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November 30, 2015

5G, IoT, Cloud, APAC: Telco 2.0 News Review

The race to gigabit mobile - Ericsson/Telstra hits 950Mbps; Qualcomm mmWave demo; Samsung “not” selling Networks unit

Who’s going to be the first to launch a gigabit wireless service? KT claims they already did, by using multipath TCP over both their 3-band LTE and their WiFi. This week, Ericsson and Telstra claim they got within 50Mbps of the mark in a pure cellular setup, aggregating 100MHz of spectrum across Telstra’s holdings from 700 to 2600MHz. They claim to have measured 950Mbps downlink with a UDP streaming application, and a Speedtest.net result of 843Mbps. Ericsson also claims a 500Mbps test in 3-band CA, using a new modulation scheme.

As this goes on, more and more carriers are upgrading to 2- or 3-band CA and posting higher speeds.

Last week, Tele2 in the Netherlands claimed 375Mbps, and this week they extended this to their Estonian network. This week, Slovak Telecom turned up 300Mbps, and now Gabon Tel claims 233Mbps.

Qualcomm has been demonstrating its mmWave beamforming technology, probably with a view to taking control of the channel modelling working group in 3GPP RAN. If that isn’t exotic enough, though, what about LiFi? This system claims to achieve 1Gbps over very short distances using visible light, you know, the stuff out of the light bulb.

The South Korean operators have been some of the most vigorous proponents of 5G, and have been advocating by far the most aggressive timeline for deployment. So it seems surprising that Samsung even has to deny that it might be selling off the networks business.

Despite the gigafest, Ericsson is trying to de-emphasise its networks business and find strategic partners for its new businesses like media.

AT&T has been touting some sort of fixed-wireless solution for its rural markets, integrated with the DirecTV satellite service, for years now. All the giga-optimism tends to make that sound a better idea, and here’s something interesting - they’re buying Aussie vendor Netcomm Wireless’s gear for a trial network.

Similarly, a lot of B2B ISPs will be looking with interest at the prospect of gigabit multipoint wireless - Metronet UK, which is deploying their fixed-wireless network into Wigan this week, already offers gigabit speeds on point-to-point leased lines, and boasts of being able to deliver a new line within 5-10 days. A cellular or point-to-multipoint system would bring that down even further.

The 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog takes a look at “network slicing” and NFV.  

To get the best out of NFV, will telcos have to embrace open-source software? That’s the question we ask in the new The Open-Source Telco: Taking Control of Our Destiny executive briefing. Here’s Dan York’s keynote on a similar topic at this year’s Astricon, the Asterisk user conference:

Orange LoRa launches, but goes on with 2G/4G IoT trials; HERE in Holland; Evil Barbie

Orange has announced that its LoRa deployment will go live in Q1 with 17 French metropolitan areas covered. The rollout will then proceed nationally. Interestingly, being the hardcore Euro-5 ex-incumbent that it is, Orange also threw the standards forums and the vendors a bone - although Orange is launching an entirely separate, non-cellular IoT-focused radio network, they also say they’re supporting the 3GPP standardisation, and that they will be trialling both the new Extended Coverage GSM proposal and the 3GPP’s “NB-IOT”, also known as LTE-M, with Ericsson some time next year.

Jasper Wireless’s Chief Customer Officer says the IoT is a mainstream proposition, and that it’s good that more markets other than connected cars are opening up.

Operators tend to wish they could have more connected cars, rather than other markets, as they are relatively lucrative, and come in well-defined long-term contracts with the automakers rather than in dribs and drabs from tiny startups. Nokia HERE, still in the process of being sold to German car manufacturers, may get the job to test out a “road user messaging system” for the Dutch government. This sort of thing is often cited as a key use case for 5G, but HERE is talking about building it on existing 3G and 4G networks.

Here’s an interesting series of blog posts. Usually, software isn’t subject to US product liability…until it’s built into some kind of hardware device. Who will be the first IoT developer to be sued into ruin? Also, who’s ultimately responsible?

Evil Barbie: the doll’s communications with Marvel’s Siri-clone speech recognition engine have been hacked, and theoretically the attacker could both use her as a bug and get her to say, well, anything really. The possibilities are endless!

If you thought that was bad, though, try Vtech, the Chinese company that makes supposedly educational electronic toys. These days, of course, they’re basically ruggedised Android devices, they’re all connected to the cloud, and there are downloadable apps, and such. That implies there’s a huge database of user accounts somewhere, and guess what? 4.8 megarecords leaked including 227,000 kids. And the passwords were only MD5-hashed, not salted, so cracking them is pretty trivial.

HP: results, reselling MS Azure, new architecture; AWS offers, er, servers; Google cloud outage

HP’s results are out, the last set before the company splits in two. Revenue was down 2% year-on-year on a constant currency basis, and 9% year-on-year for Q3. That said, profitability was quite a bit better than expected both for the full year and the quarter.

After they shut down the public cloud version of Helion, they’re now going to resell Microsoft Azure cloud services. Meanwhile, they’re reconfiguring their approach to data centre hardware around a new “composable infrastructure” concept that implies keeping all the various resources together at the rack scale and virtualising over the racks.

Amazon Web Services EC2 is now offering a Dedicated Host product or as we technical johnnies call it, a “server”. Basically you get to pin your virtual machine to a named physical host, either on a session basis or even forever, something like managed hosting with a really comprehensive API. Free.fr has something similar with Scaleway.

Also, AWS this week forced some customers to reset their passwords after a security compromise.

Google Compute Engine had a 70 minute outage in Europe after a BGP routing leak.

And here’s a look back at an iconic 1999 talk on what worked in computer science. The list has stood up pretty well.

Indian CAPEX surge, $300m fine for Vodafone, Turkcell buys out TeliaSonera Eurasia

Bharti Airtel has announced $9bn of additional CAPEX over the next three years, a week after Vodafone’s Indian opco promised to invest an extra $2bn. As well as surging demand for data, the driver here is the presence of Reliance Jio. Much-delayed it may be, but its very existence seems to have kicked off a wave of investment. Bharti Airtel is planning to add 160,000 eNode-Bs, 53k a year. The implied price per is much higher than in the China Mobile supercontracts, almost certainly because the CAPEX figure includes a lot of infrastructure work over and above the radio equipment.

Meanwhile, the GSMA reckons that the mobile industry is 6.1% of Indian GDP.

It looks like Vodafone will have to pay up $300m in order to merge its various Indian business units into something they can float on the stock market. The money is required as security for whatever the courts eventually decide they have to pay in order to settle a variety of tax cases involving the regional businesses.

In Pakistan, Vimpelcom’s local opco Mobilink is acquiring Warid Telecom in an all-shares deal, and the government is negotiating with BlackBerry because they want to spy on BlackBerry encrypted traffic. In parallel, the government of Bangladesh wants something similar from Facebook.

Turkcell wants to buy out TeliaSonera’s stakes in their central Asian and Russian operations. Meanwhile, the US authorities may be investigating TeliaSonera’s Eurasian opcos as part of the corruption scandal that led to them selling up.

And China Mobile is acquiring fixed operator China Tietong, or more accurately, China Tietong is being consolidated from CMCC into the China Mobile operating company.

Xiaomi, endangered unicorn; “dark Android”; Chinese LTE surges ahead; the dash for homegrown chips

It looks like that $45bn valuation on Xiaomi was a little premature. Suppliers tell Bloomberg Businessweek that the OEM has substantially cut its orders for components, which can only mean shorter production runs, destocking in the supply chain, and eventually, lower sales. To be precise, Xiaomi doesn’t order much in advance, instead operating a just-in-time supply chain, so if the suppliers have reduced the capacity they devote to Xiaomi orders, shipments must already be falling.

Against a full-year target of 100m smartphones, at the end of Q3, Xiaomi had shipped 53m, so it will have to get its skates on if it wants to miss the target badly rather than catastrophically. In March, management shaded the target down to “80m to 100m”, but even the lower end of that range implies they’re missing by about 3m phones/quarter.

“All those expectations of growth aren’t being realized, which now makes that $45 billion valuation unfeasible,” said Alberto Moel, an analyst at Sanford C Bernstein in Hong Kong. “The argument was that their business is kind of like Apple and they’re growing very fast, but they’re no longer growing so fast and they’re not as good as Apple.”

The only problem with that argument was that Xiaomi is an Android OEM that designs phones and assembles them from proprietary parts, rather like Dell and nothing at all like the Tim Cook-era, manufacturing-heavy Apple.

Charles Arthur, meanwhile, points out that more and more of the Android revenue pool goes to companies who barely report any financials, like Huawei or indeed Xiaomi, and the ones that do like HTC, Sony, LG, or even Lenovo are losing money hand over fist.

screenshot-2015-11-24-16-36-13.png Chinese adoption of LTE is hurtling ahead, as Counterpoint Research points out, but how much of the value in that is going straight to the silicon vendors who make the LTE modems? Also, this chart is testimony to the failure of TD-SCDMA and the Eurovendors’ return to China.

China-LTE-Subs-Growth-300M-users-1024x856.pngThe Chinese government’s National Integrated Circuit Industry Fund has noticed this, and it’s paying for projects at ZTE, Huawei Silicon, and Leadcore Technology to develop their own ARM-based SoCs. 

Meanwhile, it turns out that the Apple A9X doesn’t bother with a L3 cache at all and instead relies on much increased I/O bandwidth to main memory. And LG Display is building a $9bn factory to make OLED displays, perhaps because Apple might start using them in iPhones after 2018.

