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September 30, 2014

Apple Pay & Weve Fail: A Wake Up Call


We’ve just published a new research paper ‘Apple Pay & Weve Fail’. The unveiling of Apple Pay and unravelling of Weve (the UK operators’ payments venture) looked like bad news for telcos’ ambitions in mobile payments in some markets, and highlighted challenges to Google and others’ models. Yet there are already successful telco models and favourable market trends that telcos should exploit. So what are the opportunities now?

You can read an excerpt of the report here. We’ll also be exploring the implications at Digital Asia (2-4 December, Bali), and are initiating coverage of a new research programme on Internet-Driven Disruption, and we’d really appreciate your input here. For more on any of these services, please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 207 247 5003.


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September 29, 2014

TI bidders, Millicom digital services, BlackBerry comeback, security crisis: Telco 2.0 News Review

‘Digital Asia 2014’ Executive Brainstorm and Innovation Forum, run by STL Partners in collaboration with Telkom Indonesia, is designed to equip 250 specially-invited business leaders from across the region’s telecoms, enterprise and technology sectors 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.

Trujillo bids for TI; Sawaris bids for TI; DTAG thinks it might keep T-Mo; Vodafone waits on BT 4G over UK fibre; Millicom digital services surge

Here’s some excitement. Former Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo wants to buy Telecom Italia, raising $10.8bn or about 50% of the carrier’s market capitalisation. The obvious attraction is of course TIM Brasil, plus perhaps its other Latin American assets now they’ve been gathered into one handy package. He also, however, claims that if he gets it he’ll deploy much more FTTH in Italy, somehow, although the carrier comes with $35bn of debt.

At a seven-hour board meeting, TI considered the bid, but also a rival offer from Egyptian financier and Wind owner, Naguib Sawaris, and the sale of their Argentine opco, which is not making much progress due to regulatory issues and problems at the buyer, Fintech. They agreed to extend a deadline for Fintech to close on the deal, but they must also be wondering whether it might be better to sell to whoever takes TIM Brasil.

Elsewhere, Softbank may be in for 50% of Mexico’s third mobile operator, Iusacell, while its joint fixed-wireless product with DISH has launched in Texas. The 10Mbps service costs $30/mo if you take DISH’s satellite TV and runs in Sprint’s 2.5GHz spectrum. AT&T, meanwhile, inched closer to jumping into the price war, offering double the data on its shared plans for a short-time promotion.

T-Mobile is planning to buy more 700MHz spectrum.

But more interestingly, DTAG is playing increasingly hard-to-get over the operator’s future. Reuters reports that they now think they’ll keep it at least another year, and they’re sceptical of Iliad coming up with a better bid. Further, if they wait a little longer, regulatory rules mean that it’s no deal until after the AWS-3 spectrum auction is done, and who knows what might happen. And there’s the bigger question of whether it makes sense to sell a growing asset, hand out a lot of cash to shareholders, and use the rest to invest in shrinking European fixed networks, like Vodafone.

Also, DTAG isn’t convinced that Iliad’s promised $2bn of recurring gains in EBITDA is really achievable, or if it is, why it’s only achievable by Iliad. So perhaps the whole deal might be on the back burner, and DTAG will spend the money on the AWS-3 and 600MHz spectrum auctions?

Elsewhere, we’re all waiting on BT’s plans to launch a 4G femtocell network in the UK. CEO Gavin Patterson is interviewed here, suggesting that there will be an offer for “businesses and consumers”, that it will be femto-centric with overlay coverage via an MVNO deal with EE, and keeping the core proposition Very Secret. Vodafone UK, meanwhile, says it’s waiting to see what BT does with the 2.6GHz spectrum it bought before it makes a decision about deploying fibre in the UK.

Although the British government’s sudden burst of enthusiasm for national roaming didn’t lead anywhere, they’re still all worked up about the prime minister’s dropped calls, and now they’re trying to get more passive infrastructure sharing. We shall see how the operators respond. In France, meanwhile, Orange has failed to block the SFR-Bouygues network sharing agreement via a regulatory complaint.

The regulator, ARCEP, recently regained the power to sanction telcos directly, and has celebrated by citing 19 different operators. Another regulator, the FCC, issued a blog post earlier this week describing the powers it has short of Title II regulation, provoking vigorous calls for Title II regulation.

Could European operators make an extra €2bn a year by cooperating with OTT players? Emerging-market carrier Millicom reckons its digital services will help it double its revenues, especially from mobile financial services and also music. SK Telecom, meanwhile, has a tablet-based marketplace for restaurants.

Expresso Ghana is the only CDMA2000 operator in Ghana, and perhaps not surprisingly it hasn’t been doing so well. As a result, they’re rethinking and looking at turning the operator into an MVNO shop.

SingTel has a timeframe for turning off GSM - 2G will go in “2 to 3 years”.

TeliaSonera has found some dodgy contracts at its Kazakh opco. Not, perhaps, the biggest surprise. Having given up on a stock market listing, Eircom’s CEO is off.

And Jon Frederik Baaksas steps down after 12 years as Telenor CEO.

Talko: interesting, much hyped Voice 2.0 app

Hype is surging around Talko, a new Voice 2.0 app that’s billed as providing integrated collaboration, voice messaging, picture and video sharing, with a radically new conversation-focused UX. It’s the work of Lotus Notes inventor Ray Ozzie’s start-up of the same name.

Here’s a very enthusiastic write-up by Steven Levy, and Ray Ozzie’s introduction. If half of this is real, it’s exactly the sort of thing we’ve been covering in our Voice 2.0 practice for years. For example, here’s a quote:

Features include the ability to tag and bookmark specific moments of a call for easy reference and sharing afterward. For example, it’s possible to search all calls to find moments where a conversation was tagged #budget or #followup, or any other tag a user chooses.

Dan York tries it, is enthusiastic, but discovers he has to set per-IP rules on his firewall to make it work.

Meanwhile, Dutch hosted-UC provider Voice Works is a 4G MVNO.

BlackBerry results are reasonable; Passport reviews

BlackBerry results are out, and Beyond Devices reckons they’re surprisingly good, with gross margins back to the levels of 2010, shipments up and sell-through stabilising, and actual growth in the key North American segment.

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Overall, the company made a small loss this quarter, having made a small profit last quarter. They expect to stop burning cash by the middle of next year. An important milestone is coming up, as the discounting of old inventory is coming to an end ahead of the launch of new products, especially the new Passport smartphone.

Here’s a positive review from ZDNet. Here’s a less positive review from The Verge, which however concedes that the battery life, the screen, voice and audio quality, and radio performance are outstanding - so apart from that, what did the Romans do for us? Here’s a middling review from the Wall Street Journal.

The biggest sticking point seems to be just that it’s squarish; sometimes it feels weird to remember the variety of form factors phones used to come in.

Half the phones are now smart; Samsung’s crisis in China; 4 million+ iWeekend

Quietly, we’re approaching the point where there are more smartphones out there than non-smartphones. A Kantar Worldpanel survey for Google reckons the global average penetration is now 49%. Meanwhile, GfK expects 18% shipments growth next year, and that neither the US, UK, or Japan will be in the top five markets for growth by value. Instead, as prices pass $50, the growth will come from India, China, and Indonesia.

