India, Gigabit Cable, FCC, Roku: Telco 2.0 News Review

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India approaching 1bn subscribers, plans huge spectrum auction; Uninor +5k Node-Bs; East Africa ends roaming charges; more PTel/Oi weirdness

India's regulator, the TRAI, says they had 937 million subs on the 30th November, 2014, growing a few million a month. As a result, it looks like they'll hit the billion in the next year or so.

90% of Internet connections in India are wireless, and this means they're going to need more spectrum. The Indian government has just decided to launch its biggest ever spectrum auction, with 465MHz going on sale across the 800, 900, 1800, and 2100MHz bands and a $12bn target price.

However, it's worth pointing out that this isn't a net increase of 465MHz, because Vodafone, Bharti, Reliance Communications, and Idea all have licences that are going to run out.

Net of renewals, the release will be quite a bit less. The presence of these forced buyers will also have a major influence on the pricing of some of the blocks.

Uninor, the Telenor opco in India, says it installed 5,000 new base stations this year and reached 51% population coverage, expanding its subscriber base by a third and reaching...almost 5% market share.

Elsewhere, roaming charges have been abolished between Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda, and Burundi, Tanzania, and South Sudan are considering joining the "One Network Area".

Nigeria reckons it might get to 50% population coverage with 3G this year.

Remember when Brazilian operator Oi was merging with Portugal Telecom? Well, here's another twist in the story. Oi doesn't want to know any more after that time PTel lost almost a billion euros of their money in a dodgy Portuguese bank, and has bigger fish to fry in Brazil, and so they decided to sell PTel to a French cable company, Altice. But there are two holding companies for PTel, oddly enough, something which a rival bidder tried to take advantage of.

Now, one of them, PT SGPS, which "contributed" all the shares in PT Portugal, which owns the network, into Oi in exchange for 25.7% of Oi, has turned around and started buying back shares in PT Portugal. They can do this because the local regulator wants at least a minority Portuguese stake in PTel. As a result, they have a veto over the Altice deal, which might be activated at a shareholder meeting today. But what will be on the agenda?

And America Movil is about to spin off one of its holding companies.

Gigabit cable is here - Comcast plans to deploy this year; 4G uplinks peak on NYE; Cornwall may go for 99% broadband coverage

Here it comes: Comcast has announced it's going to offer 1Gbps broadband this year. Specifically, what's happened is that Broadcom is offering a new modem implementing DOCSIS 3.1, and Comcast is going to put it in its next lot of set-top boxes - details are here. Broadcom claim they've tested up to 5Gbps, and the chipset also includes 4x4 Multi-User MIMO antennas for the WiFi. Expect the cablecos to punch the rest of the industry hard, again, especially as STMicro demonstrated their product at CES and Intel might have something soon.

The head of Telecom Italia says that since their 4G deployment, they've been able to get customers to pay for quality because they're "addicted to data".

EE boasts that it's added 5.5 million 4G users in 2014, more than any other network in Europe. Interestingly, they've observed a new version of the traditional "New Year's Eve denial of service attack" - rather than SMS going through the roof, it's data uplink that explodes just after the countdown as all those selfies get uploaded.

Cornwall County Council is considering putting more money into the county's broadband programme, which has already emerged as one of the richest in FTTP in the UK. Paradoxically, Cornwall has been getting so much more FTTP because it's more remote - a lot of homes are on very long copper runs.

PlusNet is offering "free, unlimited business broadband". That is, you pay only the line rental of £10.50, plus VAT, for the first 12 months, thereafter £13/mo, plus the line rental and VAT, for the next 12 months. If you're lucky enough to be in a new-build that Independent Fibre Networks Ltd wired up, you can get 50/50Mbps for £25/mo.

And having reached its 2 millionth FTTH home, Reggefiber continues the roll-out.

Wheeler: Title II is coming on the 26th; Google/Cable lobby wars; 3.5GHz; UK 700MHz isn't coming

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler tells an interviewer that he's essentially come down on the side of net neutrality. He says that draft rules will be circulated on the 5th of February and a vote taken on the 26th. No doubt the lobbyists are firing up their credit cards as we speak, but with at least two other commissioners in favour, Wheeler has the votes to reclassify broadband into Title II. As TelecomTV points out, perhaps it was a mistake going to the mattresses over the original, much weaker Open Internet Order?

The cablecos, meanwhile, argue that Google doesn't need Title II to get access to their ducts and poles, because it could declare itself to be a cable TV station. The point of this beef is that Wheeler plans to implement part, but not all, of Title II (this is called "forbearance") - so now the big issue is which bits of it get implemented. Google, tech companies, and challenger ISPs very much want the infrastructure access provisions in Section 224 to be included; big telecom very much doesn't.

The FCC is also thinking of defining broadband as at least 25Mbps, perhaps permitting shared use of the 3.5GHz band for mobile broadband, and doing something unspecified about the accuracy of wireless E-911 location.

Here's a great Harold Feld blog post running down this year's FCC agenda. OFCOM is going to hold some public meetings where you can make your feelings on their plan for the next two years felt. This reveals that the UK 700MHz auction has been sliding right, and won't happen until 2022.

And if that's not enough regulation for you, here's the chairwoman of the FTC, walking around CES and talking about privacy and security in the Internet of Things.

