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January 29, 2015

Telco-Driven Disruption: Hits & Misses (Part 1)


Although telcos aren’t generally associated with disruption, many operators around the world have attempted to disrupt adjacent markets, such as digital commerce, entertainment and financial services. In some cases, telcos have even disrupted their core broadband and communications markets.

While many of these moves have fizzled out or have flown below investors’ radar screens, several have had a major impact on both the telco’s revenues and relevance. These include SK Planet, M-Pesa, Au Smart Pass and BT Sport. In our latest research report Telco-Driven Disruption: Hits & Misses (Part 1 of 2) we look at why some disruptive moves by telcos succeed and others fail? You can see an extract here. It’s part of our new research stream ‘Dealing with Disruption in Communications, Content and Commerce’.

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January 26, 2015

O3, Verizon, Euregulators, Cablevision, Apple in China: Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: We are delighted to be partners of the GSMA’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, March 2-5 - and are making our plans for the week now. If you’d like to meet us there here is how, and here are our thoughts on why its worth going in general.]

3UK-O2 is official; Sky and others want MVNOs; full reaction

Here’s the statement - Hutchison has started exclusive negotiations with Telefonica over a bid for O2 UK. A price of £10.25bn is named, almost all of which would be in cash and up front. Depending on how you count M2M subscribers, the combined O3 would have as much as 41% of the UK market.

The point is made here that this still doesn’t settle the fibre-to-the-cell or quad-play issues - so it’s interesting to see that Sky has approached O2 about an MVNO agreement, and so have both TalkTalk and Virgin Media. (Note that the CEO of Belgacom is talking about quad-play and fixed-mobile integration here.)

According to the FT, O2 promises that the merged operator would be a “customer champion”, although this might be a bit of a hard sell. IDC points out here that prices have stopped falling, or even risen, in the other European markets that have gone down to three operators.

The Register discusses spectrum and points out that BT-EE owns the mobile number 07777 777777, surely valuable to somebody. The future may be bright, but it probably won’t be orange, as BT will of course get rid of the T-Mobile and Orange brands.

Vodafone UK has announced another 40 sites where it intends to use a rural small cell to fill in a not-spot, under its “Open Sure Signal” programme.

Vodafone is also trying out something interesting in Spain, where it has deployed a discount MVNO called Lowi using an entirely virtualised core network. Look for more of these around Europe.

And Sajid Javid says the UK government is trying to find a way to use some of the BDUK budget for business broadband in the cities. A hint might be to stop running adverts that look identical to BT ones with the taxpayers’ money.

“Price war cost VZW $700m in 2014”; Q4s; 10,000ft of copper walks; price warriors war on

Verizon Wireless finished the year with a 2m net adds quarter, including 672k smartphones and 1.4m tablets. Wireless revenues were up 11%, while wireless service revenue was up 2.8%. ARPU was $56. That said, margins were down about 6 percentage points, and the price war may have cost them $700m of EBITDA in 2014.

Over in wireline, Fran Shammo announced that the FiOS build was basically finished, at around 41% penetration and 19.8m buildings passed, but investors should expect much of the free cash flow that was going into it to be diverted into wireless CapEx. Fibre now accounts for 77% of wireline’s revenue, up 11.6% year on year, and the wireline division’s operating margin is a whole 4.4%. That’s a big improvement on where it was the year before, at 1.2%. 59% of customers are taking speeds of 50Mbps or above, compared to 46% the year before.

Shammo also said they might not invest as much in broadband if Title II were reimposed - which is odd, given that he isn’t planning to invest much in fixed broadband.

And the kicker? VZ lost money in Q4, after it had to take a charge against profits for its pension fund.

Meanwhile, Verizon may be planning to get rid of some copper assets, but somebody in southern California felt they needed to force their hand, stealing 10,000 feet of copper cable.

Sprint is offering T-Mobile subscribers $200 when they sign up and trade in a working T-Phone, on top of the $350 they already offer towards the cost of buying out of the contract. Payment is made as a credit against your account, so although they’re now offering $550 a signup, we’re still not quite at the point of handing out wads of cash yet.

T-Mobile, meanwhile, has introduced a low-cost version of its quick-upgrade plan. Further, they’re offering MetroPCS holdouts unlimited LTE for $50, a $10 discount.

Oi-PTel is over; Telecom Italia story runs and runs; Dutch SigFox; unlimited data, only at night

The postponed vote by shareholders in Portugal Telecom’s holding company, PT SGPS, has gone ahead and it approved the sale of PTel to Altice.

With that, the Oi-PTel deal is dead and buried, and whatever is going to happen in Brazil is going to happen. The other end of the Brazilian story, of course, is Telecom Italia. In Italy, the government is looking at a revival of the old joint-venture fibre plan, with a budget of €4bn, drawing about half of that from the EU regional development fund. Metroweb, meanwhile, is taking financial advice over TI’s proposed bid for the company.

Tele2 Netherlands has a partnership with Aerea, the Netherlands’ first company with a SigFox low-power M2M network.

M1 in Singapore has net profits up 9.7% for the full year, and 103,000 customers on FTTH.

MTN Irancell has a new product - unlimited mobile data, but only at night, defined as 2am-8am. This will set you back $1.10 a night, or $4 a week.

Telkom Indonesia isn’t buying 2 Degrees, after they failed to agree on a price.

And satellite operator Speedcast will be using O3b’s medium-earth orbit satellites to serve its customers in Papua New Guinea.

EU “digital single market” proposals for May; AWS-3 surge forward; BlackBerry “apps neutrality”

“Key” proposals from the European Union are coming in May, according to the digital commissioner, Günther Oettinger. Those will include something about the “digital single market”. A “framework for data security” will follow half-way through 2015, with a data protection directive to be issued by the end of the year.

One of his key proposals seems to be a a tax on Google and other “American Internet firms”.

His boss, commission vice-president for the digital single market Andrus Ansip, gave some more detail. “Irritating roaming charges”, spectrum, and net neutrality are on the agenda for May. Meanwhile, the Commission has issued a draft definition of “reasonable traffic management”. You have until the 27th to comply, sorry, to comment. As quite often, it looks like Oettinger is the nice cop who thinks telcos will invest more if they get a let off, and Ansip is the Neelie Kroes/Viviane Reding-style nasty cop.

Vittorio Colao says spectrum auctions are like “selling air”.

The AWS-3 auction has suddenly burst into life, with hundreds of new bids in a day, driving the total take up to $44.8bn.

Harold Feld argues that Obama’s sudden enthusiasm for muni-fibre is a signal to the FCC to stay focused on Title II and anti-preemption.

The cable lobby doesn’t like the proposed redefinition of broadband as 3/25Mbps. Specifically, they’re not happy about the 3Mbps uplink requirement, not surprising given some old cable systems’ uplink speeds.

And here’s an unusual take on net neutrality: BlackBerry wants “content and apps neutrality”, which seems to mean interoperability with iMessage.

Cablevision VoWiFi; Google MVNO?; T-Mo WiFi Calling aboard ship

Cablevision is offering a VoWiFi product, providing near-mobile service at $29.95/mo or $9.95/mo to existing cable subscribers. The device is a Moto G, and Cablevision has some 1.1m hotspots in its service area. There’s no mention whether this includes an overlay MVNO, but it is likely. It works over “any WiFi connection”, which might include all those joint CableWiFi hotspots.

