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September 26, 2011

Apple turns Bear, Google MVNO, and Facebook F8 - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. It’s our Americas Brainstorm next week, so book now if you haven’t yet for New York (5th-6th October) or London (9th-10th November). Also, our Strategy report on ‘Dealing with the Disruptors’ - Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype, and Amazon - is rapidly approaching delivery - email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003 for more.]

It’s also iPhone crystal ball time. Everyone’s expecting a launch in a couple of weeks, with incremental improvements, and varying predictions for sales and the fate of the older 3GS and 4 models. Will one or both be run on as a cheaper option? Meanwhile, there are rumours that Wintek in Taiwan is struggling with a manufacturing problem with the touchscreen, although they aren’t the only supplier.

Inevitably, Apple and Samsung are suing each other again. But it looks like macro-economic issues are going to hugely overshadow the spat - Bloomberg has some very worrying news regarding Apple’s orders for iPad 2 parts. Specifically, they’ve cut them by around 25%. Ouch.

Meanwhile, in-app purchases via the App Store were disrupted by an outage, and support for a quad-core ARM processor was discovered in Apple’s XCode developer toolkit.

Elsewhere, Nokia N9s reached South Africa and the company denied that there was any chance of a delay to the Winokias. A Microsoft executive has been terminated for tweeting about the new phone, either because MS imposed an internal blackout on them or because he said it was “only” an 8 out of 10.

MS has also filed a patent on a modular smartphone, an idea that’s been kicking around for years. We remember both the NTT DoCoMo prototype the article mentions and also one from LG. However, it’s rather obvious that the biggest hit in industry history has turned out to be a single, deeply integrated device whose designers evidently try to get as close to a flat, shiny black slab without protrusions or holes as is humanly possible.

From the GSM greatest hits collection, let’s not forget the Motorola RAZR. Moto is apparently thinking of pulling the RAZR brand and look-and-feel out of the nostalgia locker and using them on a new Android.

That said, Google announced this week that Dennis Woodside, its president of the Americas, will be moving to take charge of integrating Motorola Mobility into Google. As a result, ex-Googler Margo Georgiadis quits as COO of Groupon to return to the Googleplex in Woodside’s old job, which to be frank sounds a far sounder proposition than the daily-deal boom.

And yes, this is a Google SIM. It seems that Google has very quietly created an MVNO for its employees in Spain. Meanwhile, hackers discovered how to sneak malware onto an Android without the user doing anything and there’s going to be no patch until the next wave of Android releases to ordinary mortals.

It was Facebook’s devcon this week. Wired Webmonkey covers their feature announcements. Notably, they now want you to drive your online music, video, and whatnot from inside Facebook, and to have everything you look at immediately sync’d to your timeline. On the other end of the tube, they’re offering automated relevance-based filtering of your feed of updates, which you’ll need if it syncs everything all the time. Of course, however you filter the stuff it sends you, it doesn’t affect the stuff Facebook sells to advertisers.

ReadWriteWeb has a concise summary of the new features and a critical take on their significance, arguing that Facebook is becoming too “noisy” and far too greedy for user data. They further argue that Facebook is “the new AOL”.

But if you think Facebook is privacy-invading, it’s as nothing to some of the third-party apps for it, as Wordyard points out. Just why would a newspaper recommendations app need to post to Facebook under your name?

All this stuff needs serious engineering, of course, and High Scalability has an interesting piece on how they do it, notably by load-balancing requests both by geography and by content type. Did you know that your Facebook home page consists of 125 separate GET requests?

Also, did you know that 70% of the top 50 Facebook apps run on Amazon Web Services? Not surprisingly, Amazon Web Services did. They also have some illuminating details of use cases for startups in the cloud, and a fascinating white paper on how Amazon corporate HQ migrated its enormous MS SharePoint installation into their own cloud.

If you’re going to disrupt carrier SMS, you’re going to need some serious Unix chops. It looks like WhatsApp aren’t short of a few, as they proudly announce that they achieved one million concurrent TCP connections on the same machine without anything going bang. As is often the case, intelligent discussion is at HackerNews. It looks like WhatsApp is running FreeBSD servers and using Erlang, a programming language designed specifically for highly concurrent applications, probably in the context of the ejabberd XMPP server. Erlang was, of course, invented at Ericsson for use in big-iron telecoms switching…

Microsoft, meanwhile, invested in more data centres. Early reports about Windows Server 8 suggest that MS has put a lot of effort into optimising for the cloud. But will the boot loader be locked?

Last week, Netflix was in trouble. This week, a milestone - the first time a Hollywood studio (Dreamworks) has chosen to bypass the TV networks and license its content straight to an Internet streamer.

Before your network melts, check out Dan Rayburn’s review of Blue Coat’s latest caching appliance, and also this post of his on integrating transparent caching with a CDN.

YouView today announced a new hire - its CTO is going to be Chris Bramley, formerly of Sky TV.

Is DISH Network, the US satellite TV company, going to integrate with a mobile operator in some way? DISH has a slug of spectrum that’s earmarked for mobile broadband. Mobileheads always love spectrum. TV people are increasingly fascinated by Internet distribution. And ISPs are horrified by the data volumes involved, but nothing pushes bits one-way quite like satellite broadcast. This could be very interesting, especially with quotes like this:

“There are several missing pieces,” Clayton said. “Wireless infrastructure, additional technology capabilities and even distribution are pieces that we’re still working on. Stay tuned.”

This article discusses the emerging field of adding metadata to TV so that social apps, advertisers, or games can interact with it. There’s a European Union research project out there.

Meanwhile, at Broadband World Forum, Dave Burstein points us to Swisscom, who are using 4x4 MIMO WiFi to avoid having to wire customers’ homes for multi-screen video streaming. China Telecom agrees and orders 3 million of them at a $40 price tag.

