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Telco 2.0 News Review: MicroNokia; MWC, WAC, LTE update

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed: We’re covering a lot on the digital ecosystem agenda - Apple, disruptor strategies, etc. at our upcoming Brainstorms in Americas 5-7 April, EMEA 11-13 May, and APAC 22-23 June 2011.]

No prizes for guessing the lead story, again. You’re all probably well aware of Nokia’s “strategic partnership” with Microsoft, but just to recap, Nokia will be using Windows Phone 7 as its primary software platform. Symbian is going to reach end-of-life after another 150 million units. The new environment apparently won’t use either Microsoft Silverlight or Qt. MeeGo Linux is left up to Intel to look after. Most of Ovi will shut down, although the Ovi Publish interface (the back-end into the app store) continues to exist. The Mobile Phones division keeps ticking on shipping S40 devices to India and China, but how it stands for future development is anyone’s guess as part of the deal is a radical cut-back in Nokia’s R&D budget.

The reaction has been explosive - we’ll be giving our initial take later this week.

Telco 2.0 was present at their developer event at MWC and saw CTO Rich Green explain that “it’s an and story”, whatever that means, to a hall full of Symbian developers whose skills had just been rendered worthless. In an effort to cheer them up, there’s been a distribution of free E7s, but there are some problems even shiny gadgets won’t fix. After all, the first Winokia phones won’t ship until October and the concept designs are already getting some unfavourable reviews. Asymco reckons that the 150 million units number puts the end of Symbian in 18 months and predicts that Nokia’s market share of smartphones will plummet. (He was working on the assumption that Winokias wouldn’t ship until 2012, but a faster drop-off of the orphaned Symbian devices would counterbalance that.)

Blogging up a storm, Horace went on to predict either further erosion of Nokia’s ASP, or of its profit margins and to estimate the installed base of Symbian S60 and above as 200 million units and that of WP7 as about 1 million. This is a good point: Nokia’s official letter to developers makes much of “distribution”, but why would you want to distribute your app to a smaller user base? In an ironic touch, this poll on the official Nokia Conversations blog shows that the most appreciated WP7 feature is “other”.

On the other hand, Andrew Orlowski thinks it’s a good idea. It seems that Nokia reserves the right to customise WP7 heavily, but in the light of the R&D cuts, will there be any investment left between sprucing up WP7 and answering Microsoft support requests for S40? At least the users can check in on FourSquare now.

At MWC, Google chairman Eric Schmidt said that there had been extensive talks between Nokia and Google regarding a potential move to Android, and said that their offer still stood if Nokia had second thoughts. Tomi Ahonen disclosed that Nokia had finally secured a major carrier deal for E7s in North America and cancelled it because they planned to EOL Symbian. Briefly, a supposed dissident group within Nokia called Plan B appeared before being denounced as a hoax. No HTML5 yet for WP7, and you have to be an American company to get paid through the app store.

What a week.

HTML5 is a notable omission, as it played right into a major theme at MWC: developers. Not only did everyone have a developer program of some sort, but most of them involved HTML5 at some point. HP’s TouchPad tablets work like that - so does their new WebOS smartphone. RIM’s key developer environments are Java and HTML5 (WebWorks as they call it). The operators’ WAC is HTML5-based. Obviously, Androids have web browsers and can play as well. Samsung’s Bada works like that. Nokia’s Web Runtime, though, is joining the MeeGo and Symbian refugees. More on that later.

WAC, for its part, launched commercially with 12,000 apps and 8 operators at the event. Over the next year, it’s planning to roll out a wide range of network APIs from the OneAPI project, including carrier billing/subscription, location, customer data and context. Smart Telecom in the Philippines has already bought one, from Huawei. Telefonica showed off their BlueVia developer program, which grew out of O2 Litmus and includes cool stuff like revenue-sharing from incremental SMS traffic - that’ll be the one we wrote about here. RIM threatened to introduce an API for BlackBerry Messenger including “voice, video, sharing, and commerce”. In the meantime, developers there can enjoy their Analytics Service, which embeds a full-featured set of user experience metrics into your app.

Here’s a quick rundown of rundowns: Alan Quayle’s, Informa’s, no fewer than three from the Guardian, why the Wi-Fi didn’t work even though it was sponsored by Cisco, interview with a CBoss girl.

MNO revenues were considered large. Apple didn’t have much to say, but there’s a rumour out anyway, about a cheaper iPhone. Everyone was talking payments, and NFC - if you’ve been reading us for any length of time, you’ll have noticed that we consider NFC so far to have been a counter-indicator of success with payments - although the tide may now be about to turn (of which more anon). Orange and O2 have NFC pre-paid debit cards out.

