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December 19, 2011

Apple re-thinks iAd, BT sues Google, and Verizon / Netflix? - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: STL Partners would like to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and we hope to see you at one of our events next year. New Digital Economics is coming to Silicon Valley again on the 27th-28th of March, and then we pull into London again on the 12th-13th of June for our spring EMEA event.]

Apple backtracks on their iAds platforms’ controversial business model. You may remember that iAds was intended to be a high-concept, high-touch, but mostly high margin magazine ad service by contrast to Google’s micro-advertising model, and Apple expected the advertisers to commit to buying at least $1 million of ads as the entry ticket. Further, Apple also wanted to keep the pay-per-click model and charge for every touch. It was always going to be interesting to see if this would work, and by extension, whether the whole idea of the iPad as a luxury magazine format for big brands made sense.

It looks like it doesn’t - Cupertino has cut the minimum buy-in from $1m to $500,000 and then to $400,000, introduced a cap on how much advertisers have to pay in pay-per-click, and sent a lot of employees to their media buying agency to learn about the business. Meanwhile, developers who signed up for in-app advertising are complaining that there’s no money in it, mostly because there aren’t enough ads to fill the inventory.

As well as sending Apple people to Madison Avenue, Apple is also bringing advertisers to Apple HQ, where according to the Wall Street Journal they:

concluded the tour with a visit to the Apple company store where they were able to make purchases with a discount

Subsidised shiny - is there nothing it can’t fix? Meanwhile, GigaOM looks over the latest round of rumours about the future of Apple TV and reports essentially that there’s nothing new (detecting devices on a wireless network is Bonjour multicast-DNS, a technology that Apple invented and has been shipping as part of iTunes for a good decade).

Elsewhere, Ars Technica reports that some people have discovered that iMessages are still delivered to iPhones that they no longer use, even if they’ve been remote-wiped and deactivated and a new device is registered to that Apple ID and phone number. Such is the joy of inventing a new authentication mechanism in parallel with the SIM.

And Samsung, its increasingly embittered patent disputes with Apple notwithstanding, has moved production of the Apple A5 chips from China to Austin, Texas, where they have built an enormous new fab. Too bad they didn’t do that with the iPad back panel plant…

Ever wondered about the Indian Web? Here are numbers. We especially like the 30% cash-on-delivery return rate, on the 70% of total e-commerce that’s COD - surely there’s a huge opportunity in mobile payments out there.

ISIS, this week, announced that it’s signed up massive SIM manufacturer Gemalto to support its intercarrier m-payments initiative, both by manufacturing the NFC-enabled SIMs and by writing the management software for the platform.

Google’s rival Google Wallet project is looking decidedly pasty by comparison - it’s stuck with Sprint as its carrier partner (which doesn’t really do SIMs, being non-GSM), the banks seem to be keener on ISIS, and now Gemalto, one of those remarkably important companies nobody outside the trade has ever heard of, has plumped for the competition. No doubt they’ll still be delighted to sell them units, but they’ve chosen their camp. And Verizon Wireless doesn’t want it in their ‘droids. This week, Google Wallet hit some more trouble as security researchers discovered that it stores rather a lot of data in the clear on your device, although at least the card numbers are encrypted. Still, Wallet is meant to be accessible by NFC, and do you really want someone with a souped-up NFC dev kit to know your card balances and last few dozen transactions?

Meanwhile, the enormous consumer goods manufacturer Procter & Gamble has decided to go with a lower-tech solution for its coupons - just put the bar code on the screen and scan it. Apparently quite a lot of shops’ barcode scanners won’t read off a screen for some reason, though, so they’ve signed up a startup whose mobile app will flash the bar code at the reader. Telco 2.0’s always been pleasantly surprised with QR codes and bar codes on screens - we especially recall getting into XOYO’s 1st birthday party with one, to the amazement of the queue, the bouncers, and to be honest, ourselves. But then, QRs are rather different and one presumes from internal evidence their reader had been installed in the last 12 months.

In other payments and transactions news, Trend Micro gives those annoying “Verified by Visa”/”MasterCard SecureCode” popups a richly deserved fisking.

One thing you can pay for on the Internet is of course content. Mmm, content. Would Verizon really buy Netflix? asks Rich Karpinski at Connected Planet. They certainly seem to be plotting something video-related, with the expansion of their TV-anywhere offering (i.e. “not just on FiOS”), their cooperation with DISH satellite TV (i.e. “sensible distribution for mass TV off the fibre footprint”), and their acquisition of more LTE spectrum and the integration of LTE into the satellite devices (i.e “replace the copper and provide the lolcats’n’porn over the airwaves”).

