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LTE-A, WiFi Cows, Amazon Fire, Cloud, Netflix: Telco 2.0 News Review

SKT, Bouygues, Orange, SFR, Swisscom, Vodafone.pt launch LTE-A hotspots; EE launches the Wi-Fi cow; prime minister’s dropped call leads to UK roaming; military coup stops Thai 4G

SK Telecom turns up its LTE-Advanced network with carrier-aggregation, claiming a 225Mbps peak download, using 2x20MHz carriers in the 1800MHz band and a 10MHz 800MHz carrier together. Samsung has helpfully enabled it on a version of the Galaxy S5, as well as a new high definition display to help you enjoy it.

Meanwhile, Bouygues took its mind off merging with Orange or Free and soft-launched its own LTE-A, claiming 220Mbps. The actual coverage is quite limited, and the only device available is a Wi-Fi hotspot, so this is really more of a large-scale trial.

Orange and SFR are promising something similar this year. Swisscom has started trialling the technology in major railway stations. Swisscom has an unlimited data tariff, so it could well benefit from it. And Vodafone Portugal is offering its first LTE-A product.

That announcement also solves the mystery of why all these LTE-A rollouts are in this week’s news; Vodafone.pt is offering a new Huawei Wi-Fi hotspot, and presumably the announcements are being driven by the availability of the hardware. Huawei and Vodafone also claim to have demonstrated co-channel interworking between GSM and LTE, which sounds fun for those carriers with lots of 1800MHz spectrum, like EE.

Speaking of EE, they win the prize for this summer’s publicity stunt by deploying fibreglass Wi-Fi cows to the Glastonbury festival. In fact, EE is the “official 4G partner”, so the festival may involve strange introverted characters wandering around, muttering in esoteric code, using their antennae to measure how Glastonbury Tor affects the invisible emanations of the aether…before the hippies show up. Also, is this the first case of a COW, as in Cells on Wheels, disguised as a cow?

Elsewhere in the British countryside, it seems the Prime Minister’s calls have been dropping, and he is very very angry. As a result, the government is considering introducing national roaming as a quick-fix measure.

Opposition MP Tom Watson makes a remarkably cogent statement of why this might not be a good idea, while the Financial Times identifies cynical and partisan motives, and RevK, whose company already offers the option of switching to Vodafone Netherlands, points out that under the new EU regulatory regime, foreigners would get free national roaming but UK residents would pay at unregulated rates.

Meanwhile, both EE and 3UK are offering voice-over-WLAN. 3’s sounds like an app, while EE’s announcement suggests they’re looking at automatically routing calls.

In Thailand, meanwhile, mobile broadband is on hold after a military coup. The new junta has cancelled the planned 4G auction, and wants to “review” the ownership structure of Total Access, the second-biggest mobile operator and local affiliate of Telenor. Fascinatingly, the current military dictator has form for this; he stormed the presidential palace in 2006 in order to depose Thaksin Shinawatra over his allegedly enormous tax-evasion during the sale of market leading 3G operator AIS to Singapore’s sovereign-wealth fund.

Low, low prices; OFCOM proposes UK wholesale fibre rules, eight high-tech trials

If you’re in one of the few lucky bits of the UK where Hyperoptic is building out fibre, they’ve cut their prices by half as a promo giveaway. The 100Mbps package looks a steal.

OFCOM has proposed a price cap on BT wholesale FTTC, set in order to ensure that competing ISPs can make a margin.

Eight companies have received part of a £10m OFCOM pot to investigate new technical approaches to rural broadband.

And Benoit Felten is moving to Asia, taking his fibre obsession with him.

Amazon Fire - high-end, Tango-y, AT&T exclusive; BlackBerry Q1s and new gadgets; succession planning at Samsung

Amazon’s smartphone, the Fire, is here. Here’s an interview with Jeff Bezos. The default assessment of any Amazon product is that it exists to sell content and is probably a loss-leader, but the make-up of the Fire is interesting. Rather like Google’s Project Tango, it is fitted with a high quality camera and has a SDK for applications that use machine-vision. There’s some discussion here, making the good point that the iPhone didn’t disrupt everything at launch, but rather as it improved with successive iterations.

Very untypically for Amazon, it is priced at the top end of the smartphone market, and even on a subsidised contract deal you’ll have to pay $199 up front. The hefty subsidy (the contract-free cash price is $649) is coming from AT&T, which has exclusivity over the phone. Amazon is also getting into the Apple trick of selling additional Flash storage for outrageous prices - it comes with 32GB as standard, versus a typical 16GB, which may contribute as much as $100 to the price tag.

BlackBerry has Q1 numbers, and they claim to have made money, $23 million of it. This is in part down to heroic accounting adjustments, without which the company would have lost $60 milion. But despite TelecomTV’s snark, something must be going right, as the company is adding substantially to its cash.

They say cash is king, you cannot fake cash, so follow the cash. But you’d think inventories of shiny, kickable, physical gadgets were even less ambiguous. Not so; although 2.6 million of them shipped, the company could only recognise revenue from 1.6 million, as previous channel-stuffing weirdness was unwound.

There’s also a new gadget, the BlackBerry Passport, a large phablet with a very high definition display, and a slightly unusual form factor: it’s square, like a typical BlackBerry user.

(Also, did you know the Canadian police had access to BlackBerry instant messaging?)

Lee Kun-hee, the chairman of Samsung, is not a well man, and as a result, the family is looking to sell some shares in order to pay inheritance tax. The main take-out is that Samsung’s corporate structure is deeply strange.