A major theme at BBWF was boosting DSL capacity through line bonding and other funky options. Alcatel-Lucent promised to ship early next year, for example. Benoit Felten argues that although it’s useful, there’s a risk that those operators who are insistent on sticking to their copper may use it as a way of putting off fibre…again.

The UK FTTH Blog points out that the numbers for British broadband availability in the latest ITU report are wrong - basically, by counting all subscribers who are offered “up to…” 2Mbps as if they received it, it makes the problem disappear!

In the US, six operators proposed a plan to cover more of the country with broadband by using Universal Service Fund money for broadband rather than voice. 730,000 of the additional broadband links would be satellite-based, but a group of satellite providers are objecting - the “ABC plan” would give the RBOCs a right of first refusal, and the satellite operators want to start off on the same footing.

The feds published the Net Neutrality rules in the Federal Register this week, which doesn’t change much immediately due to litigation.

SFR is pushing out Ubiquisys femtocells to its subscribers. They’re sort-of free - you pay €49 up front, and once you plug it in and it registers on their GAN interface, you get a €49 service credit. Meanwhile, Fitch reckons that the launch of Free.fr mobile service will cause a wave of network-sharing in France as competition becomes more intense and the idea of multiple providers per tower gets more normal.

Clearwire is selling more bandwidth - notably to MetroPCS and AT&T, which implies they’re probably deploying LTE for real. PCCW may float its telecoms assets.

Implementing a multi-MVNO strategy in South Africa, with Comverse billing. Egyptian subscribers surge 30%. IPv6 already. Top 3 WLAN vendors: Cisco, Aruba, Motorola.

Meet Weightless, a new radio networking protocol optimised for white-space spectrum, power-saving, and M2M applications. Cambridge Wireless is holding a conference on it this week, but you’ll have to wait for a cancellation as it’s fully booked. When was the last time we invented a network protocol in the UK?

Nasty accident with hackers and VPNs.

Meanwhile, EFF goes after dodgy DNS redirection. The sad thing here is that Telco 2.0 has a router in its office that tried to do the same thing to us, manufactured by a vendor beginning with D that isn’t Dell or Ditech. Clue: turn off “Advanced DNS Service” to rejoin consensus reality. The even sadder thing is that we had to click through a SSL warning to read the eff.org piece.

In China, Sina Weibo shares plummeted as rumours spread that the Chinese Communist Party is preparing a “rectification campaign” directed at the Chinese Internet business. What it might consist of is as yet unknown, but it doesn’t sound good. This comes after last week’s news that senior figures in the security police called on major Chinese Web companies over the summer. However, a journalist with extensive knowledge of the CCP we consulted points out that the fact that the spooks came to them is a sign of official approval and respect.

In India, the Economic Times reports on Airtel’s latest ad campaign and the men behind it.

Pew Research reckons that banks will beat telcos and tech vendors in the mobile payments business. Meanwhile, Google Wallet did a very soft soft launch.

In broader Silicon Valley news, Yahoo! confirmed that it’s up for sale again. Both the CEO and the chairman wrote separately to all employees saying contradictory things. AllThingsD mocks. Mind you, as this The Register piece points out, Yahoo! has some impressive technology and talent.

ATD also has an interesting interview with Meg Whitman in her new job as HP CEO.

We noted that Groupon’s COO was moving back to Google. There have been some other changes there - notably that they no longer count all cash coming in as revenue, but instead take the payouts to retailers into account, which means that their revenue for the last three years is restated down by half.

Who owns LTE patents? Surprisingly, the answer is “LG”, which turns out to be the biggest holder. Less surprisingly, Qualcomm is second.

Ovum warns of falling voice revenues as disruptors bite. OpenBTS’s David Burgess reports back from this year’s Burning Man deployment. A Skype roundup, including the discovery of a truly horrible bug. Tropo is delighted after hackers forked OpenVBX to let you use any carrier rather than only Twilio. Tropo with Django.

An attack on SSL/TLS encryption in the browser. Not good. Texan cops wardriving open WiFi. John Graham-Cumming launches the blog of bad PowerPoint. Seeking a great Linux lappy. The weirdest RIM story ever.

And “Tech City UK” tries to map Telco 2.0’s home in Shoreditch, with hilarious results.

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September 21, 2011

Google Wallet - Battling for control of the Digital Economy

Google Wallet’s API and open platform - launched this week - demonstrates that while Paypal and telco NFC consortia like ISIS may seem like the direct competition, Google’s real strategic focus is in deepening its intermediary role between merchants and consumers - online, offline and mobile. What value can telcos, banks and others add to the ‘M-Commerce’ market when Google does ‘free’?

google wallet sep 2011.png

[Ed. This is one of the questions debated with the big guns in the industry and the World Economic Forum at our ‘M-Commerce 2.0’ executive brainstorms in New York (5-6 October) and London (10 November). There are still some seats free (available), so book in now if this debate is important to you - the agenda for the brainstorming and the stimulus speakers are described below.]

Firstly, here are some very useful links that explain Google Wallet to those unfamiliar with the details of it:

• Basic news (including good video) from the GSMA and the Register (on the Visa tie-up)
• High quality, key facts analysis on the Google Wallet launch and video showing the wallet in action from the Pymnts.com briefing room.
• And, as a bonus, a great link with in depth analysis, videos and presentations from Mastercard’s recent CEO strategy preview in New York.

