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“Massive price war”; NumeriSFR; “building greatness”: Telco 2.0 News Review

Son threatens “massive price war”; T-CFO says consolidation inevitable, walks it back; AT&Leap closes, at last

Masayoshi Son has relaunched his campaign to acquire T-Mobile USA, making an appearance on TV in which he threatened, or promised depending on your point of view, to launch a “massive price war” if he got his way. The big issue is that T-Mobile has done a pretty decent job of price competition by itself, and the FCC might not see it that way.

T-Mobile USA’s CFO, meanwhile, seemed to say that a merger was inevitable, although a closer reading of his comments suggests that he means further consolidation is inevitable if the regulator didn’t change its spectrum policy:

“The government can’t have their cake and eat it too. If they think there really needs to be four players in this market on a nationwide basis, they are going to have to put some structural protections to ensure an adequate distribution of spectrum,” he said.

CEO John Legere, meanwhile, picked a fight with Sprint on twitter. Sprint, for its part, announced some new PAYG offers that represent a further price cut.

AT&T’s acquisition of Leap Wireless has finally closed. As a result, AT&T will be moving subscribers from its Cricket brand over to their LTE network and shutting down Leap’s CDMA2000, while also folding their own Aio Wireless low-cost brand into Cricket. They will also be taking over a substantial quantity of spectrum, covering 41 million people, that is apparently hardly used. It includes both PCS (i.e. 1900MHz) and AWS (i.e 1700MHz and 2.1GHz) bands.

A campaign is starting to make the 10GHz band available for broadband, specifically WLAN. Australian company Transit Wireless, which grew out of Brisbane’s suburban rail network, is installing both public and private WLAN in the New York subway. Help a fallen tower climber.

French revolution: Numericable wins auction for SFR; open SIM is coming; the practicals of being your own MNO

The shakeup of the French mobile market shook out this week. Vivendi accepted Altice, parent of cableco Numericable, and its offer for SFR, after industry minister Arnaud Montebourg bounced everyone by announcing the deal himself, before it had actually been agreed. Montebourg was keen on this option, and he presumably wanted to force the negotiators’ hands. Altice pays €11.45bn in cash and 32% of the combined company’s shares.

As a result, SFR gets a DOCSIS network as its broadband option, Altice gets a major mobile operator, and Bouygues is left without a credible fixed network and looking underscale in mobile next to the twin giants SFR and Orange, and looking slow and pricey next to the disruptor, Free.

Xavier Niel gave a rare interview in which he claims that the deal is a disaster because, he argues, SFR will no longer invest in fibre or take part in his proposed joint fibre deployment and the combined company will be hugely in debt (most of the €11bn is bank-financed).

He is also suspicious of the combination of the cable operator with the SFR-Bouygues network-sharing pact, and points out that the spectrum position has become even more concentrated now that the parallel Free-Bouygues deal isn’t happening. Like the AT&T/Leap story, and the EE experience, it looks like the old PCS 1800/1900MHz bands are getting unusually important because they provide for both 2G and 4G.

French MVNOs, meanwhile, were keen on an SFR-Bouygues deal, not least because of their disappointment in Xavier Niel.

Meanwhile, the Dutch regulator has given the go-ahead to Telco 2.0 ally Rudolf van der Berg’s radical plan to let major mobile customers acquire their own Mobile Network Code (MNC) and issue SIMs that would roam nationally and be provisioned dynamically. This is especially useful for M2M applications, as it gets rid of the problems of having to truck-roll hundreds of thousands of devices if you want to change provider and of what happens if a device is out of network coverage on one operator but not another, without having to get foreign SIMs and pay roaming rates.

Here’s Rudolf’s OECD presentation on the plan.

RevK blogs through some of the steps you currently have to go to if you want to be your own mobile operator.

Vodafone buys ONO, sees “signs” of upturn in Spain; spat over network quality; LTE roaming

Vodafone has sealed the deal to buy not-very-profitable Spanish cableco Ono for some €7.2bn. VF thinks it can find €2bn in one-off savings and €1bn of additional recurring revenue, over the first four years.

It may make more sense in the light of Vittorio Colao’s belief that there are “signs” that Spanish consumer confidence is returning.