Here’s a hostile review of the iPad Pro.

The Raspberry Pi Zero is a $5 Linux machine.

The very first ARM processor, visualised!

WRC-15: 700, 1.4, and 3.4 bands done. VMED takes BT to Europe; T-Giveaway up to $850; Comcast towers

WRC-15 has spoken, and the mobile industry is getting the 700MHz band worldwide, plus the 1.4 and 3.4GHz bands, while the broadcasters keep the 470-690MHz UHF band for at least another decade. Both the GSMA and the European Broadcasting Union say they’re “satisfied”. Meanwhile, the French regulator has released more details of their 700MHz auction.

The UK government has found £550m for the costs of clearing the 700MHz band, notably by replacing antennas and getting the ever-problematic wireless microphone users settled.

Virgin Media is going to the EU in an effort to stop BT Openreach getting any more subsidy. Their argument is that the subsidy is justified in order to reach more with broadband, but BT is really using it to overbuild their own network.

Kingston Communications is going to sell off all its assets outside Hull.

Poland’s 4th operator, P4/Play, which is up for sale, is growing fast, pushing into 3rd place and increasing its profits by 42% this year.

The US price war, we noted last week, is back. This week, T-Mobile announced yet another giveaway to churners from Sprint. As well as the maximum of $650 they will offer to buy out your contract and pay off any remaining device fees, T-Mo will also offer anyone porting from Sprint or its in-house MVNOs an additional $200 service credit.

Centurylink and Cogent have signed a peering agreement.

And Comcast is buying towers. Only 122 of them so far, but you do wonder.

EE, O2 look at bulk ad blocking; DMGT results, hit by the ad crunch; remember iBeacons?

Both EE and O2 UK are giving serious consideration to introducing network-wide ad blocking, aiming at ads that exhibit “three complaints - poor targeting, poor creative, and data heavy”.

German media giant Axel Springer is suing Blockr, an iOS adblocker app, in the hope that the nightmare might stop. This is the second time they’ve sued an adblocker, having had a go at the Adblock Plus browser extension. The final ruling is not until the 10th, but the prospects don’t look good.

Meanwhile, Daily Mail & General Trust’s results give us some insight into the great advertising bust of 2015. Mail Online missed its revenue targets, as growth in digital ads slowed by more than half, and perhaps even more worryingly, print advertising revenues fell 12%.

Bloomberg reports on the failure of Apple’s iBeacons, and the wider universe of ad-tech startups around Bluetooth Low Energy beacons, to do much at all.

At the same time, customers seem to have a very low tolerance for such messages. InMarket found that people basically stop using any app that sent them more than one message.

Perhaps we’ve all just had enough advertising.

NSA stops collecting some CDRs; Telegram; IoT security

As of 2359 Eastern Standard Time, 29th November (i.e. last night), the NSA is no longer routinely collecting everyone’s CDRs in the United States. Instead, they’ve got to get the data from your telco.

The rest of us, however, will just get spied on as usual. Adrian “RevK” Kennard of Andrews & Arnold points out in an official comment on the Investigatory Powers Bill that just collecting a list of which hosts someone connected to - a so-called Internet Connection Record - is useless because so many apps keep a connection open all the time.

Telegram, the encrypted messaging app, seems to leak some status information in its default configuration.

Here’s another example of really terrible IoT security.

A tiny spoofing device for hacking AMEX cards.

How many people actually set the Evil Bit?

And Phil Goldstein leaves Fierce Wireless.

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November 23, 2015

Net Neutrality, US Cable, Africa, 4.5G: Telco 2.0 News Review

Binge On! passes net neutrality, Comcast Stream not so much; 99% of Xbox streaming is from CDNs

T-Mobile USA has shaken everything up with last week’s announcement that key video providers were going to be zero-rated. Their customers are not surprisingly delighted, but how can this possibly be reconciled with net neutrality, and how will T-Mo deliver the goods? Lawman Wheeler says he’s cool with that.

The answer seems to be in this T-Mo document, which sets out technical requirements to join Binge On.

Most importantly from a regulatory point of view, T-Mo isn’t charging to join the program, nor is it exercising any editorial judgment; any video streamer who fulfils the requirements will be included, perhaps automatically. Further, customers’ participation is voluntary, as they can opt out.

The technical requirements are as follows - the traffic should be identifiable as streaming video, although encryption is allowable, the video resolution should be restricted to a maximum of 480p, and an adaptive bit-rate codec must be used. There’s also a general requirement to co-ordinate with T-Mobile engineers before doing anything that might frighten the horses.

The requirement that the streaming content be identifiable as such suggests that T-Mobile may plan to cache it within their network. They also say that the adaptive codec must respond to “the capabilities of the data connection” and also “as otherwise indicated by the T-Mobile network”, which may suggest that they are planning to use TCP Explicit Congestion Notification and/or the CoDEL TCP extension to manage the queues. Both are supported in iOS 9.

So the net neutrality objection is addressed by making the zero-rated video streams back off when congestion is detected, thus sharing capacity fairly between the Binge On providers and the rest of the Internet.

Comcast, meanwhile, launched its Stream IP-video service this week and wants to exempt it from its new data caps. Their argument is as follows:

“Stream TV is an in-home IP-cable service delivered over Comcast’s cable network, not over the public Internet,” Comcast said in a statement. “IP-cable is not an ‘over-the-top’ streaming video service. Stream enables customers to enjoy their cable TV service on mobile devices in the home delivered over the managed cable network, without the need for additional equipment, like a traditional set-top-box.”

Are they actually arguing that the last-mile isn’t part of the Internet? Creative. Or do they mean they want to deliver Stream content using a different DOCSIS channel to the one they use for broadband? But how could that work without a cable STB to sort it out? John Bergmayer at Public Knowledge points out that the pre-Title II concept of specialised services can’t help now, and of course Comcast’s content competitors can’t opt-in to Stream in the way they can to Binge On.

Here’s some interesting data on Xbox live streaming. Microsoft aims to offload 99% of the traffic into the CDN and serve no more than 400Mbps from the source servers.

OFCOM has relaxed the requirement that Sky wholesales Sky Sports 1 and 2, on the basis that they are now doing so on a commercial basis.

Gigabit cable crushes Q3; Altice to build FTTH? Sprint rebrands, sells $1.2bn of old phones, doubles down on price war

In Q3, US telcos lost 140k net broadband customers. The moving parts here are quite simple - AT&T, Verizon, and whoever usually have a new network with some combination of FTTC and FTTH, which is adding customers, and an old one running on DSL, which is losing them. The challenge is therefore twofold - win customers off the competition, and transfer DSL customers onto the new network without letting them leak to the cable world. Between AT&T and VZ, they saw 305k net-adds on the new networks, but also 432k net-losses from the old networks, generating a 127k net outflow from just those two carriers and 143k from the top eight.

According to Strategy Analytics, the cablesphere made 804k net-adds in Q3, while the wider fixed broadband sector achieved 679k. 804-679 = 125, so the difference essentially matches up to the net outflow from telcos to cable. The answer is simply that the cable operators are first with the speed upgrades - broadband ARPU is rising in both telco and cable as higher speed tiers roll out, but the DOCSIS 3 upgrade path gives the cableguys a structural advantage.

See our in-depth coverage of the rise of gigabit cable, here, here, and here

Elsewhere, will Altice offer to overbuild Verizon FiOS in New York City in order to get regulatory clearance for the acquisition of Cablevision?

Sprint, meanwhile, is drawing a veil over its Spark program. From now on, it’s called LTE Plus and there are meant to be 77 markets of it. However, the content is much the same - they’re promising higher speeds from tri-band carrier aggregation and 8T8R MIMO, plus more small cells. In the meantime, the company is re-organising and decentralising into 19 regional offices or “19 Sprints”, but most of all, it’s laying people off.

It’s also finally closed on the much-promised leasing deal. Mobile Leasing Solutions, a special-purpose vehicle created for the job, will receive $1.3bn worth of phones in their quick-upgrade plan. In exchange for this, it will pay Sprint $1.2bn in cash. Sprint will then pay it to lease the phones.

As with all special-purpose vehicle deals, the point here is that Sprint just borrowed a ton of money without it showing up in their books, and in fact the Sprint release says straight out that this is a much cheaper way of raising cash than borrowing in their own name. The lenders have the comfort of the phones as collateral, and the further reassurance of a deal with Foxconn to buy them forward at current prices. Sprint is also selling off another $1bn in device receivables outside this transaction.

The upshot is that Sprint’s “adjusted” EBITDA will actually fall because of the additional repayments to MLS, but operating cash flow will increase because of the $2.2bn one-off influx of cash.

Having hocked the leased phones, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure then picked a fight with T-Mobile and found a use for some of that cash. Customers churning from VZW, T-Mo, or AT&T are being promised a 50% discount on their previous bill plus no less than $650 to buy out their old contract. The price war must be back on or something.

That said, it’s still paid out as a gift card, not a wad of stained, tattered U.S. green, so we’ve not hit the bottom yet. Yet. Even if British journalists followed Lebara’s private detectives following Lyca Mobile employees carrying huge bags of raw cash around London in what is undoubtedly the weirdest mobile story for years.