China Unicom builds Hong Kong cloud; Telstra escapes from Australia; Cisco hits tail -f; Facebook’s homegrown switch

China Unicom is spending £240m to build a huge data centre in Hong Kong, providing itself with a base for cloud services that has globally outstanding submarine cable connectivity and is outside the Great Firewall.

Telstra was an early adopter of cloud among telcos, notably because latency sensitive services can’t really be based in the US or Europe for Aussie customers. Now, they’re rolling out around the world, the latest deployment being in the United States. The carrier is the first to deploy Cisco’s own cloud platform.

Cisco, meanwhile, spent $175m to acquire SDN startup Tail -F Systems.

Oracle says its revenues in its Q4 were up 3 per cent overall, which breaks down to 25% growth in the cloud and services business and an actual decline in software licencing and hardware.

Microsoft has started assigning IPv4 addresses from outside North America to new Azure virtual machines, because its numbering resources within ARIN are now at an end.

Facebook has developed its own modular, software-defined top-of-rack switch, which it’s releasing through the Open Compute Project. Rackspace has one of those “dedicated server as a cloud” products. Amazon has more SSDs in the Elastic Block Store.

Sprin-T - no deal means 700MHz buy; seven days’ free iPhone; Sprint rural roaming; VZW to buy DISH spectrum?

If the Sprin-T deal falls through, T-Mobile plans to spend its $2bn break fee on 700MHz spectrum. You do occasionally wonder if some people at T-Mo would rather have the break fee than the deal; it must be the memory of the AT&T no-deal.

T-EO John Legere, meanwhile, picked a fight about the Amazon Fire, claiming that it was going to be as big a flop as the HTC “Facebook phone”, also an AT&T exclusive. He also announced that anyone with a credit card could come into a T-Store and try out an iPhone 5S for seven days, service included. T-Mo will take a $700 pre-authorisation to stop the phones walking. (Among other things, it sounds like a great idea if you’re visiting the States briefly.)

Sprint has signed up a dozen rural carriers to its LTE roaming program.

Verizon Wireless may be looking at buying DISH’s 2GHz spectrum. How are the mighty fallen! Once the Satellite Cowboy Charlie Ergen did battle with the Samurai Son. Today, he faces the sale of his spectrum to the clone armies of the Bell empire.

Remember when Verizon wanted to turn off the phones on Fire Island? After the epic row, the installers have arrived to start deploying FiOS.

Netflix: paid peering contributes nothing to our prices; FCC fingers Cogent peering in the great video wars; cable and fibre deliver; national roaming

Is all the arguing about paid peering much ado about nothing? Here’s a Netflix exec saying that the costs of interconnection are so small that they don’t represent any meaningful percentage of their prices to the the customer. By extension, they also can’t represent a meaningful percentage of telco revenue. So perhaps we can all go home.

The FCC official blog thinks so, too. Based on the latest release of its Measuring Broadband America report, it comes out and points the finger:

In particular, we found significant drops in broadband performance during a period when Cogent, an Internet backbone provider, reportedly was having disputes with various ISPs.

Unfortunately, our speed test for the report only measures our sample of consumers connecting to a few other points on the Internet, and it cannot accurately gauge the scope of a network congestion problem. As far as we can tell, this problem only appeared in tests using Cogent links. Furthermore, our research indicates that the issue was “path specific,” i.e., it only affected users when they tried to access certain content or data over certain network paths.

Meanwhile, as usual, the report itself is a goldmine of statistics. Here’s an interesting chart showing how, as our Triple Play in the USA note pointed out, cable and fibre underpromise and overdeliver while (V)DSL does the opposite, and satellite operators are strategically modest about the speeds they offer.


And T-Mobile wants the FCC to investigate AT&T, specifically, over the prices they charge for national roaming.

Canadian cableco about to go Free? T-Music causes net neutrality storm; Google threatens indie labels with YouTube death penalty

Are we about to see some disruption in Canada? Cableco Videotron has got its spectrum, specifically 700MHz, and it’s planning to become the fourth national carrier. It will surely be interesting to see whether a Free Mobile-like disruption is transferable outside France, and whether it is intended. Also, what will the (theoretically) content-focused cable folks do with content?

Speaking of cable, the Numericable/SFR deal is done.

T-Mobile, meanwhile, has added an own-branded streaming app to its lineup, which includes Rhapsody, Spotify, iTunes Radio, Beatport and quite a few others. The streaming traffic will be zero-rated for T-Billing, which is causing a minor outbreak of hives among net neutrality activists, who tend to appreciate T-Mo.

That, however, will be as nothing to the row unleashed by Google this week. They are planning to launch a paid-for version of YouTube, offering downloads and no ads. This requires that the record labels sign up for it, and the Google has found the ideal way to convince them: simply scrub their stuff off YouTube if they don’t knuckle under. Rage abounds, and a complaint is already with the European anti-trust regulators.

Google buys in-home CCTV company; I/O preview; Telenor gets another M2M platform; Vodafone & NTT partnership

After the $3.2bn acquisition of Nest Labs, Google’s home automation spree continues. Dropcam was snapped up this week for $555m. The company makes a variety of hardware and software for video monitoring and surveillance.

Google I/O is coming up, and Ars Technica has a rundown of Google projects that might figure in it. They’re also looking at investing in another submarine cable.

Telenor Connexion, their international M2M business, has signed up with Thingworx, a platform for M2M software applications. This is a little surprising, as Telenor already has the Shepherd platform in its Objects business.

And Vodafone has extended its M2M partnership with NTT DoCoMo.

The French government is not happy that ICANN has accepted the .wine and .vin top-level domains.

Here are two good pieces on the 36-year old heir to Kinnevik, the Swedish holding company that played a key role via Millicom in the early days of GSM.

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