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March 29, 2011

Telco 2.0 is Hiring!

Interested in joining the crew of the Telco 2.0 spaceship? A berth has become available. Read on for the full job advert…

STL Partners - Vacancy for Head of Client Services - £40-£50K OTE, London (City/Shoreditch)

As a result of our rapid and continuing growth, we are now looking to recruit a Head of Client Services to oversee the management of our client projects and, working directly with the CEO and sales team, help grow a significant new line of business.

We want to hear from those who seek P&L responsibility and have the drive and determination to make a success of an exciting B2B marketing opportunity in the Telecoms, Media and Technology sector.

You must have a minimum of 3-5 years proven expertise in:

  • Planning and selling creative and effective B2B marketing solutions (digital media, lead generation programmes and events)

  • The Telecoms, Media, Technology sector

  • Client/Account Management

  • Project Planning and Management (working effectively with internal product and sales teams)

  • Directly managing and motivating telemarketing teams

  • Database development and reporting

  • Campaign Tracking & Measurement

  • Monitoring and managing internal revenue growth targets

  • International assignments

The opportunity would suit someone who has been trained at a larger agency or worked on the client side and risen swiftly through the ranks, and is now looking to take on new responsibilities and make a major new career move to leverage their skills and experiences.

Significant performance-related bonus and share options to supplement the base salary will be offered to the successful candidate. The post reports directly to the CEO, Simon Torrance.

  • Office location: Border of City/Shoreditch. No relocation package applies.

  • Full-time, starting as soon as possible.

Please send your CV to grainne.gleeson@stlpartners.com in the first instance with a brief covering email, and we will follow up straightaway.

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Voice 2.0 Startup Watch: Fonolo

Fonolo, a Canadian company that essentially provides a search engine for IVR menus, has recently showcased an interesting new market application. We think it’s a good example of innovation in ‘Voice 2.0’. Skype Journal reports that visitors to Sirius Satellite Radio’s website can now search for the person they need to speak to, and then click-to-dial them directly without going through the IVR.

Not just that, they can click-to-schedule the call at some time in the future. And they don’t need to wait on hold, either. Everyone who has ever struggled to navigate the IVRs, kicked their heels in the call queue, taken down the same details from the same customer three times in a row, or experienced the amazing inefficiency of call centres in general should be able to appreciate this.

Person-to-organisation voice is a product that should deeply embarrass our industry. Information doesn’t follow calls, far too much of it has to be read out and retyped, callers are expected to wait on the line at their own expense, metrics are poor, and it’s normal for one side of the conversation to have to trust the other’s record of it sight unseen. Very large percentages of calls are abandoned. Call centres are notoriously horrible working environments. As much as half of some call centres’ traffic is made up of so-called failure demand, repeated calls that didn’t work the first time. This is equivalent to rework in manufacturing - notoriously the biggest killer of productivity.

Business voice service is stuck in the mindset of General Motors in the 1970s - obsessed with throughput come what may at the expense of quality, sapped by constant rework, unable to turn around new products, trapped by its over-specialised tools, and apparently unable to think of any better ideas than trying to keep the workers from unionising and running the line ever faster.

And, amazingly, most companies rely on this service for sales.

Now, the equivalent to the quick-reconfigurable general-purpose machine tools that the European and Japanese car makers used to beat GM is already here - it’s the Toolkit of Voice 2.0. But where are the people who will make use of them? Who will build the Toyota of service?

We first reported on Fonolo in this post from April, 2008. Back then, their product was a pure-play search engine like the ones we’re all familiar with on the Web. In fact, it worked exactly like that - they had a bank of Asterisk servers automatically dialing into corporate call centres and trying each option on each IVR menu in turn, mapping all the possible routes through the wilderness of menus in the same way that the Googlebot follows links through the Web.

All this information was made available on a Web site, so you could search through it, and they used a click-to-call package, so you could dial direct to the person you needed from the search result. They also wanted to let the users log what happened during the call, providing a handy record of what you said to them last time and also a source of crowdsourced reviews and comments on the service. Their CEO, Shai Berger, appeared in virtual form at that autumn’s Telco 2.0 event.

At the time, they were expecting to monetise the service through advertising. We suggested, however, that a more direct form of two-sided business model might be appropriate. Essentially, Fonolo was offering to do a lot of companies a favour by getting rid of some of the major sources of failure in their call centres - misrouted and misdialed calls, calls that hang up in the queue, stress and aggravation for customers and employees - and significantly improving their lead generation, sales, and operational KPIs like first-call resolution. So why shouldn’t those companies simply pay for it?

Further, they had a problem in that the indexing process might be perceived as an attack, and their range of NPA-NXX phone numbers might be blocked. Also, there was a risk that their search engine would send a firehose of calls direct to a company desk that didn’t have the resources to handle them. Changing the relationship with the upstream customers - the call centres - from an adversarial relationship to a customer relationship would resolve that. It would also let the upstreams cooperate with Fonolo pro-actively, by providing it with information about their phone system, rather than just waiting for the robot spiders to attack.

Of course, this idea isn’t new - on the Web, it’s almost as old as search engines themselves. A parallel would be Google’s Webmaster Tools product, which basically provides a structured way of pushing information about your website into Google pro-actively, rather than waiting for the spiders to show up and hoping that Google’s automated judgement gets you right. Another, very basic one is robots.txt, the text file most Web sites use to tell search engines not to index certain pages.

Another example would be Internet routing - networks announce the prefixes they route into the global routing table, and update them when this changes or a link goes up or down. One advantage of this is that it permits traffic-engineering - you can influence how your traffic is routed, for example to use cheaper links preferentially, to balance out the load equally between multiple sites, to maintain a production network and a hot-standby network, or to ensure that requests are served by the closest possible machine.

By letting the upstreams actively contribute information about how they would like to be reached, Fonolo gets rid of the problem that the search engine might drop thousands of calls onto a hitherto obscure and under-resourced desk. It also permits its upstream customers to engineer their call flow to suit their own needs without forcing their customers through a tortuous IVR menu tree.

So, Fonolo is now out to sign up major call centres as upstream customers. In return, they get to integrate Fonolo’s service into their own Web site, as well as pushing their site-map into the system. What else?

Well, there’s something we didn’t make much of back then - Fonolo’s click-to-call element has a callback architecture like Jajah’s. You click, the Asterisk starts dialling, and when the call is connected, it rings you up and bridges the calls together. This is necessary to deal with the problem that not everyone uses desktop VoIP and most telcos still don’t have an API for voice. But it has some useful features in itself.

For example, you can eliminate waiting on hold. There’s no reason why, of course, the Asterisk server has to place the call at once - you could send it an AMI event specifying that the call was to be dialled at some point in the future. So you could click-to-schedule a call at some time when you’re going to be free. It’s better than that, though. Because it’s a call-back, there is no need to wait on hold - it’s as if you sent a robot to wait in the queue and summon you when it reached the front.

Of course, good programmers have known for decades that high performance requires you to replace polling patterns (repeatedly checking to see if something has happened) with push-notification and other event-driven ones (being informed proactively when it does), and to replace blocking calls (where the process that calls some function has to wait for it to return before continuing with the program) with callbacks (where the function reports back to the first process, which can get on with some work in the meantime). This goes double or even triple for telecoms. If our voice switches were reliant on constantly checking back on their input queues or waiting on the line for an answer before doing anything else, we’d never have scaled beyond the systems of the 1920s.

But it’s only now that these insights are being applied to customers’ needs. And it’s still a startup, not a telco, that’s doing it. There’s much more to be done here; why should Canadians have all the fun, for a start? The crowdsourcing/logging element of the original Fonolo plan really needs work - it’s part of the whole vision of VRM. Also, we’re still not so good at sending along more information with the call, and therefore eliminating the whole tiresome business of reading stuff off one screen so someone else can type it back into theirs. Metaswitch’s new Thrutu product is a crack at that. And there’s surely a lot to do in changing the call centres themselves - both their software and their organisation - to take full advantage. (Hint: Toyota put a big red STOP button at each workstation and encouraged people to press them and stop the line if they noticed anything dangerous or sub-standard. It stayed stopped until the problem was fixed. What would be the equivalent?)

So there are plenty of opportunities out there. But have the operators simply lost interest?

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March 28, 2011

Telco 2.0 News Review: More AT&T Fall-Out; Sprint & Google Voice

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed. Our Americas Brainstorm is next week in Palo Alto - book now via contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0)207 247 5003 - we hope to see you there. There’s also more detail here, and on the EMEA Brainstorm, 11-13 May 2011, here.]

The AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile USA was always going to be controversial, and sources close to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski have confirmed that it faces a “steep climb” to win regulatory approval. Among many other things, there is concern fropm the consumer side about what will happen to T-Mobile’s customer service, considered excellent, and also its privacy policy.

Of course, there’s also a huge question of market power, pricing, and access. Connected Planet points out that both operators have huge wholesale, enterprise, and carrier services operations. Will this create opportunities for synergy between DTAG and ATT WorldNet, or will it be yet another regulatory problem? They point out that the history of such ventures is not promising - BT Concert, anyone?

Meanwhile, quietly, the last state public utility commission has signed the form, and Qwest-CenturyLink is a go. As a major US operator, it’s one of the few with no mobile assets (it resells Verizon Wireless service as part of its triple play), so it’s going to have to concentrate on TV and fibre and perhaps also business services.