Google Wallet - the latest entrant to the battle

The commercial launch of the Google Wallet this September combined with new strategic developments from Visa, Mastercard and Amex and the emergence telco NFC consortia in the US, UK, Germany and elsewhere are shaking up the digital money market. In territories like Japan and Kenya mobile phones are widely used to pay for goods and services both at point of sale and for remote transactions. Elsewhere, m-payment and authentication systems, such as carrier billing and Apple’s App Store, are making it easier for companies to sell digital content online. In fact, a host of companies have now developed systems that enable buyers to authenticate themselves and make purchases quickly and easily using a mobile phone, either by debiting an existing bank account or through their telco bill. These systems use everything from SMS to contactless technologies at point-of-sale to complete a transaction.

In short, m-payments are coming of age and have the potential to further disrupt the financial services industry by enabling other companies to become trusted intermediaries. But the bigger picture is really what we might call ‘Digital Money’, where the online and mobile worlds merge with the offline. Digital Money opens up opportunities for telcos, banks, Internet companies and even specialist startups to mash up valuable transaction data with real-time contextual personal data from mobile networks to augment understanding of consumers’ purchasing history and shopping habits with analysis of future intent and support for spontaneous decision-making.

But, with major brands from the Internet, banking and telecoms industries competing for a piece of action, the Digital Money space is highly fragmented, featuring a myriad of incompatible technologies and business models. Confusing for both merchants and consumers, this fragmentation could slow the uptake of Digital Money and more broadly, m-commerce.

Digital Money 2.0 - New Business Models at the intersection of offline, online and mobile

To explore and progress these issues further, here’s an update on our preparations for for the upcoming M-Commerce 2.0 Executive Brainstorms.

Key objectives of the brainstorms:

• To clarify the strategic opportunities within the emerging global ‘Digital Money’ market
• To share latest innovations and case studies of success/failure from around the world
• To explore the opportunity of leveraging ‘personal data’ to create new business models
• To help understand how the ecosystem will develop, roles of different players and how to manage non-traditional partnerships
• To determine how best to ‘grow the pie’ for Digital Money for the benefit of all

Hypotheses to test

• Purchasing transport tickets will be a leading-edge application, so speed and ease-of-use in consumer solutions are absolutely key
• There will be a battle royal between the Internet players and telcos for ‘control points’ within the Digital Money value chain
• Digital Money will grow, driven by Internet players and telcos eager to capture more transactional data online and offline
• Mashing up contextual, real-time Personal Data with other data can stimulate new business models. Telcos have a unique role in this space.
• Vendor fragmentation, user confusion/apathy and poor regulation will delay mass-market adoption in many countries
• Any solutions that depend on new handsets will be slow to take-off

Key questions for debate

• Studies make it clear that consumers around the world see the potential value of Digital Money. So how can we build a vibrant ecosystem that directly addresses consumer needs?
• How can co-opetition be managed such that the success of different players in the market supports others?
• How can we leverage related developments from around the world that are already getting traction - such as EMV chip card, SEPA and Identity standards - to create market enablers?
• How can we use mobile strong authentication capabilities to strengthen the security of and trust in the offline/online payment scenarios?
• How can payments facilitate the world of new services enabled by NFC?
• How could real-time personal data be leveraged in the short term in the Digital Money space?

Stimulus Presenters and Panelists

To support the brainstorming, in addition to the Telco 2.0 analysts, we’re delighted to have senior executives from the payments industry joining the telco, media, retail and advertising execs, including:

• David Messenger, Executive Vice President and Head of Online & Mobile, American Express
• John Thomas, Senior Vice President, Electronic & Emerging Payments, Bank of America
• Dickson Chu, Managing Director, Global Enterprise Payments, Citi
• Bill Gajda, Head of Global Mobile Product, Visa Inc
• Jorn Lambert, Group Head Emerging Payments Europe, Mastercard


As normal we will use our interactive ‘Mindshare’ format, described here:

For more information please contact us.

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September 20, 2011

‘Crises’ at Facebook, RIM; CDN appeal; the ‘end of TV’ - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. There are a lot of major Telco 2.0 milestones coming up in the 10 weeks, with our new report on the disruptors (Google, Apple, Facebook and co.) about to be published and our Brainstorms in New York (5th-6th October) and London (9th-10th November). We’re also delighted to report that the World Economic Forum have just appointed Telco 2.0’s CEO to their Global ICT Council.]

So, is there a crisis at Facebook? Reports are filtering out that the company may have missed internal revenue targets for 2011, and badly - $1.6bn as against $4bn. This is the sort of news that sends publicly-traded companies’ stock rattling down, and it’s probably no surprise that the IPO hasn’t happened yet. Datamotion argues that Facebook is “the new Yahoo!”, a company that was in the right place at the right time and therefore looked much better than it is. They point out that Facebook Messages, Places, and Deals have all failed to get traction, that there still isn’t a tablet-optimised version, and now they’re in a race to copy the latest features Google deploys to Google +.

facebook guide to crisis sep 2011.jpg

And they’re losing users in the United States in significant numbers.

ReadWriteWeb notes that a major Facebook deploy is planned for this week, and looks at what might be in it and what Google + might push out next. Google + has also started to open up a developer API.

Interestingly, Facebook has just integrated its developer site with Heroku, the popular cloud-hosting service, in order to speed up the deployment of new apps. Heroku, originally a Ruby on Rails project, has recently added support for Python and PHP, supposedly at the request of the Facebook engineers.

Ericsson’s Consumer Lab says that self-reported viewing of classic, scheduled, broadcast TV is falling. Instead, viewers are using more and more on-demand video. And the gogglebox is no longer commanding their undivided attention - typically, they’re on the Internet at the same time, browsing the Web or using social networks. Also, they appreciate HD video and don’t like advertising.

On the other hand, only 12% were at all interested in apps for their TV, which tends to bear out Telco 2.0 ally Anthony Rose’s contention that the social dimension for TV will be a companion experience on some other device.