In the UK, RootMetrics thinks VF has the worst network quality of any operator except 3UK. Vodafone UK is not happy, and argues that there is something wrong with the methodology (they don’t say what); EE, meanwhile, who came first, is very happy and thinks it’s fine.

EE has also signed LTE roaming agreements this week, with Orange in France and Spain.

And EU regulators are tackling the scourge of incompatible chargers, at long last.

Indonesia “building greatness” with FTTH; Mexican regulators make a start; amazing mess in Uzbekistan

Telkom Indonesia’s infrastructure arm has announced that 2014 is the year it will build greatness. Greatness here is apparently defined as a big FTTH deployment. It’s a really big one - 20 million homes passed, with a target of 7 million by the end of 2015 - and the speed targets are ambitious, 10Gbps down and 2.5Gbps uplink. Alcatel-Lucent’s XGPON technology is tapped.

Whether this will work is an open question. We deal with the problems of the Internet for economic development in a new Executive Briefing on lessons from Brazil, Mexico, and Iran, here. Whether it is a serious plan is another question…

Mexico’s new telecoms regulator has taken its first steps against the country’s telecoms duopoly. America Movil and Televisa will have to permit competitors to rent their infrastructure, including DTT towers, and telephony prices will come under regulation.

There’s an incredible mess in Uzbekistan, where Russian operator MTS has been shut down, having its spectrum licence withdrawn. The story defies summary, but here’s a quote:

. In February last year, MTS announced that its Uzbek operation Uzdunrobita had filed a petition to declare bankruptcy in the Tashkent Commercial Court as criminal charges were brought against four of its employees in relation to tax evasion charges. Then in June, the operator announced that it had become aware of an auction planned for July 1st 2013 of assets owned by Uzdunrobita.

“In the Company’s opinion, the claims of Uzbekistan authorities that resulted in the initiation of bankruptcy proceedings and the forthcoming auction sale of Uzdunrobita assets have no legal and factual basis,” the operator said at the time.

In 2012 MTS had already accused the Uzbek government authorities of “blatant harassment” with the “thinly-veiled purpose of destroying the business and expropriating its assets” since June 2012.

At the same time, TeliaSonera, which owns one of the other Uzbek operators, is facing a US Department of Justice investigation into how it came by an Uzbek 3G licence in the first place. This will go nicely with the Swedish police inquiry they’ve already got. It is alleged that they overpaid hugely for the licence, with the spare money going to the president’s daughter as a bribe. The daughter also used to own Uzdunrobita before it was sold to MTS and then shut down.

That leaves one operator, also a Russian company, Vimpelcom, whose revenues were up 5% year-on-year; they say it’s because the crisis in Uzbekistan has left them with an effective monopoly.

UK leads Europe in “superfast”, for slow values of fast; Gigaclear shows how it’s done; “Digital Britain” without “broadband”?

OFCOM claims that the UK “leads the EU5” for the availability of “superfast broadband”. Broken Telephone provides a critical review of this claim here - we like the detail that the average DSL line length is a secret, although Analysys Mason estimates it at a suspiciously precise 1.704km. If they’re right, at least half the DSL subscriber base can’t possibly be getting more than 15Mbps. Also, in comments, someone points out that BDUK has started to talk about “up to 24Mbps”, which is of course just good old ADSL2+.

It also looks like BT has managed to bill the government for the whole of its FTTC upgrade. Customers are struggling to escape the wreck of South Yorkshire Digital Region.

Meanwhile, independent FTTH deployer Gigaclear fibres-up a rural business park with 100Mbps symmetric or 1Gbps if you pay extra.

ES Technology, a manufacturer of bespoke laser equipment, is another company based at the park benefiting from the network. The firm’s operations director, Tim Millard comments, “Thanks to Gigaclear, we’re operating much more efficiently as a business. For example, we’re now able to download CAD drawings from our suppliers instantaneously. Previously complex drawings could have taken up to 30 minutes to download which left our designers killing time while they waited to access the files. Our parent company, based in Northamptonshire, is so impressed with how quickly we can transfer information, it is pushing for fibre optic at their own premises.”

And Virgin Media threw a sale; you still have 36 hours to buy.

