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Comcast, IBM, AWS, Google, MTN: Telco 2.0 News Review

Comcast 1Gbps “coast to coast”; Centurylink, Frontier respond; Liberty Global, BT, KDDI, KT Q2s

Comcast’s CTO says they’re going to have gigabit cable “coast to coast” in the next 12 months, while their set-top box vendors are saying they expect a big ramp-up of sales early next year. Meanwhile, WOW, Cox, and Mediacom are hinting at something similar. DSL operators have little choice but to respond by building out something comparable.

Centurylink, for example, is rushing to get more speed on the DSL and more FTTH in the ground after it lost 65k net broadband subscribers in Q2. It’s also repenting of its efforts at cloud and putting more data centres on the market. Frontier, for its part, is using the whole box of tricks, VDSL2, vectoring, and G.fast, to get 50 or 100Mbps service to more of its base. Importantly, pushing more lines over the FCC’s revised broadband threshhold of 25Mbps pays off immediately, as they can draw down CAF-II subsidy for each one.

Speaking of which, Speedtest.net reckons the typical US subscriber is now getting 50Mbps down, 18 up.

Comcast’s Xfinity Home product has back-up cellular connectivity in case the cable network goes down, but they won’t say which operator is providing it. It’s probably the first product to use their MVNO relationship with Verizon.

Here’s an interesting story about how the New Deal-era electricity cooperatives are being repurposed to run FTTH out into rural America. One customer remembers when they deployed the electricity.

Liberty Global’s Q2 results saw it back in profit, on revenue up 11%, with 227k net-adds less acquisitions. The TV side was a bit mixed - overall, the company net-lost 72k video subscribers, but most of its markets were positive, and its “new generation” TV services (basically TiVo) net-added 304k. 82% of Virgin Media subs now have TiVo. There’s more Virgin-specific data here, with the intriguing note that they said nothing about DOCSIS 3.1 rollout even though they’re in the middle of a major network build. The EU, meanwhile, has signed off on the Vodafone.nl/Ziggo deal.

Time Warner just took an extra 10% stake in Hulu for $583m, implying a much stronger valuation since 2012.

BT’s Q2 results show that EE never managed to recruit more than 98k TV subscribers. OFCOM has decided to take no action on UK football rights. Openreach has got to 24% penetration with its fibre products. The Communications Market Review for 2016 is out.

SFR is cutting one-third of its workforce. The two trade unions involved have agreed to the cuts on condition that the whole reduction is achieved voluntarily and that the redundancy payout is quite substantial (average €120k per head).

A strong quarter at KDDI, which is even somehow managing to make a go of WiMAX. Revenue is up 4.5% at KT, where 20% of their mobile subscribers are on gigabit tariffs. Telkom Indonesia’s profits were up 33% in the quarter, but that was all down to the mobile division, with revenue up 2.4%, while fixed was down 3.5%.

Is the online advertising crisis coming to video next?

AT&T is using its new SDN/NFV setup in carrier services - they now have both a Web site where wholesale customers can search for and order Ethernet circuits by building, and an API to do the same thing automatically.

Top 4 companies all techs; IBM crushed in IaaS Magic Quadrant; Google post-Alphabet; CORD field trials; smartphone latest

At the close of business last Monday, the four biggest companies in the S&P 500 were Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. It’s the first time the top four have all been tech companies, but as the piece points out, the other industrials in the top 10 are all so characterised by their use of IT that it makes as much sense to call them all technology companies.

Gartner’s IaaS Magic Quadrant is out. They score AWS and Microsoft as the leaders, Google as a “visionary”, and relegate IBM to a “niche player”. Even more crushingly, Big Blue is below Centurylink for “ability to execute”.

aws-microsoft-magic-quadrant.pngThis has triggered one of the classic Silicon Valley ego wars. The report was published more than two months late after IBM apparently kept complaining about the analyst’s judgment, quibbling about data, demanding escalation to higher management, arguing that their PaaS and SaaS products should be counted in, and generally kicking up a fuss.

