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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!


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:


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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