Apple, T-Mobile, Vodafone, FCC, Phones4U: Telco 2.0 News Review

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Apple gadgets: worldwide LTE roaming, watches, credit cards, CDN failure, enterprise apps. Plus Qualcomm's $100 smartphone SoC

You are probably aware that Apple has launched a new iPhone. ExtremeTech notes that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (one is bigger than the other, going into the phablet class) support a huge variety of radio bands, enough to finally deliver on LTE roaming. Pretty much only the lower 700MHz band (Band 12) isn't supported, which will be problematic for US Cellular, while Sprint will be delighted that it will do tri-band working between 800, 1.9GHz, and 2.5GHz. There's also support for Band 29 in LTE-A carrier aggregation.

ReadWrite notes that the 6 Plus seems to be in heavier demand than the 6, as it has already sold out with most US operators. According to Reuters, though, there is a supply chain issue with the 5.5" devices. Meanwhile, you needed a Nokia Lumia to buy an iPhone from T-Mobile.

You might also have had some trouble just watching the event. Apple hired Akamai to shift the video, but they also decided to include live tweets in the web page, meaning that every time a new tweet landed, the page cached in the CDN would be out of date and the benefit of the CDN, lost.

Apple also, of course, announced a smartwatch, and Ars Technica reviews it jointly with Motorola's Android Wear-based Moto 360, while here's a review by a horologist, who reckons the mid-market is most threatened. That in itself is a departure for Apple, which usually aims to be the absolute best money can buy in its category.

We do have our doubts about a watch that needs charging daily, though, although to be fair that's true of all the competition as well. Last week's story regarding Apple Pay, the built-in credit card support, has been confirmed, and the watch also gets a heartbeat sensor. In fact, Apple Pay appears to have claimed a scalp already: WEVE is no more, its carrier backers apparently lacking enthusiasm for a fight with Apple.

ZDNet wonders where the IBM enterprise apps from their alliance with Apple have got to. Horace argues that Apple's hit products have always started with a new user interface (eg GUI, clickwheel, touchscreen), and that the watch is the latest of these.

Elsewhere, Qualcomm has announced a new Snapdragon SoC, the 210, which it hopes will bring the cost of a 4G-equipped smartphone below $100. For that you get 7 LTE bands, carrier aggregation, broadcast, multi-SIM support, and hardware acceleration for Qualcomm's HEVC video codec.

The obvious market for the Snappy 210 is going to be Google's Android One programme, which launched three new $105 devices in India this week. Google is trying to spread $100-ish smartphones by improving their quality, specifically, providing reference designs and insisting on stock Android.

On the same theme, here's a review of the new version of the Motorola G cheap smartphone, $179. Ars notes that the camera has improved dramatically. The Moto 360 watch is, meanwhile, back in stock.

Now this is what I call cheap smartphone: Amazon Fire phones are going for 99 US cents on a 2-year AT&T contract. Amazon likes to price hardware to go, but this is an obvious fire sale.

The next Nexus will probably be anything but cheap, and here's a little information: coming in "Q3" and based on a NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC.

And we're still waiting for the promised Apple set-top box for cable. A rich blog post from the Disruptive Competition Project explains why cable STBs are still controlled by cablecos although the FCC mandated direct-to-consumer as long ago as 1998.

Apple, T-Mobile inject energy into VoWLAN; new Vodafone One Net tier; cablecos start international WiFi roaming

Another major feature of the iPhone 6 is voice-over-WLAN, with handoff between VoLTE and VoWLAN. T-Mobile USA is the first to get its hands dirty, announcing that from now on, all devices it sells will support it. Also, although calls placed within the US will be billed as usual, international WLAN calls will be free. AT&T, meanwhile, suggested they might deploy some time next year. In support of this, T-Mobile is also offering a new home hotspot - although quite how that will work given that they don't have any fixed assets isn't clear.

Vodafone, meanwhile, has introduced a new tier of service for its One Net cloud voice product, aiming at large enterprises.

US cable operators are already cooperating to extend the CableWifi joint SSID around the States, letting their users roam onto any cable-owned WLAN hotspot. Now Comcast and LibertyGlobal have extended the deal to cover international roaming.

Cloudberry is a Norwegian startup that wants to provide a carrier-neutral small-cell underlay network. This week, they announced their first deployment, in Norway. If we read this right, they have their own 2.6GHz spectrum block.

Nokia Networks, meanwhile, announced a new small cell product but perhaps more interestingly, a high-resolution 3-D indoor geolocation system intended to help plan small cell networks...which could also have some other uses. Alcatel has a new small cell.

Vodafone is risk-on; America Movil wants TIM Brasil; TI Argentina plans changed; latest T-Mobile/Sprint instalment

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao says the carrier will consider a "transformative" deal if the price is right, setting a thousand hares running.

There's Brazil, where America Movil and two other carriers are reported to be considering a joint bid to buy and break up TIM Brasil. Vodafone might come in to buy it. Or perhaps they might take the whole of Telecom Italia's Latin American operations? TI is apparently looking at reorganising, putting Argentina in the same division with Brazil, as a "plan B" if the sale of Telecom Argentina falls through - or perhaps if Vodafone makes a better offer?

There's cable, where Vodafone is rumoured to be interested in buying Liberty Global. Or perhaps content, with Sky?

