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BT Football Frenzy, Son vs. Ergen #3, Customer Data, Nokia Surprise: Telco 2.0 News Review

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BT does enough on results, and goes all-in on football

It’s BT results time, and they were typical. Overall, revenues were down slightly, although not enough to scare anyone, and depending how you cut the data and screwed up your eyes funny, you could argue that some versions of BT’s profits were actually up. The story is basically that the incumbent is doing just enough, squeezing its costs and quietly raising things like line rental charges and basic voice prices that most of its customers perceive as a quasi-tax. Interestingly, despite the hype about the FTTC roll-out, CAPEX was actually down 6 per cent on the year.

But then, “superfast fibre broadband” is last season. BT is all about football now.

The company has spent £1bn on three years’ worth of sports rights, including 38 Premier League matches a year, it’s moved into the old Olympic TV studio, and did we mention the FOOTBALL?

This take on the telecoms-as-media business model is obviously targeted at BSkyB, but not so much at the TV station as the DSL operator; the football will be “no extra cost” (not “free”, though) to existing BT Retail Broadband customers, which makes it sound very much like a massively expensive subscriber-retention initiative.

Also, you can pay BT £15 a month (aka their broadband ex-line rental price) for their football coverage via your Sky+ box. But if you buy your broadband from BT for a one-off activation fee of £15 you can watch their football coverage for “no extra cost”. Yes, it’s complicated and there are bags more options.

Speaking of set-top boxes, the BBC’s YouView project is starting to look as if mostly being a delivery system for BT football coverage, because the full-cream service will only be served to BT-owned YouView boxes. If you bought your own, no football for you - unless a technical fix is ready for launch in August.

So the BBC is considering doing some more set-top box development. The really sad thing is that BBC Research doesn’t deserve this - just look at this project.

Meanwhile, the British government is complaining that the EU won’t let it just give the whole Urban Broadband fund to BT. It is truly amazing how taxpayers’ money migrates towards BT. In this case, BDUK wants to give users a “voucher” they could take to any one of the numerous, competing fibre-to-the-premises providers…sorry, BT.

Perhaps that’s why the stock market wanted BT so badly.

“Cowboy” Ergen dives back into the ring…but what’s this?

If the footy won’t cut it, BT could bid for the rights to live-stream Sprint vs. Softbank, the soap opera/boxing match of the year. Or is it more like wrestling? You thought Charlie “satellite cowboy” Ergen was down and out, having been thrown through the ropes by Masayoshi “Mr. Miyagi” Son, but here he comes, smashing a chair over the referee’s head! It turns out he’s spent his week and quite a lot of his (and DISH’s) money buying up Sprint shares in the hope of getting onto the Sprint strategy committee that’s considering the offers.

And he’s wrapped in a giant Stars and Stripes flag, to boot.

“We are an American company, and the modernisation of Sprint’s network will have to be done from the US. You have to climb the towers here, and you’ll have to have US employees who speak English. Operations command control will be in America. That’s good for jobs. It doesn’t mean that the other guys are bad. It’s just that we have an advantage.”

So how will the 3G Karate Kid respond? Vaulting the ropes, he charges into the crowd and sets about a group of Wall Street bankers in the VIP box! You didn’t see that one coming, did you?

The Japanese telecom company, which owns 33 percent of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, has told banks that their financing of Dish’s $25.5 billion rival offer for Sprint could hurt their chances of landing a role in a highly anticipated public offering of the Chinese e-commerce giant, two sources familiar with the situation said.

Not that Alibaba management accept that it’s up to him. “Leave him - he’s not worth it!”, they cried, pulling at his sleeve as the champagne bottles cracked underfoot.

A source close to Alibaba said on Friday that while SoftBank is a major investor, it does not make decisions for Alibaba’s management.

But that didn’t stop him laying into that annoying British guy in the pink shirt:

Meanwhile, Softbank has already removed Barclays from a role in financing its bid for Sprint after the British bank was revealed to be advising Dish on a rival offer, sources have said previously.

And while everyone’s attention is turned towards the VIP brawl, someone else at Sprint took the opportunity to settle a score of their own, blasting their vendors for “poor execution” on the network upgrade (that’s Samsung and Ericsson).

DTAG’s Rene Obermann caught the mood and promised that T-Mobile USA’s separate listing helped them to “attack”. AT&T, meanwhile, launched its own no-contract offering to counterattack T-Mobile.

Hutchison doesn’t expect Austria to be any less of a price-war even now it’s down to three operators. (We can remember when there were six.)

The GSMA reckons we’re up to 100 million LTE customers. Meet your new transit provider, Iran.

When customer data attacks, at EE and Bloomberg; Walking back HADOPI

EverythingEverywhere has an idea - let’s sell access to data on blocks of 50 subscribers, via polling specialists Ipsos MORI. The proposed product is very similar to the service Telefonica Digital already offers (Dynamic Insights), but unfortunately the first customer linked with it was the Metropolitan Police, leading to an unsurprising privacy snafu even though the cops then denied it. The story is here.

France is looking again at its cultural policy and how it interacts with the digital content economy. The Lescure report, interestingly, considered the idea of a general content licence or something like US economist Dean Baker’s Artistic Freedom Voucher, thought it was a good idea, but turned it down as being too disruptive and too expensive to finance through a tax on ISP subscriptions.

