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May 30, 2014

Combining Cloud, NFV, and SDN to create agile new services

This is a guest post by Paulo Campoli, CTO of Cisco’s EMEAR Service Provider Segment, who will be presenting at the OnFuture EMEA 2014 Brainstorm in London, June 11-12.

The industry is going through a huge business transformation. Enterprises want to focus their resources and investments on their core business rather than investing in non-core IT operations. They are looking at consuming network and IT services from the cloud, rather than investing in in-house operations. Consumers are raising their expectations, demanding to have a consistent application experience on any device at any place and at any time. And consumers expect the same experience at work, which drives overall consumerization of IT.

The market opportunity is huge and can be described as the ‘Internet of Everything’, as people, machines, and processes are communicating with each other at an exponentially increasing scale. This creates new opportunities for everyone.

As part of this, Service Providers can apply innovative technologies, like SDN, NFV and orchestration platforms, in their networks to overcome the current rigidity and complexity of today’s network infrastructure and operations. This opens new business opportunities.

Disaster Recovery as a Service is one example of a new enterprise cloud services opportunity. The opportunity is to provide a high-availability cloud service that can be launched quickly while minimizing the operational cost. This service also provides a much higher level of automation than traditional networks would allow, as these services need to execute network configurations for hundred of customers within minutes. Manual processes cannot scale up fast enough to make this new business profitable. Provisioning a new customer must be accelerated from typically 4 weeks down to 1 week. Automation of network connections and Cloud IaaS allow the operator to reserve network resources and connections with guaranteed service levels agreements, enabling a pay-as-you-use business offer to enterprises. The service has become popular with enterprise customers that need high availability and are attracted to the economics of dynamically adjusting storage, compute, and networking resources as business requirements change, paying only for what they need.

Location Based Analytics is another opportunity that is enabled by new programmatic interfaces that enable interactions between applications and the network. Shopping malls, hotels, and airports benefit from the efficiencies of leveraging small cells and WiFi networks for advanced interactive communications with their customers.

At airports, passengers benefit from WiFi networks and analytics which shorten the time they spend waiting in lines, and therefore gives them more time to enjoy airport facilities. RFID tracking helps ensure better use of airport assets, such as cleaning equipment, wheelchairs, and vehicles for assisting passengers with reduced mobility. By optimizing the supply chain, ‘Asset Tracking’ is expected to help speed up airplane turnaround times, another key ingredient of the customer experience. Increased visibility of assets will also save money by eliminating unnecessary orders for equipment that has been misplaced.

At shopping malls customer experience is shaped by intensifying expectations and new demands. Beyond retail, restaurant, and entertainment destinations, consumers now expect multi-channel experiences that fuse brick-and-mortar shopping with digital services, allowing consumers to buy however and whenever they want.

After developing platforms to merge existing Telco applications with over the top applications, Cisco sees the need to drive the innovation and agility further into the network, as new technologies such as Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) that allow programmability, automation and simplification of datacenter and networking platforms become ready for prime time.

Paolo Campoli (CTO of the SP Segment for Cisco EMEAR) will present at the OnFuture EMEA 2014 Brainstorm in London on June 11th , showing new tools that propel service providers in this business transformation, and how enterprises will benefit from these new network services.

Cisco believes that enabling fast mobile service creation and innovation combined with the capabilities to quickly deploy and test them in production networks is the way to develop applications and solutions rapidly - at ‘web speed’. We believe that applications that interwork with the network will perform better than those applications that run over the top and have to reverse engineer the underlying network behaviour.

For Service Providers, we see it as key to overcome network rigidity and complexity by leveraging new tools and technologies that make network service creation and deployment easy and fast. In addition it is imperative to leverage service portals like e-stores for Enterprise to easily understand, order and consume these new services in self service fashion. Our ideal is for networks to get the business flexibility and agility to present and adapt to new consumption models, new models like “pay as you go” based on actual consumption or providing hosted network services like security or web servers out of the cloud.

We hope you will join us for our presentation at the OnFuture EMEA 2014 Brainstorm and share your ideas in our discussions on this subject in London, and look forward to seeing you there.

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May 27, 2014

Vodafone Q1s, Cisco connected city, Comcast CDN, Lenovo PC surge: Telco 2.0 News Review

The 9th Annual ‘OnFuture EMEA’ Executive Brainstorm & Innovation Forum (formerly ‘New Digital Economics EMEA’) is designed to equip up to 200 specially-invited business leaders with new, breakthrough ideas, methods and tools on how to grow significant new revenues in the next 12-18 months leveraging Mobile, Cloud and Big Data. For the full agenda click here, to apply to participate click here.

Vodafone Q1 results are dreadful; is something up in the EU backhaul market? First markets handed over to NBN; KT, AT&T plans; mobile prices down 30% in France

Vodafone had Q1 results, and they are frankly disappointing. Revenues are down 2% year on year, and EBITDA 7%, and the company has to write off a further £6.6bn from the value of its southern European networks. But it’s not just the southern Europeans; Vodafone Germany has been doing poorly, especially if you look-through the effect of adding KDG’s cable assets. That £7bn of Project Spring spending can’t come soon enough.

As a result, if you ignore the VZW disposal, the company made a loss. The good news, such as it is, is that the price war in India is letting up, and both voice and data usage are growing strongly.

So what’s up with VF in Germany and the rest of its European key markets? One theory is that LTE roll-out has proved to be an opportunity for the incumbent empire to strike back, benefiting from its strength in metro fibre to add gigabit backhaul to more sites. Fascinated by the VZW story, perhaps Vodafone didn’t see this coming. Some support for this view comes from a study VF paid Analysys Mason to carry out, arguing that there is a capacity crunch in microwave backhaul and that the incumbent operators (ok, let’s be honest, they mean Deutsche Telekom) are deliberately restricting competitors’ access to the infrastructure.

OFCOM recently ruled that BT doesn’t need regulating in the gigabit metro market, although it owns essentially everything outside London that C&WW doesn’t. Will that change if and when BT lights up its 2.6GHz spectrum?

In the meantime, Vodafone’s low-key move into content bundling continues - as well as Spotify and Sky Sports, you can now have six months’ free Netflix when you sign up for a mobile broadband plan.

In Australia, where according to the results, Vodafone-Hutchison is still struggling to get over its outage years later, Telstra is about to hand over the first 15 areas where the NBN takes over from the PSTN, and the carrier is also getting back into the WiFi business under a partnership with Fon, which emphasises the fixed-mobile convergence element of the product.

Here’s an intelligent use of the UK government’s “superconnected” vouchers - aggregate them to pay for a city fibre network.

Free’s arrival in the French mobile market has driven down prices by 30%, according to ARCEP, while China Mobile is about to cut its 4G pricing by as much as 50%.

KT is investing $3.9bn in an effort to get gigabit speeds to all its customers, including the mobile ones. Multi-stream carrier aggregation between LTE and WiFi seems crucial, as they presented at MWC.

NTT DoCoMo says it’s finished proof-of-concept trials of virtualised EPC and will be offering a live service during 2016.