Samsung was the biggest smartphone vendor in China as recently as June, but in August, they were fourth, behind Lenovo, Huawei, Xiaomi, and ZTE.

If this piece on Apple vs. Samsung is right, they’re going to have serious trouble, as while the Chinese vendors eat into the mass market, Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus is going to hit the Galaxy Notes hard, as customers perceived the bigger phones as premium products.

Speaking of which, Nokia has the biggest of all the hugephones, and the 1520 is reviewed here.

Horace reckons that the iPhone 6 launch weekend was bigger than any previous one.

And The Register publishes a Phones4U slide deck revealing the defunct reseller’s startlingly offensive contempt for its customer base.

Verizon, ALU, AT&T CTOs on 5G; TalkTalk targets 60% FTTH coverage; HP’s SDN app store

Verizon’s CTO says the industry needs to sort out three key elements of LTE before thinking about 5G: unlicensed spectrum, Internet of Things support, and interoperability, especially roaming. He also said that:

And quite frankly in the US we’ve been one of the leaders in 4G LTE, and that’s because we’ve invested big. That hasn’t been an accident, it hasn’t been inevitable

Michael Peeters, CTO for wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, argues that the real difference with 5G would be the system architecture rather than the radio interface, and it’s missing the point to stuff new radio features into LTE and call it 5G. Kris Rinne of AT&T, meanwhile, argues that whatever 5G will be, it won’t be a single radio technology but rather a network of networks.

BT, meanwhile, claims to be getting close to gigabit downlink speeds using G.fast over copper for a “FTTDp” deployment. That is, if the copper is in perfect condition, within less than 400 metres of an exchange, if the distribution point is very close. In fact, the “long” copper run in the trial was 66 metres.

TalkTalk, meanwhile, says it aims to pass 50-60% of British homes with its fibre network. This would require a take-rate of 30-40% and a cost-to-pass of £500. Fujitsu, it turns out, will be building the access element of the FTTH network they’re jointly deploying in York.

Virgin Media has been developing a speciality in mobile backhaul. This week, Fastback Networks announced that they’d completed a successful trial of their LTE point-to-multipoint backhaul radios with VMED, operating in the 5GHz band. It looks like VMED is planning to offer a wholesale backhaul service for small cells.

Vodafone, meanwhile, is replacing some of its Sure Signal femtocells with Open Sure Signal, a rural small cell that provides public service rather than just home zone, and EE has said it plans to add another 5MHz 3G carrier and 20MHz of 2.6GHz next year, once its carrier-aggregation is ready.

HP has an app store for SDN. Ericsson is upgrading T-Mobile USA to support tri-band LTE and better voice handoff.

Shellshock: patch your servers! Xen bug forces mass reboots across the cloud; FBI says no to Ericsson MNP

This week saw a massive security crisis, as the Bourne shell, the command-line terminal known as bash found on a large majority of Unix/Linux machines and therefore most Web servers, turns out to have a terrible bug that permits malicious code execution with the privileges whatever invoked bash in the first place had.

The problem is that you can create a new bash shell from inside another shell, and pass variables that you defined in the other shell through to the new one. Unfortunately, if you put a shell script in such a variable, it turns out that when the variable is parsed before the new shell starts, any such script gets executed. The gravity of this can’t really be overstated, as web servers often do this to handle cookies, so literally anyone on the Internet could run code on your machine with the web server’s privileges. And the bug has been present for at least 25 years.

The upshot was a lot of patching, especially as the first patch (helpfully provided by Red Hat) turned out to be buggy as well. Instructions to check if you are at risk are here.

Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services began informing 10% of its customers that they were going to reboot their virtual machines. The reason is that there is a critical bug in the widely used Xen hypervisor, which is the basis for AWS’s own solution. Rackspace is also rebooting everything to apply a patch.

And if you’re not scared, what about the Nikon cameras that expose all the photos on the SD card to an unsecured WiFi network? Perhaps it’s no surprise that the price of stolen credit cards has crashed due to over-supply.

Here’s something interesting. Neustar has had the contract to run mobile number portability in the US for many years, but now Ericsson, via its ownership of Telcordia, has got it, and the Feds aren’t best pleased because it seems to play an important role in NSA surveillance.

Oracle is building two huge new data centres in Germany to accommodate clients who insist that their data be stored in-country. Meanwhile, Google is building a new super-centre in Holland, as are Microsoft, Colt, and Digital Realty in a partnership with KPN. The explanation is probably more about cheap wind power and cheap water cooling than security, though.

Are malware authors using targeted advertising services?

And John “Cap’n Crunch” Draper, phone phreak legend, needs your help.

Huawei buys Neul after switch to licenced spectrum; Telekom Austria smart meters; Cisco in Russia

Neul, the Cambridge-based startup best known for its involvement in whitespace radio, has been acquired by Huawei, after both the startup and the Weightless standardisation group it founded shifted from focusing on whitespace to focusing on licenced spectrum, using the guard bands in the same way they intended to use the whitespaces. About 30 people transfer to Huawei UK.

Telekom Austria has launched its national M2M solution for smart metering, running over its GPRS network (what was that about shutting down the 2G again?)

AT&T has certified u-blox’s SARA-U260 module, with 3G, GPS/GLONASS, and various connected-car protocols.

Cisco Systems has deployed a combined public WiFi, “smart city”, and CCTV surveillance system to the city of Kazan in Russia. Right.

And this journalist deployed SmartThings sensors around his house and learned…nothing much.

Facebook has a new ad platform…

Facebook has a new ad platform, codename Atlas, which is meant to apply Facebook targeting to ads served on other websites or in mobile apps. There’s also a fine High Scalability post on how Facebook optimises for low-end phones and the challenges of mobility more generally - the image tricks are especially important as they include ads.

Google has published samples of the Android Auto connected-car user interface, and is having a row with Rupert Murdoch.

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September 22, 2014

Apple CDN; Netflix; Google 2.0; Nextel PTT rides again - Telco 2.0 News Review

‘Digital Asia 2014’ Executive Brainstorm and Innovation Forum, run by STL Partners in collaboration with Telkom Indonesia, is designed to equip 250 specially-invited business leaders from across the region’s telecoms, enterprise and technology sectors 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.

Apple iOS 8, a global tournament of CDN performance; Netflix comes to Germany; has Media 1.0 found the money in the Internet?

This week saw a major challenge in terms of Internet content delivery. It was of course the Apple iOS 8 update, a download of more than a gigabyte to vast numbers of devices. Apple, per Dan Rayburn, seems to have chosen to use its own home-built CDN for most of the downloads, although outside the US, they also made use of Akamai and Limelight capacity, enough of it that latency on Limelight’s network went up across the board.

As the ramp-up began, some ISPs were 50% above normal by 4pm Pacific time. Apple was the biggest traffic source in France, overtaking YouTube, and second only to Netflix in the US. Traffic peaked at 3Tbps on a sample of North American residential ISPs.