Nokia confident about Africa; 1bn MBB users by 2020; more MTN $5bn fine; Vodacom row; Telkom/CellC off

Nokia Networks is optimistic about its sales in Africa despite some worrying macroeconomic data driven by the falling prices of oil and commodities. They reason, fairly simply, that voice traffic is rising and data traffic much faster. The spice must flow, and therefore operators will need their products. Nokia sales in Africa grew 6% last year, so perhaps they have a point.

Ovum, for example, estimates that there will be a billion mobile broadband subscribers on the continent by 2020, up from 147m at end-2014 and 223m this year. Data revenues are expected to grow at a 18.2% CAGR. Headline growth in subscribers is slowing (down from 15% last year to 10% this year as it approaches the billion), but on the other hand, mobile broadband adoption is surging, running about 50% year-on-year.

Ovum is also pretty confident that MTN Nigeria will still be the biggest operator in Africa by 2020. MTN is of course being pursued with a $5.2bn fine by the Nigerian authorities. Last week, they showed some readiness to conciliate by renewing their spectrum licences. This week, however, the governors of Nigeria’s 36 provinces issued a joint statement encouraging the regulator to press on and collect.

The owner of Vodacom’s local partner in the DRC, Alieu Conteh, has sued Vodacom for no less than $14bn over a complex dispute going back to 2009.

Telkom has walked away from its deal with Cell C after the two parties failed to agree on a price.

And although the oil slump has hit the Angolan economy, the first African country to roll out LTE (actually before the UK) is still adding more coverage.

1st live LTE-LAA @ Vodafone.nl; 150m 5Gers by 2021? Hm. RJio puts it off again. Liberty Global buys CWC

Well, well, well. Ericsson, Vodafone, and Qualcomm together claim that they’ve demonstrated the world’s first LTE carrier aggregation between licensed and unlicensed bands in a commercial network. And they did it in Europe, when the debate about this has been almost exclusively US-centric. Specifically, they tested a Qualcomm X12 modem against a Ericsson RBS 6402 small cell within Vodafone’s Dutch network, using 20MHz of 1800MHz licensed and 20MHz of 5GHz unlicensed spectrum. They claim this “further validates fair co-existence of LTE [with WLAN] in 5 GHz unlicensed band”.

The interesting bit here is what they don’t say. For example, they don’t use either the term “LTE-U” so dear to Qualcomm’s heart, nor do they even use the less provocative “LTE-LAA” favoured by the Eurovendors, they just refer to carrier aggregation. As a result, we don’t know if they used the so-called “duty cycle” solution Qualcomm has been touting, or the WLAN-style listen-before-talk that some European LTE-LAA implementations use. However, this Fierce Wireless piece based on Vodafone sources states both that it’s LAA, and that Vodafone intends to wait for 3GPP standardisation (which in this case includes coordination with IEEE 802) before deploying anything.

Ericsson, meanwhile, reckons we’ll have 150m 5G subscribers by 2021. That sounds super-bullish if the technology won’t be here until 2020! But Ericsson is very much supporting the “early 5G” camp in the standardisation, and the definition they are using is elastic - “a new radio access, an evolved LTE radio access, and an enhanced core network”. That would both match the Nokia/Qualcomm vision from 3GPP RAN of the new 5G radio as an add-on to 4G, and also include any and all devices beyond LTE R13.

Ericsson also denied they’d ever considered a merger with Cisco.

TIM is claiming 300Mbps downlink for its tri-band LTE, which just launched commercially if you live in Rome and have a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+. It’s the Ericsson/Qualcomm technology. Turkcell, meanwhile, has named the day for 4G launch - it’s the 1st of April 2016 - and says it hopes to offer 375Mbps out of the box using three bands. In support of this, they’re pulling fibre to many more base stations (from 18% now to 38% in 2018).

Reliance Jio, though, has put back its launch again until FY 2016-7. That means a revised deadline of 1st April. Ooredoo has signed up a framework agreement with Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, and Huawei for five years’ infrastructure build. ALU provides optical gear, microwave backhaul, and IP routers, while Ericsson does the softswitching, and Huawei the radio.

Another major Chinese 4G contract goes West. This time it’s China Tel and Alcatel-Lucent.

The French 700MHz auction is done, raising €2.8bn. Orange and Free both acquired 2 2x5MHz blocks, Bouygues and SFR only one each. The GSMA nagged the WRC-15 delegates about getting mobile broadband more ex-TV spectrum below 700MHz.

Palestinian MNOs can finally launch 3G after an agreement is reached to clear the spectrum.

Minority shareholders in TI are worried about Vivendi’s stakebuilding.

Liberty Global has taken out Cable & Wireless Communications in a $8bn deal that values C&WC at 10.7x EBITDA. That’s the C&W that runs small islands’ MNOs, not the enterprisey one. Liberty is apparently keen to use the presence in Latin America to get better content terms.

The Israeli government is likely to nix the Cellcom acquisition of Golan Telecom.

Huawei up to No.3. Windows gains from featurephones, loses to Apple. OpenFog. Intel hires Qualcomm mobile boss. Google hires VMWare founder.

Per Gartner, Huawei is now the No.3 world smartphone maker and fourth-biggest mobile phone maker overall. Tellingly, Huawei barely manufactures any non-smartphones, with 27.2m smartphones shipped in Q3 versus 27.4m total units. Samsung remains no.1 in both categories, but Huawei’s sales are growing much faster. 84.7% of smartphones are Android, 13.1% Apple iOS, then there’s everything else. That may be why Jolla has sent half its employees home.

Charles Arthur points out that the Windows platform is gaining users from the featurephone base and then losing them to Apple iOS in a wave, each time a new iPhone drops. This review of the Lumia 950 flagship, with its Ubuntu for Android-like PC mode, won’t change that.

Here’s something interesting: Samsung’s Tizen-powered Z3 is rising up the charts on the back of interest from Indian customers, and is outselling BlackBerry OS devices.

LG has opened a Apple- or Samsung-like payments service, and canned its smartwatch.

Qualcomm is being investigated by another regulator, Korean this time. Here’s their new 4G femtocell:

Well, you can certainly imagine those getting everywhere, and also leaving plenty of space and power for MEC cleverness in the cell form factor. This week, a string of major tech companies started the OpenFog Consortium to standardise their Mobile Edge Computing products. The 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog, meanwhile, has a useful post with a list of patents involved in MEC.

Intel has pulled off a coup this week, hiring the head of mobile computing at Qualcomm away from them. Venkata “Murthy” Renduchintala is going to head a new Client & IoT group at Intel. In a similar story, Google just acqui-hired VMWare founder Diane Greene to run a new division encompassing all Google’s cloud products. That includes Google for Work, Google Apps, and Cloud Platform.

Facebook is testing a new home-grown ultra-dense Ethernet switch, with 32 100Gbps ports.

Cisco just acquired Acano, a collaboration technology startup founded by ex-Cisco and Tandberg people, for $700m. Here’s a case that they should have bought Slack instead.

GSM 2.0 for the IoT; Sigfox goes to Ireland; Internet of Ships; 33% of Uber OPEX is M2M

This is interesting. The 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog has a roundup of alternative approaches to cellular IoT, and as well as narrowband LTE and LTE-M, there’s also a revived version of good old GSM in there. There’s also some interesting discussion in the comments; it sounds like Weightless ought to be getting a hearing, but it’s fated to be the Betamax option.

ComparisonOf3GPPIotProposals.pngHowever, the LoRA and Sigfox options are rolling out fast and it’s possible that the whole thing will miss the boat. As if to underline that, Sigfox hit its 12th market this week with a deployment in the Republic of Ireland.

That said, did you know one-third of Uber’s OPEX is its bill from Jasper Wireless? Nor did we.

Ericsson will be reselling Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress service for the Internet of Ships.

What kind of hardware startup are you?

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November 20, 2015

Lag Kills! How App Latency Wrecks Customer Experience

We’ve just published a new research paper ‘Lag Kills! How App Latency Wrecks Customer Experience’Customer experience is fast becoming the new mantra for operators across the globe.  But while improvements are being made in broadband speeds, customer experience and so forth, app latency and errors have largely gone ignored. This is despite the fact that both are important drivers of customer experience and of app developer profitability. Find out the relationship between latency and app errors and our analysis of those operators that are performing well and those that are ‘lagging’ behind.  

The report is part of the Executive Briefing Service and you can read an excerpt of the report here.

For more information on any of our services, please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 207 247 5003.

Extract chart from the report:
Latency and Errors 2.jpg
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November 16, 2015

Vodafone, Tele2, LoRA, Silicon: Telco 2.0 News Review

Vodafone H1s: recovery but not Eurecovery. Bouygues & Free crush it, again. Tele2 promises Dutch disruption.

More Eurecovery, or maybe not? Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao says we’ve reached the turning point as the carrier posted service revenue and EBITDA in positive territory for H1. Group service revenue was up 1% year-on-year and 1.2% sequentially, the fifth consecutive quarter of growth and more than expected. EBITDA was up 1.9% and the company upped the full-year guidance a tad, from “between £11.5bn and £12bn” to “£11.7bn to £12bn”.

On the other hand, service revenue in Europe is still falling, down 1.3%, which compares pretty poorly to the 6.4% growth recorded in the African, Middle Eastern, and Asia-Pacific markets. Within that, Germany was down 1.5% under price pressure in postpaid, and the UK was off 0.1%. And, at the end of the day, Vodafone lost money in H1. Given those numbers it’s not surprising Vodafone decided against spinning off the AMAP division - it’s more surprising they even considered it. Apparently the idea was that it would make a deal with Liberty Global easier, but surely this begs the question. They’re also planning to invest $2bn in the Indian operation, although they might easily make that back when it floats.

