Gigabit LTE, CAPEX, Orange, Ads, Seals: Telco 2.0 News Review

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LG U+ bursts through 1Gbps; TEF, TIM Brasil, Vodafone CAPEX plans; new street lights for more small cells

We were wondering how long it would be before someone announced gigabit mobile. Turns out it was a week. LG U+ announced that they reached 1.2Gbps in a trial using a combination of 256QAM modulation, 4x4 MIMO, and 4-band carrier aggregation. Obviously enough, they won't be offering this to customers until some devices show up with support for the new modulation scheme and the extra antennas for the MIMO, and they also need to add more spectrum - they needed 60MHz over 4 carriers.

Meanwhile, ZTE and China Mobile reckon they've got the 3D MIMO antennas they want to use in "pre-5G" working in a "pre-commercial trial" - this is important for the beamforming/beamsteering features of the technology. They claim it is interoperable with existing 4G devices. The base station uses no fewer than 128 antennas.

CTIA, the US cellular industry lobby, is pushing back against the cablecos over the whole LTE-U issue. The cablecos, plus Google and some WiFi companies, filed a brief with the FCC via NCTA arguing that the agency should have to approve anything of that sort that gets deployed into the unlicensed bands. CTIA argues that this isn't fair, it's impossible that LTE-U could do any harm, and reviews wouldn't do any good.

Here's some more information about Bharti Airtel's $9bn "Project Leap" CAPEX plan. Interesting detail: the roll-out is frontloaded, with 70,000 of the total 160,000 eNodeBs being deployed in year one, FY15-16, before the run-rate slackens to 45k/year. The coverage targets include 500,000 villages, with half of those to be covered by Q2 2016. The fixed network is expanding by 550,000 route kilometres of fibre, and adding vectoring to some DSL lines. Part of the project will be consolidating the 2G/3G/4G networks into a single RAN (and quite possibly, a Huawei SingleRAN).

Another carrier investment plan comes from Telefonica, which is celebrating its return to growth by clicking over into investment mode. A figure of 17% CAPEX/revenue is given. This means that all the so-called E-5 major MNOs have now announced some sort of substantial CAPEX plan. Also, Cesar Alierta tells us that Telefonica aims to be an "Onlife Telco", connecting people to infinite possibilities under the slogan "We Choose It All". Glad that's cleared up.

More mundanely, they're starting the integration of the Telefonica O2 and E-Plus networks in Germany in January 2016. They're keeping the O2 GSM net and the E-Plus 3G net, while building the 4G in parallel. Apparently the E-Plus 3G was the best in Germany, although that certainly wasn't what we found in this report.

Cox brings the gigabit cable race to Washington.TIM Brasil has signed a major contract with Nokia for 3G/4G infrastructure, although there are no details yet.

Vodafone has started rolling out 1Gbps FTTH in Portugal, Spain, and Ireland. In Ireland, they're deploying using the electricity grid's civil works, while in Portugal, they're adding to their existing network. In Spain, they're in a joint venture with Orange. Also, they've got the long-standing proposal of a joint national FTTH build in Italy out of the freezer, this time with the involvement of their power company, Enel. At this stage the budget is €600m CAPEX to pass an additional 2.05m homes, if we assume Orange and Vodafone each do half the Spanish deployment. That's a cost-to-pass of $440/home, which looks lowish... but then, Verizon FiOS was at $700 in 2009 declining at 14% annually, so in fact it's pretty conservative.

In the UK, meanwhile, Vodafone's ISP operation is boasting that its new home router is "future proof". It's certainly feature-y, with 802.11ac Wave 2 beamforming WiFi, four gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB ports, 3x3 MIMO for the 5GHz radio...and a Gigabit Ethernet port on the WAN side of the router as well as the usual DSL RJ-11 jack. Is there something they're trying to tell us?

Here's something interesting - according to OFCOM data, Vodafone and O2 are closing the 4G coverage gap on EE, SMS volumes are falling steadily, and recent smartphones' 2G radio performance sucks, to be blunt about it. So much so that operators are seriously wondering whether to invest in the 2G, or to push the transition to VoLTE forwards faster. Also, the UK is adding both femtocells and WiFi hotspots very fast.

New York City wants to buy new street lights specifically in order to install more small cells on them. They expect to charge as much as $650/mo for some of the choicest specimens of street furnishing, and intend to use a neutral host model where multiple small cells or RRUs share a common antenna.

The first of the 4G builds under Verizon Wireless' LTE for Rural America spectrum-sharing scheme is done.

Orange appoints 2 "CEOs-delegate"; Vodafone.gh launches M-PESA; is US pricing about to tick up?

