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June 16, 2016

Google/Telcos’ RCS: Dark Horse or Dead Horse?

Can leading telcos and Google build a strong enough messaging proposition to take on Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp et al? Our latest report, “Google/Telcos’ RCS: Dark Horse or Dead Horse?” investigates.

Mobile messaging is fast becoming a key platform for digital commerce, mounting a challenge to Google Search, Amazon’s Marketplace and other two-sided platforms. As Facebook gears up to take advantage of this opportunity, some of the world’s largest telcos are working with Google to develop and deploy multimedia communications services that will work across networks and will replace SMS. But will it be too little, too late?

This report is part of our Dealing with Disruption stream and you can read an extract here.

For more information on any of our services, please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 207 247 5003.

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February 5, 2014

CSPs / Telcos: Join our Enterprise Mobility Programme


If you work on behalf of a Communications Service Provider (CSP) in marketing, strategy, technology, IT or product development/management, we would like to ask you to join and participate in a strategic research programme we are undertaking on Enterprise Mobility.

This programme will conduct and produce research to help key decision makers define and evaluate their Enterprise Mobility strategy. As part of the programme we will share a report detailing Enterprise customers’ needs and challenges in successfully deploying Enterprise Mobility solutions and, also, benchmark CSPs’ current offerings against those needs on a regional (non-player specific) basis. Having identified any gaps between customers’ needs and telco activities, this research will define a strategy for CSPs to establish a stronger foothold in the enterprise mobility market.

To participate and receive the research in full, please complete this anonymised 4-minute survey focused on your current Enterprise Mobility offering and portfolio. (NB It does not require you to reveal competitive or strategic information).

The survey can be found here

We’ll also be exploring Enterprise Mobility in further depth in our research and our executive brainstorms in Silicon Valley (May 20-21) and London (June 10-11).

For those who would like to know more, below is an introduction to some of the hypotheses that STL Partners is investigating:

  1. In pursuit of agility, efficiency, new revenue sources and closer customer relationships, enterprises are turning to mobility to transform the way employees work with engaging mobile apps that harness device-specific functions and capabilities. These apps generally need to connect to and exchange data with back-office systems, many of which pre-date the mobile era. As a result, organisations are looking to partners to provide the tools, technologies and skills to customise and develop apps, do the heavy lifting of deployment and lifecycle management, and accelerate business value.
  2. Telcos need to identify alternative ways to grow revenues from enterprise customers. These include:
    • Monetising the growth in data creation and consumption to offset the inevitable decline in voice services (from consumer and enterprise markets)
    • Pursuing new service offerings such as Machine-to-Machine (M2M), Cloud Services, and real-time insight from the cellular network
    • Providing infrastructure and technology services that offer flexibility and economies of scale, allowing enterprises to focus on exploring new technologies instead of maintaining and managing existing ones.

Telcos have a timely opening to take an enterprise mobility proposition to market. However, to date, deployments have been niche and opportunistic rather than part of a long-term strategy.

In our recent report: The 50bn Enterprise Mobility Opportunity: four steps for Telco to take today, STL Partners identified a four-step structured approach that telcos can embark on today, and gain competence and confidence as they move up the enterprise mobility stack to higher value offerings. The four levels of evolution involve:

  • Level 1 - mobilising their own operations and internal processes

  • Level 2 - offering a managed environment to enterprises for their apps, whether on premise or in the cloud

  • Level 3 - providing hosted mobility together with off-the-shelf enterprise apps, with the option to add “last mile” customisation to the enterprise’s specific requirements and provide an enterprise app store

  • Level 4 - providing hosted mobility and developing bespoke, highly differentiated apps that solve customers’ unique business challenges

However, building out these capabilities will require substantial commitment and investment - not only in platforms and tools but also in people, via a transfusion of talent from related industries.
STL Partners is inviting telcos to participate in a study to explore their appetite for and inhibitors to establishing a foothold in the enterprise mobility market, the findings of which will be revealed in a forthcoming report.

Access the survey here for a complementary copy of our next in-depth study on Enterprise Mobility

The survey is split into two sections and explores CSPs’ internal and external Enterprise Mobility strategy, ambition and implementation challenges.

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November 1, 2011

Telco 2.0 CEO at ITU World speaking on ‘Personal Data’ on Futurists Panel


As a warm up to our EMEA Brainstorm in London next week here’s a link to a video of Telco 2.0’s CEO, Simon Torrance presenting at the ITU World event in Geneva last week on ‘Personal Data as a new class of Social and Economic Asset’ on a panel of ‘futurists’ looking at the Future of the Networked Society. Simon’s presentation is about 11 minutes into the session and there are charts accompanying the video.

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The graphic below was created by artists at the show, trying to summarise the key themes.

Visions networked graphic sarah clark oct 2011 ITU.JPG


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October 10, 2011

iPhone 4S: a winner, if not a game-changer


Apple’s much awaited announcement of the Apple iPhone 4S last week was accompanied by some disappointment in the media and analyst communities. Telco 2.0 thinks it will be a success, if not a game changer, and embodies some important strategic moves for Apple.

This post gives our outline views and a round-up of market commentary - you can find our in-depth strategic analysis on on Apple here and at our EMEA Brainstorm in London 9-10th November. Our reflections on Steve Jobs’ untimely death and remarkable career are here.

So, here’s what the iPhone 4S offers in summary.


  • The main similarity with past iPhones is that the iPhone 4’s industrial design and look-and-feel (a phrase we wouldn’t be using were it not for Steve Jobs) have been maintained.

  • The software, however, gets the new iCloud and wireless sync features Apple announced earlier this year, plus the Newsstand in the App Store.

  • There’s also been a deeper hardware refresh - the A5 applications processor is another of Apple’s homebrew (or rather, ex-PA Semiconductor) products, giving it two cores and more power, and the baseband processor and RF chain are coming from Qualcomm and will support dual-mode (i.e. GSM/UMTS and CDMA) operation.

  • There’s a better camera and some new prices across the range of iPhones on sale: 4S, 4 and 3GS.