AT&T’s Bill Smith says they will be adding between 1500 and 3000 cell sites a year for the foreseeable, as small cells become more important.

EE claims it now has more 4G than 3G subscribers, and that it covers more than half of the 50 busiest roads in the UK in full. This is critical for connected-car applications, of course.

And RevK has picked a fight about Virgin Media calling their cable product “fibre optic”.

Connected car challenges; Neul gets its first roll-out; Cisco threatens brutal consolidation, turns Kansas City into lab; Nest Labs may have a business model

Cambridge Wireless recently held a SIG on automotive and transport applications. The 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog reports back, providing the slides from most (all?) of the presentations. This one, from Visteon, a company spun off from Ford that makes car electronics, is fascinating.

VisteonCarJourney.png

If all those handovers need “payment recovery”…well. You can see why open, settlement-free interconnection was so important to the emergence of the Internet; sometimes, economic optimality is just too expensive.

Interestingly, Strategy Analytics thinks that the answer is to put it all on LTE, which would be very nice for mobile operators.

Cambridge M2M startup Neul is deploying its low-power network around Milton Keynes in a partnership with BT to test out the technology at city scale.

Kansas City, meanwhile, is having Cisco unwire the whole place as a “living lab” for its smart city projects. That sounds…science-fictional, especially as their CEO, John Chambers, predicts that the Internet of Things will lead to “brutal consolidation” in the IT industry.

Brutal consolidation in a living lab? Rather you than me. UX expert Adam Greenfield notes that advocates of the “smart city” seem to know much more about the “smart” bit than the “city” bit, to the point of being dangerously naive. Stay for his anecdote about Cisco.

You might wonder how a geeky thermostat might possibly be worth $3.2bn to Google, and perhaps nod gravely and mutter about out-of-control Silicon Valley valuations. If this story from MIT Technology Review is typical, though, the Nest Labs deal might yet pay off. A group of 5 electricity companies have signed up to use the thermostats for demand response, shaving down the peak demand for power by turning off appliances in homes where people are out and about. Quote:

if demand response can expand to cover the 300 or 400 hours of peak usage, it could entirely shut down the market for “peakers,” or gas-fired plants that come online only to sell expensive electricity

That would be serious money. Apple, meanwhile, is rumoured to be planning a home automation platform. And BlackBerry is trying to swing off its QNX operating system, very popular in the embedded systems world, by starting a new M2M applications platform to work with the data they collect, Project ION. That said, before going overboard about the promise of all that data, it might be worth reading this talk by Pinboard founder Maciej Ceglowski on the dangers of overcollection and the threat of “investor storytime”.

Comcast CDN; why Google Fiber is happy to peer with Netflix; Apple pays for its CDN hosting; BEREC says yes to net neutrality

After all the arguing back and forward between Netflix, Verizon, and Comcast, the cable operator is trying to make a virtue of it all. Comcast is going to offer a CDN as an alternative to paid-peering, providing a “deeper” CDN deployment compared to the macro-CDN model that Netflix and Amazon both use.

Google Fiber, meanwhile, says it’s happy to peer with Netflix. Well, they would say that; doing anything else would set an awkward precedent with regard to YouTube. Also, they’ve accepted Netflix’s OpenConnect CDN deploying servers inside their network, so letting them peer is essentially a cost-free gesture towards net neutrality. Very political.

Apple is reported to be buildings its own CDN, and to be paying downstream ISPs to host the servers. Dan Rayburn describes this as paid interconnection, but it could also very well be described just as hosting.

Over in mobile, Verizon Wireless is doing more LTE Multicast video trials, this time at the Indy 500.

Mobile CDN and caching is a hot topic again. RCRWireless talks to the vendors, who are annoyed that Netflix streams are encrypted and therefore can’t be re-transcoded to lower quality.

In Europe, the regulators’ club, BEREC, has come out strongly for net neutrality, arguing for a “principles-based approach” and that any “specialised services” should be physically or virtually segregated from Internet traffic, so that they are genuinely additive rather than just reducing everyone else’s quality of service.

Vodacom is facing a regulatory complaint from Cell C, arguing that its distinction between on-net and off-net pricing is anti-competitive.

And OFCOM has published draft price controls for BT Openreach. Fibre access products still aren’t included.

More VoLTE: SingTel, Bouygues, T-Mobile; Kakao in $3bn deal

SingTel launches VoLTE. Bouygues launches VoLTE. T-Mobile USA already owned MetroPCS’s VoLTE network, but they also launched VoLTE in Seattle, getting in ahead of AT&T’s 23rd May deadline. Out of those, we know SingTel, AT&T, and T-Mobile have deployed HD voice. Verizon Wireless is promising a software update “later this year”.

KakaoTalk, one of those SMS-bashing apps, is merging with Daum, a South Korean web portal, adding another 30 million users and hitting the SMS user base again.

Simwood has added more inbound features to its API. Truphone is offering flat rate roaming to 66 countries and extra-large data plans, up to 500GB.

NSA’s “access provider” sucks up the whole A-interface; China wants rid of IBM servers, US consultants; Safaricom gets massive CCTV spectrum gimme

The NSA is recording audio of all mobile calls in the Bahamas and another unnamed country, according to a leak from Edward Snowden. Close reading of the documents shows that the spooks are tapping the A-interface directly, via an “access provider” that is described as follows:

“the overt purpose is for legitimate commercial service for the Telco’s themselves. Our covert mission is the provision of SIGINT”

Interestingly, the tap is described as being “under LI”, i.e. lawful intercept, but the “overt purpose” and the reference to tapping the A-interface seems to suggest that the operator might not know what the “access provider“‘s equipment is doing.

After the US government’s prosecution of alleged Chinese hackers, Bloomberg reports that the Chinese are putting pressure on their banks to get rid of their IBM servers, and further to drop contracts with blue-chip US consulting firms.

It seems that Microsoft’s decision to fight a FBI demand for information paid off. The G-men wanted subscriber information and wanted Microsoft to keep it quiet; Microsoft refused, and went to court; and the FBI folded.

Kenya’s government is worried about terrorists, and feels the need for a new public-security radio network and a lot of CCTV cameras. The Daily Nation reports that the contract has gone to Safaricom, and points out that similar projects have been marked by extreme corruption. On this occasion, it looks like Safaricom is going to get the spectrum it says it needs for free, in exchange for a discount on the contract price. The network will be LTE, so are we too cynical in wondering if Safaricom will find a way to use the freebie spectrum in its mainline operations? Some more background.

Get an Estonian digital ID, whereever you are. The reality of RIPA. The inventor of passwords remembers.

Lenovo PC shipments surge; Apple/Samsung lawsuit back on; ARM Mac? Novena gets funded

Lenovo’s results are out, and they’re impressive. The company moved 55 million PCs, up 6.8%, in the context of a market that shrank 3.1%. For the first time, they sold more PCs in the US than Apple sold Macs. The upshot was revenue up 14%.