In other TV news, NHK and BBC Research showed off a new ultra-high definition screen, suggesting that your friendly local Cisco salesman’s bonus is probably secure for the foreseeable future. LibertyGlobal showed off its new platform solution which integrates Internet video and cable broadcast, using Comcast’s thePlatform.com backend and a Samsung-made, Intel Atom based set-top box.

Presumably the cable broadcast element is meant to obviate the need for a CDN, as none is mentioned. Asian carrier PacNet was this week reported to have licensed EdgeCast’s software for its own in-house CDN. EdgeCast now has 10 licensed CDNs operating as well as its direct customers.

In other CDN news, Telefonica has launched its own group-level CDN, initially available in Spain and Argentina, with plans to roll out across their entire footprint. 40 POPs are currently operational, which should rise to 70 and a capacity of 600Gbps this year. Interesting detail: Google is named as a possible customer.

TeleGeography says that the Internet is becoming less centralised, with more regional interconnection and more deployment of CDNs and big Web sites outside North America and Europe.

Meanwhile, Netflix’s CEO had to apologise for mishandling their price rise, and also announced that the DVD-rental operation (what some people might call the core business) is to be rebranded as “Qwikster”, keeping the original brand for the CDN-hammering streaming service. Dan Rayburn has hard words over how they are managing the expiry of the Starz content deal.

Reuters has a detailed story on how Hulu continues to search for a buyer and why no-one has come forward yet.

The United States is 25th in the world for broadband, and falling. Also, meet the chap in Idaho whose service keeps dropping out because bears scratched their backs on a tower and knocked a line-of-sight microwave link out of alignment.

Australian ISP iiNet, free of the bear menace, has published its prices for service on the National Broadband Network.

RIM has Q2 numbers out, and they’re pretty shocking. They expected to ship 600,000 PlayBooks and the out-turn was 200,000, so expect a fire-sale of shiny gadgets pretty soon. On the other hand, as Crackberry.com points out, average selling prices for the smartphone range were strong and actually rising, and margins held up or rose on the smartphones as well. Also, the “sell-through” for the new BlackBerry 7 phones was strong, suggesting that the launch has been a success.

They argue that the 20% kicking the market handed out to RIM shares is explained by the PlayBook being a dog and RIM management issuing overoptimistic revenue forecasts - Apple, typically, lowballs its advance numbers and then gets a pat on the head when it beats the spread. Asymco Horace (who we’re delighted to say is joining Telco 2.0 at the EMEA event) makes the interesting point that the impact of Android on the market has been subject to considerable and unpredictable lags.

He also argues that the biggest loser in the market is the non-smartphone sector, which is shrinking fast.

Samsung has retaliated against Apple by suing to block the launch of iPhone 5, claiming that its radio stack violates Samsung patents. Some of the bitterness between the two companies may be explained by this Businessweek story, in which Samsung executives leaked information about Apple’s pre-orders of iPad touchscreens to a hedge fund manager.

Google got a knockback in its lawsuit against Oracle.

And Foxconn has started its first iPad plant outside China, in Brazil.

Speaking of China, stand by for a $4bn website IPO! 360buy.com, a Chinese e-commerce powerhouse roughly analogous to Amazon or EBay, is planning to float. If they go for it, it’ll be a bigger IPO than Google’s. Meanwhile, Chinese Twitter clone Sina Weibo has promised to improve its censorship…sorry…moderation.

In fact, it looks like the whole Chinese Web 2.0 sector has been given the hard word, as this Wall Street Journal piece makes clear. Over the summer, top executives from Sina.com, Baidu, Youku, Tencent/QQ and others were called in for a serious dressing-down by top officials who are concerned about the spread of news they don’t like. Tencent’s visitor was probably the scariest, none other than Zhou Yongkang, member of the Politburo and China’s chief of internal security (two of his regional bosses dropped in on the Guangdong and Tianjin offices at the same time, as well). They were also strongly encouraged to expand outside China, and ended up having to sing revolutionary songs at a celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party.

Now that’s what we call a meeting.

AT&T announced that their first 5 LTE networks will go on the air this week, while 7 US states joined in with the lawsuit to block their merger with T-Mobile. VZW, meanwhile, flipped on another 26 and promised that LTE-Advanced was coming up behind. They also said that there would be no move on Voice-over-LTE until they were confident that it would be better quality than CDMA circuit-switched voice.

VZW also announced it would rate-limit the top 5% of data users in congested cells. Which will be interesting, as the Net Neutrality rulemaking is coming.

In France, Free.fr’s mobile service is about to launch and Benoit Felten has some rumoured pricing data, which suggests that they’re planning to declare price war with a vengeance.

Acision makes the sensible point that operators should be competing on the quality of experience they offer customers. Tell that to Qtel, which turns out not just to be using NAT heavily, but to be NATting their entire user base into one IP address. Brough Turner points out that, as a result, IPv6 transition is yet another use case for CDNs. Also, check out his presentation on white-space spectrum.

Phil Wolff notes that between Windows Live Messenger and Skype, Microsoft controls about 68% of the desktop IM market. Speaking of Phil, he’s joined a new Voice 2.0 startup, Hookflash. Details are at Voice on the Web. Dan York is also on the move, leaving Voxeo for a berth at the Internet Society.

BT’s Viewpoint has some thoughts about Call Centre 2.0. Fizzback has been sold for £80 million. SpiderCloud is another small-cell enterprise mobile startup. (We note that ECT Telecoms has just announced a combined enterprise femto/virtual PBX product.) 3UK is furious about termination rates.

Softbank has invested $200 million in mobile ads network inMobi. SKT claims to have invented an NFC-enabled SIM card - if it works, that would fix the problem that the handsets are as rare as hens’ teeth. PayPal is planning to provide its own mobile solution without NFC. Qualcomm demonstrates a location-specific P2P protocol.

