Telco 2.0 News Review

Posted on

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

It's been widely trailed, the FCC has spoken, and now it may be about to happen. The big US spectrum dump may happen as soon as today, when President Obama signs an executive order to start releasing the 500MHz of additional spectrum required for the National Broadband Plan (our response is here). NTIA is mandated to pick out spectrum allocations that the Feds currently aren't using and prepare for auctions, although some elements of the plan, notably the type of auction and the idea of reusing the proceeds for public-safety radio networks, will need approval from Congress.

It's official; the photo-optimised N8 will be the last of the main line of Symbian smartphones, as Nokia moves its flagship range to MeeGo Linux. It's not yet clear if the E-series enterprise gadgets, which are in many ways comparable with the N-series and sit in Anssi Vanjöki's division, are going the same way, but you wouldn't bet against it. Relatedly, Charles Davies, Psion's first employee and long-time pioneer of the industry as (among other things) CTO of Symbian and head of architecture at Nokia Research, is leaving Nokia to join several other ex-Psion figures at TomTom.

Since Vanjöki took control of Nokia's smartphones, software, and services, there's been a string of dramatic changes. Another is here; following the release of the Qt-based cross-platform SDK, Nokia is finally getting to grips with its developer infrastructure. The requirement to spend $210 in all and be a company in order to get the all-crucial Publisher ID is going; there's now a $50 signup, and a target of getting approval times down to less than 2 weeks. And there's an installer tool that automatically fetches whatever bits of Qt are missing in order to simplify deployment.

Now, if they could just integrate Python for S60 (and just ordinary Python for the Linux devices) in the SDK, they'd have a truly excellent product...

On the other hand, it may all be irrelevant. Google is activating 160,000 Androids a day, growing at 60% monthly. Sony Ericsson, the other major user of Symbian, seems to be concentrating on Android after having a relative success with the X10. Motorola launches another supergadget based on the platform. A survey shows, not surprisingly, that developers are fascinated by iPhone and Android (although MeeGo is beginning to gather buzz).

It's suggested that very little has been paid out for Android Market apps so far, but this may be an artefact of rapid growth from zero, and also the fact that Android developers are disproportionately drawn from the Linux community and a lot of material on the Android Market is free. Relatedly, this analysis of iPhone app economics would be interesting if it wasn't for the quite odd assumption that it costs on average $35,000 to develop an iPhone app - perhaps it does if you let a telco billing department try.

Samsung is warming up Bada, its developer platform that wraps LiMo and BONDI in a brand someone's actually heard of. Sensibly enough, the BONDI standard is being transferred to WAC, with the low-level standards work at OMTP being moved to the Open Mobile Alliance. OMTP boss Tim Raby is moving over to head the WAC.

RIM, meanwhile, shipments up 42 per cent. As they said at MWC, carrier billing is coming to the next version of RIM App World.

Last week, Microsoft announced quite a lot of different mobile platforms. The core product, Windows Phone 7, is their rival to MeeGo, RIM, iPhone OS, Android, etc. Apparently it's going to be "an ad-serving machine", with ads in the browser, inside apps, and also outside both the browser and any application context. That is to say, ads everywhere all the time. Microsoft calls the home-screen ads "Toast", and the jokes are already multiplying. Another cogent criticism of mobile ads is here, compressed into 140 characters.

Apple, however, has apparently decided to give its competitors a chance; hardly had the iPhone 4 (now with gyroscope) appeared, than people were complaining about it dropping calls if you held it the wrong way. Steve Jobs's remark that they shouldn't hold it like that is now inscribed in Internet folklore. If you still want one, UK pricing is rounded up here.

Also, Jobs has been summoned to make explanations to Congress about the new iPhone Ts & Cs, which they sneaked out under cover of the iHype, and which allow them to collect and resell location information without any further consent.

Here we go for another privacy row. Juniper Networks, the world no.2 in IP routers, is pitching a new product that adds a geocode to the HTTP headers passing through ISP networks, so that advertisers' Web servers can alter their responses based on location.

If you're desperate for video calls, Apple has an app for that - you can talk to a nice person from Apple, who might even answer your prayers for rain. Or something. Nokia Beta Labs, meanwhile, is looking for people to test an application for reading your kids a story remotely using video calling and screen sharing.

