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Latest on Nokia woes, FCC/USF, VZW pays Voda £2.8Bn - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. Don’t forget to check out our latest agenda ‘M-Commerce 2.0: How Personal Data will Revolutionize Customer Engagement’, including more details of our next Brainstorms in in New York (5th-6th October) and London (9th-10th November) run in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.]

It’s still going horribly wrong for Nokia, with smartphone sales off 34% and overall device shipments down 20%. Stephen Elop is pushing the emerging market product line hard - note the dual-SIM phones that don’t need to reboot when changing between them - but it’s worth remembering that the last major handset vendor to go all in on the low-end was Motorola with the GSMA-sponsored Emerging Market Handsets, and look how that turned out.

In better news, the for-real version of Windows Phone 7, “Mango” has been released-to-manufacturing, the slightly quaint Microsoft way of saying that the current version has gone into the feature freeze before release to the public. Before anything hits the streets, though, there’s still the carriers’ conformance tests to pass and the supply chain to fill. So it’s certainly no-move-before October, although it’s on course to hit the Christmas deadlines.

Oh, and Microsoft have given Project Mango a new customer-facing name: Windows Phone 7.5, obviously better.

That said, it seems that Apple’s iPhone 5 is going to be out in September, beating them to the punch. This one is going to be very like an iPhone 4 (and presumably somewhat less like an iPhone 3GS but still quite like one) but will pack Apple’s homebrew A5 CPU and a better 8 megapixel camera (putting it into the N8 class as a photo device, depending on the lens they use). Apple also got a favourable court ruling against HTC, in a week where their net profits were reported to have risen 125%.

Ericsson also had some good news, with their quarterly results up 59%, although sales were up much less and the high Swedish kroner helped their margins.

The iPhone’s assembler, Foxconn, is investing heavily in robots. Their CEO announced the target at a “workers’ dance party” this week, which sounds like the greatest buzz-kill ever.

Meanwhile, RIM zapped 2,000 staff and re-organised its management. The re-org creates a single head of product design and engineering, to whom a new head of marketing reports, and puts the current CIO in charge of all enterprise products, while giving the CTO of software responsibility for applications and developers, and creating the curious post of “Chief Operating Officer for Operations” in charge of manufacturing, rework, and logistics.

There’s been a big upheaval in the Apple App Store, where a succession of major e-commerce apps have withdrawn from it and transitioned their activities to a pure mobile web solution. Notably, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are out. The point is that Apple didn’t use to take a 30% cut of in-app sales - now it does. They don’t want to share the 30%, so they’re refactoring their apps into HTML5 web pages to cut out the middleman.

However, can you really do this stuff in a browser? Qualcomm’s Augmented Reality SDK is now, unexpectedly, available for iDevices.

Elsewhere, Dave Burstein reports on the US carriers’ response to the FCC consultations on broadband and PSTN shutdown. What he calls the “Big Telco plan” apparently foresees the end of universal service requirements and the Universal Service Fund, but (by his calculations) won’t actually deliver any more broadband.

There’s been a 50% surge in VDSL shipments as Eurocarriers begin to upgrade their copper networks to at least a fibre-to-the-cabinet standard. On the other hand, sales in Asia are dropping as VDSL is replaced by FTTH, and slowing down in the US as AT&T decides it’s done enough.

Meanwhile, Vodafone shares rose 7 per cent on the news that after years of waiting, Verizon Wireless is going to pay out a £2.8bn dividend to Vodafone. The enormous bag of money is expected on the 31st of January, 2012, and VF is planning to immediately kick £2bn of it to its shareholders.

Vodafone has announced a minimal smartphone for emerging markets, with EDGE only, which will be marketed as a “Facebook phone”.

VZ, for its part, has appointed Lowell McAdam as CEO in succession to Ivan Seidenberg.

Sprint-Nextel has a huge MVNO customer: LightSquared, which has decided to rent capacity on Sprint’s network rather than pay NSN a fortune to build its own. NSN has to content itself with doing a core network for the moment, and perhaps the radios further down the line, as Sprint has the right to use any network LightSquared ends up building in future.

It’s worth $9bn over 11 years to Sprint, for their part, and they need it after a rather painful quarter hit by the cost of handset subsidy. Meanwhile, RCR Wireless points out, Verizon Wireless is gaining six postpaid subscribers for every one AT&T gains, and the Big Two make up practically all the net adds in the entire industry.

