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Cable, LTE-LAA, Eurecovery, new flagships, 14nm chips: Telco 2.0 News Review

Google Fiber heads for Phoenix; world cable upgrades; TEF goes Juniper; Orange, BT lead global Ethernet

The US FTTH race continues. Google has the green light from Phoenix’s city council to start building, in a city where Centurylink is the incumbent telco and Cox has the cable licence. As Google already has agreements with Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona is clearly becoming a priority for the 1Gbps deployment and it’s a fair guess that the other competitors will be responding soon enough.

After all, Altice-owned Suddenlink just began another round of 1Gbps upgrades.

They’re using a Hitron DOCSIS 3.0 modem that will get to those speeds, and they claim they’re doing the entire service area rather than picking individual “fiberhoods”. A gig is $109/mo, but the deployment also brings with it substantial speed jumps all the way through the rate-card - 75Mbps customers are going up to 100, 100Mbps customers to 200.

In the UK, more Virgin Media speedtests are seeping through, showing 12/200 and 20/300 speed tiers in test. As ThinkBroadband points out, Virgin usually overprovisions, so the tests hit the promised mark on the nail. ISPReview has details of tiers and times - some time this month for the 90+% of their customers on the EuroDOCSIS 3.0 network. Meanwhile, here’s an interesting, because urban, community fibre deployment.

DTAG has been migrating its remaining landline customers off the ISDN network, because that was a thing in Germany, and heavily upselling its quad-play Magenta tariff as it does so. This has led to some discontent - it turns out that their DSL network isn’t necessarily up to providing the VoIP element of the package, some people have been overcharged, and the copper infrastructure isn’t as well documented as they thought. The answer? Up the LTE speed tiers.

Verizon would dearly love to do something similar - just shrug off all that copper. This is proving politically fraught, though. The Communications Workers of America has filed papers with 11 state PUCs and the FCC alleging that the carrier won’t maintain the copper network adequately, in order to “de-facto retire” it.

Of course, this isn’t a purely disinterested concern for a robust voice service of last resort. The CWA is currently negotiating with VZ over their new labour contract, and it’s been pretty gnarly. This week, the union launched a website, GoFundVerizon.com, where the public can donate to buy CEO Lowell McAdam a new yacht. You’ve got to laugh.

Telefonica is planning a big DTAG Terastream-style rebuild of its Spanish networks. (Well, hopefully Terastream, it could always end up being like BT 21CN.) The idea is that fixed and mobile broadband, enterprise VPNs, voice, and multicast IPTV will run over the common fabric, and Juniper Networks will be the lucky vendor.

Although AT&T, Centurylink, and cable are killing it in North American Ethernet, Vertical Systems reckons the world market leaders are BT and Orange Business Services. Behind them, there’s a chasing pack consisting of Colt, AT&T, VZ, L(3), and NTT, but within that group, VZ is slipping behind and AT&T pressing ahead. Where have we heard that before?

Speaking of NTT, someone there recently created this lovely visualisation of the Internet core.

3GPP meets IEEE; LTE-LAA makes it into Ericsson 16A; Nokia more and more committed to MEC, telco cloud

That 3GPP workshop with the IEEE 802 and WiFi Alliance people went ahead, in Beijing, and the 3GPP issued the following truly gnomic statement. We guarantee you won’t find any information in it, but for what it’s worth, they confirm that the 802ers, WiFi allies, and cablecos showed up and took part, and that they “interacted”. They hint that there might, just might be some sort of collaboration on co-existence testing.

A draft meeting report is available by FTP from here, which suggests that the LAA spec is going to concentrate on downlink-only first, there’s going to be more IEEE802 input notably on testing, but the deadlines in December and March are considered sacrosanct (notably by Samsung). Also, Dave Burstein is on the list of attendees. That guy gets everywhere.

Ericsson, meanwhile, is trying to create facts on the ground; the new release of Network Software, 16A, includes “LTE-U” as a feature. It also includes higher order encoding for indoor small cells and a sleep mode for cells.

Nokia Networks, for its part, has announced “a concept” for 5G:

a fully self-aware software defined transport network [that] automatically adapts itself to changing service requirements

Right. There’s also this:

A distributed telco cloud structure, enabled by the Nokia AirFrame Data Center Solution*, will support a new generation of critical services in such sectors as automotive and industrial.

This is presumably more Mobile Edge Computing. Nokia is mad keen on this stuff - its cloud-based network is also all about those AirFrame servers, implying they see MEC as a way to integrate applications, content, and network functions on a common computing platform.

Here’s a bit of full-duplex radio, from Fujitsu. And Metaswitch has a new CEO.

