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November 29, 2010

Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed. Analysis from the 11th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm will be soon be out, plus don’t forget to pencil or key into your diaries the dates for the next brainstorms in London, San Fransisco and Singapore.]

NBN Co has published its business plan, finally putting figures on the wholesale deal with Telstra and how much they might be likely to save on construction costs by using Telstra’s civil works infrastructure. Over the next 30 years, NBN Co is going to pay Telstra A$14bn to use the ducts, to shut down the PSTN, and to migrate Telstra’s subscribers onto new fibre-based services. On the other hand, NBN Co has revised its cost estimates for the build-out to A$37.5bn from A$43bn - if that includes the rent to Telstra rolled up over 30 years, this would suggest the network sharing roughly halved the cost of construction.

As a result, the Australian Senate passed a crucial piece of legislation required to structurally separate Telstra and set up the NBN-Telstra agreement. David Thodey, Telstra CEO, expects to sign the final agreement by the 20th of December. TelecomTVhas some more detail about the regulatory arrangements here.

Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority has announced an initiative to deploy an NFC-based mobile payments system.

It looks like despite the GSMA’s decision to go ahead with soft-SIMs, there will be no iPhone without a hardware SIM for the foreseeable future. There are those who would argue that there was never going to be one and that the whole point was to put pressure on the GSMA.

AT&T and Sprint have swapped a significant amount of spectrum, while AT&T is also apparently planning to buy up the 700MHz spectrum assets previously belonging to Qualcomm’s failed FLO TV network.

In Kenya, they’re looking at a single LTE network with a radioco business model, providing low-level wholesale service to the existing mobile operators. It will probably be part state-owned, which implies Safaricom or Telkom would be first in the queue.

Six Thai network operators have signed an MoU agreeing to share network infrastructure, practice net neutrality, and be open about their terms of service. 11 of Bulgaria’s many cable operators have integrated into a joint venture company to run a national-scale DOCSIS 3.0 network.

On the theme of operators cooperating, here’s an interview with executives from Orange, Telefonica, and KT on the challenges they face in delivering WAC.

GVT switched on 100Mbps FTTH in another Brazilian city this week, while Telco 2.0’s front room gets less than a hundredth of that. GiffGaff users got much less this week, after the network went down for some hours. What we want to know is if their users had to fix the softswitch…

Perhaps Avanti’s Hylas-1 satellite could help.

According to TeleGeography, Huawei is the leading vendor of LTE equipment so far.

In the UK, meanwhile, it’s been suggested that the domain name registry Nominet might be forced to take down domain names “used to commit a crime”. RevK from Andrews & Arnold ISP reacts with suitable vehemence and speculates on the possibilities of a P2P domain name system. More at Computer Weekly.

Vodafone has altered its data roaming prices in Europe - you can now have the same data plan as at home for £2 a day. Of course, if you’re away for a month this could easily double your bill, but at least you won’t end up like the man whose AT&T dongle roamed onto a cruise ship’s onboard picocell.

Is this the best app from a big-name brand yet? Tesco’s mobile scanner for the iPhone, Symbian S60, and Android devices lets you scan the barcodes on their packaging and immediately book home delivery of the goods. It also caches the most common items on your shopping list, and no doubt lets you collect those Clubcard points. Meanwhile, we presume the good people at Dunnhumby get to do a variety of interesting stuff with the data.

Having released Symbian into open source, Nokia is now going to shut down the source repositories and the download site. Apparently, if you still want to grok the codebase after the 17th of December, you can, er, write to them and they’ll send you a DVD. In the post. It’s possible some group of extremists might fork the project and keep it going, but is it likely? Hardly.

After more than 20 years, this would appear to be the finish for the Psion legacy, the wonderful and strange creature that was the UK’s main contribution to consumer computing. The Register is running a major series on the history of Symbian, and the first part is here.

Nokia Beta Labs has a new app, Nokia Situations which lets you define different situations and make a device sense them and act accordingly. They also have a WLAN network analyser, something that could be used for good, or evil.

Meanwhile, Nokia’s Ovi Store is suffering from significant delays in approving new apps. Putting a brave face on it, they claim this is due to unexpectedly high demand.

The legendary ReBirth music application for the Mac, which became justly famed for providing faithful emulation of a huge range of classic 80s synthesisers, is now out as a reduced iPhone app and full-featured iPad app.

HTC’s Desire HD is reviewed here - they think it’s better than the iPhone 4, with a full day’s battery life. TTV has a hands on with the Palm Pre 2, and is not entirely convinced.

Last week, Virgin Media announced it was going to deploy WLAN into its street cabinets and named TiVo as the key supplier for its new set-top boxes. Connected Vision has an early look at the Virgin-branded TiVos. They also check in with SeeSaw, an online-video startup that gives you the choice of either subscribing and seeing no ads, or else choosing the ads you see.

Connected Planet makes the excellent point that SMS is still the heart of mobile advertising - people read them, and they’re usually the people they were intended for.

Skype saw 9.1% growth in peak-concurrent users in the last seven months, reports Skype Journal, but they’re not saying anything about usage per user ahead of the IPO.

Jeff Atwood hammers on the point - just use OpenID, dammit. Dave Winer is trying to serve his website out of Dropbox and discovers that it’s hard to debug things inside a closed system from outside.

The F-Secure Labs blog reports on an especially pernicious take on Facebook spam.

Why did it take so long to fix GSM security? Harald Welte of OpenBSC investigates.

The power of OAuth 2.0 and standardised authentication: a program that browses EBay’s API, buys random goods, and twitters about it.

Here’s a micro-finance institution working entirely over M-PESA. Haiti gets mobile money this week. Number portability arrives in India. Reliance Globalcom turns up IPv6. Did you know your GPS will stop working above 60,000 feet altitude or 1,000 knots speed, to stop you building a ballistic missile?

And here are the slides IBM was pitching to its customers in 1975, for what wasn’t then called the cloud.

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November 23, 2010

Today - Making Money with LTE - FREE Partner Event

Telco 2.0 partners Telecom TV are running 3 live debates around the globe with LTE industry experts discussing how operators can find a way forward on the LTE business model, technology, spectrum allocations and service options. It’s free here today - looks like an interesting agenda.

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November 22, 2010

Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed. Analysis from the 11th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm will be out later this week, plus we’ve now set the dates for the next brainstorms in London, San Fransisco and Singapore.]

The UK’s telecoms minister, Ed Vaizey, appeared at last week’s Financial Times World Telecoms event and didn’t quite say that he was going to end net neutrality in the UK. In fact, he couldn’t have done as there is no such regulatory requirement in Britain. What he did say was that he didn’t see any case for further regulations so long as there was plenty of competition at the ISP level. In that, he’s entirely aligned with OFCOM director Ed Richards, who spoke the day before, EU Commissioners Neelie Kroes and Viviane Reding, and for that matter, Telco 2.0. Regarding the EU, we even blogged it. Come to think of it, he’s even in agreement with Tim Berners-Lee. Can we put this story to bed, please?

Richards, for his part, also appeared at the event and announced details of the UK’s 800 and 2600MHz spectrum auctions. A consultation will begin in February and run through to May, with detailed proposals in August, and the auction itself in early 2012 with a view to the spectrum being clear for a switch-on in 2013.

Cheekily, the BBC is going to launch a web application that profiles what your ISP is doing to their packets, rather like the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Switzerland (because it’s neutral) application.

