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June 25, 2012

Microsoft Surface; Cloud in LatAm; LTE spending spree; Apple’s secret retail sauce - Telco 2.0 News Review

(Ed. Join us next at Digital Arabia in Dubai, 6-7 November.)

Microsoft launched its Surface tablets last week, marking a shift from the leg of the company that stands on Windows to the more hardware-focused side that makes the XBox. Reviews focused on the device’s role as a signal to the PC manufacturers, demanding that they get their act together. One thing everybody picked up on was the case - like the iPads, it has a magnetic case, but this one incorporates a keyboard. Gizmodo points out that even if the iPad turned out to be a more creative proposition than people expected, it’s a very specific kind of creativity - one that excludes text or code. Surface is going right for that.

Much more detail is here - note the Microsoft designers talking about how much like a book it is. We linked a while ago to a Windows Phone designer discussing their fascination with print designers and typographers, the original designers of information goods.

Ars Technica has a discussion of Microsoft’s strategy with Surface, pointing out that the apparently “normal” era of Windows being marketed in parallel with OEM hardware is actually a historical anomaly. Before the Wintel era, hardware and software tended to be integrated, and these days it’s hard to describe anything Apple does as being an exception rather than the rule. Also, Google needed to make its own Nexus One ‘droid to give the OEMs something to aim for. Hardware is, after all, easier to experience than it is to describe.

Computing has a bit more.

From our special point of view, there are two big questions about Surface. One is “where’s the connectivity?” - it looks like telcos haven’t managed to ensure that it comes with data, or even with a WWAN radio - and the other is “what about Skype?” Dan York reads the spec sheet carefully and discovers that the devices have two cameras, one intended for close up, person-to-person conversations, and one for a broader, social view of things like meetings and teleconferences, as well as emphasising high quality audio. It also has two microphones. But Skype is a software experience, and the big question is how well it’s integrated with the admittedly impressive hardware. At least it sounds like the hardware designers were thinking about the problem.

Microsoft also pushed out the developer preview of Windows Phone 8, which seems to resolve the question of whether Windows Phone on tablets or Windows-on-ARM wins. WP8 gets rid of the Windows CE kernel and uses the core of Windows 8 instead. On the other hand, you wouldn’t really call it much of a feature release:

Microsoft has shed light on its next Windows Phone ‘Tango’ update, which will see the smartphone OS gain the ability to import and export contacts to and from the Sim card, and attach multiple files to a single message.

And it won’t run on the current lot of Nokia Lumias.

Horace, meanwhile, thinks MS is going for hardware strategically.

Benoit Felten has a fascinating post on how AT&T Bell Labs was seeing the future as late as 1993, but the giant telco didn’t get close to executing on any of it. The table is our Chart of the Week:

telcoforecast.jpg

Having appreciated Telcos: A Warning from History, here’s some good news from the cloud. We noted that HP’s OpenStack-based cloud product has gone into public beta. Now, they’re partnering with carriers to sell it in Latin America. (We can probably guess which carrier that means, and that they may be a vector for telco cloud elsewhere.) SMBs are a key market.

In Brazil, Oi’s managed services/B2B line of business is predicting $100 million in revenues for this year, from a variety of products including value-added WAN connectivity, mobile device fleet management, and cloud services.

SFR, meanwhile, has signed a deal with Verizon to resell their B2B services.

OpenStack vs. CloudStack ego wars, at GigaOm’s cloud event - OpenStack calls CloudStack “closed”, CloudStack calls OpenStack the “Soviet Union of Cloud”.

Data Center Knowledge was there, and has an excellent roundup. Notably, Netflix’s Adrian Cockcroft said that although they are moving to their own CDN, they’re sticking with Amazon Web Services for processing power. He argues that they outgrew the CDN sector as a whole (is that an opportunity?) but AWS has all the capacity they need.

On the other hand, Zynga’s CIO Debra Chrapaty said moving their systems into their own private cloud amounted to a 3x cost saving over running in AWS. The OpenStackers were very keen to argue that it wasn’t enough to have API compatibility, and open source code was needed. The CEO of CapGemini was apparently convinced.