Google may be going to launch an MVNO, perhaps. The service would be available in markets where Google Fiber is present, which suggests that it might use WiFi or small cells served by the fibre links.

WiFi aboard ship is typically less than 50Kbps, but it seems T-Mobile’s VoWiFi app works fine. Which is nice, as phone calls can cost $15 a minute.

Cisco has a problem; WiFi is getting faster than wired Ethernet. There is little point in having a 7Gbps WiFi router if the wired network can’t keep up, so they are now preparing routers with multi-gigabit ports. This is necessary because 10 Gigabit Ethernet requires new Cat6e cables.

The 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog has a technical post about VoWiFi internals.

ETSI has opened its standardisation of millimetre-wave.

And Telenor Digital is behind Appear.in, a WebRTC-based video conferencing app.

ChiPhones; Apple dev payouts are bigger than Hollywood; Sammy edges away from Qualcomm; Ubuntu for Gadgets

China is now absorbing more iPhones than the USA. A consequence of this is that Apple is now paying out more money to developers than Hollywood takes in from the US market, according to Horace.

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Another bit of Apple fallout is studied at Dan Rayburn’s blog. The latest lot of iPhones are driving a spike in the size of images web sites have to serve up, and a further increase in the variety of screen sizes they have to deal with, making everything more complicated. Either CDNs have to do more processing, or web sites have to cache more versions of their images. Either way, the bill gets bigger.

Apple isn’t perfect, though. The smartwatch’s battery may not make it to lunchtime if you use it to do much more than telling the time.

Samsung, meanwhile, is trying to copy Apple and up the percentage of its own content in its smartphones. It looks like the Galaxy S6 might ship with a Samsung Exynos chip rather than the planned Qualcomm Snapdragon 810.

Canonical has a new product, Snappy. This is a version of Ubuntu that guarantees that software updates will either work, or roll back to the previous state. The obvious use case is M2M.

Apparently the market for smart bins is going to grow 43% annually.

Microsoft’s new Web browser has a new rendering engine for “modern” web sites, falling back to the one in IE 11 for “legacy enterprise” sites.

DISH is offering a web-only streaming TV package for $20/mo. Perhaps more significantly, so is HBO, and a survey suggests that a lot of people would be willing to take just HBO and drop the rest of their cable or satellite TV.

Is IBM about to sack 110,000 people?

Hello, I’m the head of GCHQ; snoopers’ charter sneaks back; China’s war on VPNs; Internet of insecure things

Some cheeky chappie discovered the head of GCHQ’s phone number and rang up the prime minister. Supposedly the PM realised something was up when the caller apologised for waking him, at 11am. It seems to have been a good old fashioned social-engineering prank call, although that wouldn’t explain why the prankster needed the GCHQ phone number.

Meanwhile, his government tried to add controversial new powers to the Communications Data Bill in a last-minute amendment. The EU counter-terrorism coordinator is worried about encryption, and wants telcos to hand over encryption keys, because terrorists use “decentralised encryption”. If it was decentralised, why would telcos have the keys?

China has zapped three popular VPNs. The US DEA’s parallel bulk-surveillance program is problematic.

Will the Internet of Things eat your data? Matt Asay thinks so. After all, most of the “things” don’t have a user interface.

Those pay-as-you-drive insurance gadgets? Hacked. Industrial SCADA gateway open to no-password FTP.

Huawei CEO says thousands of employees confessed to corruption. Google exec dies of heroin overdose, administered by prostitute, on yacht.

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Barcelona here we come: see you there?


Our analyst team will be attending this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (March 2-5), where they will be discussing the latest industry trends with our clients. If you are interested in meeting with our analysts to hear what we have to say on a particular topic or learn more about our research, we would invite you to request a meeting.

Additionally, if you are an established start-up or a Telco with a proven innovation in mobile and digital technology and are looking to develop new channels and opportunities to grow your innovation, we would like to hear from you - providing you meet the criteria below…

Why should I talk to you?

STL Partners’ Innovation Scouting Service is a unique integrated proposition for innovators and innovation decision-makers alike. It combines our core strengths in telecoms consulting and research with our strong industry network to help Service Provider identify, evaluate and deliver innovation quickly.

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By participating in our Innovation Scouting Service, you will be added to our “opportunities roster”. STL Partners will introduce your innovation to appropriate Telcos globally, providing you with the opportunity to position your service or product with a tightly defined market of potential buyers and partners, building visibility and providing new routes to growth.

What sort of innovations are we looking for?

STL Partners is interested in any opportunities across a wide spectrum of topics /areas: from Digital Commerce, Entertainment, Internet of Things to Cloud and Infrastructure services. We will select / screen opportunities based on the following criteria:

  • Market fit: How appropriate is this innovation for the global market?
  • Implementation: How easily and quickly could this be implemented by/through partners?
  • Originality: How fresh and unique is this?
  • Proven: How much evidence is there that this has worked technically and commercially, ideally with other telco partners?
  • Instant appeal: To what extent would this create a spark of interest and excitement? How easy it is to grasp the idea and understand why it is special?

I really want to participate, what should I do next?

If you are interested in meeting at MWC 2015, please send an email to Albane Coeurquetin including your contact details along with a short description of the opportunity / innovation you would like to discuss with us.

We look forward to meeting you at MWC 2015!

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Insight: what the MWC inspires

Among many other things, the GSMA’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) is a useful barometer for the industry overall. Looking back at our analysis of Catalonian forays by Google, Microsoft and Facebook, telco CEO-speak, and also predictions for Huawei and others, we examine its appeal and look at the key trends it’s highlighted over recent years.

To a certain section of the telecoms industry (somewhere between 50,000-85,000 people depending on how and when you count them), the MWC is a regular institution on the annual calendar. Like all ritual opportunities for clan gatherings there are those that love it and those that hate it. It marks out something each year: something familiar and yet always with new aspects, a huge humming snapshot of the industry at a given moment.

We’re delighted to be official partners with the GSMA’s Mobile World Congress 2015, and love participating in the Congress for three main reasons:

  • It provides a concentrated experience of CEO-think, like the market briefly playing out in public;

  • We get to see lots of ‘stuff’ - ideas and technologies;

  • We also get to see and meet a lot of our clients and friends in the industry, in the enjoyable context of Barcelona.

Looking back overthe past few years, here are a few of the themes we’ve seen emerging and playing out. [Ed: Please email contact@stlpartners.com if you’d like to catch up with us there or take advantage of the discount code for Conference packages kindly offered to Telco 2.0 readers by our partners the GSMA.]

OTT - From Enemy to Frenemy

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The biggest name on show in 2014 was Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and founder. This was on the back of Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp (our analysis here). Speakers from the Internet players have featured heavily in the past few years, with Steve Ballmer, then Microsoft CEO, failing to land all punches in 2012, and Google’s Eric Schmidt stealing the show in 2010. This year sees Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder, joining the roster (so please remember to pay that donation you’ve always promised to make before then) alongside Jeanie Han, CEO of LINE Euro-Americas, the communications app that originated in Japan.

