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

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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.

nflix-cotw.jpg

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 H√∂lzle 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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