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January 31, 2013

Mobile World Congress 2013 Preview: reading the CEOs


The GSMA’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2013 in Barcelona on Feb 25-28 is a key fixture in the mobile industry. Telco 2.0 is again delighted to be official partners of the event. Not only does this mean that the Telco 2.0 analyst team will be attending in force, but also that we’re able to offer our readers a special discount on MWC passes. (Email us at contact@telco2.net if you’d like one).

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It’s at a new venue this year, the brand new Fira Gran Via. While it’s a little out of the centre of town, we’re looking forward to a change of scene, and Barcelona is small enough to enjoy the centre of town in the evenings.

Apart from the allure of the city of Barcelona, we like going for three reasons.


  1. It’s a great place to feel the pulse of the global telecoms industry, and we’ll be analysing and reporting what we see and hear in the weeks after the Congress. We’ve had a look back at our analysis from the last three years below, and are reasonably pleased on the accuracy of our predictions and conclusions we drew from watching and listening to the great and good from Google, Microsoft, Vodafone, Telefonica, et al.

  2. It’s a good place to do business, and we’re hosting activities for a number of clients at the Congress. In particular, we’re running two private sessions for telco CMOs / CTOs / CSOs and Cloud Directors: a breakfast brainstorm on growth opportunities from ‘Big Data’ and personal data; and a ‘Telcos in the Cloud’ brainstorming lunch. If you’re interested in joining or finding out more, please email contact@telco2.net.

  3. It’s a superb opportunity to simply catch up with many key clients and friends in the industry. So if you are going, do let us know and we’ll try to catch up with you.


So what happened in the last couple of years? In the rest of this article we reflect on what we read in the performances of some of the world’s top technology and telco CEOs (Google, Microsoft, Vodafone, AT&T and Telecom Italia), and other highlights from Congress.

For a start, Google’s Eric Schmidt gave one of the best big stage performances we’ve ever seen. With the benefit of hindsight, this may have happened at around the apex of the Stamford man’s career at Google, and his second appearance illustrated a fascinating change in both his, and Google’s, strategic approach.

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Dr Eric Schmidt bossed the 2010 Congress as Google’s CEO (Image: Guardian.co.uk)

Back in 2010, in How Google’s Chief Magician Stole the Show, we wrote how the then CEO had in a tour-de-force performance told the telecoms industry exactly which parts of their lunch Google will eat, while simultaneously appearing to offer peace. We thought that his most revealing remark was an offhand comment about customer data, and about how much more of it that Google would have in five years time. Big customer data was of course the telcos’ lunch we were referring to - the oil of the future information economy, an area we’ve been working on for a number of years.

Two years later Schmidt seemed like a different man when he spoke again at the 2012 Congress.

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‘Uncle Eric’ Schmidt, Chairman, Google, at MWC 2012 (Photo: GSMA)

While still a consummate performer, in 2012 he seemed like an elderly uncle of the man who presented at the 2010 show. It may have been that Schmidt’s new role of Chairman suited a lower octane style, or that his true objective was to anaesthetise the industry to the distrust it then felt toward Google. It may also have been that by then, the high intensity 16-hour-a-day CEO lifestyle that Schmidt had described as the norm for his team had taken its toll.

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Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, spars with the audience in 2012 (Image Source: GSMA)

In contrast, in 2011’s Microsoft CEO fails to land all punches, but…, we described how the pugilistic Steve Ballmer was all fist-pumping action while making a slightly less than convincing case for Microsoft’s Windows 7 mobile OS. Despite our own doubts about the near term prospects for Microsoft in mobile, we sounded a cautious note of longer-term optimism, saying that Microsoft could be back in contention within 5 or 6 years given its corporate IQ and resources.

It’s still early days, but consumers and reviewers seem to have warmed to the OS at least. Recent results appear to show Apple beginning to plateau, and Samsung powering ahead, so the smartphone OS wars are far from over. Operators still have the strategic need to nurture more than two smartphone ecosystems as we pointed out in Dealing with the ‘Disruptors’: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype and Amazon, so Microsoft is still in the game.

The motivations and contrasts between the outwardly composed and cerebral Schmidt and the combative Ballmer, and indeed the emotional tone and temperature of all of the CEO performances we watch, are always among the most interesting aspects of the Congress. CEOs are, after all, the centre of something akin to a company’s ‘ego’ - the embodied expression of what it collectively believes it is and should be doing.

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2012: Bernabe, de la Vega, Colao: “MTRs - funny how?” (Image: Stephen Shankland/CNET)

In the case of the 2012 opening addresses of the CEOs of Vodafone, AT&T Mobility, and Telecom Italia, we noted a slightly comical ‘Goodfellas’ tone, giving the impression of powerful gang bosses addressing peers at a fraternal gathering. The President of China Mobile, in contrast, simply spoke in Chinese: the clear message being ‘now you must come to us’ - as well as some intriguing thoughts on its vast mobile platform. We also reported on Apps & Devices, Network Technologies, M-Commerce, and Facebook’s somewhat content free appearance.

So we look forward to the star turns and content of the MWC 2013 agenda, and what it all tells us about the state of the industry. There are some interesting speakers there this year, though notably, no heavyweights from Google or Facebook, and of course nobody from Apple, which has infamously always eschewed public appearances at the Congress. On the non-telco side, Deezer, Dropbox, Foursquare and Viber will be there, and the telco C-Level line-up is strong, so there’s plenty to look forward to.

And perhaps we’ll see you there too - email contact@telco2.net if you’d like to know more about the special discounted passes.

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January 28, 2013

Results: Apple, Google, AT&T, Verizon, Samsung, Nokia - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. Seven weeks and counting to the brainstorm in Silicon Valley, 19-20 March 2013, and then on to our European Brainstorm, 5-6 June 2013. We’ll also be at the Mobile World Congress for which we can offer discounted passes - email us at contact@telco2.net to find out more.]

It’s results week! Apple reported record revenue and sales that were just above expectations, but earnings per share were down marginally, for the first time in a decade, so the market gave them the bird, off 10%. Tim Cook’s earnings call emphasised China and tried to dish the rumours about cuts to semiconductor orders.

Cook’s full remarks are here. He argues that iPad Mini sales were constrained by supply-chain restrictions, and that sales of iMacs were hit by customers holding off ahead of the launch of new products. Horace digs into the numbers, breaks out accessory sales (weirdly, accounted for as “music” at Apple), and concludes that the iPhone’s ASP is basically constant over time since 2009, while the iPad’s is being eroded. As iPhone volumes are only going up, this means nothing but good news for Apple.

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Interestingly, he also argues that this is because the carriers are willing to pay for the newest iPhones in order to create and retain high spending power users. AT&T’s Q4s show that they shipped more smartphones - 10 million - than any US carrier has done before, but it’s less clear that the strategy is working, as their bottom line was essentially flat (up 0.2%). Similarly, Verizon’s smartphone penetration is now at 58% and postpaid net-adds at a record high, but the company actually lost money, although this was accounted for by pension contributions and repairs after Hurricane Sandy.

Meanwhile, Google’s Q4s turned out to fall under “pretty good, really”. Samsung’s were more like “superb”, although their guidance for 2013 is conservative. Huawei’s net profits were up 33% on revenues up about 8%, and its thriving cheap Android business is outshipping Nokia.

Nokia, for its part, announced a pre-tax profit for Q4, partly by including all sorts of things like the sale of the head office buildings and a dib-in-the-hand from Microsoft, and the final run-off of Symbian. However, the news is good; smartphone ASPs and shipments are rising, the Ashas are doing good business (Nokia reclassified some of them from featurephones to smartphones, but you can’t blame them now some of them have 1GHz CPUs), and NSN sales were up 5% and making money.

