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July 15, 2016

Cloud 2020: Telcos’ Role, Scenarios and Forecast

Although the shape of the cloud industry turned out better than expected, most telco strategies in the cloud haven’t delivered. Our latest article investigates why, what has led to success, and what telcos need to learn to do differently. 

Read our analysis here.

This report is part of our Enterprise Cloud & ICT Stream.

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

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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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March 5, 2012

MWC 2012 - Apps & Devices: Telco 2.0’s tech highlights

This entry in our mini-series on this year’s Mobile World Congress covers smart devices and the apps that love them. The key organising concept, for us, was a comeback for the mobile Web, and we’ll be looking in depth at future device strategies at our Silicon Valley Executive Brainstorm at the end of March. The article covers:


  • Mozilla and Telefonica;

  • Google Gadget Watch;

  • Nokia Resurgence;

  • Deep Web Development;

  • and Telco 2.0’s Tech ‘Shiny of the Show’ award.



(Source: Mozilla)

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MWC 2012 Network Tech: Edge Power, Super WiFi, Van Jacobson

It’s been Mobile World Congress again. To tide you over until we’ve finished the traditional period of fasting, sleeping, and using no technology invented more recently than the sundial, we’ve put together a mini-series of blog posts about major trends we noticed. This one covers what’s happening in networks and infrastructure: Edge Power; Super WiFi; and Telco 2.0’s Top Network Tech moment - a Living Legend on QoS vs. QoE.

(NB For further Telco 2.0 research on future broadband strategies see ‘The value of “Smart Pipes” to mobile network operators’, and our broadband research stream.)

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January 12, 2012

The BlackBerry that wasn’t; is it industrial design or service design?

A BlackBerry design concept from 2009 has been leaked and divides opinion at Telco 2.0.

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Perhaps the really interesting question is whether the state-of-2009 BlackBerry OS, hardware, and service experience would have benefited that much from more exciting industrial design. After all, a very big chunk of the iPhone’s appeal has been concentrated in the software and in the supporting cast of iTunes features and services.

While other vendors (naming no names) came up with some very complex streaming models, Apple concentrated on keeping your content in sync between different devices and making sure you could get it from any of them to any playback device that might be hanging around. Not many users know what Multicast-DNS Service Discovery is, and a lot of network engineers hate it for various reasons, but they do like having all their stuff on their Mac on their iPhone.

And it’s not as if the Bold 9900 isn’t a pretty handsome chunk of shiny. Is RIM’s real problem service design rather than industrial design?

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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 21, 2011

Gartner’s Top 10 strategic technologies for 2012

As reported in Business Cloud News, Gartner announced its top ten strategic technology trends for 2012 this week. Interesting list. We’ll comment on this ongoing and at the Telco 2.0 event next month:

Media Tablets - The true rise of the mobile computing platform. As Gartner states, in 2012 “IT leaders will need a managed diversity program to address multiple form factors, as well as employees bringing their own smartphones and tablet devices into the workplace.”

Mobile-Centric Applications and Interfaces - User Interfaces (UI) with windows, icons, menus, and pointers will be replaced by mobile-centric interfaces emphasising touch, gesture, search, voice and video.

“Applications themselves are likely to shift to more focused and simple apps that can be assembled into more complex solutions. These changes will drive the need for new user interface design skills.”

Contextual and Social User Experience - “Context-aware computing” uses information about an end-user or objects environment, activities, connections and preferences to improve the quality of interaction with that end-user or object.

Context can be used to link mobile, social, location, payment and commerce. It can help build skills in augmented reality, model-driven security and ensemble applications.

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October 10, 2011

Steve Jobs: where were you when you heard?

The untimely death of Steve Jobs was announced while half our team were in New York at the M-Commerce 2.0 brainstorm. It seemed strangely fitting that those of us there learned the news via an iPad2 belonging to one of our speaker’s wives. Later, we took this picture of the ticker tape in Times Square using an iPhone 4.

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None of us knew Steve Jobs personally yet he has had a profound impact on our world, and we’re grateful for the colour and interest that this remarkable man added to our personal and professional lives. He is the first of the tech superstars to die, and perhaps the emotions surrounding his loss will confer even more strength to Apple’s already extraordinary brand. We hope that at least his family and close friends will find some comfort in the public appreciation of his achievements and character.

In the rest of this article we feature some of the excellent tributes in the media from his professional friends and foes alike. We’ve also just published our initial thoughts on the announcement of the iPhone 4s, and will be publishing our in-depth analysis of Apple’s business model and strategy shortly.

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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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June 3, 2011

Android: not as open as you might think. But that might be about to change

We mentioned this instant classic post in the News Review. But it deserves more attention. Basically, Nilay Patel delved into the legal papers filed in the lawsuit between Skyhook Wireless and Google over the Android terms of use, and used them to work out how Google actually exercises control over Android. In so far as it does.

The key take-home message is that it’s not the software - it’s the add-ons, the approval process, and some data assets. Android the operating system is open source. As Andy Rubin memorably tweeted, you can just grab the source code, make whatever changes you like, compile it, and off you go.

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March 16, 2011

Running through the Playbook


Thomson Reuters have a rather good rundown on the BlackBerry Playbook tablet and RIM’s future. Is it a high-end device with an interesting feature set that spans the enterprise and gaming markets, or a curiosity that Apple will brush aside?

We met the Playbook at RIM’s developer day at MWC - although they’re marketing it as “the first professional grade tablet”, their demo showed one running Need for Speed: Undercover and Quake in separate windows at the same time. Our information is that RIM is internally divided about whether to play the device’s media and gaming potential up, or whether that would detract from their image with enterprise customers. However, we do think their developer services, business products, and BB Messenger make up a powerful integrated device-software-media ecosystem.

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November 18, 2010

FT World Telecoms: VNL, Disruptive Rural GSM



A genuinely fascinating presentation at last week’s FT Conference
was given by Rajiv Mehrotra of VNL, an Indian startup that aims to deliver connectivity “where the roads stop”. The big issue here is OPEX - the GSMA estimates that by 2014 there will be 640,000 base stations operating beyond the reach of the electricity grid, which will cost a round $15bn a year in diesel fuel alone. We can only realistically expect the price of oil to go up, and storing tanks of it in a basically unpoliced environment brings its own problems. 60% of a typical African MNO’s OPEX is diesel. 37% of a typical Indian MNO’s OPEX is diesel.

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September 1, 2010

GMail voice - nice, but no Skype Connect


So you can now make telephone calls from within Google Mail. Well, among other things this is a fine example of something we said back in 2008 in the Consumer Voice & Messaging 2.0 strategy report. Jamie Zawinski said that every program tends to expand until it can read e-mail - we said that the same was now true of telephony. Everything expands until it can place phone calls. As a result, although total minutes of use keep rising, the market is deconcentrating, with the total spread across an increasing diversity of players - games, Voice 2.0 companies, enterprise VoIP networks, mobile apps, perhaps even the odd telco.

But we actually don’t think Google’s move is enormously significant. Consider this: if you’re a telco, and you provide plain SS7 circuit-switched voice, everyone agrees you’ve got a problem. Telephony is now a software application and it’s very often free, which doesn’t leave you much scope. If you’re one of the traditional alternative voice providers - calling cards, carrier VoIP like Vonage, discount MVNO, etc - you also have problems, because you’re trying to undercut a price that’s going to zero. We recall Boris Nemsic, when he was CEO of Mobilkom, saying that their answer to “fixed-mobile convergence” was a new tariff that offered unlimited national and on-network minutes for €10. There wasn’t any point being cute, when they could just cut prices and squash the margin players like bugs.