Meanwhile, Benoit Felten doubts that there is real value to be had from content-based discrimination. This goes to the heart of some of the points we made here - prioritised delivery is only valuable if the network is badly congested, but if it’s that badly congested, will the upstream customers have any confidence it’ll actually be up, never mind performing according to the SLA?

In other deep Internet news, here’s a rundown of TCP congestion control inventor and Cisco co-founder Van Jacobson’s ideas about “Content-Centric Networking”. Also, both Renesys and Arbor Networks ASERT distribute calm about the suddenly-rediscovered China Telecom BGP routing leak.

The GSMA has reversed course on the issue of over-the-air SIM updates, possibly a very important regulatory shift. This would permit the hypothetical Apple device with a non-removable SIM, and also be very useful for M2M devices.

Unlike the MVNO solution as described at our event, though, it would still be critically dependent on the operator who delivers the SIM cards and who controls the OTA gateway, unless the carriers are willing to face the issue of interconnecting SIM-update messaging, a potential security minefield. Rudolf van der Berg has a detailed post on why being an MVNO beats having funny SIM cards over at GigaOm.

In other Apple news, News Corp and Apple are going to be publishing a new newspaper exclusively for the iPad, The Daily, based in New York. Apparently it’ll cost 99 cents a week.

Wired reports that online advertising revenues are climbing again after a sudden stop during the economic crisis, and that some media companies are hiring again.

There’s another of those “smartphone market share via ad-serving data” stories out this week. This time, it’s not AdMob. But ReadWriteWeb reports that Millenial Media still finds that Android is growing at a ferocious clip and is now accounting for as many ad requests as the Apple iOS device fleet.

Palm is about to push out WebOS 2 to its developers.

At least part of Google’s TV play has some good news to announce: Google TV Ads has got the contract to manage advertising on Verizon’s FiOS TV service.

In India, the “telecoms scam” story continues to spread. TRAI is now proposing that 62(!) GSM licences simply be cancelled for one reason or another. Notably, Etisalat seems to be especially hit.

Ultra-low cost GSM vendor VNL has a contract in Ghana. We blogged them here. Vodafone and Telenor impressed the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress with details from their respective M-PESA deployments.

Meanwhile, major US carriers have agreed to start a joint venture to support NFC-based mobile payments. Interesting, but as someone points out in comments, M-PESA works with any device.

Brazil, meanwhile, has hit 100% mobile penetration.

Bell Canada flipped on dual carrier HSPA this week, with a “theoretical maximum” of 42Mbps. At least to begin with, they’re charging a C$10 premium for extra speed.

Cable guys Cox Comms this week leapt into the US mobile snake pit, adding a mobile service to their existing triple play bundles. The service is going to be called “Unbelievably Fair” (because you get a refund for unused minutes) and it’s an MVNO riding on Sprint’s CDMA EV-DO network.

Spotify’s numbers are out for 2009, not that this means much as start-ups notoriously operate in dog years (seven times the usual). For what it’s worth, their losses were actually greater than their total revenue. There’s a major lawsuit on between EMI and MP3tunes.com which is likely to turn on whether the DMCA safe harbor provision applies to “file lockers”/direct download websites. Killer detail: EMI uploaded some of the infringing content itself for promotional reasons.

Wired, meanwhile, says you should forget the news that the Beatles are now on iTunes and go straight to the real news - the Google Voice app for iPhone is finally here.

Meanwhile, Google’s latest run at the social-network business is here: Google Hotpot integrates elements of social networking (like Google Buzz), local search, and product reviews in order to provide localised recommendations based on your friends’ opinions, and no doubt advertising as well.

GiffGaff, Telefonica’s MVNO that is supposedly run by its users, has suddenly withdrawn its unlimited call plan without asking them. The explanation is that some of the users ran up to 13,000 minutes a month or £520 worth of termination, with the average being 5,000. People still love telephony, and operators still occasionally pull off a One2One here and there.

Skype Journal wants to know if Skype video calls will be available once Verizon Wireless’s LTE network goes live. Will they be an extra-cost option? Also, Meetzi is a Web site for making meetings less awful. Should Skype buy it?

Tim Panton explains why Asterisk SCF is an example of best practice in developer relations. And of all people, Microsoft are promising to “end the PBX era” with their new Lync unified comms product.

Tropo looks like it’s going to add SMS shortcode capability, going by this post from Dan York on their official blog that invites users to open tickets if they want it. They also have a HOWTO integrate Tropo scripts with XMPP-based instant messaging. On York’s own blog, he points out that his desk phone’s major function now is as a spam trap.

AT&T Research shows off its speech-processing tech. So why do they still have voicemail? And here’s an example of Worse Voice & Messaging 2.0: Apple won’t let you write an app for spoofing your CLI, but nothing stops you building a Web site that does the same thing and bookmarking it in Safari.

Qualcomm claims the MSM8690 processor, the first dual-core Snapdragon, offers a 75% cut in power consumption.

Interestingly, the data-center world is beginning to look at mobile technology as a solution to its obsessive hunt for power savings. Data Center Knowledge reports on ZT Systems’ new rackmount server based on up to 16 ARM Cortez A9 chips - fully populated, it’s meant to draw some 80 watts peak while supporting 8 dual-Cortex server modules, 8 SSDs, and a pair of Gigabit Ethernet switches.

A new Amazon Web Services API lets you buy processing power on highly parallel GPUs, for people who essentially need an inflatable supercomputer.

The horrible bill trying to censor the DNS has survived the intervention of Vint Cerf and is threatening to pass in the lame-duck session of the US Senate. Nokia claims the Ovi Store has passed 3 million downloads a day. Anti-piracy lawspammer in serious trouble. The GSMA doesn’t like SIM taxes.

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November 18, 2010

FT World Telecoms: VNL, Disruptive Rural GSM

A genuinely fascinating presentation at last week’s FT Conference
was given by Rajiv Mehrotra of VNL, an Indian startup that aims to deliver connectivity “where the roads stop”. The big issue here is OPEX - the GSMA estimates that by 2014 there will be 640,000 base stations operating beyond the reach of the electricity grid, which will cost a round $15bn a year in diesel fuel alone. We can only realistically expect the price of oil to go up, and storing tanks of it in a basically unpoliced environment brings its own problems. 60% of a typical African MNO’s OPEX is diesel. 37% of a typical Indian MNO’s OPEX is diesel.

So the real limiting factor on the minimal ARPU required to deploy is energy.

Mehrotra argues that retrofitting standard base stations with solar power is a poor deal because the stations are too big - the solar install, the base station, and even the wall around it are too much capital for the expected margins on the ARPU ever to repay. His answer is a new take on the picocell concept. VNL’s product is a picocell-scale, self-contained base station and WLAN access point designed for a spot deployment into villages, under a sparse macrocell overlay network. It draws no more than 50 watts (like a small light bulb) and is therefore relatively cheap to power with solar cells.

At this point, we couldn’t help but remember an old consulting project of ours. If the idea is to radically downsize the BTS and spot-deploy to the villages, is it possible to disaggregate the deployment further and have small-scale enterpreneurs - like the wholesale airtime/money transfer resellers, for example - or community organisations deploy them where they think there is a demand? Think of it as a nano-MNO. In some ways it’s the ultimate Happy Pipe.