It’s still a a net loss over the full year, but at least it’s progress, and the company’s not burning cash any more.

You will spend 43 days of your life on hold, claims a survey commissioned for an SMS response firm (Talkto). Obviously, it’s time to demand Voice 2.0. The field is going through a wave of activity and creativity at the moment.

Rethink Wireless’s Caroline Gabriel discusses the AT&T Call Management API, powered by old allies Voxeo Labs’ technology. The long standing VoIP Users’ Conference reports on 8x8’s Virtual Mobile Office, which provides something like Vodafone OneNet as an Android OTT app and a web application.

SendHub, which started out as an SMS platform, has evolved into a broader business voice solution, and it’s just launched a new web application permitting IT managers to provision and generally look after installations of hundreds of lines.

T-Mobile USA launched HD voice nationally earlier this month, and now they’ve launched a business-focused unified comms product. Buying MetroPCS’s VoLTE team seems to have injected enthusiasm into the company.

IBM has integrated HarQen’s transcription/annotation solution into its Connections conferencing and enterprise social product.

Hushed is an Android app that lets you instantly grab a temporary local number when you’re travelling, using Twilio’s API for the teleplumbing.

The Twilio blog has a really interesting use case of Call Centre 2.0 at a British payments start-up, plus this post with more #CC2 use cases and an invite to a webinar with Forrester and Twilio developers.

Meanwhile, the snow by text project was literally up our street.

Here’s an admittedly frivolous use case that mashes up DTAG’s Voice 2.0 and M2M APIs. The first of those is Voxeo, while the second is a new-to-us M2M start-up, spun off from NSN. Watch the video:

The OnSIP blog has a handy introduction to WebRTC and SIP in the HTML5 context.

Up in the cloud, Google’s data centre CAPEX just spiked to $1bn in Q4, $3.27bn for the full year. This is the second biggest quarter for capital investment in Google’s history, after Q4 2010 - but that was when the purchase of 111 8th Avenue hit the books, inflating the numbers by some $2bn. In terms of infrastructure, then, this may be the biggest ever. What are they planning?

Interestingly, they’ve also released much of the Cloud Platform (i.e. App Engine and related) code on GitHub.

Here’s some more from Wired’s Cade Metz on Facebook and their ARM-based servers. Intel, meanwhile, showed off an Open Compute server rack that uses optical fibre rather than electronics for I/O.

Rackspace is planning a 10MW data centre “somewhere in England”.

Not one to miss: Netflix’s VP of content delivery will give the keynote at Dan Rayburn’s shindig in May, speaking on their Open Connect private CDN.

Meanwhile, Netflix and YouTube propose a new standard for chucking video from a computer to a big TV. You might be surprised to find that we need another standard to do that, but the more interesting point is that pure web players are now dictating fairly deep hardware design.

ReadWriteWeb visits YouTube’s new production studio.

Here’s an interview with Marissa Mayer. Discussion here.

The French government has commissioned a report that suggests taxing companies who hold lots of personal information. This is of course framed as being about the Americans, but if it were to be implemented it would surely hit France Telecom like a hammer.

A Facebook storefront company has given up. Wolfram Alpha lets you scare yourself with Facebook data.

Nokia is giving music streaming another go (remember Comes With Music?), this time with a subscription model.

And the BBC R&D blog will be publishing some interesting video interviews.

Julius Genachowski challenges the industry to get the first gigabit broadband services into 50 US states by 2015. So far, 42 communities in 12 states are there. The Voice of Broadband points out that among other people and organisations, Google suggested to the National Broadband Plan process that it should fund gigabit testbed projects, four years ago. The good news is that some of the broadband stimulus funding is still available; the bad news that a surprising number of US states and communities now have laws banning non-RBOC broadband.

France Telecom’s CFO says they’re hoping to up prices when LTE launches, after the experience of launching EE in the UK. As the British 4G bidding starts, EE has announced some more reasonable LTE tariffs, in anticipation of the next entrant.

Meanwhile, the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport is putting together teams of specialists to help rural broadband projects.

The interminable dispute about Cukurova Holdings’ stake in Turkcell may be about to be settled.

Telstra is the latest telco to set up an internal OTT team. Telefonica, the first to do so, has a new M2M platform that emphasises localisation, and keeping your data in the country where you want it.

Meet the Yolo, Intel’s Android 4.0-based smartphone for Africa, which is heading for the Kenyan market. The specs are interesting:

Based on Intel’s reference design from CES, it’s an entry-level device that comes with a 1.2GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 400MHz GPU, 3.5-inch HVGA screen, 4GB of internal storage, microSD expansion slot, while Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is running the show. Size wise, the Yolo measures 110.5x61x12.6mm and has a weight of 132 grams. As for the price, Safaricom will sell this baby for 10,999 Kenyan shillings, or some $125.

That counts as “entry level”? Meanwhile, the first Firefox OS handsets are here for the developers, and one expects a rush for the freebies at MWC in a few weeks’ time. Here’s a report back from a recent Firefox OS hackday in London. Further, MWL has video of Ubuntu Linux for smartphones.

HTC’s latest idea is a smaller phone to go with your other phone. More BlackBerry 10 leaks. Is Windows RT doomed?

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January 23, 2013

ITU and Internet Regulations: a fine mess

A few weeks ago, we published a post examining what to expect from the ITU WCIT conference in Dubai, which was set up to re-write the ITRs (International Telecoms Regulations) for the first time since 1988. We foresaw quite a lot of trouble, especially around the ITU’s proposed new role of regulating the Internet, in terms of both governance and business models.

If anything, the final outcome was even more dramatic than we expected. After two weeks of mostly plodding bureaucracy and behind-closed-doors horsetrading, the final result was an almighty row, a lot of uncertainty and ill-feeling - and perhaps a reduction in the ITU’s credibility. [Ed. We’ll be looking at market issues at the Silicon Valley Brainstorm, 19-20 March, San Francisco, and also at the EMEA Brainstorm in London, 5-6 June, and welcome your comments in the meantime.]

Despite the intention by the ITU Secretary General to avoid divisive votes and find “consensus”, in the end the outcome was decided by a numerical majority of countries supporting the new ITRs, and the distinct possibility of the globe’s telecoms regulations splitting (roughly) down authoritarian/libertarian lines into two domains.

Of the 144 states present and eligible to vote at the event in Dubai, 89 countries signed up at the time for the revised ITRs (final version here) - primarily developing-world nations from Africa, Asia, Latin America & Arabia. But 55 states did not, mostly developed economies from European, North America and the Pacific Rim, plus a few extras like India, Kenya and Chile. Another 50-odd countries either were not present, or couldn’t vote for technical reasons such as unpaid membership fees. While some signatories may not ratify the signed agreements in their parliaments, and some others may decide to sign up later after more consideration, it is clear that “consensus” is certainly not the outcome.

Represented graphically, the OECD+extras vs. Asia & Africa picture becomes more clear: http://www.ipv.sx/wcit/

The US and other countries stuck to their original stance that the ITU must not attempt to regulate the Internet. Although a lot of the proposals were watered-down or cut out entirely, the final document included a non-binding “resolution” about the Internet, which was essentially the core sticking point. Although worded vaguely, it signalled ITU’s intent to continue trying to become involved with the Internet domain, contrary to the Secretary General’s comments at the beginning of the event. We were a little surprised by the sheer intransigence of delegates on this issue (the resolution seems fairly “harmless” to us at first sight), but then we’re business people not diplomatic and political analysts, and we can understand the desire of the US and its peers to avoid re-hashing the whole debate at a later event.

