Vodarizon, Free, HTC, RIM, Skype - Telco 2.0 News Review

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Registration is open now for Digital Arabia 2013. Here's a video showing something of the Telco 2.0 experience

Vodafone/Verizon: it's a deal (almost)

No doubt about the lead today: Vodarizon may be a done deal as soon as tomorrow or even this afternoon. Verizon is supposedly offering $60bn in cash, another $60bn in stock, plus some make-weight assets in exchange for the 45% stake in Verizon Wireless.

They might be sitting on a pile of money, but they won't have the source of half their profits, probably the world's premier LTE deployment, any more. The rumour-mill is already pushing a variety of potential things Vodafone could spend it on.

Reuters points out that re-allocating capital from US wireless into Spanish and Italian fixed doesn't exactly sound like the deal of the century, especially if the target (like Jazztel) is a DSL operator dependent on Telefonica wholesale lines. They might also buy one or more cable operators. Other ideas include Hutchison Europe - obviously! - or buying T-Mobile USA off DTAG. If DTAG wants to sell, of course. But if the US market is good enough that DTAG wouldn't sell, why not just keep VZW?

It's suggested here that Vodafone may have reasoned that price disruption will eventually come to the US. A key issue will be whether Vodafone gets to dump debt on VZW. A full announcement will be out once the markets close and the board votes tomorrow.

Hugo Dixon has a more positive view on the whole thing. The BBC reckons very little tax will be paid and about £17bn will be distributed to UK shareholders.

Free Mobile pushes on to 10% market share

Free has its H1 results out, and they are good. Free Mobile net-added another 1.6 million subscribers, taking it to 10% market share by subscribers and therefore overtaking our own predictions (9.1% for end-Q2). They also net-added 154,000 fixed subscribers. Overall, with the launch costs of the mobile network dropping out, net profits have gone from €78 million to €142 million year on year, on an EBITDA of €586 million at a margin of 32%. The mobile operation is now making money at the EBITDA level, too. The group was also cash positive again (€48 million, compared to a net outflow of €130 million). The fixed operation threw off €291 million, up 27%.

As we expected, margins improved noticeably when 900MHz spectrum became available, increasing their own coverage. The numbers are here. (Previous STL coverage is here and here.)

A new draft EU regulation makes no mention of the proposed caps on mobile roaming rates, after the E5 operators' (Orange, DTAG, Telefonica, Vodafone, and Telecom Italia) recent lobbying blitz. That said, Neelie Kroes's spokesman still insists that roaming fees must end. One of them is right, presumably. The proposal must be finalised by the 10th.

3UK has announced the end of roaming fees between its own networks, if only on calls back to the UK, which sounds more impressive if you didn't know that they already offered this as long ago as 2007 when I first became a customer.

Level(3) is cutting 700 jobs, 60 in the UK because "the company failed to hit its targets in Europe and the UK and customer satisfaction with Level 3 was at an all-time low."

Renesys has a look at the problems of running an Syrian ISP and notes that Tata Communications has ended service to Syria within the last week.

Kenya Airways is the Pride of Africa, they say, so it's almost a surprise you couldn't already buy a ticket through M-PESA. Now you can, so long as you're an MTN Uganda subscriber. Meanwhile, Econet Wireless has extended its remittances to include South Africa-Zimbabwe transfers.

HTC designers nicked; Q10 flop; the magic spell that kills iPhones

You're nicked! Did you think things were bad at HTC? You probably weren't expecting this - three executives, specifically the VP of product design, the director of R&D, and the senior manager of design and innovations, have been arrested on charges of stealing the company's intellectual property and also of claiming fraudulent commissions. Apparently they planned to start a new business selling...something...invented at HTC to Chinese ODMs.

The Wall Street Journal reports on sales of the BlackBerry Q10, and they're horrible.

"I think we'd all say that the Q10, the one we all thought was going to be the savior, just hit the ground and died," an executive at a Canadian carrier said. "It didn't drive the numbers that anybody expected."