Huawei can sell you an app store, or a whole network. Nextel has a real monster of an upgrade on, building out 3G and more across its Mexican and Brazilian networks, and naturally they tapped Huawei for the job. The system will have to support their PTT features. Huawei also agreed to accept a US government request that they sell certain intellectual property for reasons of, you guessed it, national security.

Their great local rival, ZTE, landed a contract to build out dual carrier HSPA and LTE across Australia for Hutchison, another to deploy its software defined radio base stations for KPN and to cooperate with them on R&D, and yet a further one to develop the new, TDD flavour of LTE with China Mobile and KPN’s E-Plus division in Germany.

Interestingly, Clearwire has been reported to have joined the TD-LTE trials, which leaves WiMAX looking a bit peaky. Not that Clearwire itself is any healthier: the losses are growing. At least Mobily’s buying some WiMAX kit.

Telstra announced it was deploying LTE this year. In what looks like a trend, the new network will be fully integrated into the old - the 1800MHz LTE nodes will be focused on the dense urban cores and the HSPA-Dual Carrier service cascaded outwards as spectrum becomes available with heavy traffic being moved over to LTE. They also said they had no need of femtocells, because WLAN works just as well. (That SIM-authentication for WLAN spec looks like it’s about to get a few more downloads.)

LightSquared has announced its first customers.

Also at MWC, we saw Verizon Wireless’s executive director of 4G, Lindsay Notwell, presenting on their LTE network (and if you’re reading this, you promised us the slides). It’s another of these ones integrated with a different radio interface - the EV-DO network is used as the step-down for the LTE devices, with some cunning use of IPv6 addressing. We even heard someone refer to this strategy as “het-net”, a candidate for the worst neologism of the year.

Crossing the streams, VZW has announced a developer centre for its LTE network, with the aim being to provide intimate engineering support for applications developers and solution providers working on LTE.

Apps can now be approved medical devices. A serious, Chinese Android trojan.

We said we would come to some MeeGo news. Intel displayed a pre-alpha tablet version of the OS at MWC, and CEO Paul Ottelini came along to the developer day to commit the company to supporting the OS and perhaps more importantly, the Qt GUI framework and developer toolchain, which Nokia acquired from Trolltech in 2005 and which underlies many, many other software projects on desktops and embedded systems. Quote: “We’re going to spend whatever it takes to make this float”. Telco 2.0 came away with an evaluation version of the OS on a shiny. It’s very…pre-alpha indeed, especially compared to our Nokia N900’s Maemo OS, but then that’s the point of a pre-alpha build. PC Pro didn’t like it much, although surely there were worse products about - like those big plastic Android logos Google gave away that we saw some Mediatek people trying to get through security at Barcelona Airport on Friday. A truly odd sight, especially on the X-ray screen, and completely useless.

Skype took the opportunity to announce some more deals and details from its carrier-partnership programme. Qtel is the latest lucky girl, and there are rumours about AT&T. Also, Dan York has discovered an easter egg in Skype 5.0 - it supports a command-line interface through the chat window, so you can just type /golive to initiate a group videoconference with everyone in the current chat.

There’s a cheatsheet of the commands here, which of course doesn’t include the egg. In other Skype news, US Republicans are confused about Skype.

Chinese social network Renren.com, with 160 million members, is planning to IPO in the US. Meanwhile, Alibaba.com’s CEO quits over fraud. Not fraud he committed - frauds his company didn’t detect.

The NTIA has published the US National Broadband Map, an often controversial element of the US National Broadband Plan. AT&T has unexpectedly intervened in the Level(3)-Comcast peering war, writing to the FCC to ask them to end the suspense and rule.

Benoit Felten’s blog post from the FTTH Council in Milan is here. FTTH Council’s dates, of course, clash with MWC, but they also clash with #NotatMWC as well, our new favourite industry conference. If they really do move MWC to Paris, you’ll be able to attend both by hopping on the Eurostar…

Way back in 2007 we asked why there weren’t any mobile CDNs. The answer back then was probably something along the lines of “because hardly anyone’s using any mobile data”. Now Akamai and Ericsson have a deal to cooperate on building CDN and video optimisation capabilities into mobile networks. Now there’s sense.

The founder of Last.fm doesn’t like Apple much after they decided to impose the 30% revenue share on content subscriptions. And check out Bain & Co.’s chart of music revenues by format.

Rich “Data Center Knowledge” Miller has a deep dive post on colocation pricing trends. He also has news that I/O Data Centres has opened a factory to mass produce modular data centres.

Google wants to pull more social information into search. Why your customers aren’t a good source of advice. Zain’s decline. Picking a fight with Anonymous. The random start-up generator. Telco 2.0’s whiteboard notes from the AR standards meeting at MWC.

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Very interesting article about the MWC 2011 in Barcelona. Were you even there, too?

Fantastic round up of the telecom news of the week... All information at one point

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