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Paranoid Panic; iOS 7; Net Neutrality wars in Germany - Telco 2.0 News Review

[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.]

Paranoid panic - James Bond (or Alan Turing) vs BlackBerry, Swedish “no” to Google Apps, T-No USA strikes again, Apple “encrypts everything”

Another news review, another wave of NSA revelations. Apparently, the UK’s signals intelligence agency GCHQ intercepted BlackBerry traffic between delegates at the G20 summit in 2009 despite the fact BlackBerry network traffic is meant to be encrypted. There’s no clue to whether GCHQ has an exploit against traffic on the air or on the wire, whether RIM cooperated, whether they hacked a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, or whether they took legal action to get data from one or more carriers providing hosted BlackBerry service.

They were also running a social-graph plot of call detail records that required real-time, online processing:

The September meeting of finance ministers was also the subject of a new technique to provide a live report on any telephone call made by delegates and to display all of the activity on a graphic which was projected on to the 15-sq-metre video wall of GCHQ’s operations centre as well as on to the screens of 45 specialist analysts who were monitoring the delegates.

Now we want one of those for the office. Not particularly surprisingly, the New York Times reports, NSA analysts seem to have repeatedly overstepped the legal boundaries by overcollecting more and more traffic. Another NYT story reports on the tech industry’s efforts to push back on the demands for data.

The spooks put their own case to Congress, arguing that PRISM has repeatedly helped to foil terrorist attacks whose details, of course, are secret.

It’s fairly well-known that the earlier, illegal surveillance program was refused by Qwest, whose CEO later landed in jail on charges of insider trading. It’s less well-known that T-Mobile USA also said “no”, on the grounds that its European customers roaming in the States might be affected, which would violate the laws of Germany. This story confirms this and states that both T-Mobile USA and also Verizon Wireless escaped through this loophole, thanks to their European co-owners.

It’s surely a fascinating insight into Verizon that the long-lines Verizon Business division could give the NSA literally all the call-detail records, but their own mobile operator could point to the Vodafone stake and refuse. Although, Verizon fixed-line is deploying carrier grade NAT to extend its IPv4 life, while VZW deployed native IPv6 in its LTE network, so there’s certainly a precedent for a big internal culture gap.

The other prospective foreign owner of a US national carrier, Softbank, meanwhile proposes to appoint the former head of the US armed forces, Admiral Mike Mullen, as its chief security officer, so you can probably assume they intend to comply with enthusiasm.

Sweden’s privacy regulator says no to storing personal data in Google Apps, for fear of PRISM. This is amusing in the light of the Swedish legislation that permits FRA, their sigint agency, to tap literally all telecommunications crossing Swedish territory. And, thanks to the Netnod IX in Stockholm and Telia Wholesale’s very successful transit business, that’s a lot.

Paul Sweeney says this technology is very impressive, but how will the NSA monetise it?

Bruce Schneier argues that the move towards cloud-based products, integrated mobile devices, and curated app stores has provided a major improvement in end-users’ information security over poorly managed Windows PCs, whilst also creating the potential for massive breaches of privacy. The Economist has a good discussion of the principles involved, pointing out that this is actually just a special case of the general failure to settle the issue of privacy. Google is spying on us anyway, and the NSA just muscled in on the pile of data this created.

Apple informs its customers how often the feds demand data from them, and states that both iMessage and Facetime have end-to-end encryption using keys Apple doesn’t possess. Like BlackBerry? Microsoft and Facebook also disclosed a count of warrants.

Net neutrality wars break out again, in Germany

Stand by for another round of the net neutrality wars. DTAG wants to cap data volume in its fixed-line business, while excluding its own streaming offering and trying to get content providers to pay to be excluded. As they have 45% of the German market, a complaint to the competition authorities whether at national or EU level is a matter of when, not if.

Meanwhile, the Indian regulator has decided to let operators stop charging national roaming fees. It may be something to do with the fine imposed on Vodafone for providing a service that let customers dial locally and avoid the roaming charge.

Economic Times has an in-depth feature on Aircel, forever delayed by a government inquiry into Maxis Communications’ investment. The network is at 60% utilisation, the company is running short of cash, and they’re selling wholesale airtime to their biggest competitor.

The White House has gone for another run at releasing more spectrum, setting up a task force on spectrum-sharing. OFCOM, for its part, has told radio hams to get out of various bands they currently share with the Ministry of Defence so the spectrum can be auctioned.

The British government (although neither OFCOM nor the responsible minister, but rather a vague advisor) wants default-on content filtering by 2014. Adrian Kennard of A&A makes the case against, on TV.

Sprint/Softbank: the latest thrilling instalment

Clearwire’s board were swept off their feet by the satellite cowboy this week, in a last-minute change of heart. They’re now recommending the DISH offer, which Softbank has since denounced as illegal.

Meanwhile, Softbank issued a new bid for Sprint. According to analysts who scored it, it’s actually worth slightly less overall, but more of it is in cash.