Zuckerberg and the others received rock star welcomes live at the Congress relative to most speakers, bringing some intrigue and excitement to the show from the Valley. In terms of the messages they shared via the public platform of the MWC, it has been intriguing to watch the strategic sub-text playing out between the Internet CEOs and the telcos. We commented in 2012 in ‘Facebook, Google and Apple: of Bêtes Noires and the Art of Evasion’ on how to read what the players did and didn’t say, and noted in 2013 that the European operators had subtly changed tack and declared ‘Peace with OTT, War on the Regulators’.

Seeing The Big Picture

In terms of the telco CEOs, business model innovation has been a regular theme. At 2007’s ‘3GSM’ (the precursor of the MWC) it was the ‘year of the business model’ for T-Mobile International, and Telco 2.0 models have surfaced regularly, including in 2012 despite tones of ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘sex or smartphone?’.

The Congress is also a mirror of global change, and alongside the many annual examples of how the industry is helping the world’s disadvantaged by improving communications and services, the rise of the power of Asian and Chinese companies in particular has been highlighted in Smartphones: when will Huawei be No.1? (2013) and China Mobile: a mindbogglingly big platform (2012). The impact of the global ‘credit crunch’ was also on top of mind in 2009 as LTE/4G and ‘appstores’ were hitting the headlines too.

The Long Road to M-Commerce

Mobile commerce has long been a common thread at the Congress. For example, in payments the now defunct ISIS asked if M-Commerce could be better than a cash filled wallet in 2012, while we reviewed Why a bank is like Lebara Mobile in 2008. The Mobile Marketing aspect of commerce has also blown hot and cold for telcos. This summary of the key steps from back in 2008 still seems pretty much on the money, as it were, though telco co-operation has unfortunately proved even more problematic in practice than we feared.

A successful mobile marketing (or 2-sided) play for operators requires a separate business unit:

  1. Board Level Support - this is a big strategic play

  2. Joined-up Business Case - think beyond marketing

  3. Separate Dedicated Organisation - so the parent company cannot swamp the baby

  4. CRM & Data Mining Expertise - Google currently do far more targeting than operators with far less data

  5. Collaborative Process - no operator is big enough to go-it-alone; there is a need to work together (as operators did in developing the GSM standard 20 years ago)

  6. Business Model Development - a rate card for advertising is the starting point but the business model for a 2-sided business is complex. Determining who to charge what will take significant thought and testing.”

A Surfeit of Newness

The Congress also provides a glut of ‘news’ which we gamely try to digest (see this gallant effort from last year) and opportunities to reflect on technologies and how the latest developments change us and the world we live in.

So why not join us there? Email contact@stlpartners.com if you’d like to catch up with us or take advantage of the discount code for Conference packages kindly offered to Telco 2.0 readers by our partners the GSMA.

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January 25, 2015

Six Good Calls: Were You In On Them?

STL Partners and the Telco 2.0 team are not naturally boastful people. From time to time though, we make predictions based on our views and insights. This is a risky business as forecasting the future is full of pitfalls. As a professional organisation it takes a bit of guts to put our name to predictions in public so we’re pleased when we get it right.

In this vein, here are six predictions we’ve made in our Executive Briefing Service that have recently come true.

To find out how you and your company could get ahead of the game by working with us, please email us at contact@stlpartners.com. [NB We promise not to let this run of success go to our heads.]

AT&T Is Dumping A Ton Of Its Copper, Like We Said

AT&T has issued an official stock exchange filing in which it announced that a substantial chunk of its fixed network is now surplus to requirements:

Our fourth-quarter 2014 operating results will also include a $2.1 billion noncash charge for the abandonment in place of certain network assets. During the fourth quarter, we performed an analysis of our network assets and determined that specific copper assets will not be necessary to support future network activity, due to declining customer demand for our legacy voice and data products and the migration of our networks to next generation technology. This decision by management will not be considered in our assessment of segment performance and therefore, this charge will be reflected only in consolidated results and will not affect segment operating results or margins.

The wording (“abandonment in place”) suggests that they’re going to close some networks, rather than selling them, and provide service via fixed-wireless, or possibly overbuild them with fibre.

In our December 2014 Executive Briefing, Will AT&T shed copper, fibre-up, or buy more content - and what are the lessons?, we predicted that AT&T was likely to reduce its fixed footprint, whether by sales or closures, and concentrate on either “wireless, plus satellite TV” via the DirecTV deal, or else build FTTH into a smaller, more urban footprint.

We expect, however, that AT&T may consider a Verizon-like disposal of some DSL assets, perhaps coupled with the beginning of major FTTP rollout

However, we thought they wouldn’t get out of the business completely, not least because of its interdependence with their star Strategic Business Services product line.

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This Fantastic Chart Explains Why Google Took Nest To Europe First

In August, 2014’s Connected Home: Telcos vs Google (Nest, Apple, Samsung…) Executive Briefing, we argued that Google would look to Europe first with the Nest acquisition:

Nest has focused to date on markets with tech-savvy/high-tech-spending consumers rather than those with relatively higher energy bills. In other words, it has recognised that the value proposition of connected home devices will be less well understood in the early stages of their lifecycle. Therefore, one must initially drive adoption by focusing on specific markets with the most tech-savvy/high-tech-spending consumers. As it matures, one can then look at expanding to markets with a compelling value proposition but less favourable CE spending. Nest’s inclusion of time zones and weather support for ten European countries in a January software update suggests that this will indeed be its next move.

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The month after publication, they launched in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Ireland. We expect Australia to be next.

Everyone Got All Excited About Free & T-Mobile, But We Weren’t Having It

In the same month, we predicted that the Free-T-Mobile deal wasn’t going to happen, in the Disruptive Revolution or a Bridge too Far? Executive Briefing.

Having characterised the Free Mobile package of technology, tactics, and procedures, we find that the crucial question is to what extent they are applicable to the US market. For various reasons, notably regulatory and to do with the fact that no fixed-mobile synergy is available with T-Mobile, we conclude that they are not and that there is little realistic opportunity for a pure leverage play, as CAPEX and spectrum acquisition calls on free cash are likely to continue at a high level for the foreseeable future.

A strategic deal with one or more cable operator is a possibility, reducing the financial strain of the deal and bringing substantial broadband assets into the mix. This would add complexity, and its success or otherwise would be very dependent on the cable operator’s ability to manage rapid software cycles in its set-top box fleet. However, such a deal is currently only a rumour.

We are concerned that the transaction is motivated by chagrin after the failure of more consolidation within France, as well as overselling by Free’s banking advisers and perhaps some political involvement. As historic supporters of Free.fr, we can’t recommend this deal.

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The deal with the cablecos didn’t materialise, and Xavier Niel eventually walked away.

We Said “Uncarrier” T-Mobile Was Really Just A Discounter. DTAG Still Wants To Sell It

Earlier in the year, however, in the Disruptive Strategy: ‘Uncarrier’ T-Mobile vs. AT&T, VZW, and Free.fr Executive Briefing, we argued that the difference between Free Mobile and T-Mobile USA was that Free had a genuinely disruptive business model and technology strategy, whereas T-Mobile USA was a pure discounter.