Interestingly, VNL is actively considering something like this using universal service obligation funds as a pot of capital for user-owned deployment. There’s disruptive for you.

See more on Voice 2.0 in our analysts’ notes and strategy reports here

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FT World Telecoms: Broadband & Fibre

So Telco 2.0 went to the Financial Times’s World Telecoms event. Despite its very traditional format (Telco 2.0 event formats are much better!), this event does provide a platform for C-level execs to promote the wonderful things they are doing and (sometimes) open up about their business challenges.

Here are our thoughts about a number of key topics.

Fibre and Open Access

We’ve always been very keen on open access to ducts and dark fibre, structural separation, and the like. One thing that came across very strongly was that open access is now both necessary and inevitable, also a theme in the US National Broadband Plan. BT CEO Ian Livingston made the interesting point that successful NGA deployments seemed to involve either massive investment by government (as in Sweden or now Australia), toleration of an incumbent monopoly (as in Japan), or unusually favourable circumstances such as extremely high urban density, or to put it another way, extremely low trench mileage per subscriber passed (as in Hong Kong or Singapore).

It’s also clear that nobody is going to accept the creation of a new incumbent monopoly. The only way to deal with the contradiction, then, is to accept that there will be only one fibre network, but require that multiple operators will use it. This has cascading effects through the industry. BT is now rolling out FTTC very fast - Livingston claims that they’re doing the equivalent of a smallish NBN every month, and BT is going to hire 3,000 additional apprentices to create more installation teams - and therefore the big question is going to be how the terms of business work out between Openreach and the others.

OFCOM chief Ed Richards, also present, still insists that there is no case for price regulation of VULA (Virtual Unbundled Loop Access, the equivalent in the fibre/ethernet world to LLU in the PSTN world) although the only provider of it is by definition BT. The argument for this - we asked him - is that BT’s Generic Ethernet Access product on fibre competes with wholesale LLU on copper. The logic of this escapes us, not least as this implies that BT is a competitor with itself. More practically, how well will this work once a majority of the UK’s lines have transitioned to fibre, let alone 90%? Is BT really going to leave parallel copper lines in place after a subscriber signs up, in case they want to have a worse service again some time in the indefinite future?

On the other hand, it looks like we’re heading for a hybrid future, with significant additional fibre being deployed after the street cabinet by municipal and other actors. British street cabinets are going to be busy - Virgin Media’s Andrew Barron also said that they might be going to install WLAN infrastructure into their cabinets. Although he didn’t make a definite commitment, he seems to have already decided which frequency band to use (5.8GHz unlicensed), which suggests that some thought has gone into this.

Mind you, VMED might be advised to fix some of those famous open cabinets before putting something saleable like a WLAN box into them…

Regulation: The Interaction of Open Access and Net Neutrality

Regulatory views were remarkably consistent. Essentially, OFCOM director Richards, Comms Minister Ed Vaizey, and the deputy head of Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority, Leong Keng Thai were singing from the same hymn sheet. The key theme was that there was relatively little need to worry about net neutrality or pricing so long as there was a sufficiently competitive ISP market. Vaizey’s remarks have been vigorously hyped by the British media, but in practice the speech boiled down to the following points:

  1. We prefer competition to regulation
  2. Substantial competition exists in the UK market
  3. We don’t have any problem with normal traffic management
  4. We are committed to an open Internet
  5. That includes a right to access content and services of your choice
  6. Nothing has gone wrong so far
  7. Therefore, we aren’t planning to pass a net neutrality measure
  8. Operators should tell their customers what they’re doing

Given that there is no net neutrality legislation in the UK, this is a much less sensational statement than it’s been given credit for. Vaizey took care to remain in step with Richards’ words the day before and also with Neelie Kroes and Viviane Reding’s over the past few months. This is also roughly what we concluded in our recent review of the issue. Also, the general calming down of fears over “exafloods”, the “data tsunami”, etc. was in evidence.

The interesting point here is that if competition is an acceptable guarantee of fair treatment, then open access to infrastructure is a requirement for an open Internet. The primary reason why the UK has several major ISPs and many more small ones, which compete at a national sale, is that we have structural separation. In the US, for example, where the whole debate has been at its most bitter, consolidation and the Comcast ruling has led to a shift away from the highly competitive market of the dialup era, back towards one dominated by a small number of RBOCs and major cable operators with a high degree of territorial monopoly.

Singapore’s regulatory framework for their National Broadband Network is the extreme case of this viewpoint - net neutrality isn’t mentioned, but open access is available at every level from ducts up to layer 3 IP networking, and cross-ownership between layers is actually forbidden.

Looking Back at a Classic Telco 2.0 Chart

Comparison of OECD broadband markets

Long-time readers will remember that we carried out a cluster analysis of OECD nations (and a few others) plotting price versus average customer bandwidth as part of our Online Video Market Study. We discovered, in short, that you tended to get a group of poor countries with poor infrastructure where service was both poor and expensive, a group of countries where service was mediocre but cheap, and a group of countries where it was both cheap and good. This last group didn’t seem to have much in common except dense cities and a tradition of public sector leadership in building infrastructure (how else do you group France and South Korea?).

We argued that open access and hybrid deployments would be a way of getting out of this trap, as was suggested by the emergence of countries with unexpectedly good service due to easy access to poles. We think we’re being borne out.

See our submission to the OFCOM net neutrality consultation here and our Online Video Market Strategy Report here.

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November 15, 2010

Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed. We’re now busy analysing the output from last week’s 11th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm, as well as planning the next brainstorms in London, San Fransisco and Singapore (see here for more). Meanwhile, here’s a quick preview of one of the votes on Cloud Computing where we asked delegates to rank alternative ‘Use Cases’ options. It shows that delegates favoured the integration of telcos’ network and footprint assets with cloud computing as the way forward in this key field.


This supports our view in a forthcoming analyst’s note that using telcos’ control of network assets and widespread geographical footprint could be a key differentiator for them in the cloud market.

You can also access the US event summary write up, an outline of the forthcoming Telco 2.0 Roadmap Report, and we’ll bring you more on the EMEA analysis over the next week or two.]

Vodafone results were out this week - the giant operator announced 3.9% revenue growth year-on-year for the first half of 2010. CEO Vittorio Colao said that he was planning to “adjust pricing to usage” in order to squeeze out more revenue from their data networks. As it’s Vodafone, there’s always someone trying to drum up a merger or demerger rumour, and this week Colao tossed them a bone by announcing the sale of Vodafone’s remaining stake in Softbank, bringing in a cool £3bn. Woof…gulp. More broadly, the firm is planning to concentrate on Europe, Africa, and India - how this differs from its strategy so far under Colao isn’t clear.

It was also results time at BT, but rather less comforting. Revenues fell by 2.8% year-on-year for the third quarter, primarily due to the continued erosion of the voice business. Line loss stood at 5.9% year-on-year. However, BT succeeded in getting an almost matching boost to EBITDA (2.6%) by squeezing its costs. At the end of September, the carrier had a massive 38,000 subscribers on its new FTTC service and 45% of the eyeball ISP market.

Telefonica also had results out, and they were good, with revenues up 6%. They’ll be needing some of that money, though: O2 UK is spending a million pounds a day in CAPEX to keep up with the smartphones, and CEO Ronan Dunne expects this to rise 25% next year.

