Strategic Regulation, EU and USA: Telco 2.0 News Review

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Euroregulators: no more roaming charges, and would you like some net neutrality with that?

The European Parliament this week voted in favour of a package of measures put forward by Neelie Kroes, in the last months of her term in office at the European Commission.

The text would end intra-European retail roaming charges by the 15th of December, 2015, take measures to improve 4G and 5G spectrum management, and introduce strong net neutrality language into EU regulations. You can get the document here. Some more discussion is here. There are also more measures regarding marketing, which require operators to include "actual data speeds", whatever those are, in contractual terms.

The next step is the council of ministers, which could accept it or send it back with or without amendments to a parliament that voted for the current version 534 to 25. The big change here was that a provision that "specialised services" could be exempt, which had been added by the parliament's industry committee after heavy pressure from the telcos, was cut out.

Naturally, an epic storm of lobbying can be expected at the Council - as Chris Marsden's blog points out, ETNO is threatening as much.

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, there is so little interest in mobile TV that the regulator is looking at the possibility of clawing back the spectrum and refarming it for cellular. They're also looking at turfing the wireless microphones out of the 700s and refarming that in line with ITU recommendations.

And here's a fascinating loophole around the UK's new charge on E.164 number assignments.

Numericable gets SFR; Cinven makes 160% return; Sky Broadband, FTTH builder; new boss for Kinnevik

It's a result: Numericable has acquired SFR, despite Bouygues upping the ante with more cash at the last minute and despite the intervention of sundry French politicos. €13.5bn in cash, 20% of the combined company in shares, and a possible "milestone payment", and the company's yours. Numericable shares rose 17% on the news, while Bouygues and Iliad saw theirs drop 5%.

Meanwhile, the cableco's former owner, private-equity fund Cinven, said its internal rate of return on the deal was 160 per cent, and it intended to take €1.25bn in cash and keep the rest of its holding as shares in the combined holding company, Altice.

Vodafone Spain, meanwhile, says it's going to renegotiate Ono's debts, presumably on the grounds that a Vodafone division is dramatically more creditworthy than a not-very-profitable cableco. That will help deliver some immediate cost savings. They're also cancelling a MVNO agreement Ono had with Telefonica.

Barron's reckons Vodafone shares are 20% undervalued. Time to pile in, if you believe the European economy is going anywhere. Meanwhile, Vodafone UK is spending £100m on new shops and staff.

The growth of local-loop unbundled DSL has slowed down dramatically in the UK, perhaps because no-one is spending heavily promoting it at the moment, or perhaps because the market for it is saturated. BT, meanwhile, has hired the head of Sky Broadband & Voice Services to run their BT Sport division.

Sky, meanwhile, has signed up a multi-utility construction firm to deploy fibre in new building projects. In fact, Sky is offering 300Mbps broadband, plus voice and Sky+ HD telly. The question is how many new builds they will find to fibre up. Interestingly, part of the point is to have a single satelite receiver somewhere on the project and redistribute the TV via the fibre from there - like the rediffusion systems of the 1960s.

Meanwhile, SSE Telecoms has announced 30 more points of presence for its UK fibre network, mostly in London. If you can afford a multi-million pound flat there, you can certainly afford the very reasonable £70/mo gigabit service that Vision Fibre is deploying.

Community fibre builders B4RN, meanwhile, have taken a step further, by spinning off another community fibre project, B4YS, which carries on the work further west.

And Kinnevik, the Swedish investment holding company that played a historic role in the development of GSM and still owns operators worldwide, has a new CEO.

AWS-3 licences; lobbying warms up over 600MHz; more WLAN spectrum coming; understand the FCC and peering

The AWS-3 spectrum announcement is out, and it looks like the FCC took note of the lobbying from AT&T and VZW on one hand, and Sprint, T-Mobile, and the regionals on the other, and chose to split the baby. The duopolists wanted the 1.7GHz and 2.1GHz blocks in big chunks, at least 10MHz paired over large geographic sections, so-called Economic Areas. The insurgents wanted them in smaller pieces, broken up across smaller Cellular Market Areas. (An EA is roughly seven times as big as a CMA.) The FCC's solution is to offer three 5MHz paired licences, two in EA sizes and one in CMA sizes, and one national 10MHz paired licence.

Meanwhile, AT&T claimed that the forthcoming 600MHz auction would have to raise at least $30bn to pay the TV operators to leave, and therefore the FCC would have to make AT&T happy or else it wouldn't be able to pay all that money. (We shorten.) T-Mobile responded with a complex scheme to run the auction under successively less restrictive spectrum limits, in order to make sure T-Mobile got enough spectrum. (We also shorten.)