Elsewhere, the Internet Society and the EFF both pile in against SOPA, the latest attempt to legislate away file-sharing (aka “let Google profit from our stuff”). EFF is taking credit for preventing the bill from going through on the nod, and kicking it into the new year.

Meanwhile, a new web tool, YouHaveDownloaded.com, will tell you what your IP address has been used for in BitTorrent. Cue enormous amusement as the RIAA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the French President’s Palace all turn up. (Whoever the Elysée pirate is at least has enough class to insist on loss-free FLAC formats for their music.)

Last week, MegaUpload brought off a PR coup by getting an all-star group of musicians to put out a song endorsing the file-sharing site. This week, Universal Music stuck it with a takedown notice. But it’s not Universal’s copyright? It turns out UMG and Google have a private understanding outside the Digital Millenium Copyright Act that seems to let UMG take down anything it likes and also submit it to the ContentID system, which explains why a news podcast that covered the story was zapped as well. Evenyone’s going to court, but YouTube did tell Ars Technica that they restored the video because the agreement covers “live performances subject to exclusivity”.

And here’s a must-read post from Salford’s finest - and we don’t mean Keith McMahon, but rather the BBC’s user experience design team, on designing the BBC’s iPlayer app for the iPhone. There’s more about the ugly network guts here - we note that the BBC has started transitioning the iPlayer CDN infrastructure over to HTTP Live Streaming with adaptive bitrates rather than Flash.

Trying to design around censorship - a good, critical take on the problems of wireless mesh networks.

In British news, our national incumbent telco has leapt into the patent wars by suing Google over some patents of varying quality. One of them - to “use your location to tailor a list of options or sources to be made available to you” - sounds like the Platonic ideal of a cheeky business-method patent, but “how a device can detect if it is connected to a cellular or Wi-Fi network and then stream data depending on the situation” at least describes some actual functionality, even if picking which of two network interfaces to use on the basis of some criteria describes the basic functionality of all Internet routers in the world, ever.

Those of us with long memories will remember when BT decided it had patented the hyperlink. Well, it’s not as embarrassing as the £1m bill for admin and salaries at “Tech City”. As an honest-to-goodness Silicon Roundabout startup, we can report that we’ve seen not a penny of it.

Meanwhile, Samsung sues Apple again, dipping into its pile of core mobile network patents. Which shows what you can do if you didn’t sell all your bor-ring optical networking assets to Nortel back in the .com boom, eh.

In carrier news, the AT&T-T-Mobile deal looks deader by the day. Theoretically the two operators are looking at what assets they could divest to get past the FCC, but Reuters reports that the talks are going nowhere. Elsewhere, Greek telco OTE sells its stake in Telekom Srbija back to the Serbian government. China Unicom has 196 million subs.

Sonic.net is planning to deploy FTTH into San Francisco, where AT&T’s FTTC rollout is held up by planning permission for the “green monster” street cabinets. It’ll be interesting to see if the objectors are equally offended by Sonic’s equipment and if not, whether AT&T has the cheek to file its own planning grievance.

Telstra has licences to deploy in various Asian markets, notably Singapore and Japan. And The Voice of Broadband reviews the upshot of NSN’s sale of its broadband access business to Adtran.

Did you know ETSI is still doing interoperability plugfests for IMS? We remember our first back in 2005…

Up in the cloud, Emerson Power reckons there are 500,000 data centres in the world.

Todd Hoff from High Scalability has an interesting writeup of this even more interesting presentation on keeping Netflix flying - a must read if you’re interested in big cloud systems and online video. Which you should be if you’re reading this.

Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services deploys into Brazil with a new South American availability region based in Sao Paulo.

Denouncing cloudwash.

In voice news, the FCC held a seminar last week on the future of the PSTN. You can watch the video and download the documents here. Meanwhile, Americans annoyed by political campaigns’ robocalls retaliated with a website that lets you robocall the entirety of Congress and the President.

Here’s an interesting Voice 2.0 app - Mercedes Benz’s advertising agency devised a web-based game to promote their cars, and at one point, you need to make a call from within the game (which is within your web browser, let’s remember). It’s all done with Tropo.com and the Phono jQuery SDK. Also from the Tropo blog, Zapier is a platform for mashing up enterprise applications.

Meanwhile, Google + gets improved group video features and more Android integration, with the useful feature that you can archive Google + Hangout video to your YouTube channel. We seem to remember suggesting that this would be one of the features Microsoft might want to give Skype….

Get a good API, says Hurwitz & Associates, and expect up to 70% more traffic to your Web app.