The FCC’s National Broadband Plan is in question again, as a report shows that 40% of the US already can get 4Mbps service, the FCC’s target. This is being seen as evidence that the target is insufficiently ambitious - too close to just turning up ADSL2 in the major urban centres. It’s also worth remembering that RBOC lobbyists are notoriously good at gaming the regulatory metrics - when they were expected to “offer” service at given speeds in California, they simply started advertising in the notspots, thus “offering” the service although they couldn’t actually provide it to more than a handful of properties.

In North Carolina, the 41st state in the Union by average throughput, a major effort is on to make it harder for municipal operators to start up. This is important, among other things, because the NC State university system owns significant amounts of spectrum. The politicians have managed to redefine broadband down from the 4Mbps target to the old 768Kbps downlink/200 uplink at peak one, which of course means that pretty much any DSL satisfies the minimum service requirement. More detail is here and here.

There’s some improvement on the horizon - the FCC has given HTC the green light to update its devices’ software and turn on HSUPA, and LightSquared has announced a couple of customers. Leap Wireless has signed up for roaming, while Best Buy wants to resell the service under its own brand as connectivity for consumer electronics kit.

OFCOM’s latest spectrum-related doorstep has been issued, 250-odd pages in best telco tradition, and it looks like their plans for the next wave of UK spectrum auctions are very LTE-minded - although there is no formal technology requirement, essentially the whole lot is going to be paired FDD bands. WiMAX and other TDD technologies will have to wait and hope for a hand-back from Everything Everywhere.

There is also likely to be a service obligation of 90% coverage with 2Mbps indoors, thus supporting the UK’s “broadband plan”. (not really broadband, or a plan)

OFCOM has also upgraded its Sitefinder website to use Google Maps, taking a daring leap into the cutting-edge technology of 2004. That’s slightly longer ago than the last time T-Mobile UK provided any data it seems, back in 2005. Orange has also stopped updating. However, it’s probably a fair inference that where 3UK’s cellsites are, so are the other MBNL radios, and thanks to Everything Everywhere, so are Orange’s. There’s also an excluded set - all the sites that EE has that aren’t shared with 3UK. What a mess.

After the property boom came crashing down, it was always certain that there’d be plenty of dirt to dig up about Irish politics in the 90s and 2000s, and here’s some - according to an Irish tribunal of enquiry, a government minister was bribed to give the GSM licence to the joint venture between Denis O’Brien and Telenor. It appears that some £50,000 was injected into Fine Gael’s campaign fund and then billed to the joint-venture opco to get it back.

NBN Co has placed its final contract for optical gear, A$400 million to TE Connectivity, as they move forward with the build. Meanwhile, the complete rate-card for New Zealand’s Crown Fibre Holdings national broadband network has been leaked - ISPs will pay NZ$38.75 for an entry-level, 10/30Mbps triple play link, rising to NZ$58.75 for 100/100Mbps. The Commerce Commission has already set a rate-of-return restriction giving a maximum retail margin of 18%, so end user prices are not going to be much of a mystery. Operators have to commit to the deal for the next 10 years.

The world has 45 million IPTV subscribers, reports InformiTV. However, Informa (not the same people) forecasts that there will be more over-the-top video users as soon as 2013, and as many as 380 million by 2015. Slightly surprisingly, there are now 72 million fibre-to-the-home subscribers - more than there are IPTV ones.

The daddy of OTT video is surely YouTube, which is reported to be doing the rounds of Hollywood agencies looking to sign up the stars. The plan is apparently to acquire some of YouTube’s own unique content in order to boost the advertising CPMs. Google’s key sales argument is to offer them cash up front, as an advance on future ad revenues. It may be the thought that counts, but “say it with money” is always hard to beat.

Comcast is planning to sell thePlatform.com, a subsidiary that operates its video ingestion, management, and metrics services to upstream content providers. Supposedly, part of the problem is that the content providers are leery of relying on a huge TV network for such a critical business function.

Elsewhere in content news, a US judge throws out the RIAA’s claim for damages against Limewire. Not surprising, really - they claimed for more than total world GDP.

Out on the networks, the oldest filesharing network of them all, the alt.binaries groups in USENET, just got a new twist - the latest version of Newzbin, an indexer for the newsgroups, uses TOR by default in order to defeat DNS-blocking and protect its users’ identity. OK, so they’re now doing encrypted USENET over TOR. You do get the feeling they don’t do it for the content, but more for the pure satisfaction….even if the slowdown in P2P traffic seems to be confirmed.

RIM has let on to some extent what its future apps strategy is, and Horace from Asymco offers a handy phrasebook to help you decode RIM’s two CEOs’ intentions. It looks like the Playbook - now lined up for April 19th - is going to support Flash, Java, HTML5, plus Android aps running in a virtual machine. In some ways this isn’t so surprising - the very decision to use a hardcore real-time OS like QNX as the platform implies a thick layer of middleware between it and the apps developers. But you can see how there might be a certain amount of confusion. The detail is that you re-compile your source code with the correct flag and submit it to App World.

However, co-CEO Jim Basillie isn’t losing sight of the key enterprise market - he’s going to send every Fortune 500 C-level exec a free gadget.

Meanwhile, RIM users can now get some of the device-management features their enterprise servers offer as an app.

Apple’s iPad 2 went on sale and immediately went out of stock, nicely timed for the next Apple results announcement, as Fortune Tech points out. They also got a win in their patent lawsuit with Nokia.

Asymco points out that analysts seem to be expecting some sort of disaster at Apple next year. Is it just the consequence of “draw a trendline and then either add or subtract a bit to make it look reasonable”, or are they expecting a price crash that will wreck their margins, or are they being really pessimistic about the supply chain’s recovery from the Japanese earthquake?

There’s not much good news from Nokia - as well as the patent lawsuit, they’re still pumping cold water into the battered hulk of the Symbian platform. An “open letter” to developers released this week promised vaguely that Symbian and Qt would not be “abandoned”, but only that they would be used in “other areas of strategic investment”.

However, Nokia Mobile Money is getting a roll-out in India with Union Bank. At the same time, the Nokia C-7s going to T-Mobile USA are going to have integrated NFC. At the same time, Google, MasterCard, and Citigroup are partnering to do something with NFC, payments, and Android.

The GSMA Mobile Money Transfer blog has an interesting interview on the launch of Tigo Money in Latin America.

Microsoft has finally pushed out some Windows Phone 7 updates, but only to a couple of devices and then only to unlocked non-carrier devices. Everyone else is waiting. Meanwhile, they’re also planning to launch something in the line of a web-based OS, but not before 2013.

After years of wrangling, the .xxx top level domain for pornography is here. In other, and far more significant, Internet regulatory news, Microsoft bought a chunk of Nortel out of bankruptcy, in order to get its hands on IPv4 addresses. The only problem being that you’re not meant to be able to buy or sell them under the terms of the ARIN service agreement - but Nortel was enough of an old-school tech company to have pre-ARIN, “legacy” address allocations from the days when you (basically) rang up Jon Postel and asked nicely. Does that mean they are free from ARIN’s rules, or what?

68% of Saudi girls have an alternative profile on Facebook; 60% of boys use their real names.

But how many are on MySpace? Trick question - nobody’s on MySpace any more. The site lost 10 million unique users in February alone - is this the biggest big-website fiasco ever? It’s losing money hand over fist, and it seems utterly insane that News Corp once valued it at $12bn on its books for 2007…whatever, don’t miss this fascinating thread at High Scalability on MySpace’s dysfunctional engineering and management.

New photo-sharing site Color is having a bit of a PR failure, it seems. And Yahoo! has updated its main search engine to be more like Google’s Instant, with a Wolfram Alpha-like twist. Alternatively, it’s still trying to revive the idea of a web portal.

A rare Martin Geddes blog post on the future of the web.

We were speaking of big websites and the technology behind them. Reddit recently had to explain why it was down for 6 hours, due to problems with its infrastructure running in Amazon’s EC2 cloud. Also, Netflix (which runs its web servers in EC2) had a major outage last week. It’s probably no surprise that cloud customers are demanding finer-grained control of the machines.

Data Center Knowledge has a great look back over five years of AWS cloud services. The AWS Blog this week announced that you can now get EC2 instances on physical machines dedicated to you, which brings the wheel full circle - if you’re renting a dedicated server for your application, isn’t that just traditional hosting? There’s also a nice HOWTO on setting up a high performance data-crunching cluster in their cloud.

In even more hardcore datacentre news - I/O Data Centers doesn’t just have data centres, or even modularised containers to go in them - it has a whole factory producing modular data centres.

Here’s something interesting: will we see a huge performance boost from using Flash storage in the data centre, making use of its innate parallelism? And meeting OpenFlow, a new standard for software-defined datacentre networking. Google, among other usual suspects, is backing it.

Sprint Nextel is integrating its voice service with Google Voice - for example, you’re now able to use the Google Voice number when making calls from your mobile, and also to announce your Google Voice number so that incoming calls to the Sprint number get routed to whatever other end points you’ve configured in Google Voice. Google’s Slide division has a new group messaging apps.

Skype founder Niklas Zennström talks to students and the WSJ takes notes. He didn’t say anything about getting your old company to invest $10m into your new one, though. Meanwhile, Skype for Windows 5.2 introduces some detail tweaks, notably changes to the user interface apparently designed to encourage you to place SkypeOut calls.