So you need to find some way to differentiate - to offer better voice and messaging.

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April 1, 2010

Cloud Computing: How Telcos can profit from it?

An interesting video here with analysts IDC and dutch operator KPN from our friends at Parallels, a company which provides cloud computing enablement services. It’s worth looking at the 5 minute video.

The video describes how Telcos and network operators can rapidly and efficiently become profitable providers of Cloud services using ‘end-to-end’ automation software. We were particularly interested that it’s been helping KPN launch webhosting, voip and unified comms (reselling a lot of Microsoft services) very fast (reducing the time from 1 year and a lot of ‘home brew’ IT development to 1 month and no internal IT development).

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March 4, 2010

WAC, Meego, eStore: Three Big Moves in Mobile Platform Consolidation

Three major news items underline the centrality of applications development to the future of the telecoms industry.

The first is the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) - this essentially extends the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) proposal, originated by Vodafone, Softbank, and China Mobile, to a brief who’s who of major world operators, 28 carriers in all. The aim is to establish a common environment for mobile apps development and deployment. By ‘apps’, however, they mostly mean JIL-style Web widgets.

The second is Meego, a merger of Nokia and Intel’s mobile linux efforts, and the third is Ericsson’s eStore.

In short, that’s three major applications platforms who will line up against Google Android, Apple, and RIM at the top of the industry.

We’ll be discussing these in detail with senior representatives from all of these initiatives at the 9th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in London on 28-29 April but, in the meantime, to whet your appetite, below is an analysis of what this all means and why it matters?

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February 12, 2010

Blurred Vision…

Informa Telecoms & Media has a series of pre-Mobile World Congress (MWC) interviews up with a roundup of industry luminaries including Virgin Mobile founder Tom Alexander, O2 vice president Mike Short, Bell Labs UK director Louis Samuel, Ericsson CTO for Northwest Europe John Cunliffe, and T-Mobile UK head of technology strategy Tony Weiner, on the theme of “2020 Vision” (heh). The (rather weak) editorial is here.

We won’t dwell on the fact that one of the panel predicted that the hit technologies of the future would be 3G video calls and NFC (!), and instead cut to this:

By way of illustration, Bengt Nordstrom [one of the interviewees] takes a punt on the 2020 Mobile World Congress awards. The event, he suggests, will be happening in Beijing. “‘Facebook Free Talk & Chat’, already the world’s most popular voice and messaging service, also wins a GSMA award,” he predicts (although it will be surprising if the GSMA hasn’t had a rebrand of its own by this stage).

We’d instead go for the following winners at MWC 2020:

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December 18, 2009

BitTorrent’s uTP: The Art of Getting Out Of The Way

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Media vs P2P vs Telcos: The Internet’s Civil War

At the 8th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in Orlando last week, Eric Klinker, CEO of Bittorrent.com, had some fascinating things to say about technical solutions to the interlocking intellectual property and bandwidth issues we’re constantly debating around online video. (He also remarked that the whole debate about P2P, piracy, and intellectual property had begun to remind him of the US Civil War - by 1863, it was clear that the South could never win, but the war went on anyway, and the majority of the casualties died pointlessly between then and 1865.)

He said that both the telecoms and media industries hated BitTorrent, but that this was in part a reflection of their own mutual distrust. BitTorrent was a very small company being ground between these two huge interest blocks. Despite that, it’s still global - the only country where there are no BitTorrent applications running is North Korea - BitTorrent.com has 66% of the market, and the monthly peak throughput of the BitTorrent network is 4 terabits per second.

Congestion, not Traffic, Drives Cost

ISPs tend to be concerned about BitTorrent because they see it as a bandwidth hog. Klinker pointed out that he had himself been an ISP engineer and that he therefore understood their concerns. He remarked that traffic was not, in fact, a driver of cost - congestion was.

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December 1, 2009

Cloud Computing - a mathematical inevitability?

We’re delighted to have Joe Weinman, VP of Strategy for AT&T Business, on the Cloud Computing 2.0 panel at the America Executive Brainstorm next week in Orlando. As a warm-up, some analysis he’s just published on the “Mathematical Proof of the Inevitability of Cloud Computing” is here.

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November 23, 2009

Monetizing the App Store: Guest Post, Fergus O’Reilly, SAP

Fergus O’Reilly is a chief solutions expert at SAP. In this guest post, he explores the drivers of Apple’s success with the iPhone/App Store system and what it means for rival app stores, telco developer communities, and your core billing systems. Telco 2.0 Europe delegates were notably concerned that app stores were turning into “Crazy Frog 2.0”, and that not enough effort was going into enterprise CEBP, as the chart below shows. Crazy Frog 2.0 would characterise a market dominated by impulse buys of low value products by consumers, with minimal stickiness or brand awareness.

Clearly, our delegates preferred the possibility of a bigger and more sustainable market in the enterprise, and one that would preferentially consist of recurring service revenues rather than one-off sales.

Which of the following markets are most profitable for telcos to focus on?

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Apple wowed the world with the iPhone (I am a happy owner) and then had more glory heaped on them for their App Store concept. Since the App Store was launched in July 2008, the demand for mobile applications has exploded and more and more companies - from telecom operators to wireless device manufactures to media companies - are racing to launch their own versions. For instance, RIM has launched the BlackBerry App World, Google has the Android Market, the TV set-top box maker Roku will soon launch their own version, and BMW recently introduced its Concept BMW Application Store.

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October 29, 2009

Hands-On with Google Wave

Ed. - To warm us up for the forthcoming Telco 2.0 Exec Brainstorms on new business models (this week in London and 9-10 Dec in Orlando, Florida), Telco 2.0 reports from last week’s eComm.

As the above ought to make obvious, we’ve had an opportunity to use Google Wave during eComm. So what the hell is it? What’s it for?

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June 24, 2009

Wimbledon 09 - Where is the telco in this picture?

We mentioned that IBM Research is charting a Telco 2.0 agenda, concentrating on mobile enterprise applications, emerging-market mobility (especially applications for SMBs), and enterprise-to-end user applications. Here’s a video demonstration of their Seer augmented-reality application, which is being trialled at Wimbledon this week.

A couple of points come to mind. The first is that Anssi Vanjoki’s remarks at this spring’s Telco 2.0 event about the future of the Web being contextual, rather than semantic, and that this would be driven by the proliferation of new sensors (orientation, machine vision, location, etc) on mobile devices, are entirely right. The second is that this shows the power of an open development platform. It may look like science fiction, but there are quite a lot of similar projects going on, working primarily in Android or Symbian S60, both inside Nokia R&D and independently.

The third is that device API standardisation is important, and the BONDI, JIL, and related projects are crucial for the future of the industry. The fourth is that the IBM developers didn’t involve a telco in any way, except to provide data transfer. Can anyone spell “dumb pipe”?

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June 23, 2009

The Toolkit of Voice 2.0 - Linux, Asterisk, OpenSER…

A new open-source technical toolkit (based on Linux, Asterisk, OpenSER and perhaps OpenSS7) is emerging for Voice 2.0 applications. In this note we will discuss the elements that go into it, the possibilities and problems involved, and the consequences of these developments for existing operators.

