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Google I/O: Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: Plus, don’t forget to mark your diaries for OnFuture Arabia 2014, November 11-12, Dubai, and Digital Asia, 2-4 Dec, Bali.]

Google I/O: Android on your TV, your car, your watch; stock ‘droid phones at last; Glass, he dead; new big-data tools; Nest API

It’s been Google I/O this week. Among the major announcements, Google is having another run up the smart-TV hill with the selfexplanatory Android TV. This incorporates the API from Chromecast into a TV-specific version of Android, which also has voice recognition and natural language processing extensions to support searching for content hands-off. The API is also intended to let the user drive it from a mobile phone, rather than a remote control.

There was a lot of hardware; the main announcement in that sense was Android Wear, the Google wearables solution, with gadgets showing up from LG and Samsung. Very interestingly indeed, Android TV, Android Wear, and the Android Auto connected-car solution all put the core user interface in the domain of Google’s apps, rather than the Android OS itself, giving Google much more control of the development path and the ability to update the software.

You can see why: here’s the Nokia X2, the second generation of Nokiadroids, a rather impressive device for $99, with all the potentially profitable bits of Android subbed out for Nokia/Microsoft equivalents.

Google frustration with carriers and OEMs’ fiddling with Android is also demonstrated in Android One, a project to produce Nexus-like official phones running nothing but stock Android and updating automatically.

Ron Amadeo at Ars Technica, their reviews editor and Glass explorer no.1499, argues that Google Glass is now obsolete in the light of the Android Wear smartwatches, which offer a more ergonomic experience and one that is both more useful and less intrusive, to the user and to those around them. Further, the watches’ API uses the Android notifications/intents paradigm, and therefore integrates with essentially any Android app, while Glass apps have to be specific to the device. They are also much, much cheaper. He points out that Glass originated in Google X, the trainset-within-a-trainset research group, while Wear originates in the much more product-oriented Android division.

Android Auto is reviewed here. Like the watches, most of it lives on your phone and the UI is remoted to the car’s ICE screen. However, the UI is subject to heavy restrictions so as not to disturb the driver. (OK Google, where’s that self-driving car you were talking about?

In the core Google system, Urs Hölzle says that Google no longer uses the iconic MapReduce distributed data-crunching system, having replaced it with a new tool called Cloud Dataflow, which he says will eventually become available as a service.

The Nest API has been released, with support from several major appliance makers. Vision Mobile thinks that the success of the Internet of Things is best tracked by counting the developers working on it. (Note that NTT DoCoMo just announced its embedded SIM product.)

Google has secretly acquired Arpental Technologies, a startup working on 60GHz band radios.

Despite all this Android activity, Samsung’s CFO is trying to lower expectations for the vendor’s Q2 earnings, which he says won’t be “too good”.

Twilio * Chromebooks = call-centre as a service; Sprint launches national HD voice

Here’s a clever proposition from Voice 2.0 player Twilio. For $75/seat/mo, they will send you Chromebooks with Plantronics headsets, pre-provisioned Google Apps, and the Twilio client, with 7,500 minutes to the PSTN. These are being distributed by Twilio partners who typically have an app running on their platform. The first is LiveOps, so you get their app too. It’s an instant, inflatable call centre, with integral IT support and a high degree of hackability.

The official announcement is here, as is a very nice tutorial on using natural language tools to process SMS messages.

Here’s an Orange whitepaper on why that might be important.


Sprint has turned up HD voice throughout the US, and claims that 16 million of its subscribers already have a device that can use it.

Ken Wieland discusses why carriers are deploying VoLTE. The main motivations so far are spectrum saving, HD audio, and perhaps also WLAN integration.

The challenges and rewards of more speed; Brazilian 700MHz plans; latest TIM dramas; Chinese 700MHz “not before 2020”; America Movil faces up to regulation

Here’s a High Scalability post on what it takes to achieve a factor of 10 improvement in the performance of a web application that ought to be both damning and inspiring to telcos. The damning bit:

Let’s suppose that the network cannot be sped up any further (requiring our network providers and/or the speed of light to improve are said by some to be equally difficult)

The inspiring bit: look at how much of the whole improvement is from the network!


It’s no wonder everyone is so keen to get at the 700MHz band and get even more LTE out there. Brazil is trying to get more carriers to bid for the 700 band, and their regulator reckons the auction will also mark the point where 3G overtakes 2G in terms of subscribers.

The minister reckons that means early September, before the elections. The shutdown of analogue TV and the handover program should begin in April 2016 and reach 60% population coverage by the end of 2017. This compares favourably with the same process in China, where the 700s won’t be available before 2020.

The fate of TIM Brasil is still not clear, and it’s getting less clear, as there’s more drama at the parent Telecom Italia.

