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December 22, 2014

Iiad, Oi, Comcast, OFCOM, ARM, Merry Christmas: Telco 2.0 News Review

Ed: if you’re interested in the future of the network, and you’ve got a couple of minutes to spare, we’d love to get your thoughts on what the key questions ahead are here to help drive our latest research. Whatever the case, we wish you ‘season’s greetings’ and all the best for 2015.

So what will Xavier Niel do next, now that the T-Deal is off and so is more consolidation in France? Well, there’s the cloud, and there’s also this - buying an Orange OpCo, specifically the Swiss one they sold to Apax Partners in 2011. The carrier is valued at €2.3bn, after Apax bought it for €1.6bn, and gives Free a crack at Switzerland’s relatively concentrated, 3 MNO market. I think we can guess what the plan is there - discount all the things?

Meanwhile, the president of ARCEP has confirmed that Free Mobile now has 75% population coverage, three years from launch, ahead of the regulatory deadline on the 15th of January. They’re also deploying both 3G and 4G into the Paris Metro.

Oi clears the decks for action; TI plans all-shares bid for Oi; TIM Brasil denies other carriers bidding for it

Oi is clearing the decks before making a move in the Brazilian market, presumably using the money Altice will pay for Portugal Telecom. Bondholders are being asked to accept a temporary increase in the company’s debt limits.

Telecom Italia, meanwhile, wants to buy Oi before Oi can buy its TIM Brasil division. The CEO, Marco Patuano, seems to be planning to bid entirely in shares in order not to add to the company’s €26bn debt, and is waiting for a sign from the Brazilian government as to whether or not a deal would be allowed. At the same time, they’re also waiting for a regulatory steer about Italian fibre deployer Metroweb.

TIM Brasil itself, meanwhile, lit up another 100Gbps fibre ring and started deploying in the 700MHz band, while denying that there was any truth in a joint Telefonica/Oi/Claro bid for the company.

In Mexico, the new regulator has announced more inquiries into Telcel and Telmex, upping the pressure. At the same time, it agreed to the AT&T acquisition of Iusacell. And US operators will now be allowed to provide service in Cuba.

Cablecos yawn over Title II; Ting! it’s fibre; Sprint gets caught; T-Mo unlicensed LTE

While they keep up their lobbying against Title II reclassification, first Verizon and now a lineup of cablecos have been telling their investors the opposite, saying that they aren’t particularly worried, see the US fixed broadband market as “attractive”, don’t expect any price regulation, and do expect the FCC to “forbear” to enforce various bits of Title II they see as irrelevant.

Ting, the MVNO running on Sprint that DNS provider Tucows built, is starting to build its own 1Gbps fibre-to-the-home infrastructure, on a Google Fibre-like on-demand build basis.

Sprint chose the week before Christmas to issue an update on its network rollout. They claim to have population coverage of 260 million people with LTE, but over most of them they only have 10MHz of 1900MHz spectrum, substantially less than the competition. They also claim to have 100m pops with 2.5GHz, but they very noticeably didn’t give a number on how much more 2.5GHz they hope to deploy next year.

Sprint is also being sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for letting dodgy third-party services use its carrier billing, probably because it took 40% of the money for itself.

T-Mobile announced “Uncarrier 8.0”. This means that if you don’t use your whole data allowance, the leftover rolls up into next month. Perhaps more interestingly, CTO Neville Ray suggested that they might deploy unlicensed LTE into the 5GHz band, something Huawei and Qualcomm are keen on and which would be a cheap way of adding a lot more bandwidth in the city cores.

They also got a regulatory break, when the FCC agreed to take a look at national data roaming rates.

The FCC’s AWS-3 auction is still advancing, up to $44bn now, with a few rounds left before Christmas. The spending is worrying shareholders, as is the prospect of a massive Q4 customer-retention giveaway.

Verizon’s shares fell 6 percent last week, AT&T’s stock dipped 5 percent, T-Mobile dropped 10 percent and Sprint plunged more than 16 percent.

Hardly had Vodafone left the US market than it was back, in the form of an MVNO running on T-Mo. The point is to serve their enterprise customers, who will be able to use OneNet in the States.

AT&T says it wants to virtualise 75% of the network by 2020. And the US government wants to get net neutrality into trade agreements, but keep local data storage out. As the late Mandy Rice-Davies said, he would say that, wouldn’t he.

BT-EE financials; OFCOM’s new director; national roaming is dead; burying bad news before Christmas

Details of the BT-EE deal are beginning to emerge. The carrier is planning to float £2bn in new shares and another £3bn of bonds towards the £12.5bn transaction, while Deutsche Telekom will take 12% of the combined company’s shares and Orange 4%. Apparently Orange wants more cash and fewer shares because it’s counting on the cash to pay for its acquisition of Jazztel. Mobile Industry Review reckons that a big issue will be whether OFCOM treats quad-play as a single market that’s qualitatively different to the rest of the industry.

OFCOM, of course, has a new director, who will collect whatever mess the deal throws up in the New Year. Sharon White used to be the second permanent secretary to the Treasury. If you aren’t familiar with British bureaucracy, that’s “really important and probably frighteningly smart”.

Meanwhile, just before Christmas, the government folded on the national roaming plan and signed a “voluntary binding agreement” with the operators. Under the terms of the agreement, the MNOs undertook to increase their voice and SMS geographical coverage to 90% by 2017, and their data geographical coverage to 85% by the same deadline. Licenses will be amended accordingly. The government undertook to change the planning regulations as they apply to mobile infrastructure, to let the operators use publicly-owned land and buildings, and to put in a good word for the operators with OFCOM over spectrum licensing fees.

