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AT&T’s $14Bn NGN; India’s spectrum flop; Samsung beats Apple - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. A bumper fortnight’s review this week as we’re just back from our Digital Arabia event in Dubai last week. It was a fantastic brainstorm with really senior attendees from across the digital economy, and we saw a lot of exciting things move forward. Here’s a sneak preview of one of the most interesting participant votes on M-Commerce strategies:

Digital Arabia m-COMMERCE vote Nov 2012.png

We’ll be publishing a lot more in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you’re a key player in the APAC market, you should join the action at Digital Asia, 3-5 December, Capella Resort Hotel, Singapore - apply here.]

Teresa Mastrangelo’s The Voice of Broadband blogs up AT&T’s Project Velocity IP (VIP), which is essentially their NGN rollout. AT&T plans to spend $14bn, $8 on wireless and $6 on fixed, on a huge network upgrade. The plan is conservative on FTTH, with only a million new connections planned, essentially to businesses, and aggressive on LTE and IPTV. The number of LTE POPs is going to double by the end of 2014, and another 8.5 million locations will get U-Verse IPTV.

Perhaps the single biggest story in this, though, is the massive commitment to small cells. Project VIP foresees 10,000 new macro-cells and no fewer than 40,000 small cells. A lot of eurovendor sales execs’ ski passes are riding on this one, make no mistake.

On the other hand, North American telcos were struggling against the cable networks’ upgrades when it came to broadband net adds, even if IPTV subscriptions have stabilised for the time being.

Meanwhile, Dealbook has a chat with CEO Randall Stephenson and AT&T turns Apple FaceTime over cellular on.

Hurricane Sandy hit New York City after the last News Review went out, and Renesys monitored the outages and reported that although only 10% of Manhattan-based networks were down, teledensity is such that this was equivalent to the whole of Austria dropping out of the routing table.

However, as they point out here, the long-haul carriers were amazingly resilient. So much so that a SunGard data centre became a refugee centre. That’s from Data Center Knowledge, which also rounds up progress on restoring data centres in the area.

David S. Isenberg blogs on the impact of a smart grid on recovery from a major storm.

In other networks news, the re-auction of the Indian GSM spectrum is a go…and a flop, as the five carriers involved seem to have found some of the “circles” too pricey. This all started when the 3G auction turned into a bidding war, with the result that the sale of the 2G spectrum was thought to have been too cheap. As a result, everyone decided that obviously only corruption could explain it.

Perhaps it was just that the 3G spectrum was overpriced?

OFCOM has at last issued the rules and timetable for the 4G auction. Bids must be in by the 11th of December, the auction itself will happen in January, with services going live in June.

MegaFon is going to raise £2bn through a partial IPO in London. Vodacom is looking for acquisitions in Africa.

Verizon’s LTE for Rural America program, which leases LTE spectrum in the 700MHz band to RLECs, who deploy the network, run a service, and provide interconnect for VZW users, has signed up Cellular One. GiffGaff is down, and the Register is polling its readers to find out if they want to hear about outages there any more.

New Zealand’s shared-infrastructure operator has asked artists to decorate its street cabinets. A gallery is here (hat-tip to Benoit).

Virgin Media has been running trials of “Small Cells as a Service”, which looks to be an outsourced offering where they host your small cells around their co-ax network. There’s a detailed report here.

Unfortunately, plans for a new emergency alert system based on cell broadcast are struggling because iOS, among others, barely supports broadcast even though it’s been part of GSM forever.

Windows Phone 8 incorporates Devicescape’s automated WLAN log-on, which keeps an eye on free hotspots and works out which hoops you need to jump through to make them work. And a new M2M standards group emerges in Cambridge.

French politician blames Free for Alcatel’s sales.

Strategy Analytics reckons that the Samsung Galaxy S III outsold the iPhone 4S in the quarter, accounting for an impressive 10.7% of world smartphone shipments in Q3 as against 9.7% for the iPhone. Obviously, Apple’s sales will have been negatively affected by the shadow of the iPhone 5. The same caveat applies to this IDC numberdrop, which reckons Androids made up 75% of world smartphones in the same period.