Reverse ferret at the Korea Times: you know that thing where Apple and Samsung settled their patent suit? It, er, didn’t happen.

Apple may be going to announce an ARM-based Mac.

Smartphones account for 95% of phone revenues in Q1.

HP is cutting 11,000 jobs, largely from the storage division.

The open-hardware Novena laptop is go for launch, as the kickstarter campaign smashes its targets.

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May 19, 2014

FCC, DTAG, DirecTV, Broadband, Comcast WebRTC: Telco 2.0 News Review

The 9th Annual ‘OnFuture EMEA’ Executive Brainstorm & Innovation Forum (formerly ‘New Digital Economics EMEA’) is designed to equip up to 200 specially-invited business leaders with new, breakthrough ideas, methods and tools on how to grow significant new revenues in the next 12-18 months leveraging Mobile, Cloud and Big Data. For the full agenda click here, to apply to participate click here.

Busy regulatory week: Net Neutrality-ish NPRM, 600MHz comes down on T-Mo’s side, TVWS band plan done, Euroregs turn against mergers, politician welcomes deletion of search results

The FCC has spoken, but as they say about the people, what did it say? The promised draft NPRM appeared, and it does indeed contain a commitment to the principle of net neutrality - but on the other hand, it hedges on precisely what that means, and it bases itself on Section 706. And it suggests that nondiscrimination might only apply up to an unspecified minimum service level. However, it also says it’s going to “seriously consider” Title II reclassification.

Just to add to the confusion, all five commissioners issued further statements explaining what they thought the NPRM meant, and the commission divided on party lines. The NPRM actually asks more questions of the public than it answers; for example, it requests comments on whether it should extend to include wireless operators.

Meanwhile, the FCC also made its mind up about the 600MHz spectrum auction. You may recall that the spectrum-rich argued that the spectrum should be sold in big chunks, across big geographical areas, so-called Economic Areas, while the spectrum-poor argued that it should be divided up into smaller chunks and split across smaller geographical areas, so-called Cellular Market Areas. There are 176 of the former and 734 of the latter. This obviously left open a split-the-baby solution, and the FCC has decided to divvy up the 600s across so-called Partial Economic Areas, of which there are 428.

As the FCC also decided to keep a rule reserving part of the spectrum for operators who hold less than half the existing sub-1GHz in their markets, it looks like the spectrum-poor won this round. Sprint, meanwhile, is not happy that the regulator wants to include its 2.5GHz holdings in this process.

The regulator topped off a heavy week by defining a band-plan that reserves 20MHz each of the TV bands for wireless medical devices, microphones, and for WiFi, all on an unlicensed basis.

Elsewhere, EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia warned operators off more in-country consolidation, although he seems OK with cross-border, and blamed national politicians for wanting control of spectrum and the associated paydays.

A European court this week ruled that a man in Spain who didn’t pay his debts does indeed have a “right to be forgotten”, or more specifically, to disappear from Google searches. To be clear, the newspaper article mentioning his bankruptcy doesn’t have to be taken down, and the Spanish archives don’t have to dispose of the documents; you just have to know it’s there in order to find it. German politicians, in particular, vigorously supported the verdict - here’s SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel hailing it as standing up to Google and the Americans.

Well, they would, wouldn’t they? It’s hard to think of a group of people who could benefit more from a right to remove your mistakes from web searches than politicians. Inevitably, one turned up in the first lot of deletion requests. (That said, here’s a reminder that even if you don’t use GMail, GMail probably has a lot of your e-mail because other people do.)

Argentina is planning to auction a lot of spectrum. The auction includes the 700MHz band, on the same basis the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity uses, plus the 1.7-2.1GHz AWS bands, and a “remnant” of spectrum in the 850s and 1.9s. In all there’s 210MHz available.

Meanwhile, OFCOM is considering imposing a target on BT Openreach of fixing 80 per cent of faults within two days and completing 80 per cent of new installs within 12 days. As a result, BT is hiring, trying to add 1,600 technicians.

DTAG pays T-Mo’s bills, demands “digital independence”; world-wide carrier roundup

Deutsche Telekom’s Q1s show the flip side of T-Mobile USA’s successes. Operating profits fell 3.9%, despite a strong showing from the German mobile operator, as T-Mobile absorbed cash. The CEO, Timotheus Hottges, promised 85% LTE coverage in Germany by 2016, said that the US market should go down to three national operators, and called for “digital independence”, which seems to mean “moaning about OTT companies”.

Telekom Austria has put its prices up, and now its BSS is struggling to process a wave of cancellations.

T-Mo, meanwhile, announced a new MVNO with TV channel Univision, targeting the Hispanic market with unlimited national voice and messaging and 2.5GB of 3G data for $45/mo, plus “unlimited text messaging to select Latin American countries and 200 countries around the world”, which when you put it like that doesn’t sound so generous.

AT&T has started folding Cricket, Aio, and other MVNO subscribers into the new Cricket Wireless, and has stuck a price tag on its M2M services for General Motors, $10/mo.

Oi, meanwhile, reported revenue down 2.3% and net profits were also down, even if the sale of towers gave EBITDA a one-off boost.

Axiata has had a strong Q1, although much of the surge in profitability came from exchange rate movements offsetting a previous bad quarter.

Vimpelcom’s revenues were off 5% on an annual basis, perhaps not surprising when you think that their footprint includes Italy, Ukraine, and Pakistan.

SingTel net profits rose 4%, with a strong performance in the home market and in India, and an unexpectedly good showing from the mobile ads business Amobee.

MTN is spending $3bn on its Nigerian network, while Orange is selling its Ugandan opco, probably sensible as six operators were just too many.

Vodacom is buying Neotel from Tata Communications for $676m. That gives them a base of fixed-line subscribers and a national metro-fibre network - think “like C&WW for Vodafone UK”.

In France, meanwhile, Orange and Bouygues have entered talks about some sort of merger, or perhaps just network sharing, or it may be a bluff intended to make Free overpay for Bouygues when they inevitably (it says here) make a bid. Numericable has in the meantime made an offer for Virgin Mobile France. Americans, meanwhile, are still very impressed with Free Mobile even when, as in this case, they couldn’t get data coverage.

Yahoo! Japan, a Softbank division these days, has walked away from buying eAccess, part of Softbank’s Japanese mobile operator.

The last few weeks have delivered a string of depressing Q1s for operators worldwide. We cover this trend in depth here. It’s not good

Global mobile telecoms services revenues.png

AT&T buys DirecTV for vast amount of money; the end of filesharing; mobile CDN considered beneficial

Operators are facing up to this in different ways. One of these is to build up content and multi-channel distribution. AT&T this week acquired DirecTV, paying $95 a share in a mixture of shares and cash, and assuming the company’s debts, for a total of $67bn. This takes the combined company to 25.9 million TV homes. As a condition of the merger, AT&T has to build out more next-generation access beyond the U-Verse footprint. It will be interesting to see if that’s copper, or whether the new GigaPower fibre build extends, or whether it’s even perhaps fixed-wireless plus satellite TV.

