Telco 2.0 News Review

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

Benoit Felten, Yankee Group fibre analyst, raves over the Freebox Revolution, which as it turns out also breaches the last holdout of volume pricing for voice - all calls to mobile devices, as well as to landlines in 103 territories, are now bundled. (Does that leave anything? Antarctica? Inmarsat shore-to-ship? The International Space Station? But you can call the ISS by ham radio for nothing...) While Felten raves, so does Dave Burstein of DSLPrime.

French-speaking readers can read a detailed technical briefing here. Not only does the Player media-centre element have an Intel Atom netbook CPU, the Server network/fileserver element has a 1GHz class ARM-based system-on-a-chip, speakers so it can play at being a web-radio or hi-fi streamer as well, and an integrated BitTorrent client to help fill up the hard disk with content, no matter where it comes from. Note also that the marketing department at Free has bulked up to a total of four employees.

The same French blogger has a very detailed review of the box's software and user interface components. It's clearly an attempt at a complete replacement of the TV experience, integrating Web video, catch-up streaming (which you pay for - there's a business model for you), BitTorrent and other download or sideload to local storage, and classical digital-terrestrial TV. The user interface is written using Nokia Qt and specifically its QML scripting language, and the Web browser is Free's own development based on WebKit, the open-source browser engine that is found in Safari, Chrome, Konqueror, and the Nokia browser. As a result, some people are asking if this is the first major MeeGo product - it contains Intel and ARM chips, it's a Linux, with a GUI built in QML, and a Web browser based on WebKit.

And there's more: something on the business model and pricing, which is arranged to protect the headline pricing. Upgrading subscribers will have to pay, but the pricing is tapered so that the longer you've been a customer, the less you pay. There's an attempt at a teardown analysis here, which concludes that the BOM is of the order of $200. However, it's pointed out elsewhere, Free is almost certainly now the biggest customer for the Intel Sodaville chips and could expect to get them at attractive rates.

The big question, in the light of Free's 3G licence, is whether or not there is a femtocell integrated in the device. Xavier Niel didn't mention any such thing at the launch although he's suggested it before. Until the devices actually ship, it's impossible to open the box and check (and equally impossible to do an iSuppli-style full teardown). It's possible that the hardware is present and will be activated at some point in the future via a software update, or alternatively that the boxes are, as they say in the Navy, "fitted for, but not with" and that femto capability would arrive as an expansion card.

While Niel's Rafale squadron blasted off into the Christmas rush, things were very different at Google. It appears that Google has asked vendors working on Google TV products to make themselves scarce during CES, the monster electronics shindig in Las Vegas in the first week of January. So it seems that the deals with the content providers are stalled, the business model is far from clear, and the product is still too beta to show its face in public. Apart from that, it's a roaring success.

Google does have a new shiny gadget out, the Google Nexus S - this Googlephone is actually a Samsung product and its key new features are that it has the new version (2.3) of Android, NFC support, a "slightly curved" screen (hmm...), and no expandable storage slot. Apparently you're meant to keep all your stuff in the cloud, which has obvious downsides for a mobile device. To begin with, it retailed in the UK for £549 - until Carphone Warehouse slashed the price by £120. Not moving too well? Bizarrely, it can't send vCards as SMS/MMS messages for some reason.

Even if TV is looking dodgy and the Nexus S hasn't exploded off the starting blocks, Google can still be well pleased with 300,000 Androids being activated a day. However, we're not sure about "push search", which sounds far too much like an unusually pernicious form of spam, that or a script that regularly performs Google searches.

On the other hand, it looks like Android is all that keeps Verizon Wireless customers from deserting. There's quite a lot of BlackBerry bashing in that story, but they are unlikely to care, having just posted their best quarter ever. RIM upped its shipments 40% and its profits 45% year-on-year.

Google has also introduced a new version of Maps for Mobile, which includes 3D mapping and local caching of map data. Hardcore Nokians will no doubt point out this brings them right up to date with Ovi Maps - Telco 2.0 recalls seeing Nokia Research demonstrations of 3D mapping on mobile devices at 3GSM 2006. And you still can't pre-load mapping before you set out. But it won't matter, will it...

