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Focus on voice and digital commerce: Telco 2.0 News Review

Focus on voice & messaging: BBM gets aboard emerging market Androids, Whatsapp on Asha 501, South Korean spooks blast voters with 24 million tweets

BlackBerry Messenger is going to ship with emerging-market Android devices from OEMs Be, Brightstar, Celkon, Evercoss, Imo, Micromax, Mito, Snexian, Spice, Tecno, TiPhone and Zen. The version of the client app they get is slightly cut down, but still offers a lot of features, including voice notes and file/photo/calendar sharing with groups of up to 30 users. As AllThingsD points out, this is a play for the emerging markets’ future messaging and possibly also voice needs.

A new feature that rolled out to mature markets last week, BBM Channels, suggests that they’re also interested in a richer social media experience based on a publish-subscribe model, closer to blogging than tweeting. The big question is surely whether it’s a clone of Twitter, a vehicle for adverts, or a productivity tool.

Meanwhile, three more executives (the CMO, COO, and CFO) have been replaced and a non-executive director has resigned. New CEO John Chen has picked an internal candidate, the VP of financial controls, for CFO, but the other two jobs are open.

Nokia, meanwhile, is also getting interested in voice and messaging for the emerging markets - the recent software update for the Asha 501 adds a WhatsApp client and a new API for voice-over-IP apps. Emerging market carriers might face disruption sooner than they think.

Elsewhere, as we make clear in the new Voice and Messaging strategy report, The Future Value of Voice & Messaging, just being a VoIP provider doesn’t exempt you from the huge changes afoot in voice. Telefonica Digital is shutting down Jajah, the first-wave VoIP startup it acquired.

Optus is testing VoLTE and deploying HD voice. China Mobile and Huawei demonstrate interworking between a TDD and an FDD VoLTE network, for a video call too.

Du greeted the beginning of UAE number portability with an ad campaign encouraging the public to text them to find out more, and Etisalat decided to block the number. The regulator is not happy.

Twitter’s user base is young, and even younger if you look at mobile users. There’s also a “Facebook bulge” in the 25-34 bracket, presumably the original user base.


Speaking of Twitter, here’s a story about the power of messaging. An investigation in South Korea has revealed that the National Intelligence Service and the Defence Ministry’s Cyberwarfare Command sent out some 24.2 million tweets in order to help the president win the last elections.

Here’s a voice transcription and recording startup, Voxsmart, which essentially bugs the mobile phone it’s installed on and logs all communication as well as recording calls. Fortunately, it’s marketed at financial traders. There’s a bonus comparison of different transcription solutions.

iBat Pro is an iOS app for managing your Asterisk servers.

Chris Kranky argues that there is no business case for WebRTC, in the same way as there wasn’t one for Verizon FiOS or indeed the iPhone. Sometimes you need to make a strategic decision to shape the future, rather than one based on observing the recent past.

Good ideas from the XMPP world are getting ported into WebRTC. This one allows service discovery information to be passed incrementally, rather than batched, and therefore permits faster session establishment. XMPP has had it since 2009.

Interested? Read the blog, then buy the new strategy report. You know it makes sense

Focus on digital commerce: surging traffic and site performance, M-PESA, Amazon Reindeer, less 4G showrooming than you think

Akamai reports that Internet traffic to retail sites hit a historic peak on Thanksgiving evening. Traffic from tablets was especially heavy. Some interesting data points arise - when page load times went over 6 seconds, the abandonment rate rocketed from 12% to over 20%. Also, if you want snappy performance, you need to rethink all the AJAX gadgetry, share buttons, third-party recommendations, and the like - on average, the slowest 10 websites called 60 distinct hosts during load, while the fastest 10 called 12.


Akamai also acquired security specialist Prolexic this week.

Meanwhile, ISIS has launched nationally and this Twitter user is not impressed:

ISIS launches nationwide. All 17 users rejoice in finally having a third-rate mobile wallet

What about the first-rate mobile wallet, then? Tigo, Millicom’s Tanzanian operator, reports that 42% of its subscribers, 2.6 million of them, are M-PESA users.