Paul Lambert at Informa reckons the improvement was driven by migration to 4G, which should be good news as about 80% of their subscribers are still to make the jump.

Vittorio Colao evidently doesn’t like the BT-EE deal one little bit, saying that he fears “re-monopolisation” in both the UK and also Germany, and wants the regulators to stop it. He’s also denying that Vodafone might get out of the MVNO business after the Mobile by Sainsbury’s joint venture annouced it was shutting down.

That said, it wouldn’t do to write off European recovery just on the basis of Vodafone’s half. Bouygues joined the merry band of operators returning to growth with its Q3 results, showing revenue growth up year-on-year for the first time since Q2 2011. Sales were up 4 per cent, and the company scored 208k net-adds, with 46.6% of its subscriber base on 4G, having nearly doubled in a year. Margins were 24.7%, up two percentage points.

Iliad, the Free.fr parent company, was also reporting this week. It could point to 6.4% revenue growth, basically all of which came from the mobile operation, where they stacked up another 390k net-adds in the quarter and increased their revenue by 15.1%. 2.4m customers are now on 4G, using an average of 2.8GB/mo, and the 4G network has reached 57% population coverage.  Interestingly, although Free Mobile doesn’t have a 4G premium, it seems to be lagging on 3G-4G migration - where Bouygues is approaching 50%, they’re at 20%. Presumably a lot of bargain hunters on their low-cost plans don’t want to spend money on a new phone, and Free doesn’t subsidise.

It’s probably worth pointing out that Bouygues and Free’s strong results should come as no surprise if you read our recent Mobile App Latency in Europe report. The two carriers show both the lowest average latency, and more importantly the lowest rate of unacceptably high-latency events, out of all operators in the top five European markets.

Screenshot from 2015-11-16 13:59:31.png

French regulators had to settle a dispute about tower-sharing between Free and SFR this week. Speaking of Xavier Niel, he also had a “good cappucino” with Telecom Italia CEO Marco Patuano this week. The result of this is that Patuano is convinced there is no concert party between Niel and the other big shareholder, Vivendi, which also re-denied it. And Niel is apparently “interested in our industrial strategy and convinced of the opportunity there is in Italy”. Does that mean “pushing Patuano to do something drastic”?

Tele2 seems to be planning something drastic and Niel-esque in the Netherlands, where it launched its 4G network this week. They are promising to achieve a “permanent shift in Dutch data consumption”. And it looks like they mean upwards - the network has LTE-A at launch and claims speeds up to 225Mbps, and they are offering a 24GB data bundle for €35/mo. That’s smash mouth pricing, and they claim they want customers to “drown themselves in data”. They also claim to be the first 4G-only operator.

Perhaps that’s why KPN is openly hinting that it might be up for sale and DTAG is selling T-Mobile Netherlands? It’s less clear why the private equity fund in the last link would want to buy a Dutch MNO at this juncture. However, another buyer might be KPN itself if the regulator would stomach it - they just completed their exit from Germany, raising €805m for the remaining 5% they held in Telefonica O2 Germany.

BT Openreach has issued some data about the FTTC rollout, and data traffic turns out to be growing about 40% year-on-year, which is roughly what Andrew Odlyzko estimated the long-run average throughout the history of the Internet was years ago.

Right over on the other side of the world, Vodafone New Zealand owns a cable network, and this week, it joined the dash towards gigabit speeds, upgrading to DOCSIS 3.1.

Charter-TWC deal; DISH numbers; AT&T drives managed services with fibre; VZ denies enterprise exit; YouTube subscription app

It was regulatory last call this week for the Charter-TWC-Bright House deal, and Verizon, AT&T, and DISH all jumped in to oppose it. The telcos claim to be worried about John Malone’s role in the transaction, as he also controls several other cable networks and content companies they compete with. DISH took a different tack, claiming that Charter were “refusing to acknowledge the competitive stance of online video distributors”. You wonder how many of the online distributors believe DISH, a competitor, truly has their interests at heart. Malone, for his part, offered to resign if that was the price of closing the deal, although to what extent he means it is a good question. He said he “didn’t have to be part of Charter’s controlling ownership”, which implies a shuffle of the board at one of the Liberty companies might be enough.

Here’s an interesting exercise in spreadsheet origami - if DISH reports 23k net-losses, but started counting Sling TV users in, how many satellite users did they actually lose? It turns out their gross adds number is actually gross adds plus Sling TV net-adds, and the net loss was more like 180k, meaning DISH is accounting for half of total cord cutting all by itself.

Comcast is trying to play up its archive of content as a way to replace linear TV with on-demand, while also hoping to win young people with streaming and later upsell the whole bundle. Meanwhile, Cox says it’s happy with its trials of Comcast’s X1 STB and is going ahead with the deployment, and both Comcast and TWC are investing in a VR broadcasting startup.

It looks like AT&T U-Verse was considerably pricier than DirecTV’s offering, as the subscribers seem to pay about $17 more per month. Will they be able to maintain that as the DirecTVers come over? Meanwhile, AT&T says that where it’s rolled out fibre-to-the-building, it’s doing much better in cloud services.

Fran Shammo denies Verizon is doing anything like selling the Enterprise Solutions unit, saying he’s “seeing signs of stabilisation”. He also says the FiOS build is coming to an end and further installs won’t require much CAPEX, as many homes in the footprint have been prepared in advance.

Altice has upped its fibre rollout targets in both France and Portugal.

Here’s the YouTube subscription music app. Apparently Google user research with “heavy music users” showed they didn’t like ads. There’s a surprise; TWC is planning to reduce how many it shows, a far cry from a few years ago when they were speeding up their shows to pack more in.

SingTel Q3s; Thai 4G auction; Indonesian refarming; Globe Q3s; Iraqi 4th MNO

SingTel Q3 results were a bit dodgy - revenue was off 2.9%, EBITDA off 3.3%, and net profit off 0.8%. They blame the foreign exchange market, and point to a strong performance from Optus where revenue was up 13%, and the fact that Singapore is now 50% LTE and Aussie is getting that way.

Thailand’s 4G auction eventually went ahead, and AIS and True Move, the 1st and 3rd operators, got the first pair of licenses, 15MHz of 1800MHz each, for some $2.25bn. The auction ran for some 30 hours, and neither dtac nor a new entrant, Jasmine, got anything. They’ll have to hope for better luck in the 900MHz refarming auction in December. The regulator says it’s changing the rules to stop the bidding running away, which suggests that one will probably be a disappointment.

In Indonesia, the 1800MHz refarming process is almost done, with only two weeks’ work left in the Jakarta area.

Globe Telecom in the Philippines is having a mobile data boom, with active users up 126%, traffic up 89%, and revenue up 39%. The upshot is service revenue up 18% and net income up 47%. Not time to break out the scissors chart, then, but they will be spending an additional $800m CAPEX this year, half of which is going on the mobile network.

Iraq wants a fourth mobile operator, and as much as 46MHz in the 1800s is available to the lucky winner.

Oi results are out. Revenue is down 2% year-on-year, which they’re blaming on MTR cuts.

African towers investor Helios bought Orange Kenya.

Probably wisely, the Nigerian regulator has given MTN time to pay the $5bn fine pending negotiations.

Startup wants in on 600MHz; the spectrum glut; T-Video, out of a T-CDN? Sprint takes a risk

A US startup claims it’s raising the money it would need to buy 600MHz spectrum nationally. CEO Chamath Palihapitiya is an early Facebook exec and already owns 10MHz in his native Sri Lanka. He reckons it would take between $4bn and $10bn to reach the start line, before building out a network. In that, he’s banking on the FCC reserving some of the spectrum for small competitors. He also says he wants to use microcells, although whether he means specifically the biggest class of small cells, or small cells generally, isn’t clear.

They might get lucky. Dave Burstein points out that between the majors and DISH, there’s enough spare spectrum for between 3 and 5 Verizon Wireless-sized networks. As a result, the auction might turn out to be disappointingly cheap. That said, the so-called incentive auction depends on cash from the bidders to buy out the broadcasters, so there might be slim pickings for a new entrant if the auction was a bust.

Verizon Wireless won’t say whether it will be taking part, but it doesn’t sound like it, especially as the 87% of their data traffic on LTE fits into 40% of their spectrum holdings. Here’s an interesting comparison of US and other wireless networks in terms of people per base station - we note that the current Chinese 4G builds are aiming for a very high standard on this metric.

T-Mobile USA has now added 24 video providers to the list of content sources who are exempt from their usage caps. They also doubled the data allowances in most of their plans, while rejigging the pricing so that it ramps up faster. $50 now gets you 2GB rather than 1GB, but the next increment is now $65 rather than $60, although it gets you 6GB rather than 3GB. Interestingly, the implied marginal price is still $5/GB. You have to take at least 3GB to get the free video, which is essentially a whack of free data service, as their typical customer uses 1.6GB of video a month.

The usual suspects are all on the list for free video streaming, with the interesting exception of YouTube. You might wonder if there is any business relationship between T-Mobile and the content players on the list, and it looks like there is. See this quote:

However, T-Mobile executives said that they are open to adding any streaming service to Binge On including YouTube, but they noted that in some cases that support requires a provider to communicate with T-Mobile so that T-Mobile’s proprietary streaming network technology would be able to identify the stream and add it to Binge On.