When we singled out Russia and China as the key potential “protagonists” vs. OECD countries in our earlier post, we were mostly-right, although China was rather less vociferous than the Russians, perhaps because it already exerts a lot of control over its domestic Internet market. Interestingly, many of the Arab and African states also followed suit, with Internet governance being particularly high on the agendas of the Gulf countries. The Iranian delegate was a frequent and (perhaps unsurprisingly) antagonistic speaker, while the UAE (as host country, and also the nationality of the chair) well-represented and forthright in the plenary discussions too.

When looking at the final voting, the battle lines were less-clear than we might have expected. A lot of countries perhaps looked beyond the Internet issue to focus on other ITR topics directly affecting them, such as access to fibre for landlocked countries and small islands, or even just declarations of telecoms as a human right. South Korea has previously voted against Net Neutrality domestically, and supported the ITRs, while Belarus (a very authoritarian state) has not supported them for some reason. India, Chile, Peru, Israel and the Phillippines were against the ITRs, while Singapore and Mexico were in favour.

When we wrote “A lot of important - possibly world-changing - detail and nuance is couched in vague and verbose diplomatic phraseology” we hadn’t realised just how correct we were. Much of the webcasts of the plenary sessions focused on minuscule and often tedious semantic detail (“should” vs. “shall”, for example, or qualifying rules with “endeavour to”) or even punctuation. On one occasion, two equally-ungrammatical suggestions for changing the wording cancelled each other out, with the resulting sentence actually making sense despite the worst efforts of the two countries involved. For those unaccustomed to watching standards-type work, the spectacle of hundreds of politicised officials trying to group-edit a telecoms legal document line-by-line, via interpreters and hand-held signalling paddles, appeared bizarre and, mostly, deathly boring.

But then, after hours spent deliberating vocabulary, the WCIT event would suddenly leap over (i.e. ignore) major contentious issues or leap to unexpected conclusions and add in (or strike out) large swathes of important text. Much of the so-called “consensus” was simple: focus on the irrelevant detail, and forget about the herd of elephants stampeding through the room. Another tactic was to use phrasing so obviously vague, that it was clearly hoping to hide “a multitude of sins”, and perhaps leave open avenues for legal interpretation aligning with the more disagreeable proposals at a later date. As with any event of this nature, it was also clear that a lot was going on “off-camera” in frequent meetings over “lunch” and “coffee”.

However, the tactic of dodging the key issues eventually caught up with the chair and organisers - the last 48 hours were fraught, fractious and arguably ended in humiliating failure. Rather than reaching consensus, a sizeable number of countries refused to sign the final document, despite various of the more “aggressive” elements being watered-down significantly.

The pivotal non-vote

The most polarising moment was at the end of the penultimate day’s discussions (actually well into the night, around 2am), when the Chairman of the event “took the temperature of the room” through a show of hands, about the inclusion of a resolution about the Internet. Resolutions are basically appendices to the treaty, rather than the being in the main text, and are non-binding. The article in question included some fairly vague and woolly comments about ITU member states “fostering growth of the Internet”. (Full title: “To Foster an Enabling Environment for the Greater Growth of the Internet”).

However, this was still hugely contentious, as the ITU Secretary General had previously promised to avoid any matters of Internet Governance, and also to avoid “votes”. In some ways, Toure had been cleverly diplomatic, carving out the contentious Internet texts from the main treaty into a fairly-weak annex, hoping that this would mediate between the two groups of protagonists. Possibly it might have succeeded - but the confusing “vote that wasn’t a vote” route for the event’s chairman to adopt this approach unilaterally, was done very clumsily and right at the end of a long evening. A second attempt the following day to “take the temperature” again as an unofficial form of voting was shouted down. From an external point of view, this “non-vote” vote fiasco undermined the credibility of the proceedings, and almost certainly hardened opinions among some delegates who felt they were being “steam-rollered” and that there were “hidden agendas” at play. A forensic analysis of the resolution text does little to assuage these doubts.

One of the things that we didn’t quite foresee was the level of public scrutiny that was placed on the WCIT process. Twitter was ablaze with real-time commentary of the video feeds from the plenary sessions, while dozens of blogs and news outlets covered proceedings in considerable detail each night. Organisations such as WCITleaks.org tried to offer insight into the closed-door “working groups”, while lawyers, analysts and lobbyists of all colours scrutinised every move and tried to get the “word on the street” via onsite contacts. While online views were (unsurprisingly) open-Internet centric, there were others who were lobbying against perceived US hegemony over the Internet.

In our view, the openness and public debate - even if some was shrill and arguably scaremongering - was perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the whole saga. It is shame, however, that additional input from what the ITU calls “civil society” (ie non-governmental bodies, individuals and companies) did not feature more fully in the upfront discussions before the event took place.

The key debates

We highlighted four areas in our original “warm-up” post:

  • 1. Proposals to move international IP / Internet interconnect towards a contractual basis, with the option for QoS and new charging mechanisms, potentially on a “sender-pays” basis, stemming from the proposals from ETNO.
  • 2. Proposals to allow governments to control and secure (or “monitor and censor”, from another perspective) Internet traffic, especially for “cybersecurity” but also for management of spam - and perhaps pirated content.
  • 3. Examination of mobile roaming regimes - and, potentially, the instigation of international pricing controls and regulation
  • 4. A general extension of ITU’s remit from telecoms to ICT (information & communication technologies)

All of these were indeed points of significant contention.

The ETNO proposals for a sender-pays model for the Internet appear to have been one of the clear “losers” in the whole process, with most of what it suggested being excised from the final ITRs. While the final Internet resolution has some general references to network quality and (implicitly) business models, the original and quite specific concept has been rejected. As stated before, we at Telco 2.0 welcome new approaches to data and Internet charging models, but we were unconvinced that the ETNO proposals were well thought-through, nor that the ITU ITRs was the right venue to pursue them.

However, we notice that Neelie Kroes, the EU Commissioner concerned with telecoms and the “digital Europe” landscape, still appears to be receptive to alternative business models, despite the European Parliament recently backing the concept of Net Neutrality.
The cybersecurity and anti-spam issues were murkier, and it became rather difficult to unpick exactly what the new ITRs cover and what is excluded. While it is made clear that “content” is excluded, it becomes difficult to assess how to describe certain forms of marketing if not as content. The US objected on the grounds of freedom of expression, fearing that “it inevitably opens the door to regulation of other forms of content, including political and cultural speech”. On security, the objections were more around the vagueness of the terminology and the concern that the rules could be interpreted in a fashion that was onerous but of little real value to network safety.

The roaming provision sounds bland but could help drive down international telecoms costs, depending upon how national or regional bodies interpret and act upon the new rule: “endeavour to promote competition in the provision of international roaming services and are encouraged to develop policies that foster competitive roaming prices for the benefit of end users”. That may mean that the type of scheme Europe is proposing (de-coupling users’ domestic MNO from a separate roaming contract) may become a broader trend.

The term “ICT” was removed from the main treaty text for being too vague (and including a range of companies completely distinct from telecoms, such as the whole IT and Internet industry), but appeared in some of the appendix resolutions such as those dealing with small islands and landlocked countries.

