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FCC, Euroregulators, BT, TIM, Altice, ARM, HP: 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.

FCC action on 600MHz, whitespaces; Comcast-TWC on hold; Kroes lambasts carriers; GSMALeak

The FCC has issued a new draft-NPRM on the future licensing basis for cellular spectrum, suggesting that it should be more geographically based. It also proposed changes to the Part 15 rules that govern radio interference, in order to let unlicensed operators use spectrum in the 600MHz band that had originally been assigned as guard bands. Harold Feld at Public Knowledge seems keen. Speaking of him, here’s a detailed post from his personal blog on how the FCC can solve some of the problems associated with Title II regulation by “forbearing” from implementing parts of it.

And it announced that it had “stopped the clock” on its consideration of the Comcast-TWC merger.

Under the usual timetable, the decision was expected by January 6th, but it turns out that FCC staffers found that some of the filings from Comcast and TWC were “incomplete”, and a new 850-page submission from Comcast needs looking at before anything goes further. Also, DISH has put in an official petition for a delay.

DISH is taking part in the AWS-3 spectrum auction, as part of a joint bid with two investors, as are all the major carriers and a clutch of rural operators (Snake River Cellular, anyone?). The two investors are interesting - one of them (SNR) is owned by private-equity fund BlackRock, while the other is actually the Satellite Cowboy himself, Charlie Ergen, a financial investor called Catalyst, and an “Alaska native corporation”. Seems legit, as they say.

After being criticised by FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, Verizon Wireless has changed its mind about throttling LTE users at the 95th percentile. And, just to round off a busy week for the regulators, Marriott has been fined $600,000 for jamming WLANs around one of its hotels. The point was to make people who would otherwise use a 4G hotspot or smartphone tethering fork out for the hotel WiFi.

Neelie Kroes is standing down as the EU’s Regulator Number One, and she marked the event with a speech to ETNO in which she took issue with most things about that organisation.

And when you ask me about competition from over-the-top players: yes, a changing market impels us to examine our framework. But I am also clear: the current situation of European telcos is not the ‘fault’ of those OTTs.

Today, all EU homes have broadband coverage; 76% have a connection; almost half can access it on their mobile. They are demanding greater and greater bandwidth, faster and faster speeds, and are prepared to pay for it. But how many of them would do that, if there were no over the top services? If there were no Facebook, no YouTube, no Netflix, no Spotify?

In fact: OTT players are the ones driving digital demand — demand for your services!

It goes on in much the same vein. But you can see how the lobbyists would get on your nerves after a while. The GSMA’s strategy to campaign against European net neutrality regulation has been leaked and it’s priceless:

“Vodafone in particular wanted to pressure MEPs and national leaders into believing that net neutrality laws would stop action against paedophiles”

Elsewhere, France has set a date for the 700MHz auction - November 2015, sticking a target of €3bn on the wall. Ukraine has decided on the terms of its 3G auction, but the only specific condition available is that you mustn’t be Russian.

Adrian “Revk” Kennard has won his complaint against Virgin Media for describing their cable service as “fibre optic”. Ironically, OFCOM reports that UK cable subscribers are getting better speeds than “fibre”, which implies that OFCOM is describing even BT’s DSL product as “fibre” because there’s fibre in there somewhere.


If this RF technology works, though, it won’t matter because the cableguys will be able to do symmetrical speeds and the mobile operators will have double their existing spectrum.

BT’s Free Mobile clone delayed again; Free in for more T-Mo shares; price war

BT, now the proud possessor of a chunk of 2.6GHz spectrum, has been promising to launch a mobile network in it for some time. What they’re planning seems to be a clone of Free Mobile, with much of the traffic carried on their WLAN hotspots, including the home-routers (which are already shared under the BT-FON deal), more of it carried on home-based femtocells, and a fall-back to wholesale MVNO service.