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Not surprisingly, some people experienced delays. Apple’s CDN reached Verizon residential customers via Level(3) and Cogent, and as usual interconnection between VZ and Cogent seems to be a bit fraught. One operator found they could do quite a bit better by null-routing one of the prefixes involved and forcing the traffic to Akamai instead.

In the UK, TalkTalk alone claims to have peaked at 1.25Tbps.

Netflix is coming to Germany, meanwhile. The streaming site has a distribution agreement for STBs with Deutsche Telekom and one for mobile apps with Vodafone Germany.

Sky TV’s Now TV on-demand service put off a major price rise earlier this year, but now it’s going ahead.

Have the content giants worked out what to do about the Internet? Ernst & Young says yes:

We are seeing that digital is very much driving profits now, instead of disrupting it. Companies are figuring out how to monetize the migration of consumers to a variety of digital platforms, and this insatiable demand for content is fueling growth throughout the industry.”

The British music industry lobby says it managed to grow 9% in 2013, although this was more about the continuing trend for more revenue from live performance than any big change in digital.

Apple suppliers struggle with 5.5” displays; Sony in trouble; “Google 2.0”; Amazon gadgets; Microsoft strategy

We’ve said it before: Apple’s killer app turned out to be manufacturing. This time, it seems to be a problem. Foxconn is having trouble with quality control, and only between 50 and 60% of the 5.5” displays for the new iPhone are passing tests. As a result, they’re having difficulties keeping the supply chain topped up with shiny gadgets, as 10 million of the phones have already sold in three days of availability.

Bloomberg Businessweek thinks the Android One phones are very bad news for Samsung’s sales in India, and compares this with the situation at Sony. Sony’s Mobile Comms unit had a terrible Q1 and has gone from promising growth to cutting 15% of the workforce, while it hopes to introduce more low-cost smartphones using MediaTek chips.

Google, meanwhile, has picked a reviving HTC for its next Nexus device, a 9” tablet, as it continues to rotate flagship device projects between vendors.

Larry Page has a new vision, “Google 2.0”, that apparently involves a “model airport and city”. It really is the world’s biggest train set…

Amazon, meanwhile, updated its hardware line. There are new Kindles, a refreshed Fire HDX that can run Windows 8 in a cloud-based virtual machine, and two new sub-$100 Fires based on a Mediatek SoC.

Grameenphone is offering a Firefox OS device, manufactured locally for $60 a go, with 20MB of extra data for anyone who visits their app store.

Ericsson is shutting down its modems business after the current product ships. The point seems to be that nobody is much interested in thin modems rather than integrated SoCs any more. The staff are being transferred to small cells R&D.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says he’s more interested in getting Microsoft apps and cloud services onto more devices than he is in getting more Windows devices. He also says you’re fired.

Telefonica/GVT is a deal; wave of Latin American mergers

It’s a deal: Telefonica is taking GVT off Vivendi’s hands for €7.2bn, including assumption of debt and handing over the Telefonica stake in Telecom Italia.

This seems to have triggered a wave of change through the Latin American mobile industry. First of all, there’s TI, actively looking at a bid for Oi, just after Oi merged with Portugal Telecom.

Then there’s America Movil, which wants to sell a large chunk of its operation in Mexico and perhaps also spin off its towers. Softbank, China Mobile, AT&T, and Bell Canada have been approached.

AT&T’s chief strategy officer, John Stankey, has confirmed that they’re interested.

If the sale happens, it is reported, America Movil might take its money and look to buy assets in Brazil. This story is getting complicated; America Movil might, apparently, try a joint bid with Oi for TIM Brasil.

Vendors, meanwhile, are queueing up to bid for the right to build a new wholesale-only national network in Mexico. The project is meant to rule out another monopoly ever again, by creating a publicly owned shared infrastructure. With $10bn of contracts up for grabs, it’s no surprise ALU, Ericsson, and Huawei are all after it.

NII Holdings, owner of the Nextel businesses in Latin America, which has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says it’s determined to keep its Brazilian operator, which is down to 1.5% market share as the iDEN technology is no longer very attractive.

Nextel PTT, back from the dead; US voice minutes surge; AT&T bags huge Shell UC contract

Speaking of iDEN and Nextel, look at this. Sprint has sold the last of its 900MHz spectrum to a group of old Nextel execs, who want to launch a national PTT network in the 2x6MHz block. They say they will use “an unspecified Motorola Solutions’ digital radio technology - not iDEN as Nextel used”, but as they’re targeting small and medium businesses and critical infrastructure, it sounds like a pure Nextel clone. How will that do against AT&T’s LTE Push-to-Talk net?

Perhaps better than you might think; it seems that mobile voice usage is rising in the US, surprisingly strongly. One would think the price war probably had something to do with this.

AT&T, meanwhile, has a truly enormous hosted unified communications contract, with Shell, coveirng 150,000 seats for the next 5 years.

Verizon Wireless is rolling out VoLTE, starting with HD voice, 6-way conferencing, and video calls that switch to WLAN automatically.

Zendesk has a new Enterprise subscription plan, with new pricing, higher levels of customer support, and more Avaya telephony integration.

And Twilio has MMS support.

Iliad: better bid by mid-October or no deal; VZW may sell towers; AT&T improves SMB products; tidal wave of FCC objections

Iliad has declared a self-imposed deadline of mid-October to improve its bid for T-Mobile USA. An informative Reuters piece says the company is in talks with several US banks and private-equity funds, looking for more investment. CFO Thomas Reynaud wants another $5-6.5bn in order to get the leverage ratio down to 4.5x EBITDA (it’s over 7 at the moment - see our Executive Briefing for in-depth coverage), as Xavier Niel is unwilling to issue more than €2bn in new Iliad stock. KKR is named as a potential buyer.

However, DTAG is also said to want a buyer who brings customers and spectrum to the table in the US, although this may be a negotiating tactic. They are also sceptical about Iliad’s claims of huge operational savings, especially as Iliad has yet to get any due diligence on the company.

Verizon CFO Fran Shammo, meanwhile, said that the company would consider selling its towers, and would launch LTE multicast in the fourth quarter. They also added 22 markets with additional 1700MHz LTE spectrum.

AT&T is beginning to offer a symmetric fibre access product for businesses in a small number of cities, as well as an API for resellers.

Here’s the highly critical document a group of affiliate networks handed into the FCC against the AT&T-DirecTV merger. And the FCC provides some data regarding the rate of comments coming in about net neutrality.

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Orange buys Jazztel; Hyperoptic moves on to Glasgow; MTS faces Putin

Orange has offered €3.4bn in cash for Spanish ISP Jazztel, as the race to buy fibre and cable assets heats up.

In the UK, Hyperoptic has announced that its gigabit FTTH builds will move on to Glasgow, after the first installs lit up in Cardiff. Meanwhile, Virgin Media has started a small trial FTTH build using mini-trenching and RFoG (Radio Frequency over Glass) for the TV element.

EE, Vodafone, and Dixons/Carphone Warehouse have all bought part of Phones4U.

In South Africa, Vodacom has announced a SMB fibre-to-the-building deployment with 100Mbps GPON.