In this note, we’ve reviewed events in the US national cellular market. We have also reviewed the Free Mobile market entry in France, and identified the signature of a Free-like disruption event. Specifically, we expect to see declining ARPU, significant renewed subscriber growth, a shakeout of MVNOs or minor operators, and an early approach to profitability on the part of the disruptor, this being the condition of sustained competition….we certainly do not see an early approach to profitability on the part of the disruptor. Despite T-Mobile’s claims that it is decoupling handsets from service, we find that in practice, far from implying a reduction in subsidy, this means a really epic giveaway to customers.

The question is therefore whether a disruptor - T-Mobile, a merged Sprint/T-Mobile, Sprint, or a new entrant - will be able to establish a viable business model (i.e. revenue and cost model) that permits them to compete on price rather than by losing money on each smartphone they ship

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DTAG CEO Timotheus Höttges is still looking for a buyer. However, T-Mobile USA is over 90% fibre-to-the-cell, so we don’t think he’s in any hurry.

We Said There Would Be a US Cellular Price War, And It Totally Happened

Our January 2013 Sprint-Softbank: how it will disrupt the US market Executive Briefing stated explicitly that the US was heading for outright price war, that although Softbank’s bid for Sprint had been the tell, T-Mobile had beaten them to the punch, and that Sprint would struggle to cope:

We also expect that Sprint/Softbank will aim for the simplest form of disruption, price war….

In the short term, we expect they will launch a price disruption, trying to punch the duopoly before T-Mobile’s parent’s investment starts to flow. The problem here, though, is that the bear has blown first. T-Mobile USA has, since the Sprint-Softbank deal, secured access to the iPhone, announced a Softbank-like pay-for-devices-as-you-go policy, and tied up €4bn in funding from DTAG for its LTE rollout. If the Softbank example has any merit, and in the light of T-Mobile moving first, this will need a hero product to get the customers’ attention and to provide more stickiness than just a low-cost SIM-only offer like the ones T-Mobile has made a speciality of.

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Wireless price war drives down costs for consumers, sales for carriers.

This One Is Cheating A Bit, But…

In our just-published BT/EE: Huge Regulatory Headache and Trigger for European Transformation, we predicted that BT’s bid for EE would probably trigger both consolidation and fixed-mobile convergence in the UK market.

The vertical integration between BT and EE would be likely to mean that other UK MNOs find it necessary to invest heavily in fixed assets, bringing about a cascading process of convergence and consolidation that could take the UK down to three converged operators…

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Not only has 3UK started talks with O2, Sky wants an MVNO agreement and TalkTalk seems to be involved as well.

So why not sign up for our Executive Briefing Service here or email contact@stlpartners.com to find out how you and your company could get ahead of the game by working with us.

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January 19, 2015

European Consolidation is Here: Telco 2.0 News Review

After BT-EE, it’s O2-3UK. DTAG CapEx. Notspot deal in trouble. Missing €900m hangs over Altice-PTel

The BT-EE deal really is the starting gun for European consolidation. Canning Fok, managing director of Hutchison Whampoa, is promising more acquisitions to come in Europe, and the company has just reorganised its structure to support a big bid.

HWL, of course, bought the O2 network in Ireland not so long ago, which perhaps tips their hand towards this story - there is a rumour out that they will bid £9bn for O2 UK, left standing in the wake of BT’s merger with EE. Telefonica is, of course, so keen to get rid of O2 UK and cut its debts that Cesar Alierta hared to London before Christmas in an effort to push it on BT, so they won’t need much persuading to take a big bag of cash.

The problem of course is that this is consolidation with a vengeance. BT-EE can be defended on the grounds that it still leaves the UK with 4 MNOs, although the consequences for spectrum and for network vertical integration are serious. You can’t deny, though, that O2-3UK (O3? That’s ozone, isn’t it?) would take the UK down to 3 operators.

The really interesting question is that an O2-3UK deal leaves open the future of Virgin Media, whose Gigabit Ethernet backhaul has powered 3UK’s competitive surge forward over the last few years, and also CityFibre, which provides dark fibre to the cell for some 3UK networks. As it stands, O3 would be a beast of an operator, especially once it finished pulling the VMED or CF fibre to whichever O2 base stations it chose to keep. But Vodafone UK would then be a weak third operator a long way behind on fibre, although its pockets are very deep. It would be keen to make a bid for a broadband network, ideally Virgin Media.

And then things would get complicated. Did we mention that O3 would be in both the Cornerstone and the MBNL infrastructure alliances? In-depth coverage of the whole issue is coming in this week’s Newsletter and the Executive Briefing Service

OFCOM is edging towards more regulation of BT’s wholesale activities. The regulator is going to publish a draft regulation that would require BT to keep the price of virtual unbundled local access (VULA), the equivalent of LLU for their FTTC network, low enough that the independent ISPs can make a margin. BT, for its part, has stopped taking orders for its “fibre on demand” product, which is real FTTP. They claim this is because they want to clear a backlog of installs, which is amusing as BT also claims there is no demand for it.

It looks like the UK’s “superfast broadband” scheme is sliding right. Also, the “not-spot pact” is running into trouble in parliament, as the opposition has noticed the bit where the government sort-of promised to let the operators off some spectrum fees in exchange for doing the job for “free”. Whoops.

Meanwhile, the cablecos are restless. Liberty Global has just merged its two Dutch opcos and also folded its Irish operation into Virgin Media. Vodafone-owned Kabel Deutschland is pushes its downlink speeds up to 200Mbps. Tele Columbus, also in Germany, is pushing up to 400Mbps and planning an IPO.

Facing the cable menace, Deutsche Telekom has announced that it won’t be slowing down its CAPEX over the next five years, which will be €23.5bn, as it was for 2010-2015. The key segments will be German fixed and mobile broadband, and small cells. Vodafone, of course, is hoping to turn the CAPEX tap off after finishing up the “Project Spring” investments next year, but how likely is that in view of BTO3 and a big DTAG build-out?

In the immediate future, they’re whistling a happy tune. Vodafone UK CEO Jeroen Hoencamp says they have the strongest network, but users don’t know what 4G is, and they benefit from low-band spectrum. Hmmm.

Germany, meanwhile, is planning a massive spectrum auction in Q2, covering the 700, 900, 1500, and 1800MHz bands.

Telefonica’s Spanish fixed operator is playing the regulatory game. They’ve been asked to provide regulated wholesale access to their FTTH across Spain, with the exception of some cities where facilities-based competition exists. As a result, they’re threatening to stop the rollout.

Telekom Slovenije is up for sale next month and DTAG is a likely buyer.

