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January 30, 2012

Mobile World Congress 2012: seven good reasons to go

The Telco 2.0 team will be at the 2012 GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona in force - let us know if you’d like to meet. Here are the seven good reasons why we’ll be there:

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The Fountains of the Fira - wanting a ‘jolly’ in Barcelona is not a good reason in today’s climate

1. Networking. Apart from our own brainstorms, MWC is one of the few places where we can meet most of our key clients as well as new innovators. This year we’ve partnered with European Leaders on a ‘Hot Topics’ evening networking event on Monday 27th February, where our latest analysis on M-Commerce and OTT-player impacts on Voice and Messaging will stimulate two panel discussions comprising senior execs from Foursquare, Groupon, Vimplecom, Telefonica, Skype, Visa, Telenor and others. There will be over 250 invitation-only guests for the event.

2. Keynote speeches. In the last two years, the keynote speeches have been made by Google and Microsoft (see How Google’s Chief Magician Stole the Show and Microsoft CEO fails to land all punches, but…). It is always fascinating to see which CEO pulls off the best performance and the biggest story, although Facebook looks like this year’s major new face (see below). We’ll also be interested to hear about the progress on NFC, what the US telcos say about LTE and all the other important ‘Three Letter Acronyms’. We’ll be analyzing and reporting back as usual.

3. Facing up to Facebook (and Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc.). Bret Taylor of Facebook may temporarily take the spotlight as a keynote live speaker, but we’re pretty sure that he’ll be eclipsed within minutes by Telco 2.0’s Chief Strategist, Chris Barraclough, who’ll be interviewed by our friends over at Mobile World Live TV in the post speech analysis. Chris was one of the authors of our extremely popular Strategy Report “Dealing with the ‘Disruptors’: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype and Amazon”, and also the article “Facebook: really ‘worth’ $30 billion max - $100 billion is hype”. We’re also be talking privately to a number of our clients on this topic, so please let us know if you’d like to meet us on this too.

4. Taking the industry’s temperature. Something gives each Congress its own memorable identity. Three years ago, it was the arrival of the Chinese companies en masse. Two years ago, it was Google’s charm offensive, and last year it was a combination of App frenzy and Microsoft’s new Windows Mobile operating system. There’s also a palpable vibe of the health and ambitions of the industry from the number and quality of the attendees.

5. Spreading the Telco 2.0 Word. We are running several workshops for clients, and in particular, sharing our new analysis on the Telco 2.0 Customer Experience Flywheel for sustainable industry growth. Let us know if you’d like to join us.

6. That ‘Telco 2.0 Moment’. From being accidentally invited to and then ejected from the reception with the King of Spain, the delights of sharing accommodation with one’s colleagues, and various surreal after-conference experiences in the bars of Las Ramblas, there’s always something special about going away with Telco 2.0’s analysts. It’s certainly never ordinary…

7. Discounted tickets. We’re delighted that, via our partnership with the GSMA, we can offer discounted tickets to the Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona. In today’s ‘austerity’ climate, travel and conference budgets are increasingly under pressure, so to get a 15% Telco 2.0 discount on event passes, use code CPDSTL22 at the MWC site here

For more on any of this, email us at contact@stlpartners.com or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

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Telco 2.0 / European Leaders ‘Hot Topics Mobile’ @ MWC 27th Feb

Telco 2.0 and European Leaders are running the ‘Hot Topics Mobile’ senior panel and networking event at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) on the 27th February 2012 at the Hotel Omm, Barcelona.

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At this invitation only event, 250 thought leaders of the mobile industry will talk to a select group of wireless influencers about what’s on their mind, stimulated by the latest Telco 2.0 analysis.

  • Debate topic #1 Mobile Communications - Is Facebook the Future? Panellists: Dennis Crowley - Foursquare, Co-Founder; Joachim Horn - Tele2 AB, Group CTIO; Rob Conway - VimpleCom (Former CEO GSMA); Andreas Bernstrom - Rebtel, CEO; Dave Williams - Stoke, CTO; Rick Osterloh - Skype, Vice President - Product Management & Design; Tom Christian Gotschalksen - Telenor, SVP Global Services.

  • Debate topic #2 Mobile Commerce - Changing the way we shop. Pannellists: Ghassan Hasbani - STC, CEO - International; Neil Montefiore - StarHub, CEO; Bill Gajda - Visa Mobile, Global Head; Michael Shim - Groupon, VP Mobile Partnerships; Shaun Gregory - Telefonica Digital, Director of Advertising; Pieter Knook - Serial Board Advisor (ex Microsoft & Vodafone).

Drinks from 6pm, Panel starts at 7pm.

This is an invitation ONLY event: to express an interest please email contact@stlpartners.com or call us on +44 (0) 207 247 5003. As a preview, there’s a highlights video below from the MWC Hot Topics Party 2011…

NB. European Leaders (EL) is Europe’s leading specialist Telco 2.0 and mobile ‘people’ business. EL say “we find the best talent, then develop and coach it…. If you get the right people, lead them in the ‘liberated’ way and create the right culture, performance sky-rockets”.

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Joy for Apple, Samsung and Verizon FiOS; pain for AT&T, Google, Nokia and O2 - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: This is the last week that ‘Early Bird’ rates will be available for the New Digital Economics Brainstorm in Silicon Valley on the 27th-28th of March, so book now if you can. After that, our spring EMEA event is in London on the 12th-13th of June. We’ll also be at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of February, so let us know if you’d like to meet there - email contact@stlpartners.com or call +44 (0) 20 7247 5003 for more on any of the above.]

After last week’s bumper crop of results (Microsoft, Intel, IBM up; Google disappoints; RIM’s two CEOs go), it was another results manic Monday. Apple’s Q4 led the way, almost dripping with success.

“We are very happy to have generated over $17.5 billion in cash flow from operations during the December quarter,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO.

Well, yes.

Not only did the iDevices go out very well, Macintosh sales were up 26% year on year, and all three product lines saw their biggest ever sales quarter. Margins were up. The company is sitting on $97bn in cash, and probably won’t be fool enough to do anything like buying a telco. Horace charts their evolution and points out that the company has been growing earnings over 50% annually since 2009. The only product that isn’t selling like hot cakes is the iPod, basically because it’s directly in the path of the iPhones. (He also points out that Apple pricing is remarkably stable.)

Elsewhere in Q4s, Samsung missed taking the top spot for smartphone shipments by a hair, with 36.1 million gadgets to Apple’s 37 million. However, they could still report sales up by 30% on the third quarter, and profits growth of 19% in the broader mobile sector, with average selling prices rising. Telecoms products accounted for half Samsung’s profits in Q4 on about a third of its turnover.

Nokia, meanwhile, saw its smartphone market share fall from 29% to 12%, dragging the company into a loss for Q4.