Sprint flees CarrierIQ. The full list of affected devices, at least for the US. Google kills off 10,000 premium-SMS dialler apps. Microsoft apps for your iPad. Migrating out of Del.icio.us. Facebook’s Timeline - it might just seem like a blog, but this is complicated when you started out being all key-value and eventually-consistent… The IPv6 Buddy, an extra keyboard with the double colon as a key! A jQuery plugin for making network maps. Your strangest programming language features. Top 10 RSS tricks of the year. Fake-antivirus scammers and their user interface requirements.

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December 15, 2011

Asia & Middle East: ‘can do’ Telco 2.0 Strategies


In 2011 we’ve really been struck by the ‘can do’ attitude of companies in the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions towards Telco 2.0 strategies, and their desire to leapfrog legacy (Western) business models and technologies. This was highlighted at the New Digital Economics & CSG APAC Executive Brainstorm in Singapore, as were increasing similarities between APAC region business model challenges with those in Europe and America. See furher analysis here.

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December 14, 2011

President Bell Labs: what’s after smartphones?

BIO_j_kim-152x200.jpgIn this guest post, Jeong Kim, President Bell Labs, looks into the future and discusses the impact of video, sensors, the need for energy efficiency, and cloud services, and asks what form personal communications will take after smartphones. His answer may surprise you.

One hundred years ago, a telephone was a box on a wall. Now it’s a wallet-sized device that captures video, surfs the web, and manages hundreds of applications. Tomorrow you may not always need your own device: the environment around you will offer those personalized capabilities - and more.


Peering into the unknown

At Bell Labs, we research the technologies that will drive the next great innovations. This involves a fair bit of trying to envision the future. Our expertise in key technical areas provides a good guide, but of course, there are still many categories of unknowns.

One such category is known unknowns: knowing, for example, that the current explosion in the use of video on the Internet is straining the capacity of networks, but perhaps not yet knowing which specific technology will provide the best solution. Then there are the unknown unknowns - unknown needs that will be met by unknown technologies. These are among the many reasons why we persistently interact with customers and nourish our research capacity across multiple disciplines of science.

Even so, predicting the future is by no means a sure bet. Five years ago, who would have thought that so many people around the globe would spend so much time on social networks like MySpace and Facebook? And it’s certainly possible that in the next five years, other similarly unanticipated surprises will arise. Nevertheless, we can still identify several key trends likely to shape that future.

Video: a driving force for the networks

Video-based content - streamed to your desktop, your laptop, your smartphone, wherever - will be an even more fundamental component of how we communicate in 2015. I realized how important video had become last year when I asked my daughter which website she visited the most. Her response: “Youtube.” It’s where she does her learning - whether how to play the guitar or speak Spanish. I had always thought of Youtube as a substitute for TV; I never considered its other possible uses. It can be used to share ideas, to find out how to perform a task, or where students can watch lectures they might have missed.

The video boom is not just about Youtube - like sites. Video conferencing applications like Skype have become increasingly popular and part of our everyday interactions. I believe communications will migrate over the next five years to far more ‘immersive’ experiences that make it seem as if we are all sharing the same physical place even while being continents apart.

Many, many sensors - everywhere

Most of us connect over a network of networks - the most common being the Internet. Usually we go looking for information and these networks take us to it. But an alternative pattern is emerging, one in which a network of sensors continuously gathers information and, if relevant, pushes it out to us. What sort of sensors? Some will detect motion or sounds; others temperature or chemicals. They might employ radio-frequency ID (rFID) devices or video technologies. When certain conditions occur, these sensor networks will trigger an alert over the Internet to other machines or people.

We’ll see these networks in our homes, along our roads, in our cars, and on our very person. Sometime after 2015, I can imagine sensors so small they reside in our bloodstream and form a self-organizing network that can detect abnormal events, sending messages to our doctor’s office or to another device in our body authorized to take corrective action. This is the ‘somatic network’, a network that operates in the body. Sound far-fetched? There are already numerous implanted sensors in the market for detecting the movements of replacement joints, or measuring electrical pulses of the heart.

The value of the cloud

For some, ‘cloud computing’ is just the latest name for services in which you access a remote computer instead of processing on your own computer. that’s not quite right. The cloud is like taking all of the parts of a super computer, scattering them to the wind and still using it as if it was a single asset right next to you. All of the complex synchronizations among those parts are retained in spite of being physically dispersed.

The beauty of this is that you’re no longer confined to the capabilities of your one machine, or cluster of machines as is the case in a data center. So when you need more computing power, or more storage, instead of buying expensive hardware and plunking it in the corner, you just reach out to more pieces in the cloud for only as long as you need them. The capabilities of the cloud allow those pieces to be fully integrated and synchronized with your own resources.

Companies that provide communication services are beginning to use cloud architectures in their own networks. By 2015, many of those service providers will likely of fer highly reliable cloud resources to consumers.