The FCC has changed the rules to provide for another 100MHz of 5GHz unlicensed spectrum, to the delight of WLAN vendors everywhere. A restriction to indoor use only has been removed, while in return for fewer restrictions on 802.11ac (which aggregates both 2.4 and 5GHz carriers), vendors will have to make it harder to modify their products to put out more power. Chairman Wheeler said in a statement that another 195MHz may be coming soon.

Public Knowledge criticises AT&T's plans for PSTN transition trials. Susan Crawford argues that the US needs publicly-owned infrastructure.

And Harold Feld argues that Internet peering should be treated like any other telecoms interconnection issue, it should therefore be potentially subject to FCC regulation, and the main obstacle to this is that the FCC is poorly informed on the subject. He argues that the tactical solution is to get the anti-trust regulators to demand documents that the FCC cannot ignore.

Google Cellular? Sprint leaps into price war; BlackBerry tells T-Mo "take your trade elsewhere"

Is the Google looking at becoming a mobile operator? It has apparently been discussing the possibility of a MVNO agreement with either Verizon Wireless or Sprint, in a context that links this with the cities where Google Fibre has been deployed. That, in turn, suggests Google is thinking of owning infrastructure, either a "limited cellular" roll-out or else a re-run of its past interest in public WLAN, with in either case an MVNO overlay.

Sprint leaps head first into the price wars, offering churners as much as $650 to sign up. That consists of up to $300 trade-in credit on phones, plus up to $350 to buy out early-termination fees. The deal is only available on the "Framily" group plans.

Meanwhile, it is confirmed that the phones on their Spark LTE network (i.e. tri-band 1.9/2.1/2.5GHz) won't do concurrent voice and data.

BlackBerry is very angry with T-Mobile for having promoted iPhone 5S gadgets to its users. This in itself is not surprising. What might well be surprising is that they also feel strong enough to tell T-Mobile to go away. T's BlackBerry licence runs out very soon, and BlackBerry boss John Chen has said that they won't renew it. You wouldn't think BlackBerry was in a position to turn customers away. In the meantime, T-Mo is offering $100 credit for its customers to buy unlocked BlackBerry devices.

Here's an interview with Sue Monahan, new CEO of the Small Cells Forum.

South Korean LTE capacity war; Sina Weibo IPO; Reliances bury the hatchet; massive Indosat BGP leak; Tigo seeks Rwandan startups

South Korea's new operator, LG U+, has kicked off an LTE price war. This being the ROK, this is expressed in terms of huge capacity and speed - U+ offers unlimited voice, messaging, and data for €55/mo, and TV with live baseball for another €3/mo. If you use more than 2GB a day, you get shaped down...to 2Mbps. Quite a lot of us would like to get up to 2Mbps, to say nothing of having a 2GB allowance per month.

If you go to SKT, meanwhile, €52.50/mo buys you a monthly 16GB allowance. Burst that, and you get restricted to what SKT calls an "optimal speed" and 2GB/day. KT, for its part, announced unlimited LTE for €48/mo.

Sina Weibo is go for IPO, valuing the company at about $3.9bn and raising $380m. Interestingly, its great rival Tencent, of QQ and Wechat fame, saw its Hong Kong-listed shares slide.

The two Reliances - Reliance Infocomm, the mobile operator, and Reliance Communications, the fixed ISP, respectively controlled by brothers Mukesh and Ali Ambani - have a deal. This is significant, as the two men have not been on speaking terms. Reliance Infocomm has the only nationwide 4G licence, and the deal lets it use Reliance Comms' backbone fibre for the 4G. It looks like the companies are beginning to reintegrate, as they're also sharing towers.

Taiwanese chip maker TSMC is tooling up for something.

Indosat had a major BGP leak, accidentally announcing not just someone else's Internet routes but the entire Internet routing table. Interestingly, the most affected network was Akamai, which saw some of its prefixes routing to Indosat in their entirety, causing substantial disruption.

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Safaricom is not going through with the acquisition of rival operator yuMobile, after the regulator imposed a condition that Safaricom must permit interoperability with M-PESA for other operators.

And Millicom has launched a startup incubator within its Tigo opco in Rwanda.