Apparently, “well over 1 million” of the Lumia Winphones were sold in the quarter - a soft number many found suspicious. Tomi Ahonen points out that Symbian S^3 shifted some 4 million phones in its launch quarter. There’s also another number lurking in the Nokia disclosure - how many N9s were sold, something the new regime is not particularly keen to emphasise. Analysts’ efforts to quantify them produced a substantial range of estimates, but they converge on “well over 1 million”. To put it another way, the N9 may have outsold the Lumias.

And the results would be worse if it wasn’t for $250 million from Microsoft. Andrew Orlowski, usually a Microkia fan, is getting a bad feeling about this.

Elsewhere, AT&T was in the red in Q4, largely due to the T-Mobile break fee, various accounting adjustments, and the cost in handset subsidy of selling 7.6 million iPhones out of 8.2 million smartphones.

HTC has decided to change from a (Nokia- or Samsung-like) product range strategy to an (Apple-like) hero product strategy.

Unsurprisingly, given that it’s much cheaper, the Kindle Fire is the best-selling Android tablet. HP is releasing WebOS into open source, while Jon Rubenstein quits HP. Meet AT&T’s product managers - you’ll be pleased to know that the reason they won’t let you eliminate all the rubbish apps they put on your phone is that they’re not on the Android Market, so you might not be able to get them back.

More results: Verizon reported that it made a net gain of 98,000 broadband subs in Q4, but the breakdown is substantially more informative. Its FiOS FTTH service gained 201,000 new subscribers, while DSL lost 103,000 - showing the public voting with its feet for fibre or cable rather than another round of copper upgrades. And the FiOS Digital Voice VoIP product is on fire - not in a Stephen Elop sense, though, with 424,000 new subscribers in Q4. All of which is summarised by this week’s Chart of the Week.


AT&T saw a similar pattern, with customers churning off DSL. Significantly, though, they aren’t simply transitioning to AT&T’s VDSL-based FTTC service - about 50,000, just under 10%, of the churners leaked from AT&T and probably moved to the cable world, where Time Warner saw 130,000 Q4 net adds.

Meanwhile, BT asked for residential buildings to volunteer for a trial of their FTTH product. Perhaps, maybe, one day…meanwhile, the Israeli electricity grid is looking at building a national dark fibre network like the Australian NBN.

Ericsson, for their part, buys a WLAN specialist, BelAir Networks - note the special dual mode radio head designed to hang off a metro cable network.

In UK mobile, T-Mobile brought back unlimited tariffs, at a price. £41 a month buys you a BlackBerry 9900 and all the Internet, texts, and calls you can contrive to use, and if you go up to £61 you get an iPhone 4S. T-Mobile UK has form for this - back in the mid-2000s they were the first British operator to provide a flat-rate open Internet tariff, and if you paid the full £59/month whack you could even run your own VoIP from your Nokia E61’s built in SIP client to that German hosted Asterisk website…

A fascinating story: so a market stallholder imported 400,000 cable set-top boxes that let you watch Virgin Media’s whole pay-TV lineup without paying a penny. Killer detail: Virgin paid the police for the costs of investigating him. Didn’t know you could do that!

Telco 2.0’s Keith McMahon notes that Sky’s Sky Anytime Internet-TV service is now available as a pure OTT service, and theorises that they’re hoping to induce churn to Sky Broadband. On the other hand, it might well work better on Virgin’s cable broadband network.

How can Amazon beat Netflix? Probably not yet by taking lessons from the studios - Dan Rayburn is scathing about Paramount’s UltraViolet-powered streaming site.

After last week’s Google results, there’s still a lot of news coming out of Mountain View. Google is very keen to talk about Chromebooks in schools, but 27,000 of them doesn’t sound like a lot in the light of the Napoleonic vision of browser-based cloud computing and hardware as a service. There’s some more here.

The head of Google Wallet resigned this week, as the initiative struggles for relevance, being only available on one phone, on Sprint.

Meanwhile, Google Fibre in Kansas City is bogged down in something about as telco-traditional as you can get - an arcane regulatory dispute about access to passive infrastructure. Google has a promise from the city government that it can run fibre on the city’s electricity poles for free, so long as it uses the section of the pole reserved for electricity. Telco and cable lines have their own sector. Not only do the cable operators object, but it turns out that installing the fibre next to the live power lines is tricky, and requires the services of electricians rather than cable installers. Who command much higher wages. So the Google would like to run the fibre in the slot for telecoms instead, but wants to keep the freebie. And with that, it’s off to the courthouse.

Benoit Felten blogs on a similar issue in India.

Elsewhere, Dan Rayburn reports that Sony has cancelled its Google TV product.

Google announced a new privacy policy this week which lets them integrate data on individuals between different services. This sort of de-anonymisation and data fusion tends to be the privacy third rail (which is exactly what you’d expect if you’d read this paper) and there’s a great big row going on. Google’s slightly hurt response is here. The main purpose of this is to support the integration of Google + into Google Search, which is a controversial issue in itself.

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January 23, 2012

Results round-up: Microsoft, Intel, IBM up; Google disappoints; RIM’s two CEOs go - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: ‘Early Bird’ rates are still available for the New Digital Economics Brainstorms in Silicon Valley on the 27th-28th of March, and then in London on the 12th-13th of June for our spring EMEA event. Email contact@stlpartners.com or call +44 (0) 20 7247 5003 to join us.]

It was a busy results week - and, as Businessweek reports, Microsoft, IBM, and Intel beat the spread. Microsoft did especially well, specifically in sales of Office and XBox products, while Intel’s results showed the company recovering well from supply-chain problems caused by flooding in Thailand and the Japanese earthquake before that.

In fact, Microsoft shares surged ahead, reaching their highest mark since early 2010, as not only sales but also margins improved. iSuppli added to the bullishness by forecasting that the Nokia market share would transition over into Windows Phone. However, although some are very pleased with the numbers of Windows Phone 7 devices logging into Facebook, Nielsen’s fourth quarter scoreboard showed that Windows Mobile devices are still outselling Windows Phone, and neither of them are setting the world alight.

Also, it looks like there’s going to be no Skype integration until next Christmas at least (and in fact there isn’t even a port of the Skype client for WP7 yet). Windows 8 wants to control mobile broadband devices.

But is the very idea of a “PC”, central to Microsoft over the years, challenged? Horace thinks so, with this week’s Chart of the Day.


Ars Technica, meanwhile, reviews what appears to be an old-school text-based adventure.

Intel, for its part, wheeled out CEO Paul Ottelini to bang the drum for their drive into mobile, which is now officially a thing after Lenovo and Huawei’s devices at CES. There’s an interview with their head of mobile, here. Intel briefers also argued that the company’s CAPEX had been unusually high last year and would trend down, but this visit to the construction site of a new Intel fabrication plant for the 22nm Ivy Bridge chips, in Texas doesn’t sound like it.

