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Telco 2.0 News Review


Telco 2.0 Top Stories

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

First order of business today: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is planning to bring net neutrality regulations to a vote before Christmas. It looks like Genachowski is hoping to pass the regulations under Title I, rather than trying the politically critical step of declaring broadband a telecoms service under Title II. Expect heavy litigation, whatever happens.

The Level(3)-Comcast peering dispute raged on all week; here’s an excellent post from the Voxel blog. Perhaps the most surprising news was that it’s not really a peering dispute - Comcast is actually a L(3) transit customer. Getting your suppliers to pay you is quite a cheeky move! On the other hand, L(3), unlike Akamai, doesn’t have CDN assets forward-deployed into the eyeball networks, so arguably their success in winning a big chunk of the Netflix streaming bill was based on not much more than hope. It also turned out that Comcast is deliberately letting its transit link through Tata Communications run congested, so as to encourage content providers to peer directly and perhaps fork out as well.

To add a further twist to a story that already looks like a strand of DNA, it seems that Comcast rents a lot of dark fibre and buys a lot of long distance voice service from L(3), whatever is happening at the IP level. CDN guru Dan Rayburn, however, thinks the real problem is that Comcast really makes its money from being a TV station and it resents competition from Netflix. And they need to watch out: Microsoft may zap them on the other flank.

Just to add further complexity, Comcast now does significant wholesale business and is close to a 50/50 traffic ratio across the whole company (although obviously the access network is very downlink heavy). So they may want to be perceived as a “tier one carrier” and try to customerise their peers.

But a lot of that wholesale traffic will be travelling over L(3)’s fibre under IRU contracts… so isn’t it peering after all?

Whatever the definition, what this episode has proved so far is that the value chain is complex, and that the last mile access provider is in a strong position and in some cases is already getting paid for upstream content.

The UK’s regional ISPs cry foul about BT’s response to the new OFCOM requirement to provide passive infrastructure access (PIA), i.e. duct and pole access. Part of the problem is that if you use PIA, you’re not allowed to provide mobile backhaul or services to business customers. We do wonder if WLAN access points count as backhaul, in the light of Virgin Media’s plans. What if they’re like BT and FON, technically the property of the end users?

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that the UK Government would kick in £830m towards further fibre deployment in the UK, specifically to install “digital hubs” in rural areas. Rather than obsolete Ethernet devices, this seems to mean that the money will subsidise BT’s deployment of FTTC into areas that wouldn’t otherwise get it. It also seems to be suggested that sub-loop unbundlers or local FTTH projects might do the rest.

However, on the other hand, Hunt also abandoned the commitment to deliver a 2Mbps minimum service on the grounds that “what people use the internet for is changing the whole time”. Well, there’s no sign of them using less bandwidth, is there? On the topic of exactly what would replace this goal, Hunt hid in a cloud of ink like an octopus - the new measure is described as follows:

“In order to determine what constitutes ‘the best’ network in Europe, we will adopt a scorecard which will focus on four headline indicators: speed, coverage, price and choice. These will be made up of a number of composite measures rather than a single factor such as headline download speed.”

On the key issue of the business rates on dark fibre (BT doesn’t need to pay them, everyone else does), it looks like nothing has changed. Apparently there’s going to be an OFCOM review of the small business market next year. This chap probably still won’t have broadband.

It’s traditional that incumbent telcos announce something whizzy immediately before a major regulatory announcement, so BT announced that a tiny number of premises close to the Martlesham Heath Research Centre would get gigabit FTTH.

Elsewhere, the iconic (to network engineers) 111 8th Avenue colocation facility in New York has been sold. The buyer is none other than Google, whose New York City offices are already in the building. In the 1990s, 111 8th was considered to be the topographic centre of the Internet, and it remained so for African and Latin American networks years later.