In Namibia, Telecom Namibia is deploying 40/120Mbps fibre, after the new WACS submarine cable landed.

A French public-private fibre deployment partnership has failed.

It looks like Foxconn, Lenovo, Xiaomi, Hainan Airlines, and Haier (a white-goods manufacturer) are the next wave of Chinese MVNOs.

And it seems that MTS, Russia’s biggest mobile operator, is likely to end up renationalised…one way or the other.

Larry Ellison steps down…but not very far

Oracle has missed estimates in five of the last seven quarters. In fairness, their cloud results were pretty decent, but it wasn’t enough, and Larry Ellison is stepping down as CEO. He’s not going far though - he’s staying as CTO, while two other execs will job-share as co-CEOs.

IBM is making its Watson analytics system available as a “freemium” app, and extending its alliance with AT&T to sell AT&T NetBond VPNs to Softlayer hosting clients.

They’ve also built a huge new disaster-recovery data centre in North Carolina.

Facebook, meanwhile, turned off a whole data centre to test their disaster recovery and load-balancing plans.

Rackspace isn’t for sale.

Alibaba.com is world’s No.2 Internet company; AT&T, Orange M2M; Telefonica m-banking

The AliBaba.com IPO was a roaring success, raising a record $21.8bn after the shares were placed at $68, and rising 38% on the day. That values the company at more than Amazon and EBay added up, and makes Jack Ma China’s richest man. That said, nobody was taking any chances - half the shares in the IPO were allocated to a group of 25 underwriters and strategic investors.

This means that four of the top 10 Internet companies are Chinese and Alibaba is No.2 to Google.

AT&T has a new M2M SIM product that supports multiple profiles on the physical SIM and over-the-air provisioning.

Orange Business Services has an API for real-time location of its M2M modules.

Apple has delayed the release of Healthkit over bugs.

And Telefonica has an m-payments app in Spain, in partnership with Caixabank and Santander.

Finally, who is operating dozens of IMSI catchers around Washington DC?

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September 17, 2014

Connected Car: Key Trends, Players and Battlegrounds


We’ve just published a new research paper ‘Connected Car: Key Trends, Players and Battlegrounds’. Connected cars are set to revolutionise the automotive industry as we know it, turning the car into the ‘ultimate mobile device’ and driving the growth of M2M in a big way. With Apple, Google, telcos and many others in the chase, we analyse the growth drivers, value chain, and key battles for control of this increasingly complex ecosystem, and outline a new connected car services framework.

You can read an excerpt of the report here. We’ll also be exploring the implications at Digital Asia (2-4 December, Bali), and are initiating coverage of a new research programme on Internet-Driven Disruption, and we’d really appreciate your input here. For more on any of these services, please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 207 247 5003.


Extract chart from report:

Connected Car Example Chart.png

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September 15, 2014

Apple, T-Mobile, Vodafone, FCC, Phones4U: Telco 2.0 News Review

‘Digital Asia 2014’ Executive Brainstorm and Innovation Forum, run by STL Partners in collaboration with Telkom Indonesia, is designed to equip 250 specially-invited business leaders from across the region’s telecoms, enterprise and technology sectors 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.

Apple gadgets: worldwide LTE roaming, watches, credit cards, CDN failure, enterprise apps. Plus Qualcomm’s $100 smartphone SoC

You are probably aware that Apple has launched a new iPhone. ExtremeTech notes that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (one is bigger than the other, going into the phablet class) support a huge variety of radio bands, enough to finally deliver on LTE roaming. Pretty much only the lower 700MHz band (Band 12) isn’t supported, which will be problematic for US Cellular, while Sprint will be delighted that it will do tri-band working between 800, 1.9GHz, and 2.5GHz. There’s also support for Band 29 in LTE-A carrier aggregation.

ReadWrite notes that the 6 Plus seems to be in heavier demand than the 6, as it has already sold out with most US operators. According to Reuters, though, there is a supply chain issue with the 5.5” devices. Meanwhile, you needed a Nokia Lumia to buy an iPhone from T-Mobile.

You might also have had some trouble just watching the event. Apple hired Akamai to shift the video, but they also decided to include live tweets in the web page, meaning that every time a new tweet landed, the page cached in the CDN would be out of date and the benefit of the CDN, lost.

Apple also, of course, announced a smartwatch, and Ars Technica reviews it jointly with Motorola’s Android Wear-based Moto 360, while here’s a review by a horologist, who reckons the mid-market is most threatened. That in itself is a departure for Apple, which usually aims to be the absolute best money can buy in its category.

We do have our doubts about a watch that needs charging daily, though, although to be fair that’s true of all the competition as well. Last week’s story regarding Apple Pay, the built-in credit card support, has been confirmed, and the watch also gets a heartbeat sensor. In fact, Apple Pay appears to have claimed a scalp already: WEVE is no more, its carrier backers apparently lacking enthusiasm for a fight with Apple.

ZDNet wonders where the IBM enterprise apps from their alliance with Apple have got to. Horace argues that Apple’s hit products have always started with a new user interface (eg GUI, clickwheel, touchscreen), and that the watch is the latest of these.

Elsewhere, Qualcomm has announced a new Snapdragon SoC, the 210, which it hopes will bring the cost of a 4G-equipped smartphone below $100. For that you get 7 LTE bands, carrier aggregation, broadcast, multi-SIM support, and hardware acceleration for Qualcomm’s HEVC video codec.

The obvious market for the Snappy 210 is going to be Google’s Android One programme, which launched three new $105 devices in India this week. Google is trying to spread $100-ish smartphones by improving their quality, specifically, providing reference designs and insisting on stock Android.

On the same theme, here’s a review of the new version of the Motorola G cheap smartphone, $179. Ars notes that the camera has improved dramatically. The Moto 360 watch is, meanwhile, back in stock.

Now this is what I call cheap smartphone: Amazon Fire phones are going for 99 US cents on a 2-year AT&T contract. Amazon likes to price hardware to go, but this is an obvious fire sale.

The next Nexus will probably be anything but cheap, and here’s a little information: coming in “Q3” and based on a NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC.

And we’re still waiting for the promised Apple set-top box for cable. A rich blog post from the Disruptive Competition Project explains why cable STBs are still controlled by cablecos although the FCC mandated direct-to-consumer as long ago as 1998.

Apple, T-Mobile inject energy into VoWLAN; new Vodafone One Net tier; cablecos start international WiFi roaming

Another major feature of the iPhone 6 is voice-over-WLAN, with handoff between VoLTE and VoWLAN. T-Mobile USA is the first to get its hands dirty, announcing that from now on, all devices it sells will support it. Also, although calls placed within the US will be billed as usual, international WLAN calls will be free. AT&T, meanwhile, suggested they might deploy some time next year. In support of this, T-Mobile is also offering a new home hotspot - although quite how that will work given that they don’t have any fixed assets isn’t clear.

Vodafone, meanwhile, has introduced a new tier of service for its One Net cloud voice product, aiming at large enterprises.

US cable operators are already cooperating to extend the CableWifi joint SSID around the States, letting their users roam onto any cable-owned WLAN hotspot. Now Comcast and LibertyGlobal have extended the deal to cover international roaming.