In addition, a few other “hot potatoes” also captured a lot of attention:

  • Internet “governance” - specifically, who gets to control things like Internet names and domains, and whether the UN should prohibit one country from stopping another from having Internet access. This was a “red line” for the US, which both invented the Internet, and essentially controls it through various bodies like ICANN. A sub-theme here was around whether governments get the last say in (global) Internet rulemaking, or whether the model is a “multi-stakeholder” one. Expect this to rear its head again at upcoming policy and Internet governance events in 2013.
  • Whether access to communications services should be considered a “human right”, and whether that should be included in the preamble text of the ITRs. This led to interminable wrangling which to us seemed mere window-dressing - the ITU seemed to think naively that invoking human rights would placate the world’s (Internet-friendly) media, while in fact in just irritated countries that found the wording either objectionable or more appropriate for the main UN, rather than one of its agencies.
  • A seemingly arcane distinction about whether the ITRs apply to “operating agencies” or “recognised operating agencies”, or in later versions “authorised operating agencies” was pivotally important. Essentially, this translates into a discussion of whether the rules (which include stuff like interconnect mechanisms) apply just to telcos or to a broader set of companies such as Internet firms, as well as government and corporate networks. While obviously another attempt aimed at trying to entangle Google and others in the ITU’s remit, poor wording also meant that the original proposals also effectively meant international networks run by corporations, or even bodies like NATO or Interpol, might be subjected to the same rules.
  • Whether the ITRs should explicitly include reference to combating spam - which seems a worthy goal, but again relates to the Internet - and the need to peer into traffic to determine what is unwanted bulk traffic. It also raises numerous grey areas, for example around legitimate marketing or even charity requests from friends. (Or, seasonally enough, electronic Xmas cards).

In addition, there were some other less contentious rules and resolutions, such as provisions for helping small islands, landlocked countries and other developing economies get better access to international fibre, and a statement of intent to work on a single unified global emergency number.

Conclusions

The first thing to note is that nothing substantive is really likely to happen until 2015 anyway, which is when the new ITRs take effect. Before that point, they also need to be ratified by the various signatory states - something that is perhaps not always going to be straightforward, especially in open and democratic countries with loud “open Internet” lobbies, or those with upcoming elections for which this might be a policy differentiator for challenger parties. In any case, ITU doesn’t have an enforcement role, so any actions need to be devolved to regional or national bodies.

The second thing to note is that the conference was about international telecoms regulation. Countries like China and UAE already filter their domestic Internet access, and that won’t be changed by the lack of an ITU rule sanctioning it “officially”. Even in the UK, the Prime Minister is pushing forward proposals for a national “opt-in” approach to adult content, blocking access by default in order to protect children from viewing undesirable material.

There is also a valid question about how any of the rules or recommendations actually get implemented or enforced.

The ITU has been desperately trying to downplay the collapse of the talks. Its pressured spokespeople - already working overtime to cope with the unanticipated deluge of attention - have tried to variously claim either outright success or even irrelevance. (Techweek quoted one as saying “”ITU has no international enforcement mechanism. It is more a gentlemen’s agreement”). Conversely, others have been spinning that the resolution is a Trojan Horse.

In the final analysis, our view is that the US and Europe (mostly) won the day. Even if the ITRs are enacted in their current form, much of the more (to them) objectionable proposals were rejected. That makes it less easy to see why they voted down the overall package, especially as the offending appendix is so weak. But for the US and most other OECD countries, the resolution on Internet involvement means that they will have to continue fighting this battle in future. The ITU “Internet or not” circus will carry on - in May 2013, for example, there is another event called the World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum, while the next Internet Governance Forum is in Bali in November next year.

The US representative to WCIT perhaps best summed up the event with this dismissal: “A bad agreement that does nobody any favours and makes nobody happy”.

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January 21, 2013

Making More Money in M2M: The M2M Service Company

Machine-To-Machine (M2M) has many potential applications with big benefits to end-customers, but how do suppliers including telcos make enough money to make it worth investing in? Here’s a preview of a new M2M business model we’re working on, the ‘M2M Services Company’, based on an approach successfully used by energy and IT companies to share end-customer productivity gains. This preview includes an example use-case.

We’ll be publishing a more detailed research report on this approach soon, and also discussing M2M and the ‘Internet of Things’ in-depth at our Silicon Valley Executive Brainstorm, 19-20 March, San Francisco. If you’d like to contribute or find out more, email us at contact@telco2.net.

M2M - where’s the money?

For telcos, M2M ARPUs are low, and are also being eroded, like ARPUs across the industry. M2M used to be thought of as the next SMS, a business with potentially huge scale and high margins on relatively undemanding traffic volumes. But it’s turning out to be a rather disappointing generic ISP product. So, more recently, operators have been increasingly keen to substitute value from bulk telecoms products with value from software and managed services, providing service enablers that help the customer deploy and manage the device fleet.

However, few operators have any illusions about being providers of compelling software. In most cases, with the notable exception of Telenor, they have had to partner with third-party developers such as Jasper Wireless and Pachube. So that’s a partial solution to the problem, but at the cost of sharing some of the revenue and losing much of the potential for differentiation.

So what else can be done?

M2M: like selling cosmetics or selling hope?

Charles Revson, the founder of cosmetics giant, Revlon once famously said: “In the factory, we make cosmetics. In the drugstore, we sell hope.”

In M2M, operators have traditionally tried to sell the equivalent of ‘cosmetics’ - something that makes sense to operators, such as SIMs, gigabytes of data traffic, or bundled messaging tariffs. Whether it was a sheep, for Telenor, an Amazon Kindle for Sprint or Vodafone, or one of these baggage-tracking devices that SMS you their location, it worked a bit like that.

But here’s a question: how many M2M customers actually want “SIMs”, “modules”, “data”, or “connectivity”?

Consider this other famous remark by the US energy-efficiency pioneer Amory Lovins:

People don’t want energy. They want cold beer.

Energy, as such, isn’t particularly useful. It is only valuable because of the work that can be done with it - for example, cooling the beer. M2M is very much like that: its customers typically have business requirements that don’t have very much to do with telecommunications, but which do depend on telecoms. What if they were offered the solution to their business requirement, rather than just the minutes of use?

An Innovative Business Model in Energy

In the energy sector, people began doing just this at the end of the 1970s. A company called Time Energy, which makes timers, thermostats, and other controls, noticed that the biggest challenge for their sales force was convincing the customer that they really would save substantial amounts of money on their energy bills.

They came up with an elegant solution: offer the goods free, in exchange for a share of the savings. More precisely, Time Energy would offer 100% vendor financing and the customer would pay them back at a rate based on the reduction in their energy expenses. However you cut it, Time and the customer shared in the reduced energy costs, and the customer didn’t have to put any money down up front. It’s hard to say no to free.

This business model was later developed into the energy service company or ESCO, which applies the same idea to a broader selection of energy-related products and services. Some projects even include deeper re-engineering of production processes, or include the option to take the customer’s share as a lump sum. IBM extended it into the IT sector, applying it to major enterprise computing projects.

What if the same approach was applied to M2M? Most M2M projects are all about some kind of cost reduction or productivity gain in a business process. Quite often, they involve energy saving, but that’s not necessary.

The approach could:


  • Use the power of free to sell the project

  • Share in the underlying productivity gain

  • Create sticky customers

  • Make M2M more of a “SMS-like business”

  • Make practical use of big data


Data is the Key to New Business Models in M2M

The ESCO experience shows that data is critical to the business model. Typically, it’s necessary to carry out a careful energy audit of the customer premises in advance in order to estimate the potential energy savings (and therefore revenue) and to cost out the job. Then, after closing the deal, it’s necessary to come back and measure the effects, in order to settle the bills and to guarantee quality. In a M2M service company project, data will be on the front line. Whatever the metrics are, it will be critical to master the data in order to make it all work.

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Analysing the success factors for such a business, we identified two axes, one of scale and one of “data legibility”. Some projects - the ones in the “zone of gold” on the chart - have good data and a big payoff. These are likely to get done in-house, and therefore they aren’t really available to operators. Some have terrible data and are tiny, and therefore can be safely ignored.

But there are two groups of opportunities we see as ideal for the M2M service company model: ones where the benefit is clear, but the data isn’t good enough, and ones where the data is there, but the individual project size is too small to be worth doing. We can get at the first group through better M2M data collection and analytics. We can get at the second through aggregation and financing.

