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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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