Xiaomi, Intel, WhatsApp, BT-EE, 5G, Facebook Live: Telco 2.0 News Review

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Below par in Q4: Xiaomi, GoPro, PCs, Apple, Bitcoin

January is supposedly the most depressing month, and this week saw an impressive crop of disappointments around the tech industry.

Having shaded its 100 million phone stretch-target down to 80 million, Xiaomi eventually missed even that and suspiciously won't give a more precise number than "over 70 million".

They also won't say how many of those were shipped in China and how many of them went for export, although they are still claiming to be No.1 in terms of installed base, rather than new sales. Huawei, by comparison, seems to have shipped 108 million devices worldwide, making it the third biggest vendor and the biggest shipper in China. The Chinese analyst shop behind that number also reckons the exact figure for Xiaomi is 72m, for what it's worth.

IDC reckons PC sales are lower than they were in 2007, despite Windows 10 and the Intel Skylake chips. According to IDC, sales were off 10% year-on-year, according to Gartner, they were off 8%. Both agree that the only vendor actually growing is Apple, by about 2.8%.

That said, even Apple isn't immune to failure. iAds were never much of a business, and Apple is now trimming its commitment to them, pulling out of creating, selling, and managing advert campaigns. For now, the platform will continue operating, but in a manner much closer to a "normal" ad network.

GoPro shares plummeted after its Q4 revenues beat expectations in the wrong direction, leaving it with basically zero growth since 2014. Since September, CEO Nick Woodman has lost half his net worth.

In the first half of 2015, Uber lost as much money as it did in the whole of 2014. Although the company's revenue is rising steeply, its expenses are surging, especially in sales and marketing. This being Silicon Valley, the company has issued a new set of forecasts arguing that it will turn a profit sooner, bigger, and faster.

Dan Rayburn shares his experience with Samsung's SmartThings products, which turn out to be pretty dumb:


For over a year now, SmartThings has struggled to do something simple, turn on and off my lights. I have three lights setup to go on at 4pm and scheduled to turn off at 11pm. And yet, twelve months later, SmartThings still isn't reliable. Sometimes the lights work perfectly, other times they never work for days at a time. Sometimes only one will turn on and off, while the others don't do anything

At least it wasn't the heating. Google's Nest thermostats got a bad software patch that drained the battery. You guessed it: the device's failure mode is "heating off", and presumably also "airconditioning off". In comments, someone suggests "IoT" stands for Internet of Tears.

And finally, a core developer quits Bitcoin and sells all his coins, arguing that the system won't scale past this year and has fundamental security problems.

Intel Q4s; Samsung fabs for Qualcomm; no shiny laptops unless you take Win10; matching AWS price cuts

Intel, on the other hand, announced a strong Q4. Although volume in client computing (i.e. PCs) was down, average selling prices were strongly up as the new chips began to diffuse - 50% of them are now fabbed at 14nm. Internet of Things revenue was up 6% and data centre was up 5%. This last item is crucial, as the server business is hugely bigger than the IoT ($4.5bn vs $625m).

Over at Samsung, the semiconductor fab side of the company has won over a new client: Qualcomm. Time was, Samsung bought chips Qualcomm designed, that were manufactured by TSMC and then assembled into phones by Samsung. Now Samsung doesn't buy as many Qualcomm chips any more, but all the Qualcomm chips will be manufactured by Samsung. And everyone's on tenterhooks to hear whether the S7 will have an Exynos or a Snapdragon 820. Both the Exynos 8 and the Snappy will be fabbed on the same 14nm process.

Did you know Huawei's in-house LTE modems support 18 different bands?

And Microsoft is trying to nudge its vast enterprise customer base into upgrading to Windows 10. The latest trick: no Skylake for you unless you upgrade. Support, even extended support, for Windows 7 and 8 will only be available if you resist the temptation of new hardware. If you want PCs with Intel Skylake, AMD Bristol Ridge, or Qualcomm 8996 processors, you must run Windows 10. More approachably, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and HP Elitebook Folio are examples of Windows 10-only machines.