Example Use Case: UK Rail

Here’s an example. In the UK, train leasing companies acquire and maintain trains for the UK railways’ train operating companies and the Department for Transport (Rail). Today, it is typical that the contract between DfT(R), the TOC, and the leasing company specifies a number of “diagrams” - roughly, a diagram is one train-movement - rather than a number of physical trains. This means that a major opportunity exists for the competitor who can maximise the amount of time the trains spend on the line, thus both making the service more efficient and reducing the number of trains they need to buy.

Collecting live data from instrumentation on the trains could make it possible to bring them in for maintenance on an as-needed or predictive basis, rather than on a schedule, and therefore improve their operational efficiency. (Similar projects exist for Rolls-Royce jet engines, for example.) An M2M service company could take on the project, supplying the hardware, the service enablement, the connectivity, and some or all of the data work, in exchange for a share in the gains from improved availability and on-time running. As there are numerous TOCs, leasing companies, and M2M applications in UK rail, such a company might even aggregate more projects and become a sector-wide platform.

That could, in turn, create opportunities for new and creative re-use of the data resource.

Next Steps

We’ll be exploring this and many other aspects of M2M and the ‘Internet of Things’ in-depth at our Silicon Valley Executive Brainstorm, 19-20 March, San Francisco. We’ll also be publishing a more detailed research report on this approach soon, and also offer private workshops to help companies explore and develop effective strategies and roles in these important and evolving fields. If you’d like to find out more or contribute to our programme, email us at contact@telco2.net.

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FaceSearch Saga; more Google & AWS Cloud centres; Europain in Spain - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. Diary note: it’s two months to the brainstorm in Silicon Valley, 19-20 March 2013, and then on to our European Brainstorm, 5-6 June 2013. We’ll also be at the Mobile World Congress - email us at contact@telco2.net to find out more.]

Here’s the writeup of Facebook’s new search function. We recommend skipping the cutesy bit about Zuckerberg’s dog at the beginning.

If they want to challenge Google, they need to care even more about cloud infrastructure than they do already. The Facebook-sponsored Open Compute Project is going to unveil some more designs in the next few days, says another somewhat cute and fluffy Wired piece. Data Center Knowledge has much more information, including that Fidelity Investments, Goldman Sachs, and Rackspace are using OCP hardware and many more component makers have joined the initiative.

Some more detailed discussion here - at the moment, Facebook itself seems to be mostly interested in storage and in having a balanced mix of servers providing in-memory or Flash storage for content delivery and ones with very big hard drives to pack away the long tail of photos.

While we’re talking vendors, Huawei’s results are in and they’re impressive.

The cloud is a moving target. Google just started a $600m data centre project in South Carolina, which doubles the capacity of an existing site Google doubled in 2010. Amazon, meanwhile, acquired two more data centres in northern Virginia, possibly responding to the repeated outages in the US-EAST AWS region. Interestingly, both sites are relatively small, below 200,000 square feet, which seems to reflect an Amazon policy.

AWS’s revenues are expected to pass $3.8bn any moment now. Having taken 8 years to reach $650m in revenues, that suggests they’re hurtling up the steep bit of the adoption curve. The big problem from now on will be reaching new customer groups. And here’s a 2012 list to keep - a list of technical resources the AWS Blog published during the year.

Dan York blogs the roll-out of Facebook voice to iOS in the United States, and reports that you have to have an Apple device and you have to install both the Facebook app and Facebook Messenger. You might even call it “just another VoIP app”. And there is no interoperability with the PSTN.

Asked, Skype says it’s nothing to do with them, which suggests that the Skype-Facebook partnership is looking pretty sick.

Meet Plivo, the start-up that lets you link WebRTC and SIP.

So, that Free-YouTube peering war. Benoit Felten has a detailed report back from the French government’s meeting, which makes a succession of excellent points - the sums of money theoretically involved in “sender pays” aren’t very much, and ISPs have to make their money from what their customers are willing to pay, traffic ratios are a red herring when the access network is heavily asymmetric, and DailyMotion, unlike YouTube, can benefit from its parent France Telecom’s presence.

And then Neelie Kroes got involved, with a statement that oddly conflates the issue with cookies, etc. Meanwhile, Free reversed and stopped filtering Google adverts. France Telecom, for its part, claims that it is being paid by Google to deliver traffic, which could mean paid peering, could mean preference, or could mean a CDN service.

Time Warner Cable claims, on the other hand, that Netflix won’t let it have various content unless it accepts Netflix CDN servers. TWC’s PR advisers have decided to frame this as a net neutrality issue, but the question here is surely why anyone would object to taking masses of Netflix streaming off their core network.

“Other” may now be the handset vendor of the future. Ben Evans blogs that the biggest driver of Android growth in China is no-name shanzhai, typically not using the Google services. As he points out here, the entry-level price for an Android 2.3 device is down to $45. Inevitably, this has powered spectacular, explosive growth. Horace Dediu contributes a chart:

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But it’s far harder to see how Google is making much money out of it. Ben Evans comes to the same conclusion we did - the main point was fear of an Apple monopoly.

Meanwhile, with vast numbers of out-of-date and unmanaged Androids roving around China, it’s no surprise that a million-phone botnet has emerged, based on the Android.Troj.mdk virus.

After the surge of “is the iPhone over” stories, the backlash; some analysts are arguing that if Apple is cutting back orders for components, it may be because the international roll-out of iPhone 5 was much faster this time and therefore, the transition from pre-launch stockbuilding to steady-rate production was earlier.

RIM is considering licensing BBOS 10. An interesting new feature: BlackBerry Balance, which lets the user hush the work-related and BES-managed elements of the device when they don’t want to be disturbed. Surely the insistent, blinking red service LED is a key element in the CrackBerry user experience?

The BlackBerry DevBlog looks at the new platform’s support for VoIP app development.

Here’s a rundown of projects to port Firefox OS to more phones. Nokia wants you to 3D-print your own cases for the Lumia 820. Meanwhile, 20% of Nokia shares have been lent out by the shareholders so someone else can go short.

So what’s up with Spain, where SMS volumes are diving even as pricing falls? We dealt with this over here - what’s going on is that customers, under economic pressure, have discovered WhatsApp. And once behaviour has shifted, it’s unlikely to shift symmetrically back if SMS gets cheaper or growth returns. That’s disruption.

The upshot: Vodafone.es is dropping 1,000 jobs. Both Vodafone and Telefonica have tried trimming their handset subsidies as a way of protecting margins in Spain. As Informa’s Wireless Intelligence reports, the results are mixed. Telefonica saw a short-term hit to data revenues and handset sales, but improved margins. Vodafone decided that the market share consequences were bad enough that they brought back the subsidies. More broadly, it seems that customers aren’t changing device as often - perhaps, at the moment, anything’s OK as long as it runs WhatsApp.

(The new BB OS 10 looks ideal, though, with Twitter and Google Talk as well as BBM deeply wired into the GUI.)

Telefonica.cz is cutting jobs. EverythingEverywhere is going to roll up some of its duplicate retail outlets, with an initial list of 78 to go.

In more optimistic news, France Telecom has launched a new business unit, Orange Horizons, to look for new opportunities, notably as an OTT player in markets where it doesn’t have a network, as an MVNO with or without WiFi hotspots, or perhaps as a Voice 2.0 app. Stephane Richard’s term as CEO may soon be up, as the French government is apparently considering sending him to run Veolia and swapping Anne Lauvergeon in from the nuclear reactor company, Areva.

AT&T has opened up Apple FaceTime over 3G to more users. It looks like they’re being cute and letting users on tiered data plans on before they let the flat-rate users on. One way to gain subscribers: pay them to break their existing contract. More Clearwire holdouts.