BigNum of the week: $945 million in mobile payments by 2015.

Don’t miss this piece on being an app developer. How manoeuvrable is your operating system? The latest Google Docs features are a case in point. ReadWriteWeb previews Windows 8. Key cloud paper: inventing the one microsecond datacentre. Teaching kids to hack on code. Korean spooks confess to man-in-the-middle attack on Google Mail.

That’s *South* Korean, by the way.

Image: www.colmoregan.com

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September 19, 2011

Telco 2.0 appointed to World Economic Forum Global ICT Council

In the run up to our ‘M-Commerce 2.0’ events in New York (5-6 October) and London (9-10 November) we’re delighted to share a press release on our deepening collaboration with the World Economic Forum:

STL Partners/Telco 2.0 appointed to World Economic Forum Global Information and Communications Technology Council
WEF logo.jpg

Multi-national, cross-industry body sets out to enhance the impact of global telecommunications and address the disenfranchisement of people without access to telephony services and the wealth creation potential of ‘personal data’ created by mobile communications.

London, September 20, 2011 - Simon Torrance, CEO of STL Partners and co-founder of the Telco 2.0 Initiative, has been appointed to the World Economic Forum 2011 Global Agenda Council on Information and Communications Technology.

The council, one of several within the World Economic Forum (WEF) Network of Global Agenda Councils, is dedicated to focusing world interest on the global benefits of information and communications technology (ICT) and its application in areas such as financial inclusion, healthcare delivery, education and environmental sustainability.
In particular, the council has been focusing on three key topics: the provision of affordable, ubiquitous broadband access and measurement of its socio-economic value; ensuring global scalability of mobile health and mobile finance to benefit health and wellness via improvements in productivity, cost reduction and knowledge; exploring the wealth creation potential of personal data created via mobile communications while ensuring governance to prevent abuse of the technology.

“The WEF and members of this council share the belief that leveraging personal data can drive a new wave of social and economic growth,” says Simon Torrance, CEO of STL Partners and co-founder of the Telco 2.0 Initiative.

With more and more rich ‘personal data’ flowing through mobile networks, there is a strategic, global opportunity to create a new class of economic asset out of it, putting the individual in control and creating the infrastructure that enables them to take advantage of it safely. “To realize the social and economic benefits in this emerging area,” says Mr Torrance, “we will need cross-industry, cross-government involvement in firstly understanding the potential and then collaboration on building the appropriate legal, commercial and technical ‘trust frameworks’. In parallel the telecoms industry needs to re-think it’s role in the digital economy and its business models if it wishes to play a prominent and valuable role.”

Over the last 18 months the Council has galvanized awareness of the potential of personal data as a new economic asset class. Building on this momentum, the Council will focus on generating a deeper understanding for the importance meeting people’s needs and making informed ICT-related policy decisions.

Established in 2008 the World Economic Forum Network of Global Agenda Councils comprises relevant thought leaders from academia, government, business and other fields on the foremost topics in the global arena.

STL Partners and the Telco 2.0 Initiative are running a series of events in New York, London and Singapore this Autumn with the support of the Forum on the topic of personal data and ‘m-commerce’ (payments, advertising and media experiences): www.newdigitaleconomics.com. These are supported by our 2011-2012 research programme: www.telco2research.com.

Notes for Editors

Further information about the World Economic Forum ICT Global Agenda Council can be found online at: http://www3.weforum.org/tools/gac/issuebrowser2010/index.html#/3486.

Members of the World Economic Forum ICT Global Agenda Council include: Robert Quinn (AT&T), Sanjay Kapoor (Bharti), Peter Gabriel (Real World), Hamadoun Touré (ITU), John Clippinger (Harvard University), Nicholas Nesbitt (KenCall EPZ), Seth Ayers (World Bank Institute), Alex Pentland (MIT), Bright Simons (MPedigree), Scott David (K&L Gates), Simon Torrance (STL Partners/Telco 2.0 Initiative), Juliana Rotich (Ushahidi), Yvette Alberdingk Thijm (Witness), Marc Davis (Microsoft), Roman Friedrich (Booz&Company), Rob Conway (VimpelCom), William Hoffman (World Economic Forum) and Rajeev Singh-Molares (Alcatel-Lucent).

Contact the Telco 2.0 press office: contact@stlpartners.com

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September 12, 2011

More ‘Forkdroids’; the power of HTML5; ‘dialler wars’ - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. To whet your appetite for our next Brainstorms in New York (5th-6th October) and London (9th-10th November) here’s a short video we made at the Spring 2011 Brainstorms.

It includes clips from senior execs from AT&T, Google, Telefonica and Telus talking about what they got out of the Brainstorm experience.]

Now, back to the ‘Forkdroids’ (OSs based on Android, using its open-source components but replacing the Google-specific apps and services): they’re here, there, and everywhere! After Baidu, Alibaba.com, Amazon, and QQ have all announced their own Android devices with their own special flavour. There are also a couple of ODMs who are planning their own take on it (Xiaomi and Tabco). Even if the idea of direct-to-consumer sales without boring telcos is even less likely to work than it was for Google itself (or Nokia), it seems to be true that once they broke the seal, everyone would do their own version. Rather like the original Unix, in many ways.

QQ’s version starts with advantages - they have an enormous and engaged user base and great brand values. It will be more than interesting to see both how well they do, and also to what extent any of these translate on the other side of the great firewall.

Meanwhile, Google’s practices with regard to Android source code have been confirmed after an internal presentation turned up in their lawsuit with Oracle. Google released data on the distribution of Android versions - Telco 2.0 would like to point out that it really is getting silly that our Android device still hasn’t got the upgrade from 2.1 and that our operator could really get a move on.

