Telco 2.0 News Review

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[Ed - a reminder that the 'Early Bird' discount ends for the EMEA Telco 2.0 Brainstorms, London, 9-10 November 2010, and that the AMERICAS Brainstorm is on 27-28 October, L.A.]

About 35% of mobile data is accounted for by streaming video, and 40% of that is YouTube, says Allot's Mobile Trends report. Meanwhile, VoIP is 3%, but it's growing at 83% year on year. So it's no surprise that Skype is eating the world, again. Facebook wants a deal under which Skype would handle user-to-user voice for their half a billion or so users.

Computer Weekly, meanwhile, loves Avaya's new enterprise video conferencing/collaboration tablet. The key ingredient, it turns out, is Skype Connect, as Phil Wolff's Skype Journal informs us. The enterprise-voice workhorse is planning to integrate the SIP version of Skype into all its products starting in the second half of 2011.

Phil also points out that the various thin client/SIP Skype products, which unlike "real" Skype nodes rely on a client-server architecture, are based in a flock of data centres operated by Verizon Business. So that would explain why VZ has been so happy to let its users Skype as much as they like - they're making money on the rackspace. And handling the irksome CALEA lawful intercept requirements, too.

Wolff has more Skype-Facebook love here, and reports that the new contacts import tool is decidedly suboptimal. He's also got posts on Skype for Schools and for the High Holidays, a discussion of whether the Torah permits you to Skype into prayers.

Inevitably, this all leads to a round of caffeinated merger speculation. Om Malik thinks Facebook should buy Skype, pointing to their sort-of valuation at $33bn. Well. What about the other way round? As 37Signals points out, if Facebook is so rich, why hasn't it got more money? And who on earth believes it's 7.5 times as good a business as Google?

Now Skype has actual, kickable cash flow and profits, rather than shares that aren't actually traded on an exchange, and doesn't do things like this. Bad API documentation, but that's relatively trivial. This is much worse.

"Instant Personalisation" lets third-party websites get access to Facebook Connect information on users who are currently logged in, without any user action. The really bad thing here, as 33Bits points out, is that this could mean any web site could get this information and do whatever it likes with it through the well-known XSS (cross-site scripting) attack. And don't even think about what might happen if someone found a way to embed such an attack into a "share this" widget or an advert, deployed on many, many other websites. Peter Kirwan has more scepticism at Wired. Meanwhile, why on earth would you do a 5-for-1 split on shares that aren't traded?

The Ministry of Defence is concerned about Facebook Places, and especially its nasty habit of showing your location without your active intervention. Soldiers have been advised to disable it for fear of being stalked by terrorists.

It's Startup Camp: Comms soon enough, and just look at this list of innovators in voice, video, and messaging. The secret is that they got Thomas Howe to pick.

Hulu commences monetisation - and the new business model is very much like the old one. Essentially, it's a subscription of $9.99 a month, which gets you more content out of the owners' (ABC, NBC, and Fox) vast archives of TV. More interestingly, they're also looking at partnering with some of the better-TV device makers like TiVo and Roku, and planning to recruit higher-rate advertisers for the new service.

The company's revenues were $100m last year - readers may recall that we expected it would be significantly harder for Hulu to get to breakeven than YouTube. Moving back to a subscription model is one way to tackle this, but we wonder whether it will beat the "apparently free" model that the premium channels on YouTube provide.

While the content rightsholders are busy pushing video at us, what's happening with the wires? BT Openreach announced the latest 159 local exchanges to appear on the fibre-to-the-cabinet timetable - some of them are even marked as getting fibre to the premises. And they're asking the public where they should send the big white vans next.

Sort of. The "Race to Infinity" is being organised by BT Retail, rather than Openreach, so it's not taking account of demand from wholesale customers like unbundlers. As there's a minimum threshold of 1,000 votes to be considered at all, it excludes the smallest exchanges - which are usually the ones that don't get broadband even now. And there's a maximum of five additional roll-outs.