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October 20, 2010

Entertainment 2.0: Can Telcos help save the Video Distribution Industry?


The physical distribution of digital video is in turmoil, and the entertainment industry is in a state of fear and denial about online distribution. The signs are that Video could emulate the music market’s disappearing act. Can telcos help?

In the run up to our Executive Brainstorm events in AMERICAS, EMEA and APAC, and Best Practice Live! virtual events, we provide some background analysis:

If you want to know what the entertainment supply chain thinks of the digital online opportunity, then the ESCA Edge conference, the premier entertainment retailing and supply chain event, is not a bad place to start. At the event held in London last month, a major theme coming through from speakers and delegates alike was fear - fear of declining physical sales and fear of online eating into margins legally or pirates destroying them completely.

As a result, most discussions targeted the short-term and were based around protecting physical margins by reducing costs in the supply chain, such as minimising returns and on site disposal. Additionally, the conference questioned the ability of online to deliver video effectively, clinging to a hope that the Internet’s weaknesses would provide the best defence against it.

Negative approach to online
This was highlighted by a strange presentation from Tom Moran, senior director, business development at Savvis, who laid out the limitations of the Internet infrastructure to support professional video. Pitched as ‘realism’, the messages were a little misleading. While it is certainly true that the Internet would not be capable of supporting the switch of all broadcast and physical video today, this is not what’s happening, it is a gradual transition and broadcast will remain a mainstay in the market for the foreseeable future.

Furthermore, customer behaviour online is different to traditional TV as users choose when they watch, rather than always watching live. Finally, the amount of dedicated infrastructure available to video or the development of specific structures such as CDNs that reduce pressure weren’t mentioned.

At Telco 2.0 we would argue a better and far more positive approach to online is to develop an effective supply chain for it and leverage the unique characteristics of both physical and online mediums to maximise profits from both in the medium and long term.

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September 30, 2010

10 ‘Innovation Principles’ for success in a disrupted (Telco) marketplace


Just published: 10 generic action-oriented principles of innovation which are applicable to, and adoptable by, all companies within the disrupted Telco, Media and Technology industries regardless of their vision or strategy. For more on the Principles, including a detailed description of two of the ten Principles, case studies and rationale, and a partial extract from the 47 page Executive Briefing, please see our research portal here.

The principles are part of our new strategy research report ‘The Roadmap to New Telco Business Models’. We will be sharing the principles, and more on the ‘Roadmap’ research, at the upcoming Telco 2.0 Americas and EMEA Executive Brainstorms.

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June 28, 2010

Rapid Telco 2.0 Implementation - “Yes, we can!”


One of the questions we are most commonly asked by strategists is how Telco 2.0 business models can be deployed in the face of opposition from IT and other management divisions which claim the technology involved in servicing upstream customers will be too expensive, too disruptive and will take too long to implement. At the 9th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm held in London at the end of April, Infonova’s Andrew Thomson offered up one possible solution in a specially arranged session entitled, ‘Yes we can! Rapid implementation of Telco 2.0 Business Models.’

The session was created to look at moving from Telco 1.0 to 2.0 with minimum disruption to existing services and Andrew Thomson began by saying that upstream customers genuinely wanted to consume, bundle, and re-use telco services and assets. However, typically, telco IT departments struggled to deal with this, and even worse, telco management was loath to invest in changes to the billing platform. His

The Vital Importance of Multi-Tenancy
He introduced details of Infonova’s billing platform, specifically its ability to operate as a multi-tenant platform. Multi-tenancy, he explained, enables telco systems to accept upstream customers as operator-like entities, which could inject their own business rules into the system, use its development APIs, and run their product management independently. The whole system therefore adds up to a modular ‘order-to-cash’ platform that permits the operator to sell to many upstream customers, while the upstream customers themselves get a wide degree of control of their own order to cash cycle.

Telco 1.5 in 10 weeks
He cited cloud computing, logistics services, and a KPN-like multi-MVNO strategy as early use cases and also identified smart grid, e-health, and other utility services as major markets of the future. He argued that the Infonova system could deliver “Telco 1.5 in 10 weeks”, and had the advantage that the deployment of new tenant businesses could be repeated again and again without further software development on the side of the operator. This, he claimed, made the move to Telco 2.0 much more possible in the real world.

A video of Andrew’s presentation at Telco 2.0 is here.

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February 23, 2009

Rich Communications Suite: Really Considered Significantly Obsolete

It was a curious Mobile World Congress last week; half Telco 2.0 triumph, with things like the OneAPI project, O2 Litmus, and a truly impressive focus on developer communities, and half a harking back to the days when IMS was the solution, whatever the problem might be.

Take the GSMA’s ‘Rich Communications Suite’ (RCS). We’ve discussed the imperatives for voice telephony recently here. So, we’re at a loss as to the relevance of RCS to the market, as one of our analysts vociferously describes below.

But we’d value an open discussion with readers who support the initiative. Do read the analysis in the rest of this article, and tell us what you think via the ‘comments’ function on this blog…

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February 12, 2009

Coming Soon: Serving the Digital Generation

There’s a new Telco 2.0 strategy report rolling down the tracks.

It’s a natural inclination to imagine that the difference between young people and their elders is simply that they’re young. But at times of rapid technological or social change, quite often, nothing could be more wrong. Instead, patterns of behaviour and culture that you might assume are the caprices of youth will last a lifetime and will become the conservative norm that the youth of the future will rebel against.

Serving the Digital Generation: Innovation for a new breed of customers is Telco 2.0’s attempt to characterise future customers and explore what operators should be doing to better serve them. Statistically speaking, the customer of the future is already with us, in the form of South Korean, Chinese and Japanese youngsters, and is a user of at least one of many social networks, games, and virtual world applications that have sprung up in the last few years. In the report, we analyse a whole range of such services in order to understand the business models and product features that have succeeded. We’ll also be running a major session on this topic at the Telco 2.0 world event in May - www.telco2.net/event/may2009.