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June 12, 2009

Technical Architecture 2.0 - Good Start, but Significant Gaps

Below is a summary analysis of the Technical Architecture 2.0 session at the May 2009 Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm.

The premise we explored was this:

The implementation of new ‘Two-Sided’ Telecoms Business Models has major consequences on telco network architecture. Perhaps most importantly, data from separate internal silos needs to be aggregated and synthesised to provide valuable information on a real-time basis. Key process interfaces that enable new services must be made available to external parties securely and on-demand. Network and IT functions must start collaborating and function as a single entity. Operators need to migrate to a workable architecture quickly and efficiently; vendors have to support this direction with relevant new product offerings and strategies.

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June 11, 2009

BT Tries To Fix Global Services with Open Source

BT has frequently been in the news here; innovation chief Matt Bross presented about his aim to change the company from one defined by infrastructure to one defined by software at the November 2008 Telco 2.0 event. More recently, its systems-integration and IT consulting wing, BT Global Services, has run into trouble, notably in its involvement with the UK’s controversial giant healthcare IT programme.

A software-defined telco - like a software-defined radio - sounds a great idea. But how will BT execute on it - and how will they stabilise Global Services, which is surely a crucial element in such a strategy? It’s an important question for anyone trying to implement Telco 2.0. It seems that BT is hoping that it can achieve this by embracing open source software (OSS) and the habits and methods that go with it.

An anonymous delegate at the last Telco 2.0 event sent us this Mindshare feedback message:

We need more outside the ecosystem players like Apple coming in to cross pollinate with our gene pool. My guess is that apple doesn’t attend Telco events because they are worried about damaging their own gene pool with our status quo. Give some kids full artistic license at a reference acct/operator to build their playground. Lock them in a room with caffeine and pizza and a big pipe. Carriers have great toys they would like to build with. Output = Telco 2.0

As it happened, we had the opportunity to see BT’s efforts to do just that recently. As well as its well-known investment in Voice 2.0 start-up Ribbit, and its previous Web21C API suite, BT’s efforts to initiate transformation towards Telco 2.0 saw it acquire a small UK software house called Osmosoft, which specialised in open-source development. They’re now installed in the spooky and very, very Bellheaded confines of the Westminster ATE - you know you’re in a telco when half the building is devoted to Ministry of Defence networks.

But what are they doing in there?

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May 29, 2009

Mobile Standards Processes: Inhibiting business model innovation?

(This is a modified version of an article first published by Dean Bubley, an Associate of the Telco 2.0 Initiative, on his Disruptive Wireless blog)

An important area for Telco 2.0 strategists to consider is the way that technical standards are created in the communications industry, and the direct and indirect impact this has on future business models.

Either by deliberate intent by “traditionalists”, or accidental inertia, standards often tend to entrench Telco 1.0 thinking and processes. Going forward, it will be important to influence the way standards (and requirements) are developed, in order to ensure that business model innovation is not “frozen” out of future technlogical deployments.

Attendance at the recent LTE Summit in Amsterdam stimulated this article, as various presentations and offline discussions highlighted the way that standards bodies operate (notably 3GPP). Various examples showed risks that could delay ecosystem development, entrenching legacy business models for operators and others.

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May 28, 2009

Devices 2.0 - Output from Telco 2.0 Exec Brainstorm, May 09

Below is a summary analysis of the Devices 2.0 session at the May 2009 Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm. It builds on the issues we described before the event here.

The session involved short stimulus presentations from leading figures in the industry, group brainstorming using our ‘Mindshare’ interactive technology, a panel discussion, and a vote on the best industry strategy for moving forward. Below is the vote, followed by some of our post-event analysis on key lessons and industry next steps:

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April 9, 2009

IfByPhone: Two-Sided Business Model, Comms-Enabled Business Processes, and Open Source Telephony

We recently had the chance to speak to Irv Shapiro, CEO of IfByPhone, a start-up company we featured in the Voice & Messaging 2.0 report that operates a hosted platform for voice-enabled CRM applications and which lets you integrate your Web, e-mail, and phone sales activities while maintaining common metrics across the whole company (Read more here, and note that Thomas Howe is a fan.) Irv Shapiro describes it as being “like Salesforce Force.com with phones”. A couple of interesting things….

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March 27, 2009

iFlood: How better mobile user interfaces demand Layer Zero openness

Networks guru Andrew Odlyzko recently estimated that a typical mobile user consumes 20MB of data a month for voice service, but that T-Mobile Netherlands reports their iPhone users consuming 640MB of data a month; so upgrading everyone to the Jesus Phone would increase the demand for IP bandwidth on cellular networks by a factor of 30.

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March 24, 2009

Device Evolution: Much More Power at the Edge

Below is more background analysis in preparation for the Devices 2.0 session at the 6th Telco 2.0 Exec Braintorm in May.

This article (from our new Executive Briefing subscription service) examines the role of “edge” devices that sit at the periphery of a telco’s network - products like mobile phones or broadband gateways that live in the user’s hand or home.

Formerly called “terminals”, with the inclusion of ever-better chips and software, such devices are now getting “smarter”. In particular, they are capable of absorbing many new functions and applications - and permit the user or operator to install additional software at a later point in time.

In fact, there is fairly incontrovertible evidence that “intelligence” always moves towards the edge of telecom networks, particularly when it can exploit the Internet and IP data connections. This has already been seen in PCs connected to fixed broadband, or in the shift from mainframes to client/server architectures in the enterprise. The trend is now becoming clearer in mobile, with the advent of the iPhone and other smartphones, as well as 3G-connected notebooks. Home networking boxes like set-tops, gaming consoles and gateways are further examples, which also get progressively more powerful.

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November 24, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 24th November, 2008

In Today’s Issue: Internet forecast wars on again; Odlyzko fights the nonsense; experimental high-def YouTube, and how to get it; BT: OFCOM ate my homework; Amazon’s CDN has landed; Telefonica wants a spaceship or two; T-Mobile UK is down; T-Systems blows the German secret service’s cover; VZW peeks at BHO’s CDRs; SearchWiki, another Google web-hoover; Ubuntu for mobiles; Lotus Notes for Nokia; Nokia and Yahoo!; Nokia and TD-SCDMA, possible faster Chinese rollout; HOWTO manage devices OTA in S60; GPS SIMs coming; Qualcomm’s WLAN LBS; CTIA fights for lucrative convict market; Clearwire-Sprint JV signed, shares tank; Indian consolidation coming; T-Mobile USA’s digiframe comes with data but no music; a cautionary tale about age verification.

It’s another round in the Internet traffic forecast wars. The vendors’ side last week published research claiming that a coming exaflood would lead to “Internet brownouts”; as TelecomTV points out, not only did they use identical language to everyone else who’s predicted this over the last 16 years, but just as always, world authority Andrew Odlzkyo disagrees and is probably right (his MINTS project claims that backbone traffic actually fell recently).

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October 22, 2008

Guest post - Mobile WiMAX: an answer to the network capacity crisis?

Technology evangelism can be a dangerous thing; new technologies rarely directly displace incumbent technologies. Each incumbent technology has a surrounding ecosystem that gives it network effect, cost and distribution advantages that the upstart initially cannot match. Rather, new technologies spread by finding new applications, and have properties that the older technologies see as unimportant. They can also acting as a complement to existing technologies. This process was famously documented by Clayton Christensen in The Innovator’s Dilemma.

