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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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