It could be worse, though - neither Oracle nor HPE even made it onto the chart. Rackspace, which placed respectably but is nowhere near the force it was when it essentially started OpenStack, has taken the hint and is selling the company to a private equity fund.

And Gartner has a point about Microsoft in the cloud - NBC is doing its Olympics streaming from Azure, including basically everything but the CDN. They’ve also just launched new instance types for Azure that provide a high performance GPU. 

In case you missed it, you can still get Windows 10 free if you’ve got a Win7 or Win8 product key.

Here’s an interesting piece on Google post-Alphabet, arguing that a lot of the changes still haven’t been implemented, but an important one that has is that Google CFO Ruth Porat now has to approve significant research projects, putting the self-driving train sets on the back burner and considerably restraining their costs. It also quotes a Googler who says the company is “like a family business, backed by mercurial venture capitalists”.

AT&T’s CORD, we learned last week, is now both supported by Google and an official Linux Foundation project. This week, we learn that it’s going into the field on a large-scale trial in Georgia. John Donovan points out that it took 9 months from starting the project to this point.

Marissa Mayer explains the sale of Yahoo’s websites - some of the shareholders hoped for a turnaround of the online advertising business, others wanted to concentrate on the Asian assets, this was the only way to resolve the conflict.

Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes showed up at a chemical conference and handed out both data, and some gadgets, which turned out to be much less original than promised. Uber’s scheme to swap its money-pit of a Chinese operation for shares in the Chinese market leader is running into trouble, as the Chinese anti-trust regulator wants to take a look.

Here’s some detail on Apple sales in China. It does look like Apple’s general problem is that it’s time for some more shiny. Speaking of which, here’s the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. HTC’s Q2 sales are out and they’re pretty awful, but not as awful as last quarter. Android had 97 per cent of the Indian smartphone market in Q2.

Of course, those won’t have been Galaxy Note 7s or anything like that, but probably more like this Brazilian offering and its Chinese-made chipset. Note that not only are big smartphone makers, like Lenovo and Huawei, now emulating Apple and Samsung by bringing more chipmaking in-house, even down-ticket ODMs are having a go. But they’re still depending on ARM designs and Applied Materials machinery.

With Yahoo! gone, Telefonica is no longer interested in Firefox OS, and Cisco having found another way to keep H.264 in the WebRTC standard, there’s no longer much point in Mozilla Hello.

Intel’s Basis Peak smartwatch has been recalled because it keeps overheating and burning people’s skin.

And the Web is 25.

After Ericsson, Nokia’s ugly Q2; EU-China networks deal wobbles; LTE-U row re-ignites

Ouch. Nokia’s Q2 sales were down 11%, all of which came from Networks. Some of this may be due to various products being discontinued after the ALU merger - notably, the whole Alcatel LTE radio line is being dropped. But it’s hardly good news, especially in the light of Ericsson’s rough quarter. Rajeev Suri is trying to sing a happy tune, pointing out that the out-turn was actually better than Nokia’s guidance. But the impact knocks Nokia back into a loss.

The problem was concentrated in mobile (fixed was actually up, no doubt due to the US fibre race) and within mobile, in Latin America and Africa. Nokia’s statement mentions they lost a major LatAm customer, one big enough to have material impact by itself. That sounds like it has to be a Brazilian operator or else a multinational group.

In this context, it’s interesting that the Wall Street Journal thinks the 2014 EU-China trade deal on telecoms kit might be breaking down. The independent anti-dumping commission the deal foresaw still hasn’t been set up, for example, because the Chinese side hasn’t put anyone’s name forward.

They have launched a dedicated satellite for mobile, though.

