CES & Internet of Things Special: Telco 2.0 News Review

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CES; AT&T launches edge hosting for M2M apps; NB-IoT in Ericsson 17A; 20m Qualcomm connected cars; Nokia private LTE for oil & gas

So it's CES week and the world is full of Internet of Things gadgets. AT&T announced over 400 enhancements to its M2X developer platform for IoT apps, including integration with Salesforce, a new emphais on Salesforce's Heroku PaaS, and a new API for deploying apps to edge-computing hosting. This last product is called Flow Edge and sounds very much like the ETSI Mobile Edge Computing concept.

On the other hand, here's a washing machine that has a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 procesor, runs Linux, and streams HD video. However the most exciting use case suggested is just that it has a spin cycle, like most washing machines outside the United States.

Ericsson claims its latest software release, 17A, includes full support for NB-IoT, aka LTE-M, and as a result, that it's deployed with both AT&T and Verizon Wireless

Microsoft has signed up French MVNE Transatel to put 3G/4G connectivity in Windows 10 gadgets - they're planning an Apple-like solution where the user can sign up for service in the OS interface, without talking to a carrier.  Meanwhile, Transatel itself is expanding into the US.

Samsung and Microsoft are dropping heavy hints about some sort of IoT partnership - no details yet, but we note that the Samsung keynote included, yes, a fridge that sends e-mail.

Qualcomm will be putting its 602A connected car SoC into 2017 Audis, and they claim there are already 20 million cars driving around with Snapdragon LTE modems. Also, there's a new reference design for smart-home products, the 212.

Mark Zuckerberg wants his house to be somewhat intelligent in 2016, including recognising his friends, letting him visualise data in virtual reality, and keeping an eye on his daughter. The first is pretty easy and not very exciting, the second is doable and interesting, the third is either just an expensive baby monitor or really, really hard.

Nick Hunn's Creative Connectivity blog discusses the emerging standards war for IoT mesh networking. Interoperability is crucial, but the vendors who are developing the standards are conflicted - they also want to lock out the competition. In the industrial world, it's easier because there's usually a dominant supplier in each sector vertical, or else a long-standing standardisation forum.

Australia's biggest on-shore oil producer has hired Nokia Networks to build them a private LTE network. That's one way to eliminate all your interop problems.

And O2 is going to start selling the AT&T Digital Life platform in the UK, including cameras from Samsung and Serco and thermostats from Tado

Hackers wreck Ukrainian power grid; Telefonica, China Unicom data JV; British cops buy £37m worth of CDRs

While CES is touting all those IoT devices, it's finally happened - the first confirmed successful hacker attack on an electricity grid denied power to about half the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine, after the BlackEnergy virus was used to infect the control system. The virus can do physical damage to some SCADA systems, and will anyway provide a reverse shell into the device and optionally destroy the bootloader. The attack vector seems to have been nothing more exotic than crafted Microsoft Office documents sent as e-mail attachments.

Although Path Intelligence is no longer with us, the Royal Parks used EE to track visitors to London parks for a year, it turns out.

Telefonica and China Unicom have started a joint venture to market Telefonica's Smart Steps retail-focused big data technology in China, using China Unicom's data. Or rather, their customers. That said, this is one telco big data project that probably won't have many regulatory problems around privacy...

Over the last five years, British police forces have spent at least £37m buying surveillance data from telecoms companies. Apparently a typical request costs £50.

Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and Yahoo! have handed in a joint letter protesting the British government surveillance bill, joining Apple, which did slightly earlier.

There is a serious bug in the Blackphone's hardened version of Android, PrivatOS. Fortunately, Silent Circle's incident response has been effective and a patch was mass-deployed on the 7th of December. It affects the Icera modem in the Blackphone 1.

Remember CarrierIQ, the company whose unremovable Android app monitored your stuff for the carrier or vendor, and kept all the data where any other app could read it? The remains of the company have been sold to, ah, AT&T.

Juniper says patches are coming to remove the two backdoors in its NetScreen firewalls...some time in the next six months.

And between Intel, Vox Media, Lady Gaga, and Re/code, there's going to be a hackathon on solutions to abusive Internet trolls.

