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Telco 2.0 News Review: PRISM, Orange, Softbank, SoftLayer

[Ed. We’re just analysing and writing up the output from the excellent New Digital Economics Brainstorm in London last week, and will be publishing reports and highlights shortly. Next in the Brainstorm series is Digital Arabia, November 11-12 in Dubai - the agenda is now up here. Please email contact@telco2.net for more on how to participate.]

Still under surveillance

No prizes for guessing the week’s top story. It turns out the bulk surveillance scandals of the 2000s didn’t go away, they went legit. It’s argued here that the National Security Agency’s PRISM program, which accesses data held by big Web companies, is probably based on some sort of accelerated legal process rather than a technical exploit. It also emerged that a secret court order exists to collect all Verizon’s CDRs on a regular basis. It’s hard to say what the upshot of all this will be, but it’s likely to be dramatic. Some people already want to boycott US tech companies.

No wonder, then, that delegates at the NDE Brainstorm this week said security, privacy, and control of their data was their top priority when looking at moving applications into the cloud.


Orange CEO quizzed by police, Softbank looks to the BATNA

Elsewhere, Orange CEO St├ęphane Richard was questioned by police over his role in a controversial arbitration process that ended up with the government paying out a large sum of money to the even more controversial businessman Bernard Tapie. Richard’s contract runs out next year, the first head of a French state corporation to come up for renewal by President Hollande.

About 38% of Deutsche Telekom shareholders opted to take their dividend in shares, as the company tries to conserve cash for investments in the network. The German government, tellingly, turned down the offer and insisted on hard cash from its one-third of the company.

No wonder Vodafone cried off the Myanmar spectrum auction; Ooredoo is looking at spending $15bn on its roll-out there if they win.

Vodafone has been under pressure lately after it emerged that the company didn’t pay any UK corporation tax, again. As a result, they issued a table showing their total tax contribution, capital investment, and employment by country. Touchy, much?

AT&T Mobility claimed 500,000 net-adds in postpaid for Q2 and said that it expects EBITDA margins around 28% on full-year revenue growth up 2%.

Between Masayoshi “Mr. Miyagi” Son and the Satellite Cowboy, Charlie Ergen, it’s getting time to get reacquainted with the concept of BATNA, the Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement.

Dealbook reports on the situation. Sprint’s shareholders vote on the offer on Wednesday, but this might be put off to let Dish formalise its offer further. Then Clearwire votes on Thursday. But Softbank is now talking about the possibility of instead buying out DTAG’s 74% stake in T-Mobile USA. As Reuters points out, such a deal could be simply a private transaction, avoiding the possibility of someone jumping in.

Would T-Mo, without the Clearwire spectrum resource, be worth having from Son’s point of view, or is he just trying to worsen the Sprint shareholders’ BATNA?

Here’s a particularly rasping effort to grind into the US oligopolists’ margins - FreedomPop is promising 500MB of data, 200 minutes of voice, and unlimited texts for free! Well, free when you buy an HTC Evo for $99 or something better for $199. The idea seems to be that some margin on the devices, plus sales of extra products like unlimited voice ($10/mo) or extra data ($18/2GB), will be enough to pay the MVNO bill from Sprint. Also, all the voice is provided via their own custom VoIP app.

The US cable operators’ WiFi roaming venture now has 150,000 hotspots, which makes it the biggest WLAN in the States. Relatedly, here’s a startup that sells WiFi capacity on demand, targeting mobile operators.

Ericsson snagged the contract to run the MBNL joint venture networks in the UK, those being EE, 3UK, and “legacy” T-Mobile and Orange. The first job will presumably be to find out what happened to 3UK’s data network last week.

Here’s an interesting interview with Zeinal Bava of Portugal Telecom, which touches on consolidation in Europe, or its absence, piloting products in Portugal to deploy them in Latin America, using TV as a driver for FTTH, and more. Meanwhile, Neelie Kroes walks back a bit on net neutrality, if you define net neutrality as “not selling packages with different speeds in”. But who does?

OFCOM, meanwhile, put off the first copyright infringement letters until 2015, lacking agreement on how to split the bill between ISPs and the record industry. Meanwhile, in the US, it turns out that the copyrighted material downloaded in a lawsuit was seeded on BitTorrent by…the rightsholder.

