Telco 2.0 News Review

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Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. New Telco 2.0 Facebook analysis to be published this week, plus don't forget to pencil or key into your diaries the dates for the second FREE online Telco 2.0 Best Practice Live! 2-3 Feb 2011 and the next Executive Brainstorms in London, San Fransisco and Singapore.]

Network-sharing watch: MTN and Vodafone both outsource and share their towers in Ghana. A new company, part owned by American Tower and part by MTN, is taking over 1,876 Base Tranciever Stations (BTSs) for some $428m. At the same time, Millicom's Tanzanian network is parting with 1,020 BTSs for some $80m plus a block of shares in the tower company. And Tele2 and Telenor are building a shared fibre backbone.

Meanwhile, Vodafone Qatar completed LTE trials and deployed 17 base stations designed to look like minarets. Now there's lateral thinking for you, although we can't help suspecting that a base station designed to look like a church tower might stick out a little. Speaking of LTE, TeliaSonera turned on its LTE network in Denmark, while Elisa opened for wholesale customers around Espoo. Telia may be in the market for Swedish triple-play cableco ComHem, which is for sale.

Benoit Felten has a quick hit roundup of fibre news.

Brazil is auctioning the last round of the original 3G spectrum, with the odd detail that so far only Nextel is technically compliant with the bid requirements, on the grounds that it's an iDEN operator and therefore a new entrant to UMTS. That implies a shutdown of the iDEN network will eventually happen, and as it turns out, Sprint-Nextel USA is planning exactly that. The operator announced a $5bn wave of investment over the next three years with the goal of integrating its various networks into a single platform. The Nextel iDEN assets are going to be shut down in 2011, and Sprint is planning to migrate the special voice services over to their CDMA network next year.

The lucky beneficiaries are Ericsson, Samsung, and Alcatel-Lucent - the job is being split into three vertically integrated contracts divided up geographically, with ALU getting New York, Washington, and LA (so, the first and biggest three area codes in the NANP then - no pressure...) plus Boston and Philadelphia, Samsung getting Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Pittsburgh, and Ericsson getting Atlanta, Miami, Kansas City (Sprint's home turf), Houston, and Dallas.

If NSN lost out there, it's done well elsewhere, having landed an HSPA+ contract with Aircell to deploy in Punjab, Kolkata, and West Bengal. They also snagged Orange Armenia for HSPA+ data and HD voice.

Hong Kong's regulator OFTA announced the coming auction of 850, 900, and 2000MHz spectrum. A total of 20MHz of paired and 10MHz of unpaired/TDD spectrum is going, with the auction planned for February. According to OFTA, mobile data usage in the territory has gone from 32TB in December, 2007 to 1,236TB today, a factor of 38.

In other "data explosion" news, Telco 2.0 Alumni Joe Weinman, of AT&T has a two-part piece out in GigaOm on why he thinks volume pricing, or at least tiered pricing, for broadband is inevitable.

Google showed off a laptop running Chrome OS this week, essentially shoving the whole graphical user interface inside the web browser. A little like a Palm WebOS device, you might say. They also announced an app store for Chrome extensions - a little like Mozilla Add-ons, you might say.

Network analytics and design specialists Arieso churned through a day's logs from a major carrier in a major city, and concluded that the heaviest data users are the Androids. HTC Desire users pulled 41% more data than iPhone users. Interestingly, some Android users are also heavy uploaders, suggesting that there may be something to the notion that the iOS devices are fundamentally consumption-optimised. Samsung Galaxies, for example, pushed 126% more data uplink than iPhones.

Android 2.3 is coming, and according to Dan York @ Disruptive Telephony it includes a native SIP stack. Rather like a 2005-era Nokia N95 or E61, then. In fact the similarity goes further - carriers and OEMs will have a veto over whether the VoIP capability actually works or not in their devices. Way back when, Vodafone specified that the SIP stack in their Nokia N95s wouldn't work...although they left the E-series suit-o-phones intact. The OS will also gain support for NFC. There's a sample app here.

Meanwhile, York continues his HOWTO series on developing voice applications with Python and Tropo.com. The Tropo blog also points to Santa Call.