The Labour Party has announced a new Digital Britain 2015 policy, or rather, the project to draw one up. The terms of reference don’t mention broadband.

AT&T SDN; open optical networking; 8 years of AWS S3; YateBTS 2.0

AT&T’s SVP of technology and network operations, John Donovan, is very bullish about software-defined networking. After they announced deals with Metaswitch and Tail-F at MWC, he said:

“Our strategy is more than just a network design change,” Donovan said, according to TechTarget. “It’s a change in how we do business with suppliers [and] with how we manage platforms, systems and software. It changes our people. We have to take advantage of cultural change at our company. … There is no army that can hold back an economic principle whose time has come.”

The project may affect as much as half AT&T’s CAPEX budget. Meanwhile, open this, open that, now it’s open optical networking: here’s one effort, concentrating on WDM technology and here’s another.

It’s been eight years since Amazon Web Services launched S3, the Simple Storage Service, and probably the first cloud product. The blog post is good, and so is this talk from Airbnb about their use of the AWS cloud:

See also, this High Scalability post on building a music recommendations engine in AWS.

Matt Asay asks just how cheap public cloud might get. He notes that some providers are trying to rework their tiers of service in order to get higher effective pricing - it sounds quite familiar from telco bundling.

David Burgess blogs that YateBTS 2.0 is ready, adding authentication, USSD, and a web-based configuration interface. Instructions are over here. Light Reading discusses unlicensed spectrum LTE, a MWC minor theme.

HTML5Rocks.com has a good tutorial on how to avoid ending up on WTFMobileWeb. Tropo discusses a hackathon project to build a complex multiplayer game using their WebRTC support. XirSys provides basic, stateless, cloud-based relay servers for WebRTC apps.

A great discussion of carrier-grade NAT and why you shouldn’t do it at APRICOT. And here’s a really impressive laptop, for which you pay through the nose.

Can Facebook up online advertising rates? Google costs; Alibaba.com IPO?; the end of malls

A new Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing on Mobile Marketing and Commerce: the technology battle between NFC, BLE, SIM, & Cloud is out now, dealing with the issues in this section. You will also be interested in the Digital Commerce 2.0 Strategy Report.

An interesting point: the Motley Fool reckons that the big difference between Facebook and Google is that Facebook has some pricing power in advertising while Google is committed to volume. We are sceptical of the explanation offered - it was the brand-building Pages business that a lot of Facebook advertisers dumped, after all - but the point is a good one. Facebook is rolling out new advertising products and Google isn’t so much.

Horace notes that Google has grown since 2005 at the same rate as the Internet user base outside China. This has been a good business. However, as this chart shows, the costs of doing it seem to be rising:


Meanwhile, Google has started offering a $15/seat referral bonus for anyone who brings in new customers for Google Apps for Business, up to a maximum of 100.

Google is also reviewing the controversial decision to stop letting websites see referring Google searches in their logs.

An interesting point: Google tries to pick algorithms that improve with more data where possible.

Alibaba.com, the enormous Chinese B2B marketplace, may be standing by to IPO in the US.

Are shopping malls dead? If so, it means bad things for a lot of projects built on small cells, footfall tracking, digital signage, and the like.

Americans ready to hand over the DNS keys; more Snowden; DNS queries routed to Venezuela

Surprise! NTIA says the US is willing to hand over control of the DNS root, the last remaining institutional link with the Internet’s US military-academic past. ICANN president Fadi Chehadé says that:

“The US will not hand their role to a government, a group of governments, or an inter government group… they are not saying that they’d exclude governments—governments are welcome, all governments are welcome as equal partners with all the other members of our community.”

That seems to rule out ITU taking over, but it leaves all other questions very much open. The Americans deny it has anything to do with Snowden revelations, but won’t say what motivated this sudden move. A good discussion is here.

An experiment at Stanford University with 546 volunteers’ phone bills demonstrates clearly why metadata is such a sensitive surveillance tool.

More Snowden disclosures. The developers of Replicant, a free-software clone of Android, discover an apparent backdoor in some Samsung Galaxy devices.

Nokia opens a Mobile Broadband Security Centre in Berlin.

Bizarre: some Google Public DNS users in the UK found that their queries were being diverted to a BT Latin America netblock in Venezuela.

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