Portugal Telecom’s key shareholder meeting has been postponed, and in the meantime the management is trying to convince everyone things will be much, much worse if the Altice deal doesn’t happen. So is Oi, which sounds increasingly desperate to finally get out of the deal and attend to business back in Brazil. People are arguing bitterly about the infamous €900m investment in the bankrupt Portuguese bank, and Telecom Italia’s CEO has been meeting the Brazilian minister of telecoms…

Sprint comes out for Title II, so do VZ investors; Republican pushback; Obama backs muni-fibre; OFCOM 5G consultation

So, the regulators have a full diary for the first quarter of 2015 and probably deep into the second. In a pleasant surprise for the FCC, Sprint has sent in a filing in favour of net neutrality and Title II. The document, over the CTO’s signature, points out that Sprint launched as the third national cellular operator under a “light-touch regulatory regime” that was itself based on Title II, and that it launched mobile broadband before the Martin FCC excluded it from the definition of telecoms. Further, they say:

So long as the FCC continues to allow wireless carriers to manage our networks and differentiate our products, Sprint will continue to invest in data networks regardless of whether they are regulated by Title II, Section 706, or some other light touch regulatory regime.

Meanwhile, two substantial shareholders in Verizon have put forward a motion for the carrier’s annual meeting that calls on the management to make a clear statement of support for net neutrality.

Two Republican politicians, though, are proposing legislation that would contain some sort of net neutrality language but wouldn’t involve Title II.

President Obama, meanwhile, came to Cedar Falls, which has a 1Gbps muni-fibre network, to speak in favour of community broadband projects, after the White House issued this strongly favourable report. It’s like it was 2009 all over again…

The AWS-3 auction is still crawling forward, just. The take is now up to $44.9bn, and the auction is likely to end this week or next.

And OFCOM wants to know what you think about 6GHz and higher spectrum for 5G networks.

Future of ALU Enterprise; more WebRTC CDN; Twilio training; wicked burn on VZW voice network

Here’s an interesting writeup of Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s strategy day after the ALU we know and love sold their unified comms business to a Chinese company. The division stays in France, although it’s questionable whether it will still be the default provider to big French corporates. It’s going to pick five key verticals, and the first one to be identified is “high-end hospitality”. Cloud is seen as being “complementary” to hardware, and they’re committed to building with OpenFlow and OpenStack.

Tsahi Levent-Levi interviews the CTO of Viblast, another startup that wants to use WebRTC as a form of peer-to-peer CDN. Their accent is on HD video streaming, and they are using Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming protocol.

A good post on scaling-out the TURN servers WebRTC relies on for NAT traversal.

Twilio is offering a training course for “contact center developers”.

Is Verizon Wireless struggling with its voice network? “Calls drop like they do on AT&T”. Ouch.

AT&T takes $10bn charge, prepares to trim copper; T-Money, more price war; $3.5bn Japanese loan for 600MHz spectrum

AT&T is going to wear a monster $10bn noncash accounting charge to profits in Q4, it announced. $7.9bn of this relates to the pension fund, but the remaining $2.1bn arises because:

the company determined that copper assets would not be necessary to support future network activity

Presumably that’s some copper assets, not all of them, but it certainly sounds like a big trim is in prospect, as we predicted in a recent Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing.

T-Mobile USA has taken a step closer to literally handing out folding money in exchange for subscribers. If you sign up for their mobile money app, and agree to receive any tax refund you get through the account, they’ll give you $20. The product, aimed at the unbanked, consists of a prepaid Visa card and a smartphone app, and lets you use ATMs, deposit cheques, and handle direct deposit payments.

They also, inevitably, offered a big price cut, slashing $10 off a group of prepaid plans, although they also scrapped the $80/mo unlimited data plan.

Meanwhile, with the 600MHz auction racing towards us, AT&T has signed up two Japanese banks to lend it $3.5bn in total.

Huawei, ZTE results; Samsung denies bid for BlackBerry; SKT sued over LTE-A; NBasementN

Elsewhere in Asia, Huawei was counting the money. CFO Meng Wanzhou expects sales for 2014 to finish 20% year on year, with margins steady at around 12%. All three operating segments did well, but the stand-out was the smartphone business in Consumer, up 32%.

ZTE, meanwhile, had started the year hoping to become a top smartphone vendor, but got squeezed by the surge at Xiaomi and Lenovo. That said, they finished with revenue up 8% and net profits up 94%, thanks mostly to their 25% share of the China Mobile 4G rollout.

Samsung has denied negotiating with BlackBerry over a bid for the company. Reuters claims Samsung actually made an offer of $13.35-15.49 a share, but both parties deny this forcefully.

KT and LG U-Plus are suing SKT over the question of who was first to launch tri-band LTE-Advanced. LG has been trialling it for some time, and it alleges that SKT’s supposed launch was really only a trial with a few hundred phones.

NBN Co is beginning to identify which apartment blocks it will serve with so-called “fibre to the basement”.

VZ wins Azure CDN; 4K is too much for the tubes; AWS’s “small” data centres; Switch’s huge data centres

Verizon has scored a goal - Microsoft Azure has thrown over its own CDN in favour of Verizon EdgeCast in licensed-CDN mode. Azure was already using third party solutions for its live streaming and content protection features, so it’s not unprecedented, but putting the main CDN for Microsoft’s cloud in Verizon’s hands is a seriously big deal for both parties.

Dan Rayburn points out that 4K video streaming will need at least 15Mbps end-to-end downlink unless the codec makers can squeeze out a 40% efficiency from HEVC vs. H.264, something which is still a long way off. As a result, content providers will be constrained from offering 4K both by the CDN bill, and by the limited market that can actually receive it even if they can serve it.

Akamai, for example, thinks the world installed base of “4K ready”, i.e. > 15Mbps, fixed lines has actually fallen by 2.8% last year.

James Hamilton at Amazon Web Services updates the famous number about adding the whole of Amazon in whatever year, every day. This time it’s 2004, when Amazon.com was a $7bn company. Hamilton provides a lot of interesting detail about AWS, but our favourite detail is that AWS keeps its data centres smallish, typically about 25-30 MW in terms of power or 50-80,000 servers. Smallish. This is partly because they find that diseconomies of scale kick in after this point, and partly to reduce the impact of any single failure.

Smallish. Compare Switch & Data’s latest SuperNAP project in Reno, 800,000 square feet for $1bn. They didn’t give a power figure, but their other SuperNAPs tend to be extremely power-dense, so it is likely enormous. They are also working on another SuperNAP as an expansion project on their existing Las Vegas site.

Meanwhile, Intel’s Data Center group saw its revenue grow 18% year on year, while the Mobile and Communications group sank 85%.

Zayo, best known for dark fibre to the cell, just spent $625m buying Latisys Group and its 8 small data centres.

Ericsson sues Apple; yet another go-round for “satellite ISP for Africa”; Google buys out Softcard; why it’s called “targeted” advertising

Ericsson is suing Apple over LTE patents. Although Ericsson makes the ones in question available on FRAND (Fair, Reasonable, And Non-Discriminatory) terms, this implies paying them some money. Should that be a percentage of the chip, or of the whole phone?

Both Qualcomm and Virgin have apparently made an “investment” in OneWeb, a company that wants to launch a lot of low-earth orbit satellites and provide Internet service to, you know, Africa. Have we heard this story before? Why don’t people who want to invest in African ISPs buy a boatload of Bharti Airtel stock? Also, nobody is saying how much either Qualcomm or Virgin has actually put in.

