Gigabit Race; Sprint CTO; EU Regulators; Alexa Fund - Telco 2.0 News Review

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The Gigabit Race: AT&T, Google, Centurylink, Bell, TalkTalk.

AT&T's GigaPower FTTH rollout has expanded again, with the suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth targeted with gigabit fibre. The exchange-side Optical Network Terminals (ONTs) are being provided as virtualised functions from their SDN deployment.

Meanwhile, Google has begun deploying fibre in Salt Lake City and Nashville, using the existing power poles. They've also started rolling out in Raleigh, North Carolina, this week.

Fierce reckons that the gigabit fibre race means that access to ducts and poles will be an increasingly fraught regulatory issue.

Verizon is accused of deliberately obstructing competitors' access to ducts in New York City, and also of falling behind in its FiOS roll-out commitments - this by its own employees, who are negotiating with the company over the pay settlement for the next three years. At the same time, the old BellSouth bits of AT&T are also in talks with the CWA.

Centurylink is now offering both 1Gbps fibre and its own IPTV in Minneapolis, where Comcast has had a monopoly up until now. In Toronto, meanwhile, Bell Canada is promising to deliver "the world's fastest Internet service", which turns out to be 2Gbps fibre.

In the light of all these roll-outs, it's not surprising that Ovum reckons the market for FTTH optics will break $1bn this year. However, they point out that one of the biggest drivers isn't a US telco - it's China Mobile, frantically building more wireline networks. And while CAPEX continues to rise, so does executive pay, it seems.

In-depth coverage of the new wireline investment cycle is available in this new Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing

Speaking of cable, Cablecom in Switzerland is the latest cableco to raise the bar on speed. Its top two tiers now hit 500Mbps, as well as including WiFi and video on demand.

In the UK, OFCOM data has been released that shows what speeds customers actually get as opposed to the "up to" numbers in ISPs' advertising. The results are heartening for the cable world. They're also deeply depressing in the light of all the government money flowing into BT via regional "superfast" projects.

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That's right: the largest single group of BT DSL subscribers are getting less than ADSL2+ speeds. Bizarrely, Plusnet's performance is somewhat less bad although it's actually part of BT. And cableco Virgin Media is alone in being able to say it delivers just what it promises.

TalkTalk's performance is pretty shocking, but perhaps they're concentrating on their FTTH build. Pricing has been announced for the network they're building around York with Sky and CityFibre, and the premium over their copper network is zero. A gigabit comes at £21.75/mo, with their TV included, and SMB-class service is £25.

They're calling it Ultra Fast Optical because BT won a court case letting them call their VDSL "superfast fibre broadband", quite hilariously in the light of the chart above. And, of course, because the acronym is UFO. As for the pricing, new STL research argues this is just what we should expect.

However, part of the picture may be that the OPEX savings are good enough that TalkTalk wants to drive uptake more than anything. Italy's national broadband plan is held up due to discussions about just this point, as it's proposed to offer customers vouchers to get them to sign up and it's not clear who's paying for that.

Meanwhile, here's a fundamental advance in fibre-optic capacity.

Bye, Sprint CTO; 10Gbps wireless; technical fixes to LTE-LAA row; DoCoMo 5G plans

Sprint's CTO Stephen Bye is resigning, effective July 24th. Bye was behind the $5bn Network Vision project, having joined from Cox when they backed out of their WiMAX plans and sold Sprint the spectrum. Sprint also had a SVP of networks, a president of network operations, and a VP of network technology development at the time - they have all gone, and now it's time to say good-Bye.

Sprint has since gained a Technical COO, Junichi Miyakawa, parachuted in from Softbank Japan, and it looks like the responsibility for fixing their network is now up to him. That said they also have a Chief Network Officer, John Saw...anyway, there's also a new strategy, based on more small cells. 800 of the little chaps are going to be deployed in Miami, plus some rather un-small 150 foot high monopoles. They're also going to close the last remnants of their consumer wireline business.

All these small cells need backhaul, of course, and sometimes even fronthaul - Lumos is hoping to provide it, in the form of dark fibre. They claim they've got rid of all but 3% of their TDM-based tower links.

We'll need it; Huawei claims it's done 10Gbps over a wireless link using its candidate air interface for 5G, F-OFDM, and a mere 200MHz of spectrum. They're promising field trial results later this year. Ericsson, meanwhile, has ruled out an acquisition and is making 1,700 job cuts.

Qualcomm and ALU are trying to engineer around the whole LTE-LAA row. Rather than doing LTE in WiFi spectrum, their proposed solution sends part of the LTE data stream over a WiFi link, so the usual WiFi spectrum sharing mechanisms can work.

NTT DoCoMo has let slip some details of its 5G plans. Its target date is 2020, but it doesn't expect to be able to use spectrum above 6GHz then. Hence we have the inevitable "5G+", planned for 2023 or thereabouts. In China, meanwhile, we're up to 200 million 4G users and the 3G user base is declining.

Cambridge Wireless members vote on whether we need 5G, and say "no".

T-Mobile USA announces yet another quick-upgrade giveaway, sorry, plan, and the MetroPCS network shuts down.