Ovum analysts expect Android to pass Apple for app downloads this year. The US Army likes it more and more. Stripping down the new Motorola Droid Bionic. LG is struggling.

We mentioned huge B2B site Alibaba.com, which has joined the wave of forkdroids. Its CEO, Jack Ma, denied being behind the sacking of Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz. Yahoo! owns 40% of Alibaba and Ma wanted them to sell the shares back to him, while the two parties also disagreed over the ownership of Alibaba’s payments processing business.

TelecomTV has a nice summary of Bartz’s foul-mouthed and chaotic exit and the general sense of turmoil at Yahoo! Elsewhere, there’s a summary of Yahoo! product launches during Bartz’s tenure, which is oddly telco-ish in its general conservatism. It is worth noting that Yahoo! as a tech company did come up with some innovative developer tools, but their product innovation hasn’t matched the improvements to their platform.

The new owners of Del.icio.us talk to the New York Times. Users will be delighted to know that there’s been one sign of a future for the service: the excellent Firefox extension now works again. Ars Technica discusses the possibilities of a merger with AOL, but concludes that it’s worryingly close to a coalition of the losers.

AOL, for its part, is having a violent row with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, a week after putting $10m of the firm’s money at the disposal of his new VC fund.

Elserwhere in the Valley, John Pazckowski of AllThingsD points out that iPhone 5 or no iPhone 5, there is little sign that sales of the existing iPhones are falling off at all, with even the iPhone 3GS still doing worthwhile business.

Daring Fireball joins the line-up of tech bloggers who have noticed that Apple is a very good industrial company, and points out that the “Steve Jobs” elements of the company - bevelled corners, black turtlenecks etc - can be copied while the “Tim Cook” bits - the supply chain, hardware engineering, manufacturing - can only be copied at enormous expense. He also makes the point that Apple benefits not just from scale but also from a high degree of commonality between products.

Adobe’s Flash media server, a workhorse product for practically everything online video, will support the HTTP Live Streaming standard developed by Apple out of the box and will be able to stream Flash content either as such or transcoded into HLS.

On the other hand, Apple is the much sought after third ecosystem in the UK, with Android winning the summer and RIM in second place according to Kantar Worldpanel’s numbers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that demand for BlackBerrys is booming in emerging markets, giving Indonesia as an example. AllThingsD reports BlackBerry Bold 9900 sales are coming on rather well, even if they’re concentrated in the business sector. That’s RIM’s core business, right?

There was, once, a pretty good mobile mapping application called Nokia Maps. Then it became Ovi Maps, gained more features, developed some odd things (like the website that only worked on MS Windows)…but now it’s just called Nokia Maps again. What’s really interesting, though, is that the whole feature set has been ported to a Web application. So even if you’re not using a Nokia, you can use Nokia Maps. On your iPhone. On your ‘droid, or BlackBerry, or whatever. As long as it has a proper Web browser, it will work and there’s nothing Apple can do to stop you. It’s the power of HTML5 for you. (We’ve just tried it at maps.nokia.com - it’s fast.)

Mind you, we don’t yet know if it supports one of the best loved features of the old Nokia/Ovi Maps. S60 users could pre-load their mapping, or indeed download it to a PC and sideload it, so as to avoid paying monstrous data roaming charges and to be able to use the mapping where no network coverage was available. After all, isn’t it pretty fundamental that you use a map if you’re in the wilds or somewhere foreign? HTML5 does have the capability to store persistent data locally, in either file or database form, so…

Nokians are also about to get a bundle of Microsoft applications ported to Symbian. Notably it includes the client for the Lync unicomms product, but only for instant messaging - no voice and no Skype as yet. It does look like Symbian is hanging on a while longer, though. Ewan at MIR discusses the potential pricing of Nokia Windows Phones when they eventually land, and points out both that the upfront price is effectively determined by the carriers and that they might choose to be generous with subsidy in order to boost a competitor to Apple and Google.

Over at GigaOm, Getjar CEO Ilja Laurs reckons that operators will soon become wholesale bit-pipes and that either mobile platform vendors or software will take over the dialler.

Interestingly enough, British Asterisk specialist Integrics, responsible for the current record biggest Asterisk installation, have launched their own mobile client app for Android devices that provides a full-featured unified comms client to go with their Enswitch voice platform. Taking over the dialler? Surely.

Fring tweaks its group video chat feature to be more like Google +.

Here’s some detailed coverage of the Microsoft-Skype deal. All that’s holding the transaction up now is clearance from the European Commission. Jim Courtney discusses the issues involved. And a Skype support point-of-contact has appeared on Twitter.

Bought a TouchPad at full price? HP is now offering refunds to anyone who did as long as they aren’t an HP employee.

In the carrier world, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam didn’t quite deny that there was any interest in a merger with Vodafone.

AT&T, according to the WSJ Deals Blog, is arguing that T-Mobile isn’t a meaningful competitor and therefore that there can be no objection to their merger. Sprint, meanwhile, sued to block the deal.

Telefonica reorganised this week, creating two operating groups for Europe and Latin America, putting Spanish execs in charge of what used to be called “Telefonica O2 Europe”, and establishing a new Digital division to be based in London, as a container for all its….Telco 2.0…activities. (“Video, advertising, health, finserv, M2M, and cloud”, apparently.) Vodafone, for its part, launched an R&D centre in Silicon Valley with a test network wired back to Newbury.

Iliad has failed in a court bid to stop the auction of 4G spectrum in France. Rogers Wireless has applied to become a bank, while 3UK is complaining to OFCOM that it’s been excluded from the British operators’ mobile payments JV.

Bharti Airtel, having bought the former Zain assets in east Africa, is having to offer free money transfers to drive traffic on their mobile money transfer service. We can’t help but think “Airtel Money” is a bit of a disappointing brand compared with the old “Zain Zap!” Meanwhile, Airtel landed a licence in Rwanda, the country’s third operator.