There’s some more detail here. OneWeb would require 646 - count ‘em - satellites, which its founder reckons would cost $350,000 each. He claims he can achieve this by mass-producing the satellites, but there is already a small satellite industry and it certainly doesn’t look much like Foxconn. Also Greg Wyler, for it is he, tried this once before when Google was bankrolling him, at O3b Networks. That didn’t go so well because the satellites didn’t work, and we apologise for the fact we were taken in ourselves.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk has had the same idea, and wants to launch 700 satellites. He’s got a better rocket, of course, and a factory, but it’s not as if the car industry has a great record when it gets involved with aerospace.

It looks like Google may buy out Softcard, ex-ISIS, the US carriers’ NFC joint venture. A price tag of $100m is mentioned, which is a big loss for the telcos but possibly quite a generous settlement given the project’s utter failure.

Now this is what we call a bug. The Linux version of the social gaming platform, Steam, seems to pass an empty string into the rm -rf * command. rm -rf * with no other arguments, of course, deletes absolutely everything in the current file system.

A nice AT&T Foundry dev project - work out if there’s a dog (or a baby) in the car and the temperature is worryingly high (or low) and warn you.

Advertising network Turn has been doing something wrong. If you delete their cookies, they just put them back. They can do this because Verizon Wireless, like quite a few other mobile operators, adds an HTTP header to your stuff containing your phone number or something similar.

Why this might be problematic: this Snowden document, a GCHQ presentation crafted with the best of the British sense of humour, explains how spies specifically target advertising cookies and requests because they’re full of useful personal data. Don’t have nightmares.

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January 12, 2015

India, Gigabit Cable, FCC, Roku: Telco 2.0 News Review

India approaching 1bn subscribers, plans huge spectrum auction; Uninor +5k Node-Bs; East Africa ends roaming charges; more PTel/Oi weirdness

India’s regulator, the TRAI, says they had 937 million subs on the 30th November, 2014, growing a few million a month. As a result, it looks like they’ll hit the billion in the next year or so.

90% of Internet connections in India are wireless, and this means they’re going to need more spectrum. The Indian government has just decided to launch its biggest ever spectrum auction, with 465MHz going on sale across the 800, 900, 1800, and 2100MHz bands and a $12bn target price.

However, it’s worth pointing out that this isn’t a net increase of 465MHz, because Vodafone, Bharti, Reliance Communications, and Idea all have licences that are going to run out.

Net of renewals, the release will be quite a bit less. The presence of these forced buyers will also have a major influence on the pricing of some of the blocks.

Uninor, the Telenor opco in India, says it installed 5,000 new base stations this year and reached 51% population coverage, expanding its subscriber base by a third and reaching…almost 5% market share.

Elsewhere, roaming charges have been abolished between Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda, and Burundi, Tanzania, and South Sudan are considering joining the “One Network Area”.

Nigeria reckons it might get to 50% population coverage with 3G this year.

Remember when Brazilian operator Oi was merging with Portugal Telecom? Well, here’s another twist in the story. Oi doesn’t want to know any more after that time PTel lost almost a billion euros of their money in a dodgy Portuguese bank, and has bigger fish to fry in Brazil, and so they decided to sell PTel to a French cable company, Altice. But there are two holding companies for PTel, oddly enough, something which a rival bidder tried to take advantage of.

Now, one of them, PT SGPS, which “contributed” all the shares in PT Portugal, which owns the network, into Oi in exchange for 25.7% of Oi, has turned around and started buying back shares in PT Portugal. They can do this because the local regulator wants at least a minority Portuguese stake in PTel. As a result, they have a veto over the Altice deal, which might be activated at a shareholder meeting today. But what will be on the agenda?

And America Movil is about to spin off one of its holding companies.

Gigabit cable is here - Comcast plans to deploy this year; 4G uplinks peak on NYE; Cornwall may go for 99% broadband coverage

Here it comes: Comcast has announced it’s going to offer 1Gbps broadband this year. Specifically, what’s happened is that Broadcom is offering a new modem implementing DOCSIS 3.1, and Comcast is going to put it in its next lot of set-top boxes - details are here. Broadcom claim they’ve tested up to 5Gbps, and the chipset also includes 4x4 Multi-User MIMO antennas for the WiFi. Expect the cablecos to punch the rest of the industry hard, again, especially as STMicro demonstrated their product at CES and Intel might have something soon.

The head of Telecom Italia says that since their 4G deployment, they’ve been able to get customers to pay for quality because they’re “addicted to data”.

EE boasts that it’s added 5.5 million 4G users in 2014, more than any other network in Europe. Interestingly, they’ve observed a new version of the traditional “New Year’s Eve denial of service attack” - rather than SMS going through the roof, it’s data uplink that explodes just after the countdown as all those selfies get uploaded.

Cornwall County Council is considering putting more money into the county’s broadband programme, which has already emerged as one of the richest in FTTP in the UK. Paradoxically, Cornwall has been getting so much more FTTP because it’s more remote - a lot of homes are on very long copper runs.

PlusNet is offering “free, unlimited business broadband”. That is, you pay only the line rental of £10.50, plus VAT, for the first 12 months, thereafter £13/mo, plus the line rental and VAT, for the next 12 months. If you’re lucky enough to be in a new-build that Independent Fibre Networks Ltd wired up, you can get 50/50Mbps for £25/mo.

And having reached its 2 millionth FTTH home, Reggefiber continues the roll-out.

Wheeler: Title II is coming on the 26th; Google/Cable lobby wars; 3.5GHz; UK 700MHz isn’t coming

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler tells an interviewer that he’s essentially come down on the side of net neutrality. He says that draft rules will be circulated on the 5th of February and a vote taken on the 26th. No doubt the lobbyists are firing up their credit cards as we speak, but with at least two other commissioners in favour, Wheeler has the votes to reclassify broadband into Title II. As TelecomTV points out, perhaps it was a mistake going to the mattresses over the original, much weaker Open Internet Order?

The cablecos, meanwhile, argue that Google doesn’t need Title II to get access to their ducts and poles, because it could declare itself to be a cable TV station. The point of this beef is that Wheeler plans to implement part, but not all, of Title II (this is called “forbearance”) - so now the big issue is which bits of it get implemented. Google, tech companies, and challenger ISPs very much want the infrastructure access provisions in Section 224 to be included; big telecom very much doesn’t.

The FCC is also thinking of defining broadband as at least 25Mbps, perhaps permitting shared use of the 3.5GHz band for mobile broadband, and doing something unspecified about the accuracy of wireless E-911 location.

Here’s a great Harold Feld blog post running down this year’s FCC agenda. OFCOM is going to hold some public meetings where you can make your feelings on their plan for the next two years felt. This reveals that the UK 700MHz auction has been sliding right, and won’t happen until 2022.

And if that’s not enough regulation for you, here’s the chairwoman of the FTC, walking around CES and talking about privacy and security in the Internet of Things.

14nm Intel CPUs are here, bringing new laptops; Lenovo moves Moto brand into China; Samsung’s Q4 was a disaster; CES shiny

So it’s that big gadget show again. For our money the biggest deal at CES is the new line of Intel chips, the repeatedly delayed 14nm Broadwells. The main reason to care is that Intel claims they will offer much better battery life in laptops and mobile devices, as well as a performance jump, which might kick off an update cycle in the PC market. The Verge has a rundown of new laptops based on the chips, and they are indeed impressive.

