iPad Pro, CDNs, Openreach, Orange, 5G, cars, VHA: Telco 2.0 News Review

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New iPad Pro, Siri-fuelled iTelly, Apple's own iPhone leasing plan.

No prizes for guessing what this week's news event might be. Apple launched the iPad Pro, a 13" tablet it claims is faster than 90 per cent of PCs that shipped in the last year. Like the Microsoft Surface, it comes with a cover that acts as a keyboard and kickstand, and no fewer than four speakers to help you annoy people on trains. It also comes with a stylus, the Apple Pencil, so Steve Jobs will be spinning in his grave just as long as it takes to read him the Q2 results announcement and the iPhone pre-order numbers. Pricing is premium, to say the least, with the top-end, 128GB LTE model coming in at $1099, plus another $169 for the cover/keyboard - that's edging into MacBook territory.

The iPhone adds an "s", so we get the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. These get incremental improvements to the hardware, and the new 3D Touch haptics API (previously called Force Touch until someone noticed it was creepy). This lets you long-press on a link to get a quick preview of whatever app is on the other end, and then tap it again to open it if you find it interesting. Sounds recondite, but changes to Apple's UX affordances often have far-reaching effects.

An important commercial announcement is that Apple is now selling iPhones on a pay-monthly basis. For example, you can pay $34/mo for an unlocked 16GB iPhone 6S with AppleCare support, and after 12 months, either keep paying for the next 12 months, or trade the gadget in for a newer model (when that rolls around).

This is going to shake up the Apple/telcos relationship - on the one hand, the operators get to dump the subsidy and offer annual! new! iPhones!, on the other hand, they can't jack up the implied interest rate in a leasing/hire-purchase model to make more money, and neither can they use the terms of the device sale to lock subscribers into a 2-year contract. Presumably, the old phones go through Apple's existing rework line and back out into the refurb channel, so the operators don't get to monetise the returned iPhones either.

Within 24 hours of the new version of iOS shipping, a jailbreak is available.

Perhaps the biggest Apple news, though, was beyond the smartphone. The new Apple TV is here, and it has a new operating system, TvOS, a touchscreen remote, access to its content library through Siri, and an API for TV-specific apps using XML and JavaScript, although mainline iOS apps will run on it. The link to the remote is Bluetooth 4, so it doesn't have to be line-of-sight, but Apple has interestingly decided not to bother with any smart-home protocols.

That said, are we completely crazy to think people will grab their iPhones to control the thing instead of bothering with the remote?

Elsewhere, Samsung denied that it's going to sack 10% of its head office staff but did say it was freezing salaries this year. Here's a very positive review of the Galaxy Note 5. Microsoft has just EOLd the various Nokia Lumia photography apps, and yes, the photos hosted in them are going away. Android Pay launches in the US, although the in-app payments element isn't there on day zero.

Google's "discounts for peers" program; Azure builds more CDN; HTTP 2.0; Vodafone FTTF

What with all that streaming TV, it's probably time to look to your CDN. Something genuinely interesting is up: Google is offering discounts on its cloud services for customers of four CDNs, Level(3), Fastly, Highwinds, and CloudFlare. The reason is that these CDNs have agreed to setup direct peering between their edge locations and Google's network, essentially bringing Google Cloud Platform customers' apps on board and saving both parties some bandwidth. Google is then passing back some of the saving to its customers as lower pricing for egress traffic.

Meanwhile, Alcatel-Lucent has a new CDN software solution. It won't be available commercially until 2016, but apparently part of it is in production with TalkTalk.

The Russian government wants anyone who holds Russian citizens' personal data to do so in Russia. For privacy, of course. Of course. So far, only about 10% of the companies concerned have actually moved anything into a Russian data centre, but one of those is Apple.

Microsoft Azure has launched a lot of new CDN- and video-related features into general availability, inlcuding a full on-the-fly transcoding solution and media indexing. Ericsson, meanwhile, has acquired a company that does similar things, for some $125m.

TiVo has a new, low-end version of its software for cablecos who want to upgrade without handing out the latest-and-greatest hardware to everyone.

This is interesting: Cablevision has been selling a broadband + broadcast package, and they say it's not cannibalising the cable TV base but rather reclaiming cord-cutters.

Dan Rayburn points out that HTTP 2.0 is coming and some CDNs are already trialling it. In comments, there's a great Packet Pushers' Podcast on the technology, making the point that it makes non-cooperative caching or proxying strategies much harder compared to true CDN.

