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April 30, 2012

Samsung passes Nokia; YouView struggles; Telenor out of India? - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: Just 6 weeks now to the EMEA Executive Brainstorm, 12-13 June 2012 in London. There’s a great agenda in a smart new venue. Register here, call +44 (0) 207 247 5003, or email contact@stlpartners.com for more.]

Nokia was downgraded to junk status by two different credit rating agencies this week. As a result they’ve decided to sell the slightly embarrassing, but no doubt profitable, Vertu diamonds-on-old-featurephones business in order to bring in some cash. PE fund Permira is the buyer.

iSuppli and Strategy Analytics agree that Samsung is now the biggest mobile phone vendor, with 25.4% of the world market in Q1. It seems a long time since Nokia’s target was 40% of the market. Nokia also won a patent lawsuit this week. Tomi Ahonen, as always, is speechless with rage and demanding N9s all round. He surely has a point that everyone who’s met the gadget seems to love it and Nokia is strangely reluctant to sell it.

That brings us to our Chart of the Week, via the 3G & 4G Wireless Blog. A major issue for operators in the smartphone era is the volume of signalling messages generated by the new devices, often more of a problem than the headline data volumes. This slide, from Telefonica.cz, puts some data on the problem.

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That’s rather more N9s (i.e. Harmattan) than you might think, and the presenter blames a minority of misconfigured devices for the Android share of the pie, but Windows Phone scoops the signalling hogs’ pot.

Someone should tell Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who was quoted this week calling WP “intuitive and beautiful”. Meanwhile, the New York Times discusses a great new Apple innovation, the “Double Irish with a Dutch sandwich” - an accounting manoeuvre that permits it to pay much less tax than you might expect.

Horace Dediu scores his forecasting for the past quarter.

It looks like the UK’s increasingly disappointing smart-TV initiative is sliding right again. YouView’s directors now think it’s going to miss the World CDN, Peering, and Video Streaming Championships…sorry…the Olympics, which casts a certain smell of irrelevance over the project. Not so long ago, TalkTalk was promising a pre-Olympics launch.

Connected Vision points out that the DTT Freeview service has quietly gained many of the features YouView was meant to provide, implying that the BBC is already making plans for a future without it. So, this blog post of ours from last June may have its answer: it’s looking like another Domesday Project. The Science Museum can measure up the space. Or should that be an Amstrad Em@ailer in honour of Lord Sugar’s involvement?

Quite possibly, none of the Smart TV initiatives are going to work, though. A survey of British consumers suggests that they don’t know what it’s meant to do or why they’d want it.

Meanwhile, SES, BSkyB, and Craftwork get on with something useful and invent a way of streaming satellite TV direct from the satellite receiver onto a LAN. It supports a lot of useful stuff (like an API to select satellites and transponders over IP, multicast, and Apple style HTTP-streaming on the air).

And Ovum has a handy discussion of Telkomsel’s new mobile CDN product.

Telenor is threatening to pull out of India if the re-auction of the 2G spectrum goes ahead in its current form, as they expect that its cost will go over their self-imposed investment limit. In token of their earnest, they have written down the assets to zero. India’s Telecom Commission, not to be confused with the TRAI regulator, is trying to patch up the crisis.

Meanwhile, America Movil announced that its profits were up 37.5% in Brazil. Revenue is dominated by mobile voice, but it was the additional margin from their new cable TV business that pushed them over the top.

Sprint Nextel had surprisingly good net adds in Q1, with over a million new users. That was the biggest net win in the industry that quarter. Of course, the iPhone helped. Interestingly, they are using surprising amounts (3MHz) of their 800MHz spectrum to transition voice over from iDEN to CDMA2000. Still.

LightSquared’s bankers agreed not to declare the company in default quite yet, in exchange for the head of Philip Falcone, who will therefore be leaving his third satellite-related mobile fiasco in due course.

In the UK, the latest round in the spectrum wars is on. EverythingEverywhere has just about scraped together the spectrum to make a start on LTE before the auction, and every other operator hates the thought. Hence 4GBritain.org, EE’s new lobbying campaign to get OFCOM to let them turn the key.

And here’s a report on volunteers building their own fibre network. (Benoit Felten has a small but crucial correction.)

Naked DSL in Australia. Cable cuts happen.

The people that brought you the Packet Pushers’ Podcast remark that whatever the cloud may be, it’s not necessarily cheap, swinging off this tweet in which the founder of Instapaper discovered that implementing Amazon CloudSearch might be nice to have, but would cost him $10,000 a month in OPEX. Also, it turns out that Google Docs doesn’t keep images in storage, it lazy-loads them, resulting in a giant AWS bill for one user. More cloudoscepticism from Blekko’s CTO.

Perhaps it had something to do with a satisfyingly thick Q1 at Amazon. You can now create a Virtual Private Cloud programmatically through Amazon’s CloudFormation, and you could even put Cluster Compute high-performance computing instances in it. Or, of course, you could use Microsoft Azure.

A report from the Google vs. Oracle IP trenches. Perhaps more importantly, the litigation resulted in an internal Google presentation on Android becoming public, and it’s crammed with chewy data. We especially like the point that Google’s ad revenue forecast model for Android is “based on the iPhone”. Android ads not great for developers, but that’s the users’ fault. Barnes & Noble makes nice with Microsoft, probably not good news for Android.

How Google Search searches, by a Search Googler.