After Everything Everywhere, France Telecom/Orange apparently wants to sign a whole lot more network-sharing contracts next year.

Getting away from the UK results beat, Safaricom saw revenues and profits up 15%. Interestingly, 23.8% of their revenues are now coming from data, so they’re almost half way to Softbank’s position of making more money from data than from voice, although it’s not clear how much of that is SMS. Safaricom M-PESA has 13.5 megasubscribers, meanwhile, or 81% of Safaricom’s customers.

You might wonder, then, with M-PESA licencees deploying all over the place, why Vodacom Tanzania needs a grant from the Gates Foundation. It’s only $4.8 million, but still. After all, MTN says they’ve invested $3bn in basic infrastructure for their African networks in the last 12 months. MTN has also signed up Western Union as a partner for its mobile money service.

The GSMA has launched a set of operations metrics and KPIs for mobile money operators.

Interestingly, MTN claims that 60% of the devices its South African retail outlets activate are smartphones. So that’s probably the right moment to link to a review of Orange’s latest own-brand Android device, the San Francisco, which comes in at £99 and delivers HSPA, WLAN, GPS, a 2GB micro-SD card, a 3.2 megapixel camera, and a 600MHz processor. And the battery apparently lasts for a whole two days.

Of course, one consequence of smartphone proliferation is security dread. In China, an estimated one million phones have been infected with a virus that sends itself to everyone in your contacts, via a premium SMS provider. It’s a threefer - not only does it propagate, but it makes actual money while it does so, because as well as the premium SMS, the attack page the messages point you to contains pay-per-click ads. It’s not clear whether the attack is against Symbian, Android, or China Mobile’s fork of Android, OMS, but perhaps this might explain it.

Windows Phone 7 numbers are still fluffy, but what it doesn’t look like is a hit. Especially as Microsoft seems to be trying to sell Kins again.

Nokia’s user-designed phone has made an appearance, and it looks a lot like an N8.

AT&T is trying to cheer up its non-iPhone users - Getjar’s white label app store is coming to their fleet of BlackBerries, Nokias, ‘droids, etc.

Relatedly, where are the missing gadgets? Two things are clear from this story - there’s a groundswell of small ODMs in Asia, because it’s never been easier to make a phone, and big number forecasts should be treated with caution. If that hasn’t soured you on analysts’ numbers completely, Gartner’s smartphone market share scoreboard is out, charting the attack of the ‘droids.

The big number at Clearwire is currently “zero” - that’s how much cash they’ll have left by Christmas on current trends. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse indicated that the operator might be willing to tide them over, but didn’t make any promises. This may have something to do with the fact that Clearwire and Sprint are suing each other. Last week, we mentioned that Clearwire currently doesn’t make any money at all from its wholesale (i.e. Sprint) smartphone subs. This week, we know a bit more about why after Sprint invoked mandatory arbitration.

Essentially, the problem is that Sprint agreed to buy wholesale WiMAX service from Clearwire with regard to its 810,000 HTC Evo and Epic smartphone subscribers. These devices are all capable of using the WiMAX network, and the subscribers pay a premium for it. However, not all of them are covered by it, and the question seems to be whether the agreement means that Sprint bought the service in advance, or whether it contracted to pay for the service that was actually used in arrears.

Back in the UK, 3UK is beginning to shut off its 2G national roaming deal with Orange. Apparently they have discovered that there are actually a few 3 subscribers with 2G-only phones - surprising, as 3 has never sold them - and they’re trying to track them down and offer them an upgrade. There’s a rundown of device availability for UMTS900 here. Also, STEricsson will be shipping chips with IPWireless’s TDTV mobile TV technology included, so perhaps that spare 20MHz of spectrum might get used.

The European Union reckons that there is no sign of net non-neutrality in the EU at the moment, and therefore there is consensus that there’s no need for net neutrality regulations for the time being. You can’t fault the logic.

In the UK, BT and TalkTalk succeeded in getting a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act. The “Federation against Software Theft” fulminates that this is “a fig-leaf for their own agendas”, but they may have a fight on their hands to portray the incumbent telco as a bunch of hairy torrent-freaks.

Here’s something interesting - BSNL’s latest monster contract, 5.5 million lines’ worth of GSM, has come down to a straight run-off between NSN and Huawei. Ericsson dropped out - because the Indian government insisted that the vendors submit their source code for security testing. Huawei and NSN were apparently cool with that. Meanwhile, India’s minister of telecoms resigns after being accused of not getting enough money for the 2G spectrum. The argument is that the 3G auction brought in so much money that the 2G one should have done better - you probably can fault the logic there.

LightSquared’s first satellite, a mere 5.4 tonne flyweight with a 22-metre wide antenna, has been launched from Baikonur on a Russian rocket. The next steps: deploy that antenna without anything going wrong, and then work out what to do with the thing.

Is Facebook going to launch a webmail service? Is Skype going to launch a webmail service?

One thing we do know is that Facebook is going to build an enormous data centre in North Carolina at the cost of a mere $450 million. Interestingly, an unnamed major US telco is getting into containerised data centres. And the world’s top supercomputer is now Chinese.

Telcos seek better application servers for their cloud activities. Economics of the cloud. When the cloud fails: Register.com’s massive DNS outage.

HOWTO hack on Qt-based mobile applications with their new QML user-interface language.

Yahoo!’s messenger app for Android now comes with video calls.

Amazon has dropped the percentage it takes on sales of newspapers and magazines onto the Amazon Kindle, aligning the pricing with the now-traditional 70-30 split.

More bad news for Google TV - Fox is the latest TV network to blacklist them, going so far as to detect anyone streaming TV via another service. Netflix, meanwhile, won’t do Android because it’s too open and they’re worried about their DRM, or rather, the contracts with Hollywood that demand it.

Apple is preparing to launch iAds in Europe. Meanwhile, did you know that Opera may soon have as much web traffic in its cache farm as Google?

There are notes of a fascinating talk on Google’s scalability architecture here (note: technical). Did you know it can take longer to read data from RAM than it can take to push it over a 1Gbps LAN? However, Google doesn’t yet do inter-datacentre virtualisation - perhaps because they find the round trip delay outweighs the benefits.

Here’s a video on Asterisk SCF. Voxeo has signed up voice hacker Mark Headd. Twilio closes another round of VC funding. Vidyo offers high quality video conferencing for $1200/seat/year.

Tim Berners-Lee’s original grant application. Where to find a hosting provider that’ll never rat on you. Google Refine cleans up crufty datasets. Where to find Britain’s start-ups (we filled in the form but we’re not on there…). Rudolf van der Berg blogs back after Telco 2.0.

Online poker site representatives visit user to find out if they’re human.

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November 9, 2010

Telcos in the Cloud: IBM, Orange, and Oracle @ Telco 2.0

This afternoon has been an optimistic one at the Telco 2.0 executive brainstorm - you could say our heads were in the clouds. Specifically, the Cloud Services session has been more than interesting. Speakers from IBM - Craig Wilson, VP Global Telecoms Industry - Orange - Stephan Hadinger, Chief Architect for Cloud Computing - and Oracle, with Neil Sholay, VP Cloud and Communications - gave a string of presentations that encouraged us to hope that the cloud might not be quite as airy and insubstantial as it might sound.

