Oi! Telco 2.0 News Review

Posted on

Oi! Where's my money? Gone; Arora quits Softbank; Free says goodbye to Orange

Time was when Brazilian consolidation was a hot story in telecoms. Now, on the boom has come the crash, and no-one's talking about how to get their paws on TIM Brasil any more. Instead, Oi has gone bankrupt, owing some $19bn to various creditors. It's the biggest bankruptcy in Brazilian history and the first major telco to go bust since the days of Global Crossing, 360Networks and friends.

The company has been trying to negotiate with its creditors for some time, but this is complicated by the fact that its shareholders don't necessarily agree with the negotiating team, and in fact they fired the CEO on the 10th of June. More details are here and here, plus some bafflingly complicated manouevres with its African, ex-Portugal Telecom subsidiaries here.

Meanwhile, ex-Googler Nikesh Arora is out as president of Softbank, and Masayoshi Son intends to stay another two years as CEO to fill in. There's no mystery as to what might be wrong at Softbank, of course.

MTN has a new CEO, plus a new VP of South and East Africa. Both are ex-Vodafone, respectively their current CEO of Europe, Rob Shuter, and Vodacom exec Godfrey Motsa.

Another twist in the bizarre tale of the MVNO and the bags of cash delivered to London post offices in taxis (see here and here). Lycamobile's French offices have been raided by the police, suspecting money laundering and tax evasion.

FreedomPop is opening for business in the UK.

Free Mobile has given Orange notice that its famous national roaming agreement is coming to an end. The contract provided for roaming out to 2020, but Free wants to start the shutdown process in January 2017.

Zegona, the team of ex-Virgin Media/NTL execs trying to buy Yoigo, says they've got an agreement with the owners, Telia, and therefore they're pressing ahead to close the deal. The only problem? There are some other shareholders.

Verizon Wireless voice to or from Florida was down. Telenor has some interesting data points about voice and messaging - 94% of Serbs make a call at least once a day, while 38% of Norwegians do, but the Serbs are also much more likely to use VoIP or web-based instant messaging.

Zegona, the team of ex-Virgin Media/NTL execs trying to buy Yoigo, says they've got an agreement with the owners, Telia, and therefore they're pressing ahead to close the deal. The only problem? There are some other shareholders.

More WWDC - open Siri, OS 10, macOS Sierra, triumph of the apps

Apple's iOS 10 will let developers tinker with nearly every feature of the iPhone, including messages, Siri, maps, and voice. Speaking of which, voicemail gets automatic transcription, and there's a whole new API for VoIP apps. Photos gets a refresh, adding a lot of Facebook/Google-ish automatic image recognition. Apple is gambling that it can jump on the digital assistant trend, and play off its reputation for clean UX and strong privacy/security standards. (Note that App Transport Security is going to become mandatory for the App Store, and there's now an API for common neural network operations in iOS.)

A key technology for all this is so-called differential privacy, a technique that lets you do statistics on data without deanonymising it. Matthew Green's Cryptography Engineering Blog explains how it works and the limitations. WatchOS goes into version 3. Deep integration of Siri, iCloud, and Apple Pay is a major feature of the new macOS Sierra with its new spelling. Specifically, you'll be able to use Apple Pay on web sites within Safari.

It remains remarkable just how important apps have become as a form of content. In the Apple ecosystem, they dwarf music, TV, movies, and books added together, and they're still growing. As many as 70% of the world's supply of developers may do at least some Apple work, and the revenue-sharing run rate has reached $20bn a year.

Screen-Shot-2016-06-16-at-12.26.29-PM-556x620.png

Here's some detail on exactly what the Cisco/Apple enterprise apps partnership does.

If you had to manufacture iPhones entirely in the US, how hard would it be? Not as bad as it sounds.

A Chinese company, Shenzhen Baili, says the iPhone 6 and 6S infringe a bevelled corner patent of theirs. More seriously, Huawei says it's achieved "unprecedented" sales of the P9 smartphones.

More and more Chinese OEMs are trying to escape the deflationary cauldron of the post-hypergrowth Chinese smartphone business, looking for some other market. This week it's Nubia, a ZTE sub-brand, which is apparently targeting "high-end Europe and tech-savvy millennials in Latin America".

Apple owns about half the profit in the PC market. That bit's probably safe, but the rest is under threat from Chromebooks now they have some apps.

And Fairphone says it's now sourced conflict-free tungsten, getting the last of the four minerals it was worried about squared away.

The cost of data leaks; smart contracts go dumb; Palantir hacked; the refugee app that wasn't

How much economic damage do data leaks do? On average, about $4m a go, according to an IBM study, or $155 a record. The score is rising at 29% annually, but the bad news looks to be that a lot of companies can still probably afford to wait and pay the $4m rather than fix their problems. That's until the tail-risk kicks in, of course.