Elsewhere, Skype licences its SILK hi-def voice codec to the Steam cloud gaming platform. Skype Journal has a wishlist, and answers some Quora questions. Here’s an interesting piece on using Voice 2.0 to do distributed pair-programming.

Get your Asterisk caller-id sent to a popup notification on your Linux desktop. If you want to do that. More seriously, Phono has a series of HOWTOs, part two here, on how to build a remote call centre with their API, Node.js, Asterisk, and CouchDB. Feel the clue surging through your veins!

Bruce Schneier has disturbing news about voice encryption. Microsoft has really disturbing news about a number of high value SSL certificates being compromised - including GMail and Skype. Ouch.

F-Secure Labs interviews the creator of the first ever virus, Brain, 25 years on. Know your exotic Linux distros, including both the Christian and Satanic versions of Ubuntu. Get your wristwatch smartphone that runs OpenWRT Linux - and check out just how ugly it is.

RIP Paul Baran, co-inventor of packet switching.

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Augmented Reality: Just take a look around you…

This is a guest post by Telco 2.0 associate, Christine Perey, Spime Wrangler, PEREY Research & Consulting. Christine will be presenting an introductory session to Augmented Reality (AR) at our Mobile Apps 2.0 session in Palo Alto on April 6th. She will also be facilitating a longer AR session at our London Mobile Apps 2.0 event on May 12th where AR business models and strategies will be explored in detail. See also Augmented Reality: is there a valuable role for telcos?

Tom is standing on the curb in front of the Neiman Marcus that’s located in Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto holding his iPhone4. He’s just bought a beautiful carafe as a wedding present for his cousin and he wants to ship it to her. He knows that there’s a post office nearby so he is searching for it using Google maps.

He finds that the nearest Post Office is well within walking distance so leaves his car in the parking lot. Tom begins walking toward his destination when he detects an alert from his device. There’s a Palo Alto History layer that is proposing to show him some historical landmarks he’ll pass on his way to the Post Office.

He holds up his device using the “reality” view as he follows the sidewalk. On the right he learns that the parking lot is on land that was once Leland Stanford’s vineyards. On the screen the parking lot is hidden from view with photos from the historical society, showing people working the vineyards. A small icon over the right hand corner of a photo shows that there is a coupon for 10% discount on locally produced wine in a nearby retail store. Maybe that would make a nice addition to the package he’s shipping to the newlyweds?

Turning his device 90 degrees to the left he learns that the Stanford shopping center was once the home to the very first Victoria’s Secret store, opened by Roy Raymond in 1977, and the first mini Apple Retail Store [1.]. Tom stops and repositions his phone to waist level to flip through some of the items in the Victoria Secret on-line catalog and, he accepts the invitation to download the new Victoria Secrets virtual mirror AR application to his iPhone. Maybe he will surprise his finance by asking her to virtually model some of the latest products tonight.

In the last 5 minutes Tom’s appreciation of his immediate surroundings has deepened and in the next 5 minutes his wallet will probably be lighter as a result of his having had Augmented Reality services on his iPhone. The seamlessness with which information about the present, the past and, possibly the future, are integrated with the real world reduced Tom’s distraction (if he had to change applications or search for unique items) and increased the opportunities available to retailers to offer Tom complementary purchases.

Augmented Reality technology in smartphones is emerging as a convenient way to blend existing digital information within the physical world surrounding us. The opportunities to genuinely improve quality of life for subscribers extend far beyond games and commercial information. AR will be used to help people combine their physical world with finding that for which they are searching, discovering what they didn’t know they were missing and performing routine or unusual tasks more efficiently than with digital or paper aids. While the opportunities are limitless, the barriers are not insignificant.

Is the technology ready for prime time? The correct answer is that it depends. There are hundreds of use cases for AR. Today’s devices and networks are perfect for some imprecise yet still helpful or imaginative uses such as learning what it was like to live or work in an area we are standing in front of or passing through. Ready for AR-assisted surgery? In some settings this is being done but it’s not using the same sensors we have in our pockets in our cell phones.

Even when sensors are good enough and data is available, one of the barriers we are facing to AR adoption is simply making users aware that there is an augmentation they might want to see or hear in their vicinity. Content is not evenly distributed over the world. Indoor vs. outdoor content remains a challenge. AR providers are exploring different symbols and strategies for helping users discover new experiences in their real world and we can learn some lessons from the successes and failures of QR codes.

For providers of popular digital data there are ample “anchors” or triggers in the real world with which to bring up new experiences. The question that has yet to be solved for content providers is how to publish with AR once and reach their greatest audiences? The answer to this challenge lies in having support for AR viewing in many applications, and making sure that these existing or new applications “talk” using a common and flexile language to the cloud-based data sets. Once again, one of the important keys to technological and commercial success lies in open APIs and I’m confident that these will emerge in the near future.

When AR is open and interoperable, this ecosystem will flourish and everyone will benefit. To help the attendees of the Mobile Apps 2.0 event witness some of the diversity possible with mobile AR, I’ve helped to organize a special mobile AR showcase featuring leading AR platforms. Hope to see you there!

[1] Information source: Wikipedia

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March 25, 2011

Getting to a Billion Smartphones in 2013

We’ve just published Getting to a Billion Smartphones in 2013, a report by Telco 2.0 partners Arete Research on the prospects for the Smartphone market. The report forecasts the emergence of smartphones costing just $100 to make in 2011 and massive growth in global market sales volumes, with impacts for chip-makers, Smartphone OS, and telcos. It includes:

  • Forecasts of Smartphone shipments by region to 2015

  • Smartphone Mix and Margins

  • Getting to the $100 Smartphone in 2011

  • Share by Smartphone OS

  • Semis: Logically, More - Doubling the logic chip market

  • Memory Madness - Trippling the memory markets

  • Telcos: Dummies no More - Growth opportunities for telcos with sophisticated tiers

  • Billions and Billions - Putting the numbers in context

NB ‘Growing the Mobile Internet’ and ‘Lessons from Apple: Fostering vibrant content ecosystems’ is a key session theme at our upcoming ‘New Digital Economics’ Brainstorms (Palo Alto, 4-7 April and London, 11-13 May). Please use the links or email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003 to find out more.

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March 24, 2011

Tablet Frenzy: Network Poison or Economic Palliative?

The success of the iPad2 has been seen by some as a sign of a paradigm shift in computing. With their theoretical appeal as a new portable medium for online video consumption could tablets have a significant impact on communications networks and economics? We’ve now published Telco 2.0’s market outlook on tablets on our research portal.

Tablet frenzy fig 2 schematic mar 2011.png

NB ‘Growing the Mobile Internet’ and ‘Lessons from Apple: Fostering vibrant content ecosystems’ is a key session theme at our upcoming ‘New Digital Economics’ Brainstorms (Palo Alto, 4-7 April and London, 11-13 May). Please use the links or email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003 to find out more. See also iPad2: how Apple plans to dominate the ‘post PC era’.

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March 22, 2011

Guest Post, Momac.net: How operators can transform their portals into subscriber-centric interfaces

What if, rather than trying to second guess our customers’ needs or trying to shape them through advertising with essentially no reliable feedback on its impact, we got the customers to define the packages they buy themselves? In a new whitepaper, Momac sets out their guide to the future of your portal, contact centre, and customer relationships in general.

The explosive growth in ‘off portal’ data traffic combined with the success of smart-phone application stores has led many operators to reassess their portal strategies. In the face of declining content sales and an increasing trend for users to navigate directly to their favourite mobile Internet products and services, many operators are questioning the role of their predominantly content-led portals, with some even considering closing the portal altogether as the declining content sales push portal P+L’s into the red.

In positioning the operator portal as primarily a source of value-added services revenues, however, operators are overlooking the huge impact that portals, and operator branded applications, can have on overall customer experience, and the drive towards customer centricity.

In the new subscriber-aware world, operators need an on-device interface that provides the subscriber with access to all of the compelling new products and services offered by an intelligent, subscriber-centric network. The subscriber interface should be the key point of interaction between subscriber and operator, a place to manage the customers’ complete relationship with the operator, whilst providing access to key 3rd party services (social media, e-mail) which are relevant to each individual. Mobile World Congress 2011 included much discussion concerning subscriber-centric networks and how evolving subscriber data management (SDM) systems can help drive personalized operator services.

Without a portal, or on-device application, the operator website is the de-facto subscriber interface. Accessed via a mobile device, the website can never offer the level of subscriber centricity and customer experience that a made-for-mobile portal or application is able to (a recent study carried out by O2UK highlighted that consumers preferred the experience offered by the carriers O2 Active mobile Internet portal over that offered by browsing the O2 website on a smart-phone), and by failing to understand the potential of a truly subscriber-centric interface, operators risk giving up their most relevant channel. Surely the question operators should be asking themselves is not “Why do we need a mobile portal or branded application?” but rather “Why would I ask my subscribers to browse a desktop website or call a customer service centre when I can give them total control via their mobile device?”

This whitepaper will explore how mobile operators can transform their portals and applications from the typical content store front into a highly personalised, subscriber-centric interface accessible on all types of devices including phones and tablets, and focused on enhancing customer experience and, hence, loyalty, driving core voice and data revenue, and reducing OPEX.

Click here to read more.

