Internet of Things special: Telco 2.0 News Review

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Cisco "fog computing" release 2; GSMA spec for IoT devs; IoT makes GM a net neutrality player

Cisco announced this week the second release of its Internet of Things products, the IOx Fog Computing line, including a new applications management module and some new vertical apps for railways and video surveillance, as well as support for the software in 16 more routers. They are also boasting of some major deployments - General Electric and WindRiver, manufacturer of real-time operating systems for IoT devices, stand out.

As everyone from ARM to Cisco converges on this space, the GSMA is doing its best to mark out a claim for the telcos, hence this new specification that is meant to help developers work with cellular networks in the IoT context. Unfortunately it also highlights some of the strange things network operators still do; developers are warned if they aren't sure how often they should poll, they should set the interval to 29 minutes because a lot of operators expire network-address translation (NAT) assignments after 30 minutes of idle. Not only is this hardly cutting-edge, it also defeats the point of NAT, which is to rotate addresses among devices and therefore save on scarce addresses. That said, there's a good story in it about the 59 wind turbines whose monitoring modules were left with the default passwords, leading to a €150,000 phone bill.

Matt Asay at ReadWrite argues that only open-source will scale well enough to serve a highly diverse and diffuse developer community and points out that huge connected-car player Bosch is making its plans on precisely this basis.

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Meanwhile, M2M MVNO Aeris has launched a new, cloud-inspired platform, Neo, quite impressive even though "order SIMs through our Web API" still means "go and swap them out, all 50,000 of them".

OFCOM reckons whitespace spectrum will be available next year for IoT applications.

And you can see just how important manufacturing companies are becoming in telecoms via the IoT space from this story: General Motors files a comment with the FCC arguing that mobile operators should be excluded from net neutrality.

EU/China dispute over; FCC's big move on deployment; PSTN shutdown; missing operators of the Caribbean

In regulatory news, the telecoms equipment trade dispute between the EU and China has been settled, and the EU has withdrawn its threat to impose a punitive tariff in exchange for a new "mechanism" to address its concerns.

The FCC has issued a draft regulation on the 600MHz auction, which strengthens the rules intended to help small "designated entities" acquire spectrum, while also permitting them to lease any spectrum they acquire to major operators. Meanwhile, two of the commissioners have been re-appointed for another term.

In another FCC announcement, the regulator has moved to make infrastructure roll-outs easier. If nobody objects within 60 days of an application for permission to deploy a cell site, it will be automatically granted, reduced from 90 days before. Further, the FCC carves out wireless infrastructure from various local-level reviews and reserves it for federal oversight.

Sprint and Comcast's quad-play partnership has ended up with Sprint paying Comcast $7.5m to settle a dispute about patents relating to a unified-comms product.

Long-time customer activist Bruce Kushnick marks up a Time Warner Cable bill to point out how many fixed fees are left out of the prices on their adverts.

Benoit Felten blogs that Belgacom is using its trial deployment of vectoring DSL to switch off the PSTN, and wonders why neither the Australian or New Zealand NBNs tackled the issue.

Indian regulators want to refarm the 800MHz band for GSM. Not surprisingly, the remaining CDMA operators aren't happy.

And here's something interesting. Back in 2008, when the wheels finally began turning to let Free Mobile be the fourth French operator, licences were also issued in three French overseas territories, Guyane, Guadeloupe, and Martinique. Somehow, none of the licensees have managed to roll out any coverage at all. ARCEP is now investigating. All the licences went to Curacao's incumbent telco, which also seems to be in a spot of trouble at home.

Apple plays the soft-SIM card; more shenanigans at GT Advanced

We wouldn't be surprised if the regulators end up being involved in this story. Apple's iPad Air 2 has finally done it, and gone soft-SIM. The secure element is hardwired into the device, and the software layer decides which network it connects to. In theory, at least, this means that users can just pick a network. However, this also means they can pick a network, but only on Apple and the networks' terms - you have to rely on some Apple API and the networks' provisioning systems, rather than just being able to physically swap the SIM, and you're done as Amazon would put it. Experience in the CDMA world doesn't really suggest that getting rid of hard SIMs means free portability.