Elsewhere, SFR may be floated on the stock market and Vodafone confirmed that it’s been in talks with Kabel Deutschland.

Telefonica, for its part, denied that AT&T had bid €70bn for the whole company, plus taking over its debts, and that the Spanish government had invoked reserve powers to veto the bid.

After France Telecom CEO Stéphane Richard was placed under police investigation last week, the President himself has given him a vote of confidence. Like they do with football managers.

TeliaSonera has recruited the CEO of Vodacom International as its new boss. T-Mobile NL has started deploying Huawei SingleRAN base stations, saying that it will turn up LTE in the 1800MHz band and DC-HSPA in the 900MHz when the job’s done.

27 billion WhatsApp messages a day; world’s last telegram

WhatsApp recently achieved 27 billion messages in a day, confirming that alternative messaging apps are now accounting for more traffic than SMS and also demonstrating the enduring power of double counting. They logged 10bn “inbound” messages to their servers and 17bn “outbound” messages from them, but then, who sends a message “inbound” without wanting it to go “outbound”?

In a punchy blog post, they rejected the idea of selling adverts and said they would concentrate on direct-to-customer.

Within weeks, says the Saudi regulator, they could be banned from the KSA unless they comply with government demands for access to the traffic, which is currently protected by SSL encryption. The Hajj is coming up.

Does the UK need a neutral registry for phone numbers mapping to SIP URIs?

Using the iPhone as a SIP device. An open-source SIP-based telepresence solution. US Navy signals introduce LOWER CASE LETTERS.

And after 160 years, the world’s last public telegraph service is shutting down. Indian state telco BSNL will turn off the service on the 14th of July, unless one user’s “Gandhian fast to death” changes their mind. STOP.

iOS 7 - inching away from the carriers

Apple does seem to be gradually distancing itself from the carriers. At last week’s WWDC, the new version of iOS dropped in beta, adding among other things free VoIP as well as the existing video calling between Apple users. If the encryption is real, this could be the replacement for “classic” Skype we’ve all been waiting for.

Carriers certainly won’t like yet more OTT competition for billed minutes of use, especially not with Apple quality. Neither will they like the fact iOS 7 implements the Wireless Broadband Alliance’s Hotspot 2.0 standard, permitting secure password-free automatic login to lots and lots of WLAN hotspots, plus a variety of location-based service APIs.

AT&T is doing its best to manage this, signing up more WLAN roaming agreements and publicising the WBA initiative. After all, even if there’s not much incremental revenue to be had in WLAN, at least it’s pain relief for the radio network and the spectrum position.

There’s also a new local-area sharing API, Airdrop, which lets iOS users share arbitrary objects over ad-hoc WLAN. It looks like Apple NFC support just got put off again.

Here’s a review of the new Mac Pro, the US-built desktop for super-high-end users Apple announced at the event. Meanwhile, the new line of MacBook Airs have the Intel Haswell low-power processors and are supposedly good for 9 hours on battery. A teardown is over here.

Interestingly, a test run suggests Intel’s current run of mobile CPUs has a power consumption advantage over ARM.

Microsoft Office 365 now has an iOS app. Horace discusses the value of Apple users.

In other hardware news, Jolla gets a customer, Finnish operator DNA. Analysts go bearish on Samsung GS IV sales.

CIA: Amazon Web Services is just better

IBM and AWS are suing each other about a large government project, valued at $600m. Specifically, the CIA wanted a chunk of private cloud for some mysterious aim of theirs involving hundreds of terabytes of data and MapReduce analysis jobs. Now, the spooks have responded by saying that they picked Amazon because they were just better. This table, part of The Company’s evidence, summarises the point.


Especially telling: the CIA wanted to set up auto-scaling groups, aka Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk cloud-management technology. Even more telling: the CIA already uses AWS.

Facebook’s new datacentre in the Swedish Arctic has gone live. They claim a PUE of 1.07, and hope for much lower CO2 emissions thanks to using hydroelectricity for power and the cold external air for cooling. They also used only Open Compute Project hardware of their own devisin’.

This High Scalability post is fascinating on the interaction between software and hardware and how we might learn to “code green”. Meanwhile, here’s Cisco’s latest monster router and here’s a compendium of recent Google research papers.

New mobile Web-focused CDN

Here’s a new CDN startup, specialising in Web application acceleration in the mobile context. The team includes people from Akamai and also from XenSource and VMWare in the cloud/virtualisation world. There’s a technical whitepaper here.

Amazon Web Services adds more features to its CDN product, gradually catching up in terms of feature coverage with Akamai Dynamic Site Acceleration.

Look out for the presentations from Dan Rayburn’s CDN event.

Here’s a comparison of the streaming element of Google Play with Spotify and Rdio.

The auction is over and Waze belongs to Google.

Crowdsourced advertising.

Designing the Secret Life of the Cat; designing the camera mounted on the cats.

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