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APAC Special, NORMA, Fibre Race, no DISH, T-Drones: Telco 2.0 News Review

Chinese slowdown, but €1bn of orders for ALU; Bharti hits No.3; AWS opens in India

The Chinese market for smartphones, PCs, and tablets is expected to grow only 1.3% this year, as against 15.2% last year, according to IDC, and as we know, Apple has got its teeth into the bulk of it. Strategy Analytics concurs, arguing that Chinese smartphone penetration is rapidly converging on the same levels as in Europe and North America, and that therefore, what happens in India will determine what happens in smartphones over the next couple of years. Shipments there are expected to rise 43% this year and exceed those in the USA in 2017. That said, SA has also issued a forecast for 5G handset shipments before any 5G handsets exist, so perhaps a word of caution is in order.

In a new Telco 2.0 Dealing with Disruption report, we identify some of the most disruptive operators. Three of them are based in Asia. Get our in-depth coverage here

Xiaomi, having seen Apple storm into the Chinese home market, is increasingly looking well afield. Having made a good start on India, they announced expansion into Brazil this week in their H1 results. The results were pretty good; 34.7m smartphones and growth of 33% year-on-year.

Bharti Airtel, fittingly enough, has just become the third biggest network operator by subscribers, with 303 million, a hair ahead of China Unicom and still 100 million shy of Vodafone in second place. They have just signed a contract with Nokia Networks to deploy more of their own 3G in parts of India where they currently have to use national roaming.

Amazon Web Services is opening a new infrastructure region in India, and mobile number portability launched on Wednesday.

In China, even if the gadget count is slowing down, the fraction that uses 4G is rising very fast and the infrastructure must keep up. The Chinese government’s new broadband plan wants 100Mbps for everybody, neither China Mobile or China Unicom are going to miss out on that, and the lucky vendor is Alcatel-Lucent, which gets a €1.1bn order for all sorts of stuff ranging from GPON to both flavours of 4G radio, backbone optical, VoLTE kit, and SDN controllers.

Samsung claims a fundamental breakthrough in battery design, which I’m sure we can all welcome. Meanwhile, the S6 is selling well; it made up 55% of US Android shipments in Q2 and Samsung was briefly back on top as No.1.

Viettel, the MNO set up by the Vietnamese army, has gone live with its 2G and 3G networks in Burundi, with 600k subscribers in the first month of operations.

Orange says its African and Middle East operations are its major focus for growth in the next few years, and they’ve reorganised to create a single MEA organisation. They are targeting income growth of 5% annually for the segment, and might acquire some of Bharti Airtel’s African assets.

Digicel, famous for operating mobile networks on tropical islands, is planning to float, in part to finance a $1.5bn CAPEX program notably targeting fibre rollouts. Did you know you can get FTTH in Papua New Guinea? Well you can, and you can’t get it in London. There is much more information in the F-1 filing.

US fibre race continues; Liberty Global competes on speed; new architectures for 5G; NGMN plans

Another wave of gigabit fibre deployment hit the US this week. Google Fiber got the regulatory go-ahead to start building in San Antonio, Texas, the state’s second city and the States’ seventh. San Antonio, of course, is not just on the list for AT&T GigaPower, it’s where AT&T headquarters is located.

Not surprisingly, that escalated quickly - AT&T announced another round of GigaPower rollouts, into Miami and Fort Lauderdale, where Comcast is already building out its 2Gbps service.

They also wrote to the FCC asking for more time to complete the AT&T-DirecTV deal, and promising even more FTTH. The target is now 11.17 million homes passed, which they claim they will complete in four years from the closing date. They promise to report regularly to the FCC in order to show they aren’t using any Connect America money for the project.

In Germany, Liberty Global’s Unitymedia network is opening up the pipe, pushing the speeds it offers business cable customers to 250Mbps. Virgin Media, the equivalent in the UK, has started a major advertising campaign boasting of its DOCSIS 3.1 technology and speeds.


Niche fibre deployer Hyperoptic is now offering no-contract plans. And at last, a BDUK contract for someone other than BT - Gigaclear is going to build fibre into parts of Berkshire the existing BDUK Superfast contract won’t cover. So if you’re too far from the exchange to get “up to 76Mbps” broadband, which we learned last week is more like good old ADSL2…you might get fibre.

Meanwhile, the 5GPPP has started an initiative to design the 5G network architecture, known as NORMA for Novel Radio Multiservice Adaptive Network Architecture. The backers include DTAG, Telefonica, Orange, Nokia, ALU, NEC, and Atos Origin and apparently it’s “also about acquiring a leadership position for Europe in 5G.” This sounds worryingly like the “get rid of boring old IP” imperialism we warned against in this Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing but it’s early days.

More practically, perhaps, NGMN has announced four new projects following up on its 5G requirements document from earlier this year. These cover requirements and architecture, spectrum, IPR, and “business principles”.

UK TV ownership lower than 1972; streaming live NFL; an uplink-heavy Glastonbury

We mentioned the AT&T-DirecTV deal above; for the second time, the companies have asked for more time to make their case for final approval to the regulators.

TV ownership is actually falling in the UK. As a result, TV penetration is 93.7%, the lowest it has been since 1972.

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Elsewhere, Yahoo! and the NFL are beginning to stream American football on the Web, marking a big step away from the classic TV model. More of it is available via DISH’s SlingTV service. This may trigger a big move away from TV, as live sport is one of its few remaining unique selling points.