Amazon would like you to know it’s been playing with model aircraft:

This has drawn the kind of flyin’ killer robot geek excitement you might expect. We will just point out that if it has to make deliveries within 30 minutes of the order, it’s going to need both a very substantial radius of action and high speed if Amazon won’t need to build a lot of extra warehouses. Bezos says it’s designed to operate within 10 miles of a fulfilment centre. In fact, the only aero-engine technology that fits the bill is whatever drives Santa’s reindeer.

Interested? Read the Disrupting the Californian Giants briefing and then buy the Digital Commerce strategy report

Here’s some data about 4G users with Orange in the UK, Spain, and France. Games are a big draw - 30% of UK 4G users downloaded games - which suggests the Softbank Samurai might have a point. And about 12% of subscribers said they had “showroomed”, i.e. looking up prices on goods they were browsing in a shop. Is that a lot or a little? We think it’s a little.

AWS hammers IaaS competitors; Sibelius - Verizon Terremark, you’re fired!, like 6000 T-Systems staff; Hamilton - data centre power draw no higher than in 2005

Whatever Amazon’s up to with the model helicopters, up in the cloud AWS is flying victory rolls over the competition. In Q3, Synergy Research reckons, AWS sold $700m of IaaS and PaaS cloud computing, compared to $600m for Microsoft, IBM, Salesforce, and Google added together. The overall market is growing 46%, but AWS is doing 55% and therefore still adding share. Canalys, however, reckons that the prices are so low no-one’s making money.

Is this possibly the worst thing that could happen to a cloud provider? When the US federal government had to build a really big, complicated web site for health insurance registration, who else did they turn to for the managed hosting than Verizon’s Terremark division? After all, they promised carrier-grade, enterprise-class reliability. But, as we all know, the launch of Healthcare.gov was an epic turkey.

And now, Terremark has been sacked as the hosting provider for the highest-profile Web project in the United States, after being publicly blamed for the mess by Kathleen Sibelius, secretary of health. Ouch. The contract now goes to Hewlett-Packard, who will take over in the summer. Does that make hc.gov the biggest test for OpenStack ever, or will they use good old HP-UX?

DTAG, meanwhile, is cutting 6,000 jobs at its T-Systems cloud-and-IT operation.

AWS data centre guru James Hamilton criticised the industry last week for being too keen to put solar cells on the roof and call it “green”. This week, his blog looks at success in green computing. He points out that forecasts of energy consumption from data centres have repeatedly been terrifyingly high, but the industry has repeatedly surprised everyone with its performance in practice. Despite the enormous expansion of the sector, data centres use about as much power as they did in 2005, an inspiring engineering achievement.

Hamilton argues that it is unlikely that on-site generation will be efficient, and makes the point that data centres have succeeded in IT because of economies of scale, so why bet against scale in energy? He points to Facebook’s investment in wind farms as a better idea than either on-site solar or fuelcells.

Spotify valued at $4bn, not bad for a lossmaker; Comcast squirts ads into series binges; YouTube trolls defy Google; NSA watches jihadis watching porn

Spotify has closed a $250 million round of funding that values the company at $4bn, pretty neat for a company whose losses doubled last year directly in line with its user growth.

More and more people like to sit down and “binge watch” a whole TV series in a sitting, which annoys advertisers. In so far as they do it via physical box sets or YouTube, there’s not much can be done. But if they get the content from a cloud-based PVR or similar, Comcast has a solution that pulls the same ads that were broadcast with the program and reinjects them to the show as it streams. Which will be fun in 10 years’ time if they’re still available.

The Sony PlayStation 4 is here and so is the BBC iPlayer app for it.

YouTube is the daddy of video streaming sites. But its comments have long been the definition of idiotic web nonsense, so much so that the StupidFilter project wanted to use them as a corpus of stupidity in order to filter it out of other comments communities.

Google thought it had the answer: force YouTube users to sign up with a Google+ user name. Thanks to the controversial G+ real name policy, they hoped, this would hold the trolls responsible, and therefore stop the stupidity. Further, they introduced a recommendations process, in the hope that users who posted something useful would gain recommendations and be filtered to the top of the thread, while the trolls would be downvoted, ignored, and would eventually get bored and move on.

