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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.


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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