Telco 2.0 News Review

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[Ed - 'Early Bird' discounts to the 9th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in London, 28th-29th April 2010, end this week on March 27th, so book early here or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.]

Brough Turner brings us a data point about 3G in China; despite having a much smaller share of the overall market, China Unicom has as many 3G subscribers as China Mobile and is growing faster. It probably has something to do with the fact China Unicom got the iPhone - and more importantly, the impact of the Ministry of the Information Industry's reorganisation of the sector, in which China Mobile had to turn over its UMTS assets to China Unicom and start building a TD-SCDMA network.

This was confirmed by China Mobile CEO Wang Jianzhou, who publicly called for Apple to offer a version of the Jesus Phone with a suitable radio. RIM has already provided a BlackBerry that will work with China Mobile's new network. On one hand, nobody wants to start making devices that will work in China but not anywhere else; on the other hand, 500 million subscribers is a lot and quantity has a quality all of its own.

Google is about to find out exactly what this means in practice; their pull-out from China is going to start any minute now. Major questions include the fate of Google's Chinese R&D centre, which is apparently a separate company from the operating company that owns Google.cn. Reuters reports a mixture of unconcern and nationalist rhetoric. Wired runs down the options.

Chart of the week: Data Centre Knowledge, with a little help from Arbor Networks, points out that the percentage of Google's bandwidth that is accounted for by direct peering has risen from 40% to 60% in the space of a year - a significant shift in the Internet itself. However, it's fair to say that whatever they're doing with it, it probably isn't Google Wave traffic - Hitwise's traffic data suggests that the initial hype-burst passed off without really selling the Internet public on Wave. Nor is it likely to be anything to do with the Nexus One, of which Google may have sold 135,000 in 74 days.

Nokia is taking an unusual approach to designing a new device - asking the users of Nokia Conversations to do it. Realistically, this is either going to end up looking like an iPhone, or else some sort of nightmarish hybrid - perhaps a squeezy, violet pyramid?

In other shiny gadget news, Sprint is going to launch a WiMAX smartphone at CTIA; it's made by HTC and will be called the Supersonic. And the Android 2.1 updates are coming.

Things aren't going well at Palm; the shares fell by 30 per cent after sales of $150 million were posted, roughly half the consensus forecast. Fears for the company's future have revived; Wired has some suggestions, but nothing that stands out as a big idea.

Apple has called for developers to get cracking on the iPad, but so far the security surrounding the device itself is rather forbidding:

Would-be testers of the tablet-style computer, due to be released Apr. 3, must promise to keep it isolated in a room with blacked-out windows, according to four people familiar with the more than 10-page pact that bars partners from disclosing information about the iPad.

To ensure that it can't be removed, the iPad must also remain tethered to a fixed object...

It seems, meanwhile, that some iPhone app review sites are demanding money for good reviews. Getjar reckons the world mobile app market will reach $17.5bn by 2012, with the bulk of the growth coming from the arrival of apps on featurephones. An alternative view is that Android is proliferating so fast as a cheap solution that the category will be meaningless.

Qualcomm is feeling like a network operator; they're planning to bid for BWA spectrum in India and build a network based on the TDD flavour of LTE, better known as the follow-on for TD-SCDMA. They plan to find an Indian partner to run the network and eventually to sell it on. This is unusual for them - MediaFLO, their other network venture, is all about wholesale service for content providers and mobile TV, using their own broadcast radio technology.

Rene Obermann of Deutsche Telekom is doing his best to kill the speculation about merging T-Mobile USA either with regional carriers or even with Sprint, in some sort of nightmare hellbroth of incompatible networks. Connected Planet suggests alternative options, notably the cable operators, who have a chunk of spectrum in the 1700MHz Advanced Wireless Services band - just what T-Mobile needs.

The EU has agreed to let GSM networks on board ships operate as close as 3 miles from shore, but only below decks.

The FCC's speed measurement and reporting tools have been an early hit for the US National Broadband Plan, with 150,000 users providing measurements so far. The US regulator is moving quickly - the process of re-auctioning the D Block 700MHz band, which is slated for a national public services network, has started with a view to holding the auction this summer. Connected Planet points out that the FCC is planning to get much of the spectrum needed for the Plan from the broadcasting sector.

In the UK, the prime minister is very keen on e-government, and promises "superfast broadband" by 2020, in a speech notably light on anything specific. Again, the comparison with the NBP is painful.

Telco 2.0 - now with added Brough Turner. Here's a piece of his in TMCNet that argues that Wi-Fi is a natural fit for freemium business models and that managed offload will be a strong competitor with LTE and WiMAX as progressively better chips become available.

It's possible that DOCSIS 3.0 cable operators will be the first to deliver the NBP's targets. Speaking of cable, it was the week Viacom sued Google over copyright infringment at YouTube. The Electronic Frontier Foundation doubts the legalities, pointing to the safeharbour provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

Whoops - Vodafone in Spain has had to recall 3,000 gadgets after they shipped with the Mariposa virus. The EFF fights on in the warrantless wiretapping case. Niklas Zennström has a VC fund. Connected Planet is dubious that carriers will make money from music. The next instalment of David Burgess's open-source GSM deployment in Niue. Indian Mobile Monday has a developer conference. Martin Geddes has a chapter in this book.