Does that mean T-Mobile is putting the zero-rated sources into some sort of internal CDN? If they are, Sprint CFO Tarek Robbiati may end up looking a fool after prophesying that the offer would wreck T-Mo’s network.

AT&T launches free roaming on their Mexican network.

VZW targets 2017 for early 5G after Nokia, ZTE tests; Nokatel exec jobs; Qualcomm-CableLabs spat

And Verizon Wireless wants to get beamforming and massive MIMO on trials with a view to production in 2017. This puts them very much in the “Qualcomm/Nokia” camp with regard to 5G, pushing for the early release of a capacity-focused “first phase” 5G.

Nokia’s CTO, Hossein Moiin, reckons they’re ready to test a 35-antenna system as soon as next year. Interestingly, ZTE also claimed a succesful trial of something similar this week.

Over at Nokia, they’re handing out the jobs after the Nokatel merger. Alcatel’s Marc Weldon, who was the CTO and the president of Bell Labs, stays as groupwide CTO, but they haven’t explained how that interworks with either Moiin or the Chief Innovation & Operations Officer, Marc Rouanne. Meanwhile, the existing Nokia Networks SVP of Europe, Markus Borchert, stays as the group’s Head of Europe. Notably, he was the head of Nokia operations in China in 2012-2015 - aka the period when they broke back into China Mobile’s CAPEX budget.

Here’s an interesting piece on how Nokia and Alcatel came to merge. Who was the mysterious Company B?

The Mobile Network blogs the slides from the Ericsson-Cisco announcement, if you missed them.

Expect a lot more of this: Beeline has cancelled all further investment in its 3G network to concentrate on the 4G.

Qualcomm claims it has test results that proves its LTE-U technology can work with Wi-Fi, and further that CableLabs was involved and they’re all about the Wi-Fi, so nyah nyah. CableLabs says it still wants to put it all through the standards process, and it’s not happy about Qualcomm trying to get its patents into the standards.

Centurylink is deploying a new SDN with Nuage Networks to support its enterprise services.

The silicon war of 2016 begins here: Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, Imagination Tech, Intel.

Here’s an Ars Technica review of the BlackBerry PRIV. It is scathing. The hardware is disappointing, the device is pricey, the Android version is old, and even the keyboard is poor. Compare their review of the Apple iPad Pro - yes, it’s a nice gadget, but just look at it crushing the benchmarks for sheer power. The A9X processor is hammering not just its fellow Apple devices, not just the Surface Pro, but some quite recent Intel Core chips. And the latest MacBook Pro only just squeaks past it. Really interestingly, the A9 had three cores, and the A9X goes back to two - Apple is achieving this performance via a very different strategy to the octacore Snapdragons or the big.LITTLE architecture ARM itself and Samsung like.

Speaking of which, Samsung just showed off the Exynos 8 SoC, and it looks like they mean it about flushing Qualcomm chips from their top-end products. It’s an octa-core, and it’s a big.LITTLE design, with four low-power and four high-power cores. But it’s a custom, in-house Samsung CPU, and it also includes an in-house LTE modem they say is at least as good as the Snapdragon X12. They chuck in a standard ARM GPU, but it’s the latest one. The Exynos 7 in the Galaxy 6 phones has been outstanding, and it seems to have convinced Sammy that owning the silicon like Apple is the way to go.

Qualcomm, for their part, announced the Snapdragon 820, their riposte to the Exynos challenge. Where the 810 used ARM Cortex 53 and 57 cores, this one uses a Qualcomm microarchitecture codenamed Kryo although it sticks with the ARM v8 instruction set. It also gets the X12 radio, a new Adreno GPU, and a new DSP module.

What with the Apple A9X, Samsung’s big decision, Qualcomm’s introduction of Kryo, and Imagination Technologies’ launch of three MIPS-based mobile chips, it looks like we’re in for an old-fashioned silicon technology war.

On the network side, Intel announced a new Xeon optimised for NFV and Mobile Edge Computing. Although the top end of the Atom range is actually faster in terms of clock speed, the D-1500 is benchmarked as performing 3-6 times faster on networking applications and interestingly, on streaming video and serving web pages.

Lenovo lost $714m in Q3, largely because it had to clear a lot of unsold gadgets.

And Glenn Lurie, currently the head of AT&T Mobility, looks back at the experience of launching the iPhone. AT&T nearly didn’t go through with it. If they hadn’t, would the company still exist in its current form?

LoRA deploys to Russia, India, France, and outer space; more new LPWANs; Amazon robots have radar

Here comes another big LPWAN deployment: the Russian electricity grid wants to monitor 400,000 smart meters around St. Petersburg with LoRA. The managed network service is provided by Lace, the local LoRA partner, which claims it already covers 11.5m homes in Russia.

Meanwhile, Tata is planning a really enormous deployment in India, covering as many as 400 million people, and Orange is happy enough with its trials in Grenoble to go national. Dave Burstein asks if this means the carriers are never going to find the IoT pony. Here’s a survey of 10 different LPWAN protocols.

And LoRA is going to space.  The LoRA Alliance and a IoT platform, Stream Technologies, has been testing the technology on Iridium’s satellites, which would in theory give it global coverage. A lot of the usual trouble with satellites - sky-high latency, slow and expensive transfer - doesn’t matter much in this context.

And another. Ingenu is a new LPWAN rolling out in the south-western US, using its own radio technology.

Saudi Telecom has deployed a new virtual EPC just for M2M applications, from Affirmed Networks.

What’s buzzier than the Internet of Things? The cloud! What’s buzzier than the cloud? Robots! I give you Amazon’s filing with the FCC to be allowed to use 433MHz spectrum to keep track of its robots with radar.

Medical IoT is impossibly terrifying.

TV so smart it watches you; Microsoft Azure makes DTAG its data trustee; waiting for Android patches, in the field

Vizio’s smart TVs send back a kind of hash of whatever is on the screen to a web service every second. Oh, and tvinteractive.tv is hiding behind an anonymous domain name. Also, the smart TV doesn’t actually validate the SSL certificate for that site, so anyone between you and it could read the traffic and hack your TV. That said, it’s thanks to the security breach that we know they watch.

BlackBerry is pushing a new voice encryption app, on the slightly contradictory basis that it’s cloud-based.

Microsoft Azure is now offering a new cloud service based in Germany, where your data is formally placed in the control of a local trustee. The idea is that even if the NSA gets a court order to make Microsoft hand it over, they have no jurisdiction over a German citizen in Germany and the trustee could simply say “no”. The trustee turns out to be Deutsche Telekom T-Systems. Reassured?

Edward Snowden offers some practical privacy advice. He’s keen on adblockers.

How much use really is one of Theresa May’s Internet Connection Records? Tim Panton made his own and found out.

And you think waiting for Android patches is bad? Just think what it’s like for the people with classified military Androids, who are waiting just as long and sometimes longer.

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November 12, 2015

The Open Source Telco: Taking Control of Destiny

We’ve just published a new research paper ‘The Open Source Telco: Taking Control of Destiny’. Widespread use of open source software is an important enabler of agility and innovation in many of the world’s leading internet and IT players. Yet while many telcos say they crave agility, only a minority use open source to best effect. We examine the barriers and drivers, and outline six steps for telcos to safely embrace this key enabler of transformation and innovation.

The report is part of the Executive Briefing Service and you can read an excerpt of the report here.

For more information on any of our services, please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 207 247 5003.

Extract chart from the report:
Figure 10.png

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November 9, 2015

“4.5G”, Erisco, Eurecovery, M-PESA, Qualcomm, Facebook: Telco 2.0 News Review

4.5G Huawei; Nokia/CMCC 5G; Ericsson-Cisco deal; Reliance Jio update; GSMA at WRC15; more LTE-LAA

Huawei is very, very keen to push what it calls 4.5G. This week saw announcements with 3 Hong Kong and HKT. The substance of the product seems to be, essentially, more LTE carrier aggregation, going from tri-band to quad-band. Not surprisingly, throwing more spectrum at the problem generates high theoretical maximum download speeds, which is what Huawei - like all vendors - most wants.

As we discuss in this note, they also seem to be worried about the possibility that a viable “early” or “phase 1” 5G standard is delivered quickly, which might hit their lead in 4G deployments. Interestingly, although the 4.5G announcements were all about speed, speed, and speed, the CEO’s new strategy statement is heavy on the Internet of Things. The advanced IoT features are coming either in “early” 5G or in the 2020 timeframe as part of the real deal, depending on who you believe, so this doesn’t quite fit the 4.5G story.

Huawei managers also recently said they think the company is like Nokia in 2000. Nokia seems to think it’s more like Huawei in 2015 after their string of huge China Mobile contracts, and this is borne out by their 5G research partnership with China Mobile R&D.

Among other things, CMCC and Nokia will be coordinating their approaches to standards forums in future. This suggests a powerful push for the carrier-focused agenda we identified at 3GPP RAN a few weeks ago: mobile broadband capacity (more of it), cost (less of it), and carbon dioxide (less of that).

Ericsson has signed a strategic partnership with Cisco. There’s a lot of big talk about services, IoT, and innovation, but the key element is that Cisco wants to sell more routers to Ericsson’s telco customers, and Ericsson would like to sell consulting services to Cisco’s enterprise customers. Very interestingly, the two parties also agree to licence each others’ patents and discuss FRAND policies - nothing definite is stated about this, except that Cisco will pay Ericsson some licence fees. Also, you’ll be able to use your Ericsson OSS/BSS with Cisco infrastructure.