Energy efficiency will be vital

Throughout the information technology landscape, there is a new menace stalking computers and data centers. I’m not referring to viruses or malware, but rather the costs of the power to run ever-faster and more powerful computers. Dollars or euros are only part of those costs. The larger concerns are the associated heat that can literally melt processors and the unsustainable level of carbon emissions from the generation of that power.

As they serve growing numbers of mobile users, video consumers and data centers, these costs have risen to levels where many service providers are now considering radical changes in their network infrastructures. This is one of the reasons for the strong interest in Alcatel -Lucent ‘s recently announced lightradio™, which doubles network capacity while halving energy consumption. Programs such as the Greentouch ™ initiative, whose goal is to improve networks’ energy efficiency by a factor of 1,000 will also play a major role in achieving a sustainable future.

After 2015: communicating without a personal device?

Let me conclude with a slightly controversial opinion. I can envision a scenario where people no longer fully depend on their own smartphones or other personal computing devices. Rather, as they make themselves known via sensor networks, they interact with connected information displays and other appliances located throughout their environment - no matter where they find themselves. Individuals have access to all of the same capabilities (or “apps”) and personal settings they would at home or in the office.

Sessions are transferred from device to device, so that the last page of an e-book you were reading at home is the first page that appears on a device at the hotel you’re visiting the next day. It’s a compelling vision in which we can enjoy all of these capabilities without being limited by one’s personal device.

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December 12, 2011

Android conquers China; Verizon outpaces AT&T; Google buys music rights experts - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. Now’s a good time to get the dates for the next Brainstorms in the diary: Americas, 27-28 March 2012, Marriott Union Square, San Francisco, and EMEA, 12-13 June 2012, Grange St Pauls Hotel, London.]

Analysys International reckon that Android (and, of course, its growing brood of mutant forkdroids) has “destroyed” Symbian’s once massive market share in China. In Q3 2010, 68% of the Chinese smartphone fleet was running Symbian S60 - now, it’s 58% Android, in a vastly bigger population. Symbian is still at 28% of the market, with Apple on 6%, which is actually behind “others”. Fascinatingly, although the Great Firewall (both as a trade barrier and as a means of censorship) has prevented Google from dominating the Chinese search market, Google’s mobile Linux has proliferated enormously in China. Of course, it’s very doubtful whether any revenue actually redounds to Google’s credit from this, especially in the light of the forkdroid projects which basically replace the Google apps and services in Android with Baidu or QQ’s products.

Meanwhile, the patent wars grind on. Google got a score this week, as Motorola Mobility won a German lawsuit against Apple. Moto claimed Apple was infringing the FRAND clause on a patent, Apple accepted that it ought to pay the FRAND fee, but wanted to retain the right to contest the patent itself. The court objected to kinda-sorta respecting the patent and granted Motorola the right to halt sales of iProducts in Europe. Apple immediately appealed. As you would.

Ars Technica, meanwhile, has a critical discussion of Apple’s patent policy with regard to the WWW Consortium.

Could WebOS end up more open than Android? HP has decided to release the mobile OS they bought off Palm in its entirety as open-source software, including some interesting tidbits like the Enyo JavaScript app framework. This means it’s going to live on in some form, although this week’s sale is still your last chance to bag a TouchPad until 2013.

The Asian semiconductor rumour mill is cranking up - it’s suggested that the next iPad might be out in April.

In an excellent blog post, Motorola explains the process of launching an Android major version and how long you’ll need to wait for the 4.0 updates to be pushed out.

Chart of the Week is from Sandvine via the 3G & 4G Wireless Blog.

MBB - What Users Use

Last week’s review quoted Benoit Felten’s recent report arguing that so-called bandwidth hogs aren’t a major source of network congestion. This week, he opens the kimono a little and points to the source of the data - well respected Californian ISP Sonic.net. He further links some interesting charts showing that Verizon’s FiOS network is hammering its competitors for speed, and that it managed to increase its upload speeds by a factor of three over last summer.

He also suggests that senior AT&T types are beginning to consider their detour via FTTC a big mistake, which would be in keeping with several other incumbents’ experiences with FTTC/VDSL deployment faced with FTTH or DOCSIS 3 cable competitors. Speaking of which, it looks like the pilot projects for infrastructure sharing in the UK are going nowhere fast. (In comments, someone argues for handing the last mile back to local councils and returning to a pre-Bell System settlement.)

That’s the way to do it - Washington DC is building a 100Gbps municipal metro-fibre network to link up the city’s institutions and public services down to ward level, which will also provide open access service to anyone else who wants it.

