Telco 2.0 News Review

Posted on


Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed - join us with Lightsquared, Google, and lots on broadband economics and disruptive strategies at the EMEA Telco 2.0 Brainstorms, London, 9-10 November 2010, and the AMERICAS Brainstorm on 27-28 October, L.A.]

Some doubted it, but the UK is getting regulated access to BT ducts at last, as well as dark fibre unbundling on BT's FTTx network. The settlement suggests that BT will keep the right to price access to its fibre and layer zero infrastructure as a wholesale product, on condition that the same prices are charged by BT Openreach to BT Retail, and that they keep competing with Virgin Media's cable net. Well, they're unlikely to stop...

As a result, this story is somewhat less embarrassing than it might otherwise have been. Slovenia is aiming for 70% fibre coverage by 2015 as opposed to the UK's 66% target. But at least there's now a chance of better times ahead. We've still got the infamous fibre tax to worry about though.

In Australia, of course, they took a different course and just decided to overbuild the whole damn lot with publicly owned fibre. Telstra is planning to fill up those pipes with high-quality TV, using an adaptive streaming solution from Widevine. As well as multicast, this system constantly measures the quality of each link and adjusts the video stream to maintain quality of service - a radically different approach from most telcos' ideas of "QoS".

More details on Google TV are emerging, with Logitech pricing one of the first devices at $299. New buzzword watch: to "fling", as in "I flung that video on my mobile at the TV". An improvement on flinging your mobile phone at the TV, we presume. The opposite function is fairly well served by things like Slingbox - here's another version, in which you can take your Verizon FiOS TV away on a mobile device.

It's being suggested again that YouView, ex-Project Canvas, is going to be subject to yet more scrutiny by OFCOM.

LightSquared's plans are taking shape - as well as the mammoth deal with NSN for the build-out, they've got a deal with Nokia for devices and Qualcomm for chips to support their slightly eccentric 1600MHz LTE mixed cellular/satellite network. There are also interesting clues about the business model in there - apparently they're looking at white-label devices as well as wholesale connectivity, via a partnership with AnyData.

Nokia is also in the middle of efforts to tackle the smartphone device aggression problem, which are concentrated at the moment on femtocell kit. The keyword to remember is "fast dormancy". Meanwhile, RevK is trying to ping his iPad and learning all sorts of things about the UMTS radio-paging channels.

You'll surely remember from last week that Nokia is providing a new API that lets you let your devices sleep in the powersaving idle state, and then wake up when you want to notify them of something. Here comes competition - HTC is launching a new service platform that provides a variety of device management functions for developers. Remind us why it's so hard to get this stuff from operators again?

Meanwhile, the VP of MeeGo devices at Nokia quits, for "personal reasons". Thud. Scream. Thud. The purge continues.

Elsewhere, WAC is seeking comments on the draft specification, which has been published as a wiki. Here's your chance to influence it into the paths of righteousness.

HTC is annoying its community of Android power users, having discovered a way to roll back the jailbreak procedure used to get root access to the phones. It's still possible, but the break only lasts until the next reboot - which will always be near, given typical Android power consumption.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has claimed that Android is profitable, on the rather sketchy basis that it encourages people to go online and therefore increases Google's advertising revenues. It doesn't seem that obvious, to put it mildly, that large percentages of current Android users weren't online before they got an Android phone.

Android developers may soon have the choice of selling through Android Market or a new Amazon app store, so Schmidt's remark may be even more unlikely soon.

In other Google news, GOOG-411, the voice search service, is being discontinued. Interestingly, Googlers asked about seem to be quite open about the fact that they never had a business plan for the service and that it only existed as a testbed for their speech-to-text technology. Apparently this now works to their satisfaction and they no longer need to record bulk speech for samples.

So, what is a Microsoft Windows Phone 7 developer day like? Here's a report from the field. The first interesting point is that Microsoft's strategy still seems weird. Who is likely to develop Microsoft mobile applications? Obviously, the (huge) existing base of Microsoft shops. Who will pay for them? Obviously, those MS developers' existing customers, the (huge) installed base of businesses that run Microsoft for everything. So, obviously, MS is doing all it can to get them the latest and greatest version of their technology?

No. Participants who expressed an interest in business projects were told to stick with Windows Mobile 6.5. There's certainly something ironic about MSFT encouraging people not to update, but we really wonder if this makes any sense at all. After all, the new and improved version of the Visual Studio mobile plugins, and a new developer tool, Blend, are only available for Phone 7. Also, you've absolutely got to develop in MS Silverlight using either Visual Studio or Blend, but then if this worried you, you'd already have moved to Linux (or whatever).

Also, there's very little multitasking support and no native database. Customers have noticed: Verizon's COO Lowell McAdam says that there are three major mobile OSs and they are BlackBerry OS, Android, and Apple iOS. Microsoft is "not at the forefront of our mind". Ouch. Nokia can't be very pleased either. Microsoft's in-game advertising company, Massive, has closed down, and the less said about the idea of an Microsoft-Adobe merger, the better.

McAdam also gave some details of the LTE roll-out plan.

Meanwhile, Motorola announced three more 'droids including a combined touchscreen-and-QWERTY, business-focused device. Fortunately, Microsoft has a solution: they're going to sue. There's a helpful visualisation of mobile industry lawsuits here, which seem to be driven by two highly litigious no-name companies.

More news about Skype for Android - the new full-fat version won't let you do VoIP over 3G, but only if you're in the United States. The opposite is of course true of the "old" Verizon Wireless/Skype app, which would do psuedo-Skype over the cellular network. Inevitably, an use the Activity Streams protocol to squirt Skype events into other social networks.

Medical students get issued iPhones for fieldwork. Meanwhile, Kenya is collecting epidemiological data in real time using much less expensive kit.

Vimpelcom and Orascom merge. In other merger news, EverythingEverywhere brings that famous Orange/France Telecom knack for industrial harmony to the UK, as employees are notified that their jobs are at risk by a traffic light turning green, yellow, or red in front of a mass meeting. Meanwhile, some Foxconn shifts consist of up to 50% unpaid student interns.

Vodafone is planning a major drive for PAYG market share in the UK, with a mixture of heavy advertising and giveaways.

KPN, meanwhile, has discovered a new source of voice revenue - providing pseudo-voicemail on lines where there's no voicemail, which means they can cash a termination fee on any call that goes unanswered. Neat, and possibly illegal.

Turkcell has become a major wholesale customer of DTAG, in preparation for the launch of an MVNO targeted on millions of Turks living in Germany.

Twitter is getting excited about advertising, so much so that the founder Evan Williams has been replaced by the ad chief.

It was the week they made a movie about Mark Zuckerberg. As if to celebrate, Facebook has a new privacy disaster. It seems that the iPhone app will slurp all the phone numbers on your device and try to match them with Facebook users, rather guessily, and that this information will then escape through the Open Graph API. Hacker Tom Scott demonstrates the possibilities.

You can now dump all the information Facebook has on you, or at least everything it admits to having on you, although F-Secure reckons that this should require more confirmation than just your Facebook password. Good luck getting that implemented.

How Google organises its search index. Can telcos improve by being cloud computing customers? And are they in a position to deliver the mobile wallet? In Germany, they're going to try, bringing back MPass from the deep past to support NFC payments and interworking with the new German ID cards.

Brough Turner presents on the technical advances in Wi-Fi and his new mesh-network ISP NetBlazr. Bruce Schneier brings a sceptical look at the Stuxnet worm. The first RFC sponsored by a nightclub - Zawinski of course.