PlusNet, part of BT, wants you to take all the football if you want any football at all, thus imposing a substantial price rise. A major selling point of web streaming is of course that you don’t have to go along with this sort of thing.

EE is trumpeting the fact that their subscribers at the Glastonbury Festival downloaded 8TB of data. Surely you shouldn’t be watching Netflix at Glasto? But perhaps the more interesting stat is how much they uploaded, i.e. the very opposite of TV - 3TB in total, ie 37.5% uplink traffic. That’s getting into “balanced peer” rather than “eyeball network” territory.

Whatever happened at Glasto, at least it serves to distract from the million-pound fine imposed on EE by OFCOM for their terrible customer service standards.

Telstra-owned CDN Ooyala has acquired another media network company, Nativ, which seems to be in the front-end/ingestion element of the video chain.

Sony’s PlayStation Now cloud-based gaming service is so good it works well on a Samsung Smart TV - but only as long as the Internet link is flawless.

No DISH bid for the time being; Sprint doubles-down on the price war, calls in Carphone to fix retail, pays CEO an absolute fortune

DISH’s SlingTV is shaking up its market, but what about the long-running question of whether “Satellite Cowboy” Charlie Ergen will make another effort to buy T-Mobile USA? Ergen has sobering words for us; it’s no deal, and he “feels no pressure to do anything”. His reading of the FCC conditions attached to DISH’s spectrum holdings is that the deadline by which time they must be used to provide service to at least 40% of the US population is only binding in 2020, and therefore there’s no hurry.

This all started, of course, when Softbank first bid on Sprint and tempted DISH to leap in. Over at Sprint, this week, any illusion that the price war might be abating has been swept away. Sprint’s new “All In” tariff offers a shiny gadget, plus unlimited calls, messaging, and data, for $80/mo. That’s some aggressive pricing, even if the small print states that unlimited users’ access to streaming video will be throttled to 600Kbps at all times.

Meanwhile, John Legere and Marcelo Claure had one of their increasingly tiresome spats on Twitter, while it emerged that like Dan Hesse before him, Claure is the highest paid CEO in wireless. And it’s not just him; Hesse is still collecting tens of millions of dollars from Sprint even now he’s out. The lowest-paid wireless carrier CEO? That’ll be Lowell McAdam at VZW, the most profitable carrier.

Interestingly, Sprint is turning to Carphone Warehouse for a lead on how to revive its retailing operations. CPW will be providing consulting advice and managing 20 new stores in a pilot project. If that succeeds, 500 new stores will open under CPW management and CPW will take a $32m equity stake.

Digital Single Market, done? Nearly. Sky reports BT to antitrust, BT slashes backhaul prices; more net neutrality cleanup

The European Union has come to an agreement on the new Digital Single Market package. Roaming charges end in June 2017 and will be capped at €0.05/minute until then, and a compromise net-neutrality formula is included in the text. However, the Netherlands, which already has strong neutrality, is threatening to vote against if the final text doesn’t provide strong guarantees.

In the UK, Sky used the Communications Market Review process to ask OFCOM to refer BT to the Competition & Markets Authority on the grounds that Openreach is a monopoly with exploitative pricing and terrible quality of service. Interestingly, Openreach just annouced some fairly drastic price cuts on the key Gigabit and 10 Gigabit Ethernet backhaul links that are at the centre of the UK regulatory situation. Is BT trying to make pre-emptive concessions to help with the EE deal?

Read our in-depth coverage in this Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing

In the US, AT&T and GTT have signed an interconnection agreement, joining the rush to settle outstanding peering disputes before they land in a net neutrality proceeding. Dan Rayburn adds technical detail.

A US court has granted the request from both opponents and supporters of net neutrality to consider the appeals against Title II quickly.

Commissioner Pai wants to let carriers use Universal Service Fund money to deploy broadband-only services. At the moment, there has to be some element of telephony.

And the new regulator in Mexico wants to make Telmex open up the last mile.

Republic Wireless, no.1 for satisfaction; ARIN out of IPv4; M2M service “too dear”; T-Drones

Republic Wireless, first of the MVNO-plus-WiFi minicarriers, has the best customer satisfaction rating in the US. Not surprising given its agonisingly cheap pricing, but it’s also innovating - it’s about to launch handoff from cellular back to WiFi, something not previously available although the 3GPP standards foresee it - and its customers name “in-home coverage” and “fewer dropped calls” as justification for their satisfaction.

A project in New York City aims to replace 10,000 phone booths with public gigabit WiFi access points, offering free phone calls within the city and charging stations, funded by ads.

ARIN, the North American Internet registry, has for the first time had to turn down a request for more IPv4 addresses because it has no more to give.

Here’s Zyptonite, a new peer-to-peer voice app. No details as yet.

The third release of OpenDaylight SDN is here.

Novatel Wireless’s CEO says the Internet of Things isn’t scaling because mobile service is still too dear. Network operators may be a little shocked by that as their M2M ARPUs continue to slide.

MTN has a new IoT platform for Africa, built with ZTE.

The data centre industry doesn’t consume any more power than it did in 2005 despite enormous growth, a tribute to technical progress. But how much water does it get through?

Hacking Team, an Italian company which sells Internet surveillance software, has itself been hacked and 415GB of source code, archives, e-mail, and much else released onto the Web. Among other things, all the passwords there were the same and all the passwords were “password”.

Cisco has acquired OpenDNS for some $635m.

Someone is going around California chopping up fibre-optic cables.

And T-Mobile Netherlands is using a drone to inspect infrastructure on the roof of a stadium.

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