A really enormous cloud demands a lot of hardware, and Google’s CFO briefly let slip a little information about their server-building operation, including the fact that a Google manufacturing plant (Google Factory?) exists.

Infonetics Research reckons that 2012 will be a massive year of telecoms infrastructure spending as the LTE rollout begins and national broadband network projects expand. Operators are “spending like crazy”, they say. RCR Wireless reports on the safety problems that emerge as the eight biggest networks in the US all upgrade at once.

France Telecom turned up their first LTE network, in Marseilles, promising 150Mbps speeds.

Telefonica turned up its first Czech LTE network this week, and further set the 3rd July as launch day for their urban LTE networks in Germany.

Telefonica also tapped Alcatel-Lucent for its European and Latin American femtocells.

Alcatel-Lucent, for its part, walked away from the bidding for BSNL’s national network upgrade, after ZTE bid $842m on a contract estimated at between $1-1.2bn. ALU shares soared on the news. But the most interesting point here is that the usual narrative about Chinese low-cost manufacturers undercutting everyone else isn’t true - ZTE’s bid also caused Huawei to drop out.

NSN claims it has a new feature that saves capacity and battery life on HSPA+. MCI polls operator CTOs, though, who disbelieve that there’s much between the vendors.

An interesting presentation on network sharing, from the 3G and 4G Wireless Blog.

BT can’t bill its pensions shortfall to the competition, says the Competition Commission. Beyond that, you’ll note the absence of any LTE launches from the UK.

45% of Americans can get over 10Mbps. Interestingly, 84% of subscribers can have DSL but 97% can get cable. Universal service, how are ya?

Data-only, and perhaps comes-with-data, plans are coming within about two years - and that’s from Randall Stephenson of AT&T.

KT is the latest carrier to feel the impact of voice disruption. From the S&P wire message:

The company’s public switched telephone network (PSTN) services continue to shrink in line with global consumer sentiment as more customers migrate to mobile and VoIP services. KT’s PSTN subscribers dropped to about 15.7 million in 2011 from 21.2 million in 2006. Although an increase in VoIP revenue can somewhat offset the fall in KT’s PSTN revenue, it will not completely cover the decline, because average revenue per user (ARPU) from VoIP is substantially lower than PSTN voice ARPU

Well. Their rival SK Telecom is planning to launch commercial VoLTE in September, targeting OTT disruptor KakaoTalk on quality. TeleGeography reckons they will brand it as HD Voice.

Meanwhile, how will WebRTC voice streams interact with other network traffic? The IETF’s Internet Architecture Board will be holding an invite-only seminar at IETF 84 to discuss it.

Samsung revised up its quarter targets and said it expected the Galaxy S III to be its fastest-selling phone ever. That’s the one that “knows when you’re watching it, and likes it” - a review is here. Interestingly, Samsung is selling NFC stickers with it, so you can set up your own proximity-based triggers for apps or tasks.

For the moment, the big problem is getting enough of the gadgets to the US to fulfil demand. Some background on the logistics is here. Unsurprisingly, times are good at ARM.

Get out of my courtroom: the Apple vs. Motorola case is thrown out with prejudice, and the judge gives both parties a serious telling-off. In tiresome news, Apple sues HTC.

Google says it’s not trying to integrate Motorola.

What’s the secret of Apple’s retail presence? Is it the branding? The location? The design? The special iPhone app for positioning shiny gadgets at exactly the right angle? Horace examines the numbers and concludes that it’s simple: it’s the staff. Specifically, Apple employs more of them per store, and has progressively increased the density of employees. Not just that, Apple stripped the stores of clutter in order to fill them with staff. In a rare move, here’s this week’s Second Chart of the Week:

Screen-Shot-2012-06-25-at-6-25-12.24.45-AM.png

(Who imagined that in 2012, the tech industry’s undisputed leader would be an integrated hardware/software vendor that owns all the machine tools used to make its products and makes a point of having more retail staff than its competitors? Apart from Steve Jobs and Tim Cook…)

Rumour: RIM might split into a handset business and a network business.

Intel and Google buy patents. Google Maps API pricing update. The exponential growth of web pages.

Apple bought a patent on spoofing online advertising trackers from Novell.