Steve Jobs apparently considered making Mac OS 9 ad-supported. Is this the bubbliest story yet? Why would anyone use Instagram rather than Flickr? ReadWriteWeb asks some photographers.

Bewildering world of Windows tablets. The differences between Asterisk and Freeswitch. Chrome’s roadmap for WebRTC features. Interview with mobile money implementers - note that O2 is going with an MPESA-like model.

Yahoo! social network expert escapes. Hideous SCADA M2M security exploit.

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April 25, 2012

Big Data, Personal Data & Privacy: The Telco Opportunity

Those who follow Telco 2.0 (and come to our events) will know that we’ve been working with the World Economic Forum (WEF) on their ‘Re-thinking Personal Data’ project for the last two years, which is about how ‘personal data’ can be turned into a new class of economic asset. Here is a recent video we made recently to explain the opportunities in this space, with some more useful links below. We’ve also just published another video, Big Data: How Personal Clouds and ‘VRM’ will revolutionise Customer Relationships, by Doc Searls over on our research portal.

We are currently running a global ‘Tiger Team’ for the WEF on this topic. This is a vanguard group of global PD experts to stimulate the creation and adoption of international actionable agreements and partnerships that help fast track the implementation of the principles of the WEF’s RPD project - helping to bring about the emergence of a personal data ecosystems where people are in control of the collection, use, sharing, and monetization of their personal data.

We held our first meeting with 40 experts in San Jose on 26th March to a.) agree on a common, shared language/taxonomy/terms of reference for describing the PD space, b.) Share latest examples of important new international developments, use cases, architectures and best practice in key areas and sectors (consumer, corporate and government), c.) Agree how to ‘slice the elephant’ in terms of coordinating next step international collaboration in a few high impact areas.

WEF RPD Tiger Team meeting 26 March 2012, San Jose More photos here.

We’ll share some of the output with readers of the Telco 2.0 blog shortly. We will be running our next meeting in London to coincide with our EMEA event on 12-13 June.

In the meantime here are some useful links (videos and documents) for those interested in the topic:

General Personal Data Concepts:

Technical aspects:

Business aspects (focused on advertising):

Do contact us for more details.

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April 24, 2012

New Telco 2.0 Research: how to accelerate the implementation of new business model strategies


We’ve just published a free new report based on in-depth research among senior execs in ‘upstream’ industries (e.g. retail, media, IT, etc.) and telcos, that shows that poor communication of the telecoms ‘Telco 2.0’ value proposition and slow implementation by operators is frustrating upstream customers and operators alike.

A key premise of the Telco 2.0 Initiative is that opportunities exist for operators to support third-party businesses in Customer Profiling, Marketing offers, ID & Authentication, Network QoS, and Billing, Payments & Collection. We have previously published research outlining the high level opportunity framework for this in the ‘Telco 2.0 Two-Sided Business Model Opportunity’ report, and subsequently the strategy development activities required in the ‘Roadmap to New Telco 2.0 Business Models’.

Our new analysis identifies strategic customer segments for telcos building new ‘Telco 2.0’ business models, key obstacles to overcome, six real-world implementation strategy scenarios, and strategic recommendations for telcos.

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This report is free because it was kindly sponsored by Openet. The research, analysis and editorial were independently directed, managed and carried out by STL Partners. You can download the report here. We’ll also be presenting headline findings at the EMEA Executive Brainstorm, 12-13 June in London. Call 44 (0) 207 247 5003 or email contact@stlpartners.com for more.

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April 23, 2012

China Mobile slows; Voda buys C&W Worldwide; AT&T’s new APIs -Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: It’s the last week of the ‘Early Bird’ rate for the EMEA Executive Brainstorm, 12-13 June 2012 in London, so get in while you can. There’s a great agenda in a smart new venue. Register here, call +44 (0) 207 247 5003, or email contact@stlpartners.com for more.]

After a big run-up last week, China Mobile shares took a knock after the huge carrier’s Q1 subscriber numbers came in lower than expected. There were also reports that e-commerce star Alibaba.com’s profits were likely to disappoint, as the economy slowed down, and that venture capital was getting harder to find for Chinese startups.

Meanwhile, Reuters has a detailed profile of Huawei CEO Ren Zhingfei. Like a lot of important people in China today, he started from the bottom after his family was disgraced in the Cultural Revolution (his father picked the wrong side in the civil war). This insight into Huawei’s corporate structure is…interesting:

At the end of last year Ren gave some insight into the structure in place at Huawei, explaining a system in which eight executives took turns as chairman for six months.

Details of the roll-out of their Ascend P1 smartphone are here. (Meanwhile, a review of HTC’s One S is here.)

Nokia’s ASPs in China have fallen off a cliff in the last 12 months. Who knew the Chinese liked Symbian so much?

The political crisis in China is manifesting itself in unusual ways. Sina Weibo seems to have developed a Web platform for citizens to submit news leads, photos, etc to 70 or so newspapers and broadcasters around China anonymously, a stupefyingly radical idea in context, launched the site in beta, and then rapidly shut it down. And Fang Bingxing, architect of the Great Firewall and China’s general Internet strategy, seems to have disappeared, or at least staged a diplomatic illness. It’s hard to say what’s going on, but something is…

In India, the government has taken advice about re-auctioning the 900MHz GSM spectrum affected by the now-famous 2G scandal. On the basis of the prices achieved in the 2010 3G auction, it looks like the operators are going to be asked to fork out much more. But many people in the industry think the 2010 auction descended into an irrational bidding war, with the prices paid being impossible to justify on the basis of Indian ARPUs.