Horace notes that despite passing 50% North American smartphone penetration, there is no sign of smartphone adoption passing an inflection point yet - it seems to be linear rather than the typical sigmoid curve. But the make up of the mix is changing, becoming much more Android-heavy. The post is a volley of charts, but we think this one sums up the strategic consequences, tracking market share by installed base:

Screen-Shot-2012-11-05-at-11-5-1.08.05-PM.png

Who is Android disrupting? Some answers. Meanwhile, BlackBerry OS 10’s Web browser has become one of only two to pass Facebook’s demanding HTML5 benchmark.

Horace notes that Apple’s CAPEX spiked in 2012, going well above the forecast. He thinks a major supplier, possibly Sharp’s troubled touchscreen plant, got into serious financial troubles and was bailed out by Apple.

Apple has settled its patent row with HTC, possibly taking advantage of HTC’s troubles to wind up one of the problems cheaply.

Foxconn is looking at setting up in the US. Rumour: Microsoft buys both Nokia and NVIDIA.

The first security patch for Windows 8 is out. Generating fake SMS messages on Android. Turning iPhones into bugs. Integrate a full Google Analytics harness into your Android app (you could do something similar on BlackBerry two years ago, but never mind).

Is MS Office for iOS and Android coming?

Andy Abramson is looking for Skype bug reports since the cut-over to the Microsoft Live Messenger backend. (We can report having been inexplicably unable to make a SkypeOut call yesteday.) Meanwhile, a privacy storm broke out as the company is accused of handing over information about a WikiLeaks activist without requiring a warrant.

Elsewhere, Skype top-up cards landed in British stores this week.

Virgin Media launched SmartCall, which lets smartphone users make calls on their landline plan when they’re in a WLAN hotspot. Some more drumbeat for Joyn.

The 3G and 4G Wireless Blog blogs a chart showing all 17 possible options for LTE voice.

17LTEVoiceModes.jpg

We were wondering about user tolerance of ads in Facebook timelines. Dan York’s is officially reached.

Interested in customer engagement? Perhaps you’re interested in Twilio too.

A chilly wind blows (or blogs?) down Sand Hill Road, the Valley’s venture capital hub. Peter Kafka reports on Spotify’s valuation, which has come down $1bn between two rounds of financing, apparently driven by the ugly experience of the Facebook IPO, and of course, Groupon.

Ah, Groupon. We were sceptical early, and now they’ve missed Q3s, badly (there was meant to be profit, but there was no profit), and the shares tanked. Reuters points out that the new adjacent business models they’re moving into - like “selling things” - are lower-margin than the core daily deals business, and 39% of merchants who did a Groupon promotion say they won’t do it again.

Meanwhile, Facebook advertisers are still complaining of rampant clickfraud.

Here’s an interesting YouTube story: if you’re playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II, you can now stream the video live on YouTube to demonstrate your fearsome zombie/nazi/robot/mutant-slaughtering skills.

YouTube, for its part, is going to cull 60% of its content investments when the deals come up for renewal. Elsewhere, Google was down in China briefly, and they’re sponsoring free mobile Internet service in the Philippines with Globe Telecom.

Marissa Mayer’s Yahoo! is carrying out a massive user-test campaign on the new home page, rather as you’d expect from a company now run by ex-Googlers.

Someone who could have done with much more user testing this week was Mitt Romney, whose campaign built a mobile Web app that was meant to revolutionise its get-out-the-vote effort. Although some automated load-testing was done, the app was so secret that the activists didn’t get hold of it until the night before. Many of them couldn’t work it. Passwords were wrong. The fact it wasn’t an app, but rather a Web site, fooled some of the users.

Amazingly, the system architecture had 11 database servers but only one Web-facing server for 57,000 users. Romney’s IT consultants decided to place the machines on-premises at the campaign HQ, and the Comcast Business link to the Internet was cut off at one point because the ISP’s automated monitoring thought the barrage of inbound traffic was a denial of service attack. Obama’s, not surprisingly, ran like a killer drone.

On a similar theme, the UK Government Digital Strategy is out, and here is the BBC’s lessons-learned review of the Olympics from a product management viewpoint.

Up in the cloud, here’s an interesting post on enterprise applications in the cloud, based on HP research.

Here is Telefonica’s Instant Servers IaaS product. How to make a Microsoft SharePoint farm on AWS.

And it’s 20 years since the first GSM handset, to say nothing of 8 years since the first version of Mozilla Firefox.

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