Lenovo is hoping that 40% of its smartphones this year will be out of the Motorola product line. In order to make this happen, they’re going to start selling them in China again - Google pulled out over one of the hacking incidents - where Lenovo wants to use the Moto name for their high-end devices and their own for the cheap ones.

Samsung reported a horrible Q4, with its operating profits back where they were in 2011, market share in smartphones at 24% where it was 32% as recently as Q3 2013, and smartphone shipments off 28% in China. Operating profit in the IT & Mobile division is down 74%.

On the other hand, HTC saw its quarterly revenue rise for the first time since 2011, and they’re actually making money.

Samsung’s response is to wave its cash. The huge surge forward in smartphones was enabled by the company’s massive spending on marketing and vendor financing; now, they’re looking towards the Internet of Things, and putting up $100m as an internal VC fund for IoT app developers.

Expect much hype about multi-user MIMO in WiFi, but note that the technology is disturbingly close to being a radar.

Here are some leaks about Spartan, Microsoft’s new Web browser.

Here’s a review of the first FirefoxOS high-spec smartphone, which seems to have been carefully designed to look as if you 3D-printed it yourself. A CES gadget announcement that’s actually useful - the reversible USB connector. Nobody really needs a 4K TV. The YotaPhone is coming to a US carrier. ZDNet thinks the main trend at CES was “real world problems”. Here’s a rundown of all the robots.

And TSMC, sometime chipmaker to Apple, is tooling up for something.

Roku IPO; streaming music ARPUs sag; TalkBox; AT&T exits Muve, tries LTE broadcast; Google search share back to 2008 levels

Dan Rayburn expects Roku to go for an IPO very soon, with a price tag somewhere between $100-150m. They are expected to see between $275-300m in revenue this year, and perhaps to make it into profitability in Q1.

That said, Strategy Analytics reckons Spotify’s ARPU is actually falling and a lot of streaming music providers are struggling. An important point is that they don’t have any economies of scale, so their revenues grow linearly with subscriber growth, while the marginal costs consist of a ration of content royalties per subscriber, and some CDN and overheads. As a result, the costs tend to grow faster than revenue.

Here’s a neat idea - New Call Telecom, a British ISP, is giving away Chromecasts when its subscribers sign up, because it’s a cheap way to have a triple play.

TalkTalk has bought Blinkbox, a movie streaming business, off Tesco and taken Tesco’s fixed ISP customers along with it.

AT&T is getting rid of the Muve Music product it acquired with Leap Wireless. Deezer is buying, and the existing Muve customers will be ported over to Deezer’s service. AT&T is also going to test LTE Broadcast at an American football game this week.

Quietly, Google’s share of US search is being eroded by vertical apps, new entrants, and Marissa Mayer’s efforts to revive Yahoo! They’re now back to where they were in 2008 - which wasn’t bad.

And there’s been a rumour of Verizon buying AOL, swiftly denied.

Verizon trimming the copper again; VZ Cloud out for 40 hours; Sprint gains subs; T-Mo gains lots of subs

Verizon may not be going to buy AOL, but it might well sell some networks, trimming its rural network again as it did in 2010. Lowell McAdam also mentioned moving more customers off the copper network and onto 4G wireless instead.

Meanwhile, that Verizon Cloud maintenance outage happened. It turns out that “far less than 48 hours” means that the service will be down for 40 hours.

Sprint announced customer numbers for Q4 and they were good, with almost a million net-adds. However, that breaks down to 410k prepaid and 527k wholesale and only 30k postpaid, not quite as impressive. But it’s positive territory, which is saying something - in the previous quarter, it lost 336k prepaid customers and 30k postpaid. They didn’t say anything about what the dash for growth is costing, but they did announced $1.8bn worth of vendor financing from the network equipment makers, specifically Nokia Networks, Samsung, and Alcatel-Lucent.

T-Mobile, meanwhile, reported another monster net-adds quarter. 2.1m net-adds, of which 1m postpaid, 266k prepaid, and the rest in wholesale, the seventh consecutive quarter with more than a million net-adds. For the year, that’s 4.9m net-adds. As usual it came at a price, and the carrier made a $94m loss in its Q3.

AT&T does WebRTC; more DTAG HD voice; Talko interviews; UK public safety network is a mess

AT&T announced its Enhanced WebRTC API at a developer event immediately before CES. This is essentially replacing its partnership with Tropo, and adds some extra features like caller-ID and multiring.

DTAG has expanded its HD Voice service to include the 2G network.

Here’s a 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog post with an interesting report from NTT DoCoMo on deploying VoLTE.

The software team from Talko interviewed. Is Kim Dotcom thinking about a WebRTC-based encrypted voice service? Smile Comms is preparing to add VoLTE to its data-only network in East Africa.

And the project to replace the UK emergency services’ radio network is a fine mess.

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January 5, 2015

Comcast-TWC, TIM Brasil, Huawei, HKBN, TalkTalk - Telco 2.0 News Review

Ed: Happy New Year and welcome to the first Telco 2.0 News Review of 2015, packed as full of rich content as most of the Telco 2.0 team have been for the last two weeks. Nonetheless we’re back, and if you’re full of New Year zeal and interested in the future of the network, we’d love to get your thoughts on what the key questions ahead are here to help drive our latest research.

Comcast-TWC on hold again; net neutrality vote on 26th February; Mexican spectrum; Telefonica sale of TI shares OKd

The FCC has stopped the clock on the Comcast-TWC deal again, holding the process at Day 104 of 180, rather like that rocket launch before Christmas that kept getting put off. They have decided to resume the review after the 12th of January - wouldn’t we all? The problem is that 31,000 documents have turned up that the cablecos should have already disclosed, and the FCC staffers need more time to read them.

Meanwhile, the regulator is moving forward with its proposed net neutrality rules. A final draft is expected in early February, with a vote at the open meeting on the 26th. Republican politicians are hopping mad and are speculating about trying to close the FCC.

The E-Rate program is re-allocating about a billion dollars from telephony to WiFi in schools and libraries, while the regulator has begun reviewing the low bids for its Rural Broadband Experiment project. And although they already got fined once, Marriott is at it again trying to jam portable WiFi hotspots.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s brand new regulator approved the AT&T acquisition of Iusacell and announced the auction of 60MHz of 4G spectrum, in the AWS-3 bands, for some time this year. There’s also 10MHz of 450MHz and some GSM900 going.

ANATEL has cleared Telefonica’s plan to exit Telecom Italia. Under the plan, the consortium of three Italian banks and Telefonica that owns the biggest stake in TI will be broken up, and Telefonica will sell its 14.8% within 18 months. In the meantime, it will waive its voting rights in TI.

TIM Brasil zero-rates WhatsApp; Blocked in India; Huawei forecasts; Chinese carriers’ $3.5bn gadget fund; an inspector calls at Unicom

TIM Brasil, meanwhile, has an understanding with WhatsApp, letting them offer a tariff that zero-rates WhatsApp usage. Here’s an interesting quote:

“TIM has a strong affinity with OTT. We don’t see them as a threat,” Cristilli said. “They have a lot of services that customers highly value.” TIM’s strategy includes searching for the best OTTs for possible agreements.