Yahoo! encrypts all the things; Snowden on tap; Turkey unblocks Twitter for three people

Yahoo! announced a sweeping set of security measures in response to Edward Snowden's disclosures on NSA surveillance. Not only that, they have recruited Alex Stamos, a major critic of the NSA, as their chief information security officer. Stamos announced this week that all their inter-datacentre links are now encrypted, their mail servers will encrypt interdomain traffic if the other party to the communication supports it, their search engine uses HTTPS by default, and all their other websites at least support HTTPS. Yahoo! Messenger, whose video chat was famously exploited by GCHQ, is being rewritten to encrypt all its traffic.

Work is under way to encrypt the Yahoo! advertising infrastructure's web traffic too, which is important in the light of evidence that spies are in the habit of using the surveillance already carried out by web tracking cookies. Stamos says that CEO Marissa Mayer fully supports the changes, and in fact he took the job because she is the CEO. He described the goal of the project as follows:

"The goal is all traffic to and from Yahoo users is going to be encrypted all the time by default, and invisibly. This is not going to be something you have to think about all the time," he said. "Preventing surveillance of millions of people at a time is totally within our abilities," Stamos said.

Meanwhile, the totality of Snowden disclosures so far is now searchable.

A special job opportunity: director of GCHQ. The candidates are profiled here, with the exception of the one whose name is an official secret.

A fascinating story: the CIA built a Cuban Twitter clone, it worked, and then they just left it.

In Turkey, a court rules that the ban on Twitter is illegal. In response, a government official suggests that it could be permitted, but only for the three people who sued.

Bruce Schneier discusses how to guarantee that ephemeral communications - Snapchat etc - are actually ephemeral. The NHS keeps releasing private medical information. The TOR project tells you how to build a security hardened Android.

In search of the perfect cloud - neither AWS nor GCE

Adrian Cockcroft sums up the points missing from both Amazon Web Services and Google Compute Engine in a handy chart:

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Meanwhile, the AWS features train rolls on. EDNS Client-Subnet support is now available to optimise CloudFront routing when an anycast DNS is in use (like, most of the time these days).

Akamai and Vubiquity have a partnership for "Content as a Service", a cloud product that lets video content creators start up global distribution quickly.

A bug in Microsoft Hyper-V gave the impression that it was disfavouring Linux virtual machines. It isn't; the warnings are spurious. But perhaps the spurious warnings are there to make you think....

One benchmark suggests that AWS S3 is as fast as accessing your own ZFS file system over the Internet.

Facebook's new data centre in Altoona is making progress, and they have released a bit of information and some photos.

How will a BT-EE super-MVNO deliver voice? And is voice the next big thing?

BT is going with EE for its MVNO needs, and the telco has promised its shareholders that it will deliver "seamless" voice using its WLANs and the slice of 2.6GHz spectrum it picked up last year. But, famously, voice over LTE is difficult, and voice over LTE interworking with other networks is really difficult. So much so that SKT found it was easier to build out more LTE than to make 4G/3G handoff work.

Here's ex-Telco 2.0er Martin Geddes arguing that voice is the next big thing, on the basis of eight major themes or trends. Interestingly, here's a blog post arguing that audio and earpiece devices are more interesting than wearables.

A good review for 3CX's unified comms app, and a very bad one for the implementation of its VPN tunnel app on iOS.

Load-testing your call centre with Twilio.

An amusing thread.

50% smartphone Africa: 2020

Horace takes a long view over the adoption of smartphones, argues that a third wave of disruption driven by applications providers is coming, and provides a nice chart showing when we might expect various adoption milestones in different geographies. We've still got three years to go before 50% adoption in Latin America and until 2020 in Africa.

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The HTC One M8 is reviewed, favourably. How Googlers working on Android responded to the iPhone.

Microsoft gives away Windows Mobile; gov.uk owns up to XP problem; Facebook as investment fund

Microsoft is going to give away Windows Phone for devices with screens smaller than 9", and also give away a version of Windows optimised for M2M devices, which they demonstrated running on an Intel Quark module.

Next week, Windows XP support ends. With the water running out fast, we're seeing whose pants are around their ankles - the British and Dutch governments are the latest organisations to admit they still run XP and pony up the cash to have Microsoft keep looking after it.

Felix Salmon argues that Facebook is morphing into a sort of online investment fund, a bit like Berkshire Hathaway.

We argue something similar in our Facebook + WhatsApp + Voice EB. Check it out!

Amazon's Fire TV, their set-top box, has the interesting feature that you can delete the recordings its voice control feature makes. Yahoo! is starting a Google-like program to invest in its own TV programming. Apple has added more video ads to iAds.

10 years of GMail. 50 years of IBM S/360. And the Tesla Model S electric car runs a version of Ubuntu Linux.