So, what about mobile WiMAX? We asked Liat Ben-Menashe, Director of Strategic Marketing, Broadband Mobility, at Alvarion, a pioneer in this space with 200 commercial deployments worldwide now:

At Alvarion we passionately believe that mobile WiMAX is going to have a positive, global impact on operators and consumers alike. Not only does this technology fit in with historical patterns of adoption, but also the full range of technological benefits are available right now, and suitable spectrum is also widely available. We therefore anticipate an open mobile WiMAX ecosystem to grow rapidly. The question is: what applications mobile WiMAX will be uniquely suited for?

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October 20, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 20th October 2008

Just when I thought I was out, they drag me back in: Siemens shows a concept phone using the “big touchscreen” iPhone design meme to include a large solar panel in the device. Nice; but hasn’t Siemens given up making phones?

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October 15, 2008

Balanced computing: Intel’s vision of our networked future

Intel is a sponsor of November’s Telco 2.0 event. Its Embedded and Communication Group/Performance Products Division will provide their view on the future of the Telecom business model and technology. Intel’s approach to the telecoms industry stretches across the whole value chain end-to-end, from handsets and PCs to radios, switches and servers. Intel has a unique and commanding viewpoint across the whole digital communications ecosystem. We spoke to Intel’s Director of the Service Provider Sector within the Intel Digital Enterprise Group, Kevin D. Johnson about this.

Q: Intel has traditionally been associated with manufacturing microprocessors, but increasingly is focused on networking. What’s causing this change?

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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 22, 2008

Ring! Ring! 22nd September 2008

In Today’s Issue: Symbian bashes mobile Linux; LiMo counterbashes; Cisco buys Jabber, threatens protocol switch; new Nokia E-series; iTrojan; building stuff for the BlackBerry; data roaming price war in Asia; Reding insists on open access to NGNs; Nortel exits optical Ethernet; EU telecoms packet in trouble; Vodafone+Vodacom; RIP Mobilink CFO

Department of “He would say that, wouldn’t he?”: Symbian claims there’s no hope for Linux on mobile devices, LiMo disagrees, and Google is accused of deliberately causing fragmentation to boost cross-platform and Web apps.

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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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August 4, 2008

BT fibre roll-out: Do the numbers add up?

BT is at last moving on fibre. This is of interest because BT don’t own a cellular network, and their current residential copper access network is functionally separated — a very ‘Telco 2.0’ horizontal model. Is it possible to make money on new network builds without complete vertical integration and a monopoly on services?

We dig into the numbers, and work out whether BT’s shareholders should be concerned, or delighted.

The details are more than a little sketchy at the moment, but we can be fairly certain of some points:

  1. Both FTTC and FTTH are in prospect.
  2. Speeds are to be “up to 100MBits/s” for the FTTH element, 40-60Mbits/s for the FTTC element.
  3. The service will be available wholesale.
  4. The project is costed at £1.5bn over five years.

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July 28, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 28th July 2008

In Today’s Issue: All the Vodafone that’s fit to print; just what’s in that tall glass of mobile data?; the Spanish builder menace; AT&T discovers principled objection to mergers, porcine aviator sighted; Sprint flogs towers; Sprint’s multi-gigabit radio backhaul, departure from the NGMN; is MediaFLO short of spectrum?; frantic open-source activity; Nokia pays for friends; Intel dumps Ubuntu from its mobilinux; Win95 on a Nokia N810; better voicemail for all; Bundesnetzagentur’s odd idea of regulation; BT begins to move on fibre

Vodafone found that once the stock market doesn’t like you, there’s very little you can do about it this week. You wouldn’t imagine that interim results including the phrases “first-quarter £9.1bn revenue” and “expecting full-year profits around £11bn” could scare the markets, but that’s what happened — vodashares were marked down by around 11 per cent. The monster carrier responded by offering to buy back a billion pounds’ worth of stock. Yet if the best repartee is a parliamentary majority, as Prime Minister Disraeli once suggested, the best trading statement is usually a bag of cash.

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July 16, 2008

Verizon’s P4P initiative: will it support the value chain effectively?

The Telco 2.0 research team is undertaking some detailed business modelling around ‘Rich Media Distribution’ over the summer. We’ll also be debating this with industry leaders on 4-5 November at our next event in London. More on both of these anon. In the meantime, here’s some analysis of Verizon’s P4P next generation file swapping initiative:

We’re not sure how it happened, but Verizon appears to be turning into one of the most interesting telcos around. For a start, there’s the fibre - but then again, even AT&T has an FTTH roll-out of sorts going on. Then there’s ODI, their developer platform initiative. The whizzy portal-like Dashboard application Verizon Wireless is putting on its LG Chocolates has a publicly available API so people can do evil things to it. But perhaps the most significant change at Verizon is P4P, an attempt to reconcile the huge RBOC with the world of peer-to-peer applications, using a technology developed at Yale University as Haiyong Xie’s PhD research project.

We’ll start by noting that a lot of people read “P2P” and think copyright. Of course, the means by which you distribute something don’t determine its content, and certainly not its intellectual property status, so this is a red herring. Anyway, we’ll recognise this and move on - we’re interested in the telecoms aspects, not the record industry.

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July 3, 2008

Symbian goes open — or does it?

The big news in mobile this week is that Nokia has bought Symbian, the mobile operating system provider, so that it can give it away. In the first article on this news we looked at the deal from the view of the shareholders and competitive threats. In this second article we take an in-depth analysis of the nuts and bolts of software licensing and governance, to see if Symbian really lives up to its ‘open’ headline.


Symbian: open in parts

With operators being pushed towards ‘open’, what can they learn from Nokia and Symbian’s approach?

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July 2, 2008

Symbian — Its Role in the Mobile Jigsaw

The recent purchase of Symbian by Nokia highlights the tensions around running a consortium-owned platform business. Obviously, Nokia believes that making the software royalty-free and open source is the key to future mass adoption. The team at Telco 2.0 disagree and believe the creation of the Symbian Foundation will cure none of the governance or product issues going forward. Additionally, Symbian isn’t strong in the really important bits of the mobile jigsaw that generates the real value to any of the end-consumer, developer or mobile operator.

In this article, we look at the operating performance of Symbian. In a second we examine the “openness” of Symbian going forward, since “open” remains such a talisman of business model success.

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June 17, 2008

Apple’s iPhone: Beware of Poisonous Pips

Amygdalin may sound like a Star Wars character, but in fact it’s a precursor to cyanide found in apple pips. And your daily Gala, Fuji, or Cox’s Orange Pippin isn’t the only fruity offering with a potentially harmful ingredient inside.

The Apple iPhone might just look to some like a dodgy cameraphone that you can’t operate one-handed. But lurking under those curvy plastic corners lies an assault on the pulsating the heart of the mobile operator.

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June 16, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 16th June 2008

In Today’s Issue: Mobile spam horror looms; Gyahoo will eat your ad business anyway; Nokia starts its own ad platform; open-source unicomms for prison warders shames telco engineers; roaming in Africa; Reding on the rampage again; Swedish military intervention; MTN-Reliance sporked by brothers’ brawl; Clearwire’s world domination plan; Nortel ducks for LTE; Sprint-powered jukebox; the end of WAP; Carphone in trouble; AT&T caps hogs; BT fibre - not all it’s cracked up to be; when number portability works too well

Computerworld asks - are we on the edge of a mobile advertising disaster comparable to the spam phenomenon? A close reading of the story would suggest that their definition of a disaster might be quite close to a mobile advertiser’s definition of success - however, Telco 2.0 would point out that in telco terms, advertising alone is just not that big a deal and operators need to look to facilitating a far wider set of interactions between users and enterprises.