Cloudberry is a Norwegian startup that wants to provide a carrier-neutral small-cell underlay network. This week, they announced their first deployment, in Norway. If we read this right, they have their own 2.6GHz spectrum block.

Nokia Networks, meanwhile, announced a new small cell product but perhaps more interestingly, a high-resolution 3-D indoor geolocation system intended to help plan small cell networks…which could also have some other uses. Alcatel has a new small cell.

Vodafone is risk-on; America Movil wants TIM Brasil; TI Argentina plans changed; latest T-Mobile/Sprint instalment

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao says the carrier will consider a “transformative” deal if the price is right, setting a thousand hares running.

There’s Brazil, where America Movil and two other carriers are reported to be considering a joint bid to buy and break up TIM Brasil. Vodafone might come in to buy it. Or perhaps they might take the whole of Telecom Italia’s Latin American operations? TI is apparently looking at reorganising, putting Argentina in the same division with Brazil, as a “plan B” if the sale of Telecom Argentina falls through - or perhaps if Vodafone makes a better offer?

There’s cable, where Vodafone is rumoured to be interested in buying Liberty Global. Or perhaps content, with Sky?

Or why not go right back to the US, and buy T-Mobile USA? That immediately brings us to the topic of Sprint, whose new CEO has been explaining that it was too complicated to sell their “Framily” friends-and-family tariff - really?

T-Mo’s John Legere, meanwhile, announced another impressive month terms of subscribers. They added 550,000 net postpaid subs and another 208,000 net prepaid subs in August, with 2.3 Sprint customers joining for every one going the other way.

Here’s an interesting, if uncritical, French report on Free’s bid for T-Mobile. We love the detail that no photograph is known to exist of Free’s CTO, as if he was some shadowy über-hacker. In fact it’s just that he lives in Montpellier and the Parisian media pack never gets that far out of town. More seriously, it sounds like the plan is just to sweat the cost base, and at one point the reporter seems to suggest Vodafone might come in on the deal - now that would be a turn-up for the book.

In France, Bouygues has signed up to put Netflix in their set-top boxes.

Canadian cableco Videotron, meanwhile, has launched its 4G network. Videotron’s own network is restricted to its footprint in Quebec and it relies on an agreement with Rogers elsewhere, but it also has 700MHz licences and is looking at expanding its own coverage. Being a cableco, it also probably has great backhaul. Remind you of Free?

Elsewhere, TeliaSonera’s Spanish opco, Yoigo, may be going to buy fixed-line ISP Jazztel. Telstra is spending A$1.4bn to get its LTE 700 network up. And the availability of more submarine capacity is driving a boom in regional and access fibre in Africa.

FCC sounds sceptical on mergers; Sprint backs out of AWS3, 2.5GHz rollout; Pelosi for Title II

But who’s to say that anyone will be allowed to buy T-Mo? FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says he intends to remain sceptical about mergers between big operators, and in general he talks tough on consolidation. Note the point about “between” operators, though, which leaves open the option of a sale to something that isn’t an operator or at least not an operator in the US.

He also called on operators to show their hands about spectrum. Sprint has said it’s sitting the AWS-3 auction out, for example. The FCC official blog sets out details of the auction and sounds very much as if it’s trying to sell the spectrum, notably making the point that it should be clear of government users quite quickly.

Sprint seems to be going through another big reappraisal. The new CEO no longer wants to roll out 2.5GHz across the whole network, even though he’s still talking up the sheer size of the block. Instead, they’re going to pick congested areas for priority investment.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives has written to Tom Wheeler arguing that broadband should be reclassified as a telecoms service, back under the famous Title II of the Telecoms Act, ahead of today’s deadline for comments on net neutrality.

Elsewhere, Ukraine is planning to ban Russian operators from taking part in future spectrum auctions, and a Bulgarian operator has had its 4G licence revoked after it failed to pay the fee.

Phones4U burns up in the atmosphere after £205m PIK deal; UK operators demand continued existence of UK; new fibre builder

The UK’s second biggest mobile retailer, Phones4U, failed to open for business this morning after the last operator willing to supply it, EE, cut its line of credit over the weekend. Now, 5,500 employees are on the dole.

The private-equity fund, BC Partners, which owns the company is blaming the mobile operators, as is John Caudwell, the founder who sold the company back in 2006. The operators reject this, arguing that the private equity owners loaded so much debt on the company that it couldn’t survive if they didn’t give it extraordinarily generous terms. Last September, the owners had borrowed £205m in payment-in-kind notes at a 10% interest rate, before immediately paying themselves the whole lot as a special dividend.

The UK’s major operator CEOs, meanwhile, intervened in the campaign for the Scottish independence referendum via a joint letter. This might sound like a threat, but you do have to wonder how on earth we got to this point without knowing what happens to the spectrum licences the day after yes.

In other political news, the national roaming scheme launched after the prime minister had a dropped call has itself been dropped after the operators refused to take part.

Virgin Media claims EE, its MVNO partner, is to blame for poor speeds. Bizarrely, they claim that EE shipped them “defective” SIMs, and then go on to talk about a problem at a EE data centre.

GigaClear, builders of pure FTTH, are floating on the stock market, hoping to raise £20m, while a new wholesale fibre builder has emerged. And meet Everest Park, Basingstoke’s island of slow broadband.

AT&T IoT lands in Europe; Telenor is a bank now; Monitise has an ugly quarter; AliBaba IPO upped; Tropo.com fail

Telefonica is bringing AT&T Digital Life to Europe, under a trial at first. Telefonica will host, manage, and brand the service, using AT&T’s technical solution. The Voice of Broadband has some more detail, and notes that the assisted-living element of Digital Life is now ready for launch.

Elsewhere, Telenor has opened a bank in Serbia. Last year, they acquired a bank holding company, and now they’re ready to launch their first wholly-owned mobile banking operation.

Monitise, the mobile banking technology firm, reported some pretty mixed results. On the one hand there were partnerships with IBM and a huge new customer, Santander. On the other hand, revenues were up 31%, not the 50% promised, and the company lost money, 63% more than it did last year.

As the AliBaba.com IPO approaches, it looks like they’ll need a bigger boat. Early demand for the stock has been enormous, and they’re planning to both increase the size and up the price of the offering.

Google is offering startups free Google Cloud Platform credit, while Facebook’s Open Compute Project services are still very rare in the wild.

Tropo.com had a major outage this week and here’s the crash inquiry.

Is targeted advertising a bad idea? Comcast clearly doesn’t think so, as their public WiFi is squirting JavaScript ads into your web pages.

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September 8, 2014

Apple, Motorola, DISH, GVT, KDDI: Telco 2.0 News Review

‘Digital Asia 2014’ Executive Brainstorm and Innovation Forum, run by STL Partners in collaboration with Telkom Indonesia, is designed to equip 250 specially-invited business leaders from across the region’s telecoms, enterprise and technology sectors 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.

Apple has a deal for iCreditCard; NFC clings on; new Motorola phones, watches; NVIDIA sues Samsung

We’re still circling over the iPhone 6 announcement. ReadWriteWeb claims that Apple has secured a deal with the five biggest credit-card issuers in the US.