They reckoned without the creativity of the average troll, and especially the fact (obvious in hindsight) that the trolls would recommend each other. Because the trolls recommend each other, this encourages even more outrageous and disruptive behaviour. The latest example is obscene ASCII art.

Google developers, never shy of trying to code their way around human nature, are now trying to design a Bayesian filter to screen it out.

In other filtering news, having badgered UK ISPs towards a default-on porn filter, will the UK government want to add “extremist” websites to the list?

China Mobile 4G ready on the 18th; US military pull out of AWS-3 band; cablecos could give you 1Gbps, but won’t when telcos won’t give you 40Mbps

China Mobile names the day - 4G switch-on is planned for the 18th of December, under the brand name “He”. That will surely help LTE on its way to 1 billion connections, which the GSMA expects by 2017.

The US government has agreed among itself about cracking open more 1700MHz spectrum, the so-called AWS 3 band. FCC and NTIA had promised this to the mobile carriers, but the big problem was getting the Defense Department off the frequency. The 1755-1780 band will therefore be paired with 2155-2180 and auctioned as a 50MHz block.

Price competition is getting more and more intense in the US. Here we have a case in which T-Mobile’s CEO comes up on Twitter to argue over a customer with AT&T Mobility. Goldman Sachs apparently thinks the same thing about Australia, after VHA starts offering “double data” now their network works.

Mexico’s new regulator is looking at the idea of a publicly-owned wholesale LTE operator, using the power grid’s dark fibre assets and a 90MHz block of 700MHz spectrum.

Turkcell has revived its sensational lawsuit against MTN, in which it alleged that the South African operator helped Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for a GSM licence. It cannot be coincidence that they did this right after the US-Iran nuclear agreement. Also, Telkom says its trials of 100Mbps FTTH are going well and a commercial launch is coming in H1 2014.

Teliasonera’s inquiry into corruption during its adventures in the ex-Soviet Union continues, and four executives are sacked.

Vivendi is demerging SFR and it’s for real, but Telecom Italia denies that it’s selling TIM Brasil.

Niger’s regulator has cut off a third of the country’s phone numbers after their users refused to identify themselves.

Bengt Nordstrom reckons the days of the global MNO are numbered, and operators will sell off towers and concentrate on “agility”.

At the same time, Informitv reckons we can expect more consolidation among cable operators in order to bargain more strongly with Hollywood. But is content really the point for the cablecos any more? Arguably, their real competitive strength is raw bandwidth. Ars Technica points out that Comcast and their vendors demonstrated gigabit speeds on DOCSIS cable two and a half years ago, but you still can’t buy it. Why?

Because 20/100 is still easily enough to trump anything a typical copper or FTTC telco can offer, so there’s no reason to upgrade yet. Consider the good people of the Cotswolds, home to the British prime minister. BT doesn’t provide broadband there. The government scheme that was meant to fund community broadband initiatives like theirs is being wound up early, returning £10 million of European Union money to Brussels. The prime minister, though, has a leased line paid for by the government.

SE Asia goes 50% smartphone shipments; Firefox OS in 13 markets; Jolla launches; Cyanogen installer canned

New device shipments in South-East Asia are now over 50% smartphones, essentially Android (72% overall, over 90% in some markets). Indonesia has added 15 million smartphones this year to date.

Horace discusses the vast grey market in cheap Android tablets in the same part of the world. Is it a revolution, or is it more like the Video CD business in Asia, basically anomalous and likely to go away once something better takes over its niche?

LG denies that it’s pulling out of smartphones in favour of smart TVs.

Telenor has deployed Firefox OS in its central and eastern European markets, which brings the count of Firefox OS markets to 13.

Jolla phones have launched with DNA in Finland.

Cyanogenmod, the most popular alternative Android, recently invented an installer app to replace the rather painful process of pressing arrow keys arbitrary numbers of times and looking for hidden boot screens. Google has now killed it from the Play Store for fear that “users might invalidate their warranty”. If you do install it, you can switch on access-control notifications and watch Facebook try to look up the e-mail addresses in every message you send.

There’s a row going on about the winner of Salesforce’s $1m hackathon.

And is a company without APIs like a computer without the Internet?

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