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Carrier Roundup; Apple; Content, Devices, and China: Telco 2.0 News Review

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Telco results roundup: Etisalat, Orange, MTN, China Mobile, China Telecom, Bharti Infratel, AT&T Mobility, America Movil

We start off today’s news with a wedge of telco results. Etisalat’s net profits for Q3 were down 18 per cent at $498m, with capital spending up 39% year on year. Orange’s EBITDA for Q3 was down 7.7% (they don’t give a quarterly net income) after revenue fell 4%. Interestingly, Orange managed to add almost 300,000 subscribers in France but their revenues there still fell almost five per cent - the Free disruption continues. Price pressure is a theme everywhere - Orange’s enterprise and wholesale business saw its revenues drop 7.2% although they didn’t lose customers, implying they had to slash prices to get contracts renewed.

At MTN, they were able to increase data revenues by 34% and mobile money subscribers by 10%, while overall subscribers were up 1% quarter on quarter at 203 million. There’s a distinct difference between its developing markets and its middle-income ones, which start to look much like Europe or North America, with pressure on prices and voice-data transition. MTN Irancell is losing subscribers, and South Africa is described as “challenging”, while operations like Ghana and Cameroon are both adding subscribers and deepening the market with data and mobile money services.

Subscribers in China were up 0.9% in September, according to the latest MII stats. China Mobile remains by far the biggest operator, as well as being the biggest 3G operator and the fastest growing 3G operator.

China Telecom’s net profits for the first 9 months were up quite impressively, while Bharti Infratel said its net profits were up 12% in its Q2 because it managed to get more carriers’ equipment onto its towers. Indian media, meanwhile, claim Vodafone has set a range of 40-60 billion rupees of CAPEX, about $650m-$1bn, annually.

AT&T Mobility, meanwhile, had a more than decent quarter, adding both revenue and subscribers. T-Mobile USA announced tablet pricing. RCR Wireless reckons that AT&T and Verizon aren’t doing so well with price-sensitive customers and that the explanation of both AT&T and T-Mobile gaining subscribers is that they’re still leaking out of Sprint.

A slightly enigmatic story has private-equity fund KKR putting $100 million into something called “Associated Partners” that’s going to “build wireless infrastructure in rural areas”. Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, adds more features to its telco-OTT Verizon Messages product.

America Movil reports rather poor Q3 results - net profit is off 46% year on year, although a lot of this is down to foreign exchange movements and financing costs, to say nothing of chasing KPN around Europe. Perhaps more worrying is service revenue, which fell 0.9% during the quarter.

Deutsche Telekom, meanwhile, says it wants to be a software-defined operator. And Numericable’s IPO is go for launch, at about €650m for between 20 and 40% of the company.

Apple Q4 coming, the 1TB SSD laptop is with us, Microsoft sells masses of cloud and terrible power consumption

Apple’s Q4 is going to land this evening, and AllThingsD discusses what we can expect. ZDNet provides some detail on the latest lot of MacBook Pro computers, which you can get with a 1TB solid-state disk! and 16GB of RAM. Ars Technica does a review, although not with that much SSD.

TelecomTV notes that the new version of OS X is free, and wonders if and when a telecoms operator will try to be “the Apple of connectivity”.

Qualcomm’s CMO described Apple’s move to 64 bit in the A7 as a “gimmick”, and got reassigned for his pains.

Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror, long-time Microsoft developer and advocate, compares the battery life of his Microsoft Surface Pro with other tablets. It’s not good. He points out that a Surface Pro is a “proper” Intel x86 machine, not a mobile phone, and should be compared with laptop hardware. He compares it with laptop hardware, specifically, Apple hardware…and it’s worse. Much worse. Worst of all, he finds someone running Windows 8 on a MacBook Air and discovers that the inverse-hackintosh’s battery life is about half what it is running OS X, but that’s still better than the Surface Pro. Stop it, you’re making the polar bears cry.

Despite that, Microsoft’s Q1 was excellent, with earnings per share beating exceptions by a substantial margin. As you might expect from a company whose biggest product is called Office, it’s the licensing of enterprise (“commercial” in their terms) software and the cloud services to run it that are providing the growth.

