Telco 2.0 News Review

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[Ed: Diary reminder for our upcoming Telco 2.0 Brainstorms in Americas, 5-7 April, EMEA, 11-13 May, and APAC 22-23 June 2011.]

Renesys reports that Internet traffic through Japanese IXen fell by 25 Gbps immediately after the magnitude 9 earthquake struck, but it returned to normal levels by the end of the day. You may have to stop updating Facebook to hide in a doorway, but it seems it takes more than apocalyptic devastation by the awe-inspiring powers of nature to faze a Japanese network administrator.

Data Center Knowledge has a special report on how they did it and the state of the art in general. However, it seems that voice service has suffered more than the Internet, and at one point 20 million lines were out of service due to a submarine cable break.

Notably, the APCN-2 cable was reported to have been damaged, but carriers succeeded in rerouting traffic around it. Salesforce.com issued a service update saying that they had made changes to their internal routing after noticing high latency on some transpacific links.

Hardware manufacturers will be watching the situation in their supply chains very closely. 6 Sony plants are in the disaster area and have shut down at least temporarily, producing among other things Li-ion batteries. Unfortunately, it looks like a major manufacturer of tantalum capacitors, as used in the Apple iProducts, is located where the damaged nuclear power station is.

Chinese newspaper Caixin Online has an interesting story on Huawei's strategy. They have confirmed their place as the world's second biggest network hardware vendor behind Ericsson, but they're now facing a major strategic reassessment. Quite simply, they've succeeded in commoditising the market, but the problem with commoditisation is that it cuts both ways - they are, as the piece puts it, swimming in a sea of telecoms gear. The world is full of cheap equipment.

As a result, Huawei management wants to change course and emphasise customer service and software. One stratgy they are planning is to create a succession of "innovation centres" aligned with key accounts and markets, which are meant to bring key technical staff into contact with their major customers (the Vodafone, China Telecom, and Telefonica centres are already open), an idea borrowed from IBM.

CEO Ren Zhengfei thinks that the company needs to become one of the three biggest cloud computing providers, and considers that Nokia Siemens Networks remains a threat because of its ability to innovate and its strength in fully outsourced managed services.

Elsewhere on the broadband beat, The Register goes for a day out with the BT fibre installers. If you want to see the process in detail, that's the place to go. Note that BT is splitting GPON fibre-to-the-home 32 ways, and an installation takes up to 7 hours, whereas Verizon FiOS does 64 subscribers per fibre. It may sound perverse, but we find the economics of these operational decisions fascinating - they can make a huge difference to the end-result for customers and operators alike.

BT's arch-rival Virgin Media is in a bit of trouble after customers panned its new "Superhub" CPE - apparently the Netgear-sourced gadget keeps falling over and is struggling to push packets at the rate their co-ax infrastructure will deliver them. But then, even hyper-geeky Andrews & Arnold have had a disaster with the Comtrend low-cost IPv6 routers they've been handing out. It looks like, rather than being low-cost, they were just cheap.

The Broadband Stakeholder Group's code of practice on traffic management is coming, and the major UK ISPs will publish details of their policy in the next few months.

An Aussie hacker has created a set of truly impressive map mashups detailing Australia's cell sites, in order to answer the question of whether Vodafone Hutchison Australia's service has actually improved at all in the run-up to their huge Huawei-driven upgrade.

And it looks like O2 UK has a contract to provide M2M connectivity for smart meters, with some 400,000 SIM cards.

If you're still running one of the non-updated Skype clients (Mac or Linux), think yourself lucky - it was the week adverts came to Skype. It looks like they're going to make an effort to monetise some of the enormous volumes of free Skype-to-Skype telephony. There's more detail in the official Skype blog.

Inevitably, some people are already thinking about how to block the adverts. (We suspect Phil Wolff's request for a SkypeKit developer key is not going to be facilitated by that post.)

In other Voice 2.0 news, the Google Talk client embedded into GMail will now highlight phone numbers it notices in your e-mail to let you click-to-dial them. (What happens if you already had a Skype extension installed that turns them into Skype callto:// URIs?) However, after Google Voice users briefly got SIP support last week, it looks like Google has turned it off again.

Tools: Voxeo has announced a new version of its Phono SDK, which lets you build voice and instant messaging applications in web pages using XMPP, SIP, and the popular jQuery JavaScript framework. Improvements include better echo cancelling - and doesn't that have a charmingly telcoish sound to it... Over the way at Tropo, they've got an update out to improve their integration with Asterisk.

And Verizon is shutting down its speaking clock and weather forecast numbers. We can remember when BT had a short-number value added service that read out the current cricket scores - try searching Google for that, it's as if it had never existed.

Meanwhile, progress marches on. It says here. Salesforce.com is planning to build a string of its own data centres around the world - so far, they've managed to operate their gigantic cloud with 3,000 machines spread around seven locations. With 93,000 companies as customers, that implies that each of their servers is shared by 31 organisations. They must be some servers.

