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BlackBerry, Samsung, Oi/PTel, Free, SeaMicro: Telco 2.0 News Review

There’s only a month left to go before the next Telco 2.0 event, Digital Arabia 2013, from the 11th-13th of November in Dubai. Here’s a video from last year’s:

Rogers: no space for the BlackBerry Z30s; how the iPhone was won; Samsung mobile product chief exit-interviewed

There was talk this week that there might even be another buyer for BlackBerry out there, but by far the most telling news story about them was that their hometown carrier, Rogers Wireless, won’t be stocking the Z30. This comes after Gartner advised its enterprise clients to replace their BlackBerry fleets over the next six months.

At the root of all this disruption, the iPhone.

Here’s a fascinating piece on the early development of the Jesus Phone, from an upcoming book entitled Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution. If this is a dogfight, BlackBerry is now at the point of being out of airspeed and ideas.

Horace remarks that the biggest problem for both RIM and Nokia in responding to the iPhone was that the information they got from their primary customer - the carriers - was misleading. For a long, long time, the carriers increased their orders for smartphones in order to hedge the iPhones, thus convincing RIM and Nokia that things were going well. Also, asking enterprise buyers (rather than users) what they needed led Nokia to cripple out features from the E-series devices.


Meanwhile, Microsoft has been trying to get HTC to offer Windows Phone on more of its devices, rather than Android. (Ironically, even on the PC, Microsoft’s latest and greatest Windows 8 is growing more slowly than Windows 7.)

Samsung, the other great winner from the smartphone disruption, says goodbye to its chief product officer for mobile, Kevin Packingham, who is among other things responsible for their crucial decision to take control of marketing from the carriers, spending Samsung’s own money and making their own calls.

Here’s an interesting example of the M7 sensor co-processor in the new iPhones: the ARGUS fitness app will drain between 20 and 30 per cent of the iPhone’s battery capacity just because it has to run a background service to pick up events from the accelerometer, unless it runs on a new iPhone. As well as being more battery-efficient, the M7 also caches the events so the app can just grab the lot when the user wakes it up.

Google, meanwhile, has launched an update to the Google Play Developer Console that embeds various functions from Google Analytics, so (for example) you can track the sources of referrals to your app. We remember that years ago, around the time of the PlayBook launch, BlackBerry did precisely this with their SDK…

Oi merges with PTel; E-Plus with O2.de; Telefonica adds to its carrier billing service

Brazilian operator Oi is merging with Portugal Telecom, in a deal which requires Oi to issue €2.7bn of new stock while PT contributes €2bn of assets. The combined operator will have just over 100 million subscribers. The Brazilian regulator has to agree, but the minister seems delighted and both parties’ shares surged.

NTT DoCoMo reported a bad, in fact a terrible, month’s sales, after they ran out of iPhones while the competition…didn’t.

Elsewhere, KPN’s shareholders agreed to sell E-Plus to Telefonica, taking Germany down from 4 to 3 operators. KPN gets €5bn in cash and 20.5% of the combined carrier, which will be the market leader by subscribers. They intend to spend some of it on more fibre in the Netherlands and Belgium, and pay out a special dividend - if, of course, the German regulator agrees. Meanwhile, there’s still no deal with America Movil.

Telefonica has signed up mobile-money specialist Mopay to provide improvements to their carrier billing service. Mopay’s app will now provide the option to pay via the phone bill and will integrate with the BlueVia API for billing. Telefonica reckons that their carrier billing is taking off in Latin America, where it’s available in 9 markets.

There’s also some more more detail here about their £1.5bn M2M contract with the UK’s smart meter project. Meanwhile, their network in the UK had a major outage, also taking down MVNOs Tesco Mobile and Giffgaff.

Verizon Wireless, famously, has some customers who signed up for an unlimited data plan years ago and had to be grandfathered-in for contractual reasons when they stopped doing that kind of thing. In an effort to starve them out, they’re not allowed an upgrade when the contract is renewed unless they pay the full unsubsidised whack. Except this week, when a software bug permitted some of them to snag a new gadget.

Meanwhile, VZW is required to offload some 700MHz spectrum by the terms on which it acquired a block of the 1700MHz AWS band from Spectrumco (the Sprint-cablecos joint venture). This week, it sold a chunk of 700 for $189m, to something called “Grain Management” (we’re as mystified as you are), which promptly leased them a slice of 1700 and 2100MHz it got from AT&T.

T-Mobile USA is planning to launch “Uncarrier 3.0” next week, and they’re handing out tickets to a Shakira gig as part of it.

TeliaSonera’s head of mobile, meanwhile, has been sacked over their dealings in Uzbekistan, and it’s finally emerged from another dump of Edward Snowden’s documents that the German secret services are indeed monitoring the DE-CIX exchange point.

Free pushes on to gigabit FTTH; US MVNO outbreak; SK Tel’s “Cloud RAN”

T-Mobile USA may call itself an “uncarrier”, but what about Free? Here’s the latest surprise. Existing Freebox Revolution fibre subscribers are being upgraded to 200Mbps up/1Gbps down, the first gigabit consumer product in Europe, at no price premium. Free is swapping GPON shared-medium technology for a “home-run”, point-to-point Ethernet deployment.