Deloitte thinks we’re running out of spectrum. GlobalStar is the next one to try the “get our satellite spectrum reassigned to mobile” trick. OpenCloud CEO brimming with frustration over Joyn and the GSMA. Cuba-Venezuela cable lights up, sort-of.

In content news, Ars Technica reports on the launch of Kim Dotcom’s new file-locker Web site, Mega. This time, he wantes to encrypt all the content.

Meanwhile, Dan Rayburn reports that the video element of CDN is worth $1bn, with a CAGR of 15%, revised down from 28%. That doesn’t count any other kind of content, media services, telco CDN, or licensed CDN. He also blogs Asus’s new $150 media-streaming box.

YouView is hiring. Who knows, you might be the one to get BT Vision working on multicast!

Verizon Wireless is planning to use LTE Broadcast - that’s the slightly less user-hostile term for 3GPP eMBMS, the standard for integrating broadcast TV or video into LTE networks - to distribute video from next year’s Superbowl. This comes with an analyst report suggesting that more MBMS might be worth a lot of money to US mobile operators.

“For the U.S. mobile operators, the amount of network capacity built in 2016 could be reduced by 9.8 percent if LTE Broadcast were deployed, equivalent to an overall potential saving of $4.21 billion,” said iGR.

This is coming up on the radar now after VZW and Qualcomm demonstrated the service at CES.

You’ve heard of “adult content”. What about “mature” content? 3UK filters a British political blog as being “mature”, possibly because that’s the last thing anyone expects a political blogger to be.

A Google-funded survey suggests that P2P users also tend to buy more music than “normal” people.

Here’s a video from TelecomTV discussing the Raspberry Pi, M2M, and the Weightless low-power radio protocol for emerging markets:

A good discussion of Weightless is here. Should you take part in SIPIt, the SIP interop event? Asterisk project mainstay Olle Johansson thinks so.

Windows RT doesn’t work so well with Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud. Internet Explorer 10 has a whitelist of Flash apps that don’t suck built into it. Is “mobile first” a bad idea? Twilio’s series on apps with their API, Node.js, and CouchDB continues.

The Ordnance Survey mapping app is here and it is beautiful, although watch out for the map pricing. Tropo has a hackathon dedicated to accessibility.

And finally, meet Wayne Dobson, the man whose house shows up as a GPS fix for Sprint customers who lose their phones.

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January 18, 2013

Sprint-Softbank: how it will disrupt the US market


The Japanese and French markets have both been disrupted through the entry of low-cost competitors offering substantial price reductions. We argue in our new report that Softbank’s acquisition of Sprint is a signal that the same is to soon come in the US given Softbank’s experience as a successful disruptor in Japan. (More here)


Figure 3: Softbank - keeping ahead of the competition

sprintsoftbank3.png
Source: Softbank, STL Analysis

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January 14, 2013

Nokia rising from the Ashas? One EU network? VZW’s LTE No.s, and AT&T’s Voice 2.0 hackathon - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. Diary note: it’s just over two months to the brainstorm in Silicon Valley, 19-20 March 2013, and then on to our European Brainstorm, 5-6 June 2013. We’ll also be at the Mobile World Congress - email us at contact@telco2.net to find out more.]

Nokia previewed its Q4 results, which turn out to be better than usual. Tomi Ahonen’s predictably bearish take is here, while Andrew Orlowski is more optimistic. Specifically, he notes that NSN is making money at last and the Asha budget smartphone line is doing well.

But the ability to pick up “smartphone-like” features on a device that delivers four days of battery life, and costs less than 6,000 rupees (£68, $109), has allowed Nokia to stay in the game. Android phones can be found at a similar price on the Indian market, but the low-cost Android experience isn’t that great, and a long battery life really matters to a consumer.

This is much to the point, as a look at the 311’s specs shows. If you’ve got a 1GHz CPU, you can hardly be considered a “dumbphone” or even “featurephone”. AllThingsD points out that the Asha sales numbers are truly impressive. Horace Dediu’s coverage is here.

Ashas come with the Nokia Xpress browser. Like the long-established Opera Mini, this browser routes your Web activity through a caching/compressing accelerator proxy in order to sharpen up the experience on slow 2.5G or early 3G networks. But are they breaking HTTPS? Gaurang Pandya, currently infrastructure security architect at Unisys Global Services India, is an Asha 311 user and noticed it.

Over at Apple, a rumour went around that a low-cost iPhone was coming, and was dismissed. More importantly, Apple cut its order for LCD displays for the iPhone 5, suggesting that volumes are a bit disappointing. That said, iPhone 5 users are massive data consumers, 50% higher than iPhone 4S users. Partly this is a selection bias, as iPhone 5 users will be the earliest of the early adopters.

Horace reckons Apple is making more money in China than Microsoft. You can’t, after all, get a pirate copy of the iPhone yet. He also looks into the iTunes economy, and provides this chart.

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Some more detail about RIM’s BB OS 10 launch. There will be two handsets (one big-touchscreen, one QWERTY) at launch and four more by year-end.

Firefox OS phones are coming, and Mozilla has ported Firefox for Android to run on cheaper Androids. Meanwhile, the beta of a new version of Chrome for Android is out.

Is something big afoot in the European regulatory environment? “Operators are cooling on a single European network”, it says here, and the complexity of such a beast would be truly awe-inspiring. But it does look like there’s some sort of strategic proposal from the so-called E5 operators to the European Commission. The meeting they’re talking about was with the head of the EU’s competition directorate, but Neelie Kroes says a bit more here.

TelecomTV reports a study by Rewheel that suggests the worst deals for mobile customers are found in markets where there is no “independent challenger” and at least one E5 member. Ouch!

The quintessential independent challenger, Free, is having another go-round of the arguments about how fast their network is rolling out. Interestingly, there’s a new RFP out for 3G & 4G base stations - so far, they’ve used NSN technology and their homebrew set-top boxes. Also interestingly, if the opinion of a junior minister is informative, it seems they went for an inside-out deployment plan, covering the suburbs first before tackling the city centre, due to the difficulty of getting wayleaves and planning permission.

On that issue, the UK’s land lobby has agreed standard terms for wayleaves with BDUK.

The New York Times mocks the UK for being a bunch of fancy smartphone hipsters but letting Angola get LTE before we did. We paraphrase of course, but it’s a pretty good overview.

And this is very interesting: Baidu has developed a mobile browser with an accelerator proxy, as part of a custom project with Orange, who have agreed to pre-install it across their emerging market operations. Neat, although one hopes your web browsing doesn’t get backhauled via anywhere within the Great Firewall.

In other operator news, Verizon Wireless reported that 23% of its subscribers, 50% of its data traffic, and 85% of net-adds are now on the LTE network.

DISH has tabled a last-minute bid for Clearwire. And Cable & Wireless has sold Macau’s incumbent operator to a Chinese investor.

Oh dear: this year’s CCC brought with it a crop of new security issues, like always, but this one is rather special. It permits an attacker to turn Cisco IP desk phones into bugs and monitor you remotely. There’s more at Ars Technica.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile USA deploys HD voice, using AMR-WB at 12.65Kbps. It’s almost certainly the biggest HD voice deployment yet. Also, the iPhone 5 should support it now T-Mo is refarming its 1900MHz spectrum for LTE.

AT&T’s partnership with Telco 2.0 ally Voxeo Labs appears to have injected energy into the Voice 2.0 community. Alan Quayle attends AT&T’s developer hackathon and is much impressed. The prizewinners are here, including an app that monitors your brainwaves in order to decide where to send your phone calls.

Further, meet Ask Ziggy, a virtual assistant built with their APIs.

Joyride was the prizewinner for the Call Management API, and they let your friends send music to your car and create a teleconference for your journey.

Meanwhile, Twilio’s blog meets the founder of Better Voicemail, and Intooch, a contacts app devised for getting around MWC when you’ve run out of cards.