One way to cope with this was to share the infrastructure, and Indian operators do more of this than anyone else. The tower outsourcing companies are rather unconvincingly trying to deny that they are involved in telecoms.

A huge business in Asia is making everyone else’s semiconductors. Intel is trying hard to break into the strange, conflicted relationship between Apple and Samsung, and Paul Ottelini used their Q1 earnings call to explicitly pitch for Apple’s business, while also bashing Qualcomm. Meanwhile, although Intel sold $13 billion worth of chips in Q1, its profits fell about 19 per cent across the board - for once, it wasn’t a record quarter. However, Q1 is usually a seasonal dip for chip makers (AMD saw it too).

Intel’s big new was that its Ivy Bridge chips introduce 3D transistors for the first time. If packing more of them onto the surface of a chip is getting harder, why not put on another layer of them over the first lot? That’s basically the idea.

Vodafone has acquired Cable & Wireless Worldwide, adding a substantial portfolio of fibre and data centres around the UK to its already rather impressive fixed infrastructure. There’s also a considerable enterprise unified comms business, which will no doubt help the growing One Net and Global Enterprise units. And it also means Vodafone can stop renting quite so much capacity from C&W.

It also, come to think of it, makes the former head of Vodafone UK, now the CEO of C&WW, a very happy chappy, as he doubled his money on his C&WW stock options. Terrifyingly, the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones points out, Instagram was valued at only slightly less than C&WW, a company with actual assets, employees, and profits (although Vodafone is paying in raw cash, rather than Facebook shares).

Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, was also looking after its enterprise customers, with a new Mobile Private Network product that provides a secure MPLS VPN over their LTE network (in fact, it’s possible to do clever things with the radio element of LTE so it may be more than that).

They also noted that half the Q1 smartphone sales were iPhones.

Free Mobile’s competitors have been complaining ever since they launched (or even before) that they haven’t deployed enough cells and too much traffic is going via their roaming agreement with Orange. Typically enough, Xavier Niel and his engineering team had something up their sleeve, and of course the powerful Linux-based CPE they deploy to their fixed users gives them a lot of scope for rapid development.

On Thursday, a software update was pushed out to 4 million Freeboxes that made the WLAN router element of them available to any Free user, with SIM-based secure automatic log-on. That would be the world’s biggest WLAN managed offload deployment, and an example to us all. FON users can also hop onto the wi-fi.

The 3G and 4G Wireless Blog does a report back from a conference on LTE optimisation, based on their twitter feed. It’s rich in data points. Important take-away points: UMTS 900 is the “Heineken network” (it refreshes the parts others don’t reach) but the refarming process is surprisingly slow and painful (18 months), “unlimited” LTE users can hit 55GB/week, but the average is 2GB/month, and even average uplink data traffic doubled in the past year.

Zahid’s presentation is here.

Meanwhile, all the brand engineering about “4G”, “3.9G”, “Super 3G”, etc comes home to roost in Australia. Apple gets sued for calling its iPad 4G, responds that HSPA+ is as good as 4G (where they have a point), court responds that the Aussie carriers only call it 3G.

Where the cloud meets the packet-pushing business, you find the CDNs. Level(3) has expanded its CDN further, and Dan Rayburn points out that the new posted capacity of 5.6Tbps is double what they had in 2010. They’ve also enlarged their geographic reach, adding POPs in Latin America, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.

Rayburn argues that L(3) has structural advantages in managing their economics of scale - some of them sound rather telco-like. He also argues that the monster Netflix account may actually make life easier, as it provides a large, highly predictable source of traffic to keep the gear fully utilised. And that’s genuinely “large” - 60% of ISP traffic, he says, is video and 50% of that is Netflix. He also shares some interesting data from a “major UK operator”, in this week’s Chart of the Week.

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The app that produces the pretty charts is Qwilt’s transparent cache/video analytics product.

Netflix, of course, picked another fight with Comcast last week. Rayburn argues that this is a red herring, on the grounds that very few users indeed ever exceed Comcast’s usage caps (which are set deliberately high) and that what Netflix is really concerned about is competition.

Amazon Web Services is of course the power behind Netflix, and this week they announced an app store for cloud software, the AWS Marketplace. As you might expect, it’s closely integrated with EC2’s management console and workflow.

Kaazing’s messaging server for HTML5 Web Sockets is now out, and running in (of course) EC2.

Google’s data centre king Urs Hölzle let slip that they are using Nicira’s software-defined networking kit in a presentation that was then rapidly eliminated. And the IETF’s Secure Interdomain Routing workgroup feels ready to propose solutions to the route hijack problem.

Oh yes, and the other 50% of the video? Two US academics analysed a year’s worth of search terms on porno web sites, and drew conclusions.

AT&T has opened its Watson speech-recognition API to developers. Now that’s more like it. More details are here.

Orange Business Services and Verizon have set up interconnection between their telepresence systems (helped by the fact they’re both Cisco shops).

How on earth didn’t we find out about the blog devoted to Voice 2.0 civic hacker apps?

Skype for Windows Phone is out of beta, but it still can’t run in the background.

In other news, Facebook “needs to build a browser” because otherwise Google + could be its own version of Rockmelt. Scary! Apple Stores are 17 times as productive as the average retailer.