Broadband Delivery UK, having resisted for ages, finally released the take-up figures for its subsidised projects, over the weekend before Christmas. They are not impressive, although in fairness some of them are far from being finished. In other “just before Christmas” news, West Berkshire’s phase 2 contract will need re-tendering, and Dorset wants to throw away its public sector fibre network.

On the other hand, Hyperoptic’s first 1Gbps subscribers are on line.

OTTs are officially multichannel; Comcast’s Roku ban ends; DTAG gets out of content; Mdundo!

It’s done: over-the-top video streaming services are recognised by the FCC as multichannel video programming, which means that they can get wholesale content on the same terms as TV stations and MSOs.

Comcast has lifted its ban on Roku users watching HBO or Showtime content. For some reason they have never made clear, the cableco wouldn’t authenticate Roku for those two channels. Now they will, after Roku and Comcast came to an undisclosed agreement. The move presumably gets rid of a dispute that might cause trouble for the TWC merger.

Deutsche Telekom is getting rid of its T-Online portal and content, selling it to the Axel Springer publishing group.

Mdundo publishes and streams East African music to mobile users, paying the artists from advertising money and payments it collects via M-PESA.

BlackBerry Q3; IoT “not happening”; Xiaomi fundraising; NokALU?

BlackBerry reported a net-loss for Q3, of $148m, although you could get it to break-even depending on what odd things you included in the non-GAAP accounts. John Chen said their revenue was “not satisfying”, although it was perhaps promising that it wasn’t satisfying because they struggled to satisfy demand and the Passports were frequently out of stock. Interestingly, the Canadian government has lent $850m in export credit to Vodafone.

They also said that the inventory of old gadgets was down 93%, and that they were looking at investing in the Internet of Things. A pity, then, that the IoT “is not happening yet”, according to an executive at ARM Holdings. They seem more interested in embedded processors, which seems a very nice distinction.

Xiaomi is raising $1bn in shares, with Singaporean state fund Temasek and Jack Ma buying in.

Nokia and ALU might merge.

IBM’s SoftLayer cloud/managed hosting business has moved into 12 new locations inside Equinix data centres. Telstra might buy Pacnet. And Microsoft will no longer host Sharepoint websites unless you pay them.

Secure voice, but not very; more SS7 attacks; Oslo, city of IMSI catchers; bugs, bugs, bugs

Verizon Wireless is offering a new VoIP app that provides enhanced security with encrypted voice. It ought to guarantee confidentiality against anyone except the cops, or of course anyone else who manages to find the backdoor they put in to let the cops in.

Yet another GSM vulnerability will be demonstrated at CCC this year. Specifically, if you have an SS7 service provider, you can just ask for the encryption keys a device is using and do anything you like.

Norwegian journalists sweep the centre of Oslo with an IMSI-catcher detecting rig. Hilarity ensues.

Hackers set a German steelworks on fire.

A horrible bug is discovered in numerous home routers.

A horrible bug is discovered in the NTP network time client.

Open Pirate Bay.

The BlackBerry that self-destructs in 15 seconds. You do hope it actually goes on fire.

Skype Translator; WebRTC news; apps of the year

Microsoft has announced a preview of Skype Translator, which will try to translate your conversation in real time. For the moment it only does English and Spanish.

Here’s a review of WebRTC platforms in 2014.

Do we need WebRTC for the Web?

Simwood’s review of the year. Wire is TNW’s app of the year. Nominate Britain’s top mobile startup here.

And Merry Christmas to you all. See you in 2015!

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December 18, 2014

Will AT&T shed copper, fibre-up, or buy more content - and what are the lessons?


We’ve just published a new research paper Will AT&T shed copper, fibre-up, or buy more content - and what are the lessons?’. AT&T’s residential fixed operation is underperforming as faster cable connections take over. It would probably like to trim its footprint or get out, and invest in fibre and its content business model. Is that really an option, and what are the lessons for other telcos?

You can read an excerpt of the report here

For more on any of these services, please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 207 247 5003.

ATandT_Reporting_Segment_Revenue_Growth.jpg

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December 15, 2014

Regulation, Americas, Europe, APAC, Cloud: Telco 2.0 News Review

GSMA ups the pressure on Oettinger; UK MNOs meet Javid halfway; TIA threatens investment strike over Title II, VZ says it doesn’t care

The GSMA fires its lobby cannon again: Director General Anne Bouverot says it’s ridiculous that there are almost a hundred MNOs in Europe, compared to “three or four” in the US, and further argues that wholesaling is likely to “reduce” incentives to invest. The context of this is that they’re trying to influence the new European Commissioner to on the European Parliament’s text of the next telecoms directive.

At the same time, the GSMA re-elected Jon Fredrik Baksaas, Telenor CEO, as chairman. Baksaas resigned from Vimpelcom’s board earlier this week.

In the UK, meanwhile, the government and the operators are negotiating over that time David Cameron had a dropped call again. It looks like things are moving away from the national roaming proposals towards a change in spectrum licencing, from a population coverage target to a geographical coverage target, to be monitored by OFCOM.

The FCC is also taking an interest in rural broadband this week - if you want Connect America funding, you’ll need to offer at least 10Mbps downlink, up from 4Mbps, although in exchange you get a longer commitment from the government and some other goodies.

The TIA, meanwhile, persuaded a variety of tech companies including Intel, IBM, and Cisco to sign a letter denouncing Title II reclassification and claiming that it would reduce investment in telecoms by between 17 and 32 per cent. However, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo told a conference this week:

I mean to be real clear, I mean this does not influence the way we invest. I mean we’re going to continue to invest in our networks and our platforms, both in Wireless and Wireline FiOS and where we need to. So nothing will influence that. I mean if you think about it, look, I mean we were born out of a highly regulated company, so we know how this operates. But related to this discussion around Net Neutrality, the FCC has the right to regulate under 765, they do not need to go to Title II, and why would you go to a 1930 piece of literature to try to regulate something that is a 21st-century technology.

