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Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed: New ‘Roadmap to Telco 2.0’ strategy report available now here.]

China has reached 900 million mobile phone subscribers in April, according to the Ministry of the Information Industry. So far, only 67 million of those are on a 3G network - this perhaps doesn’t say much for the wisdom of the MII’s massive reorganisation of the industry, forcing China Mobile to give up its UMTS network, etc. But the 900 million subs are there - a massive, undeniable demographic fact.

The UK market looks a bit pathetic compared to this. But there’s already one of the world’s biggest streamers of high-definition TV - the BBC iPlayer - and there’s the 2012 Olympic Games coming up. So there’s a good chance that whatever happens next in online video will happen right here. BT announced this week that it’s going to (finally) deploy IP multicast throughout its backbone network.

Interestingly, BT says that it didn’t do this before because it was relying on the DVB-T digital broadcast TV network to carry big TV events for its own BT Vision subscribers. Now, however, after they secured the right to offer live football on BT Vision, and in preparation for 2012, it looks like the cost of securing enough DVB-T bandwidth is prohibitive. Of course, without a very fancy set-top box solution, broadcast TV doesn’t help shifting all that over-the-top video. Multicast, however, can do this and BT plans to offer the service commercially, as part of its Content Connect CDN product.

This may all be a bit late, though, as new entrants make an appearance on the UK fibre scene. Benoit Felten says HyperOptic, which is focusing on London, “could be another HKBN” if it plays its cards right.

Meanwhile, Adobe has released its Extensible Metadata Platform to the ISO in order to create an open standard for content metadata. And Samsung is trying to seed the market for its SmartHub 3D TVs and other gadgets by offering buyers some special 3D content.

Verizon Wireless, for its part, is obviously feeling confident about its LTE network, as they’re bundling a Netflix streaming app with each HTC Revolution ‘droid they ship. You’ll need to get in quick to land one with an uncapped data plan, though. Of course, if Netflix is paying Verizon, that would both be impressively two-sided and also a good reason to push the content right to the base of the cell tower.

Google formally announced its much trailed NFC play this week. Google Wallet, a partnership with Citigroup, MasterCard, First Data, and Sprint, will provide an NFC mobile wallet application. They claim to have 300,000 merchant locations and to support various loyalty card systems.

The big issue here is whether this will be just another attempt to do “mobile wallet”. NFC is regularly re-announced by various alphabet soup groups of vendors, operators, and banks as the next big thing, but so far, it’s been a money pit. If you consider Google to be a vendor, this is the same setup and it’s not obvious why it would work any better this time. NTT DoCoMo actually bought a chunk of one of Japan’s biggest credit card issuers to try and get this going.

On the other hand, perhaps Google Offers, which was announced together with Google Wallet, might be worth having. This is Google’s Groupon-clone. The combination of the two makes interesting things possible around localised/targeted advertising and marketing, and could also be a reason to actually bother with the NFC app from a user point of view. The Achilles heel of NFC and RFID has always been a lack of anything like a use case.

But wait! A solution! Meet the world’s first home-shopping theme park, where the visitors will be able to query information about any object they meet using a “Technological Education Device” and then, of course, buy it. That device is, by the way, running Android.

In the wake of the announcement, it turned out that Google had originally considered using PayPal as a payments option for the Android Market and then - when this fell down - poached several key staff from PayPal to build their own. PayPal is now suing, alleging that Google stole trade secrets from them. It’s more fun than a “home shopping theme park”, any road.

Further, Google VP of Payments, Osama Bedier promised that they would “work with carriers” to get the handsets deployed rather than bypassing them. (Clearly the Nexus One experience left a mark.) That would be one of the chaps at the centre of the PayPal row, by the way.

Distimo reckons that the Android Marketplace is one of the hardest to make money in. As well as the structurally high level of free apps, it seems that it’s far less likely for any given app to make it into the hit parade. This is something we discussed at the Americas Telco 2.0 event - apps, as far as the big two app stores go, are a hits business rather than a long tail business.