Qualcomm has a whitepaper out comparing LTE small cells and LTE-WiFi hetnet (although confusingly, they use the word to describe a network consisting of both small cells and macrocells that both use the LTE air interface, while everyone else uses it to mean one that includes multiple radio access technologies). Not surprisingly, LTE vendor Qualkers concludes that more LTE is a better idea.

They’re also pushing a new study group in 3GPP Release 12 on so-called “proximity-based services” or “device-to-device” - i.e. direct-mode communication without going through the network. Qualcomm has some proprietary technologies in this area, but the worrying bit is that it talks about this happening under “continuous operator control”.

Surely you’d have to be very telco-minded indeed to think asking a telco permission to connect two devices together is a good idea, especially as a major use case is basic comms in an emergency when the network is down. At least they didn’t introduce 8G.

Skypester Niklas Zennström has a new venture, which is free mobile broadband provided by LightSquared. Free ISPs were one of those things from the .com bubble, so we’re waiting to see how this is possibly going to work. Among many problems, US government tests showed that LightSquared’s operations would disrupt 75% of GPS receivers they tried.

Speaking of Skype, a security flaw has been discovered that permits an attacker to determine your location without making the Skype application start ringing. Oh, and there’s a cross-site scripting problem that could steal your password in version 5.0.

The biggest voice & messaging story this week is probably Twitter’s new version - apparently it’s “simpler”, although you might wonder how much simpler 140 characters could be. However, does anyone actually use the Web site when the various apps that hang off the Twitter API seem so much more stable?

RIM, meanwhile, pushed out a nice, useful business-focused improvement to BlackBerry App World - the new Mobile Conferencing app provides one-click access to conference calls, integrated with the calendar and to-do list, and has the really nice feature that you can initiate a conference with all the parties to a thread of e-mail or messenger conversation, just like that, from inside the messaging client.

Meanwhile, two RIM executives caused an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Beijing to divert to Vancouver so that police could haul them off the aircraft and into the drunk-tank after they assaulted other passengers and flight attendants and started “kicking the floor”. Apparently, members of the crew restrained them with plastic handcuffs and gaffer tape, but the dynamic duo “chewed through their cuffs” and demanded more drink. Air Canada said the diversion cost some C$200,000. Unsurprisingly, it also cost the pair their jobs.

Google Voice is going to stay free in the US and Canada through 2012, according to support answers. It emerges, over at GigaOm, that Android 4.0 has a native SIP phone, rather like 2006’s Nokia E61. Om provides a guide to setting everything up to make free calls that will also be familiar to old E61 fans.

Better voicemail startup Youmail’s app was pulled from the Android Market this week at T-Mobile USA’s request, and they immediately freaked out good and hard, alleging that T-Mobile and perhaps Google as well were indulging in anti-competitive behaviour. Until someone did the work - it turns out that there is a bug in the upgrade from v1.8.3 to v2.0.45 that leaves a polling interval set to zero, so the app polls the server continuously as fast as it can run round an infinite loop.

The upshot is a flat battery and a barrage of signalling traffic hitting the network as the devices constantly yell for PDP tunnels - T-Mobile noticed this, wrote to their support desk, the support desk said it would be fixed in the next version, and closed the ticket. When the next version proved to be some time away, T-Mobile went directly to Google.

The Voice on Telecom passes on the news that the GSMA expects VoLTE to be ready in mid-2012.

Occupy voice conferencing; when Occupy Wall Street needed a means of holding votes across areas too big for the people’s mic, they turned to Tropo.com’s API. Integrating Ushahidi and Tropo. The Vodafone subscriber who accidentally discovered phone-hacking - VF’s call centre told him that “yes, you could listen to anyone’s voicemail but you’re not meant to”.

Apple patent watch: noise-cancelling trained to your voice (or any other voice you may want to make at it).

Over in the content world, YouTube has acquired RightsFlow, a company specialising in managing music royalties, in order to integrate it with ContentID and speed up the process of paying out the money.

Google chief Eric Schmidt, meanwhile, predicted that half the TV sets “in stores” would be running Google TV by next summer. The Guardian takes a deeply sceptical view of this, pointing out that the replacement rate is around 10% at the best of times and the market is plummeting, so even if the TVs are in the shops they may not get out of them at all quickly.

Verizon is reported to be considering a subscription-based, OTT TV offering, presumably as an extension of its FiOS TV service (a “TV everywhere” product) and an option for subscribers who the fibre doesn’t reach. It’s not clear how this will interact with their “cantenna” fixed LTE/DTH device, which gets its satellite TV from DISH Network.

AT&T, meanwhile, is responding to the FCC’s decision to block the T-Mobile deal by reactivating its plans for the 700MHz band that Qualcomm’s old mobile TV system, MediaFLO, lived in.