And I also think that if you look at other countries who have done this, it kind of leads you down to path of total failure because it really, really slows down investment and slows down innovation

So it slows things down apparently - but Shammo literally says no fewer than three times that Title II won’t stop VZ investing.

The FCC had a busy week. An NPRM on over-the-top video services and their access to content is close to being signed off, which would give services that provide a “linear stream of programming” the status of being a multi-channel video programming distributor, and therefore the right to get access to broadcasters’ content rights. They also asked for comments on the 600MHz auction by the 30th of January, and activated a rule that triggered some more bidding on AWS-3 spectrum.

The GSMA, meanwhile, has taken a view on 5G, breaking with its policy of trying to play down “generations”.

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VZ “over-the-top mobile first”, +200k FiOS homes; US price war gets even wilder; TI steps back from Brazilian deal

There’s a lot more interesting information in that Verizon transcript. Among other things, VZ is still adding 200,000 homes/year on FiOS, and its strategy regarding video is now:

obviously our focus is over-the-top mobile first

That said, they also warned of a hit to Q4 margins in wireless, driven by churn. Fran Shammo’s comments, which are worth reading, argue that this is the effect of a generation of iPhones coming to the end of their contracts. He may be right, as according to Rootmetrics, VZW is the best network almost everywhere in the US.

Meanwhile, Softbank is trimming its commitment in the US, now the Sprin-T bid is off the table. Those expensive Silicon Valley offices are going, and the engineers there are trekking back to Kansas City. It’s been suggested that Sprint might need as much as $3bn in extra capital, not counting spectrum acquisitions, and if it makes do without it, that might be because it scales down its network CapEx. Brrr.

T-Mobile, meanwhile, is selling $1bn of shares with a view to more investments, having just turned up the 27th wideband-LTE market of 2014, New York City. It will probably need every penny: it just announced a $40/mo price cut on the first two lines in its unlimited data family plan, responding to Sprint’s “Cut Your Bill In Half” promotion. AT&T’s MVNO brand, Cricket, is offering a $100 service credit to any churner from T-Mo, Sprint, their MVNOs, or (oddly) Cincinnati Bell. We’re not quite at “sign up and we will hand you raw cash” yet, but you can see it from here.

T-Mo also has a new wholesale customer: Vodafone. Having sold out of VZW, Vodafone still has enterprise customers with large operations in the US, so it’s now starting up an MVNO running on T-Mo’s network to serve them before they all churn. AT&T, meanwhile, added some more suppliers to its Domain 2.0 SDN program, notably Ciena, Brocade, and old favourite, Cisco.

A lot of countries have tried to set up a national emergency service network via the spectrum process, and to the best of our knowledge it’s never yet worked well. The US’s effort is accused of hiring the directors’ old mates, all of whom are ex-Vodafone (or even ex-Airtouch).

Argentina’s second operator, Telecom Personal, has signed up for Jasper Wireless’s M2M product. Entel and Ericsson are testing the so-called APT band in the 700s, the first such trial in Latin America. Claro Brasil thinks it might do about $3.6bn in CAPEX this year.

And Telecom Italia has decided to wait and see what happens with Oi and the unwinding of the PTel merger before it makes a move. Among other things, they want to be sure there is a clean break with the whole BES mess, that the Brazilian government makes certain assurances, that Oi reduces its debts, and that its two-class share structure gets reorganised.

Altice closing on PTel; telcocracy descends on London for BT/EE; small cells on billboards; French 700MHz

On the other end of the line, Oi’s board of directors has agreed to sell PTel to Altice. As a result, the PTel holding company has called a meeting of shareholders for the 12th of January, with one item on the agenda. Oi owns the actual business, while the PTel holding owns 25.9% of Oi (and €900m of worthless Espirito Santo paper). The PTel board meanwhile turned down Isabel dos Santos’ spoiler bid.

London is filling with telco executives this week, as Telefonica CEO Cesar Alierta was followed here by most of the boards of DTAG and Orange. They’re trying to sell their respective UK networks to BT. O2 would cost BT less - £9.4bn rather than £12bn - but you don’t get as much network for that, as this RootMetrics study shows. There’s also a bid for EE floating about headed by Tom Alexander (previously of T-Mo UK) and backed by private-equity funds….

…and it’s EE! Exclusive negotiations open for the acquisition of EE, at a price of £12.5bn in cash and BT shares. That makes Deutsche Telekom a 12% shareholder in BT and entitled to appoint a director, and Orange a 4% shareholder.

The long-running Orange Wednesdays cinema offer is going, perhaps as a result. Here’s a review of EE’s multi-tuner TV box. Like Virgin Media, BT is formally allowed to call its service “fibre optic”.

Vodafone will be installing small cells on billboards owned by JCDecaux around the UK. They’re also being sued over the acquisition of Kabel Deutschland, by a US hedge fund that feels it should have had some more money. The hedge fund has commissioned an audit that says, strangely enough, they should have had some more money. At the same time, a court cleared DTAG of overcharging KDG for duct access.

Telefonica Deutschland claims it will catch up with Vodafone and DTAG by 2017 in terms of network quality. TDC wants to buy Swedish cableco Com Hem.

And France will auction 700MHz spectrum next year. Xavier Niel is quoted as suggesting Bouygues might be forced to drop out.

Xiaomi: huge growth, patent rows, astonishingly low margins; Indonesian NBN?

