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Comcast/TWC, Free/Bouygues, Google Lobby: Telco 2.0 News Review

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Heartbleed: OpenSSL has a really, really bad day at the office

The Heartbleed bug, discussed in detail at Hacker News, makes it possible for an unauthenticated attacker to extract arbitrary chunks of memory from any Web server running the most recent versions of OpenSSL, the most common implementation of HTTPS, without even causing anything to be recorded in the system log. (XKCD explains it visually here.) The memory contents involved might include absolutely anything, including passwords, private keys, and SSL certificates. Affected sites need to patch the software, revoke and replace their SSL certificates, regenerate keys, and probably also make the users change their passwords.

Netcraft has observed a spike in both certificate issue and revocation, but points out that the real surge has yet to arrive, possibly because the certification authorities are overwhelmed by the demand.


The good news is that a project to scan the top 1 million domains shows that the number of vulnerable sites has halved so far, although this only helps with the prevention of new attacks, rather than the exploitation of data already leaked. Inevitably it was alleged that the NSA knew of the bug for at least two years, and just as inevitably, denied.

One of the most heavily affected companies was Akamai, and they responded by offering a patch to OpenSSL that protects sensitive information from memory allocation bugs in general. Both Cisco and Juniper posted urgent patches for routers and other devices that are vulnerable.

And as if that wasn’t worrying enough, a nasty worm is attacking some Linksys home routers.

Comcast x TWC x regulators; 500Mbps cable is here; broadcasters vs. regulators; why Android TV?

Here’s a convincing argument that the relevant market for the Comcast-TWC deal is the subset of homes passed by AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and TWC with broadband speeds high enough for multi-channel TV. On this basis, the deal would increase the concentration ratios high enough to trigger the Department of Justice’s antitrust procedures.

Consumerist takes a forensic look at the low-cost Internet Essentials product Comcast introduced as a condition of the NBC merger. Not enough people are getting it, and the product itself could be much better. We would add that Comcast’s lower-end double- and triple-play bundles are also pricey, while the top-dollar ones are a much better deal.

It can’t be long now before US cablecos’ next speed jump arrives. In Europe it’s already here, helped by the wider EuroDOCSIS channels. UPC in Poland is trialling 500Mbps service.

This whole story is playing out at the intersection of the Internet, traditional telecoms, and TV. Interestingly, the broadcasters are pushing back, taking an interest in spectrum policy. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has been trying to allay their concern - essentially that the FCC is taking their spectrum so wireless broadband providers can carry OTT video content - while easing them towards changing their business model to suit the digital era.

Speaking of wireless, the 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog has a rather good presentation from EE on their plans for LTE Broadcast.

Level(3) has a new video cloud service for content producers.

And TelecomTV wonders why, after the failure of Google TV and the (relative) success of Chromecast, Google is doing an Android TV product.

Bouygues: we’re Free’s for €8bn; US Cellular adds 1200 LTE sites, joins price war; Softbank in Europe?

The disruption of the French mobile market continues. After Altice bought SFR, Bouygues is now considering selling up…to Free. That would include the customer base, the network, and the spectrum. Bouygues wants €8bn for it, while Free is offering €5bn - clearly they could meet in the middle. In the meantime, Free is acquiring Monaco Telecom.

Another exit, in the US: tiny Cincinnati Bell is giving up on mobile and selling its spectrum to Verizon Wireless. A pity: they stood out in the Telco 2.0 Index for their superb customer satisfaction ratings and ARPU.

Another, very different, US regional carrier, US Cellular, is expanding its network significantly. An interesting detail is that they are leasing 700MHz spectrum from a group of financial investors, King Street Wireless, who are apparently among the top ten holders of spectrum in the US. They’re also plunging into the price war with both feet. T-Mobile further turned the screw by announcing that they will no longer charge a premium for tablets with cellular connectivity.

If Softbank doesn’t get its way in the US, we might see the Samurai Son in Europe, interested in datacentres or perhaps just a bid for Vodafone, using the proceeds of the Alibaba.com IPO plus a lot of Japanese bank financing.

