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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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