Not everyone is delighted:

For the amount of money and debt AT&T and Comcast are collectively shelling out for their respective mega-deals, they could deploy super-fast gigabit-fiber broadband service to every single home in America.

It’s ironic, really. For years, operators used to complain about P2P filesharing clogging up the tubes. Then, as Mashable reports, the OTT players invented compelling streaming applications and filesharing went from 22% of peak-hour traffic in North America to 6.75%. And is anyone grateful? Not a bit of it.

The same report from Sandvine also suggests that Facebook is rather unexpectedly emerging as a big driver for user-generated content.

Spotify considered buying Last.fm, but didn’t.

A new research paper suggests base-station caching is good for the health of your mobile network.

In the UK, TalkTalk has shipped a million YouView STBs as it buys its way into the TV business. That makes it the UK’s fastest-growing broadcaster. But it’s not relying on TV - far from it.

More speed. Talktalk, Vodafone, HOT pull fibre; Altibox’s very expensive 10Gbps service; VZW breaks out the 1.7GHz spectrum

Another response to the crisis is to dig for victory, hoping that speed sells. TalkTalk is also pretty keen on deploying more broadband. They added 30,000 FTTC subscribers in the quarter, and argue that the key driver of upgrading is whether or not HD streaming works reliably. But they’re also deploying FTTH across the city of York, spending £5m in a joint venture with CityFibre, and hoping to offer 1Gbps connectivity. They even talk of eventually deploying to 10 million homes.

Vodafone, meanwhile, has a deal with Portuguese fibre deployer DSTelecom. DST is a pure dark-fibre builder, and Vodafone has signed up to deliver triple-play services over the network in the regions of Alto Minho and Interior Norte.

In Israel, HOT Telecoms has announced a 200Mbps product, with a 500Mbps upgrade coming by the end of the year.

Altibox, Norway’s biggest triple-play provider, is offering a 10Gbps FTTH product starting in August, although it will cost you £1,500 a month!

Verizon Wireless may be planning to deploy 1.7GHz spectrum for LTE next week. When they do so, they are reportedly planning to promote the service as “XLTE”, and they may also turn up carrier aggregation, in an effort to maintain their lead over AT&T.

Comcast, meanwhile, has announced WLAN roaming with operators in Japan and Taiwan.

Comcast uses WebRTC to get you on TV; NTT DoCoMo VoLTE launch coming; fight for voice, it’s worth it, say advertisers

Another response is to launch new applications and services, taking advantage of new technologies rather than trying to ban them. Comcast’s new X1 set-top box is essentially a HTML5 platform built around WebKit, and look what they’re doing with WebRTC - letting you broadcast video onto a TV channel. Pretty cool, although Free did it first with TV Perso.

AT&T were already signed up to launch VoLTE this month, in a strictly limited set of markets and on one handset, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. But here come HKT and 3 Hong Kong, and now there’s NTT DoCoMo launching VoLTE at the end of June. It gets to look like quite the party.

Here’s an interesting case for the enduring importance of voice to merchants, from a VC. This is how much advertisers will pay for clicks and calls respectively.

Invoca-Lead-Data.jpg

Whatsapp, meanwhile, has a deal with Bharti Airtel, under which the carrier will sell you 200MB of Whatsapp-only data.

Here’s Voicebase, a transcription and indexing platform for call recording. Yet another, rather impressive, M2M API. Arqiva is deploying Sigfox’s narrowband M2M technology. And Salesforce is trying to integrate the Force.com developer platform and Heroku’s cloud hosting more closely.

OpenStack numbers say Ubuntu still leads; does Moore matter for the cloud? Barclays Bank wins world server-recycling championship again

Up in the cloud, Ubuntu Linux remains the choice of 53% of OpenStack users. OpenStack itself has now reached 506 deployments that answered a survey, of which 34% are in organisations of more than 1,000 people, but the deployments themselves still skew small.

Google has been slashing cloud prices, and Amazon following. Over at High Scalability, there’s an interesting discussion of this phenomenon. Google tends to say that prices should follow Moore’s law down, but it turns out that the price of disk capacity at Amazon seems to follow a fairly steadily multiple of the price of disks themselves - after all, cloud service includes a lot of other costs that have nothing to do with Moore’s law.

Rackspace’s CEO says that he’s not trying to win the race to zero, and that customers were willing to pay for Rackspace’s expertise. Their results show they are making money, but their margins have been driven down since last year.

AWS is offering enterprise analytics in the cloud.

And Barclays Bank has won the Uptime Institute’s challenge to find the company that can get rid of the most underused servers. They tracked down and got rid of some 9,000 data-centre zombies, accounting for about $5.4m in electricity alone.

Attack of the reasonably-priced Androids; Apple-Google lawsuit is over

A wave of reasonably-priced Androids hit this week. BlackBerry’s Z3, assembled by Foxconn to a $200 price point, launched appropriately enough in Jakarta. Motorola’s Moto E comes in at $129, and Ars Technica is distinctly impressed. Nokia’s Lumia 630, meanwhile, arrived in India at $116. This is going to be an important story.

It’s being reported that Apple will launch the iPhone 6 in August.

After the Apple-Samsung litigation fizzled out, the Apple-Google lawsuit has gone the same way. This time, the parties have agreed to settle.

Interestingly, as well as trying to sell the BlackBerry Enterprise Server to firms that don’t use BlackBerry hardware, BlackBerry is now trying to make it easier to deploy the phones without the server.

Samsung is paying Heathrow Airport to rebrand its Terminal 5 as Terminal Galaxy S5, so presumably the public will associate the gadgets with intrusive security checks and missing bags.

Sony has broken-out its mobile phone business, probably because it’s growing, unlike the rest of the company.

And Carphone Warehouse and Dixons are merging.

Cisco to NSA: kindly stop bugging the routers, thanks

The latest Snowden disclosure shows NSA technicians sabotaging a Cisco router somewhere between Cisco’s factory and the customer. Understandably, Cisco is not at all happy, and the CEO is protesting to President Obama. As ZDNet points out, it gets very difficult to trust their equipment.

And the US, meanwhile, prosecutes a group of Chinese army officers for allegedly hacking into US industrial companies (and the US Steelworkers’ Union).

New Zealand’s network operators may have to let the GCSB approve their network designs.

The world’s XMPP system administrators are planning to turn on encryption by default today.

And here’s a breakthrough in maths that might destabilise the whole basis of public-key cryptography. Don’t have nightmares.

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May 12, 2014

Open Internet NPRM, Telefonica Q1s, Apple Beats, VoLTE: Telco 2.0 News Review

The 9th Annual ‘OnFuture EMEA’ Executive Brainstorm & Innovation Forum (formerly ‘New Digital Economics EMEA’) is designed to equip up to 200 specially-invited business leaders with new, breakthrough ideas, methods and tools on how to grow significant new revenues in the next 12-18 months leveraging Mobile, Cloud and Big Data. For the full agenda click here, to apply to participate click here.

Open Internet NPRM: AT&T pushes, neutralists push back, neutralists on the verge of winning?