The Voice over IP Security Alliance has an interesting article on using the Nokia N900's powers for evil, specifically using it as a silent tracker bug.

Andy Rubin reiterated the claim that Android is a profitable operation, based on its share of mobile Google search activity, but didn't cite any numbers.

Skype has announced a special low-bandwidth version for the UN High Commission for Refugees, intended to provide a robust Skype service over latency- and bandwidth-constrained satellite IP terminals. Among other things, it naturally prioritises voice over video calls. There's no word yet as to whether it's a fully caffeinated Skype node, or whether it's another SIP-to-Skype thin client - given the application, it would certainly be useful to make sure calls within the local network were routed locally rather than transiting the backhaul twice. On the other hand, you probably wouldn't want to participate in the general P2P cloud and route other people's traffic - and they probably wouldn't want their Skype passing over your jittery VSAT, either.

Voyces reckons that the arrival of LTE and WiMAX will be big news for Voice 2.0 developers - it's not so much that there's more bandwidth, but the flatter network architectures mean less latency. It's worth adding that most of the HSPA products on the market now offer a flat network architecture or at least direct breakout of Internet traffic - NSN's Internet HSPA line has been doing this for some time.

Speaking of Skype, Skype Journal describes three different kinds of social graphs - one for relationships, one for tastes, and perhaps one for getting things done. SJ also asks why any game developer would implement their own chat when they could use Skype's new API. You could ask the same thing about Facebook, and indeed they did.

There's also an interesting new product out: OpenTok is a Web-based video conferencing tool with an extensive REST API for developers.

In other Voice 2.0 news, Microsoft is planning something interesting - they are pushing on with research into better integration between speech recognition and natural-language processing, in order to improve voice command functions. The first fruit of this work is the background voice command feature in the Kinect games controller, but if it works, there are obvious enterprise applications.

Yet another of those voice-web marketing integration companies, RingRevenue, has closed a major financing.

Here's a fascinating example of how much data is embedded in the CDR piles of major telcos. BT let a group of scientists analyse theirs, and the results are out in a paper for the open-source journal PLOS One. Having filtered out all numbers that only made or received calls, and therefore got rid of the call centres and robo-spammers, they analysed the rest as a massive directed multigraph, and discovered that the social geography of the UK is very different to its public perceptions.

Wales, for example, disappears and instead forms three regions closely integrated with the urban North, the cities of the West Midlands, and Bristol, which don't interact much. Similarly, the northern cities talk to each other and to North Wales, forming an integrated northern identity. There is an unnamed tech-corridor identity curving around the west side of London. But Scotland is better defined than ever.

Orange has rebranded and consolidated its developer environment, initially for Android only. They're also considering moving into Kurdistan.

Microsoft is making some tweaks to its Windows Phone 7 developer market. Computer Weekly reviews the HTC HD7 and concludes that it's the best Windows Phone 7 device, but that's not the same thing as saying it's the best device.

Also from Computer Weekly, how to get a public sector IT contract without really trying. It helps to be Oracle, apparently.

Salesforce.com has launched a new enterprise database product in the cloud, Database.com, targeting Oracle's smaller clients head on.

ZDNet relates the tale of how an unnamed tech CEO forgot to remove their passwords from a product-review gimmie smartphone. The shiny was later offered by the vendor's PR agency to a journalist, who discovered they could access the CEO's e-mail, messaging, contacts, call log, shared calendar, and some "personal" photos and video. (Stop. Stop. Don't make us think about it.)

Don't be naive about this - in Telco 2.0's tech journalist days, this used to happen all the damn time. PRs would receive the shinies from vendors and would then hand them progressively down the gravy-train, starting with the execs and working their way into the journalistic food chain. Time after time, they came complete with somebody else's e-mail and accompanying embarassment.

Amazon denies that last night's outage in Europe was anything to do with a counterattack from Anonymous over the Wikileaks affair. Tangaza is a mutually-owned money transfer company. Vodafone publishes tweets to #mademesmile hashtag on front page of vodafone.com, UK Uncut protestors notice, hilarious consequences.