The obvious use-case is roaming; clearly the carriers (AT&T, T-Mo USA, Sprint, and EE) who are taking part would rather sell iPads and pick up inbound roamers than pull in outbound data roaming charges. After all, iPads are data-centric devices and international travellers are likely to either rely on WiFi or grab a local SIM, as the phone number is a very secondary issue - espcially when FaceTime and Messenger are available.

A pro-Apple take is here; TechCrunch coverage is here; TelecomTV has some more here.

A sceptical take is here:

What worries me is that we are taking something which is very much in the control of the user (e.g. moving a card from one device to another) and moving it into the cloud of carrier internal processes and systems.

As I mentioned before, people like to bitch about their carriers. But, for all the gripes about their network and signal people have most of the real painful issues arise when trying to deal with their Business Systems. The stuff that provides the pipes (generally) works and when it doesn't its either down to underinvestment/overselling or its a fault (which happens), however the billing, provisioning and customer management systems cause users real pain

Of course, if Apple had its own MNC it could do its own OTA provisioning.

Meanwhile, another GT Advanced exec sold a boatload of stock before telling anyone that the artificial sapphire had been rejected by Apple. What a mess.

ALU: real infrastructure has towers; what on earth is "4.5G"? VZW dark fibre backhaul; 24GHz

Marcus Weldon, the current Alcatel-Lucent CTO, is pouring cold water on Internet drone/balloon/whatever proposals, saying:

"Real infrastructure is essentially deployed on base stations, towers and small cells, which are attached to real backhaul and real power," said Weldon. "[Technology] has to have permanent characteristics to be legitimate infrastructure as opposed to niche infrastructure."

He also says that the real disruption is coming from hetnet and SDN, and that's where he's pointed Bell Labs' efforts since he's added the storied title of President, Bell Labs to the CTO job.

His opposite-number at Huawei, meanwhile, is talking about "4.5G", which will apparently be with us in 2016-2020, although another Huawei exec says:

There is no definition of 4.5G

Fortunately there's the 3G, 4G, 4.5G, and 5G Wireless Blog to clear this stuff up. Zahid argues LTE-A is really 4G, previous LTE releases were 3.9G at best, and 4.5G might be virtualised radio networks and WLAN integration. Here's a chart from Alcatel.

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As he points out, there is a lot of WLAN spectrum up in the 5GHz band. This is a point we got at in our recent Winning Strategies: Differentiated Mobile Data EB with regard to Free Mobile - their spectrum position looks utterly different if you include the vast 5GHz resource.

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On a theme from that EB, here's a good FierceWireless story about Verizon Wireless' huge and increasing investment in dark fibre to its base stations and the strategic dilemma it presents for some of the carriers they buy from. One carrier that doesn't mind at all is Centurylink, which is making a speciality out of fibre-to-the-tower. This week, they requested FCC clearance to turn off their ATM and frame relay networks. Apparently they can't get the parts any more.

We also pointed out just how much Vodafone UK needs carrier-aggregation to catch up with the network leaders, EE and 3UK. Here it comes; the LTE-A upgrade begins rolling out in Birmingham, Manchester, and London.

Dave Burstein tends to be very bullish on fancy DSL technologies (vectoring, bonding etc), but he has harsh words for BT and Huawei's supposed gigabit DSL trial. It's not actually G.fast, and it's not a gigabit either, and BT can't deploy it due to interference with their VDSL network. Oy.

The FCC is interested in 24GHz cellular, according to a notice. Ars Technica points out that indoor coverage will be really challenging, but of course you could always use it for backhaul in something like this.

OpenBTS has 3G. Qualcomm spends big to buy Cambridge Silicon Radio, $2.5bn worth.

And here's a detailed presentation on that full duplex radio technology we covered a little while back.

Free-T no deal; VZW edges back from Edge; Vodacom 14% up for sale; ugly China Mobile provisionals

Iliad has dropped its bid for T-Mobile USA after the increased bid didn't see any increased interest from DTAG. In the end they went up to 67% of the company and $36 a share, but it wasn't enough.