Tencent’s WeChat WhatsApp-like instant messenger seems to have a dependency on something inside the Great Firewall, as users outside China report being censored. The 3G & 4G Wireless Blog links an interesting paper on VoLTE power consumption.

And the longstanding VoIP Users Conference (VUC) now has a Google+ community.

Apple has tapped Level(3) for its CDN needs. With all that iTunes content to shift, it’s likely to be a substantial job of work. Meanwhile, Fortinet has acquired XDN for its employees and patents. According to Dan Rayburn, their speciality was pushing out video for the porn industry - and of course, they ought to know CDN.

He also doubts whether cable TV will be overtaken by streaming. No wonder, when you look at the monster file sizes associated with Ultra HD TV sets, even if there’s some doubt about consumer interest in much over 1080p. The data rate is 20Mbps to kick off, and of course streaming implies 20Mbps consistently and with low latency.

Regarding customer interest, part of the problem is that you need a very big TV and a small living room to get the benefit, as this fine chart (from here) shows:

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ReadWriteWeb discusses the US’s “six strikes” copyright plan and suggests it’s really going to spoil public WLAN.

Dan Rayburn thinks Aereo, the Barry Diller-backed startup that picks up broadcast TV and streams it on the Internet, is doomed to failure.

Integrating text (and other media) and classical music, in HTML5. Music composed by computers.

Remembering Aaron Swartz.

Time to clear out the CES news-trap. Here’s an oven that runs Android. Samsung demonstrates a bendy OLED screen. Qualcomm’s baffling celebrity keynote. Fear of a Ultra HD planet: how can LTE keep up? QNX’s Car 2.0 platform. 60GHz WLAN. Recommendations for 802.11ac gigabit WLAN kit. Hands-on review of NVIDIA’s Project Shield gaming device.

MIT Technology Review has a writeup of a startup that uses smartphones logging onto your WiFi to generate foot-fall data analytics for retailers, rather like Path Intelligence does with GSM.

Engineering the platform to analyse a Spanish bank’s entire credit card transaction flow: it’s not trivial, but with the cloud and Hadoop, it’s not that complicated either.

The deep link between US healthcare and spam.

Meet Cambridge’s Internet of Things accelerator, now with Kickstarter.

And finally, The Register reports on user experience insights from the vibrator industry.

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January 7, 2013

FTC bites Google; Facebook Voice cometh; Whatsapp +75% / qtr - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. Diary note: it’s just over two months to the brainstorm in Silicon Valley, 19-20 March 2013, and then on to our European Brainstorm, 5-6 June 2013. We’ll also be at the Mobile World Congress - email us at contact@telco2.net to find out more.]

Google vs the FTC: the decision is in. The US Federal Trade Commission ordered Google to stop screenscraping specialist search providers who opted out of integration with Google search, to change its terms of service for AdWords in order to let advertisers integrate the API with other advertising products, and to comply with FRAND requirements on Motorola’s patent portfolio. Google has to report on its progress to the FTC Compliance Division within 60 days. Politico reports on the $25 million lobbying campaign Google staged in Washington.

The FTC action on patents, though, does make you wonder how worthwhile the Motorola Mobility buy was, especially now Google has sold the Motorola home solutions business and closed or sold off much of Moto’s manufacturing. Interestingly, one of the buyers, Flextronics, is looking at moving production back to the US.

During the second world war, British spies discovered that they could use the serial numbers on German tanks to estimate the total production run, the monthly run-rate, and the distribution of production between factories. The XDA-Developers crowd adapted the trick to do something similar with Google’s LG-manufactured Nexus 4, demonstrating conclusively that the Google flagship phones and tablets are only produced in small quantities, and that the order-to-shipment cycle is about three days.

Top German app developer meets the Nexus 4 and gives up on iOS. Matt Asay thinks Google is “the mobile company of 2012 and 2013”.

Elsewhere, Facebook is testing a new voice feature. You may remember that back in 2010 we predicted that Facebook would look to move into core communications, and again to support our top valuation of $30bn in 2011 (to which it is increasingly nearing, having started at over twice that mark). Interestingly, Facebook has gone with a messaging/voicemail rather than a telephony paradigm. You click to record a message that then gets pushed to your friend - similar to the existing “Poke”. There’s also a more call-oriented feature on test, only in Canada so far. It’s amazing, apparently.

Voxeo Labs has snagged its biggest gig yet - AT&T’s new call management API is actually Tropo under the bonnet, rather like the voice features in DTAG’s Developer Garden.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp hit 7 billion inbound messages a day, showing 75% growth in the quarter.

And here’s a HOWTO on using Twilio with MailChimp and Netsuite CRM to create an integrated e-mail/voice/web marketing campaign and report data from it.

Over at Yahoo!, ad sales gets a new boss, and reorganises to mimic Google, while the redesigned homepage begins to ramp up.

The first peering war of 2013, or something more interesting? Dave Burstein thinks Free and France Telecom are demanding paid peering from Google or possibly Cogent.

What seems to be happening is that Free users are complaining about YouTube videos loading slowly. Free seems to peer with Google, but not with Google’s YouTube-specific network, and its main transit provider, Cogent, doesn’t peer with a Google-run network that provides YouTube peering for large transit providers. Cogent has a long history of peering rows, brought about by its highly aggressive pricing policy, and it seems that they’ve sold capacity they can’t provision.

But why don’t Free and YouTube just peer? Well, Google has lots of peering capacity, just not in France. So why not? It’s been suggested they don’t want to create too much infrastructure in France, in case their presence would no longer be considered just a “representative office” for tax purposes. By comparison, there are no fewer than 10 locations in London where Google peering is available. Reaching them wouldn’t cost Free that much, seeing as they already peer at the LINX, but perhaps Cogent “quoted them happy” and offered a price so low as to beat that option

Then, the story took a new and interesting twist. A software update to Free’s Freebox Revolution set-top box has been pushed out that filters advertising out of web pages as they cross your home router. Actually, it’s simpler than that - it looks like the local DNS resolver has been updated, pointing ad-serving domains to localhost. Free points out that using Adblock Plus is perfectly legal, so why not this? Hitting ad revenues is certainly one way to get Google’s attention.

Elsewhere in France, SFR said it would invest $2bn this year. The Register reviews UK femtocells. OFCOM prepares a consultation on price changes during contracts. Sprint offers an unlimited prepaid plan. Deploying a network in a suitcase.

Samsung’s Q4 estimates show a profit of $8.7bn, with Galaxy Note II sales possibly already reaching 8 million. That would mean profits were up 65% year on year. On the other hand, HTC’s Q4 profits were down 91%, crashing through the forecasts. At this rate, it could be a lossmaker by the summer. The CEO said it wasn’t so bad and the problem was marketing. ReadWriteWeb points out that’s what RIM said, and unlike RIM, HTC doesn’t have a major new technology in the offing.

Horace reckons the featurephone will die by 2015, with the US going 80% smartphone by 2014.

Will this be the most boring CES ever? It’s not that bad. NVIDIA announced the LTE, quad-core Tegra 4 chip and demonstrated an Android-based portable games console/phone/multimedia device with high-def audio, 720p video, and the ability to stream gaming visuals to a 4K TV over HDMI.

A neat M2M application: the gadget you put in your bags so you can find out where the airline sent them. The manufacturer partnered with a small US GSM operator to get access to their roaming agreements. And it knows when the plane takes off from its accelerometer.

A clever dynamic QoS WiFi router. A USB stick that plugs into your laptop so you can control it with your eyes.

Lenovo offers a huge, 27” touchscreen all-in-one “table computer” intended for group use.

Here’s the first sight of Ubuntu Linux on a smartphone - more details are here. The controversial Unity GUI looks rather good in the mobile context.