It’s now generally accepted that the telco-as-mediaco concept wasn’t the best idea ever. Why would telcos know anything about commissioning TV shows, running a record label, or licensing Hollywood’s back catalogue? However, there are still some holdouts. Rogers and Bell Canada are jointly buying up an ice hockey team, and a basketball side as well.

In other sporting news, Optus is being sued by Australia’s National Rugby League over its TV Now product, which lets you queue live TV on a TiVo-like device once the show has been running for 2 minutes. That means all sorts of trouble related to sports rights.

File-dump site MegaUpload struck a PR blow in its battle with the RIAA this week, when it persuaded a number of very famous people whose interests the RIAA claims to represent to sing a song endorsing the website.

How Netflix monitors and manages its API.

In Telco 2.0 themes this week, Google is reported to be looking at developing its own fulfilment and shipping capability to rival Amazon. And Google has reached 44% of total online advertising spending. For their part, Amazon is pushing out an urgent OTA update to the Kindle Fire after a wave of complaints.

Microsoft Azure is gaining traction as a cloud option for SMBs, while China Bubble Watch reports that cloud computing in China is often essentially an excuse for real-estate speculation.

M-health apps on the iPad and iPhone are struggling to get through the US Food & Drug Administration’s certification process, not least because it costs $150,000.

Verizon Wireless didn’t block Google Wallet but did “ask Google not to include it”, which only leaves Google with Sprint as a carrier partner for its mobile-payments play. Expect litigation.

Beware the SSH-battering botnet, and the nearly unstoppable firmware update hack that sets printers on fire. Horrible mess at Telstra - customers’ personal data, including passwords, stored on insecure custhelp.com site, efforts to fix it bring down most of Australia’s e-mail. CNET Download.com caught bundling adware with open-source classics like nmap. Why are some security vendors chary of telling you about CarrierIQ? Meet an Android trojan - all it wants is to send premium SMS.

LG’s DoublePlay smartphone, reviewed - it does look a lot like a Nokia N-Gage, doesn’t it? It also has two screens and ships with 59 pre-installed apps. Meanwhile, Nokia has parted with its slightly embarrassing Vertu range of jewel-encrusted mid-price Symbian phones.

RIM’s compression proxy defeats the Internet Watch Foundation blacklist. Answer: deploy the IWF DNS blacklist in RIM’s network, giving a private company in the UK worldwide censorship powers. If you say so…

Is Google letting sloppy JavaScript bloat out Firefox deliberately, in the hope you’ll choose Chrome instead? How Instagram processes photos for 14 million users. Apache Kafka, disk-loving messaging server. Marc Andreesen denies wanting to be Yahoo! CEO.

Finally, what your favourite Web sites would look like with the technology of 1997.

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December 8, 2011

Telco 2.0 in Asia: Photos from last week’s highly successful brainstorm

NDE APAC 2011The Telco 2.0 team travelled to Singapore in force for our first APAC executive brainstorm and, despite the jetlag, found it an extremely valuable trip. Produced in collaboration with CSG the New Digital Economics APAC Exec Forum brought together 100 specially invited senior execs at the fantastic Capella Resort Hotel to discuss new growth opportunities for the TMT sector in the region. Participating companies included: Aircel, American Express, Asia Pacific Telecom Co, Axiata, CSL, Dialog, Disney, Globe, Google, iDA Singapore, Optus, P1, PLDT, PT Abhimata Citra Abadi, SingTel, Skytel, Smart Hub, Starhub, Telenor, Telkom Indonesia, Telkomsel, Western Union, Yahoo!, Zain

Click here to see more photos from the event.

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Feedback from the participants included:

One of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. The organization was fantastic, all the topics very relevant, a great way to interact and explore ideas and great opportunities for networking.  I hope I can attend another one in the future.”… “The interactive format is refreshing and innovative“… “This is what the future of conferences should be like!“… “It was brilliant, probably the best event I’ve been to all year. “… “It was a great event.

Visit www.newdigitaleconomics.com/events for details of our upcoming events or www.csgi.com for more information about CSG International.


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Personal Data 2.0: Industry fails Carrier IQ test


Personal Data 2.0: Industry fails Carrier IQ test is our new analyis on the debacle involving Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile US over Carrier IQ’s phone monitoring software. It highlights the pitfalls and opportunities of recording user behaviour, controlling mobile broadband networks and working with personal data - a key enabler of the new digital economy and new telco business models, and is on our research portal now.

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LTE: Less Transforming than Expected


LTE: Less Transforming than Expected - an analysis of the status of LTE, the next generation of wireless network technology, including a round-up of early operator trials, and views on prospects for key vendors by Telco 2.0 partners Arete Research, is on our research site now.