Google kills off a dozen products. Hack yourself with Google data before Google hacks you. Ticker-tape printouts of Instagram pictures. Exit, Chumby. Groupon not looking too well. Facebook’s biggest secret: Zuck’s specs. Fix your contention problems, with randomness. Enterprise unified comms, 1890s style.

30 years of the ZX Spectrum.

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April 17, 2012

Nokia hiccups, Samsung roars, & Amazon disrupting search? - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: Here’s a 2 minute video from the Silicon Valley brainstorm. It conveys some of the sense of energy and progress that we saw there.

We’ll be sharing more and building on the momentum from the Valley at the EMEA Executive Brainstorm, 12-13 June 2012 in London, with a great agenda in a smart new venue. Make sure you sign up while you can, SF was packed and London is heading the same way fast - please email contact@stlpartners.com for more.]

After a period of decent newsflow for Nokia and a reasonable MWC, the black clouds rolled back in this week. In a statement, the company said it would probably lose money in the first half of 2012 and that its margins in Devices & Services were -3%, although the Smart Devices unit was still getting around 16%.

Nokia sent out representatives to pursue their “smoked by Windows Phone” campaign on the streets, but it probably didn’t help that the first flight of Lumia 900s for the US came with a handy bug that caused them to drop the data connection. A hotfix has been pushed out, or alternatively users can swap the broken devices for new ones.

That can be overstated, of course, as even Apple gets it wrong. iPad 3 users were complaining this week about their devices struggling to maintain a cellular data link.

IntoMobile points out that although the expectations game is well under way, it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to make statements about Lumia shipments until Q2 numbers roll around in the summer.

And xda-developers has discovered a hack that lets you reflash the Nokia Lumia 710 with whatever you like. The first attempts seem to have been Android, but it’s going to be tempting to load up the Maemo Linux-based OS from the N9, especially if you’re in one of the markets where Nokia refuses to sell N9s…

There was some good news at the NSN half of Nokia, as they got the contract to build Softbank’s LTE network and also to deploy HSPA+ in their newly refarmed 900MHz spectrum.

Elsewhere, it turns out that Jim Basillie wanted to wholesale RIM’s network services, including its highly optimised VPN, accelerator proxies, BlackBerry Messenger, and device-management features, before being forced out as CEO. Meanwhile, YouMail has stopped further development of its BlackBerry app.

Samsung, of course, is the anti-Nokia. It looks like they pulled ahead as the No.1 vendor by shipments this quarter, and Horace makes the excellent point that where Nokia tried to keep selling “featurephones”, Samsung concentrated on increasing the reach of their smartphone portfolio. Hence, Chart of the Week.

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At the top of that portfolio, the Galaxy S III is going to launch on the 3rd of May in London.

NTIA, which was given the responsibility for the middle-mile and public institutions’ aspects of the US Broadband Plan, has a progress report out, and The Voice of Broadband thinks it’s doing remarkably well, with the infrastructure program having rolled out almost three times as much fibre as this year’s target foresaw.

Vodafone-Hutchison Australia weighed in on the Australian National Broadband Network this week, pointing out that it didn’t make sense to treat mobile as an alternative to fibre, when the mobile networks were dependent on the FTTH project to meet the backhaul requirements LTE air interfaces bring with them. Meanwhile, the draft rules for the Aussie digital dividend auction are out.

Brazilian regulator Anatel has published the rules for their forthcoming auction of 2.5GHz and 450MHz, linking the deployment requirements closely to a crammed calendar of football (the Confederations Cup is next year and the World Cup is in 2014).

In France, SFR and Bouygues have been discussing a network-sharing agreement, but have apparently paused the process while both parties talk to the operator of France’s TV broadcasting infrastructure about perhaps using their 7,000 repeater masts instead.

The owner of HKBN, probably the world’s fastest residential ISP, is selling up in order to fund a content-buying spree in their TV operation. The story reveals some interesting data - in the hyper-dense environment of Hong Kong, it cost them only $200 to pass each potential customer, with a total bill of $400m to roll out the whole thing and deliver 1Gbps service. As part of the deal, they get guaranteed wholesale access to the fibre for the next 20 years.

The 3G and 4G Wireless Blog reports that BT’s trial of IEEE802.22 white space broadband is turning out to be a disappointment, and might not even meet the government’s 2Mbps target. At the link, there’s a fascinating presentation on BT’s WLAN network and why whitespace might be worth trying.

As usual, the Blog is a mine of information, with a detailed post on shared spectrum and whitespace initiatives at the IETF, and a great NEC presentation on small cells. Further, Ubiquisys has a presentation on their “smart cell” platform which is quite heavy on the mobile CDN.

Ovum reckons that telecoms revenues have recovered to reach $1.9 trillion in 2011. Dean Bubley points out on twitter that SMS is still a growing product in the US - so you can see why Myriad might want to buy messaging specialist Synchronica.

Now here’s a challenging cable landing station: Al-Faw, Iraq. Bring your mine-sweeping dolphin. Apparently some people think it’s handy as a bypass for Suez, which leads us to the conclusion that even war can be less disruptive than a sufficient concentration of insufficiently attentive seadogs.

T-Mobile USA is going to launch revolutionary business transformation - Carly is getting a leather jacket and a motorbike.

Safaricom and Qualcomm are staging a roadshow around Kenya to promote the possibilities of 3G.