SKT heads for 35k tri-band cells; Spanish 2.6GHz; Eircom recovery; Orange MEA reshuffle; SmarTone FY

SKT is rolling out much, much more tri-band LTE. 30,000 sites already have it, in 85 cities, but 5,000 more are coming by the end of the year. The aggregation uses 10MHz of 800, 20MHz of 1800, and 10MHz of 2100 in both directions. For context, the target for 2015 of 35,000 tri-band sites is out of 230,000 LTE sites total.

The Spanish 2.6GHz auction is coming within weeks, adding to the sense that things might be looking up at last. 

On a similar theme, Eircom’s revenue rose year-on-year for the first time in seven years, by as much as 5%, with pre-pay subscribers falling and post-pay rising. EBITDA margins are up to 25%, which takes EBITDA itself up 62% year-on-year.

Sprint shares have risen sharply, supposedly because they might do better reselling ex-lease smartphones than the competition. Alternatively, perhaps they were just really cheap.

The tortuous FirstNet public-safety 4G project has had a successful deployment with the New Jersey state police.

Orange has swapped out the CEOs of its Middle East & African networks. Orange is planning to get 5% revenue growth from there, and wants to trim any market where they’re not 1st or 2nd, like Kenya.

And SmarTone in Hong Kong has strong results to say the least - service revenue up 3% annually and handset sales up 67%.

SmarTone’s new e-commerce platform; m-payments in LatAm; Android carrier billing in Africa; PayPal.me

SmarTone is also going for a spin of the mobile operator e-commerce wheel. They have a new platform called Kiss, which goes live by the end of the year. As usual the key determiners are merchant adoption and the onboarding process; does CEO Douglas Li sound a little worried about this?

SmarTone CEO Douglas Li (pictured) told Mobile World Live that it needs time to explain the system to the public and gain a critical mass with retailers. He said it also takes some time to integrate the platform with each retailer’s point-of-sales terminal.

It has hired about a dozen new sales people to work on merchant acquisition together with its corporate accounts sales team, which is much larger. Li said the sales team has been transforming itself from selling connectivity to selling services for a couple of years.

It has signed up a couple of hundred retailers, but he wouldn’t say the number required for critical mass.

Anyway, it’s not operator-exclusive, and it provides a variety of marketing and loyalty options, targeted at small businesses that probably don’t have a website. If it works in Hong Kong, SmarTone wants to licence it in China.

AT&T, meanwhile, wants to be No.1 in Mexico, and Telefonica is willing to cooperate with them in their battle to topple Carlos Slim’s America Movil across Latin America. There’s some interesting discussion of which markets might be appropriate for an m-payments play.

Telkom (the South African one, not the Indonesian one) has launched the first carrier billing for Android in Africa, which is well worth doing as 89% of the smartphones there are ‘droids, and essentially all of the 75% of shipments under $200 are. Bango is providing the software, and they say they typically get a 300-400% uplift in digital content sales when they deploy in an emerging market.

Samsung has signed up Gemalto for its Samsung Pay launch in Europe, in order to use their Trusted Service Manager as the interface with financial networks.

PayPal has a new option that basically gives you a URI to receive money.

Perhaps more interestingly, a lot of the apps in Vodafone’s Farmers’ Club, which is launching in India, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania, could be considered m-commerce or payments.

YouTube opens up to ad scrutiny; Google Play for China; Comcast Watchable; Amazon buys Elemental; boring VR

YouTube is going to let advertisers inject third-party tracking code so as to see how often their ads get shown, seen, or clicked, after they complained of a lack of visibility into how often Google actually served up the ads they were paying for.

You might think it was a problem more widely at Google - here’s their new lineup of full-screen interstitial ads for app downloads, all Material Design-compliant, and here’s the official notification that interstitial download ads will lose you precious PageRank points. Clear as mud.

They’re also trying to come up with a way of getting back into China and exerting some influence over the vast forkdroid industry there. The Information claims they’re working on a China-specific app store and a version of the Google Play suite.

Watchable is Comcast’s new online video product, and it seems to have leaked out of closed trials. It’s described as being a like “something between YouTube and Hulu”.

Ericsson reports a huge increase in the consumption of on-demand streaming TV.

Amazon has acquired Elemental, a cloud-based video delivery company. By that, they mean that it processes the video before it gets streamed, rather than being a CDN. It’s a big deal, though, as Elemental serves the BBC iPlayer mobile app and a lot of other super-scale TV apps.

Speaking of the BBC, the iPlayer infrastructure might be opened to other broadcasters.