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March 21, 2011

Telco 2.0 News Review: AT&T buys T-Mobile USA (and a huge fight)

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed: Diary reminder - it’s now just two weeks to the Americas Telco 2.0 Brainstorm, 5-7 April in Palo Alto, and seven weeks to the EMEA Brainstorm, 11-13 May in London.]

AT&T has agreed to buy T-Mobile USA off DTAG in a deal valued at $39bn in a mixture of cash and share swaps. As part of the transaction, the German operator will retain 8% of AT&T and get a seat on the board for Réne Obermann. AT&T gets an enormous pile of spectrum, a highly rated HSPA network, and a whole lot of regulatory trouble, as competitors line up to denounce an oligopoly with enormous spectrum resources. Major operator mergers in the past have often involved very large disbursements of assets to satisfy the regulators.

Sprint was the first to make it to the press wire with a statement attacking the deal and threatening to call in the FCC. Brough Turner mourns competition in mobile and remembers when the Boston area had six PCS operators. Rich Miller notes that T-Mobile USA owns a massive data centre infrastructure located in Western Washington’s hydro-power country, and provides a neat roundup of reactions, which are universally negative, expecting higher prices and monopoly in general.

It’s fair to say that the net neutrality lobby won’t be best pleased either. Senator Al Franken kicks off with a rant against telco lobbyists at this year’s SXSW Interactive. As far as the competition goes, Verizon has announced that it will not be imposing usage-based pricing on its fixed customers.

In the UK, BT has announced a round of price rises for line rental and also for some voice call charges. At the same time, the price of its BT Vision IPTV service has been cut back in an effort to get some interest going.

Meanwhile, 3UK CEO Kevin Russell attacked OFCOM’s plans for the 900MHz band refarming, claiming that letting the Original Two operators, O2 and Vodafone, keep it all is anti-competitive. (He also loosened their Web filter a bit.)

AT&T has been successfully sued by a small operator in Michigan to force them to provide information about their infrastructure and the bits of it that are covered by regulated special access. Until now, the RBOCs have been obliged to allow other operators to use some of their infrastructure, but not necessarily to say what is available at any given location, which is obviously useless.

It looks like Bharti Airtel is going to hoover up the Broadband Wireless Access spectrum Qualcomm bought in the Indian auction.

While T-Mobile USA still exists, it’s planning to be the first North American carrier to offer the Nokia C7 or indeed any Symbian ^3 device. Meanwhile, some of the Forum Nokia team have received their N8s, and they sound genuinely regretful at the thought of the coming replacement.

Asymco’s Horace quotes from Nokia and Microsoft’s recent filings and foresees doom, while he has some more data-driven thoughts here. For the foreseeable future, the opportunity in expanding the smartphone market overall will be hugely bigger than trying to win back share from the other players. And how well will a licence-fee paying product do at that particular game?

German Android bloggers were briefly able to see the planned Amazon app store. It looks like Amazon pricing is going to be somewhat lower than the mainline Android Market, which would fit with a general everyday low pricing/volume first strategy.

There’s some detail of the latest Android IP dispute here - it looks as if the problem is that some Linux headers covered by the General Public License (GPL) are included in the code Google released under the Apache Public Licence, which is marginally less open. Google tries to “sheep-dip” the code of GPL’d material using automated scripts before release, but the question is whether this is enough .

Google released new developer analytics tools this week, which as Rich Karpinski points out tend to show that the “fragmentation” problem is nowhere near as bad as some suggest. So far, though, they’re still not as cool as RIM’s embedded user-experience metrics.

Appitalism, the independent app store for iPhones, launched this week. We’ll see how that turns out. Meanwhile, there’s a curious problem with iOS - some of the high performance features of Safari, their web browser, aren’t available in the embedded browser API that iPhone developers use when they want to show a web page inside an app, even though they are both based on WebKit. This is weird, because iOS apps are revenue earners and have to pass through Apple’s approval process while web sites that you can load in the iPhone’s browser have nothing to do with Apple at all. So why should the websites get the goodies when the apps don’t?

Apple has certainly put a lot of effort into that browser - as independent tests of the iPad’s HTML5 rendering performance show.

It’s a cliché to mock Apple users as fans obsessed with gadgets, but this takes the biscuit. Apparently, dodgy dealers are buying iPads and then reselling them to people in the queue for a four-fold markup. Nice work if you can get it. The London version of this used to be selling someone a laptop, and carrying out a neat bait and switch so they ended up with a laptop bag containing four bottles of water as ballast.

Google is having trouble in China - it alleges that the authorities have been interfering with connections to GMail and trying to give the impression that the problem is downtime on Google’s part. Further, they’ve been blocking some Google App Engine projects, including the missing person finder hackers built for victims of the Japanese earthquake.

Yahoo! is apparently going to sell the much loved Del.icio.us, for about a tenth of what it paid for the social bookmarks site.

Microsoft has announced the end of Zune, at least for the hardware element. Also, last week, they culled all the remaining blogs in Windows Live Spaces.

Data Center Knowledge reckons that we’ll see a dip in the market for data centres in the next couple of years before a renewed surge in demand around 2015. In the US, that’s likely to be closer to a real drop, while the global market will see more of a slowdown. They also quote Telehouse as saying that all their Japanese data centres, including one in Sendai in the heart of the earthquake zone, are on line.

Alcatel-Lucent is pushing its 100 Gigabit optical Ethernet products for the New Zealand government’s public fibre build. In Australia, the final vote by Telstra shareholders on the Telstra-NBN deal has been postponed while details are thrashed out in the final stage of negotiations. Telstra currently estimates the value of the contract at A$11bn.

NSN’s acquisition of Motorola’s GSM assets is held up, again, apparently due to objections from Chinese regulators. And, for the first time ever, Cisco Systems is paying a dividend out to its hungry shareholders, in order to keep them happy while it carries out a major product update. As it has $40bn in cash on the balance sheet, this isn’t difficult.

RevK from Andrews & Arnold has discovered a serious problem in BT’s infrastructure.

Via Voyces’ Larry Lisser, the New York Times has an interesting piece on the history of social mores about telephony. How did the phone get to be the official bearer of bad news, and why did we tolerate its rudeness for so long? Exactly what we could do better as a result is, of course, left as an exercise to the reader.

Lisser also has some interesting thoughts from Enterprise Connect 2011 - it looks like “collaboration” is the buzzword of the year - he also has a good point here in asking why video (and IVR) can’t get good enough that your customers will try to get the switchboard to put them through to the robot.

There’s a white paper and a webcast on just this sort of thing in the UK here. Meanwhile, Voice 2.0 hackers set up a live translating and interpreting service for the Japanese earthquake using Tropo’s platform. Dan York has a pair of posts on how to be productive with Skype’s hidden command-line interface. If that’s not enough for you, Qik is now Skype’s first Web API, and you can find the reference for it here.

SIP not working? Here’s a list of known-broken router gateways and how to render them harmless. Remember, if it starts singing “Daisy, Daisy” you should consider re-installing from backup.

There’s a zero day exploit in Flash Player, which will let anyone who exposes it to a crafted Microsoft Excel file own your computer. (What is Excel even doing opening Flash content?) Beware unsolicited attachments, but then you should anyway. Embarrassingly for Adobe, Google has already patched Flash Player in Chrome before their fix was ready.

Cunning tricks for surviving a DDOS attack - deliberately keep open the TCP connections so the other guy eventually runs out of ports or RAM and crashes.

Hackers discover more security problems with feature phones. Notably, if your SMS of Death attack doesn’t work at first, don’t despair, as the operator’s SMSC may keep sending it until it gets through! Better yet, many Nokia devices will shut down if they receive three malformed SMS messages - apparently Nokia considers this a feature, but most people would recognise it as a denial of service attack. And some devices will actually crash and become impossible even to re-flash - a hardware kill.

The average data disclosure incident costs £1.9m to clean up. Stealing mobile transaction authorisation codes on Symbian. 25 years of malware. A problem we’ll probably need to fix - now everyone’s doing optical Ethernet to the cell site, we don’t have the feature that SS7 provided accurate timing any more. Trying to provide accurate timing over nondeterministic networks - you know you want it.

Do you want a watchphone? You probably should, shouldn’t you? Of course, those have been done, but Sony Ericsson has updated the concept with a watch that hooks up to your Android phone’s notification service and displays whatever comes in - twitter/facebook/whatever, e-mail and messaging notifications. About 20 apps for it already exist, but apparently it doesn’t work terribly well.

Neither does Time Warner Cable’s iPad app, which fell over messily during prime time not long after it hit number one in the App Store. Whoops. No wonder cord-cutting turns out to be less of an issue than previously suspected.

This week’s agenda at the FCC - note the issues of national data roaming and the universal service fund. Microsoft’s Explorer 9 has impressive privacy control features the EFF will talk you through them. Finally, the .xxx domain gets ICANN approval after years of bickering.

Creating a wholesale interconnection ecosystem for mobile money transfer.

I know we’ve got a problem with rural broadband availability, but this is ridiculous.

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March 18, 2011

Android: Google’s Anti-Apple Virus?

It can be tempting to think of Android as in a two-horse race with Apple. Our new analysis on our research portal here shows that the current and future impact of Google’s highly successful mobile ecosystem play is much more complex.