Chinese ODM seeks content-device integration like Amazon’s, might be more like smart TV

Here’s an interesting look into Xiaomi, pretty much the ideal type of a Chinese Android ODM and a company that’s been pushing out a lot of smartphones in the last two years. They’ve gone from zero to 6% of the Chinese market, more than HTC or Lenovo, at least if you’re willing to buy market share information based on ad-serving. But the mention of HTC should tell us something here - even quite impressive Android builders can get disrupted fast unless they have some other hook on the business, like Samsung’s command of components or Amazon’s deeply customised, content-focused version.


Flurry reckons that Xiaomi users spend a lot of their time on “media & entertainment” apps, which might reflect a strategy of being the device people use to get at content. Xiaomi has a locked-down app store, so this may make sense even if calling them “the Apple and Netflix of China” is epic hyperbole. It might be more useful to consider whether they are the YouTube of China - frantically building scale while seeking a business model. Lenovo, for its part, is investing in an online-TV startup via its in-house VC fund.

The problem with “content-focused devices” is that they might be too much like smart TV. Wired has an on-point critique of the smart-TV concept from Gary Myer, DirecTV founder and Sony exec. We especially like this having spent part of the weekend wrestling with one.

Samsung is very keen on them, and in fact made the one we were struggling with. Why couldn’t the smart TV be as good as the Samsung mobile phone we were using to search for tips on how to fix it? Silly rabbit. Samsung didn’t make the phone’s operating system. Similarly, they customised Android heavily for the Galaxy Gear wearable device, which is getting returned to Best Buy at a rate of 30% of sales.

Their shares, however, surged on the expectation of strong memory chip sales.

Another kind of device-integrated content might be the sort of enterprise data you find in a SAP system, or perhaps BlackBerry’s unique messaging system. SAP, however, has denied any interest in acquiring BlackBerry, and although 10 million people have downloaded the new BBM client for iOS and Android devices, there’s a queue to get activated.

Netflix’s CDN - meet “Chaos Kong”; Amazon results; Terremark outage; Google Boat

Here’s a long and detailed readout of a talk by Netflix’s Jeremy Edberg on how their CDN and cloud systems work. After the Chaos Monkey, the app that randomly kills machines in order to test their failover at the data-centre level, and the Chaos Gorilla, which does the same with Amazon Availability Zones, they now have Chaos Kong, which does the same but with continents.

Amazon, for its part, has huge sales but not much margin. The company reported a net loss of 9 cents a share for Q3, blaming it on the daily-deals site LivingSocial. Daily deals sites: remember them? Revenue, though, was better than expected, and another way of looking at them is as a company that rolls profits from its mature businesses into expansion and new products.

They also decided to up the minimum order that gets free shipping, whether to save on shipping or to encourage customers to spend or to encourage them to sign up for Amazon Prime.

AWS, meanwhile, is being talked up as perhaps having its first $1bn quarter in Q4. Meanwhile, did you know Jeff Bezos considered calling the company relentless.com, and the domain name still points to amazon.com?

It’s probably fair to say that if your business is providing rock-solid managed hosting and private cloud services to enterprises, you don’t want to be behind an outage that affects healthcare.gov - which is just what happened to Verizon Terremark this week.

Rackspace has hired the team behind ZeroVM, an ultra-lightweight, fast-starting hypervisor that provides an isolated virtual machine for a single process, and could be integrated directly into storage nodes.

Mirantis, a little-known company but one that contributes large amounts of code to OpenStack, is very sceptical about PaaS.

IBM is licensing ARM chips for its networking products, very good news for ARM, which has been looking for more data centre exposure for years. LINX is helping create a Scottish IX.

And is Google building a data centre on a barge in the middle of San Francisco Bay? The answer seems to be “quite possibly” although the question should probably be “why?”

T-Mobile UK sells data at half the price T-Mobile USA does; “superfast” “broadband” reaches “75%” of UK; Ericsson Q3

Really fast broadband is available in US cities, but it costs much more than it does elsewhere. And the cheapest way of buying 2GB of mobile data connectivity in the US is twice the price it is in London - which is interesting, as both offers are from T-Mobile.

OFCOM reckons that the UK is at “around 75% coverage by premises” for “super-fast broadband”, which is defined as 30Mbps downlink. Well, 73%. And the figure of 30Mbps is fairly obviously set to be just about what BT could already achieve on good copper, on short lines, give or take a bit of “up to” licence.