Cheap calls; there's an app for that. Rebtel is offering an Android app that takes over the dialler and sends your international calls via their VoIP service's PSTN dial-in number. Sweet, but on the other hand, most of the potential of better voice and messaging beyond cheap calls comes when you take over control of incoming calls, which has to happen in the network. Another cheap-calls mobile VoIP service, Vopium, announced a major fundraising and plans to "target Skype".

England's brief and disastrous World Cup campaign drove surges of traffic through the Internet. Eyeball networks reported 50-55% greater than normal streaming activity, while business-focused operator EasyNet Connect was up 225%. Interestingly, the BBC's service appears to have been much more robust than ITV's - showing the enduring truth that peering is the fundamental architecture of the Internet.

The UK government says Britain will have the best broadband infrastructure in Europe by 2015, with the expenditure of a maximum of £300m in public funds. They may have a different definition of the words "best" or "broadband" from the rest of us.

Meanwhile, it gets dramatic between Telefonica and Portugal Telecom. First, the two of them bought a fixed and a mobile operator in Brazil. They worked out a sort of Treaty of Tordesillas 2.0 under which the Spaniards would run the fixed operation and the Portuguese the mobile. Vivo, the mobile operator, has done very well, Telefonica is jealous, and wants to buy it out. The Portuguese refused. Now Telefonica is threatening to make an offer for the whole of PT. The Portuguese government says it will have a state bank and three major Portuguese institutions vote their stock against, and perhaps even make use of a golden share that gives it reserve powers over the operator.

It's rumoured that Verizon is pushing back against a new effort by Vodafone to extract a dividend from VZW.

They're also preparing to launch a variety of smart-grid and home automation services in their FiOS fibre triple-play bundles. And they aren't holding back on pure connectivity - they recently demonstrated gigabit service over the network, in a test campaign that looked very much like a response to Google's FTTH initiative.

Last week, the Australian government and Telstra came to an agreement about the National Broadband Network plan. As a result, things are falling into place. NBN Co has issued a shortlist of 21 contractors for the civil works. They've also tapped Alcatel-Lucent as the main supplier of GPON optical network gear, which is likely to be a monster of a contract, as much as $1.5bn. The fact that former Alcatel COO Mike Quigley, once considered Serge Tchuruk's likely successor as CEO, is the boss of NBN Co has given rise to certain suspicions, especially as the CFO is also ex-Alcatel.

At the same time, the Aussies are planning to auction 126MHz of new spectrum for some A$1bn. There's something odd about Australian attitudes to the Internet - on one hand, they're planning to fibre up every dunny from Birdsville to Thursday Island, on the other hand, they've been trying for years to impose a censorship firewall on the whole country. It's the classic Australian conflict between larrikins and wowserism, being played out in a new sphere. It looks, however, like the latest effort will fall when parliament dissolves for the coming general election.

O2, Orange, and Vodafone are planning a further trial of UMTS-TDD as a mobile-TV technology (they did this back in 2006 and it worked), which would fit in the unused TDD spectrum they got with their 3G licences and use the 3GPP's Mobile Broadcast-Multicast Subsystem standard in the back-end. Apparently you can now buy part of the system from Amdocs.

Aftershocks from the Indian 3G auction. State-owned MTNL, which got its spectrum earlier, is now offering national roaming agreements to the privately owned operators, who are desperate to save on deployment costs after paying through the nose for spectrum. On the other hand, BSNL, equally nationalised, is asking for time to pay over its BWA licence.

Another study shows no reason to worry about THE RAYS!, but it won't stop them.

Having got its way with OFCOM, BT is reselling Sky Sports 1 and 2 on BT Vision at low low prices. At the same time, Sky Italia announced price cuts - are we seeing the beginning of a content price war?

The BBC Trust gives Project Canvas the go. Spotify signs up more content. Share and archive your whiteboard. The Afghan Ministry of Communications orders AWCC to block "alcohol, dating, social networking, and pornography". Apparently there's alcohol in GMail - who knew? They blocked it anyway. And Twitter, but then, it certainly gives me a headache.