NB ‘Lessons from Apple: Fostering vibrant content ecosystems’ is a key session theme at our upcoming ‘New Digital Economics’ Brainstorms (Palo Alto, 4-7 April and London, 11-13 May). Please use the links or email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003 to find out more.

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March 17, 2011

Partner Event Update: 2nd Privacy Identity Innovation Conference

Following on from our work on Personal Data 2.0, and run by Telco 2.0 partners Pii, the 2nd annual Privacy Identity Innovation Conference (pii2011) is taking place on May 19-20, 2011 in Silicon Valley, the week after our EMEA event. It will provide a great way to further explore how emerging technologies and business models are impacting data creation, sharing and aggregation in the digital age.


Through a series of keynotes, roundtables, demos and workshop sessions, pii2011 will take an in-depth look at where innovation is heading in areas like mobile apps, cloud computing, geo-location and social networking, and what it means for the future of digital privacy,online identity, trust and reputation.

Sign up at http://pii2011.com and save 20% with thefollowing code: 4pda2011. For more information, contact natalie@pii2011.com or follow @TechPolicyon Twitter.

[NB At both New Digital Economics events in Palo Alto (April 7th) and London (May 13th) we are devoting a full day session on Personal Data 2.0, “Igniting the Personal Data Ecosystem”, in addition to a personal data and business transformation session in the main Telco 2.0 plenary day. There’s also more recent analysis in Personal Data 2.0: the opportunity is moving, but are telcos? and the Telco 2.0 Personal Data 2.0 research stream.]

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March 16, 2011

Personal Data 2.0: the opportunity is moving, but are telcos?

This article summarises the encouraging signs that Telco Industry leadership is “Rethinking Personal Data”, although we conclude that more urgency is needed for collective action.

It provides useful context for the sessions we will be running on this topic at our forthcoming New Digital Economics events. (For more background please see our research stream here and previous blogs on the World Economic Forum project here and here.)

“Personal data” is cropping up with increasing regularity in a number of industry senior executive gatherings such as the GSMA’s leadership summit and the World Economic Forum.

Any CEO gatherings run the risk of being high on statements of broad intent and low on specifics let alone firm commitments. However, the very fact that personal data is on the agenda at all says something. The function of these meetings is to identify critical agenda-setting issues and then progress understanding across many stakeholders.

So, what can we conclude other than that there is broad consensus that personal data, digital identity and trust networks are key to the future of the information economy and telco industry?

For more insight, we can turn to some of the recent publications. The GSMA’s coverage on the topic is split across a number of documents across multiple initiatives including OneAPI, Mobile Signatures (curiously, under Mobile Money), Mobile Advertising (under Mobile Media and Entertainment), Mobile Privacy Principles (under public policy) and deep in the WAC specifications. None of these discuss the economic opportunity around customer data in a comprehensive, systematic way.

wef data report image  mar 2011.png

The World Economic Forum has given the subject prominence in its recent report on Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class, which also sheds some light into leadership thinking.

The report, produced in collaboration with Telco 2.0 and Bain, highlights the need for organisations to adopt end-user centricity as a cornerstone principle in developing the trust networks underpinning the Personal Data Ecosystems of tomorrow’s information economy. The report also call for collective action in 5 areas:

  • Innovate around user-centricity and trust
  • Define global principles for using and sharing personal data
  • Strengthen the dialog between regulators and the private sector
  • Focus on interoperability and open standards
  • Continually share knowledge
Telco 2.0 hopes that this translates into increased senior-level appreciation that customers’ data should be seen an asset class in its own right and one where telco’s have significant potential mining opportunities. We also look forward to an increase in telco-led pilots and trials in and around personal data ecosystems. A more public commitment to the key principles the industry will adopt in pursuing this opportunity is needed. We are however, more sceptical regarding the industry’s answer to the call for more open collaboration and sharing across the industry. Although it is understandable that operators should look to seek competitive advantage (and hence be quite protective about any insight or advantage they may be able to secure through piloting), this is one area where true competition is more likely to come from the Internet players and/or a more general “lock-down” from concerned public authorities “snuffing-out” innovation before it takes root.

The industry is suddenly finding that with the explosion of smarter connected personal devices, it may enjoy a potentially unique advantage in taking a commanding role in the emerging personal data ecosystem(s). This advantage will not last. Operators need to get their heads around the opportunity fast and move to defining, piloting and securing a role. “Wait and see” will turn into “wait and watch others win, while whining about unfair regulation”.

Join us in New York or London for detailed discussions on these issues.

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Running through the Playbook

Thomson Reuters have a rather good rundown on the BlackBerry Playbook tablet and RIM’s future. Is it a high-end device with an interesting feature set that spans the enterprise and gaming markets, or a curiosity that Apple will brush aside?

We met the Playbook at RIM’s developer day at MWC - although they’re marketing it as “the first professional grade tablet”, their demo showed one running Need for Speed: Undercover and Quake in separate windows at the same time. Our information is that RIM is internally divided about whether to play the device’s media and gaming potential up, or whether that would detract from their image with enterprise customers. However, we do think their developer services, business products, and BB Messenger make up a powerful integrated device-software-media ecosystem.

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March 14, 2011

Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed: Diary reminder for our upcoming Telco 2.0 Brainstorms in Americas, 5-7 April, EMEA, 11-13 May, and APAC 22-23 June 2011.]

Renesys reports that Internet traffic through Japanese IXen fell by 25 Gbps immediately after the magnitude 9 earthquake struck, but it returned to normal levels by the end of the day. You may have to stop updating Facebook to hide in a doorway, but it seems it takes more than apocalyptic devastation by the awe-inspiring powers of nature to faze a Japanese network administrator.

Data Center Knowledge has a special report on how they did it and the state of the art in general. However, it seems that voice service has suffered more than the Internet, and at one point 20 million lines were out of service due to a submarine cable break.

Notably, the APCN-2 cable was reported to have been damaged, but carriers succeeded in rerouting traffic around it. Salesforce.com issued a service update saying that they had made changes to their internal routing after noticing high latency on some transpacific links.

Hardware manufacturers will be watching the situation in their supply chains very closely. 6 Sony plants are in the disaster area and have shut down at least temporarily, producing among other things Li-ion batteries. Unfortunately, it looks like a major manufacturer of tantalum capacitors, as used in the Apple iProducts, is located where the damaged nuclear power station is.

Chinese newspaper Caixin Online has an interesting story on Huawei’s strategy. They have confirmed their place as the world’s second biggest network hardware vendor behind Ericsson, but they’re now facing a major strategic reassessment. Quite simply, they’ve succeeded in commoditising the market, but the problem with commoditisation is that it cuts both ways - they are, as the piece puts it, swimming in a sea of telecoms gear. The world is full of cheap equipment.

As a result, Huawei management wants to change course and emphasise customer service and software. One stratgy they are planning is to create a succession of “innovation centres” aligned with key accounts and markets, which are meant to bring key technical staff into contact with their major customers (the Vodafone, China Telecom, and Telefonica centres are already open), an idea borrowed from IBM.

CEO Ren Zhengfei thinks that the company needs to become one of the three biggest cloud computing providers, and considers that Nokia Siemens Networks remains a threat because of its ability to innovate and its strength in fully outsourced managed services.

Elsewhere on the broadband beat, The Register goes for a day out with the BT fibre installers. If you want to see the process in detail, that’s the place to go. Note that BT is splitting GPON fibre-to-the-home 32 ways, and an installation takes up to 7 hours, whereas Verizon FiOS does 64 subscribers per fibre. It may sound perverse, but we find the economics of these operational decisions fascinating - they can make a huge difference to the end-result for customers and operators alike.

BT’s arch-rival Virgin Media is in a bit of trouble after customers panned its new “Superhub” CPE - apparently the Netgear-sourced gadget keeps falling over and is struggling to push packets at the rate their co-ax infrastructure will deliver them. But then, even hyper-geeky Andrews & Arnold have had a disaster with the Comtrend low-cost IPv6 routers they’ve been handing out. It looks like, rather than being low-cost, they were just cheap.

The Broadband Stakeholder Group’s code of practice on traffic management is coming, and the major UK ISPs will publish details of their policy in the next few months.

An Aussie hacker has created a set of truly impressive map mashups detailing Australia’s cell sites, in order to answer the question of whether Vodafone Hutchison Australia’s service has actually improved at all in the run-up to their huge Huawei-driven upgrade.

And it looks like O2 UK has a contract to provide M2M connectivity for smart meters, with some 400,000 SIM cards.

If you’re still running one of the non-updated Skype clients (Mac or Linux), think yourself lucky - it was the week adverts came to Skype. It looks like they’re going to make an effort to monetise some of the enormous volumes of free Skype-to-Skype telephony. There’s more detail in the official Skype blog.

Inevitably, some people are already thinking about how to block the adverts. (We suspect Phil Wolff’s request for a SkypeKit developer key is not going to be facilitated by that post.)

In other Voice 2.0 news, the Google Talk client embedded into GMail will now highlight phone numbers it notices in your e-mail to let you click-to-dial them. (What happens if you already had a Skype extension installed that turns them into Skype callto:// URIs?) However, after Google Voice users briefly got SIP support last week, it looks like Google has turned it off again.

Tools: Voxeo has announced a new version of its Phono SDK, which lets you build voice and instant messaging applications in web pages using XMPP, SIP, and the popular jQuery JavaScript framework. Improvements include better echo cancelling - and doesn’t that have a charmingly telcoish sound to it… Over the way at Tropo, they’ve got an update out to improve their integration with Asterisk.