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June 5, 2008

Oi Paggo: A Disruptive Brasileiro Credit Play

Oi is a Brasilian GSM operator with over 1m customers using their Paggo service, which is a direct competitor to credit card networks such as Visa & Mastercard. It is the perfect example of an operator moving into an adjacent field, building a complete vertically integrated solution, leveraging the advantages of mobile and targeting a specialist niche in their home consumer market.

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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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April 14, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 14th April 2008

In Today’s Issue: Data surge at 3UK; price war in Sweden; Vodafone (powered by BT); what next after Big Ben?; more Phorm horrors; Carphone vs BT vs OFCOM; BT vs WiMAX; UK 2.5GHz auction coming; Qualcomm: Is a Telco; flying femtocells and Truphone; bad science at NTT; Apple zaps SDKs; Opera for Android; mystery MVNOs; Sonopia is toast; Embarq embarks on Telco 2.0; big chip merger; Safaricom caught fibbing about subscribers; mobile banking hits Orascom

There’s been a surge in data traffic and revenue at 3UK after they launched their wave of HSPA dongles last year; can anyone guess their secret? That’s right, they radically cut prices, and guess what, demand went way up. While it’s certainly good news for anyone who wants mobile Hovisnet service (it’s the Net wi’ nowt taken out), how long will it be before they find themselves stuck between raging demand and yet another trip to see the nice man from Ericsson?

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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 25, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 25th March 2008

In Today’s Issue: 37% of Ultra-Mobile PCs to get WiMAX; Virtual PBXs could eat your business customers; low-cost telepresence like low-cost spaceflight, i.e. not very; MSFT buys callcentreco; Don Price on managed services; topology aware P2P; variable speed limits for the Net; price war rages; i-mode fails in Europe; huge telcos win huge telco auction; epic Aussie brawl over WiMAX; Sprint’s new core network - platform perfection or IMS infection?; Vodafone & MTN; French FTTH; Deutsche Telekom disaster; sickening “human skin” phones.

37% of ultra-mobile devices to fit WiMAX. So says Intel — but then again, how big will the market for ultra-mobile PCs really be? Time will tell…

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March 17, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 17th March 2008

In Today’s Issue: Big Trouble over Phorm; no immunity for US telcos; mystery letters from Apple; iPhone hacked, cracked, and rehacked; 500 million Flash devices; unified comms drives datacentre demand; Deutsche Telekom looks at OTE; Sprint merger dread; Virgin Media USA suffers; Verizon does topological P2P; Safaricom IPO back on; BSNL looks for prepaid packet-pushing partners; Bharti Airtel looks for wholesale customers; broader broadband beats basic broadband

BT get caught over using personal data in Phorm trials: real customer data was used to test the system. The Phorm Ultimatum highlights two key considerations for any successful platform: privacy and rewards. The Pope of the Web himself, Tim Berners-Lee puts its succinctly:

It’s mine - you can’t have it. If you want to use it for something then you have to negotiate with me, I have to agree; I have to understand what I’m getting in return.

At the same time, the US telcos are back on the hook for illegal wiretapping after a new version of FISA, without immunity, passed the House of Representatives. It makes you wonder who you’d prefer to spy on you.

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Voice Revolution Watch

The vision of our Voice & Messaging 2.0 project is coming ever closer in reality. Two pieces of news this week underline this; first, Sony extends in-game VoIP to more PlayStation Portables. (You’ll remember, of course, that earlier this week Sony filed patents on a PSPhone.). Second, IBM pours $1bn into unified comms. In this article we explore where the telco can fit in…

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March 6, 2008

GSM in a Suitcase = Double Disruption

It is not very often when a proposition comes along that promises to affect the core business of both the Network Equipment Providers and Mobile Network Operators but a small(ish) engineering company based in Thirsk, Yorkshire, called Private Mobile Networks (PMN), is trying to disrupt both business models.

As with most innovative communications companies, PMN has a background with the military. A common challenge for any military is to quickly establish communications on a rapidly changing front line. The first iterations of mobile technology were in fact developed by Motorola for use in the Second World War. The PMN solution is far easier to deploy and comes in a ruggedised suitcase with all the required components (batteries, gateway, MSC, HLR, Picocell) contained within, and is compatible with any off the shelf GSM handset.

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February 25, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 25th February 2008

In Today’s Issue:: Flat-rate menaces US cellcos, mobile voice volume booms, COLT feels the pain, Voda/Orange mast-share, OFCOM after the fibre, mobile filth disappoints, DVD Jon turns on mobiles, Pakistan breaks the Internet, GSM crypto cracked, BlackBerry down again, Facebook loses traffic, microwave spectrum in demand, France resists Reding, pretty PDFs, and Sprint-Nextel goes all Telco 2.0…

It was the week of flat-rate: all US national mobile operators are now offering flat-rate calling plans, as well as flat-rate data plans. Some day this war’s gonna end. We knew T-Mobile USA’s UMTS rollout would boost competition; we just didn’t think it would happen quite that quickly. Broadband incentive problem, meet US MNOs; US MNOs, meet broadband incentive problem…as Telegeography points out, this is ugly news for the landline world as well.

Here we go; mobile voice minutes of use in Europe are expected to whizz past fixed any time now.

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February 18, 2008

Telco 2.0’s Private Mobile World Congress

So everyone else has done their 3GSM…sorry…Mobile World Congress round-up posts; what did Telco 2.0 think was cool? As you’ll no doubt guess, it wasn’t the shiny gadgets that got us; even at MWC, the anti-shiny goggles all Telco 2.0 team members get issued still block them out. It was a very serious conference this year; we think it may have been the first to get serious about the kinds of communication and enterprise-focused activities that will eventually make serious money for carriers. We broke them down by themes…

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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 29, 2008

Customer data: Goldmine or Quicksand?

Whilst Google profitably accumulates ever more data on their users, telcos sit and do nothing with the customer data and digital identity assets they have. Meanwhile, new technology throws open the race to monetise the relationship with the customer.

In our preview of 2008 we suggested that operators should be paying a lot more attention to digital identity, specifically the emerging OpenID standard. This is an issue that fundamentally relates to business models and structural change, and is far too important to be treated as a technology issue. (We’re doing an in-depth exploration and sizing of the telco as a platform provider in our forthcoming report “The 2-sided telecoms market opportunity”.)

Before we have a (very) brief primer on the technology and it’s implications, why is this important? Digital identity sounds so abstract and technocratic. Surely you just sit this one out, and let your CTO manage it all? Or just outsource the IT nightmare and go back to thinking up new price plans and segmentation strategies?

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January 28, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 28th January 2008

A very selective tech downturn: as the stock market tanked, Nokia reached its world-domination target of 40% total market share. They celebrated with a recreational acquisition, buying Norwegian mobile-Linux specialists Trolltech. This brings not only their Linux technology, but also their cross-platform development environment Qt on board; this is presumably a means of hedging against Google Android et al. The mobile development race continues.

Meanwhile, a closer look at the figures for handset market share suggests one thing. It’s not just that Nokia is doing well; Motorola is doing catastrophically.

