Vodafone Q1s, Cisco connected city, Comcast CDN, Lenovo PC surge: Telco 2.0 News Review

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Vodafone Q1 results are dreadful; is something up in the EU backhaul market? First markets handed over to NBN; KT, AT&T plans; mobile prices down 30% in France

Vodafone had Q1 results, and they are frankly disappointing. Revenues are down 2% year on year, and EBITDA 7%, and the company has to write off a further £6.6bn from the value of its southern European networks. But it's not just the southern Europeans; Vodafone Germany has been doing poorly, especially if you look-through the effect of adding KDG's cable assets. That £7bn of Project Spring spending can't come soon enough.

As a result, if you ignore the VZW disposal, the company made a loss. The good news, such as it is, is that the price war in India is letting up, and both voice and data usage are growing strongly.

So what's up with VF in Germany and the rest of its European key markets? One theory is that LTE roll-out has proved to be an opportunity for the incumbent empire to strike back, benefiting from its strength in metro fibre to add gigabit backhaul to more sites. Fascinated by the VZW story, perhaps Vodafone didn't see this coming. Some support for this view comes from a study VF paid Analysys Mason to carry out, arguing that there is a capacity crunch in microwave backhaul and that the incumbent operators (ok, let's be honest, they mean Deutsche Telekom) are deliberately restricting competitors' access to the infrastructure.

OFCOM recently ruled that BT doesn't need regulating in the gigabit metro market, although it owns essentially everything outside London that C&WW doesn't. Will that change if and when BT lights up its 2.6GHz spectrum?

In the meantime, Vodafone's low-key move into content bundling continues - as well as Spotify and Sky Sports, you can now have six months' free Netflix when you sign up for a mobile broadband plan.

In Australia, where according to the results, Vodafone-Hutchison is still struggling to get over its outage years later, Telstra is about to hand over the first 15 areas where the NBN takes over from the PSTN, and the carrier is also getting back into the WiFi business under a partnership with Fon, which emphasises the fixed-mobile convergence element of the product.

Here's an intelligent use of the UK government's "superconnected" vouchers - aggregate them to pay for a city fibre network.

Free's arrival in the French mobile market has driven down prices by 30%, according to ARCEP, while China Mobile is about to cut its 4G pricing by as much as 50%.

KT is investing $3.9bn in an effort to get gigabit speeds to all its customers, including the mobile ones. Multi-stream carrier aggregation between LTE and WiFi seems crucial, as they presented at MWC.

NTT DoCoMo says it's finished proof-of-concept trials of virtualised EPC and will be offering a live service during 2016.

AT&T's Bill Smith says they will be adding between 1500 and 3000 cell sites a year for the foreseeable, as small cells become more important.

EE claims it now has more 4G than 3G subscribers, and that it covers more than half of the 50 busiest roads in the UK in full. This is critical for connected-car applications, of course.

And RevK has picked a fight about Virgin Media calling their cable product "fibre optic".

Connected car challenges; Neul gets its first roll-out; Cisco threatens brutal consolidation, turns Kansas City into lab; Nest Labs may have a business model

Cambridge Wireless recently held a SIG on automotive and transport applications. The 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog reports back, providing the slides from most (all?) of the presentations. This one, from Visteon, a company spun off from Ford that makes car electronics, is fascinating.

VisteonCarJourney.png

If all those handovers need "payment recovery"...well. You can see why open, settlement-free interconnection was so important to the emergence of the Internet; sometimes, economic optimality is just too expensive.

Interestingly, Strategy Analytics thinks that the answer is to put it all on LTE, which would be very nice for mobile operators.

Cambridge M2M startup Neul is deploying its low-power network around Milton Keynes in a partnership with BT to test out the technology at city scale.

Kansas City, meanwhile, is having Cisco unwire the whole place as a "living lab" for its smart city projects. That sounds...science-fictional, especially as their CEO, John Chambers, predicts that the Internet of Things will lead to "brutal consolidation" in the IT industry.

Brutal consolidation in a living lab? Rather you than me. UX expert Adam Greenfield notes that advocates of the "smart city" seem to know much more about the "smart" bit than the "city" bit, to the point of being dangerously naive. Stay for his anecdote about Cisco.

You might wonder how a geeky thermostat might possibly be worth $3.2bn to Google, and perhaps nod gravely and mutter about out-of-control Silicon Valley valuations. If this story from MIT Technology Review is typical, though, the Nest Labs deal might yet pay off. A group of 5 electricity companies have signed up to use the thermostats for demand response, shaving down the peak demand for power by turning off appliances in homes where people are out and about. Quote:

if demand response can expand to cover the 300 or 400 hours of peak usage, it could entirely shut down the market for "peakers," or gas-fired plants that come online only to sell expensive electricity

That would be serious money. Apple, meanwhile, is rumoured to be planning a home automation platform. And BlackBerry is trying to swing off its QNX operating system, very popular in the embedded systems world, by starting a new M2M applications platform to work with the data they collect, Project ION. That said, before going overboard about the promise of all that data, it might be worth reading this talk by Pinboard founder Maciej Ceglowski on the dangers of overcollection and the threat of "investor storytime".