Ericsson has been trying for years to get into the IP router business - does anyone remember that time they bought Redback? or the deal with Juniper - and this will certainly give them something to sell, although it also implies they’ve accepted that Cisco owns the router market. Hans Vestberg said as much in the Q&A. Compare Alcatel-Lucent, which struggled for years but eventually succeeded in fielding a router that sold (the 7750s).

Vestberg reckons Ericsson could gain $1bn a year by 2018 in extra sales from the deal, plus a billion kroner in savings (that’s $115m). Meanwhile, Chuck Robbins reckons the main advantage of it is that it can close “now”. He’s probably delighted just to have pushed Juniper out of Ericsson’s client base.

Beyond that, Ericsson has signed up Telkomsel and Indosat for two major rollouts, which ought to shift plenty of RBS 6k units.

Reliance Jio is in a hurry to roll out the India-wide 4G network it promised. So far they’re deploying 300 small cells a day against a target of 1,700. As with everyone who’s tried a huge small cell deployment, they’re hoping automation will save them. Here’s an interesting video:

The GSMA’s durable CTO, Alex Sinclair, who’s also currently keeping the director general’s seat warm, says WRC-15 needs to get the 700MHz and 1400MHz bands harmonised globally and also get the 3.4GHz started.

Meanwhile, the Wi-Fi Alliance reaches out to the 3GPP and suggests an LTE-LAA/WiFi coexistence workshop, but none of the vendors want to lend them a base station.

And this British ISP is seeing 49% IPv6 traffic.

Eurecovery: Telefonica, DTAG, TDC, TI Q3s, Orange CAPEX plans

Telefonica reports the first year-on-year growth in its Spanish division in seven years in Q3. Revenue was up 0.2%, albeit 1.3% quarter-on-quarter, while groupwide revenue was up 11%, or 4.8% at constant exchange rates. Brazil contributed 5.2% growth and the other Latin American businesses 12.6% - although this makes the “turnaround” in Spain look pretty thin, it’s worth pointing out that revenue from O2 Germany actually fell 1.1%. You may remember that O2.de and E-Plus came out of this exercise pretty poorly.

Deutsche Telekom reported a strong Q3 with group revenue up 9.3% and net profits up 60%. This isn’t as bullish for Europe as it looks, because the key driver was T-Mobile USA - mobile revenue in Germany was off 0.4% and total revenue off 0.1%, while Europe-wide revenue was down 3.6%. It’s no surprise business was pretty bleak in Greece, but Austria and the Netherlands were especially bad and they have no such excuse. Clearly this Eurecovery thing isn’t settled yet.

That said, the European recovery story is largely about CAPEX. DTAG says it’s going to add another 2.4m FTTH lines this quarter. Orange revealed its plans, at a Huawei event (guess who’s getting the job then?), and they are substantial. The company plans to spend about €15bn over the next three years, targeting 95% population coverage with LTE or LTE-A across Europe, and aims to increase user-plane data capacity by a factor of three. In aid of this, they intend to buy more 700MHz spectrum. In Spain, they hope to pass 14 million premises with fibre by 2020. That’s another Euro-telco clicking over into the investment phase, then, after Vodafone, Telefonica, and DTAG.

Also, TDC’s revenues were up 4.5% year-on-year. Telecom Italia, though, is still shrinking, but interestingly, it’s TIM Brasil that’s the problem, and their Italian mobile revenue is actually up, as is the Sparkle submarine cable business.

On the other hand, there’s Vimpelcom. In Q3, the company had to set aside $900m for damages over a corruption scandal in Uzbekistan. Oh, and revenue was down 31%.

The UK government wants to give you a “right to request a 10Mbps connection” as a broadband universal service obligation. Surely you can request one now?

EE, via MVNE Transatel, has lost a substantial MVNO client, The People’s Operator, which is off to 3UK with the following quote:

‘The deal we had with EE was probably our oldest deal, back from 2012 so we’ve been looking at it for a little while and we spoke with a number of people and from a product and commercial side we went with Three … It is a better quality 4G network, and operationally and commercially it is better’.

And the first speed tests are filtering through from the York FTTH joint venture.

VZ out of wireline, or only enterprise? Centurylink selling DCs; Orange-Akamai VPNs; huge Chinese video deal; AWS comes to the UK

Verizon may be about to sell its troubled enterprise business, Reuters reckons. A price of $10bn is given for the Terremark data centres, plus the storied MCI and UUNet global carrier networks. There’s no hurry but Citigroup is acting as financial adviser and Centurylink has apparently shown an interest in some or all of the deal. That said, Centurylink may be selling its data centres. Does that mean they want out of the data centre business, or they’re willing to sell in order to raise the cash to buy VES?

There’s some insight over at Data Centre Knowledge, which points out that Centurylink’s cloud business is cannibalising its colocation and managed hosting, and also that it doesn’t own most of the data centres themselves. A legacy of the old Savvis business model, they are usually leased from third parties.

Verizon management, meanwhile, briefed that they need at least part of wireline for mobile backhaul. This is of course true, although as the piece points out, VZW has always been very much a (Vodafone-inspired) state within in a state inside Verizon. Even from an Internet perspective, VZW shows up in the routing table as a dozen of its own AS numbers with their own peering relationships, rather than being behind Verizon’s AS701.

Here’s an interesting product: Orange Business Services has a partnership with Akamai to route your corporate VPN through Akamai’s overlay network, and if your cloud applications are ones that Akamai hosts, directly to the nearest serving node. The application-layer multicast VPN that links Akamai’s CDN nodes together is an under-reported strength of theirs, and this is a product that explicitly makes it available to customers.

Speaking of CDNs, Limelight Networks seems to be picking up some business from Apple and also from Microsoft. This may explain why Akamai is complaining about traffic growth slowing down and nobody else has noticed.

China’s Amazon clone, Alibaba, is investing $3.67bn in China’s YouTube clone, taking the huge video host private.

Huawei is offering what sounds like a big MVNO hosting platform and some content delivery functions, out of a UK data centre. Amazon Web Services is also coming here, planning to open a cluster of data centres in Britain late next year as part of an expansion that also adds a new AWS region in South Korea.

Xavier Niel’s merry men at Free will lease you a dedicated server with an OpenPOWER8 core for €1500 a month. Pay what? The answer’s here - blasting through big ugly enterprise workloads, fast.

IBMbench_published_575px.pngAnd Telefonica has been testing NFV with the Alcatel 7750 router.

BlackBerry PRIV; HTC drowning in inventory; Qualcomm Q3; Android One scaled down

The new BlackBerry PRIV is available, and is getting widely reviewed. It provides a very fresh Android (5.1.1), high hardware specs, and a keyboard. BlackBerry says it will deliver Android updates monthly, with critical hotfixes being deployed as soon as they are available, and they are willing to push them even without waiting for carrier approval. The launch has come with very little marketing beatup, and it’s hardly priced to go - the SIM-free device is £599, or £49.99/mo with a £59.99 down payment at Carphone Warehouse.

An interesting feature of the phone is Dtek, an app that monitors what other apps are up to. This demonstrated to ZDNet that the threats to their privacy were still pretty intense.

HTC’s management refuses to give a Q4 forecast because, as Charles Arthur points out, it would be shockingly terrible. Among other things, the company is absolutely crammed with inventory:

screenshot-2015-11-03-08-59-43.pngIt’s probably because the One A9 turns out to be not OK on Verizon and shipments to the US are on hold. Also, the red and gold ones are mysteriously delayed even longer than the rest.

Qualcomm’s quarter was pretty dreadful, with revenue off 18% and net income down 44%. They blame this on Chinese vendors taking their time to sign licensing agreements, but it’s also telling that MSM-series smartphone SoCs aren’t selling all that well, with shipments off 14% sequentially. S6 (Exynos) sales are finally pulling, perhaps Mediatek is cutting in as well, and the non-Apple, non-Samsung smartphone makers who are Qualcomm’s staple market are looking a bit HTC-y.

Huawei, for example, is up to second place among Android vendors in Europe, as Sony, Motorola, and HTC weaken. But on the other hand, 56% of Chinese iPhone buyers were switching from Android.

The ultra-cheap, WiFi-plus-MVNO FreedomPop has snagged an investment from Intel Capital to make its own phone around an Intel SoC.

Meanwhile, although BlackBerry is promising quick Android patches, Google’s own Android One has stopped promising them and in fact it’s far from clear what it’s promising any more. It sounds like another Silicon Valley crusade to save India that foundered on being clueless about the place - why on earth would they refuse to sell them via local resellers?

Google’s Project Tango advanced 3D developer kit has just had another price cut, perhaps because this Apple indoor survey app appeared.

MTN CEO OUT; Telkom bid for Cell C; M-PESA; Japanese Q3s; Sprint Q3; how to beat Comcast’s call centre

MTN CEO Sifiso Dabengwa has resigned after the carrier copped a $5.2bn fine from Nigerian regulators. Well, he probably better. Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko takes over for six months while they negotiate with the Nigerians and look for a permanent successor. The biggest shareholder, the South African sovereign wealth fund, still isn’t happy and wants more heads, while the South African government is “concerned” and is pursuing the matter diplomatically. The Nigerian regulator is standing firm about the fine so far, but it looks like they’re also trying to signal readiness to come to some sort of agreement - in the background, MTN’s spectrum licences have been extended to 2021.

