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Voda’s Euro Pain, Ethernet@40, Google Balloon: Telco 2.0 News Review

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Vodafone results: voice revenues crash in southern Europe

It was Vodafone results time, and the phrase “sickening thud” was required as the company’s revenues fell for the first time, ever. Net profits for the full year were down 90%, although this is affected by writedowns. The key detail, though, was that voice and messaging revenues in southern Europe are plummeting, and although Vodafone increased its groupwide data revenues by almost half a billion pounds, this wasn’t enough to compensate for the slide in messaging, let alone voice. Voice revenues in Spain were down 20.7% in the year and messaging was off 33.7%. (NB We’ve been saying that it was going to get nasty for a while, and we’re now working on a new report on Voice and Messaging 2.0 - email contact@telco2.net for more.)

The North & Central European division, which oddly includes Turkey, was OK but only just. Notably, revenues slid in the Netherlands and even Germany is suffering among the pre-paid subscribers. If it hadn’t been for a strong performance at Turkcell, NCE would have been only “less bad” rather than “better”. The same pattern came up elsewhere - the big emerging market OpCos, like South Africa, Egypt, and Ghana all did well. And the Verizon Wireless dividend saved the day. It now looks very unlikely that Vodafone will let the VZW stake out of their sight - out of their high-income markets, Southern Europe is a disaster, North & Central stagnant, and Australia is pretty bad too for its own idiosyncratic reasons. Only North America is delivering the goods.

Meanwhile, Softbank vs. DISH goes into yet another round. Softbank deployed a new website on the deal’s supposed “benefits to the US”, making heavy use of their trademark repetition, repetition, and of course, repetition.

DISH, for their part, played the China card:

“The contrast is clear: Dish does not operate infrastructure dependent on Chinese equipment; Dish does not own nearly a third of the Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba; Dish was not affiliated with a company that admitted bribing Chinese officials for telecommunications contracts,” said Stanton Dodge, EVP and general counsel at Dish in a statement.

In that statement, Dish also called into question the role Clearwire will have with Softbank, as the U.S. carrier does have some equipment from Chinese vendor Huawei deployed on its network.

Which is…strange, as Dish is proposing to buy Clearwire along with the rest of Sprint. Clearwire’s special committee, sans Charlie Ergen unless he hides in the wastepaper basket, have re-recommended Sprint’s bid after Sprint upped its offer.

And you can perhaps see why the North American telecoms market might be attractive; AT&T just decided to add 61 US cents a month as an “administration fee” to all its postpaid accounts. You could churn, but you better not churn to Verizon or Sprint, because they did it as well. There have been finer competitive highs in the ‘Land of the Free’, we believe.

In Spain, as you might have guessed from the hellishly awful Vodafone results, everything at Telefonica is struggling. Pulling handset subsidies last year improved their margins, but handset sales, market share, data revenue, and total service revenue are all sinking. Although they deny bringing back the subsidy, they did just cut the price of the Samsung Galaxy S4 by 15% and a range of other smartphones by similar amounts.

The winners, such as they are, seem to be low-cost MVNOs, perhaps a similar phenomenon to Free Mobile in France.

DTAG is buying in Poland and the Czech Republic, while Altimo is trying to get in on Orascom. And here’s a classic giant phone bill story from EverythingEverywhere.

And it seems Neelie Kroes wants her legacy to be a single European telecoms market - but will that be like T-Mobile Austria (€17/month) or T-Mobile Germany (€96/month for the same product)?

Verizon Wireless announces its small cells plans

We know AT&T’s got the small cells religion, with its Project Velocity scheme to deploy 15,000 of the little chaps. Now VZW has made a move - they’re buying Ericsson’s RBS 6501 devices for the 700MHz LTE network, but much as they did with the LTE network rollout, they’re also hedging and buying unspecified Alcatel-Lucent gear. After all, it worked for them.

We mentioned earlier that Charlie “Satellite Cowboy” Ergen’s wrestling bout with Masayoshi “Mr. Miyagi” Son has inevitably got even dirtier, what with the Cowboy trying to whip up the crowd against the Yellow Peril from Huawei. The story is especially weird because Clearwire is actually planning to get rid of its Huawei equipment, apparently independently of which party eventually wins. It’s not much - a few radios - but it shows that the paranoia is far from beaten.

Benoit Felten says that the carriers - he cites Verizon, Swisscom, and Belgacom - who “get” next-generation access are also the ones who haven’t given it to their innovations centres to look after.

British fibre-to-the-business startup Hyperoptic has snagged a £50m funding round, from none other than George Soros. Some more details are at ThinkBroadband.

Renesys and LACNIC look at the growth of the Internet in different Latin American countries. Interestingly, rather than just looking at subscribers, they looked at the creation of new AS numbers, a measure of the creation of new networks, companies, and organisations, and the development of the Internet ecosystem more broadly. They note that both Brazil and Argentina are accelerating away and Mexico is stagnating - probably a testament to the vast policy differences between them.


Both Brazil and Argentina have a policy of developing public Internet exchange points in provincial cities (here’s the Brazilian NIC’s webpage on the program) and letting ISPs compete, whereas Mexico has a private monopoly.

Here’s something interesting: Sigfox is a French M2M startup using the 860MHz unlicensed band and the TDF network of telecoms towers, whose anchor business is the management network for ClearChannel’s rotating billboards around France.

And it’s happy 40th, Ethernet! Don’t listen to us - listen to its inventor, Robert Metcalfe.