Vodafone has bought out its local partner in India, giving it full control of the opco. This cost $1.5bn, bringing Vodafone’s investment in India to $4.7bn this year and giving the partner a 50% return in a little more than a year.

Bharti Airtel and MTN, meanwhile, have agreed to mobile money interoperability between Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

Sawaris in for Telecom Italia, again? “Margin squeeze test” for Openreach

Naguib Sawaris is interested in buying up to $2bn worth of Telecom Italia if and when Telefonica’s stake becomes available.

OFCOM may be about to conduct a “margin squeeze test” on the UK wholesale FTTC market, targeting a price reduction of as much as £2/mo.

Unexpectedly, BT’s subsidised roll-out in Cornwall seems to contain quite a lot of FTTH.

Samsung Q1 guidance, Galaxy S5; Amazon phone; ZTE learns to say no

Samsung expects operating profits of about $8bn in Q1, down a little on the year ago, as growth in smartphone volumes slows. The big question, of course, is how well the Galaxy S5 will do when it goes generally available in Q2. Samsung has priced it around 10 per cent lower than the S4 and dialled its enormous marketing spend down a bit to look after margins.

In Korea, where the gadgets will land first, SK Telecom and KT are theoretically banned from signing up new customers for a couple of weeks as a regulatory measure, leaving LG U+ as the only carrier with the new phone. The Wall Street Journal’s reporters find that in fact, all three operators are openly offering them - the ban doesn’t cover lost or stolen devices, so there is an obvious loophole, which SKT sales staff were only too keen to explain.

On the other hand it’s very hard to find an actual, physical, kickable S5. This may be because Samsung is trying to punish SKT for jumping the gun (see this post) or perhaps because they’re less willing to stuff the pipeline with inventory.

Ars Technica has a typically detailed review, which compares the heart-rate sensor to a real medical device and discovers that it is substantially in error as much as 50% of the time. They also think the software - well, the bits of it that aren’t stock Android - has got worse.

It is alleged that Samsung could have said that the Galaxy Tab wasn’t selling in North America.

Is an Amazon phone coming in June? John Chen denies BlackBerry might exit the devices business.

ZTE has doubled its profits, to a whole $68 million, and slightly reduced its revenue. To put it another way, the infrastructure price-leader is beginning to learn to say “no” rather than always discounting more.

EU data retention struck down in the courts; FTC vs WhatsBook; Google, the lobbyist

Here’s a surprise: a European court has ruled that the EU data retention directive, which requires telecoms operators to store metadata for at least six months, is illegal, after Irish and Austrian lower courts asked it for an opinion.

A Spanish appeals court has confirmed a ruling that file-sharing software is legal, and its developers are not liable for infringements committed by users.

The Federal Trade Commission has warned Facebook that promises regarding privacy made by itself and Whatsapp are still binding post-merger.

And here’s a fascinating story about Google’s emergence as a formidable lobbying force, including a fine chart of their spending on lobbying. Google now spends more on lobbying than Verizon.


US online ads: bigger than TV; open-source recommendation engine; Facebook pushes messaging into its own app

US advertisers have spent more on online ads than on TV for the first time ever, $42.8bn vs $40.2bn in 2013. Of that, $18.4bn was search-based ads (i.e. Google) and $7bn was mobile.

Mortar is an open-source recommendations engine, and a cloud service to back it up. This may be a key moment in digital commerce, as big recommendations are a crucial tool for players like Amazon and Netflix.

Jeff Bezos has apparently told Amazon to “go faster” on payments. It is as yet unknown in what direction they’re meant to go faster, but when Jeff says go faster…you go. Facebook is also having another go.

Google’s effort to predict flu outbreaks, perhaps the founding, iconic example of Big Data, doesn’t actually work.

Facebook is trying to strip the instant messaging functions out of its Web site and make users download the app.

British wholesale VoIP provider Simwood has a new and feature-rich mobile platform.

The USA’s National Geospatial Intelligence Agency is on Github, releasing code.

It’s becoming so easy to raise VC funding in Silicon Valley that startups are doing additional VC rounds just because the money is there.

The benefits and problems of micro-service architectures.

And an app that uses OpenStreetMap to tell you which Parisian café terrace will be in the sun.

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