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Ad Crisis, Apple, Google, Free: Telco 2.0 News Review

Amazon nixes Google, Apple TV; Apple Pay’s terrible numbers; welcome to the ads crash?

Amazon has fallen out with Google and Apple - if you want a Chromecast, an Apple TV, or a Nexus Player, you won’t be able to find it on Amazon.com after the 29th, and they’ve stopped accepting new listings from sellers. The beef is apparently because the Amazon Prime streaming video service isn’t available natively in either Apple or Google’s TV products. One of the two companies told Dan Rayburn that they weren’t “blocking” it, presumably meaning that users who wanted it could configure it.

Amazon’s explanation is that they want to avoid “customer confusion”, but as Rayburn points out, this is an example of their ambition to expand the streaming media business coming into conflict with their core strategy in retail, which is to always increase “selection”.

It seems unlikely anyone who wants a Chromecast, still less an Apple TV, will be prevented from buying one because they can’t find it on Amazon.

Here’s a breathtakingly awful set of numbers for Apple Pay - one survey of iUsers, covering 70 banks and 140 million cards, has them making about 0.34 transactions a month, aka one transaction per registered card every three months, even though bank adoption of the technology has gone from 13% to 84% since January 2014. A US credit union with 4500 iPhone users reports slightly better news - 8% of them have used it at least once - but it’s still hardly impressive stuff.

The Apple Music free trials are about to expire, so we’re going to start seeing evidence of how many people are willing to pay for it. Ahead of this checkpoint, Apple is playing down its importance.

Meanwhile, London taxis are going to be fitted with Bluetooth Low Energy beacons.

Are we watching an online advertising bubble bursting? The Wall Street Journal points out that quite a few ad-tech stocks are now 50% off their highs and still plummeting, as they struggle with falling ad rates, massive click-fraud, and the public’s loss of patience with cruft, interruptions, and security breaches.

adcrunch.jpgFrom the telecoms side of the fence, Digicel has started filtering ads in the network, using an Israeli company’s DPI system. They’re presenting it as part of the trend towards ad blockers, but their subscribers can expect the ads to be back just as soon as Facebook sends some cash:

Digicel says that it is looking to companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook to “enter into revenue sharing agreements with it so that this money in turn can be reinvested in network deployment”.

“Currently, these companies do not pay to make use of the network and the services they provide on it suck up bandwidth to make money for themselves through advertising while putting no money in,”

If it didn’t work for the E-5 carriers or AT&T, it’s probably not going to work for Digicel, but nice try.

Of course, it’s not true that mobile operators don’t make money from advertising. Subscribers pay to download the ads, one way or another, and in a sense it’s astonishing that they’ve put up with this for so long. The New York Times counts up how much data advertising and editorial take up for a variety of media Web sites, and finds that if you visit Boston.com daily, you’re spending $9.50/mo on mobile data just to move the 389 files and 12.8MB of advertising that adorns its 3.5MB content payload.

Screenshot from 2015-10-05 15:09:18.pngPerhaps the NYT should have disclosed what the figures are for its own Web site, but this is a quibble. The really interesting point here is that the editors of Boston.com would probably kill their grandmothers if it meant they could get daily users of their Web site to sign up for a $9.50/mo subscription. It’s not true that people don’t pay for the content - they just do so in incredibly inefficient and non-transparent ways. Also, just look at how much of the advertising bulk is executable, and hence dangerous, code.

TiVo’s new gadget, the Bolt DVR, is out and a key feature is much better ad-skipping. Rather oddly, they say you can watch series “30 per cent faster while maintaining perfect audio”. The idea of technology that helps you watch TV faster is strange indeed, but the point is that it cuts out the adverts.

As a result of all this, are we heading for the TIME OF THE DEAD UNICORNS? There’s been a sharp drop-off in technology IPOs this year, and the ones that have happened haven’t done well. A backlog of VC-funded startups is building up where the investors’ exit has been baulked. And pretty much all of them have an ad-funded business model….winter is coming?

This looks interesting: Conviva has opened up its video metrics dashboard to the public.

iWeekends keep getting bigger, new Nexus & Pixel, Nest Weave, Google/MS patents settled

Apple Pay may be a disappointment, and we’re waiting for the moment of truth on Apple Music. It’s unlikely this worries Apple much, though. The early iPhone 6S numbers are in, and predictably enough, they killed.