It’s been a week of intense lobbying at the FCC regarding the Open Internet NPRM. AT&T, not surprisingly, weighed in claiming that reclassification would automatically create a termination-fee regime for the Internet and require the renegotiation of all peering agreements. Harold Feld of Public Knowledge, not surprisingly, disagreed and denounced this as “scary mumbo-jumbo”.

On the other hand, a catalogue of Silicon Valley companies wrote to the FCC to express their support for net neutrality. The list includes Google, Facebook, Amazon, Level(3), EBay, Microsoft, Yahoo! and much else - but not Apple.

The explanation of this seems to be that the organisers didn’t ask them to sign.

Web-hosting company Neocities decided to impose its own “slow lane”, throttling access for IP addresses belonging to the FCC down to 28.8Kbps. Burn! They also released the nginx configuration file on Github for anyone else who felt inclined to do likewise.

A more conventional lobbying effort saw 10 US Senators write to Chairman Wheeler.

And by this morning, all the lobbying seemed to be having an effect. Commissioner Clyburn blogged that she supported Title II reclassification, a ban on “pay for priority”, and that open Internet rules should apply to mobile services. In the light of this, Wheeler is expected to announce a revised draft NPRM today that takes into account the net neutrality lobby’s concerns. We shall see when the text appears.

Telefonica Q1s are horrible, in Germany as well as Spain. Carrier turns to content; Massive Sky own goal; football drives reasonable BT Q4s; AT&T getting rid of successful music app

Telefonica announced its Q1 results, which were poor. Revenue was down 18% and net income 23%. A substantial part of this was due to exchange rate shifts, with the devaluations of the Argentine and Chilean pesos reducing the value of Telefonica’s earnings there.

Revenue in Spain was off 8.8%, but this is actually a substantial improvement on recent results. However, you couldn’t say anything like that about revenues in booming Germany, also off 8.8% in Q1. (Has anyone else noticed that T-Mobile.de’s competitors seem to be struggling? Vodafone’s results in Germany have been poor as well, and E-Plus is selling out to, well, Telefonica.)

At the same time, capex is up by almost a third. Telefonica’s answer to this is, in a word, “content”. They’re buying a Spanish pay-TV operator, spending some €1.3bn in order to add 1.6 million TV homes and the rights to Spanish league football. Well, it’s cheaper than Ono, although of course it doesn’t add any broadband.

In the UK, televised football is synonymous with Sky, as hard as its competitors might try. The competitors may just have caught a break, though. On Sunday, as the Premiership reached its climax with the decisive Manchester City-West Ham game, their Sky Go/Now TV video-on-demand network went floppy (although not the core satellite pay-TV network) and left the viewers guessing who was winning the league. They are not happy, and refunds are being offered.

The latest attempt to loosen Sky ‘s two-decade Vulcan Death Grip on football is, of course, BT Sport. BT’s full year results are now with us, and the news is that revenues were flat over the year - pretty good, as everyone else is seeing a decline - and pre-tax profits were up 6% at £2.8bn. That said, BT Wholesale’s revenues were down 7% and Openreach’s by 1%. In both cases, BT blames the ref, sorry, OFCOM.

Business’s sales were flat at £3.5bn (again, pretty good in the light of tanking wholesale voice prices everywhere and OFCOM interest in metro-fibre pricing), while consumer was the stand-out, with revenue up 4% year on year and up 9% in BT’s fourth quarter. That said, BT boasts of gaining 79% of the quarter’s broadband net-adds, while also reporting that Openreach’s broadband connection net-adds were down 24% year-on-year - so part of the explanation was that it was a big share of a small total. (As for the slide in broadband net-adds, they blamed the weather.)

Nothing daunted, Sky is planning to buy out Fox’s shares in its Italian and German satellite TV networks, creating a solid block of football and hyperbolic breaking news announcements across Europe.

The current release of the Android source code contains evidence of a new gadget that seems to be a set-top box or smart-TV, which will be made by HTC as a Google Nexus project. However, smart-TV usability remains awful, and constitutes a real security threat.

And when AT&T acquired Leap Wireless, as well as a struggling regional carrier and a decent MVNO, it also got a surprisingly successful streaming music business, Muve, which boasts two million subscribers and that rare thing in today’s music business, actual revenue. Muve subscriptions are bundled with Cricket MVNO service and offer unlimited music downloads. AT&T is said to be looking at selling the business off, for fear of cannibalising the next news item.

Apple buys Beats; makes money in cloud; Nintendo’s hellish year; Motorola Solutions’ new digital commerce tech; HP in for a billion’s worth of OpenStack

Apple has thrown its biggest acquisition ever. The FT says they’re in negotiations to buy Beats Music for some $3.2bn worth of really big headphones. The deal would give Apple a decent business selling fancy audio hardware, and a substantial streaming music service that is resold by, among others, AT&T Mobility. It would also make Beats founder Dr Dre the first hip-hop billionaire, and as you might expect, the good doctor didn’t hesitate to make the point all over the Internet. He, at least, seems confident of the deal closing.

The Beats subscription is $10/mo, and AT&T springs for the first three months as an introductory offer. As a result, the majority of new signups are AT&T subscribers. At the same time, it would be a reasonable guess that they’re probably also iPhone users - although exclusivity is long gone, the symbiosis between AT&T Mobility and Apple is still a real phenomenon. Apple’s own iTunes Radio has been a bit of a disappointment, and of course Apple is deeply invested in design, hardware, and music. But, really, $3.2bn? ZDnet makes the obvious point that Apple can afford it.

Horace points out that if iTunes Radio is a failure, it hasn’t troubled Apple much, and the iTunes and iCloud business remains very successful. However, music as such is shrinking quite fast as a category, overshadowed by the mighty app:

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Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, meanwhile, joins Apple as the boss of retail, drawn in by a signup bonus of $9.8m in Apple stock.Ari Partinen, the Nokia engineer responsible for the superb cameras in the N8, Pureview 808, and Lumia 1020, has also joined Apple this week.

Here’s a Kurt Eichenwald long read on the Apple/Samsung case. And Horace reckons there are enough late-majority smartphone adopters left to keep the North Atlantic market growing until 2018.

Although the Apple/Samsung wars are now over, in such a way as to make you wonder why anyone ever thought it was worth fighting them, Oracle and Google are still fighting, as an appeal court unexpectedly reversed the verdict on whether or not Oracle can patent APIs.

Nintendo issued a profit warning back in January that led to calls for the boss to resign. Now, they’ve issued actual numbers, and they’re worse than the warning. Wii U shipments were meant to be 9 million, which was revised down to 2.8 million, and the out-turn was 2.72 million. 3DS shipments were meant to be 18 million, revised down to 13.5 million, and the out-turn was 12.2 million. The upshot? Revenue down 10 per cent and a $456m loss. Ars reviews the options.

Motorola Solutions - that’s the bit that Google didn’t buy - has announced a new indoor-location analytics product that integrates WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy beacons. They have four partner companies developing applications for the system.