IBM buys SoftLayer for its cloud

In the cloud, IBM acquired SoftLayer, one of the world’s biggest providers of Web hosting and data centres, in order to strengthen their enterprise cloud offering. They bring 13 data centres worldwide, 21,000 customers, and something like 100,000 servers (aka “a Google”) to IBM. The deal is reported at $2bn but IBM isn’t officially saying.

Meanwhile, Netcraft estimates the size of Amazon Web Services’ cloud at 158,000 servers, hosting 2.1 million Web sites. To put it another way, each identifiable machine in AWS supports 13 Web sites - virtualisation with a vengeance, especially as this doesn’t count anything that doesn’t expose a Web server and have a domain name.

Switch & Data already has a whole park of big data centres in Las Vegas, notable both for their size and also for their high power-density. Now they’ve opened another, taking the site to 20,000 cabinets and 200MW of power.

Where there is power, there must also be cooling - it’s the iron law of data centre design. Facebook Prineville was one of the first to use outside air rather than chillers, and in the summer of 2011, it went badly wrong. Hot air was recycled into the evaporative cooler, making it cooler and also humid. Somehow, the system got into a loop, until the air entering the cold aisles was so wet it formed clouds - physical ones - and rain started to fall on the servers.

Facebook this week announced a new data warehouse system providing for SQL queries across its distributed data stores, another milestone in the move from NoSQL to NewSQL.

Here’s a Hacker News thread on how one startup left Google App Engine for Google Compute Engine. We wonder, meanwhile, how long it will be before GAE or GCE provides a NewSQL tool like Google’s internal-use Spanner and catches up with something like Amazon Redshift.

Meanwhile, AWS moves its Relational Database Service into General Availability.

Adrian Holovaty moves his startup out of Heroku and directly into AWS, and explains why. The British Government’s Gov.uk team describe their stack and explain why.

Weve is go for launch, Google Wallet flops

Weve, the UK mobile operators’ advertising joint venture, will launch its first campaigns this summer, and it plans to have a financial/payments platform running by next year.

Google Wallet, meanwhile, is losing money according to its former head, who quit on the 20th of May. Businessweek reports it still has only 10 million downloads in 2 years, supports only Sprint-Nextel among US carriers, and is paying far too much on each credit-card transaction.

On the other hand, 4 in 10 YouTube views are now on mobile devices.

Waze is the object of a bidding war - Google ups the offer to $1.3bn.

Facebook is slashing the range of ad products it offers, by rolling up most of the features into a single ad product. This also means that the “Sponsored Stories”, ads injected into user content, are now automatic for all advertisers.

Salesforce, meanwhile, acquired ExactTarget, a company that provides text, e-mail, and social media ad campaigns, for $2.5bn.

“The CMO is expected to spend more on technology than the CIO by 2017,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com.

Android penetration has peaked in the US

Horace notes that according to comScore, Android penetration in the US seems to have peaked. Last week, we noted that some Microsoft executives have started saying that iPads are used as PCs and that this wasn’t good news for Windows market share. Here’s a quantitative illustration.

You’ll soon be able to trade in your old iPhone. Foxconn reports sales up 2.1%.

Galaxy S4 shipments may not be that great.

Here’s a preview of Intel’s proposed UI for Tizen.

Facebook and Google pushed updates for Facebook Home and GMail respectively.

The worst Android trojan yet.

China Mobile does Telco-OTT

China Mobile has a mobile VoIP client, “Jego”. It sounds pretty basic, offering free calls and messaging between Jego users only, and is targeted on Chinese travelling internationally.

Alan Quayle discusses Twilio’s latest VC round of $70 million. He’s a bit less enthusiastic than others and doesn’t like the fact it’s Asterisk under the bonnet.

Chris Kranky says standardise signalling in WebRTC before the “telco types start yapping about mapping SS7 to WebRTC”. Elsewhere, it’s argued that signalling is already dead. Struggling with SIP. Multiple GSM modems, Asterisk, and a RaspberryPi.

And iDEN is over on the 29th of June. We’ll miss you - you were great back in the day.

Zynga is slashing jobs as its valuation goes from $7bn to $2.7bn. “Music was playing loudly. People were ripping up Zynga hoodies and T-shirts.”

Google brings back one of the closed APIs.

Ars Technica is liveblogging 10 different events later today.

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