Wilson thinks operators have a “unique market opportunity”: they have key assets like end-to-end control of network resources, an existing enterprise customer base, name recognition, and channel marketing expertise. We’d add to this that the ex-incumbents tend to have a footprint of network and property assets that you need if you want to distribute cloud resources, for reliability, and also bring them close to the end user, for low latency and high performance.

Similarly, Stephan Hadinger pointed out that most cloud providers can only provide network infrastructure services (load-balancing, anycast DNS, spam filtering, DDOS protection, content- and applications-delivery networks) as software, when really high performance requires a presence physically located in the right place.

Wilson went on to point out that “dev/test clouds” were a key use case - that is to say, it’s just easier to do rapid-prototyping of a new idea if you can check out an Amazon EC2 machine image, or use Google App Engine, than if you have to negotiate with the IT department first.

Interestingly, Neil Sholay of Oracle said something similar. He pointed out that Oracle had started to “get” the cloud after it was discovered that their developers were in the habit of using public clouds rather than going through channels. At least, he said, this was better than some of their customers, who had discovered their critical cloud applications when they were shut down after the inventor left the company and stopped paying for them.

As a result, they had now invested in internal cloud capacity - often, applications would be prototyped in the cloud and then pushed to the traditional infrastructure.

More broadly, he pointed to a case study of a major Oracle customer - a bank - that had achieved cost savings of more than 30% in both operations and innovations. Very interestingly, only 19% of the savings came from the core “cloud” project of data-centre virtualisation - much else came from better practices in innovation, operations, maintenance, and the like.

The amusing thing about these presentations was that they track very closely with the content of an as-yet unreleased Telco 2.0 analyst note on the potential for operators in the cloud. We thought rapid prototyping and scaling of new services, IT cost control, and geographically optimised CDN/ADN were the key elements. Watch this space!

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November 8, 2010

Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed - We’ll be blogging / tweeting from the Telco 2.0 EMEA Brainstorm in London for the next two days. Hope to see you there - if not you can still get Distance Participation Packages.]

It’s not looking good for Clearwire: the WiMAX operator has stopped all new shops opening, delayed the launch of its smartphones, suspended its deployments to Denver and Miami, and sacked 15% of its employees. The reason is simple - the company is running out of cash. Although it achieved $147m in third quarter revenues, more than double what it did last year (when it hadn’t deployed very many networks), it urgently needs new financing to make it to 2011. There are one million retail and 1.8 million wholesale subscribers, but the wholesale subs are contributing monthly ARPU of $4.46. This quote doesn’t sound good:

Wholesale revenue in the third quarter was $16.5 million and is based upon minimal wholesale ARPU and usage assumptions due to unresolved issues around wholesale pricing. The issues relate to the application of existing wholesale pricing provisions to certain types of 4G devices. Once these issues are resolved, the Company expects to receive up to approximately $17 million in potential additional wholesale revenue from these 4G devices for the three month period ending September 30, 2010.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile USA announced 700,000 smartphone net adds for the quarter and started advertising its HSPA+ service as “4G”. Matt Carter of Sprint may have told them to “stop dressing up as their favourite superhero”, but then again T-Mobile isn’t the company whose major 4G network partner just hocked the piano. Connected Planet Online has some interesting points about the Clearwire/Sprint relationship and who’s profiting from who.

More positively, Sprint stealth-launched a transcription feature in its visual voicemail application for the HTC ‘droids.

Qwest has reported a steady migration from copper to fibre.

Verizon Wireless throws out a major contract to build more LTE networks. And the lucky winner is Alcatel-Lucent, which gets an additional $4bn in orders for kit including radio networks, optical Ethernet backhaul, and IMS core equipment. They already had a $2bn deal to build the first phase of the network. The new contract runs for 4 years, but it’s likely that the work will be front loaded as VZW has a deadline to launch in the next two months.

A somewhat less enviable contract win, perhaps, for Nokia Siemens Networks: network expansion for Afghan Wireless.

ALU has been catching pigeons lately - they’ve also signed a billion euros’ worth of orders from China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom for essentially every sort of network infrastructure you can imagine (GSM, CDMA, TD-SCDMA radios, optical components, DSLAMs, IP routers, IPTV systems, switches, IMS, all sorts of stuff).

NTT has named the day: in Japan, the PSTN will die in 2025, by which time all services will be IP-based and on fibre to the home.

Elsewhere, Facebook announced its new mobile offering, which allows you to log in to mobile applications with your Facebook credentials, and then allows the applications to serve you personalised ads. It also provides an interesting opportunity for upstream businesses to offer you discounts based on your location or other criteria. This being Facebook, however, we’re just waiting for the privacy complications.

So is Google - they’ve suspended the export of GMail contact data into Facebook. More broadly, they have decided that applications can only slurp your GMail contacts and use them to pre-populate their contacts if they let Google (or any other) applications do likewise. Expect much squealing from all parties, and a certain satisfaction among the geeks.

That said, Viviane Reding is planning to pass a new European privacy law after the discovery that the Google Street View cars were not just mapping the locations of WLAN networks, but also sniffing traffic from the ones that weren’t encrypted.

Yet further data points on Android growth. Developers love it. Security experts quake in their boots. Is it a blessing or a curse for vendors?

There’s an even bigger customer data spat in China. Qihoo 360 and QQ owners Tencent are entangled in a knife fight about who’s spreading malware and who’s snooping on whose customers. It defies summary - just read the whole thing.

We’ve been reporting regularly on the clammy snog between Skype and Facebook - here’s some comment from Skype’s old girlfriend, it seems. Disruptive Telephony has a walkthrough of Skype 5.0 for Mac. Skype Journal lists the features, and discovers that parts of the UI can be customised through a browser-like API. They also have thoughts on Skype Enterprise.

Skype is giving away free WLAN in the UK next week as part of Internet Week Europe. Telco 2.0 delegates will no doubt be delighted, as the BT Openzone network in the hotel is covered.

And here’s some advice from Niklas Zennström about start-ups.

The latest of the proliferating reports on Internet traffic, firewall vendor Sandvine’s, claims that Netflix streamers are peaking at 20% of North American residential traffic. A question - Arbor Networks’ instrumented study reckoned that 54% of total traffic was either web or web-video, so that would imply Netflix is a bit less than half of it all by itself. Google is the second biggest network by traffic globally, with 6.4% of Internet traffic or up to 12% if its CDN intradomain traffic is counted using generous assumptions. Someone must be wrong.

OFCOM has a report out on the UK’s notspots, which is mostly useful as a data resource on cellular build costs.

Are you a spook? There’s an app for that, specifically viewing and working with US satellite imagery on the Apple iPad. OnStar cars can now be started up from an iOS or Android device. Surely nothing can go wrong with this.

It looks like check-in web sites aren’t used by very many people.

More seriously, Vodafone announced a new product, which allows enterprises to manage a complete fleet of smartphones. Dell is going to withdraw its fleet of 25,000 BlackBerries in favour of its own, Windows Phone 7-based gadgets. Amusingly, Microsoft officially doesn’t think enterprises should use the new OS - they recently told developers that they should stick with 6.5 for enterprise applications. Apparently, Dell’s move is intended to save money by chucking out the BlackBerry Enterprise Servers.

Jasper Wireless has signed up another carrier as a connectivity provider for its M2M customers - Telefonica.

Is Boku really worth $450 million? Apple and Google both want the mobile payments firm, but TelecomTV points out that being owned by either would render it considerably less interesting to carriers and other partners.