T-Mobile in the Czech Republic lost 1.5 million user records to an untrustworthy employee who walked out of the door with a USB stick.

One of the most exciting ideas out of the bitcoin experience was "smart contracts", contracts whose terms were defined in software and stored in a blockchain. One of this was the DAO, for Distributed Autonomous Organisation, a sort of automated hedge fund written in JavaScript. It's been hacked and the money has been stolen. This leaves the organisers and the wider blockchain community with a difficult choice - the whole point was to replace legal terms with "immutable, relentless code", but if they stick with this, nobody is ever likely to trust them with their money again. If they do the decent thing and fix it, though, they've accepted that the code isn't flawless and they need some sort of dispute resolution process, which will inevitably involve the law.

CIA-linked data analytics company Palantir Technologies hired white hats to try and get in. They got in. To pretty much everything, right down to their security team's personal laptops.

British MPs want to make the possessors of personal data liable if it leaks. They were responding to the big TalkTalk hack earlier this year, and interestingly enough, TalkTalk was down recently and won't say much about why.

This is an utterly weird story. Advertising giant WPP, via its digital wing Grey Group, won an award at the Cannes Lions for an app it developed that supposedly crowdsources finding shipwrecked refugees in the Mediterranean. It turns out that the app is no such thing - the supposed satellite imagery consists of stock photos and the weather report is always the same.

The FBI has a facial recognition database of 411 million faces.

And if you return some Netgear security cameras, their servers may start sending you pictures from somebody else's house. Which, of course, brings us to the Internet of Things.

AT&T: No NB-IoT before end-2017; Ireland LoRa'd in 8 months; cars beat people

AT&T's assistant VP of radio, Dave Wolter, says the carrier is expecting NB-IoT to be commercially ready by the end of 2017 or maybe early 2018. This implies that, far from being a quick bolt-on to 4G, it looks like it won't be rolling out seriously until the same sort of time frame we're expecting the first 5G deployments to happen in. And it better happen in 2017, too - AT&T is planning to shut down the 2G network that year. Vodafone is also talking about a similar timetable, for similar reasons.

This AT&T release about its next lot of IoT modems also tells us that their LTE Class 1 - i.e. 1Mbps lower power LTE - service won't be with us until a firmware update some time next year.

It seems a bit slow, though, looking how quickly LoRa, Sigfox, and other LPWA networks are getting into the field. Sigfox and its local partner VT Networks covered Ireland in eight months, and Orange has just signed up to the LoRa Alliance, suggesting that its commitment to NB-IoT might be a little thin. Senet, the former EnerTrac, says it already has 50,000 live devices on its LoRa deployments in the US.

Here's a combined 2G/LoRa sensor board.

More subscriber growth in the US is now coming from cars than from people.

Nokia's fixed broadband side is offering a combined optical-network terminal and IoT/smart home hub for telcos to white-label.

And 60% of the industry reckons we're not ready for the IoT. The biggest worry is security.

AWS lead "eroded"? Oracle cloud revenues surge 49%, Samsung buys Joyent; programmable switches

Hotels.com's CIO reckons that Amazon Web Services' lead over the rest of the cloud industry is beginning to get eroded. Microsoft, Google, and others are catching up. Interestingly, a lot more customers are beginning to use multiple clouds.

Centurylink might be responding to that, using some of the money it got from selling data centres to buy ElasticBox, a cloud orchestration app for multi-cloud environments.

Oracle says its cloud business is growing at a 49% annualised rate, with the PaaS and SaaS segments accelerating from 20% annual growth two years ago to 52% now, at a gross margin of 57%. They now want to get more IaaS business back from AWS and friends. It's definitely true, though, that the cloud is cannibalising their other businesses - revenue over the whole company was down 1% in Q2.

Samsung has acquired Joyent, the node.js and container-focused cloud provider. Interestingly, the business is being integrated into Samsung's Mobile Communications line of business, where the mobile phones and also the laptops live. This is a tell that they want it to support their mobile apps, and the division CEO points out that Samsung is one of the world's biggest cloud consumers.

Barefoot Networks is an interesting startup, providing highly programmable network switches based on merchant silicon. Here's an explainer on the programming language used and the differences between it and OpenFlow.

Netflix thinks Internet exchanges are a rip-off, according to a presentation one of their engineers gave to NANOG last week, causing a major row within the storied networking community.

Project Bletchley is a new kind of blockchain developed by Microsoft Research, based in MS Azure. Here's some detail on Intel's plans in machine learning. Chinese entrants to Top500.org, the ranking of the top 500 supercomputers, are increasingly using their own chip designs. Amazon Web Services has a special app store for spies.

And Microsoft Azure has a new channel partner - an IT shop in Los Angeles that caters to the legal marijuana industry.