Figure 1: Vendor “Pro-Forma” Margins ‘07-‘12E: Only Two Make Likely Cost of Capital
Arete estimated returns by vendor 2011.png
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December 5, 2011

LTE’s newest blooms; Verizon invests in cable spectrum; Sprint pays Clearwire - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. Last week’s Telco 2.0 ‘Away Team’ are just back from the excellent APAC Brainstorm in Singapore, albeit a bit jet-lagged, and will be bringing you analysis from it soon. In the meantime, the dates for the next Brainstorms are out: Americas, 27-28 March 2012, Marriott Union Square, San Francisco, and EMEA, 12-13 June 2012, Grange St Pauls Hotel, London.]

Saudi Arabia’s STC deploys LTE to 11 cities. Poland’s Polkomtel launches LTE with 22% population coverage. Uzbek LTE. Yota seeks regulatory clearance to launch LTE early, after it gave up on WiMAX. They’ve also signed up a wholesale roaming agreement with MegaFon. Meanwhile, Portugal has auctioned its LTE spectrum - PT, TMN, and Vodafone have unsurprisingly secured chunks. Interestingly, Vodafone has also obtained some additional 900MHz spectrum to refarm.

After a few weeks’ brinksmanship, Sprint and Clearwire have come to their inevitable agreement. Sprint extends its wholesale agreement for WiMAX service until 2013, and undertakes to keep selling devices through 2012 and supporting them up to the end of the maximum 2-year contract. This brings in $926 million for Clearwire, which for its part agrees to deploy LTE. If it hits targets set by Sprint, another $300 million is payable. With this deal signed and sealed, Clearwire now intends to pay the $237 million debt instalment it’s been blowing hot and cold about.

In other WiMAX exit news, NSN has sold its WiMAX business, which it acquired from Motorola originally, to NewNet Communications.

Way back when the Sprint-Clearwire WiMAX rollout began, a big part of the whole scheme was the idea that the cable operators would be an anchor tenant, bringing in large numbers of quad-play customers via MVNO agreements. As a result, the cablecos were surprisingly big spenders on 2.5GHz spectrum. This week, Verizon Wireless bought out the cablecos for some $3.6bn, getting in return a commitment to resell VZW mobile service to their customers.

This means the end of the cable-Clearwire WiMAX adventure, and a new and rather unlikely collaboration between the cablecos and their great rival in rolling out high speed broadband. This Forbes blog post is overexcited, but does contain the good point that only 14% of Verizon’s FiOS service area overlaps with the cable operators.

The cable guys can look back on a great deal - the price agreed gives them a tasty 60% capital gain over the fees they paid back in 2006, and they get to offer VZW’s LTE service as a quad-play. Verizon gets to lock up a major chunk of spectrum, and a potentially major source of subscribers.

AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile quite clearly lose out, especially as the AT&T-T-Mobile deal has been blocked. In the fallout, AT&T accuses the FCC of bias, and tries to salvage the deal as an EverythingEverywhere-style joint venture, but the German Government, the biggest shareholder in DTAG doesn’t believe it.

Speaking of EE, at least the technical aspects of their joint trial with BT of rural LTE in Cornwall seem to work.

And Vodafone acquires unicomms consultancy Bluefish to beef up their enterprise voice operation.

An interview with the CEO of Orange Botswana on operating in a 150% penetration, micro-ARPU environment.

IntoMobile covers Nokia’s emerging market dual-SIM smartphone, the Asha 200, and its interesting ad campaign. Tentacles, anyone? They also claimed good “Black Friday” sales, though Standard & Poors don’t think there’s much of a future with the Windows Phones.

However, WMPowerUser reckons that a spurt of new WP7 devices registering on Facebook implies sales are going rather well.

Teresa Cottam’s Voice of Broadband analyses the reorganisation of NSN, meanwhile, and concludes that the infrastructure joint venture has never really been an innovator and the Nokia half of it was too dependent on the handsets.

ReadWriteWeb points out that Apple iPhones make up a huge 10% of mobile subscribers in the US (Samsung is the market leader with 25.5%) and 28.% of smartphones. Android has 46%!

This week’s Chart of the Week, from the 3G & 4G Wireless Blog gives you some idea of the diversity of Android devices. Or do we mean the fragmentation?

Is it fragmentation, or is it diversity?

Samsung got a win in the patent wars this week, after Apple’s effort to ban their Galaxy devices in the US was thrown out by a court. It also turned out that another smartphone patent of Apple’s was licensed to both Nokia and IBM but pointedly not Samsung.

The first Android 4.0 updates began rolling out to Google employees this week, while the first Android store made its appearance in Sydney. To be strictly accurate, it’s not an Android store as such, but a Telstra outlet made over with Android branding.