Yahoo! is planning to spend $500 million building big data centres and consolidating some of the ones it has already. Betfair says that its recent technical problems are linked to the decision to move its data centre to Ireland (their engineering team have been too busy to keep up with change requests).

And if you want a cloud computing use case, the Amazon Web Services blog has one for you. Thursdate is a dating site that only exists on Thursdays, saving up the whole week for a burst of frantic seduction on Thursday afternoons as its customers dash to get hooked up for Saturday night. As a result, it needs a signup page for most of the week and heavy database-churning power for one day only. No surprise they decided to run it in Amazon EC2.

Elsewhere in the cloud, Microsoft's marketing team for Bing decided to use the power of social media to spread the word. That, and the Japanese earthquake. Failure ensued. Meanwhile, Windows Phone 7 is expected to get copy-and-paste functionality in the next two weeks, and among other things, "Twitter functionality". What's Twitter doing in an operating system anyway? On the other hand, the top-rated app for Facebook messaging is Windows Live Messenger.

It's been reported that the secret sauce in the Microsoft-Nokia deal was hard cash, $1bn of it from Microsoft to Nokia in exchange for signing up with them rather than Google. As the Chinese say these days, "Serve the People, with the People's Currency". Meanwhile, there's another take on how Symbian user interfaces got like that over here. And Nokia has announced "IdeasProject", a call for good ideas for apps.

Will Microsoft start streaming content to XBox users? Someone else has noticed that they're integrating the XBox with their Mediaroom video-distribution back-end product, something of a stealth hit. (We covered this some time ago.) Interestingly, there's talk of MS using carrier partners to bring it to market.

Clearwire's troubles continue - now it's being sued by the users, who allege that it throttled their service in defiance of its own terms of service. They also claim it acted fraudulently by selling new accounts before the infrastructure was in place. At the same time, it's raining executives - Vodafone veteran Bill Morrow, who was brought in to oversee the network build as CEO when they secured funding, is out, as is the CIO and the Chief Commercial Officer. Founder and chairman John Stanton is back as CEO, possibly because there's nobody else.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has thrown them a lifeline, though, telling a Deutsche Bank analyst conference that all Sprint's plans involved both Clearwire and its WiMAX network in some form. The point is made that having CDMA, LTE, and WiMAX nets in the same company would be a nightmare, but in fairness it's no crazier than the old standby of quiet days on the stock market, a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. Integrate this!

Meanwhile, Open Range has become LightSquared's first customer - more precisely, it's going to lease spectrum from LightSquared and also sign a roaming agreement. OR has a similar plan - mixed land mobile and satellite - to LightSquared, just it's with WiMAX rather than LTE and the spectrum came from satellite operator Globalstar. Recently, Globalstar unwisely strayed out of their spectrum band and the FCC has demanded that OR move. This is going to be complicated.

There's another of those "estimating smartphone market share from mobile ad serving numbers" exercises around - InMobi reckons that Apple is still just about in the lead in Europe, with Android coming up fast and everyone else suffering. Meanwhile, Apple is said to hold three-quarters of the tablet market. And the PlayStation Phone has a launch date.

The Pwn20wn contest at this year's CanSecWest hacker conference unsurprisingly brought up new exploits for iPhone and BlackBerry OS. Not surprisingly, again, they were both in the web browser.

But nobody expected this: some cars' onboard electronics can be compromised by malicious code inserted into a MP3 song burned onto a CD and played on the car stereo. Ouch. Vodafone's Corporate Social Responsibility site got hacked by UK Uncut tax-evasion protestors. And it looks like we're going to find out who sold the Egyptian secret police all their spying gear.

Hackers have discovered a secret Google music service - it seems that there is functionality in the latest releases of Android to sync your music collection with servers in the Google cloud. Details are on the XDA Developers forum - now there's a name to remind you of 2005. It's probably fair to say that if you were hacking the XDA, you're hardcore.

Meanwhile, YouTube is hiring, heavily, mostly in Mountain View.

The Wall Street Journal reckons it has 150,000 subscribers on Kindles or iPads. Carphone Warehouse is starting to sell the Kindles, like other retailers, but unlike them, it's giving them away with long-term phone contracts. Is there nothing this industry won't subsidise?

It looks like being an AOL division doesn't suit most of the people who run Engadget, specifically the bit about editing the news to suit the advertisers.

In regulatory news, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski may get the job of US Secretary of Commerce, a fairly obscure post that does however come with responsibility for NTIA and the contracts that govern the operations of ICANN and IANA. Viviane Reding wants opt-in only for anything that stores your data. Hacking the UK numbering plan rules, with a few WLAN routers. And OFCOM is giving the UK defence establishment spectrum licences - this is important because until now, the military didn't have licences. Without licences, they can't be induced to give any up.

Twitter falls out with the devs. Interviews with Bruce Schneier. Egyptian revolutionaries crowdsource the identity of secret policemen - and Yahoo! tries to stop them.