Apple Music by the numbers; WWDC content news; Twitter buys into Soundcloud

Apple Music doesn't look much in absolute numbers, but the ramp-up has been dramatically faster than it was for any of its competitors. Horace argues that this is because streaming music isn't exciting or new any more, and Apple's onboarding advantage is huge.

Screen-Shot-2016-06-20-at-3.31.02-PM.pngApple, meanwhile, has extended the range of file types supported in HLS so you can use the same source files for both HLS and MPEG streaming, as well as improving Siri search for TV programmes, streaming DRM, and providing a single sign-on for TV stations so you can watch outside the US more easily.

T-Mobile USA is now up to 90 content providers on the Binge On! plan.

The UK exports more TV than any other country in Europe.

Twitter decided not to buy SoundCloud outright a while back, but it just took $70m worth of the music platform's latest financing round. It also bought a British AI startup, the wonderfully named Magic Pony.

And Hulu's streaming package will be $35/mo.

Title II appeal fails; "apps solution" to STB issue; Charter overbuild must hit telcos; FCC 5G draft on Thursday

An appeal against Title II reclassification of broadband has been turned down by a US federal court, which held that broadband Internet service is indeed a utility like power or water. Importantly, the two judges who agreed with the FCC stated that this holds on a technology-neutral basis, without a wireline/wireless distinction. The plaintiffs - AT&T and Verizon, basically - say they'll take it to the supreme court.

On another front, the FCC wants to unbundle cable operators' set-top boxes, and the ensuing row has been bubbling under for some time. Now, the cablecos and broadcasters have taken a different tack, putting forward a counterproposal that would move the service authorisation function into an HTML5-based app.

One of the regulatory conditions the FCC imposed on New Charter was that it must roll out 25Mbps-plus broadband to at least two million additional homes. This is having complicated consequences, because Charter is also restrained from further acquisitions where this would lead to a reduction in competition, i.e. where its footprint overlaps with the target's. As a result, the FCC-mandated overbuild must target the phone companies. You might think Lawman Wheeler, the ex-cableguy and deep cynic about US phone companies, intended just that.

Look out for the FCC's proposal about the potential 5G bands above 28GHz later this week. Wheeler is hoping to hold a vote of the FCC on the 14th of July. Interestingly, lots of unlicensed spectrum seems to be a big part of the strategy.

Comcast's complaint against Verizon advertising has been upheld - VZ claimed to have the fastest broadband, and that just isn't true since Comcast's gigabit rollout began.

Brazilian anti-trust regulators have cleared a network sharing agreement between Telefonica's local opco and Nextel.

The Euregulators are expected to issue a preliminary opinion on the Vodafone.nl/Liberty Global JV on the 19th of July.

French operators have new rights to access other infrastructure systems' civil works.

CCS Insight's Kester Mann asks whether roaming charges would spike if the UK quit Europe. His answer: telcos would probably try, but discount MVNOs would offset it at least a bit.

Nokia, Sprint 5G trials, monster China Mobile contract; Ericsson "5G plugins"

Nokia and Sprint are very pleased with their 4K video streaming trial over 5G during the Copa America. Downlink speeds of 4Gbps were achieved, although it took a channel bandwidth of 400MHz up in the 73GHz band to do it. In that light, plus the increasing flood of announcements from operators who've hit the 1Gbps mark, the 400Mbps they claim for their LTE-WiFi aggregation (LWA) looks almost tame. (That said, Wheeler is talking about 5G spectrum coming in 200MHz blocks.)

Nokia is no doubt even more pleased with another monster contract with China Mobile, $1.5bn worth of the new AirScale base stations.

Ericsson, meanwhile, has announced a round of software upgrades it calls 5G plugins - they're not technically 5G, but they do bring some of the enhancements expected from 5G into the LTE-A network, like MU-MIMO, beamforming, and a new frame structure for the air interface in order to reduce latency.

They're also very proud of a successful trial of 5G network slicing with NTT DoCoMo. They're probably considerably less proud of being investigated by both US and Greek prosecutors over allegations of corruption.

Fixing your VoLTE one-way audio problem.

Chattanooga muni-fibre pays off; Google FTTH in Dallas; Openreach FTTP numbers

The city of Chattanooga put $225m of its own money into its muni-fibre rollout back in 2010 and it's benefited by somewhere between $865m and $1.3bn, while its mayor reckons the investment is responsible for higher wages and more private investment, notably by Volkswagen. That's some return.

Google Fiber is heading for Dallas and a head-on confrontation with AT&T.

Openreach is building a SMB-focused 1Gbps FTTP service into 9 UK locations. Meanwhile, it looks like upgrades to a startlingly small number of cabinets would let it meet its latest "ultrafast" commitments while actually delivering to a startlingly small number of people. Again.

And just be glad you're not this guy.