Meanwhile, Indian MNOs are lobbying their regulator to stop WhatsApp deploying its voice features in their market.

Censorship seems to be flavour of the month in India at the moment - the government banned a swath of websites including pastebin and its clones, DailyMotion and Vimeo, the Internet Archive, and the huge Github version-control hosting service. Apparently they’re “anti-Indian content”.

The Indian government also hopes to reach the last 10% of villages with mobile service by December 2016.

Huawei, meanwhile, expects its revenue to grow 15% this year, mostly from mobile phones and enterprise products rather than network infrastructure. Having shifted 4 million Ascend-7 smartphones in the first six months, they’re now the third biggest smartphone vendor.

In our March, 2013 Executive Briefing Smartphones: How Long Until Huawei is No.1?, we forecast that they might hit the lead in 2017.

Both China Telecom and China Unicom have set a target of moving 100 million 4G smartphones on contracts this year. Between them, that translates to a budget of $3.5bn for additional smartphone purchases out of the supply chain this year.

Zhang Zhijiang was the head of network construction projects at China Unicom. Now he’s not, and he may be lucky to be anything once the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Discipline Inspectors have finished with him. Inevitably, he is accused of taking bribes in exchange for contracts.

Tata Teleservices, meanwhile, is getting sued by NTT DoCoMo, which wants out of their IT joint venture. The contract stated that in this case, Tata had to put the business on the market. NTT alleges this hasn’t happened, and has invoked binding arbitration - probably better than the Discipline Inspectors, at least.

Europe’s converged future? TalkTalk buys Blinkbox; T-Mobile goes “toe to toe with VZW”; 48 hours of cloud downtime

Faultline reckons that the BT-EE deal will trigger a wider wave of consolidation and fixed-mobile convergence around Europe, with the typical market settling down to around three converged operators, one cableco, one incumbent, and perhaps a rebel of some sort. This is hugely dependent on regulators’ acquiescence, of course, and the UK’s structure seems unique in context.

They argue that TalkTalk is now the most likely UK operator to become a Free Mobile-like disruptor. Quietly, TalkTalk has taken control of Blinkbox, a TV streaming service.

Meanwhile, BT Openreach prices change in April, with wholesale line rental going down and local loop unbundling, power, and engineering charges going up.

Free Mobile is refarming its first 1800MHz block to 4G.

Deutsche Telekom is beginning to deploy its all-IP network, starting with the smaller OpCos. After Macedonia, now Telekom.sk is moving over.

In the States, meanwhile, here’s a case that AT&T and Verizon are likely to be quite happy to lose some of their lower-spend customers, which might keep the four-carrier status quo around longer than you might think.

The troublemaker is of course T-Mobile, and here’s an interesting announcement. They will be running LTE in the unlicensed 5GHz band from the end of this year, immediately adding a lot of extra spectrum. Meanwhile, it’s argued here that T-Mo has a lot of capacity banked for the future, with the refarming of its 2G spectrum, the availability of 700MHz and unlicensed, and a surprisingly big portfolio of cell sites. How’s their fibre-to-the-cell position?

John Legere, typically, is stirring the pot, boasting that they will overtake Sprint in 2015 and “take on” VZW’s network.

AT&T’s interest in Latin America is increasing, with an MVNO coming for Peru.

Verizon’s cloud is going down for a 48 hour planned outage. When was the last time Amazon Web Services did that?

And the 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog reports on the standardisation of M2M remote provisioning. It’s dependent on the existing MNO, which may trouble some people, and it’s complicated!

eUICCprofileSwitching_NTTDocomo.png

HKBN IPO; 10Gbps to the home (if you pay $399/mo); Reggefiber at 2m lines; SKT has tri-band LTE-A

HKBN, the No.2 ISP in Hong Kong, is famous for being one of the very first ISPs to offer 1Gbps speeds at remarkably low prices. Now it’s going for an IPO, valued at $500m or thereabouts. The transaction is meant to let its venture-capital owners exit and won’t raise net funds.

“Parts of Minneapolis” are getting 10Gbps to the home from the appropriately named Ultrafast, if they’re willing to fork out $399 a month.

Reggefiber has hooked up its 2 millionth customer.

In the mobile version of ultra-fast broadband, SK Telecom has announced the first commercial tri-band LTE service, aggregating 800, 1800, and 2100MHz spectrum.

Samsung wins back Apple’s heart with 14nm gift; first high spec Firephone; Microsoft builds an all-new browser; WebRTC news

Samsung and Apple may sue each other, they may compete with each other, but they love each other all the more for it. Samsung’s Austin, TX plant is sampling a new version of the Apple A9 chip, shrunk down to fit their new 14nm manufacturing process. This means Apple is switching back from TSMC as its key chip maker, drawn by the prospect of a cooler, faster 14nm chip. It also implies that Apple will be thinking of how it would use a faster A9, so a product might be coming.

NVIDIA, meanwhile, announced the Tegra X1, the first mobile chip using its desktop architecture. They claim it is also the first to achieve teraflop performance. They are also offering an adaptation of the X1 as a special connected-car product.

Mozilla and KDDI are launching a new FirefoxOS smartphone, in Japan. This is the first high-specification device using the free OS.

Google has expanded its Android One program to include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

Horace argues that the reconciliation of Apple and IBM was the biggest technology news of 2014, representing the end of three decades of competition as plotted on this chart of shipments by various technologies:

Screen-Shot-2014-12-26-at-11.28.03-AM-620x394.png

He argues that this represents a major change in the relationship between hardware and software companies, and between enterprises and consumers. Meanwhile, tablet sales are slowing down further.

Microsoft is working on a new Web browser that isn’t Internet Explorer - so will their promised WebRTC/ORTC support be in IE 11 or in the new project, codenamed Spartan? Also, Cisco’s Project Squared WebRTC app will only work on Firefox for the time being.

There seems to be some interest in using the Bitcoin blockchain for other applications (might we even say “something useful”?). Eris is an applications server that uses it as a distributed database. A downside is that the maximum record size is 1MB, which is a major limitation for its primary payments mission, let alone being a generalised database.

And Kenyan tech startups aren’t doing so well.

Hackers blow SS7 wide open. So do the Russians; Christmas Eve NSA document dump; Aussie government’s Santa raid

This was always going to happen. Every year, the CCC hacker con in Germany unearths more security problems in GSM and cellular more generally. This year, they signed up for a SS7 service provider and realised they could do…anything they wanted.

Not only that, it turned out that Ukrainian telco regulators caught a Russian operator sending dodgy SS7 messages to their mobile operators in order to divert and intercept calls.

In that light it seems almost reassuring that the NSA confessed to spying illegally on Americans, releasing documents on Christmas Eve. Our favourite is the NSA analyst who accidentally requested surveillance of his own codename.

Meanwhile, Australian officials staged their own Santa raid, asking operators for costings of a much-increased data retention requirement over the holiday.

Here’s a rundown of anti-NSA court cases.

And finally, it’s been 30 years since the very first mobile phone call in the UK.

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