Qualcomm seems furious about the LTE-U/WiFi co-existence tests. The WiFi Alliance wants to define a quiet channel as -82dBm signal strength or less, which they consider a concession because they usually over-engineer and err on the side of caution. Qualcomm reckons this will make LTE-U unworkable, and would like to draw the line somewhere around -70 (remember dBm are logarithmic, so this is a big difference). Dave Burstein reports data from Broadcom showing that 50% of WiFi links are under -80dBm, which would make LTE-U effectively a jammer and the WiFi Alliance’s offer more than generous. Qualcomm’s technical reasoning is in this presentation.

National Instruments and Bristol University say they’ve demonstrated that massive MIMO works, and delivered a 22x increase in spectral efficiency over the 4G baseline.

ABI Research reckons that WiGig adoption will take off next year, with 180 million chips shipped, and hit half the smartphone market by 2021.

VZ buys another IoT company; 72% of IoT devices non-telco; UK smart meter fiasco gets worse

Verizon has pulled out the cheque book, and bought an Internet of Things company for some $2.4bn. Fleetmatics, as the name suggests, is a provider of fleet management software and therefore a potential connected-car play. This is actually the second IoT acquisition of Verizon’s this summer.

Machina Research reckons we’ll get to 27bn connected devices by 2025, a CAGR of 16%, but 72% of those will be connected via a short-range, “capillary” radio link rather than anything a telco is likely to earn revenue from. They estimate that there might be an additional 1.8bn cellular connections, of which 45% will be cars. Also, slightly less than two-thirds of the associated revenue will come from something other than connectivity.

Here’s SKT setting out a vision for IoT, although we can’t help noticing that they’re making a lot more out of selling TV.

The UK’s mass smart-meter rollout is meant to start now. Unfortunately the specification isn’t finished. British Gas has already rolled lots of them out, and is reaping the competitive benefits, and probably won’t want to replace them. And no-one is saying whether or not the wireless network has the bandwidth to push firmware updates to them over-the-air. What a mess. Nick Hunn’s blog has been essential on this, and this is no different.

China Unicom profits warning; Ronan Dunne, VZW boss; T-Mobile, US No.1; MTN major rethink

China Unicom has announced a profits warning, saying that it expects its net profit for H1 to be down around 80% relative to the same period a year ago. They’re blaming the beginning of tower-sharing and hence of payments to China Tower, higher energy prices, higher rents, and much higher marketing expenditure. This is a symptom of their race to catch up with China Mobile’s 4G deployment. They’ve gained over 8 million net-adds, but at a price.

Ronan Dunne didn’t hang about after leaving O2 UK; he’s joined Verizon, as group president of Verizon Wireless, no less. David Small, the previous incumbent, moves over to run wireline, while Bob Mudge, from wireline, takes charge of integrating XO and building the new Boston network.

He’s got his work cut out. OpenSignal reports that T-Mobile has overtaken Verizon for both 3G and 4G speeds, while VZ had a hair more 4G coverage, Sprint had the best 4G latency (although what was the distribution like?), and AT&T came top in precisely nothing. T-Mobile celebrated by deploying 700MHz LTE in the Bay Area and bringing back unlimited data for some people, some of the time.

UK mobile revenue fell slightly this year, per OFCOM, while fixed Internet service revenue rose quite strongly.

MTN has announced a major strategic review in the light of falling voice revenue and the MTN Nigeria fiasco.

And LG U+ has announced profits up 13% for the quarter.

Hack the brakes; hack Telegram; hack Turkish coup plotters; probably use a password manager

You can hack the brakes of a Jeep Cherokee via Sprint’s network. Oh joy.

If you can manipulate SMS, you can probably hack the hardened messaging app Telegram.

Turkish coup plotters chose to use a weird amateur secure messaging app that hasn’t had any maintenance since 2014. That went about as well as you might expect.

Don’t make people change their password, it’s not helping.

Google and password manager app Dashlane are working on a universal, standard password manager API. This is such a good idea.

A survey shows the British public would sell their personal data for £2000. This is vastly higher than anyone would actually offer.

Apple has started paying bounties for new bugs, up to $200,000 a bug.

China doesn’t want you to use ad blockers.

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