Xiaomi is No.1 in China and the fastest-growing vendor in India, as it floods the nation with cheap Android phones. Sounds great - until an injunction banned all shipments to India over a catalogue of alleged patent infringements. Ericsson is the aggrieved party, and as MWL points out, it’s usually a fair assumption that nobody bothers with patents in China, but that’s very much not true once you look outside the great firewall.

It’s not as if intellectual property claims were the only issue standing in their way, either. While the row was going on, the company dropped a regulatory filing that gives us a major insight into their business. Specifically, while being the No.1 vendor in China and the No.3 globally, Xiaomi is getting an operating margin of 1.8%, net profits of $56m for the year. Samsung Electronics’ operating margin is 18.7%, almost exactly 10 times Xiaomi’s, and Apple’s is 28.7%.

Huawei, meanwhile, has signed another five-year contract with Telenor, to upgrade its existing 2G and 3G networks while also providing consulting on their 4G deployments.

Taiwanese operator APT has soft-launched its 4G network. South Korean operators SKT and LG U+ are deploying the OneM2M platform. The Hong Kong spectrum auction has achieved its goal, getting China Mobile into the territory.

Indonesia’s minister of telecomms says he expects Telkom to lead their national broadband drive, and will offer the carrier “incentives”.

The Aussie NBN Co has signed a revised agreement with Telstra to take control of the copper and cable networks, while NBN Co and the government are promising several different things about Internet speeds.

100TB of Sony secrets leaked; full details of Belgacom GRX hack; PlusNet spam

Hackers have brought about a massive data leak at Sony, including unreleased movies, vast quantities of internal e-mail, sensitive strategy memos regarding Hollywood content, tension between Sony Pictures and the wider company, the role of CEO Kazuo Hirai, and racist jokes about President Obama. There’s some discussion at Bruce Schneier’s, including this gem:

documents leaked after the recent attack show the company had just 11 people assigned to its information security team: ‘Three information security analysts are overseen by three managers, three directors, one executive director and one senior-vice president.’

What a mess. Meanwhile, a fresh drop of Edward Snowden documents makes it possible to write a detailed history of “Operation Socialist”, GCHQ’s hack of Belgacom system administrators’ computers. It becomes completely clear that, yes, it was Belgacom’s role as roaming hub and GRX provider that interested the spooks, who wanted to run man-in-the-middle attacks on targets’ smart phones.

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And on a much less exalted scale, Plusnet faces an Information Commissioner’s Office inquiry into whether its users’ e-mail accounts have been compromised by spammers.

US companies plan to spend more on cloud in 2015; OpenStack revenues; Cisco analytics

Two-thirds of US companies will increase their spending on public cloud by at least 15% in 2015, according to a survey. 10 per cent will increase it by as much as 30%.

ReadWrite looks into the future of OpenStack, arguing that it’s likely to be well behind AWS and Microsoft Azure for the foreseeable future, although the revenue will be more than welcome for companies the size of Red Hat, a major contributor to the platform.

Cisco has announced analytics software to run on your edge routers as part of their network-is-the-cloud vision.

Here’s a great comment on AWS:

Maybe the true genius of AWS is the pricing model that makes expensive look cheap.

And here’s a great case study of debugging a strange problem inside Amazon’s cloud.

How Google figures out what to pre-fetch when you do a mobile search query.

More AT&T VoLTE; Voxeet, 3D audio conferencing startup; directories; beating censorship with WebRTC

AT&T has given more details of its VoLTE deployment. It claims it has coverage in 17 US states, plus Washington D.C. Interoperability should be coming next year, plus hopefully some more devices (currently they only have the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini).

Here’s yet another WebRTC startup, Voxeet. Their USP is that they do conferencing with very high-definition, 3-D audio, porting Intel’s 3D audio technology into a conferencing application for the first time. It’s long been used for gaming, of course. Interestingly, it also provides separate voice streams (i.e. WebRTC Media Streams within a single association) for each participant and does the mixing on the client side, so you can choose to place people in the virtual conference room where-ever is convenient.

Dan York discusses the problem of finding other users and asks who has the best directory.

Here’s a rundown of recent UC news.

XMPP standardiser Peter Saint-André is optimistic about the WebRTC video codec compromise, but thinks the long term solution is to create a new open-source video codec like Opus for audio.

Lantern is an browser extension that lets people in censored networks communicate via WebRTC data channels.

Simwood is offering fraud protection via Indirect Access.

Qualcomm drops Krait, back to ARM; Facebook drops Bing; Spain vs. Google

Qualcomm has shown off the new flagship SoC for 2015, the Snapdragon 810. Interestingly, they’ve dropped the Krait architecture they introduced for the Snapdragon S4 in 2012, in favour of using stock ARM designs, a combination of the A57 and A53 64-bit cores in the so-called big.LITTLE architecture that provides both low-power and high-performance cores as needed. It will be fabbed by TSMC at 20nm, which itself requires a new process. Meanwhile, Apple’s A9 chips are sampling from the Samsung plant in Austin, suggesting that the 14nm process required is working.

At the other end of the market, though, Mediatek’s SoCs are undercutting Qualcomm deeply, and as a result, 600 jobs are going. Intel, meanwhile, has an IoT platform competing with ARM’s.

Facebook is no longer showing Bing search results, even though Microsoft is still a shareholder. Downloadable Nokia maps are coming back to iOS for the first time since 2013.

Is this the best m-health application of 2014?

Spain has legislated to make Google pay newspapers for snippets; Google News in Spain shut down; now they would like it back.

And finally, France’s space agency is working with Google’s broadband balloons.

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December 11, 2014

Samsung and Google versus Apple?


