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Vodagreece; islanders demand and get FiOS; iChina; HP out of DJIA - Telco 2.0 News Review

Vodarizon cash begins to flow - into Greece; Verizon gives up Fire Island fight, breaks out the fibre

The upshot from the Vodafone-Verizon deal is beginning to flow. Vodafone’s acquisition of Kabel Deutschland has got the required 75% of the shareholders to agree, and therefore it’s a deal, subject to regulatory approval.

Meanwhile, Vivendi is planning to spin off SFR, which was 44% owned by Vodafone until 2011. The markets immediately begin to speculate that Vodafone might be interested in buying it.

Elsewhere, Vittorio Colao says that Vodafone will speed up its rollout of LTE using the Verizon money, notably in Greece and Italy, those well-known high-growth markets.

And Vodafone UK’s boss, Guy Laurence, is leaving the company to take up a post as president and CEO of Rogers Wireless. He is succeeded by Jeroen Hoencamp, Vodafone’s head of UK enterprise.

Back at Verizon, the first step in their drive to trim the legacy copper network has gone very, very wrong. Recap: Hurricane Sandy wrecked, among other things, Verizon’s network serving about 500 subscribers on Fire Island, NY. Not surprisingly, they weren’t exactly keen to rebuild an out-of-the-ark network for a few low-dollar customers. So, they proposed to fix the mobile network and offer something called “Voice Link”, a fixed-wireless device.

VZW has been experimenting for some time with fixed-wireless on its LTE network, as a potential solution for places where the FiOS fibre is unlikely to reach that both gets rid of the copper OPEX and provides data rates competitive with decent DSL systems. It also permits them to shrug off some irksome regulatory requirements. Among other things, they developed a device called “Home Fusion” that provides voice and Internet service over the LTE link and TV via satellite broadcast. They even planned to lease spectrum to rural carriers who might deploy additional LTE as part of a partnership agreement. So you might have thought this was a pretty good deal.

As it turned out, though, Voice Link was no Home Fusion. It provides telephony, full stop. In fact, it provides rather less than traditional telephony - it doesn’t support credit-card terminals, burglar alarms, medical monitoring devices, or that obscure value-added service, “the Internet”. Being part of the mobile network, it also escapes the various regulatory requirements on the PSTN - so no wholesale, no special access, no universal service, and no Bellcore requirement for weeks of backup power at the exchange.

Fairly clearly, VZ was hoping that its Fire Island customers could be upsold a wireless data package on top of their existing service. They were furious, and both the Feds and the NY State regulator were activated. And as a result, VZ has eaten humble pie. Far from withdrawing the fixed service, or restoring the copper, they’re now going to pull fibre to everyone who wants it. It’s a huge win for, among other people, long-time broadband activist Harold Feld. A precedent has been set, and future campaigners will be emboldened.

And it puts down a marker for the US telecoms industry: the savings from eliminating the long copper runs are not going to be easy. AT&T, for example, plans to deploy U-Verse to 85% of its footprint, and probably to trim the rest. You can’t be anywhere near as certain of that money this week as you could last week. It’s also quite possible that the RBOCs will consider selling these networks to someone who loves them - like Windstream - rather than invest in them.

The FCC, meanwhile, is lining up the first big auction of spectrum for some time, tapping 65MHz from the so-called H block. The idea of somehow linking a national emergency service network with spectrum auctions, an old favourite, is back - some of the takings will be earmarked for the NTIA’s Firstnet project.

In the UK, the Ministry of Defence is going to hand over 200MHz of spectrum to OFCOM for an auction in 2015/2016. It includes 40MHz of 2.3GHz - which might be handy as the Americans are using some of the 2.3s for LTE - and 150MHz at 3.4 and above.

Meanwhile, the national smart metering project that will run on O2 UK’s network has taken a step forward - the contract for the meters themselves has been signed. The 3G & 4G Wireless Blog has an interesting Ericsson whitepaper on LTE for the smart grid, including this table of latency requirements for different electricity grid functions as defined by their standardisation body, the IEC. Ericsson reckons it can be done on the public LTE net, but it involves a lot of optimisation of different service classes.

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European roaming must die, by 2016!

