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DISH-Sprint, China Mobile Q1, Apple “shock” or Apple “queues”, Facecloud, Indian M-PESA: Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: The Telco 2.0 EMEA Executive Brainstorm is coming, on the 5th and 6th of June in London.]

So, that DISH-Sprint deal. ZDnet has a presentation from the DISH CEO laying out their strategy, which seems to be about broadcast-Internet integration, with the Internet element coming from Sprint wireless broadband and the broadcast from DISH’s satellite. Obviously, a huge question here is whether wireless broadband will ever quite cut it. DISH will be hoping that the enormous Clearwire spectrum holdings answer that question, and also that they get to refarm their own 45MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband rather than satellite use. They would be far from the first company to try to move US satellite spectrum into cellular, though. Another problem will be getting permission to build enough cell sites to cover DISH’s rural-heavy customer base.

Also, if they get away with it, Softbank will have paid Sprint to buy out Clearwire and to pick up a block of 1900MHz from MetroPCS, and then hand it to DISH.

The Financial Times highlights a different side of the deal, noting that DISH CEO Charlie Ergen is also talking about selling advertising on mobile/fixed-wireless/satellite. He’s also talking up Aereo’s pick-up-the-telly-and-put-it-on-the-net model as a scare factor.

Wired is predictably all excited.

China Mobile reported flat profits in Q1, with monthly ARPU of RMB63, down from 71. Typical features of high penetration markets are beginning to make themselves felt, such as increasing numbers of multi-SIM users.

Mexico’s senate has passed the telecoms bill that for the first time creates a real regulator for the country’s telecoms market. The measure goes back to the lower house for the final approval, but America Movil and Televisa shares are already off sharply in anticipation of disruption.

Telstra is planning a T-Mobile or Free-style SIM-only, no-lock-in tariff.

T-Mobile UK has been told off by OFCOM for blocking P2P traffic while calling its tariff “unlimited”.

The US’s four national carriers are being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for not rolling out Android updates in a timely manner.

The French regulators dump data on network roll-outs.

Vodafone UK can’t restore service on a BTS in Southampton until the peregrine falcon chicks have left the nest, expected in June.

Australia’s politicians continue their effort to avoid the long national nightmare of open-access fibre to the home. Malcolm Turnbull devoted most of a question session with the NBN Co CEO and CTO to quizzing them about how much money they might save by using VDSL rather than fibre to serve blocks of flats. Only about 4% of Aussie households are in blocks of flats, land being rather available in Australia, so why he’s so obsessed is a mystery.

The whole point is that Turnbull forecasts that the job will cost A$90bn, not A$37bn as NBN Co projects. As it turns out, the company hasn’t gone over the budget yet. That link also provides a bit of interesting data in that 31% of early subscribers have gone for the 100Mbps full monty option. The sample is small (11k), but then again, a national opinion poll in a country the size of Britain is usually a tenth that size.

Meanwhile, Geoff Huston of APNIC remarks on “a rich history of making very poor technology choices” in the telecom industry and argues that we’re doing it again by trying to make carrier-grade NAT work rather than just deploying IPv6.

Unless you’re Verizon Wireless. According to the Internet Society, 26.25% of their network traffic is now IPv6, which is by far and away the record for a customer ISP, even beating pioneer IPv6 specialist hosting and transit provider Hurricane Electric. There’s a good APNIC presentation on how they did it here.

The 3G & 4G Wireless Blog notes that LTE Broadcast, aka eMBMS, deployments are beginning to happen, although oddly VZW’s isn’t mentioned.

And Google Fiber has kicked off another round of “whoo! free WiFi!”, with next to no discussion of its all-critical enabler, publicly-owned post and duct infrastructure. Further, Google has taken over a municipal fibre network for $1 including its outstanding debts.

Speaking of Google, a major issue these days is whether Google has any real control of Android. Obviously, nothing stops Chinese vendors (or Amazon) from forking the OS, or Facebook from skinning it. On the other hand, the sheer quantity of Google engineers’ contributions to the project gives them a powerful gravitational pull, as this excellent blog post explains, taking the browser engine WebKit as a case in point. WebKit originated as the guts of the KDE Linux desktop’s browser, Konqueror, which Apple first subsidised and then forked. Later, the KDE developers decided to use WebKit themselves, and the developers of Nokia’s Web browser did likewise.

In 2008, Google joined the project, basing the Android browser and Chrome on it. This is what happened next. The chart plots the number of code commits that passed review, by organisation.


Now, Google has since forked WebKit, but this isn’t the point; just look at all those Google commits. The same kind of resources, indeed more, are going into Android, so whatever happens they’re likely to have a large say in its technical direction.

Meanwhile, revenues from Google Play are estimated to be about a third of Apple’s revenues from the app store. As a rule, app stores aren’t a primary line of business but rather a way of providing apps that sell something else - hardware if you’re Apple, advertising if you’re Google - so don’t put too much reliance on that. Also, Google pays revenue-share with carriers and OEMs out of the Play bucket, unlike its competitors.