WiGig; Lenovo to mass-produce Project Tango; Samsung, HTC, Huawei numbers; new laptops

It's still gadgets week, after all, so let's have some more hardware news. Lenovo has a new clutch of ThinkPads based on the Intel Skylake processors. Interestingly, they've dropped touchscreens from the flagship X1 Carbon, which is henceforth a pure laptop (and one with truly impressive specs), and introduced a ThinkPad with the Yoga's 360 degree hinge, so you get a choice between a flash-harry and a hardcore geek option. Also, there's a docking station that uses WiGig (802.11ad) rather than just, you know, wires.

Meanwhile, here's the first WLAN router to support WiGig.

Lenovo, interestingly, is also trying to consumerise Google's Project Tango spatial computing technology, promising a 6" Tango smartphone around $500 by the summer. Although launch is apparently 6 to 8 months away, there was no hardware to ooh over at CES. That said, Google has re-opened its call for app ideas and will apparently pre-install the lucky winners. Perhaps the device is the same one in the dev kit, just manufactured more cheaply? The problem so far with Tango is that there's been little point developing apps for it when nobody has a device.

Also, Lenovo confirmed at CES that they are dropping the name "Motorola", although they will keep caling phones the Moto this or that.

Samsung's Q4 guidance is out and it's modestly positive, suggesting that although volume is underperforming a tad, the mix of devices improved over Christmas.

Huawei says its new goal is to be the No.2 smartphone maker within two years, which means getting past Apple. They finished 2015 in third place with 9.5% of the market, compared to 11.8% for Apple and 28.3% for Samsung. That's 108 million phones.

HTC reported fairly dreadful sales and seems to be increasingly betting on the wearables and VR fashion turning out to be a thing.

Here's HP's Elitebook Folio, like a MacBook with ports. They've also done a Microsoft Surface-like gadget that's a proper PC.

Binge On! row is here; UK MNOs vs. landlords; Facebook vs. African startups

The T-Mobile Binge On! regulatory row is well and truly here, after the EFF discovered that T-Mobile USA is throtting non-Binge video down to a uniform 1.5Mbps. Also, downloads as well as streams are affected. And downloads that contain video, but don't have a video filetype, are affected, so T-Mobile is evidently examining their content.

John Legere responds typically, ranting on Twitter and demanding:

"Who the f*ck are you anyway EFF, why are you stirring up so much trouble, and who pays you?"

Inevitably, it looks like the whole issue is heading for the FCC docket.

Chairman Wheeler says we should expect a "spectrum extravaganza" in 84 days' time when the 600MHz incentive auction happens, although he declines to predict how much money he expects. Meanwhile, the regulator has paused the Charter/TWC/Bright House deal for 15 days to consider more filings.

AT&T is complaining that the FCC's new broadband definition makes it look bad next to the cablecos.

An interesting piece from BuzzFeed gives a sense of how clumsy Facebook's Free Basics/Internet.org rollout was. Meanwhile, Cynthia Gordon, the head of Millicom's African operations, points out that if Facebook wants to drive data adoption in Africa, it could help much more by localising content and supporting local developers.

OFCOM has found that BT is indeed in breach of its obligations when it comes to providing Gigabit Ethernet feeds to Vodafone. Specifically, it's using an obscure internal procedure to delay actually hooking them up. This seems a bit late in the light of BT/EE being a racing certainty to go ahead.

The rental agreements for about a quarter of the UK's base stations are up for renewal and the operators fear that the landlords will take the opportunity to force rents up, now that the operators have installed their gear and are therefore committed. EE, especially, wants changes to the Electronic Communications Code. For their part, the operators are saying things like:

signal blackspots could occur where disputes are ongoing, because the network would not be able to access the site if the mast needs to be repaired

You could mistake that for a threat!

Orange buys a bank; new BTOR CEO; T-Mo Q4; Millicom in Mexico; Thai spectrum

The Orange-Bouygues talks continue with no fixed calendar, while Stéphane Richard says it's a condition of any deal that it not cause any job losses in France. Meanwhile,  Orange is acquiring  65% of the banking business of French insurer Groupama, with a view to launching "Orange Bank" in 2017 in France, with Belgium and Spain to follow.