We identified a number of major factors and new opportunities that constrain and liberate the customer of the future. On one hand, parental paranoia, rapid urbanisation, and proliferating surveillance systems have led to a public space that is ever more restrictive for the young; on the other hand, the digital world has created huge opportunities to escape this and to pursue what we describe as the ‘Participation Imperative’. We have developed a framework to help service providers clarify these user needs and how to serve them.

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January 30, 2009

Guest post: Product Management Transformation

To make the ‘two-sided’ telecoms business model a reality telcos need to become better retailers (to create one sticky side that third parties on the second side will pay to interact with). In this guest post, Ernest Margitta from product management specialists Tribold, looks at how telcos need to transform their understanding of products.

In running a retail store, there are some basic principles that everyone understands about products and inventory. For a start, the Sales staff rely on knowing exactly what they have to sell - what is in stock, what options are available and to whom, what the lead times are for special orders, etc.

Purchasing needs the same information to know when to source additional stock to match customer demands and to find suppliers that can deliver. And Marketing and Product Management need to know which products are doing well, which ones need refreshing or retiring and where to focus their next product campaigns and development ideas. The common thread across these departments is the need to service the customer with the right products.

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November 10, 2008

Guest Post: RatPlug! It started at Telco 2.0 with a USB cable, a HomePlug, and a phone…

We like it when we manage to stimulate innovative new product ideas. Here’s one from Jeremy Penston, previously a consultant and now, thanks to a convergence of stimuli at a previous Telco 2.0 event, a consumer electronics entrepreneur. Here Jeremy describes his product, which he demo’d to as many people as he could at the 5th Telco 2.0 Exec Brainstorm last week in London:

I would like to thank the Telco 2.0 team for the opportunity to write this post. Telco 2.0 has been the source of a huge amount of insight and inspiration for me as we have developed the product that I’ll describe in this article. The RatPlug addresses the Achilles heel of the mobile ISP - video.

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The RatPlug is an intelligent charger. It acts as an internet access point for your mobile devices, automatically saving and sharing your pictures, downloading YouTube videos and podcasts while you charge the battery of any USB device.

It uses the time that you spend charging the battery to sideload your portable devices. The RatPlug uses powerline communications to connect to your home broadband, and USB to connect to your device. The whole process is automated so the upload and download is started simply by plugging the device in to charge. There is no software required on the device.

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November 3, 2008

Guest Post: In-Car Internet Radio - new opportunity for telcos?

As part of our regular coverage of innovative new products, here’s an introduction to miRoamer’s in-car Internet radio. Robert Demian, their head of global sales, is coming over from Australia to our event this week to discuss the opportunity. He describes it here:

miRoamer is an original developer and leader in internet media technologies, specializing in cutting edge media and content streaming. Over the past six years miRoamer has developed new opportunities for the general public to gain global access to digital media. The biggest challenge has been to create a total portable solution.

The development and evolution of In-Car Internet Radio and IPTV brings a new portability to digital media delivery for existing digital content suppliers and traditional terrestrial outlets. The delivery of mainstream and diverse programming is now cost effective and available in-car! This has now been achieved through co-development with the worlds’ leading car audio maker. With the Internet Radio-Content market experiencing huge growth, it is ideally suited to the in-car environment.

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September 29, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 29th September 2008

In Today’s Issue: Bankers’ favourite BlackBerry bears brunt of banking bust; IBM and Salesforce.com, again; MSFT’s new Unified Comms server, works with Asterisk; Cisco launches Web-based unicomms with VZ; Dell’s business model diverges; Apple lawyers’ war on books. FACT!; Motorola deploys android hordes; HTC keeps on making Windows gadgets; funny prepaid broadband prices; awful EU telecoms bill defanged; roll-your-own MVNO; Joost and the browser plugin to end plugins; CWN vs Pirates; Roshan’s M-PESA deployment vs Taliban; Singapore’s fibre deployment, none more Telco 2.0; global M2M alliance formed

Crisis at RIM; the maker of BlackBerrys issued a profits warning for the fourth quarter, as thousands of bankers handed their company-issued devices over to the administrators, filed last-minute expense claims, and packed their belongings in the traditional cardboard box.

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September 26, 2008

Guest Post: Google’s First Handset - strategic implications

Both customer data and product-service systems are critical to future telco business models. Google’s Android platform puts Google in a better position to capture customer data and integrate its services with mobile handsets. This brings a powerful Internet player into direct competition with established telecoms players, such as Nokia and their Series 60 and Ovi platforms. Marek Pawlowski, a director at mobile consultancy PMN and founder of the Mobile User Experience conference, outlines the strategic implications of Google’s mobile ambitions below (this article was originally published at this link):

Google, T-Mobile and HTC this week announced the G1, the first handset powered by Google’s Android platform. The press event in New York confirmed specifications already leaked out through various fan sites over the last few weeks: a touchscreen 3G handset, with a QWERTY keyboard and trackball. Other features include GPS, a 480 × 320 screen and 3 megapixel camera.

It will debut in the US next month, followed by a UK launch in November.

The G1 device itself is already attracting considerable consumer attention: the BBC’s morning news programme picked it up on the day of launch and asked me to give an interview explaining what it meant for users and the industry (if you’re in the UK you can catch it on BBC iPlayer here until Tuesday, 30th September).

However, this is a much larger and more complex story than the single handset being announced on the T-Mobile network.

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September 15, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 15th September 2008

In Today’s Issue: Nobody wants landlines; Apple zaps apps, caps AppStore competitors, Winer flaps; Open Hack Day@Yahoo!; implementation of sci-fi dystopia for the iPhone; Vodafone deckchair redeployment; T-Mobile Android phone; C&W builds non-virtual GSM operator for Tesco; free airtime for ad viewers, human or not; attack of the terminators; 3UK says no; KPN-Bouygues MVNO deal; the Internet interprets America as damage and routes around it; screen-scanning check-in; warrants needed for LBS snooping

A sign of the times: David Isenberg points out that the University of Kentucky has stopped providing fixed phone lines in the halls of residence, as nobody wants them. And before mobile operators start to gloat, don’t think those same students will forever tolerate voice and messaging services that in no way integrate with the rest of their online lives. Where are the voice and messaging applications of the future?