The consortium of Italian banks and insurers, rather obviously named Telco, that owns a controlling stake in TI has had to take a €830m writeoff on the shares, and three of the partners want out. Under the terms of the shareholder agreement, this implies winding up Telco and divvying up the stock, which would give Telefonica 14.7% of TI. That would be 14.7% in the high-powered version of the stock, too. The breakup is subject to approval from a galaxy of regulators - as well as Brazil’s antitrust agency (CADE) and telecoms regulator (ANATEL), Argentine telecoms regulators and the Italian insurance supervisor have to sign.

Oi has sold another 1,641 towers to a financial investor for some $527m.

Still in Latin America, Mexico finally has a regulator and it has inevitably pointed the finger at America Movil’s 61.8% market share. The carrier has set up a committee to “consider all options”. TelecomTV points out that the reform provides for plenty of surveillance and net non-neutrality.

Whatever America Movil decides to do, they’re doing it without AT&T. The carrier sold its stake back to Carlos Slim for some $5.6bn, money it’s going to spend on DirecTV.

EE “most complained” operator; BT outage; cheap, cheap FTTH; NBN pays Telstra for FTTN

EE is the operator with the most complaints per 1000 customers in the UK, according to OFCOM. The biggest causes of complaints were billing disputes, number portability, and “complaints handling” - so a substantial number of complainants were complaining about the response to past compliants. The British, it seems, like complaining. Interestingly, O2 has the fewest complaints.


BT, though, managed to really give them something to complain about this weekend, as the network fell over. DNS was unavailable for the whole UK, while about half AS5400’s prefixes disappeared from the Internet routing table.

OpenSignal, meanwhile, reckons reckons national roaming won’t help much.

Having failed to merge with Orange or buy SFR, Bouygues is trying to expand its nascent FTTH network. To do so, they’ve just slashed the prices, offering a triple-play bundle for €25.99/mo.

The French regulator is not happy about the Bouygues-SFR network sharing agreement, meanwhile, specifically because Bouygues alone is allowed to run LTE in the 1800MHz band.

Australia’s NBN is paying Telstra to deploy a trial FTTN network. How are the mighty fallen; once the NBN set out to replace the copper, now it’s paying Telstra to invest in it.

Satellite Cowboy Charlie Ergen has been involved in the litigation over LightSquared, the latest in Phil Falcone’s long line of satellite-Internet projects, which went bust after discovering it couldn’t just use the same band as GPS. There is now a plan to bring LightSquared out of bankruptcy, but there is no place for the Cowboy in it. The judge was displeased:

Mr. Ergen, who left one of the three mediation sessions with creditors without Judge Drain’s permission, had not “participated in the mediation in good faith” and “wasted the parties and the mediator’s time and resources,” the judge wrote in a memorandum filed on Friday afternoon.


Kinnevik denies that it’s selling Tele2. Is AT&Tcutting back its CapEx? It’s costing £70m to shut down the South Yorkshire Digital Region.

And here’s a good presentation on why EE isn’t doing C-RAN yet.

Aereo: whatever Supremes say, it just wasn’t very good; Verizon adds more CDN; is Spotify hyping music from its advertisers? Facebook Home is dead

The US Supreme Court this week found against Aereo, the company that wanted to receive broadcast TV and re-stream it on the Internet. Dan Rayburn argues that this is a detail - Aereo wasn’t a good product or a sensible business model.

Netflix and other services have taught us that consumers want a lot of content choice, they want a deep catalog of content to pick from, they want it on all of their devices, they expect the quality of the video to be very good and the service to be easy to use. This isn’t what Aereo offered.

Verizon, meanwhile, has added 20 more POPs to its EdgeCast CDN. Interestingly, this has been done in part to create more peerings where content providers can upload their stuff.

Amazon Web Services has added more intelligence to CloudFront, letting it respond to a wider range of HTTP headers.

Spotify streams and recommends music. It also sells ads. Does it recommend music that it advertises? The question is asked, and the answer is no, for the time being.

YouTube and Universal Music have signed an agreement under which YouTube agrees to take down UMG content it objects to, whether or not it is covered by the fair-use exemption. This sounds like it could run and run.

Tencent is spending $736m to buy 58.com, a Chinese classified-ads website, in order to offer more shopping opportunities to the vast QQ/WeChat user base.

The Facebook Home team has been disbanded.

Facebook experiments on your mind; “no” to warrantless searches of mobile devices; Germany kicks Verizon; Blackphone review

Speaking of Facebook, it turns out they carried out an experiment to see if they could influence the moods of 600,000 non-consenting users by changing the newsfeed algorithm. They could indeed do so, and the rest of the Internet’s mood has been changed to “angry”.

On a similar theme, a design student at the Royal College of Art has built a filing cabinet that follows people around, to remind them of their data trail.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that mobile devices cannot be searched without a warrant.

Germany has cancelled a huge contract with Verizon to run much of its government’s telecoms - because they want to punish them over the NSA spying.

And Ars Technica reviews the Blackphone.

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