Apparently, employees have been offered as many as 10 Z10s each at $100 a go. Bert Nordberg, who's just joined the board, is not willing to give up and says they can survive as a niche manufacturer.

Meanwhile, Apple's trade-in program begins, and for once Cupertino has a good disaster. Just displaying a specific sequence of unicode characters - specifically, some Arabic letters - crashes anything that uses the CoreText rendering library in iOS 6, including Safari, Messages, and the WLAN driver. So, anyone who can change the SSID on a wireless access point (or an Android phone) can create an Apple-denial forcefield.

With the right software setup, you could also jam 64 GSM calls a second, even if you don't want to spend big money on one of these.

Samsung's smartwatch is here and it's got a rather big screen.

Here Auto is Nokia's connected-car platform, while Windows Phone is sneaking up over 8% of the smartphone market in Europe.

And which of the "other" mobile OSs do people search the Web for? Jolla/Sailfish, it seems.

10 years of Skype; why use Opus?; great V2 use case; billing the spammers

It's been 10 years that we've had Skype, VoIP app to everyone and their dog. Dan York argues that although it's been hugely disruptive - notably to international voice pricing - it's no longer very interesting. Stuart Henshall agrees and argues that it's just become a feature - or has it? When Microsoft acquired Skype, we thought the first priority would be to create an API that would let it integrate into every application at MS, from Excel to PowerPoint to Dynamics to Visual Studio. More worrying for Skype is surely that it's not just a feature, but rather, a silo.

Ars Technica has a report that since Apple lost a patent lawsuit, it's had to route FaceTime traffic through relay servers living in Akamai and is running up complaints over quality. The source, though, is of doubtful quality itself.

Tsahi Levent-Levi discusses why people care about the Opus HD-voice codec, with a nice chart:

201309-Opus-comparison.jpg

Some interesting VoLTE internals.

Here's a nice example of what you can do with Voice 2.0 - a web service for natural-language apps, built on Tropo.

RevK discusses UK mobile number assignment, and it turns out that the letter of the law permits using a mobile number for a mobile-VoIP connection but not for call forwarding.

Sadly, the letter of the law is also against this clever man, who got so tired of cold-callers that he bought a premium rate number and handed that out to businesses that asked him for a phone number. Now, every time they call him, he makes money. Of course, any of them who sold or leaked their customer list will also have leaked the premium rate number into the spammer market. Meanwhile, he only hands out the real number to people he actually wants to talk to. The number paid for itself in two months, before the cold calls suddenly stopped coming...it's only a pity that the regulator may get shirty about this, because they may not have been informed of the rate.

That said, surely it would be the work of a moment to arrange a Twilio or whatever script that informs them?

LINX comes to America

The London Internet Exchange (LINX) is coming to America, planning to set up a carrier-neutral, membership-based IX like the ones Europeans are familiar with in northern Virginia. They're supported in this by OpenIX, a new group that's trying to spread IXen in north America. The social column notes the presence of networking legend Martin Hannigan, currently at Akamai, and Netflix's David Temkin on the board.

High Scalability has an excellent piece on the 20 biggest barriers to scalability, edited from ACM Queue.

And goodbye, Ken Brill, data-centre expert and Uptime Institute founder.

Post-Ballmer Microsoft; Google websites that demand specific browser versions

AllThingsD discusses post-Ballmer Microsoft, and notes that ValueAct, a fund manager, has succeeded in pushing itself onto the board although it only speaks for $2.2bn of the stock, or 0.79%. The piece is too involved to summarise, but it gives the strong impression that there might be a lot of change coming up.

Google has been making some distinctly "2005-y" design decisions in mobile websites, which is having an influence on its row with Microsoft over the YouTube app.

Polling Yahoo! users about the new logo.

Viki is a global TV streaming site with crowdsourced subtitles and it's just been acquired by Japanese retailer Rakuten. And some operators are better at giving away YouView boxes than others.