This is crucial if the new gadget is going to have widely accepted payments capability; “killing the credit card” misses the point, as credit cards are only a token for a much bigger set of relationships and terms of business.

It seems that the banks have offered Apple a distinctly favourable deal on price, in exchange for wearing a share of the fraud risk, which Apple proposes to mitigate by using some sort of authentication solution based on the phone’s sensors. Usually, online transactions are considered card-not-present and therefore riskier, and attract higher fees to the merchant.

From back in April, here’s an interesting set of detailed predictions about what Apple might do - it does sound like this is very bad news for the GSMA vision of NFC-based payments or telco-led things like ISIS. However, it does look like NFC will get to play a role, rather than being entirely squeezed out in favour of Bluetooth Low Energy iBeacons.

Horace points out that Brinks, whose core business is moving money about, only has a net income of $57 million on $4bn of turnover. Payments don’t necessarily equal profitability.

As for ISIS, they have encountered a new and unusual problem - their brand has become associated with the militant group of the same name. As a result, they’re rebranding to Softcard, which in fairness ought to prevent this from being a problem again.

Meanwhile, it’s IFA this week and not surprisingly, a lot of shiny gadgets are getting launched in an effort to get out before the Apple announcement sucks up all the oxygen.

Motorola has released a whole line of stuff, including a new flagship Moto X, a refresh of the popular mid-market Moto G, a smartwatch, and a wireless earbud that works with the Android Wear API. Ars Technica reviews the watch and concludes it’s pretty great as a watch but only has a 1GHz processor. Du-uuude. More seriously, apparently it hangs and the battery life is poor, just what you want in a watch of all things. There were also watches from Asus, LG, and others.

HTC, though, has decided to cancel its watch, which would have used a Qualcomm chip and also their Marisol display tech, which provides a colour display on a passive, non-backlit screen. They had an unexpectedly good quarter on the basis of the M8 smartphone.

The new Moto X is available in a natural wood finish, and in recognition of this, Moto has released some photos of concept phones they never shipped. Some of them are obvious non-starters, like the one that rather unimaginatively ran Android in a RAZR V3 form factor. But then there’s this:

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Meanwhile, NVIDIA is suing Samsung for allegedly infringing a patent on the very idea of a GPU.

DISH bid for T-Mo smoked out? T-Mobile raises $3bn; Sprint rural roaming; Centurylink wants Rackspace

The Satellite Cowboy has reportedly made contact with Deutsche Telekom about a bid for T-Mobile USA. He hasn’t yet made a bid with a number on it, nor even retained an investment bank, but apparently he’s worrying that DTAG will come to an agreement with Free before the year’s out. Perhaps he’s got wind of something from last week’s stories that Free was looking for a private-equity partner?

Meanwhile, Benoit Felten asks whether the industrial project of running T-Mobile like Free can work, saying rightly that this is more fundamental than the valuation. We ask much the same thing in our Free-T-Mobile: Disruptive Revolution or a Bridge Too Far? Executive Briefing.

While the consolidation soap opera goes on, T-Mobile will still have to plan for a future. The next lot of spectrum auctions are coming up, and the company has just announced an issue of $3bn in notes, of which $1bn is likely to be used to refinance another note issue more cheaply and the rest will be available in the spectrum kitty.

Sprint’s deal with the Competitive Carriers Association to get more LTE roaming agreements signed is making some progress - 15 rural operators have signed roaming agreements and will be using 700MHz Band 12 for compatibility, while higher-band spectrum leasing is being studied.

Nokia Networks has an announcement with Sprint’s name on it, really; a new radio for the Flexi Multiradio 10 base station is intended to convert easily from WiMAX to TD-LTE running in unlicensed spectrum.

And here’s a deal for you: Centurylink is looking at bidding for cloudster Rackspace, letting it put Rackspace’s OpenStack technology and sysadmin processes into its much bigger data centre portfolio.

Brazilian regulator looks at GVT deal; Telefonica to make a clean break with TI; Indian 4G; fibre in Kampala

The GVT/Telefonica deal is moving forward. Brazilian anti-trust regulator CADE has said it might be willing to consider the transaction jointly with Telefonica’s sale of its holding in Telecom Italia - if so, this would mean that the sale of TI shares would be considered enough to wind up the whole issue with Telefonica indirectly controlling TIM Brasil.

Telefonica chairman Cesar Alierta has meanwhile confirmed that the carrier intends to sell down the remaining TI shares after the GVT deal.

It’s only a flash story as yet, but Indian 4G spectrum may be coming down the track.

Telenor, meanwhile, has approval to buy 100% control of its Indian opco, thus winding up the consequences of the 2G licences being revoked and re-issued. The Indian government has also set a deadline of the 31st July 2015 for the two state-owned 3G operators, BSNL and MTNL, to merge. On the way, BSNL’s towers are going to be demerged by the end of the year.

The Norwegian operator is also present, of course, in Burma as one of its first two MNOs. The first census in more than 30 years has suggested that there are almost nine million fewer people in the country than thought; Telenor thinks it’s not a problem. On a similar theme, North Korea’s 3G operator, Koryolink, is now up to 2.4 million users.

iWay Africa is rolling out fibre to SMBs in Kampala, with some Google investment, while MVNO licences are coming in Ghana.

Comcast’s spin off; cable upgrades roll out over Germany, Belgium; Aussie NBN denies “actually quite good” allegation

Comcast is beginning to provide some details on the assets that it has offered to spin off in order to get regulatory approval for the TWC merger. The company will get 2.5 million customers in 11 US states and the name “GreatLand Connections”, and Charter Communications will own 33% of its shares. The rest will be offered to Comcast shareholders.

In Germany, a wave of speed upgrades may be beginning. The cable industry has a lot of incremental upgrades in the pipeline, it’s just a question of when seems right to deploy. Vodafone, as owner of Kabel Deutschland, has just announced 200Mbps speeds, beating the 150Mbps top tier on Unitymedia.

DTAG hopes to respond with the introduction of vectoring to its VDSL2 network, but in the meantime, it’s concentrating on fixed-mobile convergence. €70/mo gets you “up to” 100Mbps downlink, LTE mobile, bundled voice, and 47 TV channels. But you see the problem; the LTE may actually be faster than the copper VDSL although it’s almost certainly more expensive to run. And they don’t mention what the data cap might be, if any.

United Internet, the owner of 1&1 web hosting, is buying ISP Versatel.

In Belgium, Telenet is a step further along the DOCSIS upgrade path. They’re promising to invest €500 million in upgrades in order to reach 1Gbps service.

Vodafone Germany could probably do with some of that, as they also demonstrated their new set-top box at IFA, which supports 4K ultra-high definition video. That’s going to eat a lot of bandwidth.

The head of BDUK gets interviewed, and yet again, “superfast” in the UK seems to have been defined down to ADSL2+ levels. On the other hand, Fell End Broadband, the remote community FTTH project championed by Rory Stewart MP, is pulling live traffic and you can see speed tests at 10/50MBps.