Screen-Shot-2015-09-29-at-6.55.09-AM.pngUnlike everything else, and even the iPads, the iPhone launch weekends keep getting bigger. Presumably there’s an inflection point somewhere, and it does look like the nice half of a diffusion S-curve, but where is it?

Meanwhile, Google launched the latest round of Nexus devices with the new Marshmallow version of Android, and a new vendor partner: Huawei. They both get Project Fi. There’s also a new Pixel device, but this one is a high-end Android tablet comparable to the iPad Pro rather than a Chromebook.

If you bought a 2015 Moto E, no Marshmallow for you - Motorola has stopped providing updates to the gadget’s OS after 219 days.

Here’s a good blog post on the relative insignificance of Nexus phones in terms of sales. The point, of course, is to set expectations for the other vendors.

Google and Microsoft have settled their patent lawsuits (so 2012!), and the terms are interesting - they agree among other things to cooperate on a new open-source video codec and to combat patent trolls in Europe (apparently US patent trolls are OK?).

Nest’s Weave low-latency, low-energy mesh networking protocol is open for those who want to hack on IoT devices.

TSMC is tooling up for something.

Google buys an RCS company; Comcast mVoIP lands; Apple buys a voice startup

Here’s a surprise: RCS is alive and living at Google. Specifically, Google has acquired Jibe Mobile, a company that does RCS clients, perhaps as the nucleus of an Android-equivalent to iMessage. But they already had that, in their own XMPP infrastructure, and isn’t iMessage something similar? There’s more discussion here and a bit more detail on their own web site.

We’ve known for some time that Comcast has been developing a mobile voice app. Now it’s landed, and interestingly, it’s targeted on the enterprise, rather than consumers like Cablevision’s Freewheel. It provides a single fixed/mobile number and quite a rich variety of IP-PBX features, and it’s available for iOS and Android. The release doesn’t say whether it works over their WiFi.

Cloud-based core networking with VoLTE and VoWiFi is now in Europe. Expect funky MVNOs.

Talky has an API to do conference calls between Chrome, Firefox, and MS Edge.

Here’s a sympathetic but unconvinced review of Cisco Spark.

Dan York is keynoting Astricon.

Apple buys a voice recognition startup.

More AT&T products into the cloud; Comcast data cap; Sprint layoffs; how T-Mo’s network works

AT&T’s drive towards full SDN adoption continues - their Managed Internet Service product is the latest to move over into the Network on Demand cloud platform. They claim this means they no longer need separate router hardware at customer locations, and the process of signing up a customer and activating service is 95% faster.

Meanwhile, the switched Ethernet service that was the first to move over is getting new features. It now supports a full set of network topologies, and offers an automated testing tool to check whether the service can be delivered at a given location. The time to deliver is now under 10 days.

Over in wireless, they’re briefing that they hope to beat T-Mobile for net adds in Q3. That would be an impressive achievement, seeing as T-Mo will probably score another 2m quarter, but you do wonder if they’re not chasing the speed gun a bit. How’s the subscriber acquisition cost looking? Also, AT&T GigaPower FTTH costs $40/less if Google Fiber is in the area.

Comcast is trialling a data cap in some of its markets. If you go over “300Mbps a month” - sic - you’ll get stung another $10, or else $30 to go “unlimited”. It’s not clear what the cap actually is, but it’s a decent guess it won’t be popular.

Sprint may claim its decision to sit out the 600MHz auction is because it has plenty of spectrum, but when you’ve frozen all hiring and imposed C-level approval for expenditure ahead of a plan to cut costs by $2.5bn, that rings a bit hollow. Layoffs are coming. Meanwhile, their “unlimited” data plan is going up by $10/mo.

Here’s some insight into how T-Mobile did it: rather than using small cells, or spending big on low-band spectrum, they concentrated on building a denser macrocell network in the mid-band (i.e. 1.7 to 2.1GHz in the US) and pulling fibre to the cell. It’s a similar recipe to the European carriers in this Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing - plenty of 1800MHz, and fibre backhaul.

And MVNO Boost Mobile is offering its users a whack of free minutes and data if they pay their bills on time, which seems a bit…desperate?