Facebook starts serving ads on Zynga. Cue the usual discussion of how Facebook has “a good picture of the people on the Web”, with little discussion of whether that’s actually useful. However, ReadWriteWeb does provide a screenshot of the form you fill in to specify Facebook adverts, and that’s actually quite interesting. Meanwhile, they settle a privacy case.

Winamp, another startup that died in AOL.

Struggling on with Brazilian m-payments. Better RAN analytics. GSMA presses Asian operators to lay off the data roaming.

And the virus that makes your printer churn out gibberish, as opposed to the gibberish it’s usually churning out. An original reinvention of the old “loop fax” gag, at least.

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June 18, 2012

The slide of mobile voice; Apple iOS 6 & Passbook; Samsung powers on; Ads on Skype - Telco 2.0 News Review

At last week’s event in London, our Chief Strategist Chris Barraclough presented this rather chilling chart showing the slide of mobile voice volume growth in the UK. (NB Join us next at Digital Arabia in Dubai, 6-7 November.)

uk mobile voice decline june 2012.png

It amplified two of the core themes that we’ll be exploring in greater depth in our analysis this year: that many mobile operators are now conscious of the negative impact of substitution to other services; and that they are increasingly seeking new business models and ways to transform their businesses to stay relevant in the digital economy. Not that these are new messages from Telco 2.0. What’s different is the sense of realism and urgency that we’re starting to see, although whether this is yet resulting in enough fruitful action from operators is another matter. We’ll have more on this and the other themes from the EMEA brainstorm in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile there was something else going on. Not the football - the other thing. It was Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, of course. Ars Technica has a roundup of what was a relatively conservative WWDC, with the addition of the Retina display to the top-end Macbook Pro (review), the withdrawal of the 13” MacBook and the 17” Pro, and a new version of iOS. Tim Cook also trailed a major update of the Mac Pro line some time in 2013.

Telco 2.0 readers are likely to be most interested in some of the features that landed with iOS 6 - Apple’s own mapping (well, their own mapping built on OpenStreetMap), for one thing, is replacing Google Maps in the iDevices’ location-based application. Passbook, a new app that ships with iOS 6, is a central store for things like airline e-tickets, reservations, gift cards, and the like, and this is widely thought to be something to do with a move into payments. During the event, Tim Cook mentioned that Apple now has 400 million iTunes accounts with credit cards, and you’d think Passbook would be the obvious place for things you bought with them to end up. AllThingsD has a good discussion.

FaceTime is now going to work over cellular networks (providing, of course, there’s enough bandwidth). Possibly more worryingly for telcos, they’re going to link Apple IDs and phone numbers, so you can answer calls from other Apple devices.

There’s a neat grid here showing which iDevices will support which features in iOS 6 - interestingly, only the iPhone 4S has 100%, which seems to suggest they see it as the core of the product line. Apple is boasting that more iDevices are updated to the latest version than Androids. iFixit dismantled a Retina MacBook and reports that it scores 1/10 for maintainability.

Horace estimates that about 60% of iDevices sold are still in use and that the turnover rate is about two years, and goes on to work out that the app store economy is worth about $4bn, and app pricing is basically stable. Developer payouts are running at about $230 million a month.

Ben Evans goes into why Apple does so much better in the US and concludes that it’s down to a lack of price competition, with this week’s Chart of the Week:

tco-iphone.png

Apple laptops are tilted at precisely 70 degrees in the Apple Store and there’s an app for that. Apple is going to stand trial over the iPhone privacy problem. Judge Posner says that Apple’s request for an injunction against Motorola will be heard, having threatened last week to throw out the case entirely.

Samsung moved 43 million smartphones in Q1, beating HTC and Motorola heavily. The key detail must be that 90% of the profit pool went to Apple and Samsung between them. Androids also surged ahead in the European market, again driven by price competition.

Here’s a “nothing to see here - it’s all in Android already” take on iOS 6.

Meanwhile, Horace reckons that Androids are being activated at the rate of 1 million a day, and wonders whether even this understates the real size of the market. As ultra-cheap ($160) chipsets come on to the market, how many will even be activated and countable by Google? How many more will end up in unofficial forkdroid/shanzhai devices? For that matter, does it count as activation if it’s firewalled off in a secret military network?