Meanwhile, JP Morgan revises down its estimates on Microsoft. Samsung promises Tizen shiny by this year’s MWC, and sells more Chromebooks than you might expect. How much does patent peace cost? $50m, between RIM and Nokia. You may wish to be sceptical of market-share estimates based on ads.

If you don’t clean up the data, you might discover something like this: Sony and Universal Music’s YouTube channels suddenly saw their view counts drop by 2bn over Christmas. Cue much conspiracy theorising.

It turns out that Google decided to implement an adjustment to remove spam from the count, but that only accounted for a tiny percentage of the total. The big change came from a data cleaning exercise that removed videos that had moved to the VEVO channel.

Usually, when it’s CES time, there’s a barrage of “smart TV”. This year, not so much. It’s been more about relatively small, useful improvements. Google announced that Android users can stream YouTube videos to many more TVs from within the app.

Roku signed up a string of partners for its Roku Streaming Stick, a USB device that plugs into a TV and turns it into a Roku.

And here’s a joint BBC Research and Google call for papers on TV UX design.

In the cloud, here’s the AWS crash investigation into the Christmas Eve outage. A telling question: why don’t you run it on your own hardware, it’s so much cheaper? And scrapping a supercomputer.

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January 2, 2013

List of 2012’s lists; how Google and Samsung ‘won’ 2012; ‘Vodabank’ - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. Happy New Year from all of us here at Telco 2.0 - we hope that 2013 brings you success and happiness. We’re looking forward to the brainstorms in Silicon Valley, 19-20 March 2013, and Europe, 5-6 June 2013, and there’s a lot of great new research on the way too.]

The ten best mobile products of 2012 - Google Now is No.1 and Instagram is No.10? Here’s an effort to guess which were the biggest sellers. 5 technologies for 2012 - notably the Nook and the stylus. Data Center Knowledge has a review of its own 2012 in Review posts, with at least 400% more giant sheds than any other review of the year. Wired’s best and worst apps of 2012. Twilio’s five Christmas Voice 2.0 apps. The BBC Internet Blog’s year. Tomi Ahonen’s year-end stats dump puts Samsung on top of the pile. The 3G & 4G Wireless Blog’s top 15 posts of 2012 by hits - apparently what people most wanted was to hear about was LTE handovers. Here’s the New York ISOC chapter’s discussion of the World Summit on the Information Society. And here’s a list of lists of things from 2012.

Looking ahead, Matt Asay thinks the jobs will be in open source, not least because of the heavy Linux content of cloud and big data and the vast numbers of Androids floating about in mobile. Cloud providers see an increasing demand for the private cloud, for the following reasons:


  • Access to the hypervisor layer

  • Desire to manage oversubscription rates of physical resources

  • A mandate to lower costs

  • A need for increased performance

  • More control over infrastructure design

Which is very much what we expected in the Cloud 2.0 Strategy Report.

ReadWriteWeb thinks the startup world will swing towards B2B in 2013. Wired reviews their predictions for 2013 from 2003. AllThingsD predicts that hardware-software integration (i.e. “like Apple”) will be important in 2013, and suggests that Google will “get deeper into the integrated model”.

Which will be hard as they just got rid of their manufacturing…they also suggest that smart TV will be big this year.

Wired, for their part, points out that hardly anyone actually uses smart TVs, and their user interfaces suck. This isn’t a new insight but it’s a brave one in the pre-CES hype blitz. Meanwhile, Intel’s Internet-TV effort is struggling because of political issues with the TV networks and the studios. Engadget points the finger at TV release windows and suggests they should just be abolished.

And here’s a list of the best original Web TV programming; you may be surprised that Yahoo! Screen, their clone of the Google original programming channels, does rather well.

The story everyone cares about in the vendor sphere is this one, alluded to already, in that Samsung is now the No.1 vendor by shipments across all categories. Meanwhile, Apple iOS devices are over 50% of US smartphones, while Android is well ahead globally. Not surprisingly, with the same technology in similar markets, results are similar.

Tomi Ahonen claims to have spotted a rise in Symbian shipments in the numbers. This TechCrunch piece is almost as bearish on Nokia as Tomi is.

Elsewhere, Samsung went ahead with investing $3.9bn in its Austin, Texas chip plant, the one that makes the chips for the iGadgets, despite increasing suggestions that Apple might bring the job in house.

Samsung, for its part, has updated its own-brand messaging platform, ChatOn with a web interface and a more timeline-y approach. Their Galaxy Camera tablet-camera hybrid is reviewed.

Peter Eavis, between Christmas and New Year, but still after the story on HP and Autonomy. Here’s a rundown of the company’s position at the beginning of 2013.

RIM is planning to sell individual BlackBerry services on an unbundled basis in BB10. Apple’s pinch-to-zoom patent is thrown out. Pirating Windows 8 apps. And armed robbers hit the Paris Apple Store.

Here comes the Sony super-droid, with something called “backside illumination”

TheNextWeb will no longer be running an Android version of itself, instead going with an Apple solution and a web one for everything else.

Instagram has gone back on its new ToS, which its users thought might mean they planned to sell their photos to advertisers. It hasn’t prevented them flocking away, though, back to time-honoured Flickr, which deployed its new mobile app just in time to greet the exodus.

Ryan Block asks why you shouldn’t periodically review and delete online profiles. Meet Snapchat, the photo-sharing app that deletes your photos after 10 seconds.

In a must-read post on TechCrunch, Keith Teare argues that 2013 will be a depressing barrage of intrusive, repetitive, creepy, and poorly targeted ads as everything on the Internet scrambles to monetise mobile traffic. (Telco 2.0 was shocked by the number of increasingly needy and pushy mailers Amazon sent us over this Christmas. Amazon is usually a pleasant brand to be with; what happened to instigate all this noise?)

Barnes & Noble have sold a stake in the Nook to Pearson, the British textbook-publishing house and owner of the Financial Times, as part of an effort to broaden support for the device as a counter-Amazon strategy.

How much does Nokia Maps cost to run?

Vodafone considered becoming a bank and even, apparently, acquired an Italian banking licence, before turning back from the idea.

“I see that transferring money is an act of communication, and therefore we facilitate it but the more sophisticated these services become, the more it needs full banking [facilities] and full insurance.

“In the early stages [of mobile payments], the issue is ‘Take money, give money’. That is our job. Then it becomes take money, give money and get a little bit of insurance and have a current account. That’s a joint job [between mobile operators and banks]. But then, it becomes a full banking job.”

Vodafone India, meanwhile, is not particularly happy about the idea of re-bidding for their GSM spectrum.

Why isn’t Google Fibre offering telephony? “Regulation”. At least it wasn’t suicide bombers, who targeted MTN and Bharti in northern Nigeria.

Israel’s electricity grid is looking at FTTH. Would you want to manage a few hundred million Chinese online identity profiles?

Here’s some interesting discussion on small cells:

How did Apple become a design-led company? Some of the story is here, as are some early concepts for what became the Macintosh.

Anil Dash has a pair of big, controversial pieces on “the web we lost”. It goes interestingly with the Kevin Teare piece earlier on.

The Guardian’s web designers look at the breakdown of devices accessing the site and provide this fine chart.

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Fragmentation!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and throughout the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Because Amazon’s cloud had a major outage on Christmas Eve that took out Netflix. That’s an opportunity to link to this readout of Werner Vogels’ AWS Invent keynote we missed at the time.

Are your cloud providers’ terms of service a security threat?

CTIA Wireless moves to get out of MWC’s way. Antivirus doesn’t work. What happened to BuyThisSatellite, or rather, to the money people contributed? PA Consulting runs OpenBTS and FreeSwitch on a RaspberryPI.

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