Ring! Ring! Hot News, 9th November 2009

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Telco 2.0 Top Stories

Last week was Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm time again in London; watch this space for blogs, video, slides, etc over the next few weeks as we run up to the first ever Telco 2.0 Americas next month.

After a panel that included the heads of API programmes at operators representing just under a billion subscribers, two-thirds of the delegates to Telco 2.0 believe that telcos should concentrate their efforts in developer communities on enterprise business processes, rather than consumer applications. "Which of the following markets are most profitable for telcos to focus their API efforts on? (Choose one)":

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UK Music chief and ex-Undertone Feargal Sharkey's keynote in the Media 2.0 session at Telco 2.0 dealt with the possibility of peace breaking out between the music industry and the Internet community; he reckons the growth of services like Spotify and DRM-free download stores like Amazon's may lead to the industry eventually out-competing the pirates. After Pirate World, new players emerge - where have we heard that one before?

In Denmark this week, the local music lobby has abandoned efforts to prosecute file sharers. Telco 2.0 keynote speaker Gerd Leonhard points out that 75% of the delegates expect anti-file sharing legislation to be entirely ineffective.

Not everyone agrees. Negotiators on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement are worryingly close to reviving the idea of making ISPs act as policemen in various ways - specifically, by creating a global equivalent of the notorious DMCA takedown notices. Similarly, new US legislation on securities fraud would require Internet operators to kill sites that are involved in fraudulent activities - which, as with all "ISP as policeman" projects, sounds fair enough until you think about it. What happens when someone files a notice on their competitors? It's discussed in some detail on NANOG, here.

Another big theme from Telco 2.0 was the role of cloud computing and big data centres. They're the container ports of the Internet, don't you know. Juniper Networks, which presented at Telco 2.0, is refreshing its product line to provide more scope for applications development in the IP network. That's about as cloudy as you can get.

After horrible results, Ericsson is trying to Telco 2.0 it up a tad; CTO Hakan Eriksson is off to the Valley, there to take charge of the company's Internet-related products, while he also remains as group CTO and keeps his seat on the group-wide management committee. Scandinavian Airlines shares probably rose, but this reflects an accelerated shift away from the AXE legacy at Ericsson. Tellingly, Sony Ericsson chose this week to announce their first Android device.

Juniper has an alliance with Nokia Siemens Networks. That particular supervendor also had awful results recently. They're responding by sacrificing 6,000 employees to the elder gods and re-organising into three divisions - one for all the data-crunching billing'n'subscriber management things, one for the radio and general packet pushing things, and one for the managed services operation.

Over at Forum Nokia, Robin Jewsbury has a comparison of three clouds for start-ups - Amazon EC2, Google AppEngine, and Rackspace's simply-named Cloud. And DNS pioneer Paul Vixie has a controversial piece in ACM Queue attacking the evils of "DNS lying". Everyone can relate to the horror of getting a spammy ad page when you mistype a URI, or worse, getting an ad page when a Web site times out and the result breaking a script, but Vixie is not keen on the core CDN practice of using the DNS to load-balance and localise traffic. He's not particularly keen on CDNs generally, as it happens.

Is he right, or is he arguing about the Internet of 1995? The debate starts here.

Another big Telco 2.0 theme was payments - both the M-PESA m-banking sort, and the Telenor CPA carrier billing API sort. T-Mobile is the latest operator to do carrier billing; developers who stick their applications in the T-Mobile channel on Android Market can have their customers stick it on their phone bill. (They also closed the deal with Orange UK this week.)

Vodafone's also going to be doing carrier billing, in the context of its new Vodafone 360 social communications client. Vodafone 360 was shown off to both eComm and Telco 2.0 delegates; it's a single address book client that wraps around SMS/MMS, telephony, e-mail, instant messaging, and multiple social networks, it's also got a mapping service, and it sells DRM-free music downloads. There's also a developer API to device capabilities, probably along the lines of BONDI, and developers will be able to get paid through Vodafone's billing system.

The most interesting feature, though, is that Vodafone positively encourages other carriers' subs to download the client. Which raises the question: how soon before they do voice, and what happens then? They're keeping the cards close to their chest at the moment. However, it's great news to see a telco innovating in its core business of communication, rather than trying to coerce its customers or sell dollops of "content".

Not that there are great margins to be had from mapping; as well as Google Maps, now with turn-by-turn navigation, Yahoo! Maps, Microsoft Virtual Earth, Multimap, the Ordnance Survey's OpenSpace, and the Open Street Map, Nokia's Ovi Maps will soon offer mapping inside buildings.

After all, Google Voice has got 1.4 million users, as well as a good old-fashioned interconnect row with certain US ILECs. Windstream is planning to boost its revenues from business customers; perhaps they need better enterprise voice & messaging?

In other voice news, Vonage experienced a major outage this week, but that was as nothing to the massive outage on T-Mobile USA that swept across the entire US. There's a somewhat opaque statement here.

And there's more action on the LTE voice problem; a group of big vendors announced something called "One Voice", which turns out to be the MMTel profile in IMS. This will come as no surprise to anyone who's spoken to Dean Bubley recently; the ex-parrot is being shaken vigorously. Rich Karpinski of Telephony Online, meanwhile, takes a look at activities around RCS and finds a whole lot of not much.

The Skype intellectual property row has been resolved, by the traditional means of "paying the Danegeld". Friis and Zennström will get 14% of the company and seats on the board, which is pretty cheeky after they already shared a cool two and a half billion in return for it.

On the other hand, things look bleak at the once-mighty AOL. A fine example of what happens when you ignore fundamental business disciplines like listening to your customers and obsessing over operational excellence.

In the inevitable iPhone-related news, the world's first iPhone worm is in the wild. Fortunately, unless you're both technically capable and wildly overconfident you're probably safe. The exploit relies on the fact quite a few geeks who hacked the devices did so in order to install an SSH terminal, so they could log into their Linux servers from the phone. Fair enough; Telco 2.0 has a PuTTY client on his Nokia E71. Unfortunately, unless you also changed the root password from the default, this meant that others could come in through the SSH port. Of course, the combination of technical clue and overconfidence is hardly rare in the iPhone user population. More seriously, an official app has been caught secretly collecting phone numbers, and there's a rumour of a new iPhone with both GSM/UMTS and CDMA radios. Qualcomm Snapdragon, anyone?

The value of gadget exclusivity is only ever temporary, as Chris Barraclough said at Telco 2.0; it's in vendors' interests to shift as many units as possible, so they have no reason to let you keep it. Radio Shack will soon start selling iPhones. Pretty soon, there'll be iPhones in packets of cereal.
Palm announced a Web-based developer environment for its WebOS, which would let power users create their own apps through a drag-and-drop graphical interface, rather like Yahoo! Pipes. And a hacker who assisted others to get free cable broadband by altering their set-top boxes has gone to jail.

Sprint, meanwhile, is pouring another billion into Clearwire; and Nokia has a new API out to let Web Runtime apps use the hardware's capabilities. They also have a new photo-focused Nseries gadget out (review here) and a remote testing service for applications that seems to run them on participating devices in the wild.

Brough Turner's notes from eComm are online; and finally, the famous restaurant on top of the BT Tower is back!