The FCC is changing the cable TV retransmission rules. The cablecos are happy but the TV networks aren’t.

Time Warner Cable will be operating a dedicated 24-hour channel for the Pope’s visit to the US, containing nothing but papal content. Meanwhile, the mobile operators are preparing their COWs for the crowds.

Vodafone’s latest ad campaign has been banned by the ad regulator. 

And what if virtual reality is just boring?

The phone for METAL!!; new Sony, Huawei flagships; Qualcomm 820; Intel Skylake; weird Sony watch

To go with all that content news, what about a hands-on review of the Marshall London music-focused…well…let’s say rock-focused smartphone?

At the IFA, meanwhile, Sony revealed a new line of Xperias. This includes the new flagship, the Z5 Premium, which they claim is the first “4K smartphone”, doubling the pixel count of the iPhone 6. It also gets a new 23MP camera, and supposedly the fastest autofocus in a smartphone, to go with the 5.5” 4K display. The non-Premium Z5 is 5.2” and not quite 4K, and there’s a compact at 4.6”.

Meanwhile, Huawei has integrated a Force Touch-like capability into its new flagship, beating Apple to the punch, if probably only by weeks. Confusingly, the gadget’s called the Mate, rather like the HTC flagship before last.

The Sony gadgets reportedly use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, the chip Samsung rejected from the Galaxy S6 line in favour of their own Exynos because it overheated so badly. Ars Technica reports that Qualcomm is talking up the successor to the 810, the unimaginatively named 820. Big deal, you might say, but the new chip is the first to use a new architecture codenamed Kryo, which replaces the Krait design used ever since 2012’s Snapdragon S4 of HTC Evo/SG III/Moto Razr Droid fame. The 810 was a transitional design, a stopgap to get new ARM 64bit features available quickly…which is what they all say, and also makes you wonder what Sony sees in it.

Intel’s new line of PC processors, Skylake, is out. Intel is hoping that the new chip might encourage the public to think about upgrading 2010-era PCs. Both the Skylakes and the 820 are coming because the semiconductor world has figured out how to manufacture reliably at 14nm; we note that Qualcomm has shifted its business from TSMC to Samsung, so Sammy has acquired yet another awkward co-opetition relationship.

Strange product of the week: the mechanical smartwatch. This doesn’t mean that it has a little paper map on rollers for the navigation app, although that would be awesome. Sony’s “Wena” is a proper watch with smartwatch functionality embedded in the strap. A tad baroque?

And BlackBerry has made an acquisition, buying up MDM specialist Good Technology.

IBM auto-registers ARM IoT devices; Facebook IoT SDKs; Seagate, Fiat-Chrysler on the naughty step

IBM has a new M2M initiative - they’re integrating ARM’s IoT-focused devices into their Bluemix developer platform, so your ARM mbed chips will just register automatically and show up. One wonders if they do that if you don’t want them to, but it’s the sort of sensible thing you’d expect from them.

Everyone’s got an Internet of Things initiative these days. Facebook’s Parse developer platform now has a SDK for various IoT devices, because nothing says “social” quite like Internet light bulbs! There’s some detail here. Also, the boss of Parse has quit.

Yet another IoT security fiasco: Seagate wireless hard disks have an undocumented telnet interface with the username and password both set to “root”, allowing you to do basically anything to the device and the data stored on it.

And even more Jeeps are recalled over IoT security.

Valley titans settle wages lawsuit; new .tlds are 90% .dodgy; ARCEP barks at Orange

Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe have agreed to settle the so-called “wage theft” lawsuit, which arose after their employees discovered that the four companies had entered into a secret “no-poaching agreement” that kept them from bidding up engineering salaries in Silicon Valley. As a result, the four companies parties to the agreement will have to pay $415m in compensation to the 64,000 current and former employees who signed the class-action, about $6500 each.

AT&T is challenging the award of Florida’s government telecoms services to a competitor.

This is interesting: Verizon has an app that plugs into the well-known Splunk analytics platform, letting you sift through past data breaches to identify threats.

The new top-level domains are a bit of a disaster; some of them are over 90% malware, and .zip is 100%. Worse, .zip isn’t even meant to exist yet. On the other hand, .london is almost as safe as .church.

Switzerland’s net neutrality ombudsman becomes operational this week.

ARCEP says Orange can’t impose an extra fee on wholesale infrastructure if it’s used for mobile backhaul. The problem, of course, is that Free uses its ISP network for a very large chunk of its mobile needs, and that uses a lot of unbundled Orange infrastructure.

And Poland is considering re-running its 4G auction because it’s…made too much money.

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