The European Commission has made its mind up - they do want to get rid of roaming charges. Specifically, charges for incoming calls have to go by July 2014, and by 2016, operators are expected to choose whether to get rid of their roaming rates, or let their customers opt for an alternative roaming provider while they’re abroad. This provision further requires that the temporary provider change happens without a change of SIM.

Clearly, Neelie Kroes is hoping that the threat of alternative roaming will induce the operators to get rid of roaming charges voluntarily. The only problem here is that so far, nobody has shown any interest in becoming an alternative roaming provider, and the OSS-BSS requirements for such a beast (especially if it’s got to use OTA updates to existing operators’ SIMs) are quite complicated.

Elsewhere in Europe,Telecom Italia has lost a member of the board, who resigned after being accused of insider trading.

KPN will have to eat a writedown of €3.7bn after the sale of E-Plus.

MTS is deploying LTE in north-western Russia, with 3,000 eNode-Bs from Samsung for some $55m.

And in Austria, Telekom Austria is involved in a wide-ranging inquiry into political corruption. Four people have been convicted, and the extreme-right BZO party must repay the company a million euros it received in illegal donations. The former deputy CEO, Rudolf Fischer, was acquitted in this case but convicted in another case of illegally financing another political party.

That said, it’s nice work if you can get it. The €960,000 TA spent with a fake ad agency actually controlled by the party bought them a concession on universal access to freephone numbers that saved them about €10 million - and now they’ve even got their money back.

New iPhone certified for China Mobile; our LTE band hell

In all the excitement, hardly anyone noticed that the Chinese Ministry of the Information Industry has certified the new iPhones for use on China Mobile’s network. Specifically, the document refers to two variants Apple hasn’t announced yet - therefore, these must be the ones with TD-LTE radios.

That would be two more variants - as explained here, there are already 5 variants of both the iPhone 5C and 5S, to cope with the horribly nonstandard LTE band plans.

Famously, Apple won’t let the devices use LTE unless the operator’s network passes a set of tests they define, which are a closely guarded secret. Only five people in each operator are allowed to know what they are and all of them must separately sign a personal non-disclosure agreement. O2 UK seems to be in an awkward position:

While O2 has denied failing any of Apple’s network approval tests, a spokesman confirmed that the tests have not yet been passed.

A nice distinction, as they say.

Morgan Stanley analysts reckon the GPU in the new iPhones is from Imagination Technologies.

Google, meanwhile, says its Texas factory is producing 100,000 Moto X phones a week, at about $4 more per phone than Asian manufacturing.

It’s not good at HTC, again - they’ve just announced 20% job cuts in the United States. Nokia, meanwhile, experimented with running Android on a Lumia phone, which shouldn’t be all that hard as they are Qualcomm Snapdragons at heart.

Why aren’t Windows Phones selling? At least, why aren’t they selling more? (Telco 2.0 is currently changing operator. The final customer contact suddenly perked up, noting that “you’ve been on this contract since 2008…and you paid every bill on time.” We waited for a knockout retention offer. “Would you like a Lumia 520?”)

That said, daily app sales have passed 9 million, 270 million a month and Microsoft has started paying out developer revenue share after 30 days rather than waiting up to 120 days for the carriers to reverse-bill. The telling quote is this one:

As per Microsoft, developers are earning three times more revenue per active user, on an average, per active user in markets where carrier billing is offered, and six times more revenue on average in emerging markets where credit card usage is more limited.

Surely supporting this must be a no-brainer for telcos?

Rostelecom gets a major operator CDN; cloud gaming, a new challenge

Rostelecom has deployed a terabit of CDN capacity, with nodes located in 30 Russian cities. The technology comes from Ericsson.

Here’s a good piece on the hosting requirements of online gaming, at Data Centre Knowledge. Latency starts to hurt at 100ms for first-person games, and any lower will be noticeably better. All other things being equal, if you’re > 100ms, the zombies get you - if you’re < 100ms, you’re safe. For now. A useful paper looks at how much localisation you can achieve with existing cloud systems.

The definition of cloud only gets more fluffy, diffuse, and generally cloud-like. You can now run Amazon Web Services’ DynamoDB on your own desktop machine, a feature most of use to developers who will then deploy their work to the cloud. Of course, it’s also quite common to develop in the cloud and then deploy to private cloud or dedicated hosting for production.