Samsung’s partnership with Google also includes manufacturing Chromebooks, and the latest and greatest is here. The review, like every Chromebook review, says it would be OK if it wasn’t so pricey. As for Chrome the browser, here’s a fascinating High Scalability piece on just how much it tries to guess what you’re going to do and get there first in order to achieve snappier browsing.

Baidu has bought a Chinese mobile Web browser firm to go with its own forkdroid OS.

It emerged that RIM’s pair of CEOs were offered 12 million excellent reasons to quit.

And Nokia executives say Microsoft is giving them “specific support” to help compete on prices. Does that mean money?

Nokia this week announced 10,000 job cuts, closed a succession of plants, and carried out a major reshuffle of the executives. Niklas Savander, EVP Markets, and Mary McDowell, EVP Mobile Phones (i.e. the featurephone empire) are the best-known Nokians getting the chop. At the same time, the Vertu phones-with-jewels-on business was sold and Scalado’s imaging technology acquired.

The 10,000 reportedly include the remaining software teams outside a rump working on S40, and puts an end to the planned Meltemi Linux platform for low-cost devices. Apparently, access to the version control system was turned off before the announcement.

Meanwhile, their partner Microsoft acquired business-focused social network Yammer for $1bn, aka “one Instagram”.

Is Windows 8 a design disaster? Google thinks so - its Metro version of Chrome replicates the mainline Chrome experience.

Telco rumour of the week: a £8bn management buyout of EverythingEverywhere, led by long-time T-Mobile UK executive Tom Alexander. The Times thought so; Reuters says “not bloody likely”, and France Telecom’s CFO says it’s vital to remain a pan-European operator.

Verizon has slashed prices on its 150Mbps FiOS product by over a hundred dollars, while keeping the $209 price point for the new 300Mbps service. They expect 80% of FiOS subscribers to want more than 15Mbps.

Orange is beginning to deploy FTTH in Spain, with €300m to spend and the first of 1.5 million premises to be connected by the end of the year. That’s obviously going to be a very targeted build, but it could go further if there is interest in Orange’s offer of various wholesale options.

T-Mobile USA’s CTO, Neville Ray, says that the subscribers who have 42Mbps HSPA+ radios consume double the data an average subscriber does. And their average subscriber is already at 760MB/month. Some detail of their upgrade plans is here, with 2,500 Node Bs expected to get LTE by the end of July. In a complication, they have to shuffle the HSPA network up the dial into the 1900MHz band they use for GSM at present in order to free up the 1700s and 2100s for LTE.

Free Mobile expects to get to 15-25% market share fairly soon and to make it to profitability faster than operators typically have done. Their network rollout is described as being “on track”, although the most difficult problem holding it back is planning permission. Carphone Warehouse, meanwhile, says Virgin Mobile France is looking better after having a bad experience with Free earlier this year.

BT tells a parliamentary committee it doesn’t want price controls on wholesale fibre. Meanwhile, it fed the beast by acquiring streaming rights to a stack of Premiership football matches.

The fixed-wireless element of Australia’s NBN has taken on some detail.

Brazil’s top four operators bought into LTE spectrum this week, although the offer of 450MHz space flopped. Meanwhile, Movistar Mexico and Iusacell are planning to share infrastructure for their LTE networks.

America Movil buys a stake in Telekom Austria to go with its chunk of KPN.

Vodafone’s acquisition of C&WW gets the go-ahead after a major shareholder changed their mind and agreed. (Their tax affairs are OK, says the National Audit Office, but don’t expect anyone to be convinced.) Relatedly, has Colt achieved Telco 2.0?

A cable break on SMW-4 seems to have hit SingTel unexpectedly hard, the Renesys Blog notes.

And Reuters digs into the MTN/Turkcell lawsuit. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.

In Telco 2.0 themes, Telefonica pushed out its RCSe implementation, Joyn as an Android app this week.

Microsoft is about to start serving ads during Skype calls, specifically to those Skype users who haven’t bought any Skype credit.

That’s the least of your worries in Ethiopia, where VoIP has just been made a criminal offence carrying a maximum of 15 years’ imprisonment.

Facebook’s CTO is off, pocketing a ton of shares and talking about a new business he’s starting with an ex-Googler.