This is odd, as the report then turns around and suggests instead taxing devices that can connect to the Internet, arguing that this would raise far more money. The idea is of course taken from the levy on blank CDs. Anyway, they intend to use this money to subsidise French-speaking content, and also to water down the HADOPI monitoring system, which will be rolled into the Conseil Supérieur de’l Audiovisuel and will lose much of its enforcement powers. It won’t be allowed to cut off your Internet access, and the maximum fine comes down to be roughly equal to a Deezer streaming subscription.

Horace reckons that iTunes has an ARPU of $40. Interestingly, its shipments of music seem to grow linearly while those of apps are still hurtling up the curve - so much so that Apple’s payouts to developers are keeping ahead of music, despite apps being typically far cheaper.


It’s the time of year when the US TV networks set their forward advertising rates for the season. Growth seems to be slowing markedly, from 11% two years ago to a predicted 6% now, as ratings slide and online competition bites. Also in the US video market, it seems that basic-cable subscribers may be canning the service to get broadband instead.

Google wants you to know that smartphone use in-store is nothing but a Good Thing. Buy more Google Ads. Meanwhile, Google apparently considered launching a physical credit card, but cancelled it.

Bad use of customer data; Bloomberg journalists, it turns out, know if people they write about have logged into their Bloomberg terminal and if so, what data series they looked at, what instant messages they sent, if they communicated with Bloomberg customer service, etc, etc.

Consider this: some of these banks have their offices TEMPEST shielded to guarantee that no information leaks via RF, induction, or even van Eck radiation. But they happily let Bloomberg run its own air-gapped and encrypted cabling into every last office including the CEO’s.

You laugh, but you’re probably on Facebook, right? They’re apparently looking at buying Waze, the traffic-mapping app that gets its data by tracking its users.

Trapped in the Waze app, location data is anonymous and thus difficult to sell to advertisers. If integrated with Facebook, however, the same location data becomes hugely valuable, since it would be tied to Facebook identities, including demographic and social information beloved by advertisers.

No, nothing in the least bit problematic there. Meanwhile, DTAG has launched its own car-tracking M2M product for usage-based insurance companies.

And some helpful advice on browser security may not go amiss.

Voice 2.0 - why UK number portability is part of the problem

Are telcos missing an opportunity to provide much more information tied to phone numbers? It’s not the first time this has been suggested, but this post from RevK provides both a good overview of the barriers, especially in the UK, and also some proposals to get rid of them.

He’s also been hacking on SIP code. Andy Abramson, meanwhile, wonders what will happen to freephone/toll-free numbers in a WebRTC future.

Telecoms.com has a chat with Qualcomm about VoLTE.

“Voice is a smaller and smaller portion of network traffic so any kind of efficiency gains you get from new voice technologies are going to get completely lost. To make VoLTE more efficient than 2G and 3G will take a few years, by which point the proportion of data traffic will be even greater,” he says.

When it comes to enhanced service offerings Carson agrees that IMS VoLTE will bring enhancements like presence, file sharing and IM that will represent “the next wave of customer experience in communications.” But , as he points out, OTT providers have been offering comparable services for some time.

Oh, and Qualcomm has counted 17 different flavours of VoLTE technology.

Nokia: the Linux posse rides again

In devices news, here’s a bit of a surprise from Nokia. The Asha 501 low-cost smartphone has something that looks very much like the much mourned N9’s user interface, described as “Asha Platform”. A related codename, “Fastlane”, seems to refer to the UX as distinct from the operating system. So what’s up?

Nokia’s announcement says this is “based on the best features of Series 40”, but also that it originates from the 2012 acquisition of Smarterphone, a company that showed one of the first LiMo Linux devices at MWC 2009 and whose primary asset is a mobile Linux distro.

Ironically, Stephen Elop said this week that there was no alternative to Windows.

The gadget ships with a substantial line of apps and the Nokia Xpress data-compressing Web browser, and claims to provide 48 days’ standby and 17 hours’ talktime.

Access has released the fancy UI it showed at MWC 2009 as an Android app.

Foxconn is feeling the pressure from another Apple assembly contractor, Pegatron, which seems to be picking up more volume on older models like the iPhone 4.

Here’s a teardown of the Samsung Galaxy S4. US versions have a Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, but others have Samsung’s own. Generally, and unsurprisingly, the device is full of Samsung’s own products, which helps them to achieve a selling price of $639 on an estimated bill of materials of $237.

Some Google I/O preview.

The BlackBerry Q10, reviewed, positively. It’s the phone for people who know keyboard shortcuts.

Intel will not give up on mobile x86

Intel has a major new product coming, specifically a new core for the Atom line of processors, fabbed at 22nm and codenamed “Silvermont”. These are expected to provide a dramatic improvement in power efficiency, showing a major effort at Intel to compete with ARM.

Big Switch and F5 Networks agree to use F5’s API for their network virtualisation kit, hoping to make it fit better in OpenStack. Cloudera and Splunk have an alliance.

The Open Compute Project is starting work on a specification for a top-of-rack switch.

Quortus runs its software core network on a RaspberryPi.

Mobile web apps are slow, but why?

Progress with Ubuntu Touch.

And screen-sharing is coming for WebRTC.

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