And Verizon is shutting down its speaking clock and weather forecast numbers. We can remember when BT had a short-number value added service that read out the current cricket scores - try searching Google for that, it’s as if it had never existed.

Meanwhile, progress marches on. It says here. Salesforce.com is planning to build a string of its own data centres around the world - so far, they’ve managed to operate their gigantic cloud with 3,000 machines spread around seven locations. With 93,000 companies as customers, that implies that each of their servers is shared by 31 organisations. They must be some servers.

Yahoo! is planning to spend $500 million building big data centres and consolidating some of the ones it has already. Betfair says that its recent technical problems are linked to the decision to move its data centre to Ireland (their engineering team have been too busy to keep up with change requests).

And if you want a cloud computing use case, the Amazon Web Services blog has one for you. Thursdate is a dating site that only exists on Thursdays, saving up the whole week for a burst of frantic seduction on Thursday afternoons as its customers dash to get hooked up for Saturday night. As a result, it needs a signup page for most of the week and heavy database-churning power for one day only. No surprise they decided to run it in Amazon EC2.

Elsewhere in the cloud, Microsoft’s marketing team for Bing decided to use the power of social media to spread the word. That, and the Japanese earthquake. Failure ensued. Meanwhile, Windows Phone 7 is expected to get copy-and-paste functionality in the next two weeks, and among other things, “Twitter functionality”. What’s Twitter doing in an operating system anyway? On the other hand, the top-rated app for Facebook messaging is Windows Live Messenger.

It’s been reported that the secret sauce in the Microsoft-Nokia deal was hard cash, $1bn of it from Microsoft to Nokia in exchange for signing up with them rather than Google. As the Chinese say these days, “Serve the People, with the People’s Currency”. Meanwhile, there’s another take on how Symbian user interfaces got like that over here. And Nokia has announced “IdeasProject”, a call for good ideas for apps.

Will Microsoft start streaming content to XBox users? Someone else has noticed that they’re integrating the XBox with their Mediaroom video-distribution back-end product, something of a stealth hit. (We covered this some time ago.) Interestingly, there’s talk of MS using carrier partners to bring it to market.

Clearwire’s troubles continue - now it’s being sued by the users, who allege that it throttled their service in defiance of its own terms of service. They also claim it acted fraudulently by selling new accounts before the infrastructure was in place. At the same time, it’s raining executives - Vodafone veteran Bill Morrow, who was brought in to oversee the network build as CEO when they secured funding, is out, as is the CIO and the Chief Commercial Officer. Founder and chairman John Stanton is back as CEO, possibly because there’s nobody else.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has thrown them a lifeline, though, telling a Deutsche Bank analyst conference that all Sprint’s plans involved both Clearwire and its WiMAX network in some form. The point is made that having CDMA, LTE, and WiMAX nets in the same company would be a nightmare, but in fairness it’s no crazier than the old standby of quiet days on the stock market, a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. Integrate this!

Meanwhile, Open Range has become LightSquared’s first customer - more precisely, it’s going to lease spectrum from LightSquared and also sign a roaming agreement. OR has a similar plan - mixed land mobile and satellite - to LightSquared, just it’s with WiMAX rather than LTE and the spectrum came from satellite operator Globalstar. Recently, Globalstar unwisely strayed out of their spectrum band and the FCC has demanded that OR move. This is going to be complicated.

There’s another of those “estimating smartphone market share from mobile ad serving numbers” exercises around - InMobi reckons that Apple is still just about in the lead in Europe, with Android coming up fast and everyone else suffering. Meanwhile, Apple is said to hold three-quarters of the tablet market. And the PlayStation Phone has a launch date.

The Pwn20wn contest at this year’s CanSecWest hacker conference unsurprisingly brought up new exploits for iPhone and BlackBerry OS. Not surprisingly, again, they were both in the web browser.

But nobody expected this: some cars’ onboard electronics can be compromised by malicious code inserted into a MP3 song burned onto a CD and played on the car stereo. Ouch. Vodafone’s Corporate Social Responsibility site got hacked by UK Uncut tax-evasion protestors. And it looks like we’re going to find out who sold the Egyptian secret police all their spying gear.

Hackers have discovered a secret Google music service - it seems that there is functionality in the latest releases of Android to sync your music collection with servers in the Google cloud. Details are on the XDA Developers forum - now there’s a name to remind you of 2005. It’s probably fair to say that if you were hacking the XDA, you’re hardcore.

Meanwhile, YouTube is hiring, heavily, mostly in Mountain View.

The Wall Street Journal reckons it has 150,000 subscribers on Kindles or iPads. Carphone Warehouse is starting to sell the Kindles, like other retailers, but unlike them, it’s giving them away with long-term phone contracts. Is there nothing this industry won’t subsidise?

It looks like being an AOL division doesn’t suit most of the people who run Engadget, specifically the bit about editing the news to suit the advertisers.

In regulatory news, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski may get the job of US Secretary of Commerce, a fairly obscure post that does however come with responsibility for NTIA and the contracts that govern the operations of ICANN and IANA. Viviane Reding wants opt-in only for anything that stores your data. Hacking the UK numbering plan rules, with a few WLAN routers. And OFCOM is giving the UK defence establishment spectrum licences - this is important because until now, the military didn’t have licences. Without licences, they can’t be induced to give any up.

Twitter falls out with the devs. Interviews with Bruce Schneier. Egyptian revolutionaries crowdsource the identity of secret policemen - and Yahoo! tries to stop them.

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March 10, 2011

iPad2: how Apple plans to dominate the ‘post PC era’

Apple’s new ‘PC-killer’ tablet is intended to significantly expand the Apple ecosystem, with long-term impacts on many players including telcos, giving Apple an even stronger hold on the market. What strategies should telcos adopt? Read the new analysis on our research site here.

apple ipad thumnail.png

There is also more on ‘Lessons from Apple: Fostering vibrant content ecosystems’ at our upcoming Brainstorms in the Americas, 5-7 April, EMEA, 11-13 May, and APAC 22-23 June 2011.

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March 8, 2011

Lessons from Apple: Fostering vibrant content ecosystems

What can be learned from Apple’s success, and what strategies should telcos, digital entertainment market players, and others in the digital economy use for successful collaboration and healthy competition with Apple? This article outlines our key agenda for the H1 ‘New Digital Economics’ Executive Brainstorms (Americas, 5-7 April, EMEA, 11-13 May, and APAC 22-23 June 2011.)

Apple, the US’s most highly valued company, is a master of reinvention, changing from a distant No.2 standard in the home computer market to reinvent the mobile music market, the laptop, the mobile phone in the form of the smartphone, and enliven the previously moribund tablet category with the iPad (see our analysis on iPad2 and previous work on the iPad business model). In the process it has created the ‘App’ phenomenon, and captured a strong position in the digital entertainment business, capturing up to 80% of online music sales for example.

While Apple has in the past been regarded as a hardware player, its core business is growing the ‘Apple Platform’ of devoted users and services (see also our Best Practice Live! presentation on Apple’s business model - you’ll need to register and log-in). This means that it is no longer just Microsoft’s rival, but is now in co-opetition with a complex range of players in the digital ecosystem: smartphone makers; PC and tablet makers; entertainment companies; ‘OTT’ players like Google; and Telcos.


• The iPad has kick-started the new tablet category which will provide opportunities for others in the ecosystem.
• Devices and services that facilitate multi-screen experiences (e.g. using an app on a tablet or phone) while watching TV represent a particularly interesting emerging opportunity.
• Apple’s strategic approach will be to continue to invest to add elements to this ecosystem, with TV as a key new focus.
• The strength of the Apple platform is its control over key points in the digital entertainment ecosystem. This is also a potential weakness as Apple increasingly comes into competition with more ‘open’ ecosystems, e.g. Android, which are potentially beneficial to, and likely to be supported by, a range of its new competitors.
• As well as forming effective relationships with Apple in its own ecosystem, fostering alternative ecosystems is a key strategy for most digital players.

Key questions to debate

• What are the key lessons from Apple’s business model, strategy, and marketing approach?
• Where are Apple’s key strengths/weaknesses?
• How can CSP’s and entertainment companies best compete/co-operate with Apple?
• How can the wider industry foster alternative ecosystems that stimulate greater innovation for the digital economy?

Find out more and register using the following links (Americas, 5-7 April, EMEA, 11-13 May, and APAC 22-23 June 2011), or email contact@telco2.net / call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

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The Growing Role of Software in New Telco Business Models

This guest post by Telco 2.0 partners SAP explores the growing role of software and software vendors in enabling new multi-sided telco business models, including M2M/embedded (with healthcare examples), and new forms of distribution such as the Amazon Kindle model.

[NB We’ll also be covering new telco business models, new forms of distribution, M2M, and much more at our upcoming Brainstorms in the Americas, 5-7 April, EMEA, 11-13 May, and APAC 22-23 June 2011.]

Networks & devices, meet the third member of the trinity: software

The telecom industry has undergone continuous innovation since its inception, bringing to market exciting technologies that enrich the human experience, and the pace of change has been extraordinary. Remember not so long ago on ‘I Love Lucy’, friends of the Ricardos asked the operator for “Murray Hill 5-9099”. Now with smartphones and tablets, telecom services look more and more like the futuristic Jetsons.