Only 16% of the stuff you “like” on Facebook will end up in your news feed where your friends can see it. Facebook is offering to up that…for a price. Some people are suspicious.

And here are their excuses for the IPO snafu.

Amazon Web Services rolls out an extensive paid support plan.

Cloudbursting: that’s when you run in the private cloud normally, but have a plan to automatically pull in additional public cloud capacity to deal with peaks. High Scalability has a HOWTO.

Talking about ATMs and cash.

Assessing Google’s original content.

How do you go about evacuating a data centre?

And Motorola (not the Google bit) buys Psion - sadly, it is that Psion, and it’s the remaining vertical applications bit of the legendary British PDA maker.

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June 11, 2012

Netflix’s CDN, Facebook app store; Vodafone and Telefonica network share - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: If you’re interested by the themes in this Telco 2.0 News Review, you’ve still got a few hours to sign up for the EMEA Executive Brainstorm in London tomorrow. Register here. We’ll also be Tweeting over at https://twitter.com/#!/telco2 both from our event and from NGMN after 6pm UK time.]

Netflix is moving its video firehose into its own CDN, Open Connect, rather than using L(3) or Akamai. This means a further shakeup of the Internet peering ecosystem, and is perhaps a sign that however good the cloud gets, there’s still a strong case for controlling your infrastructure. Fascinatingly, Netflix is also going to release the hardware design and software of their servers under an open-source licence. Operators who host the nodes won’t be paid anything, but will get the pain off their transit and peering links.

Dan Rayburn has details, including the facts that unlike Google Cache boxes, these machines will be under the hosting ISP’s control, and that Netflix is not planning to cache content in the usual sense but rather to push it to the CDN boxes proactively. Typically, the nodes will be running read-only during peak hours and write-only in the dead of night as the next lot of movies are pushed out.

Rayburn also takes issue with the argument that this means doom for Akamai, here. He also wonders why AT&T and Verizon haven’t made more of an impact.

And Citrix has acquired mobile acceleration and CDN specialist Bytemobile.

Something odd: Benoit Felten reads Akamai’s State of the Internet report and notes that speeds dropped around the world in the last six months. More discussion is here.

The Voice of Broadband reports that Fastweb is closing its IPTV service, which is losing out to satellite. Benoit Felten argues that independent IPTV is simply a bad business and we’ll see more exits. Another reason to dump IPTV is that so much stuff is just on the Web: France Telecom is buying the rest of Dailymotion it doesn’t already own. However, globally, telco IPTV subs are still rising.

By next year, major movie markets may have stopped distributing 35mm film. Opportunities for satellite distribution or NGA broadband there?

Here’s a thing: streaming video paid for via carrier billing. Click through and you’ll find out it’s not as Telco 2.0 as that…

And where’s all this video going? Tablets, according to Mary Meeker.

If you need even more video news, GigaOm will be streaming the Akamai CEO from their conference on the 20th.

It’s Apple’s WWDC this week. Wired and many, many others are speculating about some sort of Apple TV refresh. Dan Rayburn points out that it needs a lot of refreshing, as even people who always buy Apple products don’t buy Apple TVs. Horace is kinder but still notes that it’s worth less than iPad Smart Covers, while expecting Apple’s Q2 to be back in the “exceptional” zone.

Elsewhere, HTC cut its Q2 target sharply and got sued by Apple. Apple has also, it turns out, patented a computer that is thin and sort of wedge-shaped.

Facebook is an app store, covering “any canvas (i.e. HTML5), web, or mobile apps”. Apparently, if an app requires a download, App Center will send you to the App Store or Google Play, which does make you wonder why you’d bother going through Facebook in the first place. You’ll be able to acquire Facebook’s digital currency via carrier billing, too - which is probably better news for the carriers than anybody else. TechCrunch points out that Facebook’s strategy is looking a little confused here.

Chart of the Week goes to this one of Mary Meeker’s, showing usage of Viddy after Facebook started plugging it.

meeker_viddy.jpg

It went up…to begin with. Meeker also points out that mobile ads are a bit of a disappointment.