Euregulators turn against consolidation; potential digital market deal; Charter wants to be "more neutral"

While everyone is focused on Greece, has the European Union called the turn on consolidation? Competition Commissioner Margerethe Vestager has issued an official statement of objections to TeliaSonera and Telenor's planned merger of their Danish opcos. Vestager is specifically opposed to the Danish market going down from 4 to 3 operators. A final decision is needed by 2 September.

Perhaps as a result, when Bouygues rejected Altice's €10bn bid this week, they referred to "significant execution and political risk". Altice responded by claiming it had some sort of unspecified side-deal with Free, that the original Altice-SFR deal hadn't had any social consequences, and that €9bn of their offer was in cash.

They possibly didn't help their case by choosing the same week to reverse the French holding company into a subsidiary based in the Netherlands, obviously the ideal location for a company whose main assets are located in France, Portugal, and the US. Whether it is an effort to reduce their tax liabilities or not, it certainly looks like an arcane and suspicious financial manoeuvre.

French regulators are re-reviewing the Free Mobile-Orange national roaming contract, although there is now only 18 months to go before it runs out.

The EU itself seems to be close to a deal on the so-called telecoms package. The European Council of Ministers' latest draft would end roaming charges in June 2017 after a while under a transitional regime. It would allow operators to recover the costs via their wholesale prices. It would also permit "special services" so long as they didn't affect public Internet access in a "material" way - this is of course Eurospeak for net neutrality. The Parliament agrees about the June 2017 deadline, but doesn't want the transitional phase, cost recovery, or the word "material".

The draft, however, is much closer to the Parliamentary position than anyone expected, and especially than people like Günther Oettinger would have wanted, after heavy pressure from Digital Single Market VP Andrus Ansip. (We called this in December 2014.)

BT, meanwhile, wants OFCOM to let it shut down the PSTN and to commingle data belonging to BT Retail and Openreach customers. Meanwhile, TalkTalk says it's fine with deregulation so long as Openreach is carved out of BT. Sky, meanwhile, wants a full competition inquiry into Openreach.

In the US, Centurylink is the latest operator asking for permission to turn off its TDM services where "alternatives exist". They count cellular or Vonage as alternatives for voice. Interestingly, they also want to turn off their T-carrier data services, and they propose various Ethernet options over DSL as a stopgap.

Charter has hired a leading net neutrality campaigner to draft its commitments, claiming that they want to be the most neutral net going.

The FCC, meanwhile, has given the brushoff to T-Mobile and others' calls for more 600MHz spectrum to be reserved for smaller operators. They're staying at 30MHz.

Harold Feld discusses the first net neutrality complaint and argues that it is without merit.

South Korea is taking applications for a fourth MNO licence, with a deadline in August.

And the Aussie regulator signs off the NBN migration plan.

Amazon's $100m Voice 2.0 fund; BT does wholesale LTE roaming; LTE-M; AT&T "all in on SDN"

Amazon has announced a $100m VC fund, plus a developer SDK, for startups working with the Alexa voice-based user interface they developed for the Amazon Echo. The backend (the AVS or Alexa Voice Service) is now generally available, and the ASK (Alexa Skills Kit) is an SDK to integrate new web services with the Echo.

Tropo, of course, already has transcription, but here's how to use it with Voicebase if you need more options.

BT Global Service is offering wholesale LTE and VoLTE roaming services under an agreement with Syniverse.

Nick Hunn's campaign to delay the 2.3GHz auction in order to protect Internet of Things apps using the 2.4GHz band rolls on.

Here's the official line - Huawei's proposals for LTE-M, i.e. 4G in 1.4MHz subchannels for the IoT.

Vodafone UK has signed up Digitalk, an MVNE with a platform called "Mobile Cloud", to support its MVNOs.

AT&T is all in on SDN and NFV, says its head of IT.

Apple cuts a deal with indies; BlackBerry Q1s; New ThinkPad; obnoxious self-driving car

After last week's Taylor Swift incident, Apple has settled with thousands of indie labels, who will now be paid for music streamed as free trials of their music service. That clears up the remaining barriers to launch the service - or nearly, as there is still an outstanding issue about songwriters' copyrights.

You can use Facebook Messenger with a phone number, rather like WhatsApp.

BlackBerry's Q1 results showed its software revenue was up 150% year on year, 21% of the total, compared to 40% for hardware. They shipped 1.1m smartphones, compared to 1.3m in their Q4 (i.e. Q1), nothing impressive although ASP was up from $211 to $240. The company is making money, though, a net profit of $68m on $658m of revenue.

Lenovo has issued a concept for a new laptop based on the classic ThinkPad industrial design.

Creating VR content is agonisingly expensive.

Google is back in the code-hosting game.

Iraq turns the Internet off supposedly to stop students cheating on an exam and then does it again.

Is the cloud what the mainframe was in 1975?

A self-driving car aggressively cuts up another self-driving car. There's no confirmation that the second car took it out in a pointless argument with Siri later in the day.

And guns and hexacopters go together as well as you might think.