In Telco 2.0 thematic news, the UK’s m-payments joint venture, Project Oscar, is in trouble after the European Commission announced a 90-day antitrust inquiry into it. 3UK is of course delighted. The commission reports back on the 27th of August. The Royal Canadian Mint, meanwhile, has invited developers to try out its MintChip digital cash technology. Canada was of course where Enstream/Zoompass started intercarrier m-payments.

The UK’s Department of Energy & Climate Change has reported back on its consultation on the privacy and security aspects of smart meters. This will be one of the world’s biggest M2M networks, and the Department intends to tender for the role of “Data and Communications Company” to run it. Sounds like a telco, really. DECC says that access to the data for third parties must be opt-in only.

Security engineering legend Ross Anderson from the Cambridge University Computer Lab also contributed, making the point that hackers would love to get into such a system and proposing some ideas as to how this could be prevented. Krebs on Security, meanwhile, reports that the US has already seen some smart meter hacks and that one of them uses an optical probe you can buy for $150.

Epic row between Grooveshark and Tunecore. Meet Tomahawk, the app that searches everything for music. Dan Rayburn reviews D-Link’s new streamer and finds it wanting.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has picked another fight with Comcast over net neutrality. Is Microsoft planning some sort of new Xbox Live pricing? And there’s a Google TV hackathon on the 21st of April, just round the corner from Telco 2.0 Towers.

Here’s a good piece on PaaS and the cloud as it relates to developers.

Up in the cloud, Amazon did something disruptive this week. You can now get their A9 search engine as a cloud service via the AWS management console and build your own search over whatever data you like. This bio-informatics startup is using it.

Sergey Brin, meanwhile, yells at mobile apps, government censors, and especially Facebook for closing the Web. (Interestingly, Google + has bowed to the inevitable and started supporting Twitter’s hashtag syntax.)

Of course, Google’s commitment to openness is selective. The epic Google-Oracle patent lawsuit is going to trial, and Ars Technica has an informative rundown on it, as well as a review of the new Aura UI for the Chrome OS. And Google’s plan to create a class of non-voting shares is not at all popular.

So why not turn around and sell Motorola Mobility to Huawei? Rate that one as “wild rumour”, but it wouldn’t be that much more incoherent than a lot of Google moves. Data Center Knowledge has a useful time series of Google CAPEX.

Jeff Bezos writes to the shareholders, an author responds.

Sleeping in your data centre - one for the Real Geeks of Silicon Valley. Zimbabwean software company packages social networking updates as push messages for low-bandwidth networks.

And Turkcell declares war on MTN over their investment in Iran, alleging that they promised to help Iran get the Bomb in exchange for a GSM licence.

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April 10, 2012

Cloud round up; Facebook waves chequebook; Patents; & China Mobile’s M2M - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: We’re working on the final edits of the San Francisco brainstorm analysis and will be sharing some of the insights and new ideas over the next few weeks and more at the EMEA Executive Brainstorm, 12-13 June 2012 in London, where we’ll build on the momentum with a great agenda in a smart new venue. Make sure you sign up while you can, SF was packed and London is heading the same way fast - please email contact@stlpartners.com for more.]

HP is getting closer and closer to a massive public cloud deployment, and here’s a detailed story on the technology. Interestingly, it’ll be the first prime-time rollout of OpenStack, the effort to create a standard API layer for big cloud systems. Even more interestingly, starting on the 10th of May, Akamai CDN features are being built in to the service, as are HP’s clones of Amazon’s Elastic Block and Relational Database Services.

Meanwhile, Citrix has pulled out of OpenStack and started its own project, CloudStack, which basically open-sources the technology Citrix bought with the inevitably-named Cloud.com a few months ago. The big difference - apart from the usual collaboration project ego wars - is that CloudStack is intended to implement the same APIs that Amazon uses. (However, API-compatibility with Amazon is also a goal of OpenStack, so expect more arguing and trash-talking and a lot of non-standard standards.)

Barb Darrow at GigaOM reckons one of the conclusions from this is that the standards war is over, and everyone’s going to converge on AWS. Ovum provides some more evidence of this, looking at the deal between Amazon and Eucalyptus to license the Amazon APIs. The interesting thing here is that Eucalyptus is an on-premise solution, so you can have AWS compatibility with machines that live in your own basement.

Dan Woods at Forbes argues that, as AWS is the de facto standard and Amazon has evidently decided to accept that other, rival clouds and on-premises systems will implement it, it’s time that Amazon opened up the development process to customers and third-party AWS API implementers.

The reality driving all this is enormous scale, as AWS S3 came within touching distance of 1 trillion objects in storage this quarter. We’d use this as Chart of the Week, but as the comments point out, the equally spaced bars represent unequally spaced data points (although the effect actually understates the growth).

Microsoft is getting in the cloud in a serious way, and this week they announced another new data centre. The really telling development, though, was that the Linux Foundation estimated that Microsoft is now the 17th biggest contributor of code to Linux. Once they called it a cancer and tried to sue everyone involved, now they check in patches - quite possibly because the Microsoft Azure cloud might contain more of it than we might think.

Another huge data centre for Prineville, Oregon. Photos of Apple’s iDatacentre.

Of course, a major use case for all this stuff is pushing video at the Internet’s eyeballs, and then crunching all the resulting metadata to work out who gets paid, what gets recommended, etc. High Scalability talks to one of the world’s biggest porn sites about how they manage, and Extreme Tech has some more - the numbers are hilariously enormous whether you find the networking or the data-crunching more interesting. On the telecoms side of things, YouPorn has to push 800Gbps of traffic in the peak, while the database team has to deal with logs that accumulate at a rate of 15GB per hour. And they’re business-critical, because the allocation of revenue depends on analysing the page-views, clicks, referrers, etc.