Fascinatingly, the number of individual apps that get promoted in the top 10 and top 300 lists is much higher for the Apple app stores (both iPhone and iPad) than it is for their competitors. RIM’s App World comes off worst in this comparison, with Android doing just slightly better, while Nokia’s Ovi was actually quite good at it, coming in second behind Apple. This may reflect a genuine difference in philosophy - a priori, you’d expect Google to think in terms of search and Apple to think in terms of big brands.

Google has also been booting apps off the market recently - there are quite a few, some very popular, that provide an emulator for classic game consoles. The problem is that the console, its software, and the games are very proprietary indeed and it’s likely that Google is worrying about lawsuits.

Over at Apple, are they deliberately making local Web applications slow? It seems that the JavaScript engine used to run locally-hosted widgets (like WAC) is slower than the one in the iPhone’s web browser and has some interesting bugs - almost as if Apple didn’t want to let random web developers bypass the App Store.

Is Microsoft making more money from Android than from WP7? The story is that HTC has apparently settled a lawsuit with Microsoft by agreeing to pay them $5 per ‘droid. There’s more here, and both a sort-of confirmation and some more information here. If a comment there is believable, Microsoft is trying to assert patents regarding using a FAT32 filesystem on an SD card, which would be essentially everybody.

There’s some talk about the announcement of “Mango”, the long awaited WP7 update, here, and a review of progress with both WP7 and MeeGo here.

The non-smartphone market - it’s stagnating and the fastest growing vendor is “Other”.

Are 6% of UK Internet users relying on dongles? Telco 2.0 senior associate and sage of the UK broadband market, Keith McMahon, says no - rather, OFCOM’s survey design means that some WLAN users are being counted in with the cellular-dongle people.

France Telecom is expecting a succession of hard years, as it faces intense competition and needs to finance €18.5 billion in capital investment. They are therefore not expecting over 1% growth before 2014.

AT&T has a 78 page questionnaire to fill in regarding the T-Mobile acquisition, as the FCC demands a wide range of information on their spectrum policies, pricing, numbering plans, and much more.

Here’s an interesting story: Cox Communications, the US cable operator, has given up its effort to become a mobile network operator. This comes after a remarkably slow, although Huawei-powered, rollout. Instead, they’re just going to go wholesale instead.

Skype announced this week that Skype for Asterisk is no longer going to be supported. Tim Panton has an interesting post on the limited extent to which Skype ever did really support integration with Asterisk.

Phil Wolff has a fine example of the art of data visualisation, reorganising charts from Skype’s updated S-1 filings. The original shows that there is a significant drop-off in SkypeOut usage after the first year - but not that usage growth for the remaining users compensates for this after that.

Watch out for the phonetic VoIP hackers.

Voxbone has got the job of deploying the United Nations’ +888 country code for their disaster relief activities.

Tropo is starting a new series of posts on developing voice applications with their API and Python’s Django framework. Worth reading.

Voice & Messaging 1.0 watch: CIX, the storied bulletin-board service provider, is still going 25 years on and has just been sold to indie ISP ICUKnet, who want to radically overhaul it and (among other things) integrate it on smartphones.

Amazon Web Services pulls a One2One and brings about a self-inflicted denial-of-service attack. They offered cut-price Lady Gaga songs for anyone who wanted to move their stuff into Cloud Drive, which saturated their uplinks and brought the whole thing to a grinding halt.

In other AWS news, IPv6 support lands for Elastic Load Balancer, and Route 53 DNS goes generally available.

How Evernote scales up to handle enormous amounts of data.

Lockheed hacked. Apple iOS 4 hacked. The news, hacked. Sony, unhacked some time this week. KPN DPI in trouble with the law. Wall Street mispriced LinkedIn - downwards? South Tyneside Council: tougher than the Iranian secret police.

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The VZW/Netflix deal has been reported on several sites from a network-load perspective. It's worth noting that AT&T's Netflix app on the iPhone runs perfectly adequately over WCDMA, as does ESPN3 (live streaming of international sporting events).

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