Android founder Andy Rubin, now out of Google, says that he originally set out to invent a new digital camera.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt, meanwhile, attempts to defend the fact Google paid a total of £6m in UK corporation tax, when the UK is Google’s second biggest market, perhaps not entirely convincingly. Elsewhere, Google attempted to dispel any faint suggestion of arrogance that might cling to the company by applying for planning permission to build an entire private terminal for their private jets.

In hardware news, the Apple rumour-flow is currently set to “negative”. The latest one is that the tool-up for the iPhone 5S (or 6, or whatever) is sliding right because it includes a fingerprint sensor and the supplier is struggling to find a coating product that doesn’t interfere with it. There’s also a rumour that a whole batch of iPhones failed Apple’s quality control.

LG Display, which puts the shiny face on the shiny gadgets, reported that its sales to Apple are down significantly. It may suggest Apple has another supplier for displays out there. (Also, Spirent ain’t doing so well and that’s a hugely different market, so perhaps it’s the horrible macro-economy.)

That said, T-Mobile USA was selling iPhone 5s for $99 and their stores couldn’t cope with the rush. As well as the obvious benefit of a $70 discount on the latest Apple gadget compared to the competition, this quote is telling:

The sales staffs at the Washington-area T-Mobile stores said that the fact that they were in an area served by T-Mobile’s newly launched LTE seemed to spur a lot of sales. “Everybody wants to know how fast the LTE is,” one salesperson said. “All I know is that it’s really fast.”

For more of the bull case, there’s Horace, who also reminds us that Apple is quite a good computer company, too:


Elsewhere, Microsoft seems to be holding up despite the slide in PC volumes and the disappointing Win8 kickoff, probably because of Office and enterprise products generally. Nokia saw a little uptick in Lumias but this was overshadowed by Symbian’s final exit, and there was an unexpected, slithering thud in the Asha featurephone line, off 46% by volume, possibly due to cheap Androids spreading.

Should IBM flog its x86 server lines to Lenovo?

And Raspberry Pis infiltrate the enterprise.

Facebook is building a giant data centre in Altoona, Iowa. It’s their fourth data centre build, the budget is $1.5bn, and the project foresees three 466,000 square foot phases. Meanwhile, they’ve released a set of dashboards tracking their power and water efficiency.

Vint Cerf speaks on SDN.

Scaling out at Pinterest. Interesting point that a scalable system is one that doesn’t add more technologies as it gets bigger.

Meanwhile, there’s a dramatically different approach to scaling out at AirBnB, which decided it didn’t need a database at all so much as a cache.

Amazon S3 passes 2 trillion objects.

Vodafone and ICICI Bank are rolling out M-PESA in India, which will very likely be its biggest deployment ever. This FT interview with Michael Joseph, Vodafone’s MD of m-payments, describes some of the challenges and the regulatory requirement for a banking partner.

A network of US retailers is building a mobile payments system optimised for the merchants, something that is well overdue. One message from our Silicon Valley event was that retailers are as mad as hell about interchange fees and they won’t take it any more. Interestingly, they’ve decided to go with an on-screen barcode or QRcode rather than NFC/RFID or even SIM authentication, thus maximising how much of the roll-out just consists of software and getting away from the NFC first-fax problem.

That may be very wise. The European Commission suspects manufacturers of smart cards of operating a cartel. The name they don’t want to use is of course Gemalto, maker of most of the world’s SIMs and key partner in that merchant-focused payments project.

Elsewhere, Akamai is planning to provide two-factor authentication from its cloud of CDN nodes. The authentication itself comes from a partner, CGI Group, which has already been certified by the US government for its own security needs, and is extensible to use up to 7 factors.

Our near neighbours in Silicon Roundabout, product designers BERG, have got the Internet of Things religion, and are launching their own IoT platform based on ZigBee short-range radio. This means you need to deploy their “bridge” base station somewhere near the devices, with access to the Internet and a power supply. The developer docs are here.

The roll-out of Voice 2.0 moves on. Twilio has deployed with KDDI in Japan, and with hipsters into east London theatre projects.

Globe Telecom, meanwhile, is hosting a voice apps challenge now that they’ve deployed Tropo.

Twelephone is WebRTC in your Twitter. Chris Kranky asks if telcos can act quickly enough to get ahead of whatever Microsoft is planning with Skype, and asks why it’s so hard to find a TURN server implementation, when the technology is required by the WebRTC specs.

Need VoIP geek-out? Here are the slides from Kamailio World. All of them.

Amazon’s original content operation, Amazon Studios, will among other things, ask viewers which of a number of pilots they’d like to see developed further. YouTube wins again vs. Viacom.

Yahoo! is trimming its line-up of mobile apps, and concentrating on a few key products. One of those is the weather, and the new app for iOS is here. It gets the weather forecast and your location, and queries Flickr’s vast pile of photos for an image that illustrates the weather where you are.

Does anyone really want MS Office on an iPad?

How simple is your app, really?

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