MS also matched a wave of Amazon Web Services EC2 price cuts this week. And Internet Explorer 11 performed the worst out of all major browsers on a range of performance benchmarks.

Security

Who knew connecting the baby monitor to the Internet might turn out creepy? Someone that wasn't Mum got access and likes to talk to the baby. Sickening stuff.

Google's security research team says that TrendMicro anti-virus software lets any random website launch shell commands on your computer, exposing 70 different APIs to the Internet and among other things, providing an attacker with access to your stored passwords.

Meet the Android trojan that intercepts voice calls, looking for two-factor authentication codes delivered that way because SMS was considered insecure.

Bruce Schneier comes out for a ban on third-party ad tracking.

The Internet Advertising Bureau disinvites Adblock Plus from its conference, because that's going to stop people installing adblockers! Perhaps that one should have been under "Fail".

Four huge business lobbies write to the US, the EU, and 28 European countries demanding that they hurry up renegotiating the personal data agreement.

Spamhaus shames Verizon, pointing out that it routes 4 million stolen IP addresses, and goes on to have a crack at Amazon Web Services, China Telecom, China Unicom, and Softbank.

Gigabit subs to 10x this year; 5 DOCSIS 3.1 modems certified; Google Fiber, Comcast deployments, Thai NBN, CityFibre in Bristol

CableLabs announces that DOCSIS 3.1 is ready to go live for retail customers, as there are now five modem implementations certified. Not surprisingly, this week also saw two more cablecos announce gigabit deployments - Midcontinent and Mediacom.

Deloitte reckons the number of gigabit subscribers is going to increase by a factor of 10 this year, and by the end of the year, about 250m subscribers will be on networks capable of delivering 1Gbps. By 2020, they expect 600m gigabit connections will be active worldwide, or about half the total connected homes.

Google Fiber is coming to Chicago and LA, which will make up quite a bit of that 10x increase by itself.

Meanwhile, one weight-class up in the business Ethernet market, Comcast is rolling out more 10Gbps fibre.

Thailand is planning a national broadband network with at least 30Mbps, probably fixed-wireless.

CityFibre is opening 82km of fibre around Bristol as a gigabit-class access network.

Goodbye, operator; WhatsApp goes free; Comcast international voice; BT moving call centres

The end of the operator is nigh: AT&T this week filed papers with the FCC asking for permission to shut down six operator-assistance services by March. That includes collect, person-to-person, third-party billing, busy line verification and interruption, and international directory assistance. Traffic to the operator has fallen by 93% since 2004, a useful reminder if one was needed that something that falls 99% can fall another 99% and then another. Rather sadly, international directory enquiries are shutting down because some of the other operators no longer provide any directory service.

Probably more importantly, WhatsApp is going free. This is possible because they have a new business model, charging businesses to reach you. Does this mean the horrible possibility of WhatsApp spam? They deny it, but you have to wonder.

Comcast has progressively become more and more important in wholesale voice, now up to 2.5bn minutes a month, and now it's offering international termination.

Windstream is shutting off a virtual PBX service that only has 57 customers. Frontier is complaining about its rural voice service obligations, which is pretty rich from a company that keeps buying more of them.

The Met Police's new command and control system is late and over budget.

And BT wants us to know it's moving call centres back to the UK, again. It's as if there was another controversial BT story in the news or something.

BT-EE is go for launch; ARCEP doubts Orange-Bouygues; Telecom-Unicom; Legere "sorry"

That story is of course the BT-EE deal. The Competition & Markets Authority this week gave the deal a full clearance with no conditions. Not surprisingly, BT is now moving quickly - closing day is set for the 29th. The interesting question is whether the CMA really believes this, or whether they've implicitly left it to OFCOM's industry-wide review to do whatever is necessary to preserve competition.

OFCOM, meanwhile, has a new hire: former BT CEO Ben Verwaayen is joining the board.

ARCEP chairman, Sebastian Soriano, says that going from four MNOs down to three could be seen as a "regression in relation to the introduction of competition". Well, yes, it could. The Orange-Bouygues proposal is always going to be a tough sell from a regulatory point of view because it means one fewer operator, a dominant player over 50% of the market, and a lot of additional fixed-mobile integration.