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January 16, 2008

Ribbit! The amphibian of telco voice platforms

We’ve been putting together a directory of all “2.0”-type players for our forthcoming Consumer Voice & Messaging 2.0 Report. One newcomer, Ribbit, is offering an early foretaste of what the future environment for developing voice and messaging services might look like.

Ribbit reckons it’s “Silicon Valley’s First Phone Company”. Silly us, we thought that was AT&T. So what is it? The actual product is a VoIP softswitch, available either as a standalone installation or a hosted service, which offers an unprecedentedly extensive collection of APIs for developers to work into their sizzling lashups. Then, there’s a Flash toolkit intended to let the front-end developers design interesting user interfaces to the system’s voice functions, whether on desktops, laptops, or mobile devices. All very Telco 2.0, really.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Ribbit is that one of the existing applications for it integrates it into Salesforce.com, the hugely successful web-based sales/CRM system; you can’t get more platform-based, enterprise-focused, or two-sided than that. We’re sure there’s huge scope for creativity and user-driven innovation here; but there are some issues that worry us.

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January 14, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 14th January 2008

This year, we’re focusing on seven themes in the industry; Investment and Market Valuations, Disruptive Threats, Two-Sided Business Models (a key theme in the forthcoming Platforms report), Adjacent Markets, Core Products and End-User Needs, and of course Regulation. So these news posts will be centred around these concerns.

Despite everything, it looks like Sprint is going ahead with the big WiMAX rollout; launch is scheduled for mid-April, and a gaggle of new contracts have been issued to hardware vendors like ZyXEL. The mob that is the Apple fanbase is working itself up over the thought that this year’s Macworld might see the launch of a WiMAX-capable device of some sort — apparently they’ve got ad banners reading “There’s something in the air”. There’s conclusive evidence for you.

However, it’s true that Sprint is looking at bundling WiMAX connectivity with devices, just as it wraps EV-DO data in the price of the Amazon Kindle (“In Amazon, book reads you!”), so perhaps there’s something in it. Meanwhile, China Mobile doesn’t want the iPhone.

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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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December 10, 2007

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 10th December

In Today’s Issue: Asia goes crazy for network sharing, plastic fibre, fixed-line videocalls (yes, really), Opera Mini conquers all, make a widget and win a Nokia N95, UMA gadget with 2GB storage, data centre heists, iFlop, BlackBerry WiFi on a plane, Nokia threatens UGC boom, new torrent tracker tech terror, free music, ads in P2P movies, and Telco 2.0 Recommends…

Broadband Connectivity

Vodafone, Bharti, Idea in monster network sharing deal.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Shared, structurally separated, and community-owned infrastructure is a major industry trend in responding to the broadband incentive problem. This deal is especially interesting due to its sheer size; India is getting a giant shared mobile infrastructure operator, which will probably draw in other carriers.

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December 3, 2007

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 3rd December

In Today’s Issue: 3.3bn Mobiles, Open VZW, 3UK sues the world, Peter Erskine spends more time with his money, another WiMAX outbreak, Japanese data prices tumble, Dutch fibre prices untumble a tad, Saudi Mobily buys huge IP network, Vodafone and Telefonica and adverts, Lithuanian and Brazilian IPTV, rapid withdrawal from Iraq, Nokia’s cool tools, sinister stalkerware from Google, and Telco 2.0 Recommends: the best of the blogs.

Telco 2.0 Strategy

3.3bn mobile subscribers worldwide

Telco 2.0 Comment: And that’s still only 50 per cent world penetration. The big question is now just how close to the world adult population it’s possible to push; is more than 75 per cent achievable?

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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 12, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday ‘Hot News’, 12th November

In this edition of Telco 2.0’s ‘Hot News’ : Viviane Reding wants the power; The iPhone fails to explode in Europe; Who needs Google Android when we’ve got LiMo?; TD-SCDMA gadgets, at last; T-Mobile Shadow under test; 900MHz 3G is here; Sprint and Clearwire fall out; Helio burns yet more cash; BT buys Sonus kit; COLT buys an IMS. Plus, ‘Telco 2.0 Recommends…’: the best from last week’s blogosphere.

Digital Politics and Regulation

Reding wants the power…the power to unbundle all Europe.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Proposed; a single regulator for everything that’s European and telecoms, with you-know-who in charge. It’s a fearful vision if you’re Telco 1.0, and pretty scary if you’re Telco 2.0, come to think of it. Expect much more structural separation if this happens.

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October 29, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis, 29th October

Portals, Partners, and Platforms

Apple: sorry, we don’t accept money. Seriously; you can’t buy an iPhone for cash. Unless you’re a telco, in which case Apple may be after as much as $400 in revenue-sharing for each gadget.

Telco2.0 Comment: There are a couple of interesting things here. First up, the relationship between Apple and AT&T; handset subsidies have landed in North America with a vengeance. One wonders how long AT&T will stick it; if they have any choice. Secondly, Apple’s increasingly desperate efforts to keep control of the devices - they have started refusing to sell iPhones to cash buyers, presumably so they know where their customers live. [Business idea: French law prohibits sales of locked devices. Stock up on iPhones there and re-sell them around the rest of Europe and/or re-import them to the US!]

O2 and Orange, meanwhile, plan to recoup the Apple Danegeld from data charges.

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New Ideas for Incremental Muni-Fibre and Metro-Fibre

We continue to be fascinated by the presentation by Roy Gradwell, Director of Connected Real Estate Ltd, at the Telco 2.0 Digital Cities session. We think the ideas he floated deserve a much wider audience. He presented a new option for financing network build-outs, different from existing vertically integrated models (e.g. Verizon FiOS) or Muni/open models (e.g. Amsterdam’s Citynet).

What interests us most is that it provides a practical framework for realising Malcolm Matson’s open access vision of the future, where networks are funded and owned by long-term low-risk investors and any service provider can ride on top. This is called an OPLAN (Open Public Local Access Network), and implies both the end-user access and metro backhaul are part of the same open network. It’s an intellectually attractive proposition. The trouble is finding the route from “here” to “there”.

Some of the biggest problems with municipal fibre deployments are down to the fact that it’s a big, expensive, monolithic project. The up-front cost is hefty, and its repayment means you have to be very sure there will be enough demand to pay it back. It’s difficult to trial the idea of muni-fibre (or any other kind of metro-fibre rollout) without making a huge investment and therefore taking a big risk. This is the “anchor tenant” problem Dave Hughes, Director of BT’s Wireless Broadband division, mentioned during the session. Other speakers noted how hard it was to co-ordinate the purchase of connectivity across multiple public services given their varying contract commitments and buying cycles.

Plus, if you’re the city government, you can run into problems in the courts - in some places you might get sued by an incumbent telco, and in the European Union quite a few cities have run into trouble with the legislation on state aid to industry.

On the other hand, as Roy points out, for enterprise and government users the bottleneck is between the LAN and the WAN; and in the UK, there’s been hardly any metropolitan area network investment since the end of the cable boom in 1996.

The principle doesn’t need too much stretching to cover residential users either - after all, there’s not much difference between a LAN-wired office block, a LAN-wired factory, or a LAN-wired block of flats from this point of view, and getting fibre reasonably close to the home is the precondition of fibre-to-the-X, VDSL, WiMAX, and the like.

Nobody wants to build a metro backhaul network without access network customers; but nobody wants to build an access network without a plentiful supply of cheap metro backhaul. And few are willing to risk doing both. So, what is to be done?