Meanwhile, a new UK government consultation is coming on the future of broadband, and the idea of UK national roaming has been quietly dropped after all operators objected to it.

Vodafone UK is planning to deploy carrier aggregation and more voice capacity, although no timeline is given. Interestingly, unlike EE and quite a few other carriers, they’re planning to keep 3G rather than go 2G/4G.

The NBN Co is in a weird row with the media; a newspaper has obtained an internal report, and the company vigorously contests its contents. The twist, though - the report is about how well it was doing, before the new government insisted on dropping most of the FTTH deployment.

And the FCC chairman says that there is not enough competition above 25Mbps.

KDDI starts in-house MVNA or MVNE; Akamai-powered mobile CDN; tower sales; dark fibre backhaul; 71 Czech MVNOs

KDDI has launched a new division responsible for creating customer MVNOs, acting as an in-house MVNE or MVN-Aggregator, both to serve business customers and also to reach price-conscious segments.

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Meanwhile, Akamai is cooperating with Saguna Networks to integrate its CDN nodes with a 4G RAN. They demonstrate it this week at CTIA Wireless/4G World.

Bharti Airtel is selling 3,500 towers in Africa to investor Eaton Towers, and Wind is looking at selling 11,000 towers in Italy. Interestingly, it seems possible that owner Vimpelcom is pulling back from the idea of a merger with 3 Italia.

Are specialist dark fibre investors taking over the backhaul market?

The Czech Republic licensed MVNOs for the first time in October 2012 and now they have 71 of them

Google vs EU not over; Verizon in privacy bust; iLeak; qutting Google; Skype 5.4

Google’s settlement with outgoing EU commissioner Joaquin Almunia is being criticised by both the complainants (a group of independent search sites), and Microsoft.

Verizon has been fined $7.4m over violations of user privacy. Interestingly, the FCC was only able to act because the violations involved phone numbers, not broadband; phones are covered by Title II authority. Even more interesting, it turns out that one of the reasons AT&T likes keeping broadband out of Title II is that they want to sell more data to third parties.

You probably know that there’s been a huge leak of embarrassing photos of celebrities from inside Apple iCloud. Dan Kaminsky points out that people really, really hate losing their data and therefore mobile device engineers have gone to great lengths to back it up into the cloud…where it can be stolen.

DuckDuckGo founder recommends alternatives if you want to quit Google.

Skype 5.4 has some improvements to audio conference calls and moves even more things into a centralised cloud.

Kineto, meanwhile, has been acquired by VoWLAN core network firm Taqua.

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September 1, 2014

Verizon Wireless, Free results, BRICs special: Telco 2.0 News Review

‘Digital Asia 2014’ Executive Brainstorm and Innovation Forum, run by STL Partners in collaboration with Telkom Indonesia, is designed to equip 250 specially-invited business leaders from across the region’s telecoms, enterprise and technology sectors 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.

Verizon Wireless, No.1 in the world; European profits slide; AT&T reorg downgrades fixed; TMUS yours for $35/share

According to ABI Research, Verizon Wireless was the world’s most profitable mobile operator, in terms of gross profit, in Q1, ahead of China Mobile and AT&T, and the second most profitable operator on a gross profit per user basis, behind only China Mobile. They estimate that global mobile operator revenue will grow 2.9% this year, pushing it over a trillion dollars, but operators in Western Europe will suffer, with revenues down 5% and gross profitability falling for Vodafone, T-Mobile, Telefonica, and Orange, while it was expected to rise for North American operators, or at least for Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Selling half of VZW to invest in Europe looks like a better deal by the day, doesn’t it?

(Our in-depth coverage of Vodafone is available in the Telco 2.0 Transformation Index here)

AT&T, meanwhile, is re-organising to move more of its enterprise operation into the same division as its mobile network. Ralph de la Vega will head a new division that contains both AT&T Mobility and most of Business Solutions, while Glenn Lurie is promoted to head Mobility within this new entity and Business Solutions CEO Andrew Geisse retires after 35 years.

A lot of AT&T’s innovation is concentrated in Business Solutions, and integrating it with Mobility might be a way of driving it into the staple mobile business. Mobility is by far the biggest segment and Business is the second biggest, while Mobility is the fastest growing, and although Business Solutions is flat to shrinking overall, it contains the high-growth “Strategic Business Services” segment, as the following chart from the Telco 2.0 Index shows. Screenshot from 2014-09-01 17:35:21.png So De La Vega’s new job is much like being the “CEO of Important Stuff”; this may imply that the fixed-line incumbent business is being further downgraded as a priority. Unlike Business or Mobility or the new unit, its head Lori Lee doesn’t get a C-level title - perhaps because she’s only been with AT&T since 1997, a blink of an eye in their culture? Will they perhaps sell or spin off the copper lines, especially as their filings for the DirecTV deal openly admit that U-Verse has been unsuccessful?

Meanwhile, DTAG management has put a price tag of $35 a share or no deal on T-Mobile USA, although some people think they’re hoping for $40 and expecting a bidding war to break out. Sprint’s bid would probably have been around $40, while Free’s is $33 in cash, although Xavier Niel would say it’s more like $36 if you count in the supposed synergies. Rumours are circulating that Free is looking for private-equity partners to put more cash into the bid and get the ratios down to less hairy levels.

Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, gave some details of its VoLTE service, and Sprint updated its VoWLAN app to handle international roaming.

Telefonica takes out GVT, TI in trouble, Oi looks at TIM Brasil bid; AliBaba.com clones Amazon

Vivendi has made its mind up; it’s selling Brazilian fixed operator GVT to Telefonica, in a deal that values the combination of GVT and a stake in Telecom Italia at €7.45bn. Telefonica is paying €4.7bn in cash and handing over 12 per cent of its Brazilian opco, which can be swapped for 5.7 per cent of Telecom Italia. This is intended to settle the regulatory dispute about the ownership of TIM Brasil; Telefonica is exiting its indirect investment via TI while adding fixed assets to its existing Vivo MNO.

By contrast, TI had offered €1.7bn in cash, 15% of TIM Brasil, and 16% of TI itself for a total of €7bn up front but more exposure to potential future growth. Dealbook argues that Vivendi made the right choice.

TI, meanwhile, now has serious problems. Blocked from turning its Brazilian operation into a quad-play converged operator, it’s also heavily in debt, which is why it couldn’t offer Vivendi more cash. Telefonica has lost 70% on its TI shares since 2007 and probably wants out, and the group of Italian banks that controls TI is also looking for an exit.

TI is selling its investment in Telecom Argentina, but it’s had to extend a deadline again, perhaps because the Mexican financier buying it is struggling to come up with the money.

Oi, meanwhile, is looking at making an offer for TIM Brasil, and has sounded out America Movil and Telefonica as to whether they might consider taking part in a breakup of the company. At the same time, Oi has put its Angolan opco Unitel on the market, as if to raise cash preparatory to a bid.

However, Oi got the Angolan assets as part of its merger with Portugal Telecom, before it lost a fortune in the crash of Banco Espiritu Santo. BES was heavily involved in the Angolan economy, and many of its investments have gone sour, with allegations of fraud rife. Oi may just be trying to ditch anything that might be tainted by the whole BES fiasco. Another rumoured bidder might be Vodafone.