In better news, the EU's Regional Development Fund is paying half the cost of deploying fibre in Cornwall, with about 50% of the deployment making it to the customer premises. Meanwhile, Algeria Telecom is planning to move from a trial to 250,000 100Mbps lines. (Are we bitter about this? Yes, we are.)

No amount of good ideas or good technology can overcome dire execution. Rudolf van der Berg reports on KPN's services over fibre and their horrible customer service record. Pro tip: it's a bad sign when your field service engineers are offering to do the install cheaper for cash, pocketing the money, and leaving the transaction unrecorded.

He also costs out Belgium's heaviest Internet user and discovers that even multi-terabyte monthly usage might be profitable. No wonder Dave Burstein reports that video-throttling firm Zeugma has failed.

Google Voice is coming, to the Apple App Store. It's probably fair to say that a whole stack of mobile VoIP apps are holding behind it. Meanwhile, apps developers are satisfied with Apple and profitable, a survey finds.

Getting back to the evil news for a while, a trojan is spreading on Symbian and BlackBerry devices that threatens the security of mobile payments and other SMS-based two-factor authentication applications. Basically, it monitors your messaging inbox and informs its evil masters. Technical details are here - the really worrying bit is that the virus was correctly Symbian Signed, and it posed as a "Nokia update". The certificate used for the signing has been revoked, but you have to wonder whether all the Symbian Signing palaver is worth it if you can get your malware signed...

Or you don't, if you work for Samsung, which has pulled out of Symbian development.

Meanwhile, Graham Cluley at Sophos blogs on a new spin on the old dialler trojans everyone grew to hate in the early 2000s - this time it's mobile, and it makes calls to rented "virtual numbers". Neatly combining the themes of Voice 2.0 and evil, Vox Sciences gets caught spamming former Spinvox customers.

And beware creepy Android apps - a significant percentage of them are secretly sending home phone numbers and GPS locations. A paper is expected on the topic at USENIX.

AT&T launches better voicemail, which integrates U-Verse (FTTC) voicemail with AT&T Wireless voicemail and provides a visual interface for the whole thing, with a Web version for the PC. Now that's more like it. Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless has to refund $60m in data charges to its customers.

T-Mobile USA has kiboshed the Clearwire merger story, as chief network officer Neville Ray described WiMAX as "niche" and expressed a strong preference for LTE. (Ray is surely an ideal surname for a mobile network engineer.) T-Mobile has also got an impressive new HTC Android device, with their own videochat app, HSPA+, and DLNA media server capabilities.

Microsoft, meanwhile, sued Motorola over alleged patent violations. Given that they include "scheduling meetings", "synchronising e-mail", and "notifying applications of changes in device battery level", it's going to be somewhat difficult to demonstrate prior art. Is it just us, or are patent disputes getting a bit dated?

Nokia announces a genuinely useful innovation - the Ovi Notifications API, which extends the well-known XMPP protocol to provide a generic push-notification capability for apps on Nokia devices. The key thing here is that this makes it possible to have a single connection for all the apps, and to make use of the low-level radio wake-up channel - thus doing your battery a power of good. Operators could have done this years ago. Also, the N8s are finally on their way.

Pieter Knook is out at Vodafone, in the wake of Vodafone 360's troubles. As are 1,200 Orange UK and T-Mobile employees, as EverythingEverywhere sets about de-duplicating.

Interesting thoughts on APIs and open source strategy from the head of Canonical.

IDC reckons Apple iAds are 21% of the mobile ad market.

The EFF rejoices after getting the Leahy internet-censorship bill kicked down the road, after an awe inspiring list of Internet engineering heroes protested.

Microsoft gives up on blogs, hands over Live Spaces users to Wordpress.com.

TomTom = the world's 137th biggest mobile market. iPhones for sense your moods. (Some N97 users found theirs could tell when they were frustrated - they flew across rooms and shattered.) Kenya's broadband price war. Marketing IPv6. The sticky end of ACS:Law.