Google + Hangouts have grown some voice features.

The big row this week was of course CarrierIQ, the monitoring software that many vendors and carriers impose on smartphones and which keeps vast quantities of user data in a plaintext file that any other application could read or edit. (Telco 2.0 covered this several weeks ago, but it’s now gone viral.) The makers vigorously deny that it’s a problem and blame the carriers. Apple says it’s got rid of it in iOS 5 and future OTA updates. John Graham-Cumming suggests you calm down.

Horace points out that when you count iPads, Apple is about to overtake HP as the biggest PC manufacturer. A taste of life inside HP during the year it went mad. Reviewing another Siri-clone. A thoughtful view on the future of mainline Microsoft Windows in a world of tablets, smartphones, Macs, and clouds.

In the cloud, Amazon Web Services claims to have more customers for Cloudfront than any other CDN, but Dan Rayburn fisks the claim and argues that it’s meaningless as CDNing is a business defined by volumes and long-term commits rather than headcounts of subscribers. He reckons that most of the customers are either small, or else one-off quick hit projects, and that Amazon’s revenue from CDN is about $75m. However, with 900 engineering jobs open at AWS, how long will it stay that way?

A major project at Amazon matured this week - standardised symbols for your network diagrams!

Benoit Felten has a must-read post on bandwidth hogs and why they don’t exist. In fact, it’s more like the way people sit in cars and complain about the traffic - the thing about traffic jams is that you are the traffic. In the crucial 95th percentile peaks, it turns out, the heaviest users don’t make up a big percentage of the traffic, precisely because they are a small minority. And, of course, it doesn’t matter what they do while the network is below the 95th percentile utilisation because that’s what governs wholesale pricing.

While 83% of Very Heavy data consumers are amongst the top 1% of bandwidth users during at least one five minute time window at peak hours, they only represent 14.3% of said Top 1% of users at those times.

We have met the enemy, and he is us…meanwhile, Benoit also links to this handsome chart showing how the US telecoms market worked its way from divestment back to oligopoly.

Are IPv4 addresses assets? Borders, or rather its bankruptcy trustees, is the latest company to try to sell a block of IP addresses.

Here’s an interesting piece on BT and Level(3)’s plans for 100Gbps fibre in the backbone. BT will be using Ciena’s optical network kit.

And the cleanup from the DNSChanger trojan is posing some interesting problems for DNSSEC and Internet governance.

Microsoft is about to disrupt the online video ecosystem by pushing out a new software update to the Xbox, which integrates a wide range of new sources of content into the games console’s TV functionality. Notably, Verizon and Comcast’s IPTV offerings and HBO’s streaming service are all coming aboard. You’ll have to be a subscriber, but it’s an interesting pointer to the future of online video, and another example of how the Xbox is Microsoft’s most interesting product, even including Skype.

AllThingsD reports on a very important aspect of the update - the integration of the Kinect controller, Bing search engine, and Siri-like voice commands into the Xbox and its content partners’ systems. A key theme at the recent Digital Entertainment 2.0 event was the primacy of the clientside user experience in the online video market - this is why people pay for Netflix rather than using cable operators’ VoD services they’ve already paid for.

Dan Rayburn points out that Netflix is very dependent on this advantage and that it’s overcommitted to paying for very expensive content.

Some more HD streaming video may yet creep into the BBC Freeview service. And did you know US TV stations must by law archive all public comment they receive and make it available on request?

The EFF applies for an exemption from the DMCA for jailbreakers, who press on and root the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Wired travels to Prineville, Oregon, where Facebook has a huge data centre to benefit from the Feds’ cheap hydropower. Apple may be going to move in next door. Data-mining the Twitter firehose - access to the full feed costs $25,000 a day. Now that’s what we call a two-sided business model. Very interesting on the “how” of processing that much stuff.

The British government starts another go-round of the NHS database wars. Groupon gets in a whole lot of trouble about its advertising in the UK. About 40% of Mark Zuckerberg’s posts on the Facebook blog are apologies. Tim Cook responds to criticism of Siri.

Marketing spyware to the government. The European Union bans the export of telecoms surveillance equipment to Syria. Europe’s biggest IT consulting firm abolishes e-mail. Mexican cocaine gang builds its own radio network, military destroys it. Why won’t British schools let you have a computer club?

The best radiation phobia story ever.


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December 1, 2011

Telecoms and the Eurozone Economic Crisis: a perfect storm?


New analysis: what are the possible impacts on telecoms of further economic troubles in the Eurozone? Will it be recessionary business as usual or something much nastier? And how will it impact ‘Telco 2.0’ Strategies? See ‘Telecoms and the Eurozone Economic Crisis: a perfect storm?’ on our research portal.

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

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