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May 26, 2008

Profiting from gigawatts, not gigabytes

Reading about novel energy trading company EnerNOC, what sticks out is just how big the opportunity is for ‘Telco 2.0’ operators and business models. Remember, your job as a _personalised logistics services provider for valuable data_ is to help get the right information to the right place at the right time, securely, swiftly and cheaply. And rather than trying to squeeze an extra millicent of termination fees from the regulator, why not solve some problem in the world of energy instead?

One of the biggest barriers to making use of the huge quantities of energy the sun provides for free every day is reliability. The sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. So, in most places, the most plentiful (and cheapest) forms of renewable energy are subject to a discount. They are not, as the electrical engineers say, despatchable. This is a serious problem, because electricity cannot be stored easily. Even without the added complexity of variable wind power, the grid has to match supply and demand in real time, all the time, whilst observing some very intricate technical constraints (pdf).

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May 19, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 19th May 2008

In Today’s Issue: Motorola in the psychiatric ward; Verwaayen takes a bow;Bharti/MTN deal in the offing; Vodafone buys social network app, customers; Orascom: Iraq, Syria, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and now Cuba; C&W soon to be C and W; data from space cheaper than SMS; Qualcomm in the UK; more mobile-TV alphabet soup; Sprint launches WiMAX, loses 1 million customers and Embarq wholesale contract; MacBooks with WiMAX?; new J2ME toolkits; Verizon Linux; NFC SIMs in Thailand; death of muni-WiFi

Oh dear. Evolving Excellence have a killer detail about the crisis at Motorola and the rather non-obvious solutions they’re adopting - namely, picking a CEO who refuses to use computers and cutting back on R&D. Because, you know, they stopped meaningful product development for two years after the RAZRs came out, and that worked so well. Not just that, but the new guy’s background at the company was in the automotive business, which they’ve now sold as non-core.

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April 7, 2008

IVR search: a ‘Google’ for phone menus?

We’re putting together our Voice & Messaging 2.0 report, which includes a directory of all the interesting companies in the space we’ve come across. We’ll be presenting some of this at our event next week of course. But in the meantime, we’d like to tell you about one new company that’s extra-interesting.

When we speak about Voice & Messaging 2.0, we’re usually thinking in terms of services, software, or devices that offer… voice or messaging! But it doesn’t have to be limited to this. Our conception of the “ultimate communications experience” doesn’t imply that we’re looking for a killer app, a single, perfect integrated client; it could as well be provided by a school of independent, specialised but interoperable components. They might be within a common user interface, or might not.

So as well as new forms of telephony, we’re also interested in new auxiliary technologies. What, for example, is the new telephone directory? Web search engines are already great at digging out telephone numbers, but then again, numbers themselves are getting less important. When we’re using the phone to interact with an organisation, rather than an individual, anyway, the phone number is not particularly important. What we need to find is a function.

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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 7th April 2008

LAST CHANCE TO JOIN 200 SENIOR EXECS AT THE 4TH TELCO 2.0 EXECUTIVE BRAINSTORM NEXT WEEK (16-17 APRIL, LONDON). ALL PARTICIPANTS GET A FREE COPY OF ONE OF NEW RESEARCH REPORTS. DETAILS HERE.

In Today’s Issue: 60 WAP sites - meh; Tellabs - beware big telcos; Google not buying Skype; Carphone Warehouse joins forces of Righteousness; cars! with periscopes!; Visto on the skids; Yahoo! Other people who searched for Yahoo! also searched for Yes!; unofficial iPhone SDK; cheap iPhones; new Nokia E90 firmware; WiMAX optimism; LTE promises; iClones; dumb terminals for your smartphone; 35 years of mobility

NBC Universal offers a thrilling new content play: “direct access to more than 60 WAP sites on your handset”, no less. We thought you already had “direct access” to considerably more than that. Of course, what they mean is that they’ll yuck up all the menus with ones they want you to visit so they can show you ads. So very 1999-dotcom-boom. Just don’t tell us there’s another bust coming…

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March 31, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 31st March 2008

In Today’s Issue: Motorola gossip: the demerger cometh; cablecos’ Comcast-Clearwire concert party; HOWTO deploy fibre in NZ?; here’s an answer from San Francisco; Symbian OS platform security is hacked; free WLAN in BA lounges; 3UK is profitable, pigs fly; another MVNO casualty; Virgin Mobile India “not an MVNO”; Miss Bimbo; $20 a month on ringtones; Cuba Movil!; Chinese 3G; really fast stuff; 3G iPhones; another startup-without-money.

Inside gossip at Motorola; someone claims to have been the Richard Kinder figure of their crisis and accuses Ed Zander of working their past CMO to death, and also playing too much golf. Which of these sins is more serious is left as an exercise for the reader. It was also this week that saw Moto finally take our repeated advice. They got rid of the handsets operation, thus leaving it “floating downwards to find its own level”, in the immortal words of Sir Norman Fowler describing the collapse of Sterling.

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February 20, 2008

Re-packaging voice minutes to raise margins

The price of a marginal voice minute is falling all over the world. A basic access bundle of voice, messages and data is becoming the norm in many markets. That bundle offers an ever-larger, or even unlimited, amount of traffic. At the same time, there’s a dramatic explosion of new kinds of voice going on — embedded in games, mobile VoIP, IM clients growing a voice capability, web-based click-to-call, extensions to enterprise VoIP systems — and none of them are by default inside the telco.

In case you missed it the first time, here are the results from our Broadband Business Models survey on this score:

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The message is simple: non-operator voice-enabled application are going to grow very fast. That’s not our opinion, but that of you and your peers. (Our opinion is that the numbers are a little aggressive, but not by much. It may take a 2-3 extra years. Still, contrast mobile in 2008 with 1998 to see how dramatically the world can change.)