Another company building fabs in the States is Samsung, which just borrowed $1bn to fund the expansion of its plant in Austin. Samsung’s Facebook relationship status is permanently set to “it’s complicated” - it’s both Apple’s biggest competitor in mobile and its biggest supplier, it’s both an Android OEM and the owner of a smartphone OS, and it’s a major customer for Intel chips via its PC business and now potentially for its ‘droids, but also a major competitor in semiconductors more generally. And its smartphones compete directly with Motorola’s, or to put it another way, with the vendor of its main OS.

So it’s no surprise that it’s got something complicated going on with Intel. Intel has recently been trying to salvage its investment in MeeGo, by re-branding the project as Tizen and refocusing it on HTML5 apps running on a Linux core (which sounds a bit like WebOS). Samsung now wants in, and may be going to open-source or possibly just shut down its own Bada OS, once they’ve made the APIs in Tizen compatible with existing Bada apps, which only really makes sense if they’re interested in collaborating with Intel’s project.

And some people are not happy about ultrabooks.

If it was an up week for Microsoft & Intel, it was a down week for Google, which missed the consensus forecast. That was the headline, but in fact it wasn’t that bad - who moans about a $10bn revenue quarter? Credit Suisse analysts also pointed out that even if it could have been better, Google’s margins improved and they got to keep more of that $10bn.

On the other hand, they noted, Google ad pricing was falling, as clicks on mobile seemed to be worth less than ones on the desktop. Very interestingly, The Guardian’s tech blog notes that Google doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of how to make money from Android (a point Telco 2.0 has made again and again), and the official figures for “mobile” revenue just reflect the allocation of advertising clickthroughs that came from a mobile device. Any mobile device - notably, ones made by Apple, unless something changed dramatically since last October.

However, even if two-thirds of that $2.5bn in mobile search do come from Apple devices, the $442 million Google paid out in traffic-acquisition costs still sounds like a decent investment - if all of it went to Apple, they doubled their money, and we know it didn’t.

So has Google lost control of Android? Our take is that they never really had it in the first place, and instead released it into the wild like a virus in order to disrupt competition from Apple.

Larry Page also wowed the crowds by saying that 90 million users “engaged” with Google + every day. It turns out that anyone who did anything with Google that requires a login, and didn’t explicitly opt out of +, would be counted under that metric. Ars Technica explains the details and also, how to avoid being +’d and still use Google applications. VentureBeat finds some more spongy Google stats.

Android-focused vendor Sony Ericsson wasn’t doing well either. Does search itself face a dark future? Meanwhile, ReadWriteWeb reports that Google shut down three products, their Social Graph API, the web-scraping tool Needlebase, and the prioritising RSS reader Postrank.

How will Google respond? Here’s an interview with Matias Duarte, the Android design tsar who helped build WebOS and is now endeavouring to keep Android 4.0 beautiful. Chrome is getting WebRTC voice capabilities built in. And, although Enterprise is still only 4% of Google revenues, stand by for action - Google has recruited Diane Greene, one of the founders of none more enterprise company VMWare to join the board.

Elsewhere, it was the week RIM got rid of both its CEOs. In future, it intends to operate with as many as 50% fewer CEOs, with top engineer Torsten Heins taking over and a top exec from the Royal Bank of Canada becoming chairman.

Interestingly, back in 2007, Google voluntarily stopped serving ads to the world’s 90th biggest website, Megaupload, for fear of litigation over their frequently copyrighted content. This week, the FBI raided the company, locked up several executives, and seized the computers and the DNS records.

For quite a few years now, big-file hosting sites like Megaupload have been a favoured way to share files - they’re simple, they work over HTTP or HTTPS and therefore don’t get blocked by people who don’t like P2P protocols, and if you’re planning to share copyrighted content, you avoid the P2P “honeypot attack” where rightsholders’ lawyers plant content in (say) BitTorrent to see who downloads it.

Typically, when copyright owners complained, Megaupload would implement the procedure laid down by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and take it down. This is where it gets interesting, though. Like a lot of content-sharing systems (notably iCloud), Megaupload de-duplicated everything that was uploaded - the client generates a cryptographic hash of the file and sends that to the server, which checks it against a list of existing hashes to see if a copy of the file has already been uploaded. If there is a match, the server will just give you a link to the existing copy, thus saving disk space, bandwidth, and time. When a DMCA takedown notice came in, they would just remove the link to the offending file. The FBI argues that this meant they forfeited the DMCA safeharbour provisions.

Ars Technica points out, though, that Megaupload has a point here. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to send a file to someone else - if you want them to review it, for example, or to stash a backup in the cloud, or just to push over that 56MB presentation without creating a bloaty e-mail attachment. Why should the legitimate users have their files (their property, indeed) deleted?

It is at least arguable that the company’s founder “Kim Dotcom” may not be presenting their case to best advantage.

Police cut Dotcom out of a safe room he had barricaded himself in, because, according to his lawyer, he was frightened and panicked…45 credit cards in three wallets were found in the mansion under Dotcom’s various names, while three passports were also found.

In New Zealand, questions are being asked about how Dotcom, who moved to the country in 2010, could be given permanent residency under a business investor scheme despite criminal convictions for insider trading.

New details emerged about Dotcom’s lavish lifestyle and tastes, with reports that he had a heated lap pool built just off the master ensuite, with underwater speakers, imported spring water and a custom ladder worth around NZ$15,000.

A film posted on the Internet shows Dotcom, surrounded by topless women and men spraying champagne on board a superyacht during a “crazy weekend” in Monaco reported to have cost $10 million.

“Fast cars, hot girls, superyachts and amazing parties. Decadence rules,” said the commentary accompanying the so-called fun documentary, which Dotcom dedicated to “all my fans”. The FBI estimates that Dotcom personally made around $115,000 a day during 2010 from his empire. The list of property to be seized, includes nearly 20 luxury cars, one of them a pink Cadillac…

Rivals Rapidshare are putting a brave face on it, while Filesonic shuts down. Arbor Networks, meanwhile, report a noticeable drop in Internet traffic - Megaupload accounted for about 0.1% of total bandwidth and was apparently spending $1m a month on IP transit from Cogent.

After the day Wikipedia went on strike, the DNS-blocking provisions of SOPA were abandoned. TechCrunch Europe reports on Viviane Reding’s speech at the DLD privacy conference.

From the same quarter, meet Vox.io, a new web-based Voice 2.0 startup that makes your phone number into a URI. Or is it your URI into a phone number?

Elsewhere, Germany’s DECIX Internet exchange now offers VoIP peering and interconnect and a carrier-neutral ENUM registry, which makes number portability available to everyone. And here’s an interesting new MVNO on Sprint’s network.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey argues at DLD (which sounds like quite the conference) that their social network isn’t particularly social, and that the sheer simplicity of the user experience is its real selling point. On a similar theme, Plancast inventor Mark Hendrickson discusses why he’s shutting it down, or at least not developing it actively, and says a lot about the problems of social service design.