Telkom, meanwhile, has come back with a better offer for Cell C after the owner, STC, rejected their first bid.

M-PESA is still doing great business. Safaricom broke out quite a bit of data on the platform in its Q3 results, and it’s now the operator’s biggest source of revenue growth. There are now 15.7m active users, and revenue was up 24% year-on-year. Two-thirds of the volume is person-to-person, and this segment is growing at 16%. As for the rest, business-to-business makes up 15% and is growing at 65%, and business-to-person is 18% and growing over 100% annually.

Vodacom says its data revenues are up 33% and its profits up 6% year-on-year in H1 after it rolled out more LTE coverage.

Xavier Niel’s investment in Israeli mobile is up for sale - Golan Telecom is going, going, gone to Cellcom for $301m, if the regulator accepts it, after Golan outbid Bezeq. The operator has about 900,000 subscribers and revenues of $127m.

In Japan, carrier Q3s are in, and KDDI saw revenue up 6%, subscribers up 7, and ARPA up 2.5%. Smartphone penetration was 56%, so there’s some way to go just from diffusion. NTT DoCoMo saw revenue growth of 1.9% but much better profitability, although service revenue was down 19% - selling a lot of iPhones - while Softbank saw revenue 10% higher and net income off 24%. The answer was pretty simple: Sprint is costing a lot in interest.

Sprint’s Q3 was acceptable, just. For the first time in two years, it saw actual growth in postpaid phone net-adds, and the topline net-adds were just over a million. However, even chucking in the kitchen sink (no fewer than 866k wholesale), that was half what T-Mobile or AT&T achieved and 200k behind VZW. And the postpaid phone growth consisted almost entirely of people switching from Boost or Virgin to Sprint mainline, something that was achieved by ringing them up and making them an offer. Also, the famous leasing special-purpose vehicle still hasn’t shown up, and the company booked $600m additional CAPEX with respect to “device leasing in our indirect sales channels” - is that something to do with offering the switchers new phones? Revenue was off 6%, but the net loss narrowed somewhat thanks to cost cutting.

Comcast has been telling its call centre staff that their data cap has nothing to do with network congestion. Also, they are briefed to escalate anyone who says the words “net neutrality” to a manager immediately. So now you know! Suddenlink, meanwhile, openly says that cap busters are a significant source of revenue.

And Forbes is an MVNO now, apparently competing with Truphone.

Facebook Q3s; Square IPO; really bad ad malware; surveillance bill; IoT forecasts are rubbish

Facebook Q3s are interesting. So far, they’ve done well out of the advertising crisis, with their strategy of rationing access to users’ news feeds. Ad revenue is up 45% year-on-year, while other revenues are actually shrinking. So much for diversification away from ads. Operating profits, though, are up 4%. That can only mean that margins are suffering, and yes, operating margin has come down from 44% to 32%. And in true Silly Valley style, it’s an expensive company to run - total costs and expenses are up 68% year-on-year. Out of $3bn total expenses, $780m is CAPEX, and the rest is presumably ads, salaries, and pizza.

Elsewhere in the Valley, Square is hastening to go public, so much so that it’s pricing the IPO below its last VC round valuation. The cut is substantial, too - the last private valuation was $6bn, and the IPO is set around $3.9bn, so either they’re leaving a third of the company on the table, or at least a third of the valuation was hot air. And if the eventual IPO price is less than $18.56 a share, some of the VC investors have a right to get more shares, which dilutes the founders, notably CEO Jack Dorsey. Who is also CEO of Twitter, in case you missed that. It all looks like a rush to the market before closing time.

If you browse to AdWeek on your phone you might get this ad trying to steal your Facebook account. The possibility of registering advertisers is discussed, and the point made that $10,000 as a signup will render it irrelevant. Even TV ad rates are in the loo.

One of those anti-adblocker companies that tries to detect people using ABP or whatever and show them a shame screen got hacked and used to distribute some fairly vicious malware. So not only is there malware in the ads, there’s malware in the pro-ads ads. New Android viruses can root your phone, and will probably both spread using ad networks, and make money by showing you ads.

The Garden Bridge is controversial enough already, but now it wants to follow your phone around. Fortunately they seem to mean tracking wireless LAN MAC addresses, and recent iOS and Android have that covered.

The British government’s new surveillance law is out and although it doesn’t contain a crypto ban, it does basically legalise everything GCHQ was up to. In defending the bill, Home Secretary Theresa May also admitted that the government had invoked the weird clause in the 1984 Telecoms Act that lets them give orders to anyone regulated by OFCOM as long ago as 2001 and demanded the handover of all the CDRs. Meanwhile, the defensive half of GCHQ will no longer do accreditation for security specialists because who needs that.

Samsung apps on the Galaxy S6 Edge are buggy. Terrible Java exploit discovered. And current forecasts for IoT growth would need the US to spend 10% of GDP just on that.

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November 2, 2015

Nokia in China; Indian M&A; Cable Q3s; Niel after TI - Telco 2.0 News Review

Nokia gets another CMCC win, back into AT&T; Nokia, Alcatel Q3s; “4.5G” gets a brand; SKT 5G trial by 2017?

Whale ahoy! Nokia Networks signs another monster contract with China Mobile. This time it’s mostly core networking, for the 2G, 3G, and 4G services, plus an Internet of Things platform and Nokia consultants for the entire roll-out, for a total of €930m, which conveniently converts to $1bn. This comes only a few weeks after a huge order for TD-LTE Advanced base stations. So far, it’s their third enormous sale in China this year. The point is made that China Mobile is going back to what it knows after the TD-SCDMA adventure - they made China’s first GSM call using Nokia kit back in 1994 and largely built their 2G network with it.

Not surprisingly, then, the Q3 results were strong.

Profits from Networks were €391m, and operating margin was 13.6% in the quarter, handily beating Ericsson and rivalling Huawei. Nokia is celebrating by returning $4bn of cash to its shareholders The other half of the merger, Alcatel-Lucent, also saw some progress - operating income was up to €212m and margin to 6.2% from 5.2% a year ago.

The improvement at ALU mostly came from IP routers and VoLTE systems. Interestingly, non-telco sales were up sharply - this is an effect of the middle-weight 7750 series routers being a hit with ISPs and enterprises. Also, ALU is now planning to keep the submarine cable business.

Nokia was also added to the AT&T Domain 2.0 list of suppliers this week, suggesting both that the real purpose of Domain 2.0 was to get the vendors to take SDN seriously, and that Nokia is forgiven about all those small cells AT&T bought for Project Velocity before they realised how much site rental would cost.

If you liked LTE, you’ll love LTE-Advanced. And LTE-Advanced PRO even more. Huawei has persuaded the 3GPP to let them have an official brand for “4.5G”, so expect a barrage of hype.

GSMA is happy that so many countries have put in proposals to WRC-15 to refarm TV spectrum under 700MHz for mobile.

Here’s a bit more detail about Ericsson and SK Telecom’s test of “network slicing” in 5G. The applications were augmented reality (i.e. both high speed and low latency), IoT (i.e. low bandwidth), and general enterprise traffic. SKT says it wants to launch a 5G service by 2017, but reading between the lines, it sounds like it will be mostly around their labs.

Huawei gadgets; Samsung growing again; Apple smashes Q3, again; fate of ChromeOS?

If Nokia keeps killing it like this, surely it will have a serious impact on Huawei in the end? That’s the thesis in our recent Huawei EB. If that happens, they’ll be dependent on smartphones for growth. In Q3, they reported shipments up 63% year-on-year. One-third were priced above RMB2,000/$315, therefore competing with Samsung. The question of course is how much Huawei, rather than Qualcomm, Mediatek, or Intel, value-added there is in each one.

Speaking of Sammy, it saw shipments growing for the first time since Q1 2014 as it sorted out the mix of S6 and S6 Edge gadgets and cranked up the marketing machine. Market share is still down year-on-year, but it’s up 2 percentage points sequentially. Also, world shipments are rising again. That said, Christmas is coming, and with it, the world’s supply of iPhones.

There are those who actually do bet on Apple missing its quarters. They were disappointed again in Q3, Apple’s fourth quarter, as iPhone sales beat records yet again.

HTC’s next gadget is here.

Google may be cooling on ChromeOS, and considering merging it with Android. However, the company vigorously denies this. And the OnHub WLAN router/smart home STB turns out to be a modified Chromebook under the bonnet. It’s possible that something subtly different is in prospect, for example, using the Android kernel for ChromeOS rather than Gentoo Linux. 

Julie Larson-Greene, the Microsoft exec who was responsible for Xbox, OneNote and the UX elements of their cloud products, as well as being the first woman to lead the Windows engineering team, is taking over Office.

Reliance buys Sistema; Chinese Q3s; Telenor chairman out; Project Loon gets a customer; Oi-TIM back on?

For the first time in 7 years, there’s a carrier merger in India: Reliance Comms buys Sistema, via a stock-swap that leaves the Russian investors behind Sistema with 10% of the business and snags RCOM very significant amounts of 800MHz 4G spectrum, as well as nine million more subscribers One down, eleven MNOs to go. Meanwhile, here’s the DNS lookup that proves some Indian MNOs are blocking anyone else’s VoIP or even instant messaging.

