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Telco 2.0 News Review

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Nokia is activating 300,000 devices a day, while Android is doing about 200,000. However, Android’s year-on-year growth rate is 886%. Of course, starting from a low base will do that for your numbers, but it’s still impressive stuff and hardly encouraging for the Nokia/Symbian world. Mostly, that’s good news for vendors and for software developers - Computer Weekly gives the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini a glowing review. Who would have expected that as the mid-market was slaughtered in 2008 and 2009?

[Ed: we’ll be covering the impact of devices on telco strategy at the upcoming Americas Executive Brainstorm in LA on 27-28 October, and EMEA in London 9-10 November. We’ve also recently published a new research report Devices 2.0: ‘Beyond Smartphones’ - Innovation Strategies for Operators.]

Fortunately, the good people at Espoo have a secret weapon. Reality TV. Check out the Ovi X Factor app. Meanwhile, their innovator contest has announced its shortlist.

Meanwhile, the iPhone assemblers Foxconn announced they are cutting their long-term growth target from 30% to 15% annually. Interestingly, they’re also looking at moving manufacturing to the United States and investing in automation…

Android is far from perfect, of course, as anyone who has experienced the challenge of trying to keep an Android device operational for a whole day will know. Wired UK has a list of five key improvements it needs, notably a sensible way to shut down an app after you’ve finished with it. There is, of course, an app for that, but it’s not Symbian’s one key for options, one key for exit paradigm. If you want to find out what’s really been eating the battery, by the way, the engineering test commands for the gadgets are available here.

Have we been having too many mobile-apps stories recently? Quite possibly. What about a few infrastructure stories, then?

After Italy’s alternative operators agreed to build a common fibre-optic infrastructure and make a joint proposal to Telecom Italia, here’s some progress - Fastweb is offering 2 million customer premises 100Mbps symmetrical service for €15 a month plus an activation fee. They’re targeting existing subscribers to begin with. (We’re getting 100/710Kbps this morning. Dude, where’s my country?)

At this year’s IFA in Berlin, Vodafone Germany gave details of its LTE deployment plans. Like DTAG, it’s constrained by spectrum licensing requirements to start with the parts of Germany where broadband is so far unavailable. They expect to cover 1,000 districts by the end of the year. Not surprisingly, given that the government wants them to address gaps in fixed broadband availability, the service is being marketed as part of their Zuhause (At Home) converged product. Vodafone is offering three bundles with tiered speeds and data allowances, with pricing set at a distinctly premium level - €39.99 for 7.2Mbps (i.e. HSDPA speeds) and 10GB, €69.99 for 50Mbps/30GB.

Clearwire was the first “4G” operator to make it into Boston, pipping Verizon Wireless to the post - but when they got there they found that T-Mobile USA was already there, with HSPA+ service in place. This is getting to be a theme - we noted earlier in the summer that users had been reporting significantly better throughput on T-Mobile HSPA than either VZW’s LTE or Clearwire’s WiMAX in the only areas where all three are operational.

Rather oddly, in the light of that news and the fact they’ve turned up HSPA+ on POPs covering 100 million people this year, it’s rumoured that T-Mobile might invest in Clearwire, or perhaps just buy wholesale service. T-Mobile is also rumoured to be a potential launch customer for LightSquared. The wholesale-only (it sounds like one of the fashion firms near my old office in Fitzrovia - much better than “bit pipe”) operator is planning to build out 13,000 cells next year, starting with Dallas, Chicago, and Minneapolis and working outwards.

There’s no evidence that T-Mobile is involved, but as they say, “it is a scientific fact”. In fact, it seems to be a fairly reliable forecast principle that there are always rumours about something dramatic happening with T-Mobile USA and they are usually baseless, so this shouldn’t be overstated yet. It’s Bloomberg’s story - they apparently got hold of a detailed deployment plan, but they haven’t published the document itself - and CEO Sanjeev Ahuja says that a dozen consumer-electronics companies have signed up. Comes with data, eh.

The Federal Network Agency has intervened to share out the German digital dividend spectrum in the 800s and 2600s between the operators after they failed to agree on how to divide it up.

(In other German news, hackers copy a biometric national ID card on live TV.)

Verizon, meanwhile, is offering a boost to DSL speeds, either as a palliative for the slowdown in FiOS deployment or perhaps just a retention move.

India’s row with Huawei looks like it’ll have to get settled somehow as Tata TeleServices has specified their equipment and indeed their services as well for five of the nine circles it won 3G licences in. NSN get the other four. The Tatas usually get what they want. Huawei may also be about to launch an Android-based smartphone.