At the same time, they’re deploying a home-grown soft DSLAM and a software patch for the Freeboxes that lets them support ADSL up to VDSL2+, with the modems training to the highest possible speed given the line length, attenuation, and SNR, so a lot of the DSL customers can expect either a speed boost or a more stable connection. All this fixed-line investment, of course, also serves their femtocells and public WLAN and therefore adds capacity to Free Mobile.

Elsewhere, the US MVNO outbreak continues, as Target prepares its own prepay virtual operator for launch. T-Mobile is the enabler. There’s more detail on FreedomPop’s smartphone plans here.

Tom Alexander, formerly of Virgin Mobile when it was the first MVNO ever and then of T-Mobile UK when it was the wholesale provider to essentially all the British MVNOs, as well as being CEO of EverythingEverywhere, is joining Viacloud, a startup described as an MVNA or “mobile virtual network aggregator”. That seems to mean that it provides a platform for the quick creation of other MVNOs, and buys the wholesale radio capacity in bulk for all its customers from the same carrier - in this case, EE. The board is rich in other mobile and altnet people.

SK Telecom, meanwhile, announced this week that it hopes to get the (theoretical) peak download speed on its LTE-A network to 150Mbps, now that it’s acquired a 35MHz block of 1800MHz spectrum. Interestingly, they’re working on a fully virtualised software base station with Intel, rather like the “smart cells” they demonstrated at MWC. The 3G and 4G Wireless Blog has more information about SKT’s “Cloud RAN”, including the point that they try to use all the fibre they pull to customers to support the mobile network too - rather interesting in the light of Free’s news.


The 3G & 4G Wireless Blog may also become a bit of a misnomer, as they have an interesting China Mobile presentation on their plans for 5G.

OFCOM, meanwhile, has named the companies taking part in the whitespace radio trials and has also issued a consultation on spectrum policy for the next 10 years.

Verizon picks SeaMicro for a cloud of microservers; IBM plans for SoftLayer; Cisco & Facebook make adverts

Verizon’s Terremark division has picked the SeaMicro line of micro-servers for its next lot of cloud products. SeaMicro, these days a division of AMD, is best known for its Intel Atom-based low-energy machines, but apparently it’s not about the electricity bills, and Terremark will be specifying Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron chips.

Instead, the point is to reduce how much the servers contend for bandwidth on the local area network, letting Terremark offer its customers guaranteed levels of I/O performance. It’s another example of how cloud services are getting increasingly differentiated, and how the line between “private cloud” and “managed hosting” is getting increasingly blurred.

Are we looking at another surge in data centre investment? Data Centre Knowledge reports that the availability of data centre space on the market has dropped sharply. So-called “super wholesale” transactions have allowed major users like Facebook and Rackspace to lock up space in data centres in multiple markets ahead of time, and now Microsoft is getting interested. The result is that the market is increasingly tight.

Meanwhile, IBM has given some details on its plans for huge hosting/cloud provider SoftLayer. IBM especially values SoftLayer’s automation and management tools - they made near-cloudlike automation a unique selling point, by contrast with arch rival Rackspace’s promise of “fanatical support” - and wants to build more SoftLayer data centres outside the United States. However, they intend to let the company run on autonomously at least until 2015 to understand the business better.

IBM has also Cisco and Facebook have a partnership to provide ad-funded free WLAN in shopping malls and the like. “CMX for Facebook” lets you put in WLAN access points that users will log into with their Facebook credentials, so you can tie their location and browsing history with information pulled from their Facebook profiles, to the delight of advertisers.

Here’s a useful blog post about streaming video with Amazon CloudFront. Here’s a High Scalability post on how Salesforce works.

Twilio+Facebook; Telus relaunches PTT, but where’s the API?

Parse is part of Facebook you don’t hear that much about, a developer platform they acquired. Now it’s integrated with Twilio.

Telus was Canada’s equivalent of Nextel in that it was the biggest provider of PTT service for a whole range of enterprise applications. Unlike Sprint-Nextel’s decision to kill off the iDEN network, Telus is launching its Next-Generation PTT service running over its HSPA and LTE networks.

But here’s the question: is there an API?

Google+ Hangouts On Air is a powerful combination of video conferencing and Web video publishing, but watch out: Dan York discovered that it has a maximum time limit of 4 hours.

An interesting piece on the way WebRTC and XMPP are converging.

Twitter: buy our shares, we’re losing money

Twitter has filed the S-1 form for its IPO, which tells us that it’s a lossmaker ($79m in 2012 on revenues of $317m) and that the great bulk of its revenue is earned in the US, while 77 per cent of its 218 million monthly-active users are outside the US.

AllThingsD reckons that they could take “a billion dollars of revenue from YouTube” if they only started hosting online video - a remark which seems to take very little account of the fact they’d have to build a video-serving infrastructure the size of YouTube’s to do so, without being able to piggyback on Google.

That said, a tweet at the right moment can be genuinely valuable. Back in August, US investor Carl Ichan tweeted that he was going long Apple shares and within the hour Apple’s market capitalisation increased by $17bn.

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