Whatever your video problem, you may be relieved to note this Toshiba product, a server that can stream video from a SSD out to the network in hardware without touching the CPU.

At the same time as generic IT hardware has been infiltrating the network, networking vendors have been trying to pull more general-purpose computing tasks into networking equipment, usually on the principle that if you can do it in hardware you can do it faster. That’s a case in point. But at the same time, the emerging field of software-defined networking is trying to resolve the contradiction and make the network elements as programmable as if they were just another computer. Google is the latest to go for it, and Urs Hölzle, author of The Data Centre as a Computer, is interviewed.

One company that combines cloud and video is of course Netflix, and here’s a great blog post on their recommendations system.

Instagram Engineering is a fascinating blog about running a huge photo-sharing website in the cloud…who are we fooling? Of course you want to hear about the Facebook deal. So here goes. Facebook took out Instagram this morning for One. Billion. Dollars, in “cash and shares”, almost certainly mostly Facebook shares worth whatever they’re going to be worth one day. If Facebook’s business model is a tad hazy, it is as nothing to Instagram’s, but this hasn’t stopped an epic bout of Silly Valley hype.

One person who is no doubt satisfied is Instagram’s CEO, who stands to walk away with $700m personally. Here’s a take from an actual photographer, who raises the question of why, if Facebook really wanted a photo site, they didn’t buy Flickr. Not only is it the original and best, like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, it’s got actual paying users.

AllThingsD points out that Instagram was criticised for leaking too much location information, and therefore they’ll fit right in…we paraphrase. ReadWriteWeb thinks it’s a mistake and Facebook ought to build a mobile OS. Because Android is such a cash cow.

Andrew Ross Sorkin at Dealbook warns against rich men spending other people’s money on toys, which seems apposite. The LA Times has a look at what ex-Facebookers are spending their shares on (mostly, more startups). And here’s a deep look at Facebook’s software deployment process.

A genuinely useful photo app. And here’s the Chart of the Week, asking if the Facebook empire will eventually go the way of Rome: unfortunately it’s not realistically going to fit in our blog!

Here’s a story that combines a look back into the history of the Web with a concern that’s right up to date. Microsoft has bought $1.1bn worth of patents from none other than AOL. AOL shares rose 45% on the news.

Yahoo! is also trying to extract value from its pile of old patents. In retaliation for their suit, Facebook is countersuing. More than one of these patents actually predates Facebook as a company.

Meanwhile, the European Commission stepped into the FRAND wars, after both Apple and Microsoft reported Motorola Mobility (i.e. Google) to the commission over their treatment of patent disputes. They’re not happy about Motoogle bringing injunctions over whole products where they have undertaken to be fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory in the past. Of course, Apple has been quite happy to go after whole Samsung product lines in the past, although that referred to form-factor design rather than technology.

And even more apps move out of Google Maps. This time it’s the Wikipedia iOS app. Interesting detail: Microsoft is a key funder of the Open Street Map Foundation.

Finally, meet the one-line software patent, which expired this week after protecting Mitsubishi’s investment in the following statement for the last 22 years:

if (s->a < lsz) { s->c += s->a; s->a = lsz; }

Explanations at the link (it’s a critical part of a fax standard).

In the smartphone world, HTC saw its Q1 profits plunge 70%, on revenues down 35%, as the commoditisation they helped to launch came home to roost. They’re within £95m of sinking below Asymco Horace’s event horizon (he argues that smartphone vendors that make a loss never recover and eventually exit). We will see how the Tegra 3-powered phones from this year’s MWC do…also, Sony was having a ‘mare this week although they blame the TV business for the £4bn loss.

Samsung, the big winner next to Apple in the smartphone game has apparently been agonising about whether the Galaxy S III should have a hardware home button. Elsewhere, pick up your Apple iPhone 5 rumours. A more technical version is of course at Ars Technica.

Horace confirms that what we probably knew - iPhone users are addicted, and over half of US sales are repeat customers. Will Apple give MacBooks surround sound?

Ars reviews the Nokia 900 and concludes that you shouldn’t buy one, due to AT&T and Microsoft support issues. There’s a hardware teardown here.

Elsewhere, Google’s Larry Page issued a manifesto in which he talked up AdSense (oddly), mentioned the famous $2.5bn in mobile, and promised self-driving cars.

Far below the low-earth orbit world of the CEO suite, Sony said “thanks but no thanks” to the latest Android update coming out from the Googleplex. Basically, their own measurements suggest that Android ICS is a resource hog, with the browser typically using about 20-30MB more RAM than the last version. Further, graphics are more likely to make use of hardware acceleration, which is great if you need it but battery-sapping if you don’t, and database operations are slower.

Wired has an interesting discussion of Google’s Project Glass, essentially a hardware component for its existing Google Goggles AR platform. (So the Google goggles that work with Google Goggles are Google Glass, but running Google Goggles…)

That said, Android is the number 1 smartphone OS in China, although whether Google sees any money as a result is doubtful, what with all the forkdroids. Speaking of which there’s a rumour that Amazon will launch a smartphone this year.

Perhaps Google ought to be paying some attention to the core advertising business, as Samsung has decided it wants its own mobile ads platform?