Orange has had another management shakeup - it now has two more "CEOs-delegate" to go with the existing post held by Gervais Pellissier. The successful candidates are Ramon Fernandez, the current deputy CEO for strategy and finance, and Pierre Louette, the deputy CEO for the general secretariat, Orange Wholesale France, group sourcing, and the supply chain. Imagine the size of his business card. This follows up the creation of deputy CEOs for Customer Experience & Mobile Financial, and for Middle East & Africa.

Speaking of mobile financial services, Vodafone Ghana has launched M-PESA under the name "Vodafone Cash". This makes Ghana the 11th country to get the service.

Cote d'Ivoire's regulator wants to get 4G started within the next three months, as a quid pro quo for the carriers paying a substantial fee to renew their licences.

Roshan Wireless is expecting consolidation in the Afghan mobile market as foreign troops and their money depart. They reckon that this has reduced the value of the market by 30-40%, meaning that it doesn't make sense to have six MNOs any more (does it ever?). Roshan, though, is staying on, hoping to be the consolidator, and preparing for the future by sharing cell sites and improving their interconnection with Afghan Telecom.

Vivendi denies, again, any interest in buying Telecom Italia. So does Orange.

And are we seeing the turn in US wireless pricing? Although the great subscriber acquisition giveaway is still roaring on, and Sprint was promising a sensational announcement today, T-Mo, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and AT&T have all now upped their prices on unlimited data plans.

New Telco 2.0 research out now: Connecting Brands with Customers

Philipp Humm, former Vodafone Europe CEO, has joined the board of Shine Technologies, the company linked with proposals by EE and O2 UK to start filtering ads at a network-wide level. Meanwhile, it turns out that using iOS 9 and Safari, adblocking reduces the battery drain from 2 hours of web browsing by 50%. No wonder the ad market is in crisis. If you're wrestling with this issue, why not try our new Connecting Brands with Customers report?

Music streaming, a terrible business; more on Binge On; Amazon is a TV channel; exiting Flash

Music streaming services are giving up the ghost worldwide. Rdio, the one Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom ran, just filed for bankruptcy. Essentially all the others are lossmakers. The problem is pretty simple - on one side they face the big three rightsholders. As "a music app with only two-thirds of the music" is a pretty unimpressive proposition, they have no choice but to deal with all of them, so the rightsholders are an effective monopoly. On the other side of the business, they face the structural deflation of the consumer Internet. And, of course, content delivery and customer acquisition are nontrivial costs. That doesn't leave much or even any margin. And then Apple joined in.

T-Mobile USA, meanwhile, zero-rated another 11 music services. An interesting question here is whether it works in a similar way to Binge On! where any provider complying with some technical parameters can ask to be included, thus preserving net neutrality. Speaking of which, here's an interesting piece about T-Mo that makes the point that some of the video people assumed the carrier would want them to stream the highest resolutions in order to drive up data overage charges and make more money, whether or not the user's device would actually show it at that resolution.

Also interesting is the detail that the compression/caching/whatever happens at the PGW, i.e. where T-Mobile's core network joins the Internet, so they're saving on backhaul as well as in the RAN.

Amazon wants to add third-party TV channels to Amazon Prime streaming.

Comcast is using IFTTT recipes to link social media apps to its X1 STB, so you can get the snarky Twitter reaction directly on the TV.

Starting in January, DirecTV is going to rebrand as AT&T Entertainment.

Adobe has released a new version of its animation tools that produces HTML5, not Flash, and it's going to do an HTML5-based video player. There's a lot more technical detail here, but it's pretty clear that even Adobe is sick of Flash.

3UK/O2 - what happens in Brussels stays there; DISH battles Charter/TWC; the case for breaking up BT

The British antitrust regulator asked for the 3UK/O2 deal back from the European Commission, but the European Commission said no. Specifically, the Commission argues that it has more relevant experience having investigated numerous other big mobile mergers in recent years. The parties to the deal would probably add "...and vetoed them".

As a result, the planned 2.3 and 3.4GHz auction has been postponed to see which way the Euro-cat jumps.

Meanwhile, French regulators may be about to fine Orange as much as €500m over the behaviour of its enterprise and wholesale divisions.

In the MTN Nigeria case, the Nigerian NCC wrote to the carrier offering to reduce the famous $5bn fine by 35%, and then changed its mind and offered 25%.

DISH is constantly filing arguments against the Charter/TWC/Bright House merger. Charter responds, pointing out that the combined company would be "smaller than Comcast and only slightly bigger than AT&T". Some would say being the size of AT&T was precisely the problem. However, it's very telling that Comcast and the enlarged Charter would have 90% of US high-speed broadband connections between them - the cablecos have really pushed ahead with speed.