If you’re a phone company, and you’re still on Plan A of selling large buckets of voice minutes, it doesn’t look like a very attractive future. At the moment, telco voice is still just about growing in volume, although margins are often vanishingly tiny on fixed line, and falling fast on mobile.

So what could we do about that? The Telco 2.0 way is to divide up your bulk product, and re-package it and distribute it in new ways. We’re going to use dating as an example of how to do it.

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February 4, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 4th February 2008

[Ed - reader promotion: If you’re thinking of coming or sending a delegation to the next Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm - 16-17 April, London - there’s a 20% discount if you book before 12th Feb. Details here]

This Week: Winners and losers from the cable cut crisis; Deutsche Telekom loses 2 megasubscribers, copies BT’s homework; AT&T EDGE outage; Sprint relaunches iDEN to battle $31bn writeoff; Dunstone darks DunBlog; Vodafone in data price cut, number porting case; Moto considers handset sale; MS vs Yahoo; Android phones are coming; Nokia-Trolltech analysis; IMS pony still yet to be located; 2.5 million SMS news subs in India.

It was the week the network died, what with no less than four major submarine cables getting backhoed (or rather, anchored). Some thought terrorists were assailing the world’s communications infrastructure; others that the giant squid were getting restless down there. Others thought it was the prelude to a US air-raid on Iran; Todd Underwood and his team at Renesys, though, had the data; Iran wasn’t even in the top 10 countries for outages as a percentage of BGP prefixes. As the operators of FLAG & Co scoured the world for cableships, divers and the like, their competitors who still had capacity in the area (like SMW-3, SAFE et al) were circling like vultures.

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January 31, 2008

Platform businesses: Competing with Big Tech

When you’re lost in the cycle of product development, marketing and customer support it’s sometimes hard to see the big picture of the forces reshaping the structure of the telecoms industry. In particular, telcos are in an unfolding position of co-opetition with what you might call ‘Big Tech’ — the IT technology, commerce and services giants. These increasingly overlap with telco functions. Many of these companies have platform business models. These create value for end users as well as upstream suppliers, and extracting revenue from joining the two sides together. Think Google, Amazon, Sun Microsystems or Salesforce.com. Companies like IBM specialise in construction and servicing of platforms, even if they don’t always feel the need to own them.

We strongly believe that telcos need to form a platform around their own unique assets. But what drives the economics of platforms, how should the telco platform be positioned against those IT platforms, and what lessons can telcos learn from them?

Mass-produced IT processes for a mass-production world

It’s often been suggested that various so-called network industries exhibit increasing returns to scale; whether or not you accept Metcalfe’s law, it’s empirically obvious that the Internet years’ most significant companies have been ones that made their first priority to build scale and volume. For all the above examples, their businesses are all centred on very large IT platforms and their economic models often involve selling at very low prices, or even giving services away, in order to pull in more volume.

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December 17, 2007

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 17th December

Telco 2.0 Strategy

Structural separation? We don’t need no stinkin’ separation! So says Belgacom…

Telco 2.0 Comment: They built a VDSL network, and now their competitors want to play. Belgacom of course claims they took the risk and therefore should reap the rewards; but the biggest competitor is the company that laid the fibre already everywhere else, and now wants to offer unbundled service in the rest of the country. Will profits come from pleasing customers, or regulators?

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November 26, 2007

UK Broadband Market Gone Wild

Could it be that Britain is edging towards a major high-speed deployment? Minister for Competitiveness (and ex-telecoms analyst) Stephen Timms is expected to call in BT and other telco execs today for what promises to be a heavy meeting; see here and here for details. The figure of £7bn mentioned is believed to be for a deployment of fibre to the street cabinets.

There are reasons to think some of the telcos who will go to see Timms might be keen on the idea. After all, cable neo-monopolist Virgin Media has just given up on its plans to deploy triple-play over ADSL outside its cable footprint, thus leaving Cable & Wireless’s troubled DSL operation (ex-Bulldog) hanging again. However, Virgin is going ahead with the Sky Sports clone channel they are developing with Setanta.

Carphone Warehouse, meanwhile, who led the “free” broadband burst in Britain, is having some problems of its own; it’s running out of metro backhaul in London. This is roughly what you might expect; selling the product for cheap with no explicit limits, Carphone must have had to pack its infrastructure ruthlessly, and now the cracks are showing. They showed plenty of moral fibre going ahead with it, a certain amount of dietary fibre marketing it, and now they are desperate for optical fibre.

Obviously, the best strategy to adopt in this situation is to bribe more people to sign up - right? Well, that’s precisely what Carphone is doing - giving away Playstation 3s to new subscribers. Which is rough on other retailers, but will do nothing at all to help Carphone’s creaky backhaul net or creakier balance sheet.

And, apparently, the industry still hates its customers.

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November 19, 2007

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 19th November

In Thiis Edition: Vodafone’s first data billion, investment plans in China, Romanian call centres, Expansys’n’Truphone, China Mobile switches off Everest, India joins Google in the WiMAX queue, a contest for rural mobile apps, Sarin vs the iPhone, and just how difficult is it to develop for the thing? Plus, of course, Telco 2.0’s favourite blog posts this week.

Telco 2.0 Strategy

Vodafone makes a billion from data

Telco 2.0 Comment: Possibly the first operator to break a billion sterling from data traffic? It’s where the disrupters are, after all. More importantly, note that Voda had to shift 19 per cent more minutes of use to gain a 2 per cent uplift in revenue.

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November 7, 2007

VoiceSage and the business of…business

One of the most interesting companies that took part in October’s Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm is VoiceSage, a small Irish firm that develops innovative enterprise applications using telco services. This was a major theme of the event - if you want MySpace for monkeys on LG Prada phones, or the nth twist on music downloads, you’ll be fine asking Vodafone or Sprint, but if you ask anyone who gets Telco 2.0, they’re probably working on something for business users.