Comcast CDN; why Google Fiber is happy to peer with Netflix; Apple pays for its CDN hosting; BEREC says yes to net neutrality

After all the arguing back and forward between Netflix, Verizon, and Comcast, the cable operator is trying to make a virtue of it all. Comcast is going to offer a CDN as an alternative to paid-peering, providing a "deeper" CDN deployment compared to the macro-CDN model that Netflix and Amazon both use.

Google Fiber, meanwhile, says it's happy to peer with Netflix. Well, they would say that; doing anything else would set an awkward precedent with regard to YouTube. Also, they've accepted Netflix's OpenConnect CDN deploying servers inside their network, so letting them peer is essentially a cost-free gesture towards net neutrality. Very political.

Apple is reported to be buildings its own CDN, and to be paying downstream ISPs to host the servers. Dan Rayburn describes this as paid interconnection, but it could also very well be described just as hosting.

Over in mobile, Verizon Wireless is doing more LTE Multicast video trials, this time at the Indy 500.

Mobile CDN and caching is a hot topic again. RCRWireless talks to the vendors, who are annoyed that Netflix streams are encrypted and therefore can't be re-transcoded to lower quality.

In Europe, the regulators' club, BEREC, has come out strongly for net neutrality, arguing for a "principles-based approach" and that any "specialised services" should be physically or virtually segregated from Internet traffic, so that they are genuinely additive rather than just reducing everyone else's quality of service.

Vodacom is facing a regulatory complaint from Cell C, arguing that its distinction between on-net and off-net pricing is anti-competitive.

And OFCOM has published draft price controls for BT Openreach. Fibre access products still aren't included.

More VoLTE: SingTel, Bouygues, T-Mobile; Kakao in $3bn deal

SingTel launches VoLTE. Bouygues launches VoLTE. T-Mobile USA already owned MetroPCS's VoLTE network, but they also launched VoLTE in Seattle, getting in ahead of AT&T's 23rd May deadline. Out of those, we know SingTel, AT&T, and T-Mobile have deployed HD voice. Verizon Wireless is promising a software update "later this year".

KakaoTalk, one of those SMS-bashing apps, is merging with Daum, a South Korean web portal, adding another 30 million users and hitting the SMS user base again.

Simwood has added more inbound features to its API. Truphone is offering flat rate roaming to 66 countries and extra-large data plans, up to 500GB.

NSA's "access provider" sucks up the whole A-interface; China wants rid of IBM servers, US consultants; Safaricom gets massive CCTV spectrum gimme

The NSA is recording audio of all mobile calls in the Bahamas and another unnamed country, according to a leak from Edward Snowden. Close reading of the documents shows that the spooks are tapping the A-interface directly, via an "access provider" that is described as follows:

"the overt purpose is for legitimate commercial service for the Telco's themselves. Our covert mission is the provision of SIGINT"

Interestingly, the tap is described as being "under LI", i.e. lawful intercept, but the "overt purpose" and the reference to tapping the A-interface seems to suggest that the operator might not know what the "access provider"'s equipment is doing.

After the US government's prosecution of alleged Chinese hackers, Bloomberg reports that the Chinese are putting pressure on their banks to get rid of their IBM servers, and further to drop contracts with blue-chip US consulting firms.

It seems that Microsoft's decision to fight a FBI demand for information paid off. The G-men wanted subscriber information and wanted Microsoft to keep it quiet; Microsoft refused, and went to court; and the FBI folded.

Kenya's government is worried about terrorists, and feels the need for a new public-security radio network and a lot of CCTV cameras. The Daily Nation reports that the contract has gone to Safaricom, and points out that similar projects have been marked by extreme corruption. On this occasion, it looks like Safaricom is going to get the spectrum it says it needs for free, in exchange for a discount on the contract price. The network will be LTE, so are we too cynical in wondering if Safaricom will find a way to use the freebie spectrum in its mainline operations? Some more background.

Get an Estonian digital ID, whereever you are. The reality of RIPA. The inventor of passwords remembers.

Lenovo PC shipments surge; Apple/Samsung lawsuit back on; ARM Mac? Novena gets funded

Lenovo's results are out, and they're impressive. The company moved 55 million PCs, up 6.8%, in the context of a market that shrank 3.1%. For the first time, they sold more PCs in the US than Apple sold Macs. The upshot was revenue up 14%.

Reverse ferret at the Korea Times: you know that thing where Apple and Samsung settled their patent suit? It, er, didn't happen.

Apple may be going to announce an ARM-based Mac.

Smartphones account for 95% of phone revenues in Q1.

HP is cutting 11,000 jobs, largely from the storage division.

The open-hardware Novena laptop is go for launch, as the kickstarter campaign smashes its targets.