And here’s obviously the sensible place for a touchscreen: the streets of New York City.

Berg Insight puts the world M2M installed base at 108 million customers, with the biggest and fastest-growing market being Asia-Pacific. The market in China roughly doubled in size this year, making China Mobile probably the world’s No.1 in M2M with 14 million connections in service. M2M, of course, has special challenges: meet the forever-day bug, by analogy to a zero-day bug. That is to say, the machine with the bug never, ever gets patched.

Elsewhere in Asian telecoms, Bharti Airtel promised that LTE was coming to Bangalore within the next 30 days. No surprise, then, that India’s demand for semiconductors is surging.

Arch-rivals Reliance are preparing to IPO their submarine cables in the Reliance Globacomm division in a deal with an unusual structure that lets them keep management control while also raising about $1.4bn to help with their debt problem. Telco 2.0 expects that overcapacity on key routes is going to turn out to be a major issue.

After years of scrapping, TeliaSonera owns 44% of Russian operator MegaFon, and now their biggest rival wants out via a complex swap deal, in which he would buy out fellow-oligarch Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group and then swap the MegaFon shares for shares of YoTa, the former WiMAX operator that has been proposed as the owner of a single shared LTE network for Russia.

LightSquared owner Philip Falcone, meanwhile, is considering bankruptcy.

In the UK, EverythingEverywhere has hired bankers to sell the chunk of spectrum it has to disburse. The only likely buyer is 3UK, which evidently caps the potential price. The Voice of Broadband links to a European Union update on NGA deployment - note that the UK’s target (25Mbps to 90% by 2015) is the least ambitious in the Union.

David Burgess of OpenBTS fame has an interesting talk with an operator on the industry’s future. The 3G & 4G Wireless Blog has posts on radio relays in LTE and energy efficiency.

What Skype can learn from Netflix. Skype’s big ad campaign. Freespee for price-comparison web sites. Iran plans to have its own private Internet where everyone will use the same e-mail provider.

And farewell to Jack Tramiel, personal computing pioneer behind the Commodore PET, the Amiga, and the Atari ST.

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April 2, 2012

RIM + SFR lose CEOs; Network disruptions; and Skype for browsers? - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: We’ve had fantastic feedback from our Silicon Valley Executive Brainstorm last week. It comprised great content, some stimulating innovations in moderation and interaction, and superb energy and input from the most senior group of participants yet.
cropped nde sv photo mar 2012.jpgWe’ll be sharing some of the insights and new ideas from SF over the next few weeks and more at the EMEA Executive Brainstorm, 12-13 June 2012 in London, where we’ll build on the momentum with a great agenda in a smart new venue. Make sure you sign up while you can, SF was packed and London is heading the same way fast - please email contact@stlpartners.com for more.]

Meanwhile, RIM announced a small loss for the quarter this week, and another of its CEOs resigned (in this case Jim Basillie) after revenues fell 19% and shipments 21% quarter-on-quarter. In annual terms it was worse, with revenues off 25%. The company was forced to write off a sizable stockpile of BlackBerry OS 7 devices as unsaleable, and accept that the PlayBooks are only moving thanks to heavy discounts. Basillie isn’t the only rolling head - the CTO of software, David Yach, is out, as is the COO, Jim Rowan. Thorsten Heins takes over as CEO.

RIM promised that it would “focus” on the enterprise business, which some people took to mean that they would abandon consumer entirely, so they had to issue a denial. Horace points out that the company is still cash-generating and the phones are probably breaking even once the PlayBook money pit is accounted for. Losing another user.

Meanwhile, developers heading for BlackBerry World can expect to be showered with shiny in an effort to get them to stick with BlackBerry OS 10.

Elsewhere in smartphones, are there signs of Spring for Nokia? Analyst Jamie Townsend thinks they are turning into a recovery story and wonders if some sort of Nokia/Microsoft/RIM deal is in the future.

For their part, Nokia is playing hardball at ETSI over Apple’s funny SIMs, arguing that they violate standards and more than hinting that Nokia might invoke patents it holds over SIM-device communication protocols. The 3G & 4G Wireless Blog has details on exactly what a “nano SIM” might be and what they’re arguing about.

Elsewhere, Businessweek has an exhaustively and potentially exhaustingly detailed rundown of the Apple/Android patent wars. One for any long train journeys you may be planning.

Our recent Google Identity Crisis executive briefing pointed out that a remarkably large amount of Google’s supposed “$2.5bn mobile revenue” is associated with Apple devices and indeed any devices, not just Android, although under plausible assumptions it still looks like the wholesale agreement with Apple is well worth having. This week, court filings in the Google vs. Oracle case revealed Google’s Android revenues as being $544 million over four years. To put it another way, Google earns about $3.5 per device compared to about $570 at Apple. Hence today’s Chart of the Week.

Screen-Shot-2012-04-02-at-4-2-11.46.12-AM.png

Elsewhere in Android, Samsung claims to have sold 5 million Galaxy Notes. Engadget reviews the NVIDIA Tegra 3-powered HTC One X and is smitten, but then aren’t they always? UK pricing is here. Qualcomm-based ultrabook-like PCs coming. Some comment on Adobe’s results, but it’s fair to say that bundling scareware in Flash Player updates will not help.

In France, SFR’s profits are off 15% on heavy competition from Free Mobile, and the CEO Frank Esser is out. Vivendi boss Jean-Bernand Levy takes over temporarily.