Or why not go right back to the US, and buy T-Mobile USA? That immediately brings us to the topic of Sprint, whose new CEO has been explaining that it was too complicated to sell their "Framily" friends-and-family tariff - really?

T-Mo's John Legere, meanwhile, announced another impressive month terms of subscribers. They added 550,000 net postpaid subs and another 208,000 net prepaid subs in August, with 2.3 Sprint customers joining for every one going the other way.

Here's an interesting, if uncritical, French report on Free's bid for T-Mobile. We love the detail that no photograph is known to exist of Free's CTO, as if he was some shadowy über-hacker. In fact it's just that he lives in Montpellier and the Parisian media pack never gets that far out of town. More seriously, it sounds like the plan is just to sweat the cost base, and at one point the reporter seems to suggest Vodafone might come in on the deal - now that would be a turn-up for the book.

In France, Bouygues has signed up to put Netflix in their set-top boxes.

Canadian cableco Videotron, meanwhile, has launched its 4G network. Videotron's own network is restricted to its footprint in Quebec and it relies on an agreement with Rogers elsewhere, but it also has 700MHz licences and is looking at expanding its own coverage. Being a cableco, it also probably has great backhaul. Remind you of Free?

Elsewhere, TeliaSonera's Spanish opco, Yoigo, may be going to buy fixed-line ISP Jazztel. Telstra is spending A$1.4bn to get its LTE 700 network up. And the availability of more submarine capacity is driving a boom in regional and access fibre in Africa.

FCC sounds sceptical on mergers; Sprint backs out of AWS3, 2.5GHz rollout; Pelosi for Title II

But who's to say that anyone will be allowed to buy T-Mo? FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says he intends to remain sceptical about mergers between big operators, and in general he talks tough on consolidation. Note the point about "between" operators, though, which leaves open the option of a sale to something that isn't an operator or at least not an operator in the US.

He also called on operators to show their hands about spectrum. Sprint has said it's sitting the AWS-3 auction out, for example. The FCC official blog sets out details of the auction and sounds very much as if it's trying to sell the spectrum, notably making the point that it should be clear of government users quite quickly.

Sprint seems to be going through another big reappraisal. The new CEO no longer wants to roll out 2.5GHz across the whole network, even though he's still talking up the sheer size of the block. Instead, they're going to pick congested areas for priority investment.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives has written to Tom Wheeler arguing that broadband should be reclassified as a telecoms service, back under the famous Title II of the Telecoms Act, ahead of today's deadline for comments on net neutrality.

Elsewhere, Ukraine is planning to ban Russian operators from taking part in future spectrum auctions, and a Bulgarian operator has had its 4G licence revoked after it failed to pay the fee.

Phones4U burns up in the atmosphere after £205m PIK deal; UK operators demand continued existence of UK; new fibre builder

The UK's second biggest mobile retailer, Phones4U, failed to open for business this morning after the last operator willing to supply it, EE, cut its line of credit over the weekend. Now, 5,500 employees are on the dole.

The private-equity fund, BC Partners, which owns the company is blaming the mobile operators, as is John Caudwell, the founder who sold the company back in 2006. The operators reject this, arguing that the private equity owners loaded so much debt on the company that it couldn't survive if they didn't give it extraordinarily generous terms. Last September, the owners had borrowed £205m in payment-in-kind notes at a 10% interest rate, before immediately paying themselves the whole lot as a special dividend.

The UK's major operator CEOs, meanwhile, intervened in the campaign for the Scottish independence referendum via a joint letter. This might sound like a threat, but you do have to wonder how on earth we got to this point without knowing what happens to the spectrum licences the day after yes.

In other political news, the national roaming scheme launched after the prime minister had a dropped call has itself been dropped after the operators refused to take part.

Virgin Media claims EE, its MVNO partner, is to blame for poor speeds. Bizarrely, they claim that EE shipped them "defective" SIMs, and then go on to talk about a problem at a EE data centre.

GigaClear, builders of pure FTTH, are floating on the stock market, hoping to raise £20m, while a new wholesale fibre builder has emerged. And meet Everest Park, Basingstoke's island of slow broadband.

AT&T IoT lands in Europe; Telenor is a bank now; Monitise has an ugly quarter; AliBaba IPO upped; Tropo.com fail

Telefonica is bringing AT&T Digital Life to Europe, under a trial at first. Telefonica will host, manage, and brand the service, using AT&T's technical solution. The Voice of Broadband has some more detail, and notes that the assisted-living element of Digital Life is now ready for launch.

Elsewhere, Telenor has opened a bank in Serbia. Last year, they acquired a bank holding company, and now they're ready to launch their first wholly-owned mobile banking operation.

Monitise, the mobile banking technology firm, reported some pretty mixed results. On the one hand there were partnerships with IBM and a huge new customer, Santander. On the other hand, revenues were up 31%, not the 50% promised, and the company lost money, 63% more than it did last year.

As the AliBaba.com IPO approaches, it looks like they'll need a bigger boat. Early demand for the stock has been enormous, and they're planning to both increase the size and up the price of the offering.

Google is offering startups free Google Cloud Platform credit, while Facebook's Open Compute Project services are still very rare in the wild.

Tropo.com had a major outage this week and here's the crash inquiry.

Is targeted advertising a bad idea? Comcast clearly doesn't think so, as their public WiFi is squirting JavaScript ads into your web pages.