There is a very good reason for this; compared to telecoms, most of the trades that conventional wisdom thinks will provide growth and margin in the future are tiny. Telcos could completely crush the ad business - eat every ad agency in the world - and notice only a minor blip in their revenues. The telecoms industry could take over Hollywood and barely feel the bump, like some grey-suited monster lumbering over the Los Angeles canyons. For an encore, they could crush their way up the coast to San Francisco and eat the computer game industry. And it still might not be enough.

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November 2, 2007

MSP: ISP plus Content

Our good friend Keith McMahon blogs on Playlouder, a British company which plans to offer unlimited, DRM-free music downloads to its customers who buy their DSL service. Naturally, there’s a premium associated with the music, which is the core of the business.

Now, interestingly enough, Playlouder describes itself as a “Media Service Provider” rather than “just” an ISP, which tends to confirm that their content business is part of their solution for the famous broadband incentive problem. The economic value created by widespread Internet use mostly happened after always-on broadband became available and cheap. Flat-rate broadband gives the user every incentive to use as much of it as possible; but the network operator has no corresponding incentive to create more capacity. Therefore, usage tends to increase until the network becomes congested.

Certainly, Playlouder expects their customers to run the copper hot downloading all that music; but they’re paying for it, and presumably Playlouder’s sums assume that the content charge covers the extra traffic, the licensing costs, and some margin. What they are offering, then, is connectivity plus. When we carried out a survey of industry experts recently, the idea of offering inclusive content as a way of managing costs was very popular; you can learn more in our Broadband Business Models 2.0 report when it comes out in December.

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October 22, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis - 22nd October

US telcos who participated in illegal surveillance aren’t out of the woods yet; Senator Chris Dodd plans to filibuster the act granting them immunity. Remember that the Foreign Intelligence Supervision Act provides that each subscriber in the US could individually sue….that’s a chunk of change. Here’s the Senator in his own words.

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October 17, 2007

Empowering the User through CDRs

CDRs - Call Detail Records, the database entities that permit telcos to bill their users - are getting a bad press at the moment with the latest revelations about US networks’ willingness to let the NSA dig through their databases without getting warrants or accepting any other quaint legal restrictions.

But at Telco 2.0 yesterday, we heard how CDRs might actually empower the users in a Telco 2.0 future. Keith Wallington of mobile SIP insurgents Truphone suggested that “in the future, this will be bigger than mobile number portability”. Wallington proposed the ability to have calls routed intelligently depending on your preferences and the patterns of use revealed by network data. And this brings us right to his point.

If all your contextual services depend on the contrail of signalling data you leave behind in the operator network, the ability to take that information with you when you churn is going to be crucial. Perhaps we need a right to claim our data; however, the really important point is as always the practical implementation of such a thing, just as it was with number portability.

So, of course, are the legal and privacy problems; the incentives for the operator to implement a platform for interesting contextual services are all about the clever things the operator could do with the data, but the strongest protections for user privacy essentially rule this out. If the user data, for example, was encrypted with a key the user controlled, the user could grant access to it for each service they wanted. But the operators will insist on being able to analyse the data themselves; or they probably won’t do it.

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October 15, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis, 15th October

No O’Reilly ETel for you!

Telco 2.0 Comment: You’ll just have to come to Telco 2.0 instead. We designed it specifically as a reaction against the kind of conferences where all you remember is the delegate bag — although ETel wasn’t among them and will be missed.

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October 8, 2007

Going Over The Top: MXit

Mixit is the root of all evil whether controlled or not…Hermanus - (creator of mixit) I hope you sleep at night cause I’ve prayed many times that the fleas of a thousand camels with infest you!! (Link)

Surprisingly, this remark about South African hit mobile messaging app MXit didn’t come from a telco marketing director. Neither did it come from a telco data network engineer struggling to cope with demand. In fact, its author was more worried about the content of messages than their quantity; but being common carriers, of course, telco people should be quite the reverse.

And MXit should be giving you nightmares. Since its launch in 2005, the service has been recruiting users at a rate of 10,000 a day. It’s one of the first examples of a really successful over-the-top strategy in mobile; the heart of the service is an instant messaging client that uses the mobile packet data channel and the Internet. But as you will see, it’s far from being “just” mobile IM.

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October 2, 2007

How’s your Google Strategy?

At the 21C Global Summit a few week’s ago former BT Chief Scientist Peter Cochrane - an industry ‘guru’ who likes to shake things up - presented a number of thought-provoking ideas about telcos competing with Google, including this rather cryptic slide:

cochrane.gif

This is how we decipher it:

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October 1, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis - 1st October

Digital Product Innovation

Here’s an example of negative product innovation: an Apple software update that kills hacked iPhones. Hacking was once defined as unauthorised innovation; all third-party apps, among other things, are eliminated by the patch. So all the enthusiasm that oozes out of that video is now going to waste, or else turning to virus-building bitterness..

Telco 2.0 Comment: Apple’s decision to bundle its own services with the iPhone made it rather less like a computer company and rather more like a telco. Fascinatingly, it’s now behaving in a way that shows all the worst features of telcos.

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September 27, 2007

How Practical is your SDP?

Members of the Telco 2.0 team went on a trip to the Italian Lakes this week, where we were stimulating and facilitating an impressively organised conference for Service Delivery Platform experts jNetX and a gaggle of telco people from most parts of Europe. We used a basic version of our interactive Mindshare approach to elicit audience feedback on the issues raised.

Some people there had a funny reaction to our use of the word “platform”, central as it is to the Telco 2.0 vision - isn’t a platform really an operating system? Or something used when drilling for oil? They’re right, of course; a Telco 2.0 platform is a sort of operating system, just as Salesforce.com or Amazon’s IT infrastructure can be seen as a sort of single huge computer. But it became increasingly clear that this cuts both ways; you need the right platform in the second sense to do a platform in the first sense right.

Where did it all go wrong, Telco 2.0?

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September 14, 2007

21C Global Summit: A Weird Consensus…

Telco 2.0 was supporting the 21C Global Summit at Blenheim Palace this week. And what did we find?