Android growth appears to be slowing down, says Horace. Ironically, this comes as Google leapt into 2008 by giving the Maps app the ability to cache mapping and work offline, like Nokia Maps has had since forever. It’s been confirmed that iOS 6 is coming and new Apple maps with it, and Google Maps was giving some detail of their data collection in an effort to spoil the party.

Andy Rubin, meanwhile, claimed 900,000 activations a day and denied he was going anywhere. Google’s latest acquisition is Quickoffice, makers of that app that lets you look at Microsoft documents on your phone.

Nokia VP Mary McDowell thinks featurephones have a future, although 40% of them will be big touchscreen devices by 2015 and the features include apps and a full-service web browser.

Google also promised to change the Google Apps Ts&Cs to comply with EU privacy law.

Privacy, eh? It was the week LinkedIn, eHarmony, and our Hoxton neighbours Last.fm all managed to leak millions of passwords. The sad thing is that the protective technique known as salting has been well understood since 1978 (and you can read Ken Thompson’s classic paper here).

The F-Secure Antivirus Blog has advice on adequate salting. John Graham-Cumming is scathing about LinkedIn’s disclosure. This Cambridge Computer Lab Technical Report, from earlier this year, evaluates a wide range of alternative solutions to passwords.

Microsoft is shipping IE9 with Do Not Track on by default. Google warns GMail users threatened by “state-sponsored attackers”. And a thrilling combination of credit reference agencies and Facebook. What could possibly go wrong?

Up in the cloud, Heroku had a visit from the Fail this week, kicking off a row about what should happen when a cloud service fails. Is it fair on the application developer to show an “application error” when the platform is at fault? Discussion is at Hacker News.

Amazon now provides a programmatic way to get at your AWS bill, and a really interesting HOWTO about using their EC2 Spot Market, Simple Notification Service, and CloudFormation console together to automatically scale up an application when EC2 capacity is cheap.

And you can try out an Amazon Appstore Android app in your web browser.

Microsoft, meanwhile, have changed a lot of details in Azure, making it more of an IaaS and deploying a ton of features.

In carrier news, Vodafone and Telefonica O2 UK are going to deepen their network-sharing efforts, hoping to save €1bn by combining the physical infrastructure (although they won’t share the RAN) and rationalising the responsibility for maintenance. This will take the UK down to 2 physical networks, the MBNL-Everything Everywhere JV and the Telefonica-Vodafone JV.

Telefonica was much in the news this week. After fairly dreadful Q1 results, and a ratings downgrade, they’re selling the stake in China Unicom to fetch just under a billion quid. Minority investments in China haven’t really got a good record, have they?

Meanwhile, Telefonica signed an exclusive deal with Jasper Wireless to provide their M2M software and devices in the UK. Relatedly, Lenovo has a partnership with Macheen to get embedded broadband into their laptops.

And O2 Germany may be buying E-Plus off KPN.

It’s IPv6 Launch Day! T-Mobile USA announced their turn-up, although some Android users had been aware of a soft launch for some time. AT&T is going ahead with the 6RD transitional solution. And Verizon Wireless, which led the way with mobile IPv6, announced another round of LTE deployments.

European regulators cleared the 2100MHz band for re-use as LTE spectrum. Two links on broadband pricing: RevK and Kim Larsen from DTAG.

Telcos turn to the SMB market. Funny, we made a note about that.

Obermann: telcos are arrogant. EE spends £50m training staff on mobile OS. Benchmarks for mobile money transfer. 3UK’s latest MiFi. Ericsson tries out the crystal ball.

Rebtel is on the iPad. Google Voice improves its spam filtering. Skype has ruled out “pre-roll video ads”. Tropo and Drupal for humanitarians. The Foxconn riot that wasn’t. Datasexuals.

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June 7, 2012

Telco 2.0 News Analysis: ‘OTT’ Wars, Big Data and other key disruptions

[Ed: This is a special review of the news from the last 6 months in preparation for next week’s EMEA Executive Brainstorm, 12-13 June 2012 in London. The review lines up the key stories against the agenda, covering the latest on Telco 2.0 strategies, telcos in the cloud, M-Commerce, and M2M. There’s top speakers from Amazon, Google, Barclays, Ofcom and the top EMEA telcos and only a few places left so register here now, call +44 (0) 207 247 5003, or email contact@stlpartners.com for last minute place.]