BT Openreach has a new CEO, Clive Selley, who moves over from running the group-wide technology function. Here's an interview with their chairman, Sir Mike Rake. Rake argues the company is open to a strategic partnership with Deutsche Telekom after the EE deal closes, that it might be in the market for more media assets, perhaps even including Channel 4, and that it is moving its call centres back to the UK. Not surprisingly, he doesn't want to sell Openreach.

T-Mobile USA may be in a regulatory row, but its customers care little; Q4 was another net-adds monster, 2.1m of them, taking the total to 63m. Of those 2.1m, 1.3m were branded, postpaid and 917k were branded, postpaid primary phone connections. Sprint, meanwhile, decided to keep the Christmas giveaway going until mid-February.

Comcast's next iteration of the X1 STB brings 4K and HDR, and it's planned to roll out in time for the Olympics.

Millicom is looking at the possibility of launching in Mexico.

Telenor denies that it might sell its Thai opco dtac after missing out on low- or mid-band 4G spectrum. Meanwhile, two of the lucky operators are planning to share the spectrum, and Jasmine, whose foreign investor has not shown up, is looking to a Free Mobile-like rollout with small cells in users' homes.

Kenyan mobile penetration stands at 88% and Internet penetration at 74%.

Finally, some RJio detail; first LSA; Italian FTTH in trouble; "new services" drive 5G for Vodafone

Reliance Jio inches towards a for-real 4G launch. After the employees-only announcement over Christmas, they're now talking about going live in March, and they're beginning to give some details. The initial product will be a MiFi (i.e. Huawei) mobile hotspot/tether device with 10GB of data, for $10.50/mo. The own-brand Lyf smartphones offered to employees will presumably follow along. What's actually holding them up turns out to be that it's taking longer to build out to 90% population coverage, their target, than expected. Apparently they're now at 70%.

France announces the first Licensed Shared Access test, in a 2.3GHz block used by the French MoD.

The long-standing idea of a joint FTTH build across Italy has run into trouble, again. The private-sector partners have dropped and the government partner, Infratel, says it's going ahead on its own with its share of the project.

AT&T's technology chief John Donovan says they now base decisions to build out FTTH on the combined demand for data of residential, business, and wireless backhaul. Similarly, NTT DoCoMo is investing in Alcatel-Lucent 7950 routers for its RAN, the sort of thing that until recently was considered "ISP stuff".

Donovan also wants to bid for the planned FirstNet emergency service network.

More US gigabit deployments are coming. Comcast is putting 2Gbps FTTH into Minneapolis, after Centurylink began upgrading to 1Gbps and new entrant US Internet got the city council's go-ahead to deploy. For its part, Centurylink says the gigabit helps them sell the lower tiers too. And Cox's GigaBlast! rolls into Oklahoma City. O.K!

A disturbing story from Australia. Now the fixed-wireless element has gone from the NBN plans, some customers who have perfectly acceptable ADSL are losing it in favour of satellite. Happy, they're not.

And this collection of 5G spectrum slideware at the 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog makes the interesting point that Vodafone sees 5G as interesting mostly for new services.

VZ sells up the data centres; Equinix aims to 3x its enterprise customers; Huawei nixes ONOS/OpenDaylight

Verizon is selling its data centres. 48 sites are up on the block for a total of maybe $2.5bn. This includes all the assets they acquired from Terremark in 2011 for $1.4bn, so when you think VZ almost certainly had at least a billion's worth of its own, that doesn't look like such a great deal. Centurylink, meanwhile, wants to keep its data centres but wholesale them out.

Equinix, on the other hand, says it wants to triple its customer base within the next five to 10 years, mostly by signing up more enterprises. Interestingly, part of the strategy is developing sites near Google, Amazon, Microsoft et al to offer good direct peering. As a lot of Amazon data centres are wholesale, they might even be the same units.

An example would be this hookup between BT Global Services and Salesforce.

IBM's head of cloud is retiring.

John Donovan says AT&T is "on track" to be 50% open source and 75% virtualised. He also says they now have 74 "integrated cloud" nodes in place, and encouraged developers to concentrate on OpenStack.

Huawei is against the idea of merging OpenDaylight and ONOS, and it looks like the Linux Foundation is sceptical too, on the grounds ODL is too "SDN" and ONOS too "NFV".

Openet is releasing its VNF manager app as open-source.

And is the blockchain the worst database in the world?