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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

What will those 40Gbits Grannies download?

One of the less-discussed points about the joy of muni-fibre, and for that matter commercial FTTH, is what happens in the next hop. At the moment, the last mile is the slowest hop, in terms of data rate. The backbone is usually considered to be OK, thanks to the dark fibre phenomenon, technical improvements such as DWDM, and the fact it’s easier to lay more fibre in one dig next to the highway than ten thousand digs in the city centre. Especially in L2TP/bitstream markets, the sector from the aggregation point to the ISP’s gateway router is more of a problem, but this is usually a matter of ex-incumbent pricing rather than a real shortage.

But if the access network gets replaced by fibre, what then? ISP engineers deal daily in interconnects up to Gigabit Ethernet, but if 40Gbits Granny’s in town, there’s going to be a quantum leap in demand at the next hop after the fibre access ring. In fact, it’s worse than that; Granny is a special case, but a town’s worth of 100Mbits/s Mums means you’ll rapidly reach genuinely huge demands on the pipe out to the backbone. For that matter, you wouldn’t need that many to strain your friendly local IX.

That’s the sort of thing you have to think about when you’re sitting next to Ad Ketelaars of Eindhoven’s munifibre deployment, while Chris Schoettle of Akamai is presenting. Shoettle, unsurprisingly, thinks CDNs are great, and so do we; but there’s better than that. He makes an important point about distance and speed - quite simply, going from less than 100 to 500-1000 miles’ worth of speed-of-light latency means that a file you could be pulling down at 44Mbits/s (if you have fibre) instead arrives around 4Mbits/s. If you’re constrained by the local loop, you’re unlikely to notice the difference; once the speeds go up, though, you certainly will.

No wonder, then, that Eindhoven is keen to get not just CDN capacity in their backyard, but another IX somewhere in southern Holland or Belgium to take some of the load off AMS-IX. Screaming-fast local loops will force us to invest in content-delivery networking and related problems.

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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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Red Hat@Telco 2.0; Re-Engineering Telco Infrastructure

Telco 2.0 Comment: We’re delighted to have the people from Red Hat’s telco business at Telco 2.0. Ivelin Ivanov, their director of product development, agreed to do a guest post for us about telcos and their JBoss Java-based comms platform; it’s like a really tiny SDP that fits into products like IP-PBXs. In fact, when Ivelin demonstrated it, it turned out it was running on his laptop. If that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is.
Who would think a few years ago that the telco industry would ever reach a pace of innovation comparable to the web world? Well, it happened. Most still wouldn’t agree, but maybe pointing out a few facts will help.

Earlier this year the web thought leaders launched amazing new online tools for web mashups - Yahoo Pipes, Microsoft Popfly and Google Mashup Editor. They took over the web developers community by storm and changed the way applications are written and deployed. A new computing environment emerged.

A series of posts followed in the telco blogosphere, proposing interesting ideas for telco mashups. Some good examples came up during the O’Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference (ETel).

It was magical for me to find out that a tier one carrier was tuned in and listening to all the cool talk in town. Not only listening but also acting on it. Last week I was presented with early access account to an online service exposing telco services in a way easily consumable by mashups. Hopefully the service will reach general availability shortly and I will be able to post more about my experience with it while creating converged online services.

While there is a lot being said about creating mashups, it is less clear how one can create services that can be converged via mashups. Recently Telco 2.0 wrote about evolving telco platforms. The article argued that while Level 1 and 2 platforms are feasible and will evolve, Level 3 platforms have no future.

We would like to challenge the latter statement. L3 platforms are proven to work well in the enterprise middleware market and are starting to take off in the telco middleware space as well. At least open source L3 platforms are.

Yesterday, on the Telco 2.0 Product and Partnership Innovation track, I demonstrated a DVD Online Store service, which will show convergence of several middleware technologies - web, SOA, process management, and call control running on an integrated Level 3 service delivery platform.

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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

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis, 8th October

As a preview to the Telco 2.0 event next week in London, here are some relevant news items from the last week to help stimulate the furious debate among the participating cognoscenti:

Ever wanted to physically wave a game controller round your head? Now you can, thanks to Nokia researcher Paul Coulson.

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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 4, 2007

Evolving Internet ‘Platforms’ - Lessons for Telcos?

Says über-geek Marc Andreessen (Co-Founder of Netscape, and ex-CTO of AOL):
“One of the hottest of hot topics these days is the topic of Internet platforms, or platforms on the Internet. Web services APIs (application programming interfaces), web services protocols like REST and SOAP, the new Facebook platform, Amazon’s web services efforts including EC2 and S3, lots of new startups talking platform (including my own company, Ning)… well, “platform” is turning into a central theme of our industry and one that a lot of people want to think about and talk about.

Indeed. Andreessen is certainly right to say that there is a lot of confusion about it, too - we mentioned this in our post on jNetX. In an attempt to clarify this, he defines a platform as any system capable of modification by the user; we broadly agree with this. What we find more interesting is his three-way typology of platforms, and the importance he attaches to them.

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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 19, 2007

The Joy of ‘Functional Separation’ - Panel on Telecom TV

Following our Q&A last week with Steve Robertson, CEO of Openreach (“proud guardians of the UK’s local access network”), we organised a panel on Telecom TV to discuss the impact on business model innovation of the ‘functional separation’ of this unit from the BT Group (see vid below). Anne Heal, (MD, Openreach) and Kip Meek (Chairman, BSG) were there too. They were on opposite sides of the Ofcom-BT negotiations that led to this groundbreaking separation two year’s ago. Beware: The European Commission is very interested in how this model could be spread elsewhere…

We met the Openreach team yesterday to discuss Steve’s stimulus presentation for the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm Plenary on the 17th Oct. Building on the Q&A and the panel, Steve is working up something new for the event: his analysis of the technical, commerical and cultural/organisational changes that could have the biggest impact on business model innovation for ‘communication providers’ in the next 3-5 years. Also, his rating and criteria for judging how easy/difficult these might be to implement. The audience will then feedback their views via the ‘Mindshare’ interactive process. This should stimulate a great panel discussion with Gord Graylish from Intel (who’ll have spoken about innovation opportunities around new device categories) and Ross Fowler from Cisco (who’ll unveil latest thinking on how to deal with OTT players). A big thank to all these guys for putting real effort into contributing something new - not the toothless corporate presentations we see so often at events… Here’s the Telecom TV panel:

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September 18, 2007

Vodafone: A “Total Communications” Company?

The Times recently interviewed Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone. The Newbury empire once held ambitions of global hegemony as the biggest, baddest vertically integrated telco of them all. In a more pragmatic era, they’ve been working on getting the basics of business right, with their own glasnost and perestroika programmes to re-invigorate the mobile operator model.

Sarin’s remarks are consistent with the strategic move Vodafone is making into a new phase of its business. In the last year or so they have moved away from being simply a really big mobile network operator. He says he wants Vodafone to become a “total communications company”. In pursuit of this, they’ve been investing in fixed-line DSL and PSTN activities, either as a reseller (as in the UK) or by buying up assets (as with the acquisition of Tele2), or just by integrating more closely with their once forgotten fixed assets (as with Arcor in Germany), .