Vodafone UK is pulling fibre to a collection of big sports stadiums as part of a partnership with SIS, the outside-broadcast company. The idea seems to be that SIS will use it to provide broadcasters with their HD video feeds and Vodafone will provide back-up microwave connectivity, but we wouldn't be that surprised if Vodafone also started pulling fibre outwards from the new sites. Is that FTTF - Fibre to the Football?

UK fixed operators in push to save Openreach; gigacable news; VZ admits to crisis in the enterprise

The great lobbyfest around the BT-EE and 3UK-O2 deals is getting deadly serious. Virgin Media, CityFibre, and Zayo have formed a coalition to lobby against OFCOM's proposal to make Openreach offer regulated dark fibre. Not so long ago, they were in favour of cutting BT down to size, but not like that... The key issue is really price - the Infrastructure Investors' Group, as they're calling themselves, is worried that Openreach's regulated pricing would undercut their prices and spoil their business model. VMED, of course, will be worrying about its lucrative mobile backhaul business.

BT will be delighted, as they will no doubt be pushing for the highest price attainable. Isn't there a word for the situation where a group of firms who are meant to be competing get together to drive up their prices? The Openreach CEO, meanwhile, is in the Daily Telegraph arguing that OFCOM shouldn't break the company up because of self-driving cars.

This is probably as good as any time to checkpoint just how many FTTH lines the rebel alliance has managed to put in. ISPReview has the data - it looks like about 200,000 homes passed, not counting either BT or VMED, growing about 40% annually. Also, literally half BT's 160k FTTH homes are in Cornwall.

John Stephens of AT&T says they don't think the extra 11.7m FTTH homes they signed up to get the DirecTV deal approved will be a problem, because they will usually be within the FTTN footprint and a lot of the work has already been done. He says CAPEX is likely to stay under 15% of revenue for the next four years.

Centurylink is hoping the Charter-TWC merger will be disruptive enough, in the other sense of the word, that they will have a window of opportunity to roll out a lot more FTTH before the cable upgrades hit. The so-called "shot clock" or 180 day time limit for the deal's regulatory review, meanwhile, started on Friday and the FCC would like comments by the 13th of October, thank you.

Arris, after its acquisition of Pace Micro, seems to be winning most of the early DOCSIS 3.1 spending, says a rather good FierceCable writeup on the beginnings of gigabit cable. Mediacom will sell you gigabit cable for $149/mo.

Windstream is keeping its data centres and signing up with HP for Helion (aka HP-branded OpenStack). Three more possible Google Fibre markets.

And Verizon EVP of operations John Stratton admits that something is wrong with their Global Business division:

"As we look at the performance of network business, this is where all the pressure is: from two flavors," Stratton said. "One is the secular decline of the core copper network and we see technology displacement to fiber and Ethernet and with IP networking we have seen in the last 18 months some pretty significant compression on the retail rate per bit."

Click here for in-depth Telco 2.0 coverage. Interestingly, Verizon is looking to SDN for the solution, using a Cisco product, but that might just be a repeat of their mistake of outsourcing their whole cloud strategy to their vendor.

Orange CEO calls the turn in Europe; Nokia claims 1Gbps cell; VZW claims 5G next year(!) Shinzo Abe demands price cuts

Les Echos has a mammoth interview with Orange boss Stéphane Richard, and there is news. Richard argues that the European markets are beginning to turn upwards, and predicts that there might be some consolidation in France once the next lot of spectrum auctions is out of the way in 2016. He also claims that Orange France has managed to increase its ARPU in mobile by €3/mo with 4G deployment and €5/mo in fixed with FTTH. Not surprisingly in that light, he's much keener on investing in the network than in content. He also names a figure of 50% annual mobile data growth - high, if true - and 10% smartphone penetration in Orange's African markets.

He also complains that the French are obsessed with low prices, there are too many regulators in Europe, and that the public has been hard on ALU CEO Michel Combes over his payoff. It didn't help - Combes has had to give back half the money, leaving him with only €8m to take away from the Nokia-Alcatel deal.

It didn't help with the regulators, either. TeliaSonera and Telenor have walked away from their JV in Denmark, as Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager insisted on keeping four operators there. Hardly had that sunk in, when the official submission for 3UK/O2 landed in her in-tray. The regulator has until the 16th of October to issue a provisional response.

Orange, meanwhile, has signed up to a partnership with DTAG, SingTel, and Telefonica to co-operate on their support for developers and startups.

Richard thinks French politicians are obsessed with trying to beat down telcos' pricing. Here's Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, doing just that. Japan has some of the highest ARPUs in the world and a three-carrier market dominated by NTT DoCoMo. Abe has tasked his telecoms minister to look at how to change that, with the result that NTT shares plunged.