This week, we learned that they are having trouble making their preferred solution work, specifically hand-off between their 4G cells, the WLAN home hotspots that are expected to do the bulk of the work, and EE’s 4G network, which is providing the fall-back overlay MVNO. Also, they’re having trouble with inter-cell interference between femtocells. They might launch as a MVNO-plus rather than a true carrier, but the more traffic has to be offloaded to EE, the worse the economics become. So, the project is sliding right towards next financial year…

Speaking of Free, they may be making one more attempt to close a deal for T-Mobile USA before the self-imposed mid-October deadline runs out. It looks like their roadshow succeeded in signing up KKR to put in about $5bn of new money, and rather than upping the offer, they’re going to use it to buy more shares, leaving DTAG with more cash and less exposure to the combined company.

AT&T, meanwhile, has doubled the data allowances it offers to new customers and customers who renew. That is of course equivalent to cutting the price of data by 50%, jumping into the price-war with a vengeance. It didn’t escape notice that AT&T has been throttling speeds for customers who have managed to keep their unlimited data plans, in the name of reducing “congestion”, but this congestion doesn’t seem to be a problem for new customers who sign up for as much as 100GB a month.

Verizon Wireless immediately added more data to all bundles over 12GB, which might be handy, as it turns out that VoLTE video is charged for as a call and also billed as data. Sprint offered even bigger boosts to the bundle, and booked $160m in costs ahead of another round of job losses.

Brazil: 700MHz auction fails, TIM bid for Oi, Altice bid for PTel

Brazil’s 700MHz auction was a bit of a flop this week. Officials had been hoping for around $3.3bn, but got $2.3bn after Oi decided to sit this one out and the other three mobile operators only just pushed their bids above the minimum. Because one licence didn’t sell, the regulator will have to refund the carriers some $340m into the bargain.

It’s perhaps no surprise that the bidding didn’t take off, given the turmoil in the Brazilian mobile market. TIM Brasil has retained Brazilian investment bank Bradesco to look into the possibility of a bid for Oi, while Oi is looking at buying TIM.

Oi, of course, is partly integrated with Portugal Telecom. This week, Altice Group, the parent of Numericable and now SFR, was rumoured to be putting together a bid for PTel and/or Oi.

TIM Brasil is, of course, the prize in the whole story around Telecom Italia. This week, the TI chairman said that Sol Trujillo “does not exist” for TI, after the ex-Telstra CEO was reported to be bidding for the carrier.

Something similar happened after TI was reported to be buying into Metroweb, an independent fibre deployer jointly owned by Fastweb and the Italian state bank CDP. Both Fastweb and CDP denied any knowledge.

Telefonica, meanwhile, having sold out of TI, reported that it has lost mobile subscribers for the 39th straight month, and that Orange has overtaken Vodafone.es for the first time since they launched in 2005.

Vodafone has bought Qatar’s national fibre network. And Etisalat is selling its Tanzanian network.

Orange gets a digital-home solution; TeliaSonera ups CAPEX, in IoT among others; ARM’s IoT kit

Orange’s CEO, Stéphane Richard, has announced a “connected era of digital services”. More concretely, Orange joins Telefonica in launching a new connected home product, “Homelive”, charged at €9.99/mo, which supports the usual range of sensors. They also mentioned their mobile payments offerings, and Afrimarket, a remittance app that lets you buy stuff for someone in the old country.

TeliaSonera is going to substantially add to its CAPEX, specifically in M2M, more fibre in Sweden, and more mobile data capacity in its Eurasian networks. The data share of revenue in the Eurasian markets is half what it is in Sweden. They expect M2M revenue to quadruple by 2018, reaching a billion Swedish kroner (that’s about £86m).

ARM Holdings is going to release a free OS for Internet of Things devices in Q4. The operating system runs on their Cortex M7 chip, a microcontroller that approaches the power of a “proper” processor. The release also includes a new device-management server.

The FT discusses the fight for the IoT market.

