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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:


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.


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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