health initiative”, to cover all its main markets. Not much in the way of specifics yet, but they seem to be keen on a major Telco 2.0 target vertical.

The UK government has put off its target date for universal broadband from 2012 to 2015 and confirmed that it wants to use money from the BBC licence fee. A company called Clear Mobitel announced that it was beginning trials of LTE in the 800MHz ex-TV band in Cornwall with a view to partaking of the lolly.

OFCOM wants to get mobile number porting down to hours 2, although they might perhaps do better addressing this rant from our new favourite ISP.

EU regulators have found that the implementation of the controversial data retention directive is usually illegal for a variety of reasons, mostly to do with privacy and that old friend, proportionality. The New York Times, meanwhile, wants Google regulating - Wired isn’t so sure.

Cloudy! SFR is partnering with Hewlett-Packard to get into the private-cloud business, offering infrastructure-as-a-service and similar trendy abbreviations to its enterprise customers. Rackspace, NASA, and a huge cast of other partners, are preparing to launch an open-source cloud based on Python and Red Hat Linux, building on work they already did creating a cloud for the space agency and the US Federal government more broadly.

A good Voice 2.0 question; if hosted IVR is good, and hosted PBXs are good, why not integrate the two?

Telefonica does something with Jajah - discount international calls. Ho hum.

Half a successful South African MVNO up for grabs. More on new business models in the music industry. HOWTO use jQuery in Nokia Web Runtime. Working out how good the Apple Time Capsule really is, with basic stats.

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