Ericsson announced a reasonable quarter, with sales up 3% year on year but revenue cut about 3% by exchange rate effects.

Alcatel’s employees are marching against the planned 10,000 job cuts.

In Dublin, a hosting provider, HiBB, is now offering genuinely superfast (up to 3Gbps) point-to-point links using EHF line of sight wireless, no doubt at a price. Two early customers are Sharp Security, and Vodafone’s backhaul network.

EU: any more complaints? Telekom Austria owns all the spectrum; Feld vs. AT&T

The European Commission is asking around the various parties to its anti-trust case with Google, notably the so-called “FairSearch alliance”, to find out whether they’re happy with the latest offer from Google.

Austria’s regulator is getting a hard time after a spectrum auction finished with Telekom Austria holding 54% of all the spectrum below 1GHz, including two-thirds of the 800MHz band. TA left the building with 140MHz of new paired spectrum, while 3 Austria got 25MHz and T-Mobile 45. This is especially telling given that the regulator forced 3 to sell spectrum as a condition of being allowed to merge with Orange.

Harold Feld, fresh from his win over Verizon in the Battle of Fire Island, is after AT&T, setting out five principles of US telecoms law that must be defended in the transition to an all-IP network. AT&T, back in 2011, argued to the FCC that “conventional public utility-style regulation” must go when the PSTN goes. Feld’s complete testimony is here.

OFCOM wants subscribers to be able to exit their contract with 30 days’ notice if operators put up their prices.

Snowden to Europe: NSA downloaded ALL THE CDRs. Also, if they give you an encrypted mobile, use it

Revelations from Edward Snowden are getting to be as regular as the seasons. It emerges that the NSA collected 60 million phone calls - presumably, call-detail records - in Spain in one month, December 2012. The US ambassador is summoned. That’s about the same number we learned last week that they collected in a month in France, interestingly.

Between those two revelations, we also learned that they tapped German prime minister Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. German security specialists concluded that the intercept was an over-the-air one, from something (probably an IMSI catcher) based in the US Embassy. Details here (in German) show that it was her unencrypted, personal phone, albeit one paid for by her political party, on Vodafone.de’s network. Apparently, it’s difficult to get politicians to use the secure ones because they’re a bit lame compared to the civilian ones.

Fortunately, there’s an app for that. A thought: perhaps there would be more outrage about this in the UK if it wasn’t for the fact the newspapers already did much the same thing to most of the government.

Meanwhile, OFCOM is trying to collaborate with other agencies, like the FCC and CRTC, to fix international caller ID and get rid of spoofed calls.

Mozilla Lightbeam is a browser extension that tries to log which websites are spying on you.

Valley news: a succession of really bad ideas

LinkedIn is very proud of how it’s managed to embed LinkedIn profiles into your e-mail, and even more so of how it got around Apple iOS security restrictions to do so. This does mean sending them all your e-mail, and letting them embed an iFrame web bug into each message so they can tell if you’ve read it.

In other Silicon Valley news, Facebook was planning a new video advert product that would autoplay as soon as the ad was delivered. The notion of “ads of absolutely unknown content that randomly start yelling” does not sound immediately appealing, and quite rightly they’ve put off the launch to think again.

Google, meanwhile, did an experiment, placing a truly hunormous banner advert just under the search bar if it noticed you might be searching for a brand name.

They may be looking at a subscription version of YouTube.

Twitter’s updated S-1 is available.

Salesforce.com is staking its hackathon with a million dollar reward for the winning app.

The experiences of a professional video pirate.

And Qualcomm is working on a “NPU” or neural processing unit, a chip that would work more like your brain than a von Neumann-architecture computer.

M2M enablers; Korean night buses and big data; Telco OTT, but using Twilio’s API

ABI forecasts 32% annual growth in M2M “applications-enablement” technology and analytics.

Here’s an example of telco big data in action, from the 3G & 4G Wireless Blog. KT Corp subscriber data is used to decide where Seoul’s night buses stop.


Here’s a nice piece of Telco OTT, Sprint’s DriveFirst app, which catches incoming SMS and calls while you’re driving and reminds the other party to call back later. Telling, though, that Sprint’s own developers used Twilio.

Twilio, meanwhile, explains how you might go about sending cat pictures over a phone call using SSB TV. Yes, really.

Finally, on a very different tone, more tower climbers have been killed in the US this year than any other since 2008.

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