High Scalability writes up a paper from Yahoo! Research on the problem of how to generate a real-time feed of content efficiently, in terms of database theory. It may be more efficient to grab data from sources that update frequently at run-time and cache ones that update more slowly, even though you might expect that it would be advisable to cache the biggest sources of content.

Meanwhile, Wired recommends its six favourite Facebook timeline apps. And when social networks go bad - gay sex app leaks 100,000 users’ names, locations, passwords, naked pics.

On a completely different note, how about some telecoms standardisation news? ITU has announced its approved technologies for the IMT-Advanced spec, or as someone will no doubt call it, 5G. They are LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced aka WiMAX 2. IT is also busy on an M2M service layer project.

Is Vodafone the world’s best M2M operator? Machina Research thinks so, putting them ahead of DTAG. They also saw off the $3bn tax bill related to the Hutch-Essar acquisition this week, and are expected to pay out more dividend than any other British company this year, as much as 10% of the total.

Free Mobile may be gaining 100,000 subscribers a week.

Indian op Idea Cellular announced that its profits were “only” down 17%, and its shares roared away, which gives you some idea what a vicious price war is raging in Indian mobile.

Kabel Deutschland raised another $750 million from its backers this week, while NSN also called on the bank that likes to say yes.

GiffGaff, O2’s web-based MVNO, has been experiencing the fail recently.

Here’s an interview with the head of Orange Money.

Amazon Web Services announced a new product, DynamoDB, which implements a NoSQL database in their cloud. Pricing is based on I/O bandwidth. Should we abolish the operating system? Probably not, High Scalability readers think. Should we build data centres to look like McMansions? Probably not. Should we optimise jQuery for HTML5 mobile apps? Probably yes.

Telco 2.0 remembers, years ago, having to study up on “cognitive radio”. The result was an interview with some interesting people at General Dynamics and various bits of the US Army, but it wasn’t convincing. The post-mortem for JTRS is here.

Even Steve Jobs had bad ideas.

He was also struck by the fact that many schools, for security reasons, don’t have lockers, so kids have to lug a heavy backpack around.

‘The iPad would solve that,’ he said.

Because if you can’t trust your classmates with your pencils and football boots, you can clearly trust them with £500 worth of shiny. MacWorld isn’t convinced by Apple textbooks either. Dan Rayburn’s CES review. Will Apple put the hard disk back in the Apple TV? Apple hi-fi kit reviewed.

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January 19, 2012

‘Under-The-Floor’ (UTF) Players: threat or opportunity?

Our latest research examines ‘Under-The-Floor’ Players - the strategic threats and opportunities presented by wholesale providers, outsourcers and government-run broadband networks.

The telecoms industry often puts so-called OTT (over-the-top) players like Google and Facebook at the forefront of its concerns, as they pose new competition for services and applications. But what about encroachment of companies “underneath” the telcos, displacing them from their core asset, the network?

To read an extract from the report, please see our research portal here.

Figure 1 - Competition in the services layer means defending network capabilities is increasingly important for operators
UTF Players Fig 1 Jan 2012.png
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January 16, 2012

Free Mobile fracas, Google’s search error?, and Telenor vs. Facebook - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: ‘Early Bird’ rates are still available for the New Digital Economics Brainstorms in Silicon Valley on the 27th-28th of March, and then in London on the 12th-13th of June for our spring EMEA event. Email contact@stlpartners.com or call +44 (0) 20 7247 5003 to join us.]

Benoit Felten reviews the impact of Free Mobile’s launch, pointing out that it implements two of their historic selling points (low prices and simple propositions) but not the third (innovative services), although there is an argument that the heavy use of WLAN offload and femtocells represents an innovative solution on the cost side.

Meanwhile, Les Echos reports that other French operators were “shocked and astonished” at the aggressiveness of their pricing, and quotes Rudolf van der Berg at the OECD pointing out that Free’s service is more open to the Internet than the Dutch operators who are covered by a net-neutrality law. (How many other mobile operators provide a full USENET feed?)

The initial upshot has basically been all about price, though - Fitch Ratings warns that French operators are likely to see their margins drastically reduced, and indeed all three existing mobile operators and several of the MVNOs have already cut prices, although they are trying to hold the line on the top of the price range while matching Free’s prices on their discount offers. That makes sense unless Free users are mostly early adopters (like, ah, Stéphane Richard thinks).

Google this week started injecting results from Google + into Google Search, both from your own network if you have one and from “prominent Google + users and sponsors”, which will be shown in the ad box rather than in the search results. Om Malik thinks “Google just upped the ante on being social”, while Business Insider thinks “Google may just have made the worst mistake in its history” and Dave Winer finds increasing clutter in Google Search so annoying he’d use Bing if Microsoft promised credibly to keep that cruft-free. Get an invite to Google Schemer, another Google social network project, here.

Steven Levy argues that this step may cause more regulatory trouble for Google, as the impersonal purity of traditional Google interfaces expressed that search results were the product of an impartial machine rather than human judgment. Injecting emotion into it might encourage more people to take issue with the results. And anyway, who ever Googled their dog?

He may well be right - the US Federal Trade Commission has taken note of the move as part of its ongoing inquiry into Google search practices.

It was a controversial week, really. Consider the case of the “white lady from Google”. Kenyan directory/local ads startup Mocality started to get calls from its customers saying they’d been the subject of phone calls from Google making a sales pitch and using various misleading statements about Mocality.

Investigating their server logs, they discovered that the same single IP address had been systematically downloading every page on their site, in working hours only. They made a code change to serve that address a different phone number, in order to eavesdrop on the calls, and then went public. The scraping stopped, but immediately resumed from an address in India registered to Google.

After an Internet outcry, Google has apologised. But the really shocking thing is that Google hired someone who thought they could scrape a competitor’s web site from their office without anyone noticing. They’re blaming it on a third-party contractor, which doesn’t explain the second incident from their own network.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch used his new Twitter account to rant entertainingly about Google, after the White House intervened to have the SOPA bill watered down and specifically to get the DNS-blacklist provisions removed.

There was some better news from the patent front, though - the US International Trade Commission threw out one of the Apple lawsuits against Motorola Mobility, and the judge gave Oracle quite the telling off for hugely over-estimating damages in their lawsuit. The trial will be put off until they come back with something Judge Alsup finds reasonable.

A new Google web site opens to help developers improve the design of their apps. And here’s an in-depth interview with Google’s data-centre chief, the author of the seminal The Data Centre as a Computer.

On the other hand, Om Malik notes a distinct lack of Google TV hardware at CES.

Back in telcoville, Bloomberg interviews Telenor’s CEO about their Telco 2.0 plans. It’s a pretty good interview (note that SMS revenues peaked in 2009), but what’s this?

Telenor ASA (TEL) has become one of the last major European phone operators to respond to the threat of a loss of revenue to Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Facebook Inc. with its own push in digital services.