Collaboration between operators and third party hardware/device companies has long been a constant as well. After all, what would a voice, video or data service be without some sort of device or CPE? What’s new is the introduction of “smart” into the equation.

Smart = Software Enhanced

According to various industry reports, there may be as many as 50 billion connected devices deployed within the next decade, potentially growing thereafter to a trillion. Traditional devices however, like phones and set-top boxes, were engineered to work with the networks, switches, etc. - not with third party and over-the-top applications. And while many of the first generation M2M devices, like remote sensors, were built primarily as transmitters, many more are offering advanced processing outside of firmware and bi-directional capabilities.

While smart devices, and advanced data networks, set the stage for the hyperconnected world, software crystallizes the market even enabling “telcos” to begin thinking of themselves as “softcos”. Software takes advantage of the myriad capabilities inherent in smart devices and advanced data networks. And ‘smart devices’ encompasses far more than smart phones; it includes smart cars, smart grids, smart TVs, smart appliances, smart machinery, smart buildings and even smart pills all of which can drive added value with software.

App stores and associations like the Wholesale Application Community (WAC) have already introduced software into the equation - call it the “apps wave” - by building developer communities focused on entertainment and “utility” apps. However, more end-to-end business, productivity, and quality of life solutions are on the way - the coming “solutions wave”.

‘M2M’, ‘Embedded’ or ‘Networked’: a matter of perspective

The labels the various industries involved in the hyperconnected world use to describe this market illustrate the perspectives each brings to the table. The telecom industry often refers to it as M2M communications, highlighting the fact that it is a form of communication, between machines rather than between people. While this label makes sense for the telecom community, does it make sense for the rest of the ecosystem and the marketplace in general?

The hardware industry, on the other hand, uses the term embedded systems, highlighting the fact that capabilities are embedded on the device, particularly ones that control processes. This architectural perspective is largely based on the view that hardware solves problems.

For another take on this market, consider the perspective of the software industry, of which SAP is a leader. With a history in licensed, on premise software, SAP is now also delivering software on demand and on device, with orchestration. Rather than M2M or embedded, we refer to these offerings as “networked solutions”. Whether it’s remote meter reading or tracking the family pet, customers are looking for practical solutions, not gadgets, not access.

Healthcare Examples

In the case of healthcare, society benefits when patient relationship management systems are extended to and networked with end-user devices like smartphones, but also with special purpose devices like blood glucose meters, digital scales, and yes, even smart pills. This is the promise of the hyperconnected world - real-time, unwired lifestyles and workplaces - and software brings it together.

Furthermore, whether smart or dumb, the billions of connected devices will be generating massive amounts of data. Software companies are aggressively pursuing advanced analytics capabilities and in-memory technology that make use of this data from the field. With in-memory appliances analyzing data in the cloud, data will be instantly available on any device, delivering “real real-time” analytics.

Finally, consider all the vertical software solutions that exist today. For example, SAP has more than 25 industry verticals, each with a portfolio of enabling solutions. The hyperconnected world is having a direct impact on every one of these verticals and the following are two examples. Equipped with “on-board units”, cars can transmit detailed information about vehicle use and driving characteristics enabling the insurance industry to introduce “pay as you drive” insurance policies. Good drivers are rewarded with lower premiums and no longer have to subsidize poor drivers.

In the world of healthcare, medical equipment can be prohibitively expensive for hospitals and clinics. As a result, equipment manufacturers are now enabling their equipment to transmit detailed usage information so, rather than a one-time purchase of equipment, hospitals and clinics can pay on a per-use basis. This helps cash flow by moving the expense from the capital budget to the operating budget, an important step in challenging economic environments. Both the healthcare and insurance industries benefit, as do the patients and policy holders they serve, by extending their existing processes and systems to the hyperconnected world (i.e., adopt networked solutions).

By working with software and device companies, carriers can help drive the innovation that will power the networked solutions in the hyperconnected world and deliver great value to businesses and consumers alike.

Who Buys What From Whom?

In a value chain that combines devices with remote access and software, the question is “who buys what from whom?” Do network operators offer M2M-enabled services directly to end-users? While likely, this is only one of many possible retail models. The other possibilities, such as service sold by a third party VAR, require telcos to rethink their entire product portfolios and business models.

Consider the Amazon Kindle. When customers download ebooks to their Kindles, they do not choose a carrier. In this case, AT&T sold their services to Amazon who acts as a VAR or MVNO. In the hyperconnected world, this business model requires network operators to target those incorporating access into their offerings. So as connected devices propagate, telcos need to reconsider their role as retailer and, more importantly, their emerging role as a wholesaler or partner enabling new forms of trade and commerce. (For more on this, please see Telco 2.0’s report New Mobile, Fixed and Wholesale Broadband Business Models.)

B2B Scenarios sap table mar 2011.png

The full range of possible vendors is even wider than this slide represents. Other vendors of networked solutions may include physical and online retailers like Best Buy or Amazon, internet providers like Google, integrators like IBM or HP, or even others not currently on the radar. Time will tell how the new and emerging networked solutions are branded and sold, but telcos may find the greatest opportunity is becoming a networked solutions “infrastructure” provider to the myriad aspiring retailers.


The hyperconnected world will create massive opportunity for those who not only craft a vision but also craft a role and align strategically. With giants coming from the telecom, hardware, software and internet industries, each with their own strengths and agendas, the need for cooperation in the formula for success will prevail.

Looking forward, network operators should consider who their customers will be. Will it be the end-consumer who wants a home healthcare system for elders or a dog tracking service? Or will it be the company bundling access into their networked solutions? While the telcos recognize their strengths as 1) operating networks, 2) certifying devices, and 3) serving customers, they have an opportunity to take it a step further: 4) connecting software. Connecting software to devices is obvious, but connecting software to software through APIs, both their own and third parties’, could deliver on the promise web services and SOA offered years ago.

If you believe network operators will be suppliers to VARs like the insurance company, or Amazon, or even SAP, then refocusing on this business is essential as the market is forecast to explode. It’s no surprise many carriers like AT&T and Sprint are establishing research and collaboration centers in places like Silicon Valley. The more closely carriers align with the software industry, the greater the role they will play in defining this new market. In fact in the coming years, the relationships between telecom operators and software vendors may match or even exceed those that exist today between operators and device companies, particularly if the market values ‘networked solutions’.

Author: David McNierney, SAP, Charging & Billing Center of Excellence.

The New Trinity: Network, Apps, and Devices sap trinity mar 2011.png
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March 7, 2011

Telco 2.0 News Review: US & Russian LTE, Vodafone M2M wins

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed: We’re covering new mobile broadband business models, the impact of LTE, M2M, Cloud Services and much more at our upcoming Brainstorms in the Americas, 5-7 April, EMEA, 11-13 May, and APAC 22-23 June 2011.]

Network-sharing comes to Russia: Russia’s big three GSM operators have agreed to support a common LTE network deployment, to be managed by ex-WiMAX operator Yota.

Elsewhere, Clearwire’s fate is in the balance, as Sprint Nextel claimed that it could have LTE service up by the end of 2011 if it took a decision by the summer. It’s worth remembering that this is less problematic now, as Verizon Wireless has already started interworking between its EV-DO and LTE networks with devices stepping down from the LTE to the CDMA service as required. This obviously strengthens Sprint’s hand in the argument about the wholesale terms of business between them and Clearwire. There’s more here.

In France, Free’s mobile network is finally clear for take-off, with the long delayed national roaming agreement finally signed. Orange gets the job. The agreement kicks in as soon as Free’s own population coverage reaches 25% - which they could probably have a crack at, if the rumours about a femtocell in the Freeboxes are true.

Telecoms.com has a useful article on the spread of small cells - did you know that Cisco Systems now has more base stations deployed in the US than any other vendor? - and the interesting point that operators have begun to notice that software-based access points with key network functions like the RNC distributed to the edge work, and are asking why their macro-cells can’t be more like that. Specifically, why can’t they be cheaper?

Femtocells also had a walk-on part in the fallout from last week’s Vodafone UK outage. It seems that the burglars did indeed break into the data centre, which contained one of their MSCs, and stole a rumoured £500,000 worth of softswitching equipment. Oddly enough, some customers using Vodafone’s Sure Signal femto product claim that their service was unaffected throughout the incident. Well, there’s certainly an argument for a more distributed architecture for you.

In still further Vodafone news, the operator took a step forward with M2M, signing up Hyundai and Bosch to its global telematics services. At this rate, will there be much left for anyone else, at least at the connectivity level?

Are the cable guys beating the Bell heads in the connectivity race? Latest numbers from Leichtman in the US suggest they are, with the cable share of the broadband market growing even as the market itself continues to grow.

The UK government has announced the second wave of bids for rural broadband funding. Unfortunately, none of the first round have made any progress yet…very unlike Bharti’s 3G rollout, which has signed up its first 500,000 subscribers.

Australia’s new regulatory settlement is out.

Meanwhile, AT&T is releasing unexpectedly revealing maps of its “4G” coverage. 4G is defined as HSPA+ with a target speed of 21Mbps, and “usually” with fibre backhaul (it better have fibre to the Node-B, or you’re not going to be getting anything like that…).