Leap Wireless’s music service is doing so well they had to cap all other data traffic. O2 More is doing pretty well too.

TalkTalk CEO David Goldie accused BT of deliberately stalling over open access to ducts and poles. Pricing is still meant to appear sometime this month, but there’s no sign yet and if OFCOM gets involved there might be a further delay of more than a year.

In Shanghai, the city government wants to force all new developments to include FTTH.

The international roaming, dual-mode EVDO/UMTS mobile hotspot. MIR clicks “like” on the Huawei e586. Reverse engineering 3UK pricing.

When router vendors have a beef.

Another industry beef is, of course, the great patent row. It turns out that the patents HTC is counter-suing Apple over have been lent it by Google, which has also bought an enormous quantity of restaurant reviews. Ars Technica has an excellent round-up article here. IBM, meanwhile strikes and signs up WellPoint as a massive source of health data.

Is Google about to announce a new programming language? High Scalability has a great discussion of the Google App Engine pricing changes. Is there a conflict of interest between users and the GAE scheduler and perhaps even the Googlebot itself? And do we need a Big Data applications platform?

Data centre investment in the UK surges 25 per cent. No wonder Internap is feeling confident in their organic growth plan.

Archiveteam hackers are determined to rescue your old data. Ubiquisys demonstrates some interesting femtocell apps. Data centre survival on 9/11.

And finally, the PowerPoint slides from Winston Churchill’s “fight them on the beaches” speech.

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September 9, 2011

New Analysis: Cloud 2.0: don’t blow it, telcos

Enterprise cloud computing services need great connectivity to work, but there are opportunities for telcos to participate beyond the connectivity. What are the opportunities, how are telcos approaching them, and what are the key strategies? Our new report Cloud 2.0: don’t blow it, telcos includes forecasts for telcos’ shares of VPC, IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. There’s more here.

Extract - Figure on Growth Forecasts by Service Type

Cloud 2 forcast growth sep 2011.png

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September 5, 2011

Baidu-droid; Samsung ‘no to WebOS’; Amazon Kindle tablet; Apple iCloud design - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. Welcome back if this is your first week in the office after the summer holidays - here are the top two Key Telco 2.0 items to note. 1. This week is your last chance to input to our Apple, Google, Facebook, Skype and Amazon research. We’ll send you the survey results and a special deal on the report when it’s out if you do. 2. Book up now for our next Brainstorms in New York (5th-6th October) and London (9th-10th November) run in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. Speakers and registrants so far are top-notch, so don’t miss out.]

We’ve been talking about the possibility of a “ForkDroid” - a parallel development path to Android, using its open-source components but replacing the Google-specific apps and services - for a while. Now it’s here - Baidu has its own Android-clone. In some ways this isn’t really surprising as Baidu occupies the same industry niche as Google - a search engine that branched out into advertising, maps, mobile, e-mail, social networks, etc. and eventually got its own Linux-based mobile OS.

In a sense, the Baidu (aka ‘The Great Firewall’) should be considered more as a customs barrier than anything else - a subsidy to China’s internal Web industry funded by a tax on foreign competitors. In general, more task-specific or forked ‘Droids should be expected.

Elsewhere, Samsung vigorously denied that it had any intention of buying WebOS off HP or of producing licenced WebOS devices although, as Horace points out, this would be about the first mobile platform Samsung hasn’t made a phone for. He has some interesting thoughts about what they may be up to, as well.

A German court tied up Samsung tablets, again, in a patent dispute with Apple. Meanwhile, Apple claimed it really invented Android and Openwave claimed it invented software updates and offline e-mail. We wonder if it’s fun being a patent lawyer?

More reaction to the BlackBerry Bold 9900 - the New York Times thinks it’s great but complains that it’s not an Apple product (we paraphrase - a little). Perhaps they have a point, as RIM has been losing users in North America since October, 2010, although their problems look nowhere near as bad as Microsoft’s.

Speaking of Microsoft, Phone Scoop has a review of HTC’s two new WP7.5/”Mango” phones here. They look, well, very much like all the WP7 previews, and come with HTC’s usual top-of-the-line hardware specification.

In Uganda, meanwhile, you can expect to pay $230 for a real Nokia E71 and $50 for a fake. If we hadn’t dropped ours we’d probably still have an E71…and still be cursing at the horror of trying to package a Python for S60 script into a signed .sisx on a linux machine.

Finally, in the future, everything turns out to be based on Unix.

TechCrunch has met the planned Amazon Kindle tablet, and reports that it’s a charming 7” Android tab with a heavily “Amazon-ised” UI. However, it seems to be a conventional device which doesn’t make use of the revolutionary e-ink screen found on the Kindle. And it will come with Amazon Prime streaming. Meanwhile, Reuters reports, Amazon is redesigning Amazon.com extensively.

TechCrunch’s sarcastic editor Michael Arrington is on the move - he’s launching a VC fund of his own with $10m from TechCrunch’s owner AOL and the same again from a group of other VCers. Blogger Granted Operational Responsibility: what could possibly go wrong?

On the other hand, the Nokia EVP who gave us Ovi and Comes With Music and also this is off to run a Nokia-financed investment fund, “Vision+”. We’ll be fascinated to see how ‘CrunchFund’ does vs. ‘NokFund’.

Over at Apple, we’ve got some more clarity, although only just a bit more, about how iCloud will work. Peter Kafka at AllThingsD reports that Apple is going to stick with its successful model of storing content on your local hard disk, rather than putting everything in the cloud and hoping you don’t need to listen to it on the Tube. Specifically, if you select something that isn’t already in your local library, it gets downloaded and synced to your other devices, although you can listen or watch while this happens.