Details of the EU’s investment in Symbian - the new project is concentrating on embedded systems, apparently.

Singapore’s NBN heads for 60% completion, and already boasts five competing service providers.

Kenya Data Networks’ fibre-optic backbone project is a go.

Skyara is a two-sided business that wants to help you do something new this weekend.

Voice 2.0 acquisition watch. Filesharing case collapses after BT zaps its logs. Damages in the same copyright case vary by $1.7m between hearings. Monitoring Twitter. Giving up on security. Understand beamforming technologies with Brough Turner. High Scalability and Data Center Knowledge on how Facebook works. David Cameron hearts Telco 2.0…apparently.

Where Foxconn workers sleep.

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Top Telco 2.0 News from last Quarter: Pre-Event Stimulation

With tomorrow/Wednesday’s 11th EMEA Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm coming up, below are 21 important ‘Telco 2.0’ news items taken from the last three months of Telco 2.0 News Reviews, in order to help you get into the right frame of mind. See you there! If not, we’ll report back here and, in real time, via twitter (hash tag for those at the event: #telco2).

We cover progressive and regressive developments, look at ‘new invaders’ in the telco space, customer data as a special feature, and then devices and technology:

Progressive telco developments:

  • The deal between Telstra and NBN Co.
  • This means that the creation of Australia’s National Broadband Network now begins in earnest. It highlights the increased role of the public sector in the infrastructure, and specifically the central importance of ducts and civil works. The contract to allow NBN to use the ducts is said to be worth A$11bn to Telstra, while the savings to NBN Co are higher yet. Not only Telstra, but all the Australian operators, can look forward to a future as service-oriented players working over an excellent fibre infrastructure.

  • LightSquared - a live test of real wholesale. Will it work?
  • It’s not often someone throws a multi-billion dollar experiment with a new business model. In fairly short order we’re going to see whether there’s room for a greenfield wholesale operator.

  • EverythingEverywhere, and widespread proposals for deep network sharing - Italian fibre, French rural HSPA900
  • Everyone’s getting into the network sharing theme, and this makes nothing but good sense.

The above developments all fall under the general theme of ‘happy pipe‘/cost control/infrastructure services.

  • APIs and App Stores Everywhere - AT&T and Sprint have joined Verizon in engaging with developers.
  • It’s too early to say if they’ll be any good, but it’s a step in the right direction. One thing this means is that “we’ve got an app store” or “we’ve got a dev website” is no longer anywhere near enough to differentiate you from the competition.

  • Payments - MPESA and rivals still deploying fast, DoCoMo ID, Digicel international remittances, AT&T now trying to get in on the game with Boku, Sprint with its PayPal partnership.
  • Historically, mobile money transfer is the industry’s third hit product - voice was the first, then SMS, now MMT. (iPhone,and smartphones more broadly are entirely to the credit of the vendors.) We’re seeing a sustained rush into the market. Again, it’s no longer enough just to have some sort of product out there - it needs to be good, and it needs to both interwork with the traditional financial system and compete with it.

  • Getting serious about M2M - Sprint joins VZW in having an M2M developer offering, Telenor remains the one to match, KPN prepares to build a radio network for M2M devices as well as being an owner of connectivity broker Jasper Wireless.
  • There’s intense activity in this field, at every level and every role. As we pointed out in a recent analyst’s note, the strategic options are similar to those we identified for telcos more broadly. Connectivity-focused “happy pipes” are looking at specialised radio networks and global roaming partnerships. Developer-driven “Telco 2.0” players are trying to build rich platform APIs. And customer-intimate minibrands are clustering around specific industry verticals. Watch out for Pachube in the Augmented Reality/’Facebook of Things’ session on Thursday the Brainstorm.

Regressive telco developments:

Because they’re fairly common too…

  • “Carriers’ OS” proposal.
  • For a start there’s no need for yet another mobile operating system. And it reinforces the pathological mindset that “we own the customer”, which is at odds with Vodafone’s external brand promise of ‘Power to you’ which suggests ‘enabling the customer’…

  • Google (and Apple) Bashing.
  • It’s like wrestling with a pig - you get dirty (i.e. unpopular/in trouble with the regulators) and the pig likes it.

New invaders, and a special focus on Voice 2.0:

  • Skype - seems to be rejuvenated as a competitor.
  • As well as their deal with Verizon Wireless, we note Skype Connect, their play for business voice. Using Avaya and Cisco hardware as a channel to break into the market is a smart move.

  • Facebook - leaning over into voice, with its partnerships with Skype and Jajah.
  • It goes without saying that they didn’t ask a telco to enable the site for voice.

  • Asterisk SCF - re-engineering Asterisk from the ground up to achieve carrier-grade performance with the same developer friendly API
  • We’re not sure how well this will work, but it’s a major development for the toolkit of Voice 2.0.

Online video, our first love:

  • The war for control of “Better TV”
  • Apple and Google have made their initial plays here, and Google’s already managed to fall out with the TV networks. However, we think that…

  • Project Canvas/YouView (in the UK)
  • may turn out to be more significant. They’ve now got the go-ahead from OFCOM. Specifically, the network side has been better thought through - famously, if content is king, distribution is King Kong. We don’t know how the user experience will be, though, and that’s desperately critical.

  • YouTube goes into profit
  • Google’s ContentID system has allowed them to both make YT a profit centre, and fix their copyright problem - when they identify a copyrighted work, they ask the owners if they want it taken down or if they’d rather have a share of revenue from ads next to it. Guess which they usually pick… So they’ve won with a two-sided business model.

  • Hulu, however….
  • The other video site we analysed in this post failed to monetise from adverts and is now trying to recruit subscribers - but why would you if you already have a cable subscription?

  • Qualcomm’s mobile TV play MediaFLO is shutting down
  • Great though the idea of broadcast-broadband integration is, this particular implementation hasn’t worked.

Customer data special focus:

  • Facebook
  • Not a week goes by without a privacy fiasco. We’re not sure whether “Instant Personalisation” (the one where they disclosed all your data to third party websites whenever you were logged in) or the phone book affair (when they started trying to match phone numbers with Facebook profiles without asking) was more fun. You do wonder if they might drag Skype into trouble with them.

  • Revival of interest in alternative ID systems
  • The UK government is suddenly very keen on MyDex. Facebook is planning to make more use of its proprietary Connect protocol. Everyone else is working on improvements to OpenID and OAuth.

  • Apple iAds and Google AdMob
  • Shows it can be done, but raises the possibility of a squeeze between players integrated with fancy hardware, and Google for the rest.

Devices and technology:

  • LTE - not quite as Late, Tempting and Elusive…
  • It’s looking more realistic now, even if it will require support from other technologies like femotcells, but our view that the key technologies are HSPA+ and WLAN is being borne out on T-Mobile USA’s network.

  • Android Android Android.
  • Huge success in the States (although some people are more sceptical about Europe), hard to say what it means in hard cash for Google, but it has had strategically important consequences for vendors - Motorola has turned around its business as a result. Did they just do it to derail Apple?

  • Nokia in crisis.

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November 4, 2010

Telco 2.0 Americas: 92% said ‘Time for Strategic Change Now’

In preparation for next week’s 11th Telco 2.0 EMEA Executive Brainstorm on 9-10 November 2010, there is a 16 page initial summary of the key out-takes from the 10th Telco 2.0 Americas Executive Brainstorm (incorporating Digital Entertainment 2.0) held in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, October 28-29, 2010, on our research portal here.