Verizon, meanwhile, is in trouble with the New Jersey state regulator about its copper, which it is accused of neglecting in order to get out of irksome public service commitments.

Harold Feld summarises the arguments in the latest lawsuit against Title II reclassification. He thinks the FCC is going to win.

Sky's chief economist argues in favour of demerging Openreach, in an interview with ISPReview. He seems to hint that Sky - and perhaps others? - would be willing to invest in such a company's national FTTH rollout.

OpenFastPath; ONOS includes new telco use cases; server sales up; Amazon buys...trucks

Nokia has launched a new open-source foundation, OpenFastPath, working with ARM among others to develop SDN technology. The name refers to the distinction between forwarding packets in software, via the CPU (the slow path), and forwarding them in the data plane, using hardware acceleration (the fast path). They intend to create an improved TCP/IP stack and a faster control protocol. The project uses FreeBSD Unix as the OS and the ODP (Open Data Plane) hardware API.

Nokia also has an interesting-sounding deal with Telecom Italia to jointly look for interesting startups in NFV, SDN, SON, and RAN technologies.

The ONOS project has pushed another major version out, the fifth major release of their software this year. Some interesting changes include the arrival of IP multicast support, integration with OpenStack and OPNFV, and the inclusion of AT&T's "Central Office Rearchitected as a Datacentre". Even more interestingly, SK Telecom was explicitly thanked for extending CORD to cover mobile use cases.

Here's a lot more detail on exactly what HPE will be doing for Microsoft Azure - basically it's a hardware line that lets you build your own Azure in a private cloud.

What with all this cloud, it's no surprise that server sales are up 7.5% by value and 9.2% by volume per Gartner. HP, or rather HPE, is still No.1.

Cisco reckons only 5% of networks are at all automated. Smaller data centres are often running too cold and wasting power. Google is buying huge amounts of solar power.

Centurylink seems to be having doubts about its investments in cloud. The two execs most concerned are both off, one of them to head Ericsson's cloud product lines. The company denies this is a sacking or that they might want out.

Here's an interesting talk about EBay's architecture.

And Amazon may talk drones, but it's buying a fleet of trucks.

Smartphone growth dragged down by Windows; Samsung Mobile chief out; Sony PS4 a hit?

IDC reckons the world smartphone market will grow 9.8% this year - the first-ever year of single digit growth. Interestingly, most of the difference is down to their revised estimate for Windows Phones. Nobody, essentially, wants them. Similarly, it looks like the various alternative platforms are going nowhere fast.

singledigit.PNGIt also looks like the share of new iOS users converting from Android is going up, as many as 30%. In that light, perhaps it's not surprising that Samsung has replaced the head of Samsung Mobile, JK Shin. It might be more surprising that he's been replaced by the head of R&D responsible for Knox, Tizen, and Samsung Pay; even if the G6 phones didn't sell as well as they hoped, they're vastly better products than any of those three.

Perhaps the insider-trading investigation had something to do with it. Meanwhile, Sammy has agreed to pay up the $548m fine in the Apple vs Samsung patent suit by the 18th, although it retains the right to appeal all the way to the US Supreme Court.

Sony is confident that the PlayStation 4 is going to be a huge hit, on the scale of the PS 2. The PlayStation VR is also doing good business, partly thanks to the gloriously-named game, 100ft Robot Golf.

TSMC is building a new chip fab...in China, where Qualcomm has managed to get Xiaomi to license its patents.

BlackBerry is closing its BBM Meetings service because nobody uses it, and withdrawing from Pakistan because the government insists on reading the encrypted traffic.

US classrooms are full of Chromebooks because they're cheap and easy to lock down.

Plantronics has some really interesting APIs that tell you when someone walks away from the phone.

You can buy an Android phone for $10 but you probably shouldn't.

UK smart meters slide right; HPE edge computing for the IoT; Internet of Seals

The UK smart metering programme has been delayed yet again. Nick Hunn has an absolutely scathing blog post about this fiasco and how the government is massaging its numbers to conceal this. Interesting detail: most of the "savings" included in the business case are accounted for by the assumption that putting people on smart meters will take them off the expensive pre-pay tariff.

HPE has just announced a new line of "edge gateways", devices for processing IoT sensor data at the network edge, in a ruggedised form factor.

Verizon Wireless is offering IoT devices with Cat 1 LTE, i.e. rolling back to the very earliest flavour of the technology, as a substitute for LTE-M or whatever. Cute.

Strategy Analytics reckons privacy and security are a major barrier to the IoT.

The Internet of Seals. The University of St Andrews' Sea Mammal Research Unit is going to use Vodafone's M2M service to track seals. They're using the global data SIM product to avoid roaming charges.