HP is investing a billion dollars in OpenStack technology, and starting a new data centre product, Facility as a Service, which essentially means HP builds and manages a data centre to your specs and you rent it from them.

Mozilla seems still to like the idea of putting ads in Firefox, despite the wave of user horror that greeted it first time around.

AT&T turns up VoLTE on May 23; VZW’s slides to H2. Can you hear me now? Eh?

AT&T announced that it will launch VoLTE this month, with HD Voice (exactly what codec or bandwidth is unspecified, we’re guessing it’ll be AMR-WB). Users of the Asus Padfone X in Chicago and Minneapolis will be the first to get the service, which goes live on the 23rd.

Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, reiterated that it’s committed to launching VoLTE this year, but it looks like it’s slipped right by a few months and will be coming in H2. VZW will be deploying AMR-WB at the same time as its HD voice solution. T-Mobile USA, for its part, already has done on its HSPA network, and Sprint has 100 markets with HD voice on its CDMA network. Which is a pity, because one day they’ll have to move over to LTE. Sprint uses the 3GPP2’s solution, EVRC-NW, both on the CDMA and on its LTE network with the HTC Evo 4G, so it’s anyone’s guess if it will interoperate.

The FCC this week blogged a statement that seems to put carriers on notice about PSTN transition, encouraging subscribers to comment on plans to move services over to all-IP and to object if necessary. Interestingly, Verizon is planning to shut down a chunk of its copper network and migrate the customers to FiOS, and the FCC says they have to provide TDM services over the fibre.

Voxbone is offering a WebRTC trunking service, so your customers’ WebRTC travels over their network to your SIP peering. Useful, although of course it won’t help if the last-mile is the problem.

Telekom Austria and America Movil are getting started on integration even before the merger is settled; they’re centralising their international voice interconnects in America Movil’s facility in Miami.

And VoiceBase is a full-featured web-based transcription and indexing application.

NTT picks six partners for 5G; Alcatel Q1s; component crisis; C-RAN in Asia

NTT DoCoMo is preparing for trials of what it calls 5G equipment from six vendors. Stand by for fearsome arguments about what constitutes “5G” (does anyone remember 2.75G and 3.9G?), but the content is interesting, centring on frequencies above 6GHz, small cells, high density deployments, and M2M. Nokia, Samsung, and NEC are all commissioned to work on beamforming in different frequency bands, while Ericsson explores “new radio interface concepts” and “massive MIMO”, Fujitsu studies how very dense networks of small cells can schedule transmissions, and Alcatel-Lucent looks into “new waveforms to support M2M and mobile broadband”. The trials will start at their Yokosuka R&D centre, and then move outdoors next year.

Alcatel-Lucent’s Q1s, meanwhile, were reasonable. Revenues are still shrinking, off 3.3% excluding the enterprise division that’s been sold to China Huaxin, but the losses are much smaller, €73 million compared to €353 million a year ago. The explanation is that the company has improved its margins, basically by killing off over-ambitious managed service contracts.

The best products were IP routers, where revenue was up 11.1%, and IP transport, i.e. the optical division, up 6%. By contrast, the access network and “IP platform” (i.e. IMS and co) divisions did pretty badly. The big sellers were the 7950 XRS core router, which is selling to cable companies, and the 1830 photonic switch. Nice, aren’t they?

Apparently, both ALU and Nokia had trouble obtaining some components in Q1.

Nokia, meanwhile, has a tie-up with Juniper Networks, under which Nokia contributes its telco-y software products to Juniper’s SDN and Juniper provides the IP routing kit.

Cambridge Communications has been testing its self-organising backhaul system for small cells with China Telecom, setting up a 28GHz mesh network around their offices in Anhui.

Asian operators are apparently keen on cloud-RAN, centralised farms of virtual base stations, and the like. No wonder, if this chart from China Mobile’s trials of the technology is to be believed.

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Google’s space balloon WiFi thingy has noticed that it might need to talk to GSM operators after all.

Telenor Q1: looking to get the other 80% on the Internet; DTAG terms for Sprin-T; 40,000 extra cellsites; DTAG government stake up for sale?

Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas says that the company’s biggest challenge is how to get the 80 per cent of its customer base who are voice-only to start using the Internet. That is, as they say, both a challenge and an opportunity. Things were pretty good at Telenor; revenue was up 7.3 per cent and net income up 2%. The carrier saw strong growth in its emerging markets, and a solid performance in Europe; the only market where it lost ground was Thailand.

Deutsche Telekom has set out terms under which it would proceed with a Sprin-T merger. Specifically, it wants a break clause of at least $1bn, and it wants T-Mobile executives to be in charge and the T-Brand used throughout “any” regulatory delay, and right up to closing. Keen and agile readers will have noticed that this sounds more like T-Mobile taking over Sprint than the reverse, and Phone Scoop points out that it also sounds like John Legere being CEO rather than Dan “the industry’s most expensive CEO - because I’m worth it” Hesse.

Meanwhile, Sprint is rowing back on its promise of unlimited data. Users are being informed that, starting next month, the top 5% of data users may be traffic-shaped during the busy-hour in the busy-cell (aka a fairly classic 95th percentile policy in the backbone ISP world).

Sprint-owned MVNO Boost Mobile, meanwhile, tidied up the ratecard, while the CEO of American Tower said that Sprint, one of his tenants, might need 40,000 more cell sites to achieve its aim of overlaying 2.5GHz coverage on its whole footprint. He also said that VoLTE deployment at VZW and AT&T might mean 20-30 per cent more sites.

If the FCC is settled, Masayoshi Son certainly has the money to buy T-Mobile, having just trousered $58bn through the Alibaba.com IPO. The question is surely whether the deal makes more sense the other way around.

DTAG, meanwhile, launched its mobile wallet with 1,000 acceptance points around Bonn. It’s called “MyWallet”, imaginatively enough.

Germany’s Federal Court of Auditors thinks the government should sell its stake in DTAG, but keep the railways.

Telekom Austria, meanwhile, is having a bad Q1 while negotiating with Carlos Slim; net profits down 26.5%.

SFR and Vodafone have agreed to continue their enterprise customer partnership. Econet Wireless brings WiFi offload to Zimbabwe. Lebanon’s two operators have been threatened with losing their licences if they don’t get their act together.

Google Fibre take rates and tactics; the UAE, world FTTH champ; BT FTTC numbers; really cheap DSL

Google Fibre is claiming outrageously great take-rates, as high as 75%, in Kansas City. The take rate is the critical economic variable in a fibre roll-out, as it both multiplies the revenue and amortises the cost to pass. Telecompetitor points out that although Google is doing some smart things - like getting groups of customers in “fibrehoods” to pre-commit and pay a deposite, and then start building - other deployers don’t get to do this sort of thing.

The FTTH Council reckons the UAE has the world’s highest penetration of fibre to the home, 85%, helped by high density, a small population, and the fact that so many buildings are new. It’s just a pity all the websites are censored.