Last week saw Sprint and AT&T hike their data bundles massively, essentially slashing prices without saying so. Verizon Wireless followed, but they're still keeping out of the price war - they matched the move with changes to their Edge quick-update plan, requiring customers to pay off 75% of the device price before they get any more shiny gadgets, and extending the payoff period to 18 months from 12 in order to keep the monthly bill roughly constant.

Telecom Italia's CEO doesn't think TIM Brasil is in any hurry to make a deal, arguing that it can hold its market share for up to five years while playing hard-to-get. Meanwhile, GVT, which is in the process of being sold to Telefonica, is planning to spend $400m on fibre-to-the-home rollouts in 2015 and has cancelled further VDSL rollout, and Oi has been adding to its backbone network between Sao Paulo and Fortaleza.

The government of South Africa is thinking about selling its $2.3bn, 14% stake in Vodacom, apparently to spend it on their electricity utility.

Ouch. China Mobile's net profit for the first 9 months of 2014 was down 9.7%, apparently due to stronger competition from both carriers and OTT providers.

Telenor has closed on the deal to take full ownership of its Indian opco. Meanwhile, TeliaSonera's Q3 was rather poor as the writedowns in central Asia bit.

Orange and DTAG are thinking about an IPO of EE again. A value of £12bn is mentioned. Mobistar gained subscribers for the first time in ages. Sky is in talks with EE, O2, and Vodafone about being an MVNO.

Google: shaky Q3s, Android 5.0, new media box, $1bn ContentID

Google has Q3 results out, and its net profits were down 5.4% year-on-year at $2.81bn, although revenue was up 20%. Clearly margins are a problem; clicks were up 17% but cost-per-click was down 2%. At the same time, non-advertising businesses' revenues were up 50% - but Google won't say if they're profitable or not.

Business Insider, meanwhile, reckons the Android Silver initiative, an effort to get vendors and carriers to put stock Android in the foreground of their offerings, isn't working out.

It's not as if they're idling, though. Android 5.0 is out, along with the latest Nexus phone and tablet, deploying more of the new Material Design UX, new APIs, and power saving improvements. The tablet is coming from HTC, while the phone is from Motorola.

There's also a totally new Nexus product class - the Nexus Player, an Android streaming box comparable to a Roku or Apple TV that also acts as a games console, powered by an Intel Atom CPU. The pricing ($99) is sharp, and the feature set considerably bigger than the Chromecast's. It's the first device to run Android TV, and is being manufactured by Asus.

And the ContentID program, which identifies copyrighted material on YouTube and places ads next to it, so the rightsholder can earn revenue share, has paid out $1bn to content owners so far.

Twitter is integrating the Soundcloud player into tweets, presumably to let sponsored music be distributed in the stream.

The French government is trying to get Alibaba to set up in France.

Mobile edge computing; too fast OpenStack; IBM exits chips

ETSI has a new working group, which aims to standardise "mobile edge computing", aka building CDN nodes and application servers into the radio access network. Vodafone, NTT DoCoMo, Intel, IBM, Huawei, and Nokia Networks are on board. It's probably worth noting that Intel's "smart cell" work, as well as Nokia's "liquid apps", fit in well here.

Dan Rayburn does a rundown of how app-acceleration services work for SaaS vendors. However, now almost everything is built as a distributed system, you might well wonder about bringing the nodes and datastore shards closer to the user.

The latest version of OpenStack, codename Juno, is out, but some customers are concerned that the pace of releases is too fast and they've only just finished productising one release when the next drops.

OVH is building a specialised big data cloud using OpenStack and IBM Power8 servers. IBM, meanwhile, is finally getting out of the chip-making business.

How do you tell a mega data centre from a massive one?

A fascinating case study in AWS scaling.

Telefonica puts WebRTC video into Firefox

Mozilla Firefox will have a built-in video chat feature in the next beta, thanks to support from Telefonica, who are contributing the Tokbox WebRTC engine they acquired and presumably hosting servers as well.

Here's a WebRTC peer-to-peer CDN app specifically for mapping.

The BBC has started a dedicated Ebola channel on Whatsapp.

And Whisper, the anonymous social network? Turns out it couldn't be less anonymous.