We’ve just published a new research paper ‘Samsung and Google versus Apple?’. Apple is weakening Samsung Electronics’ grip in the high-end of the handset market, lowering the Korean company’s profitability and capacity to compete effectively. After a series of largely unsuccessful attempts to break into software and services, a daring option for Samsung is to seek a strong, strategic alliance with Google to enable both companies to mount a serious challenge to Apple’s dominance in the affluent demographic. Telcos could back such an alliance in return for a profitable role in the service layer. This report analyses the strategic rationale for such an approach. (December 2014, Dealing with Disruption Stream)

You can read an excerpt of the report here

We’ll also be exploring the topic of Dealing with Disruption at OnFuture ARABIA and OnFuture EMEA (21-22 April, Dubai) (9-10 June, London), and are initiating coverage of a new research programme on Dealing with Disruption . For more on any of these services, please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 207 247 5003.


Samsung & Google Vs Apple

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December 8, 2014

Vodafone, Liberty Global, 5G, Spectrum, Wire: Telco 2.0 News Review

Last week saw our Digital Asia 2014 event. A big ‘thank you’ to our sponsors, the speakers and the 220+ participants who made it both valuable and enjoyable.

As an early preview of findings, the brainstorm found that developing innovation skills was the top priority in the region, followed by improving the technological infrastructure, while regulation and under-developed early-stage investment communities were the biggest barriers to overcome. We’ll report back more in coming weeks.

Next: a diary date: OnFuture Arabia, 21-22 April 2015, Dubai. Please email us at contact@telco2.net if you’d like to know more or get involved.

Vodafone denies bidding for Liberty Global; might bid for Metroweb; 5G visions; EE rural small cells

At an analyst meeting this week, Vodafone tried to convince everyone there’s nothing in this Liberty Global bid talk. A deal would give the carrier a huge broadband network, plus content, and fix its fibre backhaul problem, but it would also be hugely expensive and problematic from a regulatory point of view.

This is of course being driven by the BT-O2 story. Stéphane Richard of Orange seems to know something about it, saying that BT would make an announcement “before Christmas”.

Sky, meanwhile, has hired investment bankers to advise it on what to do.

On the other hand, Vodafone certainly looks interested in Italian fibre operator, Metroweb. They’ve written to the regulator opposing any suggestion that Telecom Italia might acquire it, and suggesting instead that a joint venture between all the other operators could buy it. This is, of course, an old idea - an FTTH joint venture in Italy has been tried several times before.

In Spain, where Vodafone now owns a cable network, Orange is buying a fixed operator, Jazztel. The Euro-regulator is not convinced, and thinks that this would be a major reduction in competition for the triple-play market. As a result, they are opening a full inquiry, which must report before the 24th April 2015.

The regulator will also have to have a look at the merger of Telenor and TeliaSonera’s Danish operations, as after all, the combined company would be a lovely little 40% of the market.

Ukko Mobile has launched in Finland, with the world’s first 450MHz LTE network. They’re planning to be mostly a wholesale or B2B operator, but also to offer a prepaid wireless broadband product for summerhouses. Now that’s niche.

Telekom Srbija is looking at buying a bank to help them deliver mobile banking.

Back in the UK, here’s an interesting writeup of EE’s new small-cell product. EE is planning to use small cells to fill in notspots in its rural network in a targeted deployment. The technology comes from startup Parallel Wireless, and it works like this - one of a group of small cells sets up a link to a macro-cell over the existing 1800MHz 4G network, and then the others connect up as a mesh network operating in unlicensed spectrum to reach it. Those cells then begin providing service in the 1800 band. The master node acts as a virtual S1 interface, forwarding signalling between the small cells and the core network, and coordinates between the small cells and the macrocell on the X2 interface.

That might be a better idea than national roaming, which rears its head again. Vodafone and EE have both written to the UK government objecting to the idea and proposing different solutions, notably making it easier to get planning permission for new sites and even for the deployment of new equipment on existing ones. It also turns out that each site under the Mobile Infrastructure Project requires 19 different signatures, which may help to explain why it’s only managed to roll out one site a year so far.

Virgin Media customers have been reporting problems reaching YouTube, which seems to be a problem with Google Cache servers deployed in Virgin Media’s network, as it’s possible to work around it by blacklisting them. 3UK says it’s got 48% 4G coverage and it’s about to start deploying 800MHz LTE.

And here’s an interesting piece on the status of European 5G research. It seems the EU is painfully aware that 4G investment was much faster in the US and Asia, and is hoping to leapfrog into the next generation. A divide has opened up between the Europeans and the South Koreans, with the Koreans concentrating on much faster air interfaces and delivery by 2018, while the Europeans are more interested in better indoor coverage, device-to-device and Internet of Things applications, and lower latency. Here’s a nice chart illustrating the EU’s priorities:

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US spectrum - AWS-3, future of DISH, refarming; VZW small cells; fixed-wireless; against Comcast-TWC

The AWS-3 auction is still pushing prices higher, reaching $41bn this week, but there’s been no advance on 42 of the licences for five rounds now, and only 12 are left on the table, of which five got more than one bid in this round. The “big” economic-area licences are mostly gone, and we’re picking over the ones chopped up into communications market areas now. Still, the FCC set off with a reserve price of $10bn, so at least somebody’s happy.

Here’s an argument that DISH, still with its 2GHz spectrum burning a hole in Charlie “Satellite Cowboy” Ergen’s pocket, plus whatever it can salvage from LightSquared and its purchases in the AWS-3 auction, might launch a wholesale and M2M-focused network. A problem here is that most of DISH’s projected holdings are downlink-only, which is suited to the subset of M2M applications that involve pushing out heavy content (Amazon Whispernet, digital signage, in-car entertainment). But that’s a subsegment, and one carriers are bitterly fighting over. Also, if you’re proposing another wholesale network scheme for that spectrum block, you better have a good reason why it will work this time.

Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, has begun testing LTE in the 1900MHz band it uses for 3G CDMA service. They’re also planning to roll out some LTE-A features next year, including carrier aggregation between the 700MHz and 1700 or 2100MHz bands, and later the 1900MHz as well, enhanced inter-cell coordination, and 4x4 MIMO on the cell site.

They’re also getting into small cells, with SpiderCloud’s solution. VZW has so far been pretty sceptical of small cells, so this is significant news. So far, they’re planning to use SpiderCloud’s technology to cover big enterprises’ premises.

NTelos is selling up some of its markets to T-Mobile, which is mostly interested in the 1900MHz spectrum involved. It seems like they’re keeping the 2.5GHz fixed-wireless network they operate as part of DISH’s fixed-wireless plus satellite TV offering - here’s a Canadian operator claiming to provide 25Mbps rural fixed-wireless, which is the sort of thing the US telcos would like to do in copper country.

The FCC has restarted the “clock” on the AT&T-DirecTV and Comcast-TWC deals, setting it to Days 70 and 85 out of the 180-day deadline respectively. The problem was that it was very difficult to get access to the terms of business between the various companies and content rightsholders. How difficult that might be is shown by this row between the FCC and AT&T. After AT&T said they would stop at 2 million FTTP homes under Title II, the FCC demanded to see what their deployment plans were. AT&T released the documents, but redacted all the “confidential information”, which meant everything. A footnote, however, gave away that they were still counting U-Verse FTTC as “fibre”.

Meanwhile, a promotion under which AT&T was offering 15GB of wireless data for the price of 10 has ended early, presumably after they realised how many people would take them up on it. A new coalition is launched to oppose Comcast-TWC. And here’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship - telco lobbyists hurry to develop a relationship with new legislators.

Chinese operators form towers JV; Facebook and the Chinese regulator; Iran, Brazil, and India

Chinese MNOs have formed a joint towers company, unimaginatively called China Tower, which will build a million towers for their shared use. It is without doubt the biggest single infrastructure sharing project.

The head of China’s Cyberspace Administration visits Google, Apple, and especially Facebook, where Mark Zuckerberg makes sure to be seen with a copy of the Chinese president Xi Jinping’s latest book.

In India, Reliance Communications has outsourced its network to Ericsson Professional Services, including running 150,000km of fibre, the 2G, 3G, and CDMA mobile networks, and both residential and enterprise fixed access in 22 circles.

Telefonica’s Brazilian opco turns on 4G in another 16 cities, while Equinix’s new Rio data centre is the first Level III certified DC in Brazil and the first to accept containerised modules.

MTN Irancell claims to have 50% 4G population coverage.

Wire, Janus Friis’ new app; Max Telecom’s OTT voice; more WebRTC

Here’s a new Voice 2.0 app - Wire, which provides for telephony, messaging, and content sharing in a conversation-focused app. Skype co-founder Janus Friis, plus some of the original teams behind projects like the Opus codec, are responsible. The two things that stand out? First of all, it doesn’t bother with video calls. Second, it’s really all about the UX and interaction design.

Dan York tries it out; Hacker News discusses it, mostly the encryption (SRTP for voice, TLS for everything else, with the data living in the European Union).

Tsahi Levent-Levi rounds up the current adaptive-radiation of messaging apps, and has another go at making sense of the WebRTC signalling debate.

Max, a Bulgarian operator, is launching its own OTT voice service. 3UK has quietly started offering virtual mobile numbers and bulk interconnection.

Using Twilio to alert volunteers to Indonesian forest fires.

Carrier WLAN growing; Apple VoWLAN a catalyst; Cisco/Arista spat; mesh beacons

The Wireless Broadband Alliance, not surprisingly, thinks carrier WiFi is a big deal. They reckon the fleet of public hotspots will hit 8m this year and reach 12.23m in 2018, and claim that some mobile operators have seen as much as 50% offload from their cellular networks when they deploy WLAN in high-traffic areas. Here’s a chart from their report, which might not be the most helpful you’ve ever seen.

mmmmpie.JPG

Interestingly, here’s another report, which thinks we’re on the cusp of a massive carrier buildout, catalysed by the arrival of voice-over-WiFi in the iPhone. Cisco is also keen on VoWiFi.

Speaking of Cisco, they’re suing Arista Networks, a company run by ex-Cisco people, for copying the command-line interface on their routers. This is important because it’s wired into muscle memory for engineers around the world, and making a new networking device sell is much easier if it understands the patter. Arista hits back here.

We all know about iBeacons and Bluetooth Low Energy now. Here’s a startup with beacons that mesh-network together, so they can reach your LAN from difficult places.

And the New America Foundation is offering grants for international deployments of the Commotion mesh-WLAN technology.

Copyright wars, again - BMG vs Cox; new mobile CDN; Psy breaks YouTube

Two US music industry companies are suing Cox because they didn’t immediately terminate the accounts of people their management company alleged were copyright violators. The EFF points out that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act doesn’t require any such thing.

Here’s a writeup of an interesting new CDN provider focused on mobile networks. Rev uses a machine-learning model to pick which optimisations it applies to users and content sources, and also caches third-party resources websites request (this can make up half or more of a typical page).

Slingbox points out that TV-Everywhere services still don’t offer the features that Slingbox does.