After all, Apple invented their own progressive-download protocol (HTTP Live Streaming), and one imagines they did so for a reason. If you HLS-stream something you must end up with a complete copy of it unless you explicitly throw the chunks away as they arrive. This probably also sheds some light on the de-duplication issue.

Further, it’s been confirmed that the iCloud backend is a mix of Amazon Web Services EC2 and Microsoft Azure.

V3.co.uk reviews the iPad against the MacBook Air 11” and concludes that the Mac is better. Horace, king of the Apple bulls, concludes that the real reason the shares aren’t higher is that everyone’s expecting another stock market crash.

AllThingsD interviews VZW’s CTO about launching iPhones, LTE deployment, and more. Notably, Verizon is planning to launch LTE roaming with China Mobile and Vodafone. Dan Rayburn tests out Slingbox streaming over the LTE network and reports that it works.

With all this stuff flying around, CDNs will be more important than ever. EyeWonder is up for sale, as its owner Limelight Networks clears the decks for the impending merger with Level(3).

Elsewhere, Dealbook covers some interesting details about the US government’s intervention to block the AT&T-T-Mobile deal. Reuters reports that it’s not guaranteed that the $6bn break clause will be payable if the regulators kill the deal. The Onion nicely summarises the objections to the merger:

It really wouldn’t be fair to the competition if AT&T had cell phones and cell phone reception.

Reliance Comms is going to restructure. Belgacom and KPN might merge.

It turns out that enormous Spanish bank Santander bought a huge pile of data on Telefonica’s 190 million Latin American customers back in 2009 for $54m. We told you it was valuable!

A paper in PLoS Medicine reports that it was possible to monitor a cholera outbreak in Haiti after the earthquake in near real-time by analysing GSM network information provided by Digicel.

China tried to force everyone to register their prepaid phones, but nobody took a blind bit of notice and apparently you can get one anywhere using the universal language of money.

Meet Tellapart, an Amazon AWS-powered customer data analytics startup that bids automatically for Google Ads based on its assessments and gets paid in much the same way Google does.

British Gas opened the kimono on their smart meter plans. Apparently the M2M device will have two radios, a GSM/GPRS unit provisioned on Vodafone’s network for wide-area connectivity and a ZigBee low-power radio to let other appliances communicate with it locally. Interestingly, some M2M systems broke down around Heathrow Airport last winter when the snow caused thousands of delayed travellers to flood the network - voice and SMS having priority, the M2M devices just had to wait.

Nokia thinks NFC will be useful beyond mobile payments, for the same sort of things Bluetooth was meant to do.

T-Mobile UK’s head of technology strategy is interviewed by Telecoms.com. At the same time there’s a much less rosy open letter to Olaf Swantee by an anonymous EverythingEverywhere exec.

White-space spectrum may soon be available in the UK. OFCOM is planning to issue a regulation regarding it fairly soon. Virgin Media’s business division has snagged the MBNL backhaul contract from BT. GigaOm talks to a FTTH operator.

Canadian cableco Shaw Communications is going to rely on carrier WLAN for its mobile service rather than building any cellular infrastructure. NSN claims signalling won’t be a problem in LTE. 3UK CEO Kevin Russell is concerned about spectrum auctions.

In more broadband news, Google and a team of DNS and CDN operators have announced an initiative to provide for standardised global DNS-based load balancing and therefore, faster Web sites. There is already code (a patched version of the familiar BIND name server) and a draft is before the IETF.

Akamai is such a hell of a CDN that the Israeli government is trying to recruit spies inside it. Other vendors are spying on everyone else.

Up in the cloud, Salesforce.com announced the launch of Database.com, a full-featured enterprise database in the cloud. ZDNet points out that one company that deployed Salesforce Chatter turned it off again because it was just too chatty.

Netflix cloudmeister Adrian Cockcroft has a fascinating blog post on the whys, wherefores, and problems of the cloud.

Cisco, VMWare, and others are working on an IETF draft to standardise ways of creating software-defined Layer 2 networks over the Internet. I/O presents its impressively spaceshippy data centre management package.

Google, however, is facing a developer exodus after changing the pricing structure of Google App Engine. GAE users typically paid for units of CPU time, but now the key billing item is the time used on “front-end instances”, which means that a lot of relatively resource-light applications are suddenly much more expensive to run.

It turns out that GAE creates more instances of your app dynamically, whenever the average latency of requests to it goes up (in a sense, Google’s shifted from billing for CPU to billing for RAM and management network overhead). Also, Google has started to charge heavily for reads against the Datastore, the big key-value database GAE apps use.

The upshot is here and here - it looks like a pro-tip is to avoid doing limit or offset queries, as they touch all the records in the database, even the ones the limit or offset excludes. Another response is here.

Those of us who remember f*ckedcompany.com, the snarkiest website of the .com boom years, were delighted to see that its founder is on High Scalability. Follow up on Hacker News.

Beware Facebook Pages - a hacker who gets access to the controls can delete the original admin and there is no way to reclaim the page.

Unexpected IMS market leader Genband announced the winners of a voice apps contest. HOWTO use Phono and XMPP to sync a web page with an IVR process. Hack FreePBX to link specific outbound trunks to specific extensions. A new ATA for Skype. 46Elks - like Tropo or Twilio, but Swedish. Developing world users think it’s good to talk. Virgin Media’s call centre lets you choose your music on hold, but will they tell you the wait time or schedule a call-back?

The Register gets hacked. HP reissues the 12e and 15e pocket calculators. The European Commission has 15 business IT functions and 2,498 systems. How much does cheap hardware cost your business? Securityfail at Flickr. Generate secure and memorable passphrases. Get Sina Weibo on your phone or possibly don’t.

Re-builder of COLOSSUS, Tony Sale, dies.

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