They’re also planning to launch a wave of geo-targeted SMS discount offers, advertising a lineup of products including HP, JetBlue, and milk every time a subscriber approaches a participating shop. It is likely that they’re making use of cellular location features. Meanwhile, the bulk SMS provider Clickatell is offering a small business-scaled targeted-messaging service for $25 a month - why haven’t the operators done this yet?

There was some sort of Apple product launch this week. The iPad 2 offers detail improvements and a front-facing camera. Check out the detail improvements here, and consider the question of whether Apple is falling behind on connectivity and, if so, if it matters. Asymco, meanwhile, takes a sceptical look at the numbers for e-book sales through iTunes - it may not be all that great, and certainly not by comparison to Amazon’s Kindle business. Samsung, however, thinks its Galaxy Tab is “inadequate” by comparison.

Did you know you can voice dial a locked iPhone? But you can’t install Opera unless you’re 17.

The upshot: Nielsen’s latest smartphone scoreboard, which puts Apple, Android, and RIM very close together, and very close to splitting the whole market three ways. RIM and Apple were tied on 27% each, with the ‘droids a neck ahead on 29%, leaving pitifully little for anyone else.

Google responded to last week’s discovery of 50-odd items of malware in the Android Market by promising to remote-zap dodgy applications that had already been installed on user devices, and pushing out a security update. Details are at the Google Mobile blog. They also announced a new API to help deal with different screen sizes, resolutions, and the like.

Wired has an interesting chat with the Google engineers responsible for the recent update to their search algorithm that’s intended to screen out content farms. The process is based on ratings provided by panels of users, but the really interesting thing is that Google is now openly saying that its processes involve editorial judgement.

Some Android devs really aren’t happy with Google; RIM’s CMO is leaving.

Despite our longer-term positive hunch, this week brings news of more challenges for the Nokisoft Windowsia alliance. The next version of Windows Phone 7 has been delayed until December 2011, and the hits just keep coming. Another wave of updates for Samsung Omnia devices has failed, although at least this time it didn’t kill the devices. Apparently you need 4GB of free space on the device to install the update, which is more than the Linux installation this post was composed with takes up…or the Windows Vista installation on the other drive.

Also, Microsoft has launched Bing Deals, its version of a coupons site like Groupon (in fact, it’s more of a meta-search engine that slurps them from Groupon as well as other sites). Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually work on WP7 - the application is written in HTML5, and HTML5 support is scheduled for Internet Explorer 9, and IE9 is expected to arrive on mobiles in the WP7 update that’s been delayed until December.

Microsoft has also launched an ‘end of life’ campaign for Internet Explorer 6, one of its biggest-selling products. If that doesn’t work, security expert Brian Krebs has a suggested another way to render IE6 inert - set the homepage to ms-its:%F0:, which will apparently cause it to crash instantly every time it starts.

Yet another HTML5 web-widget app store: this time it’s the Mozilla Foundation, who are aiming to create a purely open source app store. They have a point, after all - the first app store of all was arguably Firefox Add-ons, although no money changes hands there. It provides curated, packaged distribution for third-party applications intended to extend the functionality of a given system - essentially the same service that the mobile app stores do. And they’ve been doing it for quite a while.

Over at Nokia, the debugger for Series 40 has been improved, with an on-device version now being available. Unfortunately, there’s also been a serious case of FAIL at Symbian Signed - users had a window to accept the new terms of service, the system went down, came back up again, and now a significant number of them have lost their data.

Telefonica, having impressed everyone with their Bluevia developer platform and won an award for being IPv6-ready, obviously felt it was time for their voice service to get some attention. As a result, better-telephony player FonYou (you may remember them from Telco 2.0 events in the past) are coming on board. The service launched last week with a Telefonica local brand wrapped around their white-label product.

It looks like Google Voice/Google Talk is going to let you hook SIP networks and devices up to it. Google’s VoIP activities, of course, use their voice extension for XMPP, Jingle. The Michigan Telephone blog will tell you how to configure FreePBX to make use of this, if you’ve got a spare week. On the other hand, SIP pioneer Gizmo5 bites the dust.

Via Russell Bryant’s blog, it looks like there’s a new O’Reilly book coming up on the art of Asterisk.

The Enterprise Connect 2011 conference saw some interesting news from Skype, the daddy of Voice 2.0. Some time this year, you can expect Citrix’s GoToMeeting conferencing product to be integrated with Skype, while their partnership with Avaya is being extended to include video applications. Also, Skype confirms that they’re planning to deploy significant numbers of Skype nodes as infrastructure to back up the network’s reliability.

Here’s an interesting app for you: Thrutu lets you share various kinds of media, notably live-updated maps and contact files, during your phone calls. This is of course rather like the RCS/IMS vision, but you don’t need to wait for your operator to get its skates on. What they’re not making too much of is that this funky mobile-app startup is actually a product from Metaswitch Networks, the deeply serious and telco-y British softswitch and SIP specialist and regular Telco 2.0 attendee.

There’s a lot of potential here - imagine what you could do with this in the way of better call-centre interactions and VRM.

Werner Vogels’ Twitter feed announced this week that Amazon Web Services is now adding more computer power every day than the whole company had in 2000, when it was already a three billion dollar business.

Cloud fans will want to read this fascinating piece on running servers hot, hotter, and hottest in the hunt for data-centre efficiency. But you may find it easier to start by going over to that old server in the corner, the one nobody can say what it’s doing, and turn it off.

Phone Scoop reviews the Samsung Galaxy S II and likes it. Hacking SIM cards. A review of the Sony Ericsson Vivaz, after nine months. It seems to have done pretty well - we like the idea of a post-occupancy review of a mobile rather than the usual unboxing shinyfest.

Sony’s lawyers, meanwhile, are trying to track down everyone who visited the website of the guy who jailbroke the PlayStation 3. On a similar theme, hackers got access to 150 civil servants’ computers in the French Finance Ministry using a spear-phishing attack. Apparently they were after information on the preparations for the French presidency of the G20. Unexpected consequence of the Tunisian revolution: Orange Tunisia gets nationalised. The Chinese government wants everyone in Beijing’s location data - to deal with traffic jams, apparently. Meanwhile, Renesys has details of the Libyan Internet blackout.

Comcast is not going to do an OTT service. DirecTV isn’t going to do any ISP services. And some people won’t get their GMail back. Actually, they will, but only because Google still keeps backups on tape!

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March 4, 2011

Telcos risk missing the UltraViolet online video opportunity

2011 sees the introduction of the UltraViolet digital locker platform by DECE, a consortium led by 6 of the 7 top Hollywood studios and backed by 50 more cross-industry heavyweights. This anticipates and supports the transition of film and TV to online distribution. In a report just published on our research site (link here) we analyse the opportunities telcos will miss out on if they fail to engage with DECE.

The UltraViolet Proposition: ‘buy once, play everywhere, forever, for the whole family’ultraviolet proposition mar 2011.png

Source: Telco 2.0

There’s also more on DECE UltraViolet strategies at our AMERICAS, EMEA and APAC Executive Brainstorms and Best Practice Live! virtual events.

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March 3, 2011

YouTube: Recent improvements could change the game (again)

YouTube’s recent improvements to its business model and balance sheet make it much more attractive to content owners. What are behind these developments and what are the wider implications for all players in the market?

With the victory in the court case against Viacom, YouTube has eliminated liabilities which threatened its business. A successful music partnership with Vevo has turned some enemies into partners and provides an example to other content owners of the benefits of partnering with YouTube. We analyse the impact of these developments in a new article published in full on our research site here, plus:

  • How YouTube has improved the monetization of its assets
  • Innovations in its business model;
  • Strategies that content owners need to take to maximize their share of the market;
  • Implications for Telcos and ISPs.

Don Draper would have loved ContentID

[NB. We’ll also be covering these themes in depth at the Digital Entertainment 2.0 stream of the upcoming New Digital Economics Brainstorms (Palo Alto, 4-7 April, London, 11-13 May, and Singapore 22-23 June). You can also email us at contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 547 5003.]

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March 2, 2011

World Economic Forum’s Personal Data white paper launched

The World Economic Forum’s new report on Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class is now available for download (PDF, 7.2MB). STL Partners/Telco 2.0 were one of a small group of organisations asked to contribute, along with MIT Media Lab, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Bain & Co, and frog design. A previous description of our work on it is here.

As a result at Mobile World Congress last month we were kindly invited to join the WEF’s ‘Global Agenda Council’ meeting at the Arts Hotel to discuss the Personal Data project in the context of their mHealth and mFinance initiatives. The other attendees at this meeting were the CEO’s from Bharti, Qualcomm, Juniper, Hutchison Whampoa, Alcatel-Lucent APAC, Saudi Telecom, Cisco Europe, Microsoft Europe; Hamadoun Toure from the ITU; Telefonica Group’s COO, EVP’s from AT&T, Telenor and Huawei, and representatives from The World Bank, the GSMA and the United Nations Foundation.

The good news is that the Personal Data topic that Telco 2.0 has been promoting for some time now is now starting to get the prominence it deserves.

Our upcoming ‘Personal Data 2.0’ Exec Brainstorms in Palo Alto (7 April) and London (13 May) will be used to drive the WEF thinking as well as deliver some tangible shorter term outputs to direct telcos’ strategies in this area.

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Telco 2.0 Strategy Report Out Now: Telco Strategy in the Cloud

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