Content Provider Access has been going for a long, long time by tech industry standards…on the subject of telco responses to the disruptors, of course, we’ve published an extensive Telco 2.0 Strategy Report on Google, Apple, and Facebook.

It looks like LightSquared is in deep trouble, after the US FCC’s GPS experts failed to come up with any way it could operate its network without endangering GPS users. Julius Genachowski, meanwhile, banged the drum for ubiquitous broadband around CES - Forbes has a detailed interview, in which he argues that the Internet creates 2.6 jobs for each one it destroys. The Voice of Broadband reminds us that fixed remains absolutely essential.

OFCOM has another crack at sorting out the UK spectrum position. T-Mobile UK says sorry for Chinese-firewalling VPN users. Teresa Cottam has a thoughtful piece on how operators fail on pricing. The agenda for next month’s European FTTH Council looks chewy. Ericsson puts mobile base stations aboard Maersk’s ships.

CES fallout centres on Intel’s Atom chips making it into the smartphone world, thanks to Lenovo’s new gadget. IntoMobile has a hands-on with the shiny. This is serious news - Intel has been trying to get back into mobile ever since they left, while the whole field of mobility, embedded, and media devices has been conquered by ARM-based chips, so much so that they’re beginning to leak back into the PC-and-server market. In an ironic detail, Motorola Mobility has endorsed the concept of x86-based smartphones and Intel has ported Android to run on the platform (including apps using the NDK) - we can remember when Moto and Intel were competitors…

That was before Apple started using x86 chips in Macs, of course. Intel has apparently made some sort of overture to Apple about introducing their chips to the iOS range, but it seems unlikely given that Apple just bought an ARM-based chip design firm and started using its own designs.

Interestingly, this intersects with big decisions at Microsoft. While Intel has been striving to get x86 technology into mobile, Microsoft has been trying just as hard to get Windows ported to run on ARM systems, for much the same reasons. It looks like MS wants to make its Secure Boot initiative mandatory on ARM systems and not on x86. That includes Qualcomm’s proposed Snapdragon (i.e. ARM)-based ultrabooks. No Linux for you!

Intel also announced its latest ultrabook reference design, and it includes a touchscreen as well as a keyboard after feedback from user testing. (We recently handled a netbook that accepts multi-touch gestures via the trackpad, so…)

And Huawei’s top-end Android is here.


Obviously, seeing as there was a big gadget show there was a lot of rumour about Apple iProducts. Bloomberg expects iPad 3 to land in early May with LTE, Ars Technica reckons a quad-core iOS device is coming. However, as AnandTech points out in a must-read post, Apple would either need to bin their own A4/A5 series chips and run Qualcomm SoCs or else develop their own radio baseband, as Qualcomm’s first 28nm baseband that supports data and voice for LTE won’t be ready until the autumn. At the moment they use the MDM6600 45nm HSPA+ radio with the Apple A5 processor, and Qualcomm is offering the 9900 with a separate LTE radio in the SoC package. To meet their requirements, they’ll need the 9615, which is expected in the middle of the year - but apparently, 28nm fabbing turns out to be problematic, so this may yet slide right.

Elsewhere, Horace suggests that if you consider the iPad to be a PC, Apple may overtake HP as the world’s biggest computer vendor in the next quarter. However, are video professionals deserting the company?

There weren’t many Google TV devices, but Vizio’s new media-streamer is one and Dan Rayburn is impressed. Alternatively, here’s Ars Technica’s review of Ubuntu TV. Dan York hunts IPv6 devices. And Akamai fills the post of VP & GM for licensed CDN…with the head of their joint mobile CDN project with Ericsson.

Facebook has shared a huge dump of data with Politico so they can analyse what’s happening in there during the Republican primaries. ReadWriteWeb works through the issues with the help of Telco 2.0 ally Kaliya Hamlin. Meanwhile, AllThingsD says Facebook may be planning to IPO in late May - which implies they must file papers with the SEC quite soon.

Rupert Murdoch’s twitter feed continues revealing, as he comments on the MySpace experience as follows:

We screwed up in every way possible

Elsewhere, pseudonymous commenters contribute more, in quantity and in quality. And a detailed write-up of recovering a GMail account destroyed by hackers.

Chinese Central TV launches a mobile TV service in Kenya. Meet Angry Brides. A golden age of surveillance or a dark age of secrecy for criminals? Bruce Schneier discusses. Maps for financial inclusion. Tropo terminates IM and Twitter support. German policeman spies illegally on daughter, gets whole surveillance system hacked. Nokia buys another operating system.

3D printing in the cloud, from your phone camera. There is, as they say, an app for that.

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January 13, 2012

Up to a 1/3 decline feared in Voice and Messaging revenues in 3 years

This chart highlights the serious concerns we’re now seeing for messaging and voice revenues across the telco industry.

APAC vs EMEA Voice and Messaging Jan 2012.png

The c.300+ Telco 2.0 community members we asked in late 2011 across our EMEA and APAC Brainstorms predicted remarkably similar declines, which were also in keeping with our findings in the ‘Dealing with the Disruptors’ report.

While it’s difficult to take these views as a definitive absolute guide to the ultimate revenue impact, many telcos worldwide are starting to see real impacts from so-called ‘Over-The-Top’ (OTT) services, which were unambiguously identified by delegates as the main cause of these predicted drops. One senior participant commented that some telco finance folk would be shocked to see these views so widely held in the industry, although others said that such scenarios were already being considered.

As can be seen above, delegates from our APAC brainstorm feared more for mobile voice revenues than their EMEA counterparts, who were more concerned about messaging revenues. This is in part because a higher proportion of APAC voice revenues are pre-paid and not in-bundle, and the lower smartphone penetrations in the more prevalent emerging markets in APAC compared to EMEA (more on the brainstorms here).

This leads us on to two developments for 2012: we’ll be looking in-depth again at strategies for optimising voice and messaging in 2012 (more on our research agenda here); and members of the Telco 2.0 subscription service can now access slides, charts and reports from the two most recent brainstorms here.

Email contact@stlpartners.com or call +44 (0) 20 7247 5003 to find out more about our research or the next brainstorms.

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January 12, 2012

The BlackBerry that wasn’t; is it industrial design or service design?

A BlackBerry design concept from 2009 has been leaked and divides opinion at Telco 2.0.

Urraco_for website_white-3.jpg

Perhaps the really interesting question is whether the state-of-2009 BlackBerry OS, hardware, and service experience would have benefited that much from more exciting industrial design. After all, a very big chunk of the iPhone’s appeal has been concentrated in the software and in the supporting cast of iTunes features and services.

While other vendors (naming no names) came up with some very complex streaming models, Apple concentrated on keeping your content in sync between different devices and making sure you could get it from any of them to any playback device that might be hanging around. Not many users know what Multicast-DNS Service Discovery is, and a lot of network engineers hate it for various reasons, but they do like having all their stuff on their Mac on their iPhone.

