Telco 2.0 News Review

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[Ed: Diary reminder: 28-30 June 2010, Telco 2.0 Best Practice Live! - the first carefully curated, online, video-based, interactive knowledge bank of cutting-edge 'Telco 2.0' services, business models and solutions from around the world.]

Huawei goes along to get along with India; in return for the Indian government's lifting of its ban on their equipment, they've undertaken to create an Indian business unit with Indian directors and management, and more importantly, they're going to come clean at long last about exactly who owns the company. Rumours have circulated for years that the company is secretly controlled by the Chinese Army - the firm was founded in 1988 by a retired officer and instructor at their electronics school.

However, it's also fair to say that a lot of the rumours originate from their competitors and from protectionist-minded politicians. But unlike most network vendors, Huawei has a government contract to carry out counter-surveillance sweeps at Chinese embassies worldwide. Another unusual feature is that officially, Huawei is a workers' co-operative owned by its 65,000 employees; we should soon find out the details.

Alcatel-Lucent announced rather poor results for Q1; revenue was off 5%, and the company made a net loss of €402m. According to Ben Verwaayen's statement, the trouble was concentrated in the core telecoms division and was partly caused by shortages of key components, which slowed down delivery of major contracts.

BT are announcing results on Thursday, and the main theme is likely to be more faster Internet service now. The Financial Times reports that the carrier is likely to announce that the target for homes passed with FTTC is being raised from 40% to 66%. The FT also mentions that BT has brought forward the delivery date from 2013 to 2012. They also point out that the wholesale side of the scheme is going to be important, which is clearly sensible.

In Italy, Vodafone, Fastweb, and Wind Telecom have agreed to jointly build a new FTTH network, with an initial investment of €2.5bn, much of which is coming from the Italian government's investment bank. A key detail is that they're inviting Telecom Italia to become a wholesale customer or perhaps a joint-venture partner. It seems that actually firing up the JCBs is the costly signal required to make an incumbent play nicely with a fibre deployment, as KPN's decision to invest in Reggefiber and cooperate with CityNet, DTAG's to be a customer of some alternative operators, Telstra's decision to start cooperating with the Aussie NBN, and Telecom NZ's to support Crown Fibre Holdings tend to suggest.

The Australian government this week published a detailed plan for NBN implementation, drafted by McKinsey consultants; the key points are that they're determined to build it, Telstra or no Telstra, that they are taking a relatively generous technical approach, and that the carrot for Telstra is revenue from layer zero access. The cost estimates are based on the assumption that 50% of the end points that get fibre will be reached with point-to-point fibre, and the rest with splitters from a shared fibre, and that the 10% of Australian subscribers too scattered to get fibre will be served with 2.3GHz LTE radio or Ka-band satellite. The project remains incredibly ambitious - it will require 5,000 truck rolls to customer premises every working day for eight years, although the good news is that somewhere between 50 and 80% of Telstra's 100,000 route km of ducts has space available. The document is available here, and there's a wiki for your contributions.

In the US, meanwhile, there may be a launch customer for the latest proposed satellite broadband network. T-Mobile USA is apparently interested in wholesaling capacity if Harbinger ever gets off the ground. Clearwire, it turns out, has got Intel (which is both a key supplier and also a major investor) to alter their original agreement and take out a clause requiring Clearwire to use exclusively WiMAX. Connected Planet is nicely sceptical that there is much point charging off after the LTE wild goose; this Dilbert cartoon applies.

Benoit Felten is concerned that Free.fr is turning into...a telco, especially after he spots the CEO moaning about Google using their network for "free". Felten makes the excellent point, which cannot be made often enough, that this simply ignores the entire wholesale transit and peering market, or to put it another way, the Internet.

Orange UK is getting onto the bandwagon of data re-pricing; "unlimited" is now £35 a month if you're signing on for 18 months, whereas the lower tiers seem to be arranged to cut prices for lower usage brackets and create incentives to sign on for long-term service. An innovation is that you can pick one of a number of "happy hours" during which you can hammer the network as hard as you can; these are presumably periods of low network utilisation. Just the moment for a spot of Rapidshare, or maybe just to get your software updates... There are, of course, silly names for the tariffs (Panther, Dolphin, Raccoon).

Orange also announced iPad data rates, which are going to be usage-billed at 5p/MB up to a maximum of £40 or 800MB. If you blow the limit, you'll be billed at 5p/MB, which is a slightly strange use of the word "limit". There are also ad-hoc options and plans that include BT Openzone WLAN access. HD video in Apple's H.264 format runs about 8Mbits/s, which you'd be lucky to get on HSPA; that would suggest that lucky iPad users would blow through the cap in 13.3 minutes of streaming video. Of course, the iPad's features include the special nonstandard SIM so you can't just use the cheaper data plan in the paragraph above...

Wired suggests 5 things Apple could do to avoid being seen as "evil"; the key one would seem to be publishing the rules of the App Store. At the moment, it's impossible to know if you're breaking the rules. Yhere was a writer in 1980s Hungary who used to argue that he actually wanted censorship, in the sense that there should be an official censor who acted according to rules made public, while the Party really wanted a vague generalised menace that would lead people to self-censor.

Wired also asks an important question about Facebook and privacy - what, exactly, is personal data? This is something we've been thinking about; we used to liken personally-identifying information and other information to plutonium and potatoes, but perhaps uranium would be more like it. If you've got uranium, it's a matter of spending enough time and energy to enrich it to the point at which it becomes a useful source of electricity; but it's only a matter of keeping the enrichment going further to get it to weapons-grade. And even if you mix it back down, you can still re-enrich it back up, as long as you're willing to put in the time and burn the electricity to drive the centrifuges. If we can derive important insights about people from non-personal data, like Sense Networks do when they identify potential churners, at what point does the information stop being non-personal?

Facebook knows what kind of answer it would give; it's hiring more and scarier lobbyists. And so does the European Parliament; they're holding up votes on international data sharing agreements.

The slow march towards an acceptable developer platform for Nokia/Symbian devices is making progress; the new Qt SDK is available as a free download for Windows, Mac, or Linux machines, which lets you build the same application for S60 and Maemo/Meego Linux devices at the same time. Hurrah. Nokia also announced the first Microsoft application built for S60, a client for the Office Communications Server UC system. Smartphone shipment figures, meanwhile, are here.

Nokia in Brazil has announced an app that supports Brazil's homegrown interactive mobile-TV standard.

Motorola has acquired "hardcore mobile Linux developers" Azingo, the first firm to get a LiMo implementation working, in an effort to trim their dependence on Android.

Is there anything that the Apple-Adobe row doesn't affect? It turns out that it's holding up ARM-based netbooks. PlayStation 3 owners whose devices were remotely updated by Sony to stop them running Linux are suing. Strange phenomena in trading platforms. The international politics of DNSSEC; but professionals worry about BGP security. France may be seeing unwinding of multi-device ownership. Hardly anyone encrypts telephony. Cory Doctorow gets phished. An author's view of e-books. Alcohol: there's an app for that!