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Sliding to the new iPhone; T-Mobile USA revival; waiting for the China Mobile 4G gig - Telco 2.0 News Review

Eid Mubarak. That was last week. Now it’s back to work, and time to book your slot at Digital Arabia 2013.

Apple’s “precipitous slide” to a new iPhone

Is Apple losing its way, not innovating, in a “precipitous slide”, and worst of all, losing key personnel like Guy Kawasaki to the forces of Android? Or have we just been waiting for the next tactical bound? Well, AllThingsD reckons a new iPhone is landing next month, and possibly another iPad to boot. They even have a date, the 10th of September.

Horace reckons, on the basis of past iPad and iPhone pricing, that there will be two new devices, a flagship and a mid-market device, which you can look at either as creating a product mix for iPhones like the iPad and iPad Mini, or else as maintaining the mixture of iPhones after the iPhone 4 goes the way of the 3 and the 3GS. He also points out that Apple has been winning share back from Android in the US lately.


Tero Kuittinen at Forbes notes that the price points for midmarket devices have been creeping up lately, and that Apple might spring a painful surprise on the vendors by pricing around $350.

LG, meanwhile, introduces a radical innovation: buttons on the back of the phone. Will BlackBerry go private? Or will it sell the company? Or spin off the software unit? They’ve set up a committee to look at the options.

And T-Mobile USA has terminated its very popular promotion on iPhone 4S and 5. Almost as if they were clearing the decks for some sort of product launch in the near future.

T-Mobile USA gains 1.1 megasubs in Q2

It wasn’t that long ago that DTAG was trying to sell off T-Mobile USA, which was widely seen as a minor operator. If anything exciting was going to happen, it would happen at Sprint once Softbank got their hands on the company. But that took longer than anyone expected, and in the meantime T-Mobile has got its act together, thanks in part to a wedge of wedge from DTAG, the AT&T break fee, and iPhones. In Q2, the first full quarter after the integration of MetroPCS, they posted 1.1 million net adds, just ahead of VZW, well ahead of AT&T, and trouncing Sprint, which had a net loss of 2 million subscribers. And two-thirds of the gain was postpaid.

The cost? A $5 hit to monthly ARPU, which was pulled down to $46. It does look like the pricey US cellular market is getting a dose of price disruption, just from T-Mobile rather than Sprint.

Elsewhere, Satellite Cowboy Charlie Ergen is not discouraged by the Sprintbank soap opera and is thinking about a bid for T-Mobile. He’s also considering buying LightSquared and taking on the curse of Philip Falcone’s spectrum investments, which ought to keep him busy for a while yet.

China Unicom has signed up its 100 millionth 3G subscriber, pushing up its service revenue by 20% and its net profits by 55%.

Telekom Austria, meanwhile, complains of uncertainty in Bulgaria, which when you put it like that sounds like a euphemism for something. In fact, their net profits were up sharply, but this is the effect of a low base (they were up to €52 million). Revenue was down 1.9%, mostly because the Bulgarian operation’s ARPU fell 19%, due to a combination of a terrible economy, regulatory termination rate cuts, and the arrival of Telenor in the country.

Yota, with its valuable Russian LTE spectrum, has been acquired by Megafon, the biggest Russian MNO. This may be less important than it seems, as they share the same owner, Alisher Usmanov, who probably also owns your football club.

Vodafone UK has named the day for its LTE launch, and it’s the 29th of August. Tariffs are set at a small premium over the “Vodafone RED €30/£30 a month” level; £34 a month gets you a Samsung Galaxy S4, 2GB/mo of data, and six months of “premium content”, which is either Spotify Premium or Sky Sports. The network covers London at launch and will roll out to 12 more cities by the year end.

Olaf Swantee of EE, meanwhile, says that floating the company on the London stock exchange would make it “more British”. Is that good?

Bouygues may be in line for a substantial payout, after a French court ruled that Orange and SFR acted anti-competitively by offering free calls on-net. At the time, they controlled 85 per cent of the market between them, so this was substantially more useful to the subscriber than it could be for the third MNO.

And the bid is in for KPN, apparently shaken out by Telefonica’s offer for E-Plus. Carlos Slim’s offer is €2.40 a share, paid in cash, which values KPN at €10bn.

European Commission holds fire ahead of China Mobile 4G super-contract

The European Commission is apparently planning a major anti-trust case against Chinese network vendors, but it won’t move until it knows who gets the China Mobile LTE contract, aka the biggest infrastructure payday ever. None of the European vendors has been willing to file a complaint, for fear of retaliation, but the commissioner could go ahead on his own initiative - unless the Chinese cut Ericsson, Alcatel, and NSN in voluntarily.

NSN? It stands for something different these days - Nokia Solutions & Networks, although how long will it be before we all start calling it “Nokia Networks” again?