And it’s not as if the Bold 9900 isn’t a pretty handsome chunk of shiny. Is RIM’s real problem service design rather than industrial design?

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January 11, 2012

Free Mobile: Very Telco 2.0 Indeed

The web is agog about the launch of Free.fr’s mobile network, long awaited. Om Malik interviews CEO Xavier Niel, and it’s quite impressive how much Telco 2.0 comes up.

“Since it is our own set-top box, we can innovate around it,” he says. “In the U.S., they buy their set-top boxes from other providers.” That’s a mistake and lost opportunity, Niel says and proceeds to outline how pivotal these set-top boxes are for his company and its future.

They’re referring to the Freebox Revolution devices Free pushed out last year. We’ve long been arguing the importance of better CPE, and pointing to Free as a case study of how to do it (they engineer them in house, based on open-source software).

l1011414-1.jpg (from here; by)

For example, Free.fr used the set-top box for automatically sharing a portion of one’s broadband connection via Wi-Fi with other Free.fr customers. Over five million set-top boxes means Free.fr has a free Wi-Fi cloud enveloping major cities such as Paris. Even when away from home, you can easily get broadband instead of resorting to an expensive 3G network.

This Free.Fr free Wi-Fi network is going to play a pivotal role in the soon-to-be-launched service, which will be using 42 Mbps HSPA+ technology. The company has built a network of 15,000 macrocells, but those 5 million “nano cells” are going to be the key difference maker, Niel points out.

Free.fr’s newer set-top boxes will have built-in femtocells. On top of that, Free is going to be beefing up its macrocells with high-capacity fiber connections being fed by Iliad’s dark fiber. And when the time comes, he is going to embrace LTE and include that in his network as well. “We will go to wide area network (3G and 2.5G) when we are not in Wi-Fi coverage,” he tells me.

WLAN offload, multiple radio networks, and small cells? Telco 2.0 has been covering this ever since we first encountered FON.

He believes telecoms should charge for access and make money by selling the ID and payment services, not voice and SMS. It’s one of the reasons he loves Square, Jack Dorsey’s payment company, where he is an angel investor. “It is crazy to pay for voice by the minute as voice is so cheap,” he says. Even SMS texting is a lot of money and he finds that crazy. “We are trying to be the cheapest mobile service in France,” he adds. Don’t be surprised to see Google Voice-type services built into the service itself.

ID, personal data, and mobile payments as services to upstream customers? And better voice and messaging? You heard it here first.

The really big question is whether the cost savings from providing so much connectivity via the Freeboxes will be enough for Free to keep its promises on price. Then we’ll see whether there really is more to the disruption than just another round of commoditisation. And if so, Free will again be a world example of Telco 2.0 best practice.

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January 9, 2012

Smart TV@CES, Netflix, Samsung’s Q4 No.s and Apple’s odd forecasts - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: ‘Early Bird’ rates are available for the New Digital Economics Brainstorms in Silicon Valley on the 27th-28th of March, and then in London on the 12th-13th of June for our spring EMEA event. Email contact@stlpartners.com or call +44 (0) 20 7247 5003 to join us.]

It’s CES week, and expectations are high because early sales numbers for Christmas are depressing. Overall consumer electronics sales, according to NPD, were down 5.9% year on year. The bright spots were “streaming devices” (like Roku and friends), home cinema kit, and flat-panel TVs, while everything else suffered and devices whose functions are integrated in the iPhone suffered disproportionately.

TV innovation was a big theme this week. Lenovo showed a 55 inch TV running Android 4.0 on a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU. (A dual-core TV?) It also has a built-in 5 megapixel camera to support face recognition. There are those of us who remember stories about East German TV sets that supposedly contained a CCTV camera so the local Party representative could check you were watching the TV you were supposed to be watching…

DISH, the US satellite TV station that’s been featuring in the Review for a while now, is going to announce something major at CES today. AllThingsD suggests that they are planning a new DVR/STB with seriously huge storage, and also an “Internet service that will be marketed to 8 million customers, most of whom can’t get fiber or cable broadband”. That sounds a lot like the rumoured Verizon Wireless LTE collaboration to us. (See Reviews 78 and 87.)

In content news, Netflix launched in the UK, at a price point slightly above Lovefilm’s, implying that they are hoping that their strength in design and user experience will prevail.

Facebook users can look forward to ads in their news feed this year. Chinese authors sue Apple. And here’s some mobile content for you: a SIM preloaded with Taliban ringtones and video propaganda, so you can swap it in before making a journey where you might encounter their checkpoints.

Another crack at mobile TV. And in this week’s Chart of the Week, Horace Dediu tries to understand Hollywood finances. The really baffling data point, to our minds, is not so much that Spider-Man 2 spent more money on the script than Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines but that either of them spent any money at all on the script…


Telco 2.0’s Shoreditch neighbour Zeebox, the social-TV companion start-up launched by former YouView CTO Anthony Rose, has some major news this week - BSkyB is its newest investor, taking a £15m stake in the company, and will build Zeebox’s social networking functionality into it’s popular apps.

Another UK start-up, Picochip, which makes base station systems-on-a-chip for small cells, has been acquired by Californian semiconductor firm Mindspeed.

And NTT DoCoMo, NEC, Fujitsu, Panasonic, and Samsung have announced a joint venture to develop new baseband chips as an alternative to Qualcomm products.

In Q4 2011, Apple bought some 23% of the world’s supply of NAND Flash memory chips. When they used some of that to put an extra 16GB of storage into an iPhone, they were able to sell it for precisely $100 more. The cost of the additional storage? $10.72. Nice work if you can get it. In fact, it’s so nice that Apple derives more profit from reselling extra NAND than the entire semiconductor industry does making it.

So you might wonder why they just bought a NAND company. The answer is that it’s yet more Apple vertical integration. Buying PA Semiconductor gave them the capability to design their own processors (within the ARM framework, of course), buying Anobis gives them the ability to design their own storage chips as they standardise on Flash across the whole product line.

Samsung, meanwhile, reaped the rewards of the smartphone boom, with its best ever quarterly results, up 73% year on year at $4.5bn in profits after they managed to increase their shipments of smartphones by 20%. Or perhaps they didn’t - The Guardian points out that these aren’t final results and Samsung doesn’t actually break out smartphones in its segment analysis, so you have to trust Strategy Analytics’ modelling. Did I get the mark, darling?

On the other hand, although HTC had already warned on profits, its numbers beat the spread in the wrong way, with its Q4s down 26%. It looks like the industry’s great commoditiser has commoditised itself. Meanwhile, Nokia has denied, again, selling its smartphone division to Microsoft. Microsoft, for its part, is offering a cash bonus to retail workers who sell Windows Phones - $15 a phone. They’ve also stopped publishing details of updates.