Community broadband builders B4RN turn up a new gigabit deployment, and BT immediately promises to deploy FTTH.

Here’s a sceptical look into BT’s numbers for FTTC passes. The Welsh government is auditing its version of BDUK.

TalkTalk offers very cheap DSL. BT is deploying WiFi into HSBC Bank branches.

And finally, here’s the app that knows where you can get onto the public, but often obstructed, beaches of Malibu

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May 6, 2014

China, ITU, T-Results, UK Fibre, Apple: Telco 2.0 News Review

The 9th Annual ‘OnFuture EMEA’ Executive Brainstorm & Innovation Forum (formerly ‘New Digital Economics EMEA’) is designed to equip up to 200 specially-invited business leaders with new, breakthrough ideas, methods and tools on how to grow significant new revenues in the next 12-18 months leveraging Mobile, Cloud and Big Data. For the full agenda click here, to apply to participate click here.

Three of the four operators with “China” in the name are interested in an epic network-sharing joint venture. It’s Mobile, Telecom, and Unicom, no sign of Netcom yet, and the Ministry of the Information Industry is keen, so it could well happen.

The ITU has rounded up the world’s broadband stats. It reckons there are 3 billion Internet users, 40% of humanity. Fixed subscriptions are growing at 4.4%, although fixed telephony has lost 100 million lines since the peak in 2009. There are 2.3 billion mobile broadband users, and ITU counts 7 billion mobile users. In terms of speed, apparently the UK is 7th fastest in the world.

Really? Well, the decision to put everything above 10Mbps, advertised downlink, in one bucket is clearly doing a lot of the work here, and curiously, the ITU doesn’t include Japan, Sweden, or Australia. The Australian NBN, meanwhile, is flirting with the idea of having the retailers or the customers provide the CPE themselves.

Nokia is primarily an infrastructure company these days, and its Q1s were reasonable, with an actual profit of €110 million in the quarter, compared to a €168 million loss a year ago. Within that, the action was mostly about improved margins in Networks and improved sales at Here, which is getting close to breaking even (it lost €3m at the operating level). The stock market got excited about the idea it might buy Alcatel-Lucent.

Here’s a good writeup on OpenBTS 4.0, which now runs up to 1000 subscribers on a node, and now has a commercial deployment, on the little islands of St. Pierre & Miquelon.

The more daring investor may be disappointed by the next story: there will be no 3G auction in Iraq, and instead the three existing operators will just get licences. That said, things aren’t what they used to be: Econet Wireless in Zimbabwe reports profits down 15% although its revenue rose 8%. The problem is that the voice business has, as they say, matured. On the good side, their mobile money transfer business grew 307 per cent.

Our The Future Value of Voice & Messaging Strategy Report covers the problems of the maturing - or declining? - voice business in depth, while our Communications Services: What Make a Winning Value Proposition? Executive Briefing looks at solutions and our Self-Disruption: How Sprint Blew It EB provides a detailed crash investigation of one particular case

T-Mobile scores 2.4 million net-adds, loses more as % of revenue than Sprint

Last week brought the AT&T and Verizon Q1s. This week, it’s T-Mobile’s turn. Everyone was expecting a pricewar-tastic quarter from the uncarrier, and they hit the nail on the head, with 2.4 million net adds in Q1. Even if you just look at the T-branded, postpaid number, it was still a million-plus quarter, their fourth in a row. And a lot of carriers would kill for $50 of monthly ARPU.

That said, they’re buying market share in a big way. EBITDA is down 12.2% quarter-on-quarter, “reflecting increased equipment sales due to the significant acceleration in customer growth”

This refers the details of their fast-upgrade plans. Although the new metric of “average billings per user”, which includes the payments on the phone as well as the service revenue, is up strongly, the fast-upgrade plans also include a substantial element of cheap shiny gadgets. T-Mobile pricing on iPhones, for example, is keen, and the terms of service imply that it’s possible to upgrade a while before actually paying off the full cost of the device, which is an implicit device subsidy.

You could look at the official statement for some time before realising that it doesn’t mention whether the company made money or not; it lost $151m in Q1, on revenue of $6.87bn. Ironically, Sprint lost exactly that much money, on revenue of $8.87bn, so T-Mobile’s negative margin is substantially greater than Sprint’s.

You won’t find anyone at Sprint crowing over that, though. Sprint was losing subscribers again after its relatively reasonable Q4, with 467,000 net losses and churn rising. However, Sprint remains an ARPU star with postpaid coming in at $62/mo - T-Mobile probably sees that as a target.

Neville Ray, the T-CTO, announced that the operator would get its new 700MHz block into service by the end of the year. Sprint, for its part, says that its churn stabilises when 70% of a market is covered by its new LTE net. Also, they’ve turned off Picture Mail.

This leaves a question. VZ, AT&T, and T-Mo all had powerful Q1s, and between them they racked up literally millions of net-adds. Sprint’s losses aren’t anywhere near enough to account for them. Where are they coming from?

With MetroPCS borged into T-Mobile and Leap swallowed up by AT&T, U.S. Cellular is the last of the big regionals standing. And it’s getting less big steadily, having lost a million customers in the last 12 months. It lost 93,000 net postpaid in Q1, and gained 13,000 net prepaid. Churn rose dramatically, after the billing system broke down - postpaid churn is 2.3%, up from 1.7% last year, and prepaid is 6.9% (even Sprint’s is 4.5%). Still not enough, but that’s the kind of level we saw at Leap before they sold up to AT&T.

AT&T is reportedly looking at a deal with DirecTV, on the grounds that if the FCC lets Comcast own TWC, they’ll all want one too. DirecTV has more TV, and AT&T would like that; AT&T has customers, and DirecTV would like those. The company would be about as big in terms of subscribers as Comcast-TWC, and AT&T could easily afford it, so the big question would be what the regulators say. Meanwhile, AT&T also wants to deploy LTE on aeroplanes.

Bell Canada reported net profits for Q1 up 8.7%, after a good quarter for its mobile unit.

Last week, we mentioned that Verizon has been caught using strawmen to lobby for the New Jersey state regulator to let it off its irksome 1990s commitment to lay fibre to the whole state. It turns out they don’t just want to avoid laying more fibre; they’re arguing that fixed-wireless is as good. Ask Fire Island.

Verizon and AT&T have both opposed the idea of a restriction on how much spectrum below 1GHz one carrier can own. As you might expect from the two biggest spectrum owners. Now, the House Republicans join in.

Wheeler: Title II hasn’t gone away; L(3) fingers five peers over Internet congestion; Comcast streaming games

There’s an old joke about “the people have spoken. What did they say?” FCC Chairman Wheeler has blogged, and you could say the same thing. It looks like he’s trying to reassure his critics that reclassifying broadband under Title II is still “on the table” as they say, without promising anything, and trying to give the impression that he won’t frighten the horses, while also promising a strong Open Internet NPRM via Section 706.