Chinese operator Q3s. China Mo reports revenue up 9.9%, with EBITDA up 12.8%. The key variable here is LTE adoption; they now have 247m 4G subscribers or 30% of the total, having added 50m in the quarter. By contrast, China Unicom is seeing declines in revenue, profits, and subscribers. And although China Telecom saw a hair over 1% growth on all three, they are talking about “3G/4G” subscribers - as if they didn’t want to say how many are on 4G. It’s as if all those Nokia eNode-Bs were doing CMCC some good…

Telenor, largely an Asian operator of course, reported 4.5% revenue growth year-on-year, but that couldn’t save the chairman. After the decision to bale out of VimpelCom, the Norwegian government, which eventually controls the company, has lost confidence in him.

It looks like both Vimpelcom and MegaFon will be hiving off their towers in Russia.

Telstra’s investment in the Philippines is estimated at $1bn. Meanwhile, PLDT and Globe have got around to setting up IP peering rather than sending their traffic out via some transit provider in Hong Kong or Los Angeles.

Mike Quigley, previously of Alcatel and NBN Co, points out that the cost of FTTH equipment has fallen dramatically since they started building, but the decision to keep the copper and cable means there’s no going back.

We have a first actual customer for Google’s solar balloons - in fact, three of them. Indonesia’s three MNOs have signed up to use them, or rather, to trial using them to fill in notspots before making a decision on a bigger rollout.

Indosat’s customer base is growing strongly, enough so that parent Ooredoo’s is up 20% year-on-year. Revenue on a constant-currency basis was up 4%, but it didn’t seem so clever on a real terms basis. There was a similar story at Etisalat. Zain was a bit different - as well as forex and Iraq security costs, it seems to be underpricing data.

MTN Nigeria has been threatened with a $5.2 billion fine for not registering SIM cards quickly enough.

And Russian telecoms investor Mikhail Fridman, of Alfa/Altimo fame, is trying to revive an Oi-TIM Brasil merger. He says he’s in for $4bn. Oi has signed an exclusivity agreement and agreed to “consider” opportunities.

US cablecos’ mammoth Q3; better broadband, or sexy STBs? Comcast enterprise up 19%; Akamai struggles

The US cablecos are reporting strong customer numbers in Q3. Charter was up 12k net video adds, and 131k net broadband adds. Last year, and for the last three years, they’ve been losing video customers, so this is a substantial swing. Revenue, meanwhile, was up 7.2%.

In Q2, the wider cable sector lost 625k net video subscribers, a record, and analysts had expected this to continue. But Comcast reported only 48k net losses, TWC 7k, and as we just saw, Charter was in positive territory. So, is cord-cutting still a phantom menace? Interestingly, the telcos’ IPTV products seem to be suffering - Verizon’s net gains were down to 42k, and AT&T U-Verse net-lost 92k.

The answer might be that cable is gaining in broadband and selling TV through to the broadband net gainers. Also, a key driver of cord-cutting was that cash-strapped consumers were swapping cable subscriptions for Internet options that were cheaper or free. Now, they’re not as cash-strapped any more. And the cablecos are offering new STB products - Comcast is now deploying 40,000 X1s a day, and has reached 25% penetration. At least one analyst thinks this might move them into positive territory in Q4. The latest version adds both 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) support.

TWC, however, wants to swap its STBs for either a web browser or a Roku 3, not least because streaming to browsers and mobile phones doesn’t generate truck-rolls. Arris, the world’s biggest STB vendor, seems to be struggling with revenue down 14%, largely because AT&T U-Verse and Verizon FiOS TV spending is way down.

By the numbers, though, the broadband explanation seems stronger. Comcast net-gained 320k broadband customers, TWC 232k, and Charter 131k in Q3, while AT&T net-lost 106k and Verizon essentially broke-even. All these new broadband subscribers are the obvious people to upsell with TV, and being new signups, they’re the ones who are getting the new gadgets first.

Our in-depth coverage of the US market has been tracking this since Q1 2014: Triple-Play in the USA and Gigabit Cable Attacks This Year refer.

In the light of this triumph, it seems churlish to point out that Comcast’s streaming video app has missed its launch deadline. Meanwhile, their biggest revenue growth line-item is the new business services division, up 19.5%.

And Akamai’s Q3s were pretty bad, as Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook brought more of their CDN needs in-house. (Or in Microsoft’s case, into Verizon’s ex-Edgecast CDN.) This quote is gold:

At the end of the call Akamai said, “media growth rates are going to be effectively flat to up very significantly, or down very significantly.”

The Hole in the Air - IoT moves into 2G just as 2G shuts down

The Hole in the Air: MNOs are frantically trying to fill up their long-since amortised GPRS networks with IoT devices, because why not, and the device developers are frantically trying to put a SIM into anything they can think of. The problem - the same MNOs are also planning to shut down the whole GSM network in a few years’ time in order to refarm the spectrum and incidentally get rid of the ugly security mess it’s become. Moving up to 3G or 4G is out of the question - the GPRS modules only cost $10-ish and the monthly ARPU is often around $1, but the minimum buy-in for LTE is about four times that. And the 3G networks’ days are pretty much numbered, too.

As it typically takes two years to launch an IoT project, this is an urgent problem, and that’s why there’s a rush on to roll-out LPWAN technology, whether Sigfox, LoRa, or something else. Cracking blog from Nick Hunn.

The 3GPP world is hastening to address this before the LPWAN or IEEE802 folk build up an installed base. Hence, this demo by Ericsson, AT&T, and Altair, which takes the new(ish) NB-IOT or LTE-M narrowband 4G standard and adds a new software mode in the SGSN to reduce power consumption. They claim it could deliver 10-year, LoRa-like battery life for IoT devices. Unfortunately, it’s an Ericsson proprietary thing, and might not make it into LTE R13.

Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, announced an IoT strategy, a new platform called Thingspace, and a gaggle of projects at an event in San Francisco. This includes a pharmaceutical track-and-trace system, a connected winery(?), and connected cars. They also gave a number of 1,000 partners to go with the $495m in revenue they already claimed. In parallel, Sigfox is deploying with the San Francisco city government.

Vodafone says its connected car business is growing 25-30% annually. DTAG says it has a million of them. Orange says it has 80 automotive customers. Factoids from here.

Xavier Niel buys into TI; BT-EE signed off, 3UK-O2 called in; EU package passes

Xavier Niel has acquired 15% of the voting rights in Telecom Italia, the second-biggest stake after Vivendi. Italian financial regulators are investigating whether he’s formed a concert party with Vivendi to take over the company - it seems unlikely. But he’s up to *something*.

Meanwhile, the UK Competition and Markets Authority has given “provisional” approval for BT to buy EE, without any remedies being imposed. The key question, therefore, is what OFCOM decides in its communications market review, due to report in the spring. The 3UK-O2 deal, however, has been called in by the European Commission for an in-depth review.

The Digital Single Market package has become law. With it, intra-European roaming charges are meant to disappear, although in practice there is scope for some sort of charge to discourage “permanent roaming”. Similarly, it institutes net neutrality but also creates quite a few exceptions from it.

BT’s revenues and EBITDA in Q3 are both roughly flat. EE, meanwhile, is readying another push on enterprise customers, promising gigabit speeds in the first half of next year. They’ve also snagged the contract to provide the emergency services with their wireless communications, which is controversial because although EE proposes to replace the Airwave TETRA network with its 4G service, the 4G public safety standard’s not finished yet.

Numericable-SFR says it’s “stabilised” its shrinking subscriber base, but only by dint of spending heavily on acquisition.

Developer-focused MVNO Simwood Mobile cuts its prices.

T-Quarter - another net-adds monster, in profit, mostly taken from AT&T and Sprint

T-Mobile Q3s are in, and it was yet another big quarter. With 2.3m net-adds, of which 843k were postpaid smartphones, they handily beat VZW, and AT&T only dodged this because they booked a lot of low-value M2M SIMs. VZW added 694k postpaid smartphones, and AT&T actually saw a net loss in this key subsegment. Churn was down, average billings up, while ARPU was down but still very decent at $47.99/mo in postpaid. Also, the operator was in profit by $138m, with EBITDA up $600m year-on-year and margins up from 24% to 30%.

The porting ratios suggest Sprint (no surprise) and AT&T (ok, more surprising) are the major sources for the subscriber growth. Also, T-Mo has done well retaining the MetroPCS customers. An announcement is planned for next Tuesday.

Towers entrepreneur thinks VZW and AT&T will between them deploy 100k small cells in the next 12 months.

AT&T is offering something new for its Cricket Wireless MVNO customers when they’re roaming in Mexico or Canada: data roaming. Errr..

Sprint has apparently been opening up its offices so people can see each other, getting rid of executive lunches and limos…and reducing the severance money offered to people it lays off.

TalkTalk, Vodafone UK hacked; gov.uk backs out of crypto wars; cheap IMSI catcher; 1993 app store

It perhaps wasn’t so surprising TalkTalk’s billing system got hacked - the SSL certificates were a mess, much of their webmail was in the clear, and call-centre employees had access to user passwords.

Vodafone UK, meanwhile, lost precisely 1,827 customer records to someone who obtained an employee’s credentials.

The British government’s flirtation with trying to ban encryption is over, but parts of it seem to be confused about that.

Make your own IMSI catcher for $1,400.

Malware that physically eats CPUs.

Beating Android device encryption.

The prehistory of the App Store: NeXTSTEP had one in 1993.

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