Amazon US-EAST 1 had a major outage on Friday. This one brought down the code-hosting service Github and the managed cloud platform, Heroku, causing tragedy to thousands of whimsical web applications and obscure device driver projects.

HP drops out of the Dow; Twitter financials stay secret for now; Google splits up with MySQL

Hewlett-Packard, the original Silicon Valley startup, has dropped out of the Dow Jones index for the first time in 16 years, because the Dow committee thinks the shares are too cheap. Maybe so, but it’s been a great stock to own during the last year:

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Meanwhile, it’s been a quiet year for tech companies floating on the stock market, after the relative flop of Facebook’s IPO, and so, Twitter’s is eagerly awaited. Part of the slowdown is explained by a legal provision that allows companies to explore the prospect of an IPO without going public until later in the process, and Twitter is making use of this. As a result, it’s hard to say what a reasonable valuation might be, as they don’t have to publish the S-1 financial statement until T minus three weeks.

And without a credible valuation, it’s obviously tough to build a book ahead of the IPO.

Google is flushing its MySQL databases in favour of MariaDB, a fork of the popular open-source database. MySQL is one of those open-source projects that may be open-source, but is closely tied to one particular company, often an awkward situation. And in this case, the company is Oracle, which acquired the keys to the MySQL kingdom along with Sun Microsystems. Google and other big MySQL users have been complaining that the (ex-Sun) engineers who maintain MySQL don’t accept much of the code they contribute to the project…and of course, Google and Oracle have been suing each other for what seems like years over Android’s Java virtual machine.

Here’s an app that digs into your inbox and pulls out advertising for products you might want to buy. You might think they’ve re-invented the spam filter, but here’s the USP: rather than throwing it away, it shows them to you. Awesome.

And a messaging library wins TechCrunch’s Disrupt.

Monitoring the cloud at Twitter-scale; consumer radio planning exists!

How does Twitter monitor its machines? A great blog post explains. The monitoring system does 500 million database writes a minute, just measuring how the production systems are doing! And all for 140 characters of LOL.

Chris Kranky argues that contacts management will be a key problem in an age defined by vast numbers of WebRTC “cockroach apps”, and thinks that the XMPP messaging standard might be part of the solution. In comments, it turns out that the XMPP Standards Foundation is having a special interest group on improving the Jingle voice protocol.

Couchbase, the popular document-oriented NoSQL database, is offering a new version of its software for use as a local data store on mobile devices. They suggest that, for example, a medical system could keep much more data locally and keep it organised, being able to function without continuous connectivity. At the same time, they’re also offering Couchbase as a cloud service, living in Amazon EC2.

Here’s a good High Scalability post on the fundamentals of database performance.

RevK reviews Ubiquiti’s high-end WLAN access points and controller, and notes that the software that ships with them includes a “floor plan tool” - or in other words, a radio-planning application. Consumer radio-planning apps? We’re living in the future.

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Look how much data we’ve got on you!

Acxiom is a data broker that collects up to 1500 data points on 700 million people. In an effort to reassure the public, they’re launching a website that lets you look up the information they have on you - well, some of it, because they obviously don’t show the inferences they make from it and sell to their customers.

The US government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology is warning the public to avoid using a cryptographic standard it developed itself, after the last lot of Snowden revelations confirmed that it was deliberately rendered insecure by the National Security Agency. So, government department 1 builds a standard, lets department 2 compromise it, and then recommends that you shouldn’t use it.

The UK government would like ISPs to provide some sort of filter. For the children. You know. But without changing the law or paying for it. It looks like MVNO GiffGaff interprets this to include killing VPN connections, in case the children use them to bypass the filter.

We do seem to be getting all censorious these days. Nominet has a consultation out on whether or not to ban swear-words in UK domain names.

And finally, in July, 1960 the Bell System Technical Journal published a paper on how the buttons on the new push-button phones should be laid out. 17 options were considered, and panels of users were asked to dial numbers on them while the time taken and error counts were recorded. And you thought A/B testing shades of blue on the home page was new!

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