Speaking of commoditisation, Horace Dediu reverse-engineers some Apple forecasts and concludes that they only make sense on the assumption that Apple gets commoditised in the near future. Regression to the mean is one of those things that works…until it doesn’t. Meanwhile, here are details of China Unicom’s iPhone 4S pricing.

Motorola Mobility warned that its Q4s were looking disappointing, naming a sales figure of $3.4bn and 10.5 million units (or should that be 10.5 megaphones?).

And Newbury-based radioplanning experts Arieso have some data on user behaviour and smartphones. Apple iPhone 4S users pull twice as much data as iPhone 4 users. But the really interesting finding is that people with HTC Android phones uplink more data than anyone else - notably the Desire S. Which is surprising, as the camera isn’t obviously better than the iPhone’s. And the Google Nexus One is the noisiest of them all, generating 2.2 times as many data calls on the network as an iPhone 3G.

Vodafone announced a new wave of partnership agreements with local MNOs, as a substitute for expensive acquisitions. Even if Vodafone’s given up on M&A, that doesn’t mean everyone else has though - Goldman Sachs analysts were suggesting a VF-VZ deal again, and this blog post points out why it’s silly. Vodafone would like to own 100% of Verizon Wireless. Verizon would like to own Verizon Wireless as well. Given those two, mutually incompatible preferences and roughly equal bargaining power, the rational solution is to co-operate, as both 55% and 45% are substantially greater than zero.

Elsewhere in North American mobility, Sprint has refused to put any more money into LightSquared until the wholesale-only operator resolves its dispute with the FCC over whether its network can function without breaking GPS. And T-Mobile USA’s towers may be up for sale.

Rudolf van der Berg’s twitter feed says what a lot of people are thinking - Free.fr’s mobile network launches tomorrow, and if they are as disruptive as usual, it’s going to be interesting. The launch made headlines across the French press, with Free Mobile offering unlimited calls and 3GB of data for €19.99 a month, although you need to bring your own phone and you’ll pay through the nose to lease one from them (€720 over the contract for an iPhone 4S, a substantial mark up over the list price). CEO Xavier Niel promised to cut the competition’s ARPU in half.

Telefonica has picked a building for its new digital unit, off Regent Street.

Ben Verwaayen says that Alcatel-Lucent isn’t planning job cuts like the ones at NSN, and that they may try to bring some of the pile of cash at Alcatel Shanghai Bell home if they can find a way of doing so under Chinese banking rules. Aussie operators crank up the lobbying war ahead of decisions on the 800MHz band.

Meet the winner from US inter-carrier reform, Neutral Tandem, a bit like an IX for voice interconnection.

And RevK discovers something weird in BT Wholesale.

Cisco has quietly shut down its Umi consumer telepresence line, Business Insider reports. After all, Skype is free.

Phil Wolff notes that Skype is shutting down GroupMe’s conference calling features, although any user who made a conference call in the last month gets grandfathered. That suggests that the problem is that nobody used it, and Skype has no reason to maintain two voice conferencing systems.

Phil’s wishlist for 2012 is here. Note that, by our count, 8 out of 15 wishes involve APIs or developers. His (semiserious) predictions are here. Meanwhile, Dan York argues that Skype is now boring.

What happens when an Amazon Availability Zone fills up? EC2 Reserved Instance customers are served first, it turns out. Meanwhile, AWS adds much more cloud-networking capability to EC2 and Virtual Private Cloud via Elastic Network Interfaces.

Acer clones iCloud. Eliminating e-mail. Jack Ma’s Alibaba.com hires top Washington lobbyists to help them buy Yahoo! BBM messages decrypted, mafia disappointed.

A series of posts on complex image transforms in HTML5. Patchday for HP printers. Mayor Bloomberg learns to code. Another slow-TCP DOS attack.

And it’s not the mobile phones killing bees, it’s the brain parasite flies turning them into zombies.

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January 3, 2012

2011 in Review, Reviewed: Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 News Review

It’s the first Telco 2.0 News Review of 2011, and as a result, we thought we’d begin with a review of reviews of 2011. Mashable thought the defining feature of 2011 was big companies reversing big decisions, with the social media contributing to the trend by creating an enormous fuss. The Register needed two reviews to cover a year packed with news, and concluded that the biggest stories all involved the question of who controls your data, from Facebook to the Google FTC inquiry and the great phone-hacking scandal.

It was also the year of Anonymous and WikiLeaks, another data story, the year Apple dominated the industry, and the year the long-delayed Duke Nukem Forever arrived and sank without trace - and that’s SCIENCE. At least, it’s based on the most read stories on Ars Technica this year. The GSMA Mobile Money for the Unbanked Blog’s 2011 sounds rather bureaucratic (lots of meetings) when you might have expected more excitement from one of the most fascinating corners of the business. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reviews the year when SSL certificate authorities went mad! and their favourite lawsuits.

TorrentFreak.com lists the top 10 pirated movies of 2011, basically confirming that the typical pirate is a sweaty-palmed 13 year old boy, or someone with the same tastes.

The flip side of “2011 in review” is “predictions for 2012”, of course. ReadWriteWeb notes one analyst making a play for attention by predicting Apple will “lose its cool” in 2012. Ars Technica’s Microsoft blog expects that 2012 will be a very important year for MS strategically, as many new products are going to hit the market and the company is trying to create a single look-and-feel and single set of management interfaces across its whole product line. MS has done that for years in the enterprise, but never before in consumer. Oddly, no mention of Skype or Nokia in there.

Telecoms.com has predictions for 2012 in networks - they’re expecting heavy investment in EPC to support the growing LTE radio networks, lots more small cells, and Tier-1 mobile operators building their own CDNs. Wireless Design has by far the geekiest combined review/predictions post of them all:

25 ppm version of our XpressO product line in the 3.2 x 2.5ppm package at both 3.3V and 2.5V with an operating temperature range of -20 to 70°C. The best our competitors can do is basically 50 ppm at -20 to 70°C. Plus Fox offers 1 week delivery for the 25pm part, compared to 8 to 10weeks for a 50 ppm part from other manufacturers.

More thematically, it’s clear from their guests that everyone’s thinking in terms of multiple radio technologies. Elsewhere, Matt Asay argues that open APIs are the way to get rich in 2012, as developers are the “new kingmakers” of the tech industry.

We mentioned TorrentFreak’s list of the pirate top 10, and there was quite a lot of content news over the holidays, what with CES and its usual plethora of media-focused gadgets. Ars has a hands-on with Ultraviolet, in the form of Flixster.com, and doesn’t much like what it sees - although the problems are mostly to do with their creaky user interface rather than anything fundamental about the technology or the business model. Then again, one key lesson from 2011 was that there’s nothing more fundamental than the user interface…

Smart TV, in general, was a hot theme all year, but by the end of 2011 the main news about it was that nobody was really using it. Telecoms.com reports that part of the problem is that the retailers aren’t really communicating its possibilities to their customers - which isn’t surprising as they have no stake in the service or apps elements of the experience. Interestingly, telcos are better at it.

