Ring! Ring! Hot News, 4th February 2008

Posted on

[Ed - reader promotion: If you're thinking of coming or sending a delegation to the next Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm - 16-17 April, London - there's a 20% discount if you book before 12th Feb. Details here]

This Week: Winners and losers from the cable cut crisis; Deutsche Telekom loses 2 megasubscribers, copies BT's homework; AT&T EDGE outage; Sprint relaunches iDEN to battle $31bn writeoff; Dunstone darks DunBlog; Vodafone in data price cut, number porting case; Moto considers handset sale; MS vs Yahoo; Android phones are coming; Nokia-Trolltech analysis; IMS pony still yet to be located; 2.5 million SMS news subs in India.

It was the week the network died, what with no less than four major submarine cables getting backhoed (or rather, anchored). Some thought terrorists were assailing the world's communications infrastructure; others that the giant squid were getting restless down there. Others thought it was the prelude to a US air-raid on Iran; Todd Underwood and his team at Renesys, though, had the data; Iran wasn't even in the top 10 countries for outages as a percentage of BGP prefixes. As the operators of FLAG & Co scoured the world for cableships, divers and the like, their competitors who still had capacity in the area (like SMW-3, SAFE et al) were circling like vultures.

And the top vultures, according to Renesys' data pulled out of the Internet routing table, were Telecom Italia, BT, VSNL, SingTel, and Level 3. FLAG itself, AT&T, and Sprint suffered heavily; BT didn't lose any networks out of the 1,400 total announcements from Pakistan but managed to restore some 500 out of the 1200 that were back online by the 2nd, but saw the exact opposite in India, where it was a major loser. At least it wasn't as bad as C&W, who lost 150 Indian networks and hadn't restored any by the 2nd (being a C&W manager is looking dangerous again, too). Sprint lost 210 or so networks in India and had only a dozen back up by the 2nd; SingTel, which has connectivity to the wider world via APCN and transpacific networks and also via SAFE, was the big winner in India, losing no existing networks but restoring connectivity to 210 more prefixes. Level 3 lost 100 routes in India but reconnected 220.

In Egypt, Telecom Italia was the champ, restoring all its lost networks and many more besides for a gain of over 300; France Telecom hadn't restored some 220 routes by the 2nd, and Verizon wasn't looking too well either. In Saudi Arabia, there was cheering news for DTAG, gaining some 12 routes; VSNL had a similar net gain, as AT&T, Sprint and FLAG were still to restore dozens each.

Deutsche Telekom could have done with cheering news; whilst the global carrier operation was scrambling to grab customers in Saudi, the retail side in Germany was confessing to losing 2 megasubscribers in the last quarter. It comes as no surprise, then, that the plan to sell their IT division, T-Systems, is being dropped; the operation is instead being rebranded as "Enterprise Services" and the systems integration side beefed up. It sounds a lot like they're copying BT Global Services; and who can blame them?

In other telco disasters, AT&T threw a major data network outage on Thursday, darking countless Blackberrys. Sprint counts as a telco disaster lately - they may be about to write off the whole value of Nextel - so we're interested to see that new boss Dan Hesse announcing the launch of new features for their iDEN push-to-talk network. Voice. And messaging!

Carphone Warehouse CEO Charles Dunstone has apparently given up blogging; his motives for this are unknown but presumably have to do with the abuse he got over the slow roll-out of his unbundled broadband. In other telco bids for popularity, Vodafone is suing the UK regulator Ofcom in an effort to stop them from...making mobile operators port numbers instantly. That's going to endear Voda to the public.

In fact Vodafone does have a point of sorts; they argue there's a risk of "slamming", a quaint British criminal custom that broke out when power and gas distribution were deregulated in the 1990s. Essentially, salesmen for one party would run around the country pressing people to change providers and make their commissions; as there was no out-of-band check on the contracts, inevitably they began to forge signatures on the contracts and thousands of people turned out to have been enrolled unwittingly.

However, there is one very obvious solution to this in a telecoms context; send the user an SMS, already, so they can confirm whether they agreed or not. Strange Vodafone hasn't thought of that; perhaps their motives are not so pure after all. Whatever their motives are, some things are going well; data revenue was up 51% across the Vodasphere, and they expect it to reach £2bn this financial year. The secret sauce is of course that they are dramatically cutting prices and hence, margins.

Meanwhile, Carl Icahn mounted another drive to sack the board at Motorola. Whether responding to pressure from Icahn, or just to the Telco 2.0 influence, Moto announced that it's considering ditching the handset business. The main reason to be sceptical is the difficulty of finding anyone who would want it; when BenQ bought the Siemens handset business, Siemens memorably had to pay them to take it away.

Meanwhile, general-purpose technodrivel was well catered for by the Microsoft bid for Yahoo!. Google, predictably, doesn't like it, but it's hard to say whether they are really worried (for the future of the Internet, no less) or whether they are simply making trouble and the real threat is to MS and Yahoo! themselves. A great philosopher once wrote that putting stupid people together doesn't make them any less stupid, and Bubble Generation seems to think this is similar. However, the economics of platforms is pretty clear; savage hugeness is a working strategy.

But the only market where MSYahoo would be in a leading position, or even close, is the market for banner ads, where they hold 30 per cent of the game. If anything in the online ad business is the past, though, it's banners. The Register reckons it could be the finish of Microsoft's server products if they go with a Google-like open-source+homemade hardware strategy; which means they probably won't.

Meanwhile, Dell is threatening to launch a Google Android phone at next week's 3GSMHHMobile World Congress; there's some interesting comment about the possible Nokia response here. (Just why aren't there any more S80 gadgets?) And did you know Nokia WebKit browsers have tabbed browsing? Much more here and here.

Some people are still looking for the IMS pony; meanwhile, Amazon gets on with building the platform, Indian newspapers sign up 2.5 million SMS news subscribers, open access spectrum is coming...and O2 points the iPhone at enterprise customers.