China Telecom’s H1 results complain of:

“unprecedented uncertainty” regarding factors such as 4G regulatory policy, the implementation of the VAT reform, the establishment of a tower company and the resale of mobile services (MVNOs).

However, net profit was up 12% in H1 so it can’t have been that bad.

Chinese e-commerce giant AliBaba.com is pursuing an Amazon-like strategy, getting into the infrastructure business. This week it opened a fifth data center in Shenzhen. They may be doing it because a formidable new competitor has emerged, an alliance between Chinese Web 2.0 giants Baidu and Tencent and real-estate/retailing/media major Dalian Wandu to create an e-commerce platform.

Free Mobile punches through 9m subs, all other French operators suffer

Free.fr has announced its H1 results, and they are impressive. Free Mobile has achieved another million net-adds in the last six months and has reached 9 million subscribers. Mobile revenue was up 24% and fixed 3.6%, with group-wide EBITDA up 7% at €624m. The company is now the second biggest ISP in France and expects to reach its goal of 15% mobile market share by the end of the year, while installing 2,000 additional base stations during 2014.

The impact on the rest of the sector is clear: Bouyges’s H1s are out and they don’t make easy reading, with service revenue down 8% in the last six months and net profits down to €22m (compare €140m for Free). Meanwhile, SFR’s EBITDA was down 11.4% year-on-year, its revenue from retail was down 7.3%, and that from business customers down 6.5%. Even Orange’s sales are down 4.9%.

Free is the only French operator that’s growing, and its blended ARPU is steady at €35.8/mo. Rumour of the week: Faultline reckons Google might come in on the bid for T-Mobile US.

Ken Wieland in Mobile World Live points out that despite the challenging economy, European operators are beginning to invest serious money in CAPEX. Some of them are also investing in R&D: Orange and Telefonica are taking part in the MiWaves project to develop 60GHz small cells for 5G.

You can see why - where network differentiation works, it really works, as the examples of Verizon Wireless and (maybe) EE show. DTAG is one of the best placed carriers to spend big, and it wants you to know it wants to be Europe’s leading telecoms company. Although, as we have seen, this might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Some of the most successful operators seem to have chosen a 2G/4G network strategy rather than a 2G+3G/4G one. Slovakia’s new fourth operator, SWAN, is doing that via a contract with ZTE for 1100 node-Bs. If you want to do that it helps to have plenty of 1800MHz spectrum, and the UK regulator has just cleared British operators to up their transmitter power by +3dB in that band.

After TalkTalk complained to OFCOM about BT’s wholesale pricing and the so-called margin squeeze, BT has complained right back.

Sky is deep in the price war, meanwhile, offering “free” broadband for the first 12 months with a £15.70/mo line rental, although they give something back from that with a £100 voucher.

Fixed-wireless operator Relish has admitted that it’s using so-called carrier grade NAT to share public IPv4 addresses. This breaks quite a few applications. If it worries you, you can pay £10/mo extra for pukka globally routable addresses - which sounds a lot, but maybe less so in the context of a £20/mo business-class ISP service.

Qualcomm under EU inquiry; AT&T sues Cox; NXP in your iPhone; LG meets WebOS, with difficulty

Qualcomm is already facing a Chinese regulatory inquiry. Now, the European Commission is getting involved, following up a complaint from modem maker Icera, now part of Nvidia.

A slightly unusual patent dispute: AT&T is suing Cox, over the cableco’s new set-top box, which the telco claims contains technology it patented regarding “network quality”.

The new iPhone is going to include technology from NXP, reports the Financial Times, which concludes reasonably enough that this is probably NFC at long last.

Here’s an interesting story on the fate of WebOS at its new home, LG. Although the WebOS-based smart TV was a hit at CES, it turns out this was because another version wasn’t ready in time, and many of the WebOS team they acquired from HP have quit. And LG managers are paid a bonus for each additional feature that gets into the final product.

Nokia’s HERE mapping has a new customer, Samsung, whose smartphones will soon get it. This gives Samsung a bit of distance from Google.

And here’s a deep read on the past, present, and future of Motorola.

Euregulators have a spectrum policy; Netflix pays both Comcast and TWC; “Recast Comcast”

The European Commission’s spectrum report is back, and former trade commissioner Pascal Lamy is pretty clear: he says the whole of the 700MHz band should be allocated for mobile broadband, with the handover complete by 2020, but in return the broadcasters should keep 470-693MHz, the remaining space in the UHF segment, until at least 2030 and the EU should refuse any effort at next year’s WRC to kick them out. The meeting at which the report was presented has also assigned 59MHz of spectrum for wireless microphones and such.

It turns out, from Netflix’s filings against the Comcast-TWC merger, that only 1% of ISPs get paid by Netflix, but that 1% includes both Comcast and TWC.

Public Knowledge makes its case against the Comcast-TWC deal, arguing that the FCC’s consideration should include the content market and exclude narrowband. They also have a contest for the best remix of a bad Comcast service call.

Here’s a good piece on how the cable industry and the Bells fight against the menace of municipal broadband.

Microsoft in Namibia; Kenya’s finance-focused MVNO starts price war; $33 smartphone

Microsoft is trialling the world’s biggest whitespace network, in Namibia, where they hope to deliver broadband much more cheaply using Adaptrum’s mesh networking radios.

In Kenya, Equity Bank recently decided to get in on the mobile money business, by launching an MVNO specifically for it. Pause to think about that: the bank started an MVNO so it could do mobile finance. The result has been a wave of price cuts. Equity’s service is much cheaper. M-PESA, the original and best, has responded by slashing its prices on small transactions (about 65% of the total) while shading them up on big tickets.

Here’s a review of the $33 smartphone, an Indian Firefox OS device. You get a 1GHz CPU for that money! Mind you, a big part of getting it that cheap has clearly been leaving out the 3G or 4G, or rather, the great slab of patents attached to them, in favour of just 2G plus WLAN.

Ben Evans notes that 3G will rival clean water for coverge by 2019 and argues that this will cause enormous growth in e-commerce.

Goodbye, MSN Messenger; Hike, India’s secret girlfriend; $30m VC for IFTTT; working with gyro data

After 15 years, Microsoft is shutting down MSN Messenger, the instant messaging app whose name harks back to when Microsoft thought we’d all be on the “Microsoft Network” not that Internet thing. They would like you to use Skype instead. The Verge remembers.

Hike is a Snapchat-like app sponsored by Bharti Airtel, with a very clear use case: it won’t betray your private life to your parents.

FLIR is a thermal imaging camera that clips onto your iPhone.

If This Then That, the web site that lets you create and share simple graphical programs, has raised $30m in venture capital and is positioning itself as an Internet of Things platform.

Interesting; how a dance-themed Android game’s developers struggled with gyroscope data.

How Google is trying to make you upgrade your browser, or alternatively, how you can make Google downgrade its website to an older version.

What happened to virtual reality?

And here’s how to opt out of Facebook Graph Search.

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