Meanwhile, AT&T said it would impose rate limits on the top 5% of data users. They notably didn’t say how the top 5% was defined (the top 5% by average rate? by total consumption? by peak rate? in the busy hour? in the busy cell?) but did say the number would vary month to month. Neither did they offer to sell the top 5% more capacity for more money, although apparently it doesn’t apply to tiered data plans. To summarise: we might reduce the quality of your service to suit us, based on reasons we won’t say and that change without warning, and we won’t take your money. No wonder everyone loves telcos.

OFCOM’s Consumer Panel thinks that the revenue from more spectrum sales should be used to fill in the UK’s remaining coverage blanks, both in terms of broadband and in terms of basic GSM voice and messaging. The implementation would be to attach a 2G coverage requirement to the 4G licences. BT thinks this would amount to an illegal subsidy (although it’s not clear whether they mean a subsidy to the licensees who have a 2G requirement and get money from the government, or those who don’t and therefore don’t have to build any more 2G BTS), while 3UK points out (reasonably enough) that it would disbar them from taking part. We can remember when the government wanted an 800MHz LTE net to deliver broadband into the countryside. What, was that only May last year?

ABI Research reckons that wholesale service providers will be a leading sector in LTE deployment.

BT has also been ordered by a court to block access to Newzbin 2, a website that provides a search engine over the USENET alt.binaries.* newsgroups, a time-honoured way of sharing pretty much any content at all over the Internet, notably warez, porn, and pirate downloads. The original Newzbin was shut down by a court order but immediately reappeared, so this is the MPAA’s new tack. The court specifically orders that Newzbin 2 be added to the child-porn watchlist BT’s Cleanfeed system uses, thus overnight multiplying the proxy’s load by several orders of magnitude. If anyone sees a cloud of smoke over Martlesham Heath, you’ll know what’s up.

In even more packet pushing news, IPv6 pioneer Iljitsch van Bejnum has an excellent article for Wired on the history and the future of Ethernet.

Telefonica, TeliaSonera, and DTAG have a multilateral roaming agreement for their M2M subscribers, which therefore covers most of Europe in data roaming services for M2M. In other embedded connectivity and wholesale news, LA County’s joint blue-light network project is in trouble, with Motorola and Raytheon heading for the courts, and the FDA has opened a consultation on its proposed rules for medical apps.

Everyone seems to love Google + because, unlike most social networks, it built the idea that people control their privacy by keeping different people and things in different contexts right into the application’s logic and its user interface design. Google seems to be trying hard to shake them off, though. Last week, it zapped all the + accounts that didn’t have a real name or something Google thought looked like one. Outrage ensued. Violet Blue has some sensible suggestions.

The New York Times goes to talk to Microsoft’s Bing team, the heart of the Online Services division. It’s sympathetic but not particularly revealing, and certainly doesn’t reveal anything that’s likely to make it a meaningful business soon. Wired says they should stick with it because there are a lot of potential users in India and Mango…sorry…Windows Phone 7.5 might help reach them.

It looks like ISIS has cut Google Wallet out of the game for mobile payments - they’re down to only one payments partner, although that is MasterCard - but Google still has the only working device.

Google product watch: Page Speed applies standard optimisations to Web sites and serves them out of Google’s CDN.

Some data on Hulu and Netflix usage scenarios. It looks like Hulu users are almost always on a PC, while Netflix reaches a bigger range of devices. Also, gaming consoles are the second-biggest group of user devices for online video. Optus in Australia, meanwhile, has a PVR app for your mobile.

Third-biggest Bitcoin exchange’s sysadmin needs to start up a bigger Amazon EC2 machine. Stops first one. Rather, terminates it. Starts second one and tries to hook up the EBS storage volume from the first. Realises all the data in the first EC2 was in RAM somewhere in the Amazon cloud and is therefore gone for good. FAIL.

Slightly annoying something.gb.com/something.uk.com URIs fail as their operator goes dark. SMS propaganda announces death of Taliban leaders. Death near you. Free Libyana’s rebel BSC engineers strike again, bringing GSM to Misrata. Here’s the HOWTO version.

Dance your way to business success! We saw a movie like that once in the 1980s…right?

And finally, France Telecom has announced that the legendary videotex service, Minitel, is going dark next year. Starting in 1981, the French operator distributed the terminals absolutely free to every household in a bid to replace the paper phone directory, rather like Ericsson invented AXE digital switching to avoid needing the entire adult population of Sweden as operators by 1990. What came next was an explosion of creativity, community, e-commerce before it was called that, and of course, smut.

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