Telco 2.0 strategies and OTT threats: getting tougher for tech stars


The Facebook IPO: Disappointing. The social event of the season turned into a flop. Wall Street managed to get the IPO away, but the price slumped and the bears are not going away. As a result, serious doubt has been cast on the “free-with-ads” business model and the idea of building a huge user base that will be monetised in some vague manner. Further, users’ tolerance for advertising in the social context has been tested, and the users opted for the ad-free mobile version.

Android: Disappointing. Another win for STL - we thought there was very little evidence that it actually brought in any money, and now we know that although Android devices are flooding the world, it’s helping the vendors and the operators. Google makes far more money from Apple iOS devices than Android ones.

Free Mobile: Telco 2.0 Hit. Everyone expected Free to do something dramatic when their 3G licence finally arrived. They exploded out of the blocks, thoroughly disrupted the French mobile market, and then did it again by deploying a WLAN offload network overnight through a software patch pushed out to their fixed-line CPE. Key take-aways: communications is valuable, keen pricing is vital, software power wins.

And of course there’s the patent wars. It’s not clear that operators have a “side” in it, but it’s been making the news constantly for months. Google’s win over Oracle probably won’t mean it calms down. The Strategy agenda and speakers are here.

Digital Consumer/Voice & Messaging: not as clear cut as anyone thought


Voice & SMS Shocks. KPN saw a horrible dive in SMS revenues. Telenor says SMS revenue peaked in 2009 and has been falling ever since. BT Retail was off 1.5bn minutes of use year-on-year and blamed it on the weather.

Vodafone OneNet: Awesome. 2 million users, growing revenues even in Italy where service revenue across the board is falling under the economic crisis. Clear product definition, confident execution, deployment from the cloud = practical Telco 2.0.

Skype for Browsers. Microsoft-Skype was a dog that didn’t bark, but they’re hiring engineers for “Skype for Browsers”, i.e. a Web-based version of Skype. This is an example of a wider trend, voice getting built into HTML5-enabled web applications. See also WebRTC.

Call Centre 2.0. RCSe got its launch, at long last, and our bet is that it’s going to be mostly an enterprise, B2C or B2B2C solution, rather like the applications Solaimes demonstrated at our event. Similarly, the Voice 2.0 ecosystem has refocused towards third-party call control and applications.

TV Disappointment. Another year when “Smart TV” was meant to be with us. Perhaps the concept is basically flawed, as STL has repeatedly suggested? The agenda and speakers on Digital Consumers are here.

Customer Experience: of course it matters, but…


Google: Disappointment. Google + may have exploded out of the starting blocks, but it rapidly bogged down without getting beyond the early adopter scene. And Google’s efforts to integrate the social networking content into their search product were widely seen as crufty, spammy, and generally disappointing.

Design. It now seems to be obvious that service and user experience design are core skills for everyone. But have telcos figured out what this means in voice and messaging in time? The agenda and speakers on Customer Experience are here.

Network-as-a-Service/APIs: signs of progress


Telefonica Digital. A whole operator division devoted to building things around their APIs - but note they had to trim back some of the features of BlueVia.

Software power at the edge. Free Mobile’s overnight move to turn their Freeboxes into offload WiFi access points is a case in point. So is the move towards small cells and Intel’s smart cell concept, which makes it much more possible to integrate CDN, PBX, and location-based service applications into the network.

Software-defined networking. It’s the latest tech buzzword! More seriously, DTAG is planning to re-engineer its networks around the OpenFlow standard. This potentially promises much greater flexibility and more use of relatively cheap IT hardware.

API power. It’s been estimated that a good API can increase traffic through your Web site by 70%. Similarly, something like 90% of external traffic to Netflix comes from connected devices (consoles, tablets, set-top boxes, DVD players etc) talking to its API.

Verizon FiOS to 300Mbps. They spent the money and laid the fibre, now they’re reaping the rewards. The agenda and speakers on Network 2.0 are here.

M-Commerce (wallets, payments, advertising): is it time now, again?


Google Wallet: Disappointment. Getting to be a bit of a theme - Google’s strategic identity crisis is clearly a thing. But their effort has failed to carry the operators, or the banks, or the merchants with it, and therefore won’t get the users either.