Everyone’s expecting a TV-related announcement from Apple at Macworld or the WWDC, and in the meantime, a hacker managed to get their iOS app working on an Apple TV. Faultline Research pours cold water on the hype.

An important TV theme at our events this year was how balkanised the TV market is. Horace demonstrates this nicely with maps comparing the availability of iTunes apps, music, and TV.

AllThingsDpoints out that pirate TV is everywhere. TorrentFreak updates on the YouHaveDownloaded fiasco - the web app tells you what your current IP address, or indeed any valid IP address, has been used to grab from BitTorrent. Of course, people asked it what the French President’s office and the RIAA had downloaded. Hilarity ensued. Now the French are denying it, which is problematic in the light of their HADOPI legislation… Elsewhere, Virgin Media accidentally censored any mention of Charles Dickens from its electronic programming guide.

SoundCloud, a Silicon Roundabout neighbour of ours, snagged a major funding round and gained Mary “queen of the internet” Meeker as a director. Does this mean their web player is going to work again one day?

In the CDN field, Akamai finally bought Cotendo, and Dan Rayburn reckons that this implies a squeeze on CDN customers. Check out the comments for an illuminating row about the key metrics and issues in CDN. And then try part two, with more on the commercial side and some interesting information about Ericsson’s mobile CDN product in the comments.

Benoit Felten, meanwhile, would like you to stop wasting your time arguing about digital rights issues and demand broadband instead.

Via GigaOm, we learn that Verizon Wireless has localised the cause of its repeated LTE outages to software problems in their IMS core network, specifically as it relates to device authentication, and to the storm of re-authentication requests unleashed when the LTE devices all tried to step down to the EV-DO 3G network at once. Verizon’s IMS includes equipment from Alcatel-Lucent, NSN, Acme Packet, and Tekelec, so good luck debugging that. (They also gave up on the idea of a special $2 fee for paying a bill.)

David Burgess of OpenBTS has started a wiki to collect open-source information about the UMTS Uu interface (the bit between you and the base station) as he endeavours to bring high speed to the open-source cellular project. He has some hard, and interesting, things to say about the vendors.

In other core telco news, while operators like Verizon look at reselling cable service, cable operators are looking at upgrading their Internet video services to compete with them. In many ways, the cableguys had a good year, extending their businesses into WLAN and wholesale and keeping ahead of the telcos for high speed.

One carrier that’s feeling the effects is KPN. They face intense competition from two national cable operators and a vigorous independent fibre sector. Late last year, their CEO said they didn’t plan any more investment in FTTH, but now board member Thorsten Dirks has come out to tell him off and argue for more fibre. Interestingly, Dirks is responsible for mobility. At the same time, the CFO resigned after disagreeing with a re-org that centralises more power in the CEO’s office.

T-Mobile walks from the AT&T deal with $3bn in cold cash, plus a handsome chunk of AWS 1700MHz spectrum covering 12 of the top 20 US markets, and a seven-year 3G national roaming agreement. No wonder they took care to thank Randall Stephenson for his cooperation, as you’d be forgiven for thinking T-Mobile did better out of the deal falling through than they would have if it closed.

RevK, meanwhile, is not happy with BT. Is Christmas a bank holiday or just a Sunday?

And here’s an interesting presentation on the future of multicast VPN. The Cisco version is collected a knighthood in this year’s honours list, after which the Queen asked him how to get the SIM with her contacts list and corgi photos into her new iPhone 4S. More seriously, Apple got sued by a French reseller, claiming that it refused them new stock in order to keep it for its own stores.

Horace Dediu reckons Apple is pricing its TV and the iPhone 3GS to go, specifically in the US market. iPads, however, are sold at much the same price anywhere in the world.

It’s been an exciting few days at RIM, where the two CEOs agreed to accept a dollar each as salary after the company took a massive charge against the value of unsold PlayBooks. Among others, Amazon.com is reported to have been interested in buying the company. No wonder one investor complained that the company was distracted by:

listening to too many ideas from investment bankers, strategic partners and private equity firms.

This must have been pretty distracting, too - the Wall Street Journal confirms that Microsoft and Nokia considered jointly buying the company.

Elsewhere, half the dynamic duo denied a report that there was something wrong with the new BlackBerry 10 OS, saying instead that there was a delay in shipping chips.

A price-comparison website has published numbers suggesting that the Nokia Lumia 800 is the best selling Windows Phone - but that’s like being the best camel in the Atlantic Ocean, as hardly any Winphones sold at all. Robert Scoble thinks nobody wants them and especially, nobody wants to port apps to them. Charlie Kindel, former WinPhone GM, thinks it’s “superior to Android” but hasn’t taken off because of “retail sales professionals” and says app developers are irrelevant. MG Siegler says it’s just too late.

Meanwhile, here’s a crash investigation into WebOS.

Google, MG Siegler notes, has promised a lot of stuff for this coming June. In fact, it seems to be a habit with Eric Schmidt that everything is always 6 months away - rather like the notorious Friedman unit. TechCrunch notes that people aren’t searching the Web for “Google+”, but that might be because typical G+ users wouldn’t be seen dead typing a URI into the Google box. Right?

Ever been annoyed by the way Google.com doesn’t give you a clean URI to share, bookmark, or whatever since their “Caffeine” upgrade a few years ago? The solutions are here, although there is an argument that you shouldn’t need to do that.

Hackers, meanwhile, discovered that Google Wallet is in fact present in the devices Verizon asked Google to omit it from.

And Samsung - which had a banner year selling Android devices by the sack all over the world - lines up a ‘droid for the emerging world, with dual-SIM capability, a full keyboard, and Android 2.3.

As always at this end of the year, it’s time for the annual Chaos Communication Congress. Like last year, it’s nothing but bad news from the GSM security point of view. Karsten Nohl’s talk here has the details and the video can be obtained here. It is strongly recommended that you implement randomisation in signalling messages if you’re using A5/1, and gsmmap.org is getting ready to create a database of which mobile networks are vulnerable. Potential exploits include tracking users, toll fraud, and intercepting calls. The good news is Nohl has also invented a way of detecting IMSI-catchers.

There’s much more relevant matter in the schedule - notably on WLAN, TCP/IP with Dan Kaminsky, Qualcomm baseband chips, Apple and Google mobile devices, attacking PBXen, and much more.

F-Secure and H Security have reactions. The Dutch government CERT advises you to set your phone to UMTS-only.

Who knew you could deny access to any phone for $40 a day?

Also from C3, data-mining Skype calls.

Tropo has two nice HOWTOs this week: this one uses ScraperWiki, which friends of ours invented, and this one uses ConstantContact, which we use. And here’s a screencast of Tim Panton building a video-conferencing app with Phono Mobile.

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