Orange reorg; Free passes SFR for 4G rollout, looks at Singapore mobile; Iran gets a root server; reducing data with DTAG

Orange is reorganising, creating a pair of Deputy CEOs. One of these is responsible for “Customer Experience and Mobile Financial Services”, and the other is in charge of “Operations, Middle East & Africa”. The current head of MEA business development takes the first, the current head of human resources takes the second. The current deputy CEO for mobile banking moves over to be CEO of Orange Spain, letting the incumbent become COO of MEA as No.2 to the deputy CEO. Meanwhile, they’re in “final negotiations” for the sale of their 70% stake in Telkom Kenya.

The executive director for Europe, Gervais Pellissier, meanwhile says he thinks French consolidation is off the table until the 700MHz auction is over. He also complains about European regulators - of course he does! - and claims Orange has overtaken Vodafone for fixed-mobile convergence in Europe. Meanwhile, ARCEP releases data on the fleet of LTE base stations in France, which is up to 18,600 and there’s a big surprise:


Yes: Free Mobile has got more 4G in service than SFR. In fact it’s got more 4G in service than SFR will have once its currently authorised deployments come on line. And when Free’s authorised deployments come on line, it’s going to catch Bouygues.

Meanwhile, cable upgrades are coming to the UK - Virgin Media is pushing up to 200Mbps starting this week. EE wants to trial a 1Gbps mobile product with tri-band carrier aggregation. And Vodafone UK is putting small cells in pubs. O2 UK scores Lycamobile’s MVNO business. Rootmetrics reckons Vodafone is challenging 3UK for “reliability” in London.

Etisalat has been trialling virtual CPE. Iran’s installed its very own instance of K-root, which caused some interesting ructions as the Internet adjusted. 27,400 Indian towers will get energy from fuel cells. Axiata has gone from 2nd to 4th operator in Indonesia, but now they’ll hope their new Ericsson 4G network might help with that.

Xavier Niel’s new venture, MyRepublic in Singapore, is seeking investors for a small-cell heavy 4G rollout. That sounds familiar, and pretty grim for Starhub, M1, and Singtel. The satellite element of the Aussie NBN is in orbit.

Telefonica and China Unicom have an interconnect agreement for their data centres.

Deutsche Telekom is investing in a startup that promises to throw away irrelevant data from IoT sensor networks. This sort of edge-processing is an important use case in 5G.

5G mmWave tests begin; EU denies 4-operator limit; 3UK-O2 called in; DISH disgorges the spectrum

The French regulator has given the go-ahead to start experimenting with millimetre-wave spectrum for 5G. A key work-item for 3GPP, no matter how the standardisation pans out, is to prepare the channel model for mmWave so the other working groups can use it, so there’s some pressure on. Orange is organising the tests, around Belfort, with the 5G-PPP and a cast of thousands. Meanwhile, DTAG has been trialling Kumu Networks’ full-duplex radios around Prague.

The EU has agreed to cooperate with China on 5G research, but perhaps don’t expect too much - one of the points in the agreement is to work out what 5G is. Meanwhile, Margrethe Vestager denies the Commission has a policy of sticking at 4 operators.

The FCC issues a draft NPRM for its submission to WRC-15.

After the WiFi industry’s pushback against LTE-LAA, Qualcomm and a group of carriers are forming a group to support it.

The UK competition regulator calls in 3UK-O2.

Satellite Cowboy kowtows to Lawman Wheeler and hands over the disputed spectrum.

Cogent says its peerings with AT&T and Verizon are “nearly” congestion-free and, interestingly, gives the credit to net neutrality.

Stagefright, 2.0; Experian loses 15m T-Records; Google.com forgets to renew; world’s most wholemeal laptop

Stagefright was only the beginning; a new bug in Android media processing permits arbitrary code execution on previewing a crafted video or audio file, and it affects 1 billion devices.

Experian, the credit-scoring company, has spilled personal data on 15 million T-Mobile USA customers. The database was encrypted: they said. In fact the encryption was botched and offers no protection.

It happens to us all: Google.com briefly became available and a Google employee owned it for a minute.

Some spammers go as far as filing phoney Internet routes with RIPE.

A deep look at the 2006 Vodafone Greece hack, which seems to be an NSA operation that went wrong.

And if you really care about open source, here’s the most stringent free-software laptop on the market.

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