One hundred and twenty senior strategy execs from across the North American telecoms, media and technology sectors participated in the event. 92% of participants agreed it is time for telcos to make either a step change in key functions (34%) or initiate a fundamental transformation (58%) in the next 12-18 months.

The next Telco 2.0/Digital Entertainment 2.0 Americas Brainstorm will be held on 4-5 April 2011 in San Francisco. In the meantime, there is a global ‘virtual event’ on 25-26 January. The ‘Roadmap to New Telco 2.0 Telecoms Business Models’ Strategy Report, which carries greater depth on the key themes, will be published in December 2010.

The summary covers:-

  • Strategy & Finance: Time to Change
  • Broadband Economics: Business Models in a State of Flux
  • Monetising Apps: Internally and Externally
  • Cloud Services: a ‘$44Bn Telco Opportunity’, But…
  • The ‘Personal Information Economy’ (PIE) is Coming
  • Growing Fear of Facebook and Apple
  • Digital Entertainment 2.0: Multi-Screen TV / Digital Lockers - Room for Hollywood and Telcos to collaborate more deeply?
  • Next Steps
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November 3, 2010

Smart TV and the Connected Home

We’re delighted that Nicolas Bry, SVP at Orange Vallee, France Telecom’s 2 year old ‘skunk-works-to-market’ group, will be stimulating the ‘Connected Home’ session at the Telco 2.0 EMEA Executive Brainstorm next week in London .

To stimulate the brainstorming he’ll describe ‘SoTV’, which is about defining a new type of TV-based internet experience - integrating entertainment with search, apps, gaming and other services. He recently wrote a thoughtful piece on his blog below, which helps us to understand where he’s coming from.

A key question is this: if the TV is becoming the ‘Smart TV’, how can we avoid the mistakes of the move from phone to ‘Smartphone’, in terms of ceding power to other players? Who should telcos partner with to keep a strong position in the ecosystem, and how should they do so? Here is Nicolas’ blog post:

Smart TV and future of Television

I’ve been through a very interesting article from Mark Suster, an experienced manager in the digital economy, who is now working at GRP Partners since 2007 as a General Partner, focusing on early-stage technology companies. It is called The Future of Television and the Digital Living Room and was released at Fast Company’s web site.

Mark identifies 10 major issues that the TV industry will face in the next 5 years, and I have tried to put a few comments after a short summing-up:

Over-the-top video distribution

“How will OTT devices such as Apple TV and Google TV succeed in the market? How will traditional TV companies fight back against them, providing on-demand themselves, and leveraging MSOs’ (Satellite, Cable, Telco) strong distribution networks and new technology entrants such as Boxee?”

My guess is that it will be interesting to see whether MSOs will remain static like they did on the smart phone market, and progressively lose ownership of their customers to the benefit of players controlling the OS and the App Store, such as Apple and Google with Android, or if MSOs will modernize their distribution platforms and extend them with shared OSs and App Stores designed for TV at international scale, by partnering between telcos and with international industrials providing hardware and software. Thus they would manage their customer ownership, and keep offering media the best distribution networks.

Attempts at “moving up the stack”

“Television manufacturers and MSO’s are scared to see the world is changing and of what that means for hardware and pipeline providers. They try to move to the App business, but it will not stick, they will never succeed in these businesses because software is not a core competency. The smartest hardware providers & MSOs are the ones that will sign unique and daring partnerships with startup technology firms.”

This refers to my above comment about partnership between MSOs and technology firms. The big change is that TV is getting international in the sense that you will be doing a lot more than watching TV on a TV set: you will read recommendations, follow hyperlinks from what you watch to complementary information and related content, you will search and get sponsored links adapted for TV, you will launch TV applications, in particular casual games or programme-related e-commerce services. That’s what we are setting up at Orange with SoTV.

These services are not local, like the advertising on national broadcasting was: they are developed at international scale by various technology firms. To handle the variety of partnerships with flexibility and to build some that will be permanent and shared from one country to another, like the App Store, MSOs should group their forces and rely on a common modular set of TV software. Because Orange countries all have different markets and network configurations, we have designed SoTV from the start to be modular, versatile, and to provide the full range of “smart TV services”, completed by a range of international partners pre-integrated on SoTV.


“second screen”

“One of the most exciting developments in television & media to me will be “second screen” technologies built initially on iPads and extended to the plethora of devices we’ll see over the next 3-5 years. The 15-30 crowd will feel like this is what TV was meant to be: social.”
We are intensively working on second screens at SoTV, to see how they can complement TV, and build connected experiences across devices: with smartphone and tablet, one can prepare, watch, control, interact, share, in an individual usage that does not disturb the traditional collective TV usage in the living room. I can be both with my family and with my friends.

This multitasking behaviour will not only impact TV set and second screen: on the TV set, we design an interface that enables simultaneous information & content bubbling-up according to what I’m watching and to my profile.

How to present multiple sources of content on a TV screen in an effective and non-intrusive way is a challenge that broadcasters like BBC and France 24are starting to address in the emerging connected TV market.

Content bundling

“The idea of forced bundles will seem archaic. Smart companies will figure this out early.”

Torso TV

“Think of about the rise of Japanese Anime, Latin American Telenovelas, Korean Drama, or the rise of Bollywood entertainment from India. It’s not a mass, mainstream audience but I would argue that it’s “global torso” content that will be meaningful at scale. NetFlix has won the battle for the “head end” of content from films with their “Netflix everywhere” strategy. But the market is still open for Torso TV and ViiKii and countless others are racing to serve fragmented audiences the good stuff.”

YouTube meets the television

“What Zynga understood is that you need to go where the consumers are, capture those audiences, build a direct relationship and then diversify channel partners. This is happening in spades now on YouTube as a new generation of viewers is being served up by a new generation of TV production houses that are currently under the radar screen of many people. As the Internet meets TV, YouTube will continue to be a brand to be reckoned with served up by Google TVs.”

Actually, when we first started the user interviews about mashing up Internet services and Broadcasting on the TV set, one of the main levers was “to watch my Dailymotion or my Youtube directly on the TV set”. Then, after a while, came “That would be great, by the way, to have access to the full Internet”. That the reason why we started focusing on a new generation chipset delivered by Intel that enables full Internet browsing and various forms of video decoding, and built an increasingly close partnership with Intel in designing SoTV.

Content discovery-new metaphors

“The best online video search tool (in terms of usability) that I’ve seen is Clicker. Search from Clicker on Youtube is better than search directly on Youtube. Google isn’t that good at video search today. Will this change in a world of Google TVs? Boxee prides itself on social TV & content discovery. Will their next version blow us away and be the way we search our TVs? Will the MSO / EPG world improve (answer: not likely)? What about discovering content on our TVs via Twitter or Facebook? Or some unforeseen technology? Will we discover stuff through second-screen apps?”

Content discovery is key: on TV, you don’t so much search, you also like to see the content bubbling up to you. That’s what we do when we zap from one channel to another, and that’s what the TV Genius study about EPG proved by showing that our EPG does not have so much influence over what we decide to watch. SoTV interface has many places to push content smoothly into the viewing experience. What we’re looking for are partners that will feed these streams, by their ability to scroll the web and detect valuable content across universes: video, web sites, games, applications.

