Ring! Ring! Hot News, 2nd March, 2009
In Today's Issue: Waiting for the Fibrarians; Virgin Media decides distribution is the way; BBC looking at superbox video delivery; iPhones in Japan - can it work?; giving them away; reliability data on mobiles; Nokia 5800 FAIL; Motorola whistles happy tune; surprisingly good news at DTAG, Telefonica; mobile pirates dock in your city and want your money; USG wants $5bn from carriers; Trujillo back from Oz; Aussie censorplan wobbles; Phorm row; Chinese master censor nailed in anti-virus corruption scandal; mobile voice crypto wars, Skype troubles; white space spectrum on the Web; Isenberg on the stimulus; another take on long tail scepticism; SMS outage spoils Nepalis' fun
On tenterhooks as rumours leak out of a major announcement regarding BT, OFCOM, and fibre. Presumably it refers to the previously-announced £1.5bn fibre-to-the-cabinet plan; perhaps BT, OFCOM and DBERR have reached agreement after 25 or so years? At the time of going to "press", the preannounced announcement hadn't happened.
Rival Virgin, meanwhile, is enjoying its status as the broadband operator that doesn't have to wholesale; so much, in fact, that the ISP operation is taking over the business. Virgin wants to part with its TV channels, concentrating instead on providing delivery for other people's content. As we keep saying, content is king but distribution is King Kong.
Virgin, after all, were the ones who responded to the Great iPlayer Flood by putting BBC iPlayer content into their cable broadcast system, thus turning it into an upsell opportunity and moving more bits through efficient broadcast rather than IP unicast streaming. How long before they come up with an interesting set-top box/DVR/router/whatever? They may need to hurry up, as the BBC is interested in advanced boxes and specifically, developing one that integrates broadcast and Internet delivery - just what the Telco 2.0 doctor ordered.
Will the iPhone sell in Japan? i-mode didn't sell outside Japan; we're not sure what this will tell us, except that bringing products into Japan or out of it is a mug's game. There is also a good reason for scepticism - Japanese mobile culture became read/write very early, what with all those MMS-snapping schoolgirls. And the iPhone is optimised for the read side. Web browsing, iTunes, AppStore shopping. As this blogger points out, "with Nokia you are not just a consumer" - he noted that his data usage changed radically between the Nokia N95 and the iPhone. On the N95, he sent almost as much as he received; on the iPhone, he received 10 times as much as he sent.
There's always one way to shift handsets, of course: spend a ton of money on subsidy. Softbank is now giving iPhones away for everyone who signs for a 2-year contract. Apple must be delighted.
LG, meanwhile, get the reliability booby prize from a poll of British users. Nokia and Motorola are in the lead; it looks like the RAZR experience taught someone a lesson. But what's this? The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic for North America has been taken off the market amid complaints of poor radio performance. This seems to happen quite a lot at the moment; perhaps it's just that the latest wave of shinies are encouraging users to pull data and therefore showing up the problems?
Motorola, eh. Here's some uncharacteristic optimism from the crisis club; Greg Brown, "joint chief executive", reckons that the handset business has reached the bottom, and better times are ahead. We shall see if pinning all their hopes on Google Android is a sensible strategy; we note that Moto is a founder member of LiMo, which makes this decision a little curious.
But unexpected optimism was this week's theme; perhaps spring is making itself felt? T-Mobile UK claims to have stopped the rot in revenue, and credits the G1 Googlephone with this achievement. Deutsche Telekom beat its targets for 2008 and generally looks pinker than it did nine months ago after the quarter from hell. Telefonica had solid results, too, even with negative exchange rate effects. As predicted here, the eurotelcos are riding out the storm in reasonable comfort.
Hey, AT&T managed to make some serious money out of international roaming without going anywhere, too! It's an interesting story - a chap working on a docked cruise liner brings along a laptop and a dongle, and uses same to watch a football game. He gets a bill for $28,067. Turns out he was actually pulling data from the ship's own UMTS network, which is charged as international roaming. Question - why was the network active while the ship was in port? Second question - how many other people passing by were effectively the targets of a man-in-the-middle attack?
The US Government, meanwhile, wants to hit up the cellular operators for some cash as a spectrum "user fee". Stand by for trouble with that! Especially as Sol Trujillo is back in the US and looking for a job after four years at Telstra.
As he leaves Australia, it looks like the plan for massive Internet filtering is doomed after a crucial senator changed his mind. Relatedly, there's a row on about Phorm; when isn't there? Which? got sued after publishing a survey Phorm didn't like. In China, they do these things differently; here is a fascinating story about one of the people who runs the Great Firewall, and who was caught accepting bribes to frame an anti-virus expert.
A British company which provides strong encryption for your mobile calls is angry about government threatening to break their product; who wouldn't be? We thought the crypto wars were over. Interestingly, this feeds into the story that Nokia will be shipping a native Skype implementation on the N97; Skype, you will recall, is strongly encrypted end-to-end, unlike the SS7 voice calls in the various existing mobile Skype services. As usual, some operators are going catatonic with voice horrors, others are keen, and the dividing line is between O2 and Orange on the one hand, 3 and T-Mobile on the other, with Vodafone being ambivalent. For some reason, mobile Internet things in the UK always seem to happen like that.
A Web service has appeared that catalogues the availability of white space spectrum in the US. Could be handy; especially if it's anywhere near as nice as the New Zealand government's broadband infrastructure map. On a similar theme, David Isenberg has an interesting look at the broadband provisions of the US stimulus bill.