And Google's started selling e-books.

One problem with keeping all your stuff in the cloud is that sometimes clouds melt away. Yahoo! gave the impression this week that it was planning to close down the hugely popular online bookmarks site Delicious, to the horror of bloggers in general (who tend to be heavy users of it). They also worried Flickr users after news of layoffs there emerged. The upshot was a sudden explosion of traffic at subscription-only rival Pinboard as the migration began. Now they say it's all the press's fault and they really want to sell Delicious, not kill it. In the meantime, either the Delicious API or the Firefox extension, which stores your bookmarks locally, will work to salvage your data from the sinking ship.

In other cock-up news, Dan York of Voxeo and Disruptive Telephony is not happy that some companies are referring queries about Skype to his personal phone number. Which is especially amusing as Voxeo is a competitor to Skype in some markets. Skype also had a technically sporky moment this week.

Freetalk's new SMB IP-PBX box gets a good review from Tom Keating, who likes the Web-based GUI that also provides a range of unified comms features, likes the fact it's an Intel Atom-powered device running a fork of Asterisk, and also likes the fact it integrates with Skype in both directions - it can use Skype Connect for trunking, and also support Skype clients logging in.

Meanwhile, the Tropo Blog has interesting posts on detecting answering machines, integrating XMPP real-time messaging and signalling with VoIP, and doing the same as part of a web page.

Here it comes again: default-on parental filtering of the Internet. Politicians do love that one don't they? As usual, it looks like ISPs get to do it at their own expense without any legal authority behind them. Ho hum. RevK is spitting tacks.

Meanwhile, a Wikileaks disclosure shows that the US embassy tried to pressure Spain into passing a HADOPI-like law.

In pure connectivity news, the FCC gave details of the next lot of 700MHz auctions, scheduled for next July. 3 Scandinavia marks a data point of sorts: Sweden was one of the markets where Intel bought 2.6GHz spectrum as a foothold for potential WiMAX operators. Now 3's buying it back to cram in more 3G.

Relatedly, there is a problem with the UK Government's promise to find another 500MHz of spectrum. Namely, it's far from clear that the spectrum is actually available. An ill-thought out and vague policy announcement? Whatever next?

3 Italia, meanwhile, outsourced much of its network to Ericsson as a managed service.

3UK has brought back unlimited mobile broadband, daring the other UK operators to follow. The explanation is that they are feeling confident about their recent waves of investment. Andy Abramson at Voyces visits the UK and raves about 3's service - faster than anything AT&T can provide.

This comes at a price - 3UK dongle customers' £15 packages just went up by 3.7%.

The UK regulator, OFCOM, is planning to shake up number assignment and iron out some weird anomalies, like the local-rate 0845 prefix that actually costs more than any national call if you call it from a mobile phone. The proposals are open for consultations and make up a mere 482 pages.

Meanwhile, the Phorm case has been delayed yet again.

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh offers to testify in the inquiry into the auction of GSM licences.

Will we soon place servers at sea in order to get the lowest latency between major financial centres?

NBN Co wants to have peering in eight capital cities, Telstra, VHA, and Optus want 400 peering points, the Australian Competition Commission rules there should be 120. And the final NBN costs are estimated at A$40bn, with the state providing A$27.5bn of that. Revenues are expected to be around A$5bn a year, rising to A$7.6bn. The Aussies also do some interesting R&D.

Vodafone.pt and Optimus are sharing a fibre network.

Unmissable Arbor Networks ASERT blog post on today's DDOS attacks, Anonymous, Wikileaks and more.

Lawspammers having a bad day, again. Comment on UK government IT by the 21st January. Facebook scalability engineering and security disclosure policy. Using scratch-off codes and SMS to fight drug counterfeiting. The fate of Nortel's vast patent portfolio. Groupon as a two-sided business model.