Nokia Networks, meanwhile, has a clutch of announcements including what it calls the first 1Gbps small cell. It gets there by combining three LTE bands or a mixture of LTE and WiFi, whether via LTE-LAA or LWA. There's also a new wireless backhaul product to support that, which comes from partner Tarana Wireless, and something called "Het-Net Engine Room", a planning tool for placing small cells. Inevitably, there's also a claim of being "5G-ready"; can "pre-5G" be far off?

Well, here's Verizon Wireless claiming they're going to test a 5G network next year, by which time 5G still won't exist as a standard.

Before we get there, VZW and Samsung will be testing LTE-LAA small cells this year. Tom Wheeler, meanwhile, said he was "supremely confident" that the 600MHz incentive auction would happen on time, and that it might be used for 5G. T-Mobile is getting more of its 700MHz holding into the game, and now they're offering your first monthly bill back if you're disappointed by coverage after the "Extended Range LTE" arrives in your area.

Sprint is hoping that the iPhone 6S's carrier-aggregation support will do them a good turn. They're also not happy that AT&T won't sell them ad space on DirecTV for their massive gimme offer aimed at DirecTV subscribers.

AnywhereSIM is trying the "MVNO on a foreign operator to get national roaming" trick again.

VF UK WiFi calling; 25% of smartphones are < 1 call a week; WebRTC without plugins; cool app

After EE and T-Mobile USA, Vodafone UK has introduced VoWiFi.

OFCOM, meanwhile, is planning to provide device benchmark tests including voice, just in time for everyone to have stopped making calls. According to Deloitte's Mobile Consumer survey, 25% of smartphone users make fewer than one call a week, and if current trends continue, that will reach 50% in mid-2018. However, they also expect continuing growth in application-specific voice.

Speaking of which, it looks like plugin-free WebRTC is close, as both Apple and Microsoft now support the webrtc-in-webkit project.

Here's a new video-calling app for Android TVs. Note that they had to give up on Skype and then GTalk due to Microsoft and Google decisions, but with WebRTC they don't need to worry about it.

Polycom has started building Skype for Business into its enterprise hardware products.

How to do attended transfer right with Twilio. Also, shock political star Jeremy Corbyn's campaign built its own virtual phone bank app and what's the betting that's using Twilio?

AT&T wins Jaguar-Land Rover M2M; EE Connect; Inmarsat for Things; how smart meters work

AT&T's head of mobility, Glenn Lurie, talked up the new personal security app in their Digital Life suite in his CTIA keynote, but the real news was that AT&T has snagged Jaguar-Land Rover's connected car business. JLR is currently pushing out exports at a rate of knots, and connected cars are usually well towards the $10-15 end of the M2M ARPU scale, so that's going to do them nothing but good.

EE Connect is their new M2M platform. We remember a couple of years ago asking them which M2M platform they used; after a bit of persuasion they owned up that there were three, one for Orange, one for T-Mobile, and one for the new 4G network. Connect is presumably meant to put this behind them. They also mention a number of 2 million M2M devices on the network, and say they've replaced "all" their 2G equipment.

Inmarsat is offering a new M2M product for "the Internet of Everywhere". This consists of two products, a low-bandwidth, low-power monitoring solution, and an M2M profile for their BGAN broadband network. They're also signing up strategic VARs.

How about a lightbulb that runs Linux and does TCP/IP over visible light?

Vodafone Ghana is opening an M2M platform.

And here's an interesting High Scalability post on how smart meters actually work.

M2M isn't just for wireless: here's Cox buying a health monitoring company.

Privacy disaster at VHA; massive health insurance leak; WhatsApp bug; Mars rover bug

So an Aussie journalist investigated reports that Vodafone-Hutchison Australia's CRM system was wide open to anyone who wanted to poke around in the data. And what happened? A VHA employee promptly pulled her CDRs in order to find the whistleblower. The effort to cover that up percolated up to Vodafone Group level. Now there are at least two parallel government inquiries.

10 million health insurance files leaked. WhatsApp executes arbitrary code if it comes in a vCard. Two critical patches for literally all versions of Windows. vxWorks, the operating system in the Curiosity Mars rover and vast amounts of important industrial stuff, has a major vulnerability.

OKCupid still isn't HTTPS. If you're not going to pick a strong password for your AshleyMadison account...it's probably time we replaced passwords. This was probably inevitable. Really clever. You might want to turn this off. Listing non-US crypto.