HP splits up; Samsung’s $14bn super-fab; smartphone patents considered pointless

Hewlett-Packard is going to split into two companies, although sadly they won’t be called “H” and “P”. The plan is to spin off the division that makes PCs, plus the one that makes printers, into a new entity, while servers, software, and enterprise services stay in the existing company. Meg Whitman would be chair of the new company, and CEO of the old one, while Patricia Russo (ex-Lucent CEO) will be chair of the old company, and the current boss of the PC business will be CEO of the new company. This is of course the plan Leo Apotheker put forward in 2011.

Meanwhile, their first ARM-based machine in the Moonshot microserver product line is out, and among other things they’re offering it as a platform for telecoms NFV applications.

Ahead of Samsung’s Q3 results, expectations are pretty dire, with many analysts expecting the end of their huge smartphone earnings. That said, after several years of brutal price war in the semiconductor industry, we’re down to three major suppliers of DRAM and prices are stabilising. Samsung is determined to take full advantage, building an absolutely enormous chip fab in Korea at an expense of $14.7bn in CAPEX.

Quietly, HTC is doing better, edging into profit for the second quarter in succession.

FOSS Patents reviews 222 patent disputes in mobile and concludes they are essentially all pointless, with only 9% of the total coming to any particular decision and not many of those yielding significant money.

Here’s a review of Amazon’s Fire Phone. It is not encouraging.

Ultimately, the Amazon Fire Phone is a deeply frustrating and woefully misconceived handset. Apart from being a cynical money-making machine for Amazon, its clunky OS is difficult to use and offers no benefit over Android or iOS. The Dynamic Perspective display is a needless gimmick and its Firefly camera isn’t good enough to rival services elsewhere. It’s also expensive, even if you do get a free year of Amazon Prime thrown in as a vague sweetener. It’s not broken per se, but you should avoid this at all costs.

And Google Chromebooks now get the streaming version of Photoshop.

AT&T offers VPN in AWS’s cloud; BT, NTT join Cisco’s “intercloud”; chaos monkey vs. Xen bug

AT&T is offering its Netbond VPN product as an option for Amazon Web Services EC2, in the same way as it does with IBM’s cloud products.

Cisco, meanwhile, has some more signups for its “intercloud” interoperability project. BT, DTAG, NTT, and Equinix have joined.

IBM, having sold the x86 server business to Lenovo, is investing more in its Power8 chips.

Netflix reports back on the Xen virtualisation bug, the big Amazon EC2 mass reboot last week it caused, and the role of their “chaos monkey” exercises in recovering from it.

James Hamilton discusses what could be done with the waste heat from big data centres.

Ericsson open-sources Bowser; Tuenti is an MVNO; new financial IM network

Ericsson has released both its WebRTC browser and the whole of its WebRTC implementation as open-source software.

Chris Kranky thinks Microsoft is backing away from its own alternative to WebRTC and concentrating on getting its native implementation right.

Tuenti, the Telefonica-backed social network, is launching in Peru as an MVNO. There’s a bit more detail on the transition to an MVNO here.

Symphony is a finance-focused instant messaging platform that aims to compete with the systems built into things like Bloomberg and Reuters. It’s got 500,000 pre-signups, and $66m in venture capital.

NoJitter argues that Talko is right to avoid assuming that video is always better than voice. There’s some more comment here.

Yahoo! buys $20m of Snapchat; YouTube execodus; Google clickthroughs; Redbox Instant, the end

Yahoo! is buying a chunk of Snapchat, which will apparently “value it at $10bn”. This is going some - Yahoo! plans to put $20m or so into Snapchat’s next funding round.

YouTube’s VP of content, Tom Pickett, is off. He’s the latest in a string of YouTube execs who have either left Google or moved over to Google Fibre, in all, about 12 have gone.

Here’s some data about clickthroughs from the Google search page. It’s still very, very important to be on page one, but it looks like being top-2 is less crucial than it used to be.

Verizon’s Redbox Instant video streaming service shuts down. Amazon adds more video streaming features to Elastic Transcoder. And this Quora answer is interesting on why and how IP multicast didn’t take off.

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