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40 years of mobile; Apple draws ahead again; growth at T-Mobile USA; “copper luddites”; Facebook Home; Hulu - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: Don’t forget to book now for the Telco 2.0 EMEA Executive Brainstorm, in London on the 5th-6th June]

It’s been 40 years since the first cellular mobile call, from Martin Cooper of Motorola Research to the tribal enemy at Bell Labs. And if Gartner and ReadWriteWeb are right, mobile has “killed the PC market”.

And this week, Comscore’s rankings suggest that in North America, Apple is catching up on Android. 57% of US subscribers now have smartphones, with 91% of those being with the Big Two platforms. Horace argues that the increasing availability of older iPhones on free offers, and more carriers providing them, is behind this. As usual, the charts are pretty good too.


On the other hand, pioneer smartphone vendor HTC is suffering. Profits for the last quarter hit a record low, dropping through the analyst estimates, after their latest phone launch went off at half cock. The HTC One was meant to launch in 80 markets and made it to the start-line in three.

Here’s the first low-cost BlackBerry OS 10 device, the R10 Curve. Meanwhile, Canada’s export promotion agency vendor-financed 500,000 BlackBerries for Telefonica.

A nice 40th anniversary early adopter story.

T-Mobile USA has joined the price disruptors, and it’s working - for the first time in four years, its “branded” customer base - i.e. excluding wholesale - is growing. Overall, they added 587,000 customers in Q1, concentrated in prepaid and in wholesale.

You’ll also note that last week’s AT&T/Verizon x Vodafone merger story has been denied to death, although of course the tale of the Verizon Wireless shares runs on.

Italy may be heading down to 3 MNOs, after Telecom Italia and Hutchison 3 Italy confirmed they are planning to merge.

Bouygues Telecom is going to launch LTE on the 1st of October, once its 1800MHz refarming is complete.

TIM Brasil has gone with Nokia Siemens Networks to build a LTE network in time for the footy.

China Mobile and Vodafone are jointly bidding for a licence in Burma.

Etisalat, which is trying to buy Vivendi’s 53% stake in Maroc Telecom, has taken out a $8bn loan to pay for it.

Zain has put off floating its Iraqi operation until the second half of the year, while their boss is apparently “keen” on moving into Libya. Maybe life is boring after they sold the old Celtel sub-Saharan businesses to Bharti Airtel.

And Idea Cellular gets a $710m tax bill.

BT CEO Ian Livingston complains about his competitors being “copper luddites”, because they want regulated access charges for BT’s FTTC network.

He’s responding to Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse’s remark that “there is so much government money going into subsidising higher broadband speeds but no one really knows where it is going and how it is being spent” - of course, Dunstone knows very well where it is going, because it’s essentially all going to BT, strengthening its position as incumbent vis-a-vis the, er, “copper luddites”.

The Daily Telegraph also runs an uncritical profile of Openreach CEO Liv Garfield.

Meanwhile, Google Fiber may be coming to Austin, Texas. Google also commissioned Benoit Felten to write a paper on net neutrality.

The UK’s emerging small cell industry is being bought up. PicoChip was snapped up by Mindspeed Technologies, Cisco grabbed a stake in ip.access, and now Ubiquisys is a Cisco division for £205 million.

22% of the British use public WiFi at least weekly. We’ll be updating this Analyst’s Note on public WiFi very soon.

Indosat is looking to double its WLAN assets, in what it describes as “WiFi offload”. We must have heard that one before?

Tests on UK 4G deployment suggest that TV interference isn’t a problem.

Twilio is now available with Google App Engine, and they’re giving away minutes for new GAE users. It just gets easier to deploy voice. They also took part in a hackathon sponsored by the FCC, which set a challenge to do something about robocalls. The upshot, basically a voice spam filter, is described here.

Simwood discusses Ofcom’s review of narrowband. The DEA doesn’t like Apple’s iMessage, as the encryption actually works. RevK has finished implementing the PABX functions in his Firebrick routers.

As well as fixing the problems with HTC One launch, HTC is pinning its hopes on a new product. Facebook announced its “Facebook Home” this week. It’s not exactly a Facebook Phone, but rather a UI overlay for Android, but it will mostly be shipped with the HTC First phone on AT&T and Orange, so a lot of users will probably experience it as such. We’re covering this development in far more detail in a separate note, so watch this space.

Hulu is up for sale again, and the leading bidder for the TV networks’ online TV network is a former News Corp executive, Peter Chernin, whose buyout vehicle is offering $500 million. As always with Hulu, and indeed media operations more generally, the key will be the terms on which it can get content from the rightsholders.

Dan Rayburn is scathing about the hype around Aereo, the company that wants to pick up broadcast TV and re-stream it on the Internet. We would go further. If Aereo is meant to compete with cable TV, it has a huge problem: the cablecos are very good at distributing online video, whether because they have more capacity for Internet streaming, or because they can just broadcast it via the traditional CATV channel. It makes no fundamental economic sense to take content from a more efficient distribution system and distribute it via a less efficient distribution system, unless something subsidises the distribution heavily.

Dan also thinks you should calm down about HEVC, the magic video codec that will solve all your problems according to its promoters. It’s still expensive and there’s no content, and those are the least of the problems.

What’s the online business model most likely to succeed? According to a leading VC investor, it appears to be selling something to people who will give you money for it, an option so radically new you can be certain nobody’s considered it before.

However, TenCent says it has no intention of charging for WeChat or QQ. But Nokia is charging the equivalent of 1.5p a month for Nokia Life, its emerging market SMS-based service, which just landed in Kenya.

Free Android apps are worryingly spammy.

After Google shuttered the Reader, Should Yahoo! jump in to save RSS as a format?

A group of Sun Microsystems veterans are working on a big data/cloud optimised storage module that integrates some processing into the storage. Understanding Google’s flit from WebKit. Firefox 20 update drops.

Ever wondered where all the patents are coming from? A study suggests the US Patent Office lowered its standards to keep up with the pace.

From the Internet of Things to the Web of Things: High Scalability notes an interesting dissertation on the future of M2M.


BBC Research introduces the Stagebox, a device that plugs into TV production equipment and puts it on the Internet, thus making an all-IP production environment possible.

Don’t miss UKNOF 25 in London on the 18th April, which has a truly impressive line-up.

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