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Vodarizon, “BT Cellnet 2.0”, WebRTC, Blackberry Q10s - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: the EMEA Telco 2.0 event is coming. Make your plans.]

Upstick unoffer - Vodafone shareholders hold out for more money

Whether you take Vodafone-Verizon rumours seriously or not, a group of investors who speak for 1.3bn Vodafone shares have come out to say that $100bn isn’t enough and any bid would have to offer more, at least $120bn or even as much as $135bn, to compensate for the loss of the Verizon Wireless stake. The point is made that VZW is growing and profitable, which cannot be said for some of Vodafone’s other markets in the battered economies of Europe’s rim. Numbers of this size are approaching the point where Verizon might as well make an offer for the whole of Vodafone ($146bn at today’s prices).

Reuters points out that the feasibility or not of a deal has a lot to do with tax, and specifically whether the transaction could be arranged so that Verizon wouldn’t acquire any assets from Vodafone’s US holding company. The employees of Vodafone’s Oxford Street shop, regularly the target of protestors against tax-evasion, would be well advised to batten down the hatches for a long siege.

What Vodafone would actually do with the money is another question. Pay off debt? Make the shareholders really happy? Buy more assets in bombed-out southern European markets?

Meanwhile, MetroPCS shareholders agreed the merger with T-Mobile, after T-Mobile offered them more money. T-Mobile’s no-contract offer, though, isn’t no-contract enough for its home state of Washington.

Sprint increased its service revenue by 9% year on year in Q1, which enabled them to lose rather less money in the quarter. They’re still struggling with the consequences of the iDEN shutdown, too - although mainline Sprint gained 351k subscribers, Nextel lost 771k iDEN subscribers.

You might think the pain of closing down iDEN would put Sprint off closing any other networks for a long time to come, and you’d be right. They’ve committed to keeping the 2G CDMA net alive after AT&T and VZW shut down, in order to look after M2M customers. AT&T says the 2G will go in 2017 and VZW is looking at 2021, so there’s no hurry in any case. It may be worth noting that the end of iDEN will free up Sprint’s 800MHz spectrum, handy for applications where coverage and building penetration are critical and bandwidth is less so.

The merger activity at Sprint is not getting any less complicated, as an investor in Clearwire sues Clearwire’s directors and Sprint itself over the terms of the buy-out. Perhaps the next stop will be a Clearwire investor suing themselves?

China Unicom has passed a milestone - 52% of its revenue is now from 3G customers, and 35% of its 250 million customers are on 3G. This compares to 11% at China Mobile, probably because Unicom ended up with China Mobile’s UMTS network in the reshuffle of the Chinese industry. But China Telecom beat that by getting 46% of its 168 million subs onto 3G. That said, their fixed-line base is actually shrinking in terms of lines, although the DSL base is growing.

AT&T, for its part, just launched its home security product. It looks like it’s primarily based on their DSL and a “hub” they provide, with cellular as a backup link. It’s their first venture into the Internet of Things, as we discussed at our recent event.

Telenor Q1s were down a touch, with sales down 1.6%. Although getting out of 7 Indian circles dramatically reduced the Indian unit’s losses, the numbers from Denmark were horrible - off 19% on a mixture of regulatory cuts, lower ARPU, worse handset sales, and fewer subscribers.

ZTE’s sales are slow, and they sold their stake in a surveillance company. Alcatel-Lucent is still losing money, but it would be much worse without their lock on the US LTE market. Ericsson says its Brazilian factory is working at full capacity to supply the country’s MNOs as they build 3G and 4G capacity ahead of the footy.

The law of wireless gravity states that a bit, once released on a wireless network, will migrate towards fibre. It’s better than most technology “laws” - backhaul is an inescapable reality for all mobile operators.

BT moves back into mobile, virtual O2-BT integration?

BT is looking back to mobile again. MWL reported that they were looking for an operator partner for 4G services, and quoted an exec saying that they have “excellent 4G spectrum”. That suggests there’s more to it than just an MVNO or reseller deal - BT had one with Vodafone for years, anyway.

It didn’t take them long to decide - they went for their old mobile network, O2 UK. Under a 10-year contract, O2 is going to provide BT with 4G wholesale services, while BT will upgrade O2’s backhaul network. Nobody’s saying it out loud, but it seems quite possible that the block of 2.6GHz spectrum BT obtained will be part of the deal.

This might be the first step on the road to re-integrating BT with O2, especially once there are BT subscribers on BT spectrum and BT backhaul and perhaps a BT MVNO core. Of course, this sort of deal is a lot cheaper and kinder on the regulator than an actual merger.

Meanwhile, Telecom Italia is looking at a deal of some sort with Hutchison, which would involve spinning off the Italian fixed-line infrastructure. Rather than re-integrating the wireless with the fixed network, they’re doing the precise opposite - which is interesting, given Telefonica’s interest in both companies.