And YouTube has a slight problem with Psy’s Gangnam Style - the database field that counts page views is a signed 32-bit integer, and now it’s been viewed more than 2,147,483,647 times, the biggest number that can be so represented. As a result, the counter rolled back like the odometer on a dodgy car, back to counting down from -2,147,483,647. They have updated the software to use a 64-bit integer instead.

Mozilla diversifies its revenue; Google pivots back to the mobile Web; Sharp and YotaPhone gadgets; NSA wants your roaming agreements

Mozilla recently swapped Google for Yahoo! as default search engine and primary revenue source. This is actually a wider strategy - although Google money has been crucial to Mozilla’s history, it’s recently succeeded in diversifying its sources of cash quite substantially. Yahoo! is paying for default search, but Cisco is also now a supporter via its release of the H.264 codec, and so is Telefonica, both via its support for FirefoxOS and its ownership of Tokbox, the platform for Firefox Hello video chat.

Google seems to be upping its investment in mobile Web dramatically, having traditionally concentrated on native and Java apps in Android. Now, however, they’re re-entering the mobile Web performance arms race, after iOS 8 deployed a much improved browser engine, and investing in developing more HTML5 APIs. One interesting one is push notifications for Web sites.

More and more devices are appearing with screens that go right to the edge, and over it. Here’s Sharp’s. Here’s the new version of the YotaPhone with its e-ink double screen.

Electronic fraud is less of a problem than it seems, if you account for those thefts that are refunded immediately.

And a new Edward Snowden leak shows that the NSA and GCHQ have been routinely spying on GSMA working groups and filching IR.31 documents on roaming agreements. Watch where you leave your laptop at MWC.

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December 1, 2014

Altice x PTel, Vodafone, Liberty Global, Chinese broadband: 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.

    Altice bid for Portugal Telecom is a go at €7.4bn; TI sells Italian towers ahead of Brazilian consolidation

    Altice Group, the holding company of Numericable and SFR, has entered exclusive negotiations for the acquisition of Portugal Telecom. They offered €7.4bn for the company’s Portuguese assets, minus the infamous Rioforte bonds, which presumably means that Oi gets to exit from its deal with PTel ready to take on whatever is coming in the Brazilian market. Altice, which already owns an enterprise ISP and a cable network in Portugal, is presenting the deal as being all about fixed-mobile convergence - it’s worth noting that PTel owns a lot of FTTH assets.

    There’s some detail of the financing here. Out of the €7.4bn, €5.7bn is cash, which Altice proposes to borrow from a syndicate of banks, probably as dollar-denominated junk bonds. The acquisition of SFR, for example, led them to issue the biggest ever high-yield junk bond, $16.7bn worth.

    Meanwhile, PTel is merging its wireless and wireline units.

    In Brazil, of course, we’re all waiting to see whether TIM Brasil buys Oi, gets broken up, or gets acquired by Oi. Clearly, €5.7bn in cash gives Oi quite a few more options there. It’s probably interesting, then, that Telecom Italia has been told by the regulator it’s unlikely to be allowed to buy Milan-based FTTP deployer Metroweb. That’s one option closed off, pointing TI’s interest towards Brazil.

    And now TI is looking at an IPO or sale of its Italian towers, as if it were rounding up capital for something.

    Vodafone - bid for Liberty Global, or just Talk(Talk)? BT shareholder backs O2 bid; 3UK leaps in

    Anything can happen in the UK mobile market at the moment, but a big movement towards fixed-mobile integration is the best bet.

    Vodafone is apparently considering two options, a drastic solution under which it would acquire the whole of Liberty Global, giving it Virgin Media and of course cable operators all over Europe, and a conservative solution under which it would acquire TalkTalk.

    The first option would solve its fibre-to-the-cell problem at a stroke and add a strong broadband and content business, but would be very expensive and highly sensitive politically. European, German, Dutch, and UK regulators would be involved on a wide variety of issues, and the UK market for mobile backhaul would become a BT (plus O2)/Vodafone (plus C&WW, plus VMED) duopoly that would also be vertically integrated. At £44bn, it would be a flashback to the Chris Gent era at Vodafone.

    The TalkTalk option would give it a very decent triple-play business with a good set-top box without scaring the regulators, and it would be cheaper, but it wouldn’t fix the gap between Vodafone’s coverage of fibre-to-the-cell and that of EE and 3UK, both powered by VMED. However, TalkTalk is committed to building out FTTH under various joint ventures with CityFibre - so this option would be more like “buy TalkTalk, and invest in more builds”.

    Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph speaks to an anonymous but “top 5” BT shareholder, who says they would be willing to back a rights issue raising several billion pounds in order to buy O2. Interestingly, they also said they would be willing to let Telefonica keep 20% of O2 UK, but didn’t go into details about EE, suggesting that they’re thinking about O2.

    And 3UK is getting involved, or rather, Hutchison Whampoa is. They are apparently interested in buying an operator, although they don’t seem very interested in fixed, so perhaps O2 would be the target? 3UK is very, very interested in fibre-to-the-cell, though, having deployed it to an industry-leading 97% of its cellsites and begun replacing VMED’s gigabit Ethernet product with dark fibre.

    In all the excitement, you might forget that this is a market where price pressure is so intense that PlusNet is offering “unlimited” broadband, plus weekend phone calls, for just the line rental, and throwing in a £75 gimme, on a 12 month contract. On the other hand, those line rentals are going up.

    It’s become harder to get BT to revert a wholesale FTTC install that doesn’t come up to scratch.

    Remember Project Canvas, Kangaroo, and YouView? The UK’s TV industry has published its new hybrid broadband-broadcast spec, which doesn’t support 4K, any metrics, or multi-screen, but does support precisely one Microsoft DRM technology.