While all this is going on, we’re also getting a unique insight into the negotiating process of top-level Internet peering, driven by the pressure of streaming video. Netflix has confirmed that it’s signed a paid-peering agreement with Verizon, like the one it signed earlier with Comcast. It’s pointed out that VZ had refused a counter-offer of using Netflix’s OpenConnect CDN for free, which Cablevision accepted, and argued that this is because VZ has a competing CDN. However, the same source speaks of “AT&T CEO James Ciccioni”, so…

Level(3), meanwhile, has cracked open some interesting secrets in a fascinating blog post. The backbone operator has 51 peering agreements, of which 48 are settlement-free. Among those are six ports where L(3) observes congestion. 5 of those are in the United States and one is in Europe. L(3) asserts that those five US peers are all major eyeball ISPs, and points out that they observe no persistent congestion in markets like the UK where there is competitive broadband access.

Comcast, meanwhile, wants to stream computer games from Electronic Arts, but as Ars Technica points out, you can’t be sarcastic about this like The Register, because Comcast settled its peering row with L(3).

It’s all very complicated, although perhaps not as weird as the 77,000 identical videos posted to YouTube by “Webdriver Torso”, which seem to be some sort of instrumentation intended to measure how YouTube treats various kinds of video. Bizarre.

Freeview menaced by “stealth switch-off”; Sky, EE Q1s; UK fibre

The move of TV and video online is driving all sorts of odd phenomena. The chair of Digital UK is worried that Freeview, the UK’s digital terrestrial TV platform, faces “switch-off by stealth” as the broadcasters lose interest in developing new features for it and OFCOM increasingly turns to its spectrum resources to meet the mobile industry’s demands.

Sky is still adding net broadband subscribers, 80,000 of them in the quarter, as well as deepening its subscriber base by selling more Sky+HD set-top boxes. They now have almost half the base on +HD.

A group of whistleblowers say that they have recruited some of the salespeople from the UK’s notoriously pushy electricity and gas companies, and they’re up to their old tricks.

Virgin Media, meanwhile, is refreshing its list of bundles. The effect is to cut prices somewhat, while also adding some very sharp MVNO pricing - £8/mo additional gets you unlimited national calls and a GB of monthly data. There’s also some free Netflix up for grabs as a short-term offer.

EE claimed 889,000 LTE net adds in Q1, and ARPU up 2.2%, although operating revenue fell 1.7%. If you back out changes to termination fees, it would have grown, but only 0.8%. The answer is that the prepaid user base is shrinking, by 321k net losses in the quarter. Given their pricing, EE is probably quite happy to shed prepay customers and gain high-spending double-speed 4G contracts.

Ad-funded MVNO Samba Mobile has shut down, citing the cost of wholesale data service.

The UK government’s Super-Connected Cities scheme is in trouble; in Oxford, so far only two businesses have taken it up, in Portsmouth four, and in Brighton, nine.

KCOM reports that its roll-out of FTTH has passed 32,000 premises, with 9,000 installs so far for a 28% take rate, while Gigaclear has started its roll-out in Sevenoaks.

Smartphone scoreboard; top apps; Samsung slides a tad; Apple sapphire begins to flow; patent lawsuits considered pointless

Comscore’s smartphone market share metrics are out for March, and they show Apple as the biggest manufacturer in the US, with 41.4% of the market, and Android as the biggest platform, with 52% of the market, while Facebook is the biggest app, reaching 75% of the audience. Interestingly, out of the next five apps, four of them ship with Android devices by default; if you exclude those, the second-biggest is Pandora Radio.

Samsung’s market share seems to have slid back very slightly, for the first time since Q4 2009, on a different measurement. It might have something to do with things looking up a bit at HTC, whose new flagship phone has done well, and might perhaps make a profit.

Horace notes that Apple is adding users much faster than Amazon, but revenue per user is flattening out while Amazon’s is steady. Both companies, though, actually have revenue, which is something most of the startups who boast of huge numbers of “monthly active users” can’t say. He also argues that tablets are likely to saturate at about the same time and the same penetration level as smartphones, having started much later. Interestingly, games consoles have long since saturated:

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Charles Arthur, meanwhile, reports on the end of the Samsung/Apple lawsuit. In the end, it looks like Apple will get $120m, and immediately pay $158,000 right back to Samsung over another patent. Or to put it another way, the whole business has changed nothing except for enriching the lawyers. Unless you’re HTC and you settled out of court and now have to pay Apple a fee per phone.

It looks like Apple’s artificial sapphire factory is coming on stream gradually.

AMD is planning to ship consumer-grade ARM chips in 2016, with the interesting feature that the x86 and ARM chips will be pin-compatible. You can see why they’re doing it.

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And Tesco is launching its own Android device.

Dutch cablecos preparing huge VoWLAN; HOWTO build Tuenti’s WebRTC; Twitter Q1s

Two Dutch cablecos, UPC Netherlands and Ziggo, are trialling voice over WiFi, in a move that will hit KPN hard again. UPC’s owners already have an MVNO in Belgium, and Ziggo has one in Holland, and the next step seems to be using their enormous fleet of hotspots. UPC has 500,000 and Ziggo has a million. An interesting detail is that they’re testing a protocol called WISPr (Wireless Internet Service Provider Roaming), rather than ANDSF as specified in Hotspot 2.0.

Telefonica’s social network, Tuenti, has a blog post about how they engineered their voice features, using their existing XMPP chat infrastructure for the signalling and some of the NAT-traversal, and a fork of Jingle for the bearer protocol.

Telestax’s Restcomm is now part of Metaswitch’s Project Clearwater, providing yet another web-voice integration option.

And although Twitter saw its advertising revenue grow 125% in Q1 to $226m, of which 80% was mobile, it’s still not breaking even.

Cellular jammer man; IE bug keeps zombie XP undead; Symantec says AV is dead, however; Valley rebels against gag orders

Some people get really annoyed about people yelling into mobile phones. Really annoyed. Jason Humphreys is one of them, and he installed a jamming device in his car to silence the phones around him in traffic. In April last year, MetroPCS filed a complaint with the FCC that two of their cell sites were regularly being jammed. The FCC investigated, Humphreys was caught, and admitted it. He got a $48,000 fine, but at least he showed those phone-using scum who was boss.

Microsoft wanted to turn off support for Windows XP so very badly. But then the latest Internet Explorer bug came along and it was so awful that several governments advised those affected to just use another browser. As a result, Microsoft has issued a patch for XP even though it’s officially dead.

Although Heartbleed seems to have passed off fairly harmlessly, the big question is what’s happening with industrial embedded systems.

Symantec thinks PC antivirus software is dead.

Major Silicon Valley companies have begun informing their customers when the government demands their data, in defiance of requests for secrecy.

Unexpectedly, a more radical NSA reform bill is being taken forward by Congress, one that would ban the bulk collection of US call-detail records.

Does Mexico’s new telecoms law permit a huge expansion of government censorship?

Oh dear: digital video recorders get turned into Bitcoin-mining machines.

And finally, on July 23rd, 2012, we nearly had a solar storm the size of the legendary, telegraph-frying Carrington event of 1859. Don’t have nightmares, now.

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