Google: balloons and kites

Google is coming for us with its giant INTERNET BALLOON. Apparently the idea is to tether huge blimps over African cities as base stations for whitespace networks. They’re also trying to invent huge flying wind turbines that work like autonomous drone kites. Mrs Google, just imagine what your son could achieve if he just applied himself!

Someone’s run the numbers on the Google Glass explorers, and this is not particularly surprising:


There’s a great fuss going on about Google’s decision to drop XMPP support from the new Hangouts messaging system. EFF, predictably, points out that it becomes much harder to chat off-the-record or to encrypt your messages. Why you might want to do that is illustrated here, as hackers discover that something is looking up URIs they sent to each other via Skype.

Dan York points out that the support is not entirely gone. Google, meanwhile, blames its retreat from openness on everyone else’s lack of openness.

The point is made that Android market share is the wrong metric.

In India, a major fight is underway between Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Business. Google’s latest move is to cut prices by 45%. It’s one way to get share.

Fortunately, though, this advertisement argues that Facebook is doomed and Google isn’t. Wired attempts to work out how many ads Yahoo! needs to sell on Tumblr to make the business work. Perhaps tellingly, Yahoo!’s senior VP of user experience design just quit.

Salesforce turned in decent Q1s.

And is a PC only a PC if you can build your own?

Samsung vs. Apple II: The Supply Chain

The new frontier of competition is manufacturing and the supply chain. You’ll get no disagreement from us, although we’re far from sure of the conclusion that Samsung will start trying to poach Apple suppliers. They have the money, but may prefer to spend it building the productive base internally, being a components maker at heart.

Samsung also issued a prize for developers working on its Chord P2P technology, and invited reporters to a major product launch in London in the next couple of weeks.

Apple let slip a bit more information about the plan to bring some of its final manufacturing back to the US - the plant will be in Texas. ZDNet infers from other statements that it might be run by Foxconn, and we’d add that it might not be a million miles from the Samsung facility in Austin that fabs Apple’s chips.

Hon Hai, aka Foxconn, meanwhile said it would be producing Firefox OS gadgets.

The European Commission this week sent a questionnaire to mobile operators as a preliminary investigation into Apple’s sales practices.

Meanwhile, Apple keeps adding stores and they work. Interestingly, a typical Apple Store now employs 110 people. New openings have slowed down sharply in the US in favour of many more international ones.

Lenovo smartphones may land in the US within a year. Matt Asay thinks the top smartphones are all basically on a par.

And should Sony give up on electronics and concentrate on its surprisingly successful financial services operation?

Voice infrastructure, your way

Simwood’s new Virtual Interconnect Inbound product is essentially interconnection to the PSTN as a service, and this quote resonates with Telco 2.0:

progressive customers don’t want to feel dependent on an operator, they want to be the operator

On a similar theme, here’s a blog post on Metaswitch’s Project Clearwater, an open-source IMS implementation. The detail that sticks out - CTO Martin Taylor estimates that it costs 2 cents per user per year to run, based on Amazon Web Services pricing.

RevK, meanwhile, discusses the problems of building scalable SIP servers and especially, the fact that some of the most useful features of SIP aren’t supported by the phones.

The OpenBTS project is organising training days at the end of June.

A CRM plugin for Asterisk? Why not.

Truphone has improved its international roaming product, so now the local numbers work all the time you’re in one of its markets.

You can phone into a Google Hangout.

Microsoft Xbox One = 300,000 servers

In the cloud, Microsoft is preparing a huge platform to support the new Xbox gaming console. The idea is to handle multiplayer functions and to offload computing tasks that aren’t latency-sensitive, freeing up the device’s own processing for urgent things like snap-shooting at fast zombies. This will require 300,000 servers and new expansion phases at three MS data centres.

40 years on, meet the Cloud Ethernet Forum, a standards group including basically everyone from the Metro Ethernet Forum, dedicated to better LANs in the data centre.

Should data centres be regulated in their role as resellers of electrical power? And should your data centre have robots?

The CTO of Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign says that most people don’t have “big data”, they have “medium data” at most. In other pushback, Bruce Schneier links to Danah Boyd, discussing a survey of teenagers’ behaviour on the Internet. This is seriously interesting:

My favorite finding of Pew’s is that 58% of teens cloak their messages either through inside jokes or other obscure references, with more older teens (62%) engaging in this practice than younger teens (46%). This is the practice that I’ve seen significantly rise since I first started doing work on teens’ engagement with social media…

While adults are often anxious about shared data that might be used by government agencies, advertisers, or evil older men, teens are much more attentive to those who hold immediate power over them - parents, teachers, college admissions officers, army recruiters, etc…

Over the last few years, I’ve watched as teens have given up on controlling access to content. It’s too hard, too frustrating, and technology simply can’t fix the power issues. Instead, what they’ve been doing is focusing on controlling access to meaning. A comment might look like it means one thing, when in fact it means something quite different. By cloaking their accessible content, teens reclaim power over those who they know who are surveilling them

The full report is here.

YouTube will do it, live…

YouTube has announced a wedge of features for videographers who want to stream live events. You need to be a channel, with 1000 subscribers or more, you simply upload the highest quality video you have plus any extra angles, captions, etc, and Google does the on-the-fly transcoding in the cloud. There’s a fairly extensive API here.

In the light of that, is Smart TV being overtaken by No TV?

Dan Rayburn has a useful comparison of streaming devices. The BBC Internet Blog reports on a fascinating project at BBC Research, an automated tool that detects common problems during the filming of TV programmes and warns the director.

And finally, the UK government’s Universal Credit is the world’s biggest Agile project…and it’s turning into a disaster.

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