    Ansip vs. Oettinger; GSMA vs. national roaming; FCC vs. T-Mo; 7 MNOs is too many for Uganda

    After Günther Oettinger’s turn back towards the E5 telco lobby, it looks like the European Commission is trimming a bit. Unlike the days when Neelie Kroes or Viviane Reding’s word was law, the new structure of the Commission means that Oettinger has a boss, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip (he used to be Prime Minister of Estonia in case you didn’t know). Ansip seems worried that the Council is going with Oettinger while the European Parliament wants a much more net-neutrality focused text.

    Benoit Felten argues that the Parliament is right in that the net-neutrality issue doesn’t arise unless, Oettinger-like, the Commission permits more in-market consolidation.

    The GSMA has responded to the revival of UK national roaming proposals, via its durable VP of regulatory affairs Tom Philips, saying it’s a terrible idea, and suggesting instead that the government give operators a let-off on spectrum pricing. Meanwhile, the government’s Mobile Infrastructure Plan has so far delivered exactly two new base stations in as many years.

    The FCC has ordered T-Mobile USA to inform its subscribers that they are approaching a data cap and to publish speeds based on tests, rather than “up to” theoretical maxima. However, they haven’t acted on part of the complaint that deals with them blocking some speed-test apps. Meanwhile, T-Mo has zero-rated more music services, notably SoundCloud and Google Play (iTunes Radio and Spotify were already in there). They deny that the content providers are making any payment to T-Mobile.

    And Airtel Uganda’s CEO says seven operators is too many for Uganda, or indeed anywhere else.

    Chinese broadband opens to ISPs; NBN FTTH is over, Romanian beginning

    China is looking at opening the fixed broadband market to competition. Chinese companies with at least 3 years’ experience and capital of $3.26m will be eligible to provide service either over China Telecom, China Netcom, or China Unicom’s infrastructure, or to roll out their own.

    NBN Co has given some more details of its future plans, including which districts will get what under the so-called multi-technology mix. The high-level view is that FTTH deployment will end at 25% coverage, and the fixed-wireless and satellite elements will be completed as planned, plus 11% coverage with fibre-to-the-block. 27% get cable, but this is still subject to negotiations. The remaining 29% get to keep good old twisted pair.

    There’s some interesting discussion (audio) here.

    Telekom Romania is launching 1Gbps FTTH in 13 cities.

    Vodafone Qatar is backing out of its acquisition of the Qatar NBN.

    AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon weren’t blocking The Pirate Bay - BGP routing to it was broken.

    And over three thousand years of optical transmission since the beacons of antiquity, performance has improved by 25 orders of magnitude.

    VoWiFi in the Cloud; WebRTC codecs “really about Qualcomm”; Twilio fixes your NAT problem

    Genband’s Evolved Packet Gateway is now available as one of the apps in Nokia’s Liquid Core NFV solution, letting carriers integrate Voice-over-WiFi more easily. It’s a huge win for Genband.

    The IETF RTCWEB decision to include both VP8 and H.264 in WebRTC browsers should be seen as a compromise between the vendors’ desire to squeeze licensing costs out of cheap smartphones for Asia, Qualcomm’s desire to keep its licenses in them, and Cisco (and others’) desire to keep their existing hardware relevant.

    The deployment of VP9, though, will supercharge browsers and services while hitting the vendors with the costs in CPU usage and hardware acceleration it demands.

    Twilio is offering NAT-traversal in the cloud, which is likely, thanks to their scale, to be by far the cheapest provider.

    The Streaming Media conference talks are being released, and the one from Skype about how they work with media and other video production companies looks interesting.

    $5bn of IoT deals in 9 months; UK smart meters lagging badly; interview with VZW’s IoT CTO

    As much as $9.4bn has been spent on mergers & acquisitions in the Internet of Things sector over the last three years, with $5bn of that in the first 9 months of 2014. The biggest spenders are Google, Cisco, Samsung, and then a pair of telcos - Vodafone and Verizon. They’re paying top dollar, too, with an average price-revenue ratio of 11.9 for a typical $112m deal.

    That said, the UK smart-metering project is falling behind again. 18 months after it was delayed by 12 months, it’s been delayed by a further 12 months, and the project is responding to Freedom of Information Act requests like this:

    redacted.jpg

    Chuck Link, the appropriately-named CTO of Verizon Telematics, says car manufacturers have moved on quickly to LTE, but future-proofing IoT features built into cars is difficult as cars have a much longer design life than anything in the IoT. Also, car manufacturers care much more about privacy than telcos, especially the German ones, and because German companies also make a lot of parts that go into other cars, this gives them a lot of influence. Here’s the video.

    Samsung re-org turns out to be “no change”; BlackBerry’s network turns out vital

    Samsung is leaving J. K. Shin in charge of the mobile business for the next year at least, after the disappointing sales of S5s led to concern that a big re-org was coming. Despite everything, nothing much has changed, although there may be lower-level changes later this week.

    Here’s a good piece on BlackBerry’s pivot towards services provided from its core network.

    Horace reckons Apple Pay can hit its targets.

    Germans knew about NSA ops in 2005; Dotcom still not locked up; Facebook “spends more” against crime than gov.uk

    A leaked document seems to show that the German government knew of NSA spying as long ago as 2005.

    Kim Dotcom’s bail has not been revoked, after US lawyers failed to convince a court they needed to lock him up. They did succeed in stopping him attending court in a helicopter, though. It must have been annoying.

    Malware is spreading through transport systems’ ticket kiosks.

    Did you know the UK spends less money fighting cyber-crime than Facebook?

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  • Telco 2.0 Strategy Report Out Now: Telco Strategy in the Cloud

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