Well, it’s increasingly clear that our ideas have traction. Everyone who so much as touched on telco business models, or the infrastructure that underlies them, agreed on key points; points that could have been taken from the last few months of this blog or the main texts of Telco 2.0. The challenge now is to fully internalise what these mean within telco organisations and create some action plans to do something about it. This requires stronger leadership - a recurring theme of the event.

For example, Andy Zimmermann of Accenture’s Technology Strategy practice opened the conference pipes on Wednesday morning by explaining the importance of some Ps; portals, partners, and platforms were all there. Another was “plexes”, which rather than being another word for your navel was used to refer to big IT infrastructure. Again, that’s certainly a theme you’d meet in your daily Telco 2.0. Further, Zimmermann cited content-delivery networking, secure control of sensitive data, and payments as crucial functions telcos need to develop.

Not just that, but the means he recommended had a notable Telco 2.0 feel; specifically, telcos needed to work on their service-delivery platforms, which don’t need to be IMS. (See Martin’s post for more on this…)

He wasn’t the only one, either; Ross Fowler, Cisco’s VP in Europe, drew everyone’s attention to the curious way the functions of content providers are converging with those the GSM/UMTS standards world think are the core functions of a telco. For example, they require high-level applications such as video editing and collaboration, policy/authentication functions to control how their output is released - and the indispensable networking infrastructure to haul bits. Ross, by the way, will be going into more detail about this at the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm on the 17th of October.

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September 6, 2007

Rave Wireless at the Digital Youth Summit

This year’s Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm is rushing up at us with telco-shattering force again, and that means it’s also soon going to be time for a ‘Summit’ session focused on the ‘Digital Youth’ market. Pushing on the debate from the last session in March, we’ve invited some interesting people to tackle in more detail the paradox of a market segment that’s neophilic and increasingly rich (in mature markets at least), but is also dramatically turned off by obvious efforts to appeal to it. For example, there’s Raju Rishi, COO and co-founder of US-based company Rave Wireless.

Rave gets around the paradox by primarily doing business with universities and schools, not with the youths themselves; essentially it’s a MVNE (Mobile Virtual Network Enabler) that creates micro-MVNOs for these institutions, buying bulk capacity from whichever carrier suits. The carrier gets a targeted marketing effort to shift bits, and the institution doesn’t just make a turn on the deal, but also gets to chuck out its desk phones without needing to buy a ton of SIP or UMA devices and a huge LAN upgrade. You can do that when you are your own telco.

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September 3, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis - 3rd September, 2007

This week we look at important stories concerning Product Innovation, Broadband Connectivity, Technology Disruption, Regulation, Partners.

Digital Product Innovation

Nokia is reconceptualising itself; it wants to be an “Internet-driven experience company,” not just a crummy old vendor. To that end, its web presence is being shuffled into a new portal called “Ovi” (it’s Finnish for “door”), which will integrate its new music shop, its Web 2.0 activities (eg Lifeblog), and a rebooted mobile games division. Even N-Gage looks like it might get a new lease of life..

Telco 2.0 Comment: Horizontalisation isn’t just for travel agents and bloggers, y’know. Nokia is probably the keenest of the vendors on trying to shunt the carriers out of the way and get a direct relationship with users; this was only to be expected.

100 million prepaid subs in the Middle East.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Note the surging growth at Iran’s two heavily prepaid networks, Taliya and Irancell (MTN Investcom); contrast the sluggish incumbent MCI. The recipe for emerging markets is still low prices, prepay, credit transfer, SMS, and autonomous distribution. These strategies also work pretty well in Germany too…

China Telecom’s business is hammered by mobile.

Telco 2.0 Comment: It’s not just in the 100% mobile penetration world that the fixed-line business model is sinking fast - it’s also in rural China.

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August 28, 2007

Music as DSL Subsidy, and Cuffware

French ADSL operator Neuf Cegetel has turned platform, recruiting Universal Media as a partner in its new music service.

For €4.99 a month over and above their usual €29.90 triple-play tariff, you can download as many songs as you want from the entirety of Universal’s back catalogue. A less extensive service is free. It’s clear what Neuf Cegetel is up to, right? Facing the usual DSL operator’s struggle to survive incumbent competiton, they’re adding new revenue-generating services that cross-subsidise the ISP operation. And, as usual, one of the simplest ways to do this is through platforms and partners.

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August 27, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis: 27th August

These weekly news roundups are a new Telco 2.0 service; they focus attention on news items that might not be Telco 2.0-related at first sight, or big enough to warrant a whole post to themselves, but do contain important developments. They are grouped under the same categories as the rest of the Telco 2.0 blog.

Digital Politics and Regulation

Rene Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, wants to keep some monopolist privileges; and who can blame him?

Telco 2.0 Comment: It’s curious how some of the regulations introduced to create competition in the telco market are actually profoundly anti-competitive. Network-sharing, for example, was discouraged in order to create competing physical networks. Now, of course, it’s becoming ever clearer that competition is horizontal; and requiring duplication is really a way of protecting big telcos by increasing the barriers to entry.

Viviane Reding is reportedly plotting a new, broader European regulator on the model of Ofcom.

Telco 2.0 Comment: As the competition spreads horizontally, so does the regulator.

700MHz auction set for the 18th of January.

Telco 2.0 Comment: It’s gradually coming closer; soon we’ll see the colour of Google’s money. Speaking of money, the FCC seems very keen to insist on big reserve prices, a total of $10bn. As usual, the notion of free spectrum is a long way away.

Digital Product Innovation

Microsoft Windows Live apps on your Nokia N-series phone.

Telco 2.0 Comment: It may “only” be Live Messenger, Hotmail, Contacts and Spaces, but please note that these are all communications applications. And the carriers? They’ve been disintermediated.

New MVNO offers cheap roaming rates…with an interesting twist.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Now this is interesting; we wonder what the “network” they claim to own is. Clearly they haven’t got spectrum rights in 110 countries, nor have they bought enough base stations to cover the world. Perhaps this is one of the first rogue core networks?