And it surely can't help that Stéphane Richard is being investigated over his role in the Bernard Tapie case, which is too complicated to discuss here but fortunately doesn't have anything to do with telecoms.

Telecom Italia is the latest company to stick its mobile brand on its fixed operation.

Telefonica, meanwhile, may be going to float or spin off its Spanish infrastructure company, including 11,500 towers, for some €5-6bn. They might also add more assets at a later date.

Elsewhere, Orange just snapped up three African opcos in as many days, in Liberia, Burkina Faso, and Sierra Leone.

MTN Nigeria may be suing over the famous $5bn fine, but it's also doing its best to get into the regulator's good books by hurrying up SIM registration.

China Telecom and China Unicom have signed an agreement to cooperate more closely when it comes to competing against China Mobile. They are almost too clear that it is NOT a merger.

Sprint has created six regional presidents. AT&T brings back unlimited plans, for a price. And in a rare moment of contrition, John Legere apologises to the EFF.

Nokatel closes, snags Vodafone India 4G; China sets 2020 5G target; Sprint has an idea about its network; who wants VZ data centres?

The Nokia-Alcatel merger having closed on the 14th, the make-up of Nokia's management team is now confirmed. No real surprises. There's also a substantial new contract - Vodafone tapped Nokia Networks for 1800MHz LTE in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Punjab.

Idea, meanwhile, turned up another three telecoms circles' worth of LTE and signed a spectrum-sharing agreement for enough additional 1800MHz to launch two more. Reliance Jio, for its part, agreed to buy a substantial quantity of 800MHz off its sister-operator Reliance Comms, while offering RCOM national roaming and spectrum-sharing in some of its own blocks. Does that mean they're losing confidence in the 2.3GHz strategy?

Huawei and M1 have a gigabit demo.

The Chinese Ministry of the Information Industry has set an official target of launching 5G by 2020, as has Vodafone-Hutchison Australia. European Commissioner Günther Oettinger, meanwhile, called in major operators to demand that they go faster and catch up with "Asia". But it sounds more like America we need to catch up with, thinking about their lead in 4G adoption and VZW's plans for early 5G deployment.

Apparently the 20th of June is going to be Wi-Fi Day.

Sprint has a new network initiative, the Next Generation Network. After Clearwire, Network Vision, Spark, and who knows what else, that's got to get your attention. They want to save $1bn a year by moving more infrastructure onto publicly-owned land and by using more microwave backhaul.

"Getting there is going to be a nightmare," said the source, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about the matter. "It's going to be very, very disruptive."


And Data Center Knowledge has a rundown of which Verizon data centres might sell to whom.

Telefonica in for DirecTV LatAm; how Facebook handles live video; Iranian mobile gaming

Telefonica is a buyer for the DirecTV satellite assets in Latin America, naming a price of $10bn. AT&T acquired this with the rest of DirecTV, and Randall Stephenson is on record as saying they'd be willing to sell, although there's no hurry. That said, with their increasing commitment to Mexico, you might wonder whether they might find a use for them.

Here's a really good post from the Facebook Engineering blog on how they deliver live streaming video at Facebook scale. It turns out Facebook has two live video delivery systems, roughly speaking, one for celebrities and one for humans, or if you prefer, one for one-to-many broadcast and one for peer-to-peer. The problem with the first is capacity, the problem with the second is interactivity and hence latency.

The solution was to build a pull-driven HTTP Live Streaming infrastructure with two levels of CDN for the celeb broadcasts, and a push-driven RTMP infrastructure, including a fork of nginx for RTMP proxying, for the civilians. Interestingly, the HLS cache servers are set up to always cache-miss the first request, and queue requests until the origin server responds, so the origin server is never exposed to surge traffic.

BBC Research has validated the claimed bandwidth savings of HEVC with panels of viewers.

Here's an overview of the Iranian mobile games market. Here are some recommendations for games that work on the Apple Watch - interestingly, they all seem to be so-called "no UI" text-driven experiences.