Gaming & TV

Disney acquired Playdom and Club Penguin. EA bought PlayFish. Google has had long-standing rumors around Zynga. It’s clear that games will feature in the Internet meets TV meets Video world. They’re all battling for mindshare & share of wallet. Watch for continued game creep into TV.”

We will even play games without remote control (“Keenu motion control”)!

Social media meets digital content

“It’s clear that when people watch movies now they Tweet about it when they get out and this has an impact on box office sales. Social media buzz can boost or bury content.”

Social TV, multitasking, second screen, let’s host the conversation and unleash the power of connection!

The changing nature of content & the role of the narrative

“The future of TV & Film will be as different as the transition from radio to TV was. 50 years from now, our initial Internet meets TV shows won’t seem just as quaint.”

Let’s talk about transmedia (= 3D storytelling) and the renewed way to tell stories at the digital age, and how a story can travel across various media. 3D storytelling is a 3 dimensional approach combining storytelling (multilayer) + media (usage & capabilities) + interaction with the audience (participation, community, virality). For examples of transmedia immersion, have a look at the Transmedia Lab blog.

This article is like an echo to the path we have taken in developing SoTV: it feels good reading it! As we are innovators, we had to go one step further and define our belief to get the creation started in a sustainable way (“belief as the cornerstone of innovation”): openness is our belief, when Internet mashes up with the TV, culture mix respecting both original cultures, online services blended with TV broadcasting.

Come and meet Nicolas next week in London at Telco 2.0

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November 1, 2010

Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed. - We’re just back from Telco 2.0 Americas, and we’re looking forward to the EMEA Executive Brainstorm in London on the 9th-10th of November. Sign up while you still can…]

Motorola announced Q3 results showing that the much-battered handsets business had struggled back into profit. The company posted an operating profit of $3bn, as revenues from mobile devices rose 20%. Although the bulk of the profit came from the Networks and Enterprise operation, both halves of the firm are now making money. The key to the turnaround seems to be their decision two years ago to commit the company’s future to Android. Two Motorola Androids will be Verizon Wireless’s flagship phones for the Christmas season.

It’s not only Motorola that likes Android. The US military has been spending enormous sums on mobile communications gear from its favourite defence contractors, but the Special Forces seem to doubt that this is going to deliver anything useful. Instead, they want Android-based kit that will let them develop their own apps, quickly. The official RFP is here - one thing that shows clearly is that the commandos have a technical project manager with serious Internet clue tucked away somewhere. Peer-to-peer mesh networking with multicast as per RFC-5740? As far as applications go, they mostly seem to be about collaborative-whiteboard tools - yes, like all those horribly creaky demonstrations the GSMA used to do with IMS at conferences…

And the ‘droids have clocked up their 100,000th app.

Apple, meanwhile, has added to the vast pool of people suing each other by countersuing Motorola over some of its multi-touch patents.

There’s a rumour that Apple is considering something along the lines of an MVNO for the iDevices, but we wouldn’t put it any higher than that, especially as the people involved don’t seem to be very clear about GSM roaming, provisioning and interconnect, to put it mildly. Note Rudolf van der Berg in the comments thread, trying to spread a little light in the darkness.

More significantly, Apple is now the fourth-biggest mobile device vendor, pushing past RIM. There’s a video of their enormous new data centre over at Data Center Knowledge - apparently, with the monster just completed, Apple’s already looking at building a second beast next door. What are they planning?

Surprise: when Larry and Sergey started Google, they invited none other than Steve Jobs to become CEO, having already persuaded Jeff Bezos to invest some of his own money in the company that would eventually eat Yahoo! alive.

Microsoft had results out this week, beating the spread significantly on a recovery in spending on enterprise IT products. However, the Online Services division remains a nightmare - it lost $560 million last quarter, significantly more than in the corresponding quarter a year ago, and appears to be burning $2bn a year. Woof. Also, here’s a HOWNOTTO guide about releasing updates without making your users paranoid.

Interestingly, it looks like they’re moving everyone to HTML5 for Web applications, with Silverlight remaining mostly as the widget framework for Windows Phone. Relatedly, more than half the Web’s video content is now available as HTML5 video.

Adobe has announced a tool that converts your Flash content to HTML5, so we can expect more and more of that. US courts have shut down the filesharing network LimeWire, so we can probably expect still more Web video as well. The EFF has tips and code to help Drupal websites deliver video without leaking private data.

Australia’s NBN Co takes a step further, and hires NSN to provide the optical kit. Meanwhile, the FTTH Council reports that the number of FTTX lines in Europe has risen 22% in the last 6 months - the UK is distinguished by not appearing in the list at all, while the net adds are concentrated in the new members of the European Union.

French mobile operators are planning to share an HSPA network operating in the refarmed GSM900 spectrum, in order to get mobile broadband out to rural France. NSN got the contract there as well. OFCOM, meanwhile, has dropped its objections to 900/1800MHz refarming.

Rudolf van der Berg points out that Virgin Media sees relatively few customers opt for its fastest package, and asks whether the costs of segmenting the market by speed are low enough to make this worthwhile.

Benoit Felten has full costs for various speed packages on Singapore’s NBN. And Clearwire has switched on its WiMAX network in New York City.

Google, meanwhile, is the world’s second biggest Internet carrier by traffic.

MTN has subscriber numbers, showing significant growth across their markets. Interestingly, their MTN Zone product, which offers discounted calls depending on where you are geographically, is credited with a significant boost in the South African market. China Telecom, meanwhile, saw a 5% rise in revenues.

Blyk launched in Asia-Pacific, having secured another £17m in venture capital in a recent round.

Asterisk has begun a major new project - the Asterisk SCF, Scalable Communications Framework, which aims to re-implement the Asterisk feature set as a fully distributed and modularised system capable of achieving carrier-scale and high availability including live call failover.

Skype Journal has three interesting links - on being disappointed in Skype, on Skype as a game, and on Skype’s attitude to business users.

Facebook has signed a deal with PayPal to use them as their primary payments application. More telco-ishly, AT&T has three new mobile payments applications, based on their network API and partnerships with three upstream customers. Details are scanty as yet.

The GSMA, meanwhile, has issued a handbook on how to create an agent network for mobile money transfer. It’s free to read online.

Sprint has updated its developer offering, adding a new payments product, voice & messaging APIs, and a partnership with Openwave.

Nokia developers, meanwhile, have the opportunity to win a Nokia N8 if they contribute documentation to the Qt wiki. Elsewhere, some unusually determined gadget blagger has made an entire movie using one of the devices. And here’s an endorsement Nokia would probably rather not have - terrorists used a Nokia 6120 Classic Symbian device as the triggering element for the planned cargo plane attack.

Indiana University’s Truthy project, which aims to discover how political memes spread through Twitter, has scored several early successes - notably, they’ve discovered a network of bots that pump right-wing propaganda into the Twittersphere.

Here’s a fantastic explanation of the power of a good API, from the people who brought you Yahoo! Pipes and YQL. And here’s how to export your work from Pipes and YQL and run it as Python code yourself. David Burgess discovers that iPhones silently keep the last SMSC number they used, a potential man in the middle attack on SMS/MMS. Are tools like UShahidi really that useful? Bruce Schneier speaks on security. A new kind of modular data centre. Fighting the laws of projects.

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