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

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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.


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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