China Unicom is preparing to trial the Chinese-style TDD version of LTE, but would prefer to use the international standard. Haven’t we heard that before. Unicom came out of the reorganisation of the Chinese industry with the right to use UMTS, while China Mobile got to pioneer TD-SCDMA, and you see the results in their results, above.

“We are going to work very seriously on our [3G] WCDMA construction work and actively promote the evolution of WCDMA to FDD-LTE. This is our long term strategy, and there won’t be any wavering on this issue,” Chang said.

OFCOM is seeking opinions on the possibility of providing more unlicensed spectrum in the 5GHz bands, perhaps as much as 300MHz worth. The regulator needs something it can take to the 2015 World Radio Conference.

In Australia, do Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers all hate the NBN because Foxtel would like to keep the Telstra co-ax cable network?

China Unicom cooperates with OTTers; Telefonica bins Tu Me

China Unicom also had something interesting to announce with regard to voice, messaging, and social networking. Everyone in China’s on Wechat, a social networking product from Tencent, the folk who gave you QQ. As a result, substitution from SMS to generic data usage is going great guns and doing operators’ margins no good at all. So here’s a solution, or at least a clever idea: a SIM card, branded and sold by Wechat, that bundles the service, thus keeping the operator in the value chain.

Telefonica, meanwhile, shut down their OTT telephony app Tu Me, concentrating instead on the more radical and less cannibalistic Tu Go. The point is made that although Movistar has a Joyn implementation, there’s no sign of that deploying outside Spain. After all:

And what of the Joyn carrier initiative for next generation messaging, which Telefonica also supports?

“We don’t want all our eggs in one basket. We need to be able to move quickly and that’s more difficult if there are a lot of other carriers involved.”

WhatsApp passed 300 million users and celebrated with a new feature, which lets you record voice messages for a group of fellow users.

Here’s another click-to-call startup: eVoice, which includes it as part of an SMB-focused Voice 2.0 and CRM package.

Chris Kranky reviews some new WebRTC demos and points out that the summer interns can build a telephony app these days. He also wonders if the hosted videoconferencing business is going to be disrupted by a P2P solution based on WebRTC.

Here’s Streak, a CRM app that’s based on GMail. Here’s a crowdfunding drive for an e-mail service that’s not horrible. And the YouTube founders have a new app, MixBit - it’s like Vine, with the distinction that it’s all about cutting and mixing your video clips together.

New ads in Google Maps; retail big data is everywhere; Amazon federated ID

Google has a new feature in the Google Maps app, but it’s not one you’ll have heard of, because it appeals to Google’s real customers and is actually significant to them. Ads will now appear in the search results, and a pay-per-click event occurs when the user clicks on the link to expand the details and see the ad in context on the map.

Consult Hyperion, the UK payments consultancy of M-PESA fame, has hired back Susie Lonie, one of the original M-PESA team, to run a new practice dedicated to developing world m-payments - something you might think they’d been doing all this time.

Google Wallet, meanwhile, has dropped its loyalty and gift card features, advising customers to spend any balance by the 21st of August. Oddly, they’re also promising that it will be back in some form in the future.

Meanwhile, ISIS gains support from American Express, whose person-to-person Serve payments app is joining the platform.

Retailers are being offered data harvested from passing smartphones by WLAN devices installed in City of London dustbins. And here’s another retail/big data/surveillance play, this time in the United States. There’s a video.

M2M Group is a joint venture by British companies who specialise in vertical M2M applications.

Amazon Web Services has a new “playground” page to explain how its federated identity service works.

The boss, Jeff Bezos, has meanwhile bought the Washington Post to go with his space rockets.

Leap seconds demand data-centre instrumentation; Firefox OS direct-to-consumer

Last year’s leap-second bug in Linux caused Facebook and many other major data centre operators to experience huge surges in power consumption. As a result, they’ve been investing in better management tools.

Google adds load-balancing to Google Compute Engine.

Microsoft is preparing a “CloudOS for Government”. The immediate comparison is the special Amazon availability zone for government customers, but MS’s product is apparently a special version of Windows Server rather than a pool of Windows Azure hosts in a special data centre.

Meet the Ubuntu for Android engineers, in a Reddit IAmA.

Get a Firefox OS phone for $80, direct from ZTE on Ebay.

The creator of Cow Clicker really, really doesn’t like Facebook. The Android Bitcoin app has a vulnerability linked to the Android pseudorandom number generator.

A whole succession of hardened e-mail providers have shut down, starting with Lavabit, Edward Snowden’s e-mail host, in a protest against pressure from the US government to accept NSA surveillance. On the other hand, Kim Dotcom is launching a new high-security e-mail startup. Interestingly, the biggest technical challenge is providing features like search while also keeping the data encrypted on file, so all the work has to happen on the user’s local machine.

And finally, some Xerox photocopiers have a weird bug that unpredictably replaces numbers in the original document with different ones in the copy. Official Xerox advice was originally to avoid using “normal” mode, until it turned out that this doesn’t guarantee fidelity. Software patches are coming.

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