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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.


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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