Deutsche Telekom has introduced a data cap for its German fixed-line ISP, something which is about as popular as it is anywhere else. DTAG excludes its own IPTV service from the cap, claiming that it’s not the Internet. This has initiated a predictable net neutrality row.

Vermont Telephone is deploying gigabit fibre to the home, for $35 a month, after getting a chunk of broadband stimulus money ($94 million for their 17,500 customer premises) and a kick in the pants from Google Fibre. We may see more of this.

RevK is pleased with Ruckus Wireless hardware.

More questions about the “FTTN option” for the Aussie NBN - so what is going to happen to voice?

Neelie Kroes on messaging, and will WebRTC mostly serve vertical apps?

Neelie Kroes observes that instant messaging is overtaking SMS in terms of volume and says telcos should “smell the data coffee”, whatever that may mean.

Is Verizon Wireless close to launching VoLTE? Chris Kranky argues that it is, and the launch will be a major step forward for…WebRTC, as it will be a major signal of confidence in the ability of IP networks to deliver quality voice. Also, tablets will encroach on the role of the phone and the PC at once. He also argues that WebRTC is primarily about vertical apps…even if telcos get to do the dirty work of deploying VoLTE.

A calm-down view is here, arguing that nothing much will happen in the next 12 months. On the other hand, here’s WebRTC.io, a JavaScript library that aims to provide all the bits you need for WebRTC as a drop-in component.

This Google presentation is informative about WebRTC generally, and especially about precisely which codecs Google wants you to use.

Screenshot from 2013-04-29 14:06:03.png

Sprint, meanwhile, pushed back the launch of HD voice and warned that interoperability is still a bit “almost”.

Cisco blogs about its new SIP phone for meetings in hi-fi audio. Interesting, but the form factor seems grey and enterprisey - won’t people just bring iPads?

Microsoft is hiring engineers to work on its “Viewport” 3D-video technology, announced by Microsoft Research last summer. Interestingly, the job posting suggests that the project is in the Skype division. Mind you, it’s been a while since they began staffing up “Skype for Browsers”, and nothing much has happened. And the idea of a 3D environment that feels like the inside of Skype is worrying.

Everyone’s favourite Northern Irish Asterisk specialists, Integrics, have launched version 11 of their VoIP service provider solution. And telco API specialists and Telco 2.0 allies Aepona have been acquired by Intel for $120m.

It’s too easy to hack Skype accounts.

World shipments go majority-smartphone, Q10s sell out at Selfridges

IDC estimates that Q1 saw more smartphones shipped than featurephones, for the first time ever.

BlackBerry launched the Q10, the first of the new BlackBerrys to have a keyboard, this week. AllThingsD reviews the gadget, and seems pleased. An interesting feature is that it has a pseudo-command line/natural language interface so you can type things like “SMS Bob”.

Seeking Alpha’s Michael Collins went to see the first units go on sale at the Selfridges’ branch of Carphone Warehouse, and reports that the place was packed with unofficial exporters filling suitcases wth the gadgets until they ran out.

Samsung, not surprisingly, had more than decent Q1 figures, although one wonders if they will ever break out smartphones from the division that also makes laptops.

Robert Scoble really likes his Google Glasses. We mean, really likes them. Possibly too much.

I have barely taken it off since getting it other than to sleep…I will never live a day of my life from now on without it (or a competitor). It’s that significant….I’m now extremely addicted to Google services.

Elsewhere, Ars Technica reviews Dell’s developer-focused Linux ultrabook and clicks “like”. Or they would do if people who buy specialised Linux hardware used Facebook.

A nice review of classic early pocket computers.

Private cloud trigger point = $10,000/month spending

Up in the cloud, Rackspace customers reckon that public cloud makes sense up to $10-12k monthly spending, and then it’s time to move to private cloud or self-hosting.

Heroku lands in Europe.

The Open Data Center Alliance has been testing virtual-machine interoperability between major hypervisors, and the report is here (pdf).

A talk with Facebook about high scalability, from High Scalability.

Why developers use the Amazon app store

Why would you use the Amazon app store? Well, there seems to be more money in it. OK, but why? Here’s an effort to find out. Developers who use it appreciate the fact there are fewer apps and less junk content, and therefore it’s more likely to surface your project. Also, porting is easy because it’s still Android. On the other hand, price points are usually lower.

Ever wanted to hand over your decisions to the faceless, howling Internet mob? There’s an app for that, and it is Seesaw, which lets you ask its users to vote on which option you should pursue. Wait until that gets into your Google Glasses.

An interesting point: many business apps have a life of a month or so.

And Facebook distributes the wrong kind of app - banking trojans.

Security expert Ross Anderson blogs from a meeting on privacy standards with the “world’s default regulator”, aka the European Union. Meanwhile, the British government quietly voids your copyright in every photo that doesn’t have your name on it.

Is the British government trying to mandate IPv6 transition, trying to ban the IPv6 privacy extensions, or just confused?

Silly ad-injection business models again.

Perhaps the best geek giveaway yet: a trip to the Large Hadron Collider.

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