The FCC has been busy, closing off the idea of giving the AWS3 band away to M2Z Networks (they wanted to offer “free” ad-funded service, and really free service to blue light agencies, on condition they got the spectrum for nothing), and extending the net neutrality consultation. The key issues seem to be the relationship between Internet service and other “specialised services” that are provided over the same last-mile infrastructure - IPTV, for example - and also the inclusion or otherwise of mobile.

We mentioned infrastructure and wholesale-only networks. The UK has moved a step closer. T-Mobile UK and Orange UK are now one in Everything Everywhere. 3UK and T-Mobile already share civil infrastructure through Mobile Broadband Network Ltd. Now, Orange’s network is also integrating into MBNL, contributing several thousand base stations and getting half the T-Mobile stake in MBNL, as this is transferred to EE.

Orange UK this week launched WB-AMR…eh…HD Voice for the few people who have the right kind of phone to make use of it. As The Register puts it, “now a mobile phone can sound as clear as a good Skype connection”.

Skype and Verizon Wireless have pushed out a new version of their mobile Skype client for Android, fixing a bug under which it was impossible to use WLAN while the client was running. Rich Karpinski, meanwhile, argues that the rumour about Cisco buying Skype might be valid. Perhaps - Skype is a great company - but $5bn? Really?

Phil Wolff at Skype Journal wonders what voice would be like if we started from scratch. Probably not Apple Facetime, as one of his commenters apparently thinks - a replica of 3G video calling dependent on one particular hardware device? really? that doesn’t work outside WLAN hotspots? and requires you to make faces at a phone? Note that the last link doesn’t seem to be aware that a lot of mobile devices have cameras in them.

David Burgess updates on OpenBTS ahead of his annual deployment at Burning Man.

Worse voice & messaging: will the police re-open the investigation into the News of the World voicemail hacking?

Having kept everyone waiting, finally, we’re going to let you have some Apple-related news…has Apple just disrupted the cable TV world? The story is the new, cheaper Apple TV and its associated streaming backend. On the other hand, there’s not much content, no iOS apps, and more worryingly, no support for better video delivery. Everything has to come down the pipe, streamed, unicast, and you can’t edge-cache any more as the new Apple TV doesn’t have a hard disk. Faultline rounds up its competitors from Google, Sony, and elsewhere, and thinks Apple has “lost the global over-the-top content war”. Whoo.

In a notably mixed week for Apple, the new Ping music-based social network was launched and immediately invaded by spam. Spotify, meanwhile, announced a deal to integrate their service with Sonos’s hi-fi equipment.

Having fed the Apple addicts, now to distribute the Google Food. YouTube may have turned profitable, with about 14% of videos now carrying ads. Interestingly, it looks like Google may have hit on a solution for the copyright problem - rather than zapping copyrighted material, they put ads next to it and cut the rightsholder in on the money. It’s an elegant solution; you might remember this classic Telco 2.0 post modelling YouTube and Hulu’s economics. We thought YouTube needed to either cut its operational costs to 33% of mainstream CDNs’ or radically boost its ad-serving ratio - back then it was 3-4%, 18 months on it’s 14%. Knowing Google, they probably had a good go at the operational costs too. Tangentially, there’s an interesting post at F-Secure about the economics of affiliate-advertising spam.

It looks like Google is planning to wind up Wave by releasing the code as a standalone application. One question about Wave shutdown would be what happened to existing content - it’s all very well being able to get all your stuff, but what do you do with data for an application that doesn’t exist any more? The answer looks to be that Wave might have an afterlife as an open-source library and you might be able to import your stuff somewhere else.

Wired has a rather nice run-down of a wide range of online advertising and customer-data evil that Google has chosen not to commit (examples: the shoes that wouldn’t stop following her, surprising details on your job candidates). On the other hand, Google did just offer disgruntled Buzz users a cash settlement.

Nokia, meanwhile, has announced that Ovi Files is shutting down and given its customers a month to move all their stuff elsewhere. Why Nokia had a file-hosting service in the first place is possibly more interesting - essentially it looks like a case of “because they could” leading them to buy some random startup or other.

A US court has ruled that there is a legitimate expectation of privacy in one’s cellular location data and related information, and therefore that the police need a warrant to pull it.

NIST has issued a set of guidelines for the security of smart grid systems.

Vodafone 360 code is open and online, and they want a new chairman. The latest version of Ubuntu Linux has an app store.

Cheer up, I’m sure Paul Allen is suing you too!

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