Verizon Wireless flipped the switch on their LTE networks in 38 US markets this week. Clearwire used the opportunity to mock their usage caps, in an effort to distract attention from the frantic financial rescue operation at the WiMAX operator. They announced an issue of $1.1bn in debt this week, as they ran desperately short of cash. Google and some of the other initial investors (see also Intel, and a number of major cable operators) have apparently turned down the option of acquiring more Clearwire stock.

Phone Scoop got a preview USB dongle, and reports back. In Verizon news that was entirely overshadowed, they’ve launched a femtocell product that provides a single converged phone number. It’s called Home Phone Connect, which is at least slightly better than Vodafone Access Gateway.

Google’s latest good idea: personalised YouTube channels. Also, how Google bends the Internet’s rules to squeeze out faster page loads.

Skype is furious about restrictions on UK mobile broadband. Odd really when you think 3UK was the first mobile op anywhere to partner with them. Speaking of 3UK, they like to run adverts with the results of a poll of users commissioned from YouGov, but this week a rival survey panned them.

Swedish Voice 2.0 player Freespee has announced its launch in the UK - it’s another product that provides a combination of special phone numbers and richer click-to-call from the Web in order to provide better business analytics and voice-web-CRM integration. It’s good to see some Voice 2.0 activity coming from Europe - Skype’s a bit lonely up there in Estonia. They also seem to have plans to integrate with Yellow Pages. Meanwhile, Google buys bargain-hunter community Groupon.

Worse e-commerce: a Russian spammer goes to jail. Worse e-commerce 2.0: a rogue insider in Sainsbury’s IT shop stole…£70,000 worth of loyalty points. That one’s more like “worse e-crime”, perhaps.

How do innovative Voice 2.0 companies handle their internal communication? With Skype, clearly. Dan York of Voxeo explains why - it’s the persistent group chats, apparently, that retain context between sessions.

Here’s HOWTO make a phone tree with Tropo and a bit of PHP. Here’s something close to an implementation of our Group SMS use case in a few lines of Ruby, again at the Tropo blog. And just for balance, here’s a Tropo app in Python.

Business Insider reckons it was a Thanksgiving for smartphones. It’s another data set based on somebody’s weird analytics, though, so the usual health warnings apply.

Motorola’s latest Android device, the Flipout, gets a great review from Computer Weekly. They aren’t keen on the screen but they do like the QWERTY pad that pivots out from under it at 90 degrees. They also tried the Milestone XT720, their iPhone 4/Desire HD/Nokia N8 fighter, and were disappointed. Meanwhile, one of their Droid 2 devices is reported to have exploded.

CW also tried out Acer’s new low-cost Android and found it to be cheap rather than low-cost.

RIM, meanwhile, have acquired Swedish UI/UX design consultancy The Astonishing Tribe. Yes, the company really was called that, and we hope RIM rebrands it something like RIM Stockholm Whiteboard Operations as soon as possible.

There’s a new book on mobile Python development with Symbian S60 out, which is surely of academic interest only as Nokia’s going to turn off the source repository very soon.

Nokia Developer News has an interesting interview about Orange Wednesdays and how the project became a Qt app for Nokia devices.

Mobile Money Transfer people may be delighted to know that the GSMA has prepared a database of regulatory information for your potential markets. Talk about light reading…speaking of which, High Scalability has fascinating details of Amazon Web Services’ new GPU-based cloud computing service, including links to an even better talk by Telco 2.0 ally Werner Vogels.

Meanwhile, Amazon is denying that it pulled cloud hosting of the Wikileaks diplomatic cables on a request from Senator Joe Lieberman’s office. Something similar seems to have happened to a visualisation website. Data Center Knowledge has a handy roundup. You’ve heard of ChatRoulette - now try Cablegate Roulette for random diplomatic cables.

Apple FaceTime has a fascinating bug - spurious, apparently random, video calls that occur around 2.30am.

US iPad users will soon be able to subscribe to the BBC iPlayer. Russian hackers try to infect cash machines. Watching the UK’s social trends. Hacking the XBox. Buying a satellite.

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