Damned cool idea from Hewlett-Packard: the printer that is everywhere.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Here’s a cracking idea; rather than print documents and take them with you, why not print-to-file on one of HP’s servers, which gives you an SMS shortcode in return? When you need the document, you send them the code as an SMS, and they either send you a PDF file, or route it to a publicly-available printer of your choice. There’s a Google Maps mashup to help you find them. HP is bringing in chains of copy shops as commercial partners, Google as map provider, and acting as a platform itself; so where are the telcos?

Digital Worker

Unified Communications vs End Users

Telco 2.0 Comment: Is the vision of unified enterprise communications, so dear to companies like Cisco, opposed to end-users’ freedom to organise their own communications and communities? Skype, and the Asterisk folk, seem to think so.

Digital Youth

Security expert: beware security threat. According to F-Secure there are now some 400 items of mobile malware in the wild.

Telco 2.0 Comment: It’s not malware, it’s unauthorised innovation!

Online gaming shoots past social networks

Telco 2.0 Comment: We’re talking low-investment casual games here; but even if the margins are tiny, the growth rates here show that there is real potential in this sector. Clearly, it addresses some human motivation.

Broadband Connectivity

Indonesia ; mobile network number 10 launches

Telco 2.0 Comment: No-one should need telling that the emerging markets can’t get enough telco, but this is extreme. 10 mobile operators? It’s also interesting that the new entrant, Smart, is a greenfield CDMA operator. Far from common..

Hutchison 3UK loses slightly less money.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Perhaps their new role, competing with T-Mobile as the geek’s mobile operator and throwing out partnerships with MSN, Yahoo!, Slingbox, and Skype, is beginning to help? You’d do well to remain sceptical, though. It’s not as if 3 hasn’t spent enough money being cool.

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August 20, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News: 20th August, 2007

These weekly news roundups are a new Telco 2.0 service; they are meant to focus attention on news items that might not be Telco 2.0-related at first sight, or big enough to warrant a whole post to themselves, but do contain real insight. They are grouped under the categories used in the rest of Telco 2.0.

Digital Youth

When Search Attacks: Participants in a fancy ID-business social network were horrified when a bot used to auto-populate their profiles libelled leading sci-fi author John Scalzi. He’d repeatedly written about disgraced congressman Mark Foley and used the word “paedophile”; guess what the bot decided to put in his “description” field?

Telco 2.0 Comment: Remember, automatic robots and highly personal information are a dangerous mix. If the AOL security breach was farce, this is tragedy, especially as Spock includes a function for users to vote on each other’s reputations.

T-Mobile Tees Up 3G: First 3G device for T-Mobile USA leaked…but the real news is that even without UMTS, data usage ex-SMS is booming.

Telco 2.0 Comment: T-Mobile is better known for its open-slather Web’n’Walk tariff in Europe, but how to explain its US data boom? Our theory is that its historic price leadership, going back to the days of Voicestream, captured a demographic that’s now adopting new gadgets and services rapidly. Note that AT&T just got FCC approval for the US’s first HSUPA data card - 2Mbits/s uplink, 7.2 down.

Digital Cities

Wi-Fi…Why? Cali-utopian geeks’ dream of free Wi-Fi everywhere doesn’t work. Maybe they could have a crack at the space elevator instead?

Telco 2.0 Comment: There’s a reason why mobile operators have lots of radio engineers, you know. And billing departments.

Paranoia in the palm of your hand: New Sprint service lets you browse sex offenders’ register from your phone; so you can find a sex offender in a hurry? No, of course, it’s for your peace of mind..

Telco 2.0 Comment: “Checking for local offenders is free…after normal data charges” It’s one way to get those metered bits moving. In Telco 2.0 terms, this is somewhere between Digital Home and Digital Town. Notably, some other carriers offer various security-related services; MTN in South Africa streams your home CCTV camera feeds to your 3G device and texts you if the alarm goes off. At least you can do something about that other than “move house” or “collect angry mob”.

Digital Politics and Regulation

AT&T spotted wielding censor’s scissors! Astonishingly, David “Stupid Network” Isenberg isn’t at all pleased that AT&T’s web music portal censored Pearl Jam being rude about President Bush. Perhaps it says more about AT&T that they’re hoping to make a profit streaming Pearl Jam over the web? Isenberg, again unsurprisingly, thinks this is an argument for network neutrality.

Telco 2.0 Comment: So that’s what they wanted all that IMS gear for! More seriously, as John Waclawsky said, monitoring is the first step to control.

ESPN’s efforts to have fewer customers are a roaring success; the cable-TV sports channel may give up on a scheme to restrict access to its website to customers of ISPs who pay it for the privilege.

Telco 2.0 Comment: The idea was that viewers who couldn’t get to see the videos would complain to their ISP; it could have perhaps been predicted that they would complain to ESPN’s website about not being able to see content on their website. Further, the economics of this are a little strange; there is no pot of gold in the customer ISP world for content providers to get their hands on, quite the opposite with margins tanking all over the world.

Too many zeros; Telekom Malaysia bills subscriber 17 times the GDP of the United States. Sorry, that should be “bills deceased ex-subscriber”…

Telco 2.0 Comment: When you do something often enough, even 99.999% sometimes isn’t enough.

Digital Product Innovation

3UK to offer cheap mobile data; 1GB/month=£10, 7GB/month=£25.

Telco 2.0 Comment: In the future, data transfer will be cheap. Cheaper and cheaper. How will 3 make money from this?

Nokia does identity and social networking: sadly, they call it Mosh. In other awful branding news, will Sprint-Nextel call its WiMAX service XOHM?

Telco 2.0 Comment: I, ah, hope you know what you’re doing with that ad budget.. Seriously, there’s so much interest in SNS these days it’s no surprise Nokia is interested, if only as a research project into user interfaces. It probably helps if your users can pronounce the service..Oh God, they’re actually going to do it…

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Telco 2.0 Strategy Report Out Now: Telco Strategy in the Cloud

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