A union source who declined to be named said SFR staffers had begun to question Esser’s leadership. “The response to Free Mobile has been muddled at best,” the person said. “There have been some budget cuts, fewer temporary jobs and outsourced projects but there has been no real new strategy.”

Meanwhile, Orange is threatening to block Free roamers in order to shed peak-time network traffic, although Free is a paying customer. Orange, SFR, and Bouygues, plus the least radical of French trade unions issued a press release complaining to the regulator about the regulator’s decision that Free had indeed reached its coverage targets, but the regulator confirmed that they hadn’t received an actual complaint.

The European Union, meanwhile, wants to make roaming an unbundled service by 2014. Rudolf van der Berg has an OECD report out on the impact of regulation so far.

The French regulators also took a controversial step this week by asking anyone with a license to provide any services in France for details of all their Internet peering agreements. It is suggested, in a NANOG thread, that the officials may not be fully aware of how much information this may be.

Although there has been much fanfare about the HADOPI legislation reducing measurements of traffic on P2P filesharing networks, music sales in France are still falling.

French fibre deployment not all what it’s cracked up to be.

Back in the Valley, this time for the content & services world, Groupon was forced to restate its numbers after its auditors discovered problems with how it accounts for refunds (a problem often raised by Groupon bears). A sharp selloff in the shares resulted. Arch-bear Rocky Agrawal explains why it’s a serious problem and why Groupon is really in the business of trade finance.

A major filing about Mark Zuckerberg’s personal finances is coming up as Facebook clears the decks for the IPO.

Interestingly, while Google is reportedly desperate to be more like Facebook, Facebook’s top engineering priority is being more like Google, specifically by building a much better search function. They’ve recruited Lars Rasmussen, a veteran of Google Search, to lead the effort.

British m-payments start-up Monitise has taken over its rival Clairmail for $173m, in the hope of creating the world’s biggest MMT specialist.

Scout is a pure HTML5 version of Telenav’s turn-by-turn navigation service, available as a developer kit for other mobile apps.

And all Sky TV’s HD subscribers now have access to Sky Anytime TV-on-the-Internet.

Here’s a HOWTO guide for setting up video streaming out of Amazon Web Services’ CDN. Here’s a 30 minute talk on lessons about scalability and online video from seven years’ experience at YouTube.

With that, it must be time for broadband news. Wired reports that Internet companies that operate really huge data centres are increasingly buying their network equipment (switches, especially) from Chinese ODMs, cheaply and to their own specifications. Interestingly, there has been a mysterious gap between sales of 10 Gigabit Ethernet silicon and complete switches for years - and the explanation seems to be that the spare chips are disappearing into Google, which makes its own.

Ubiquiti has a new product out which provides (up to) 700Mbps full duplex wireless up to 15 kilometres in the 24GHz unlicensed band. Detailed, technical discussion is on the NANOG thread linked.

Australia is the latest country to get the fear about Huawei. NBN Co will not be buying any of their equipment on security concerns. Go for a drive test of LTE Advanced in this video.

NTIA has issued a plan to clear the 1755-1850MHz band for wireless broadband. Most of it belongs to the Feds at the moment.

TIM Brazil is the latest operator to feel the need for WLAN offload, planning to roll out 10,000 hotspots in Sao Paulo and Rio targeting pressure-points on the network.

In India, Unitech’s shares in Uninor have been frozen by the government as part of the income-tax scandal. Telenor, the majority owner, is suing the government and threatening to invoke arbitration under the terms of a treaty between India and Singapore. And Bangladesh is going to auction some 5 3G licences.

AT&T has a new web site that lets you view detailed urban coverage maps. How not to do it - T-Mobile USA had the good idea of building an app that lets you administer your account, but the really bad one of making it push adverts into the Android notification queue.

Trying out O2 UK’s LTE network. OFCOM is thinking of a new way to solve the LTE spectrum mess, which turns out to be “move the TV”, shunting the broadcasters down the dial into the 600s in order to keep the 700MHz band for LTE and therefore provide for transatlantic roaming and a modicum of hardware standardisation. Meet the UK’s alternative FTTH operators.

Big news in voice: Microsoft is hiring software engineers to work on a project called “Skype for Browsers” based in London. That sounds like a unifying Web API for Skype might at last be coming (see our Microsoft x Skype Executive Briefing for why this is important, although a quick start would be this Skype Journal post). SJ’s Phil Wolff notes that Skyprosoft integration is coming on in small ways.

Freespee announced a Google AdSense clone for its call-tracking/click to call platform a few weeks ago. Now it’s announced a developer API for the system.

Vodafone’s got a cloud-based unicomms & Voice 2.0 platform for small businesses. Telenor’s got one (and we recently had a chat with them, so watch this space). Now Comcast has one.

And here’s a case study of Voice 2.0 for customer care.

Building cybercafes in Ghana with old shipping containers and Ubuntu Linux. Former MTN CEO denies bribery in Iran. Verizon Business terminates its storied ex-UUNet USENET servers. Massive credit card security breach. Another go-round of British government snooping.

April Fools: Amazon Fresh Servers. USB stick found aboard the Titanic. Apple patents bevelled corners.

Funnier than the April Fools: when M2M goes bad. Australian customs set up a system to track shipping containers moving through their ports. Importers can log in from the Internet and see where their goods have got to. Unfortunately, so can smugglers and thieves.

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