14nm Intel CPUs are here, bringing new laptops; Lenovo moves Moto brand into China; Samsung's Q4 was a disaster; CES shiny

So it's that big gadget show again. For our money the biggest deal at CES is the new line of Intel chips, the repeatedly delayed 14nm Broadwells. The main reason to care is that Intel claims they will offer much better battery life in laptops and mobile devices, as well as a performance jump, which might kick off an update cycle in the PC market. The Verge has a rundown of new laptops based on the chips, and they are indeed impressive.

Lenovo is hoping that 40% of its smartphones this year will be out of the Motorola product line. In order to make this happen, they're going to start selling them in China again - Google pulled out over one of the hacking incidents - where Lenovo wants to use the Moto name for their high-end devices and their own for the cheap ones.

Samsung reported a horrible Q4, with its operating profits back where they were in 2011, market share in smartphones at 24% where it was 32% as recently as Q3 2013, and smartphone shipments off 28% in China. Operating profit in the IT & Mobile division is down 74%.

On the other hand, HTC saw its quarterly revenue rise for the first time since 2011, and they're actually making money.

Samsung's response is to wave its cash. The huge surge forward in smartphones was enabled by the company's massive spending on marketing and vendor financing; now, they're looking towards the Internet of Things, and putting up $100m as an internal VC fund for IoT app developers.

Expect much hype about multi-user MIMO in WiFi, but note that the technology is disturbingly close to being a radar.

Here are some leaks about Spartan, Microsoft's new Web browser.

Here's a review of the first FirefoxOS high-spec smartphone, which seems to have been carefully designed to look as if you 3D-printed it yourself. A CES gadget announcement that's actually useful - the reversible USB connector. Nobody really needs a 4K TV. The YotaPhone is coming to a US carrier. ZDNet thinks the main trend at CES was "real world problems". Here's a rundown of all the robots.

And TSMC, sometime chipmaker to Apple, is tooling up for something.

Roku IPO; streaming music ARPUs sag; TalkBox; AT&T exits Muve, tries LTE broadcast; Google search share back to 2008 levels

Dan Rayburn expects Roku to go for an IPO very soon, with a price tag somewhere between $100-150m. They are expected to see between $275-300m in revenue this year, and perhaps to make it into profitability in Q1.

That said, Strategy Analytics reckons Spotify's ARPU is actually falling and a lot of streaming music providers are struggling. An important point is that they don't have any economies of scale, so their revenues grow linearly with subscriber growth, while the marginal costs consist of a ration of content royalties per subscriber, and some CDN and overheads. As a result, the costs tend to grow faster than revenue.

Here's a neat idea - New Call Telecom, a British ISP, is giving away Chromecasts when its subscribers sign up, because it's a cheap way to have a triple play.

TalkTalk has bought Blinkbox, a movie streaming business, off Tesco and taken Tesco's fixed ISP customers along with it.

AT&T is getting rid of the Muve Music product it acquired with Leap Wireless. Deezer is buying, and the existing Muve customers will be ported over to Deezer's service. AT&T is also going to test LTE Broadcast at an American football game this week.

Quietly, Google's share of US search is being eroded by vertical apps, new entrants, and Marissa Mayer's efforts to revive Yahoo! They're now back to where they were in 2008 - which wasn't bad.

And there's been a rumour of Verizon buying AOL, swiftly denied.

Verizon trimming the copper again; VZ Cloud out for 40 hours; Sprint gains subs; T-Mo gains lots of subs

Verizon may not be going to buy AOL, but it might well sell some networks, trimming its rural network again as it did in 2010. Lowell McAdam also mentioned moving more customers off the copper network and onto 4G wireless instead.

Meanwhile, that Verizon Cloud maintenance outage happened. It turns out that "far less than 48 hours" means that the service will be down for 40 hours.

Sprint announced customer numbers for Q4 and they were good, with almost a million net-adds. However, that breaks down to 410k prepaid and 527k wholesale and only 30k postpaid, not quite as impressive. But it's positive territory, which is saying something - in the previous quarter, it lost 336k prepaid customers and 30k postpaid. They didn't say anything about what the dash for growth is costing, but they did announced $1.8bn worth of vendor financing from the network equipment makers, specifically Nokia Networks, Samsung, and Alcatel-Lucent.

T-Mobile, meanwhile, reported another monster net-adds quarter. 2.1m net-adds, of which 1m postpaid, 266k prepaid, and the rest in wholesale, the seventh consecutive quarter with more than a million net-adds. For the year, that's 4.9m net-adds. As usual it came at a price, and the carrier made a $94m loss in its Q3.

AT&T does WebRTC; more DTAG HD voice; Talko interviews; UK public safety network is a mess

AT&T announced its Enhanced WebRTC API at a developer event immediately before CES. This is essentially replacing its partnership with Tropo, and adds some extra features like caller-ID and multiring.

DTAG has expanded its HD Voice service to include the 2G network.

Here's a 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog post with an interesting report from NTT DoCoMo on deploying VoLTE.

The software team from Talko interviewed. Is Kim Dotcom thinking about a WebRTC-based encrypted voice service? Smile Comms is preparing to add VoLTE to its data-only network in East Africa.

And the project to replace the UK emergency services' radio network is a fine mess.