UK Joint Venture. At the moment, the problem appears to be 3UK being left out and moaning about it to the regulator, to say nothing of Google. But the real problem, as with many payment schemes, is finding a use case that might get the public to use it and some compelling devices. It’s worth remembering that 6 out of the 8 projects in the GSMA’s “fast growth” group are in East Africa.

Advertising is Hard. Facebook’s advertising performance was a disappointment, and so was Apple’s with iAds. Interestingly, both went with a traditional, “big brands, big accounts, personal touch” strategy rather than Google’s “long tail, measure everything, web signup”. We will see how Freespee’s click-to-call AdSense clone goes, but there are some reasons to think click-to-call might work here. Agenda and speakers on M-Commerce are here.

Cloud: round 2, coming up


OpenStack is coming. The IT industry’s effort to kick back at Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services EC2, Salesforce, and Google is with us. Will it open up new opportunities for telcos?

Abandon purity. It was the quarter when the Web realised that “the cloud isn’t cheap”. Every hit startup eventually seems to need its own data centre. As a result, it’s increasingly important to have a balanced strategy between public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises.

Cloud meets CDN. Akamai, and Ericsson’s CDN products, are both gearing up to integrate with cloud systems and bring the applications running in them much closer to the user.

Where is Facebook Web Services? One thing Facebook does well, even if their UX design and ad sales leave something to be desired, is engineering. They’ve created a massive internal cloud infrastructure - how long before they start offering cloud services?

2 of the 5 biggest construction sites in the USA are data centres.

Key Skill: Architecture. Designing big cloud systems, and systems that run in the cloud, is a key skill for the future. Agenda and speakers on Cloud are here.

Big Data: big yes, but not easy


Target Miss. US retailer Target gave us a preview of the downside of big data - they developed an algorithm to guess which customers were pregnant and advertise to them. Unfortunately, somebody’s dad found out first from a Target mailshot. Oh dear. Fix: add randomly generated items to the mailshot to disguise the creepy prescience.

Amazon CloudSearch. Need to index and search a ton of data? Now you can use Amazon’s A9 search engine. For a price. Agenda and speakers here.

Personal Data: an epic struggle


WEF Personal Data Initiative: Progress…. On the bright side, we saw good progress on the World Economic Forum (WEF) initiative to get the personal data economy working the right way - fair to customers and still providing opportunities for businesses. The WEF published this report on ‘strengthening trust’.


Phone Hackers. On the dark side, Piers Morgan thanked the poor security of a certain UK mobile phone operator for an award he got. This may send him to jail. Anyway, this all encompassing political earthquake is the clearest possible demonstration of the vital importance of security. Especially if they get round to auditing the lawful intercept logs.

Groupon Data Deal. Groupon is yet another Silicon Valley star that’s taken a nasty fall since last time, to go with Facebook and Google. But it’s telling that this was a company that was buying others just for their data.

CarrierIQ. Whoops! It was discovered that this software, which is used to collect metrics on users’ experience of smartphones, stores masses of personal data in the clear as a file that any application can access. Not good.

Agenda and speakers here.

M2M: getting real but how to make money?


Vodafone, China Mobile, DTAG… Machina Research thought Vodafone was the best M2M operator in the world, ahead of Deutsche Telekom. China Mobile, though, wants to be the biggest and is growing dramatically. It’s a battle between VF and DTAG for quality and VF and China Mobile for volume.

$3 ARPUs. M2M ARPU is turning out to be fabulously low, and more than expected is going into software and service enablement. Monthly ARPU of $5 was thought to be astonishingly low in the context of emerging market GSM operators, but now $3 is the new $5.

M-Health: Threat or Menace? It sounds great - 5% of the patients are 50% of the spending. But people who’ve tried it say they’re also 90% of the complexity, cost, and risk. Just when you think there’s easy money to be made, BAM, up comes reality… M2M agenda and speakers here.


Join us if you can at next week’s EMEA Executive Brainstorm, 12-13 June 2012 in London. Full agenda here, speakers here - register here now, call +44 (0) 207 247 5003, or email contact@stlpartners.com for last minute place.

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