There’s a clear Telco 2.0 angle here; a key point in Telco 2.0 analysis is that the connectivity is no longer special. Rather, it is becoming a commodity — something easily purchased on the open market by any entrant for a predictable price. Further, its tight coupling with other parts of the value chain is melting away. Therefore, the distinctions between mobile and fixed operators, between networks and virtual network operators, and between telcos or ISPs, content providers, IT service providers, and consumer electronics firms are increasingly irrelevant. What now matters is the assembly of elements from the horizontalised soup into attractive propositions to customers. As we said about France Telecom, this may mean that integrated fixed-mobile telcos have more life in them than you might think. (Our current Survey will help to clarify that point anyway).

Sarin spoke of “mobile plus”, and pointedly mentioned that the company is getting into mobile advertising but would not become a content producer. Could this perhaps signal that Vodafone — traditionally the most telcoish of mobile operators — is thinking of a platform strategy?

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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 5, 2007

Making Structural Separation Work: Interview with Steve Robertson, CEO, Openreach

Readers of Telco 2.0 are probably well aware that we like the British model of structural separation, where the local loop is controlled by a specially-created company with a duty to provide nondiscriminatory access to all-comers, a lot. This approach helps to mitigate risk across the BT Group and, theoretically at least, liberates the individual units (Retail, Wholesale, Access) to be more innovative and responsive to customer needs (levelling the playing field a little with internet players like Google). (More on the benefits of this here).

Naturally, we jumped at the chance to interview the good people at Openreach, the BT access division. Especially in the light of rumours that BT might be considering a KPN-like deployment of fibre to the street cabinets; which would make the Local Loop Unbundling model Openreach was formed to defend partly obsolete.

Our interview with Steve Robertson, CEO of Openreach, (who will also be a stimulus speaker at the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in October) is below the fold…

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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 21, 2007

Variable Speed Limits for the Internet

A key feature of Telco 2.0 analysis is our effort to understand the limits of the end-to-end principle; how stupid can a stupid network be without being, well, stupid? Networks have to be intelligent in some ways; routing, for example, requires a lot of intelligence although restricted quite tightly to one task.

So we were very interested by a recent NANOG thread regarding improvements in how the Internet deals with major congestion on backbone links. Famously, the Internet is meant to route around damage, but this only works when there is enough route diversity to absorb the diverted traffic. In a major outage, for example the one that followed an earthquake in the Luzon Strait earlier this year, the problem is often that too many people are trying to fit through the remaining links at once.

This is where the fundamental principles of internetworking bite you in the behind; most Internet protocols work on the principle that, if one attempt to do something fails, you try again. TCP achieves reliable delivery by resending packets that are not acknowledged within their time-to-live, until a timeout. The problem is that if there is a major problem, very large numbers of users’ applications will all try to resend; generating a packet storm and creating even more congestion.

So wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell everyone to slow down?

Variable_speed_limit.jpg

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August 17, 2007

404 Skype Not Found

Centralised architectures can always cause trouble. Not that this is a point in distributed systems’ favour, necessarily; look what just happened to Skype, which has suffered a whole day’s outage.

We at Telco 2.0, as you may know, are actually a group intellect, structured rather like the brain of a large cephalopod. Rather than one single brain, there is a node for each tentacle, the whole being interconnected by the highest-bandwidth nerve fibres known in nature. Unlike the squid, the Telco 2.0 team uses Skype quite heavily in order to maintain coherence among its multiple cerebellums (cerebella?), so we may be forgiven for feeling a little sporky. We’ve been debased to using Google Talk for much of the day.

Telco 2.0 in its natural habitat
Telco 2.0 in its natural habitat

So all day, access to Skype has been to all intents and purposes impossible, starting around 1000 hours GMT. The pathology takes the following form; on start-up, the Skype client successfully registers on the network (often with considerable delay), but rapidly logs-off again, and struggles to reconnect. During the brief intervals of successful operation, the number of logged-in users is very low; between 100,000 and 320,000 according to our own observations.

What was up? Surely the nature of a peer-to-peer network means that there is no single point of failure? Well, everyone speculated, so why not us too?

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August 15, 2007

IT Giants: Commoditise This!

Not so long ago, Indian IT services company Wipro joined the IMS Forum and announced that from now on, it would offer a range of IMS development services. There’s a whitepaper of theirs here on IMS, but this paragraph from the EE Times story interested us more..
With the evolution of the IMS technology, Wipro has matured its IMS offerings towards becoming an integral part of the converged digital media delivery ecosystem,” said Nagamani Murthy, Wipro VP, mobile and consumer electronics group.
Clearly, Wipro sees IMS as just another data transport system; “he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty means of transporting information goods.” Of course, as far as developing applications for IMS client devices goes, this is precisely what IMS was meant to do (at least, one of the vast number of things it was meant to do) - open up applications development to a bigger community outside telco R&D groups. Traditional telcos might even be cheered by this as evidence that rather than letting just anyone develop applications, they are being developed by big companies on contract to other big companies.

But who would imagine it would stop there? At Wipro, they have a constant risk of a namespace collision with another IMS; Infrastructure Management Services. This is the line of business where they install, commission, and manage private networks, including (according to their website) high-capacity switching systems. And IMS is nothing if it’s not a high-capacity switching system. OK, so network outsourcing is not that new an idea, but the shift to IP-based networks means there’s something much more disruptive out there..

scientists prepare to experiment on a helpless telco

Scientists prepare to experiment on a helpless telco

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August 1, 2007

40Gbits Granny and the Future of Telecoms

The news that Sigrid Löthberg, Peter Löthberg’s 75-year old grandmother, has the world’s fastest Internet connection has now passed through the Web’s digestive tract. All the oohing and aahing is complete. It’s certainly very cool that she has 40Gbits/s connectivity and a CRS-1 router in her garden shed, but it is only a demonstration project.

However, it does tell us quite a lot about how Cisco thinks the future will be. And there will not be a CRS-1 in every pot any time soon. The fibre, well, that’s a different story. Sweden, like some other countries, has a number of projects that aim at the creation of shared, open-access fibre infrastructure. It’s a question of getting the institutions and economics right; aggregating enough customers to spread the capex while guaranteeing open access to preserve competition. And that, by the way, is what the Digital Town strand of Telco 2.0 is all about, and the focus of the Digital Cities summit on the 18th of October: find out more here.

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July 30, 2007

Google anchors its carrier off the coast of Telcoland

So what’s up with Google and the 700MHz spectrum? Well, Google has “pre-bid”-that is, declared its interest in bidding-for a large block of radio spectrum in the US’s 700MHz ex-TV band. (See here.) The big friendly search engine (or menacing, Orwellian data monster, depending on point of view) doesn’t just want the spectrum for itself; it wants it to be sublicensed for public access.

Traditionally, the economic value of radio spectrum has been largely an economic rent, originating from the fact that licenses grant a monopoly of its use. No cash changes hands when the various unlicensed bands, such as the 2.4GHz swamp beloved of Wi-Fi users worldwide, are used; even though, of course, its use creates value for the user, this isn’t accounted for.

So why would anyone want nonexclusive spectrum? Isn’t it a contradiction in terms? And what does Google plan to do with it? Google, after all, is a model Telco 2.0 company, designed around the
horizontalisation of the industry (NB: in the plenary session of the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in October we’ll be talking about ‘coopetition’ strategies based on some new analysis by our senior stimulus presenters).

googleship-cvn65.jpg

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July 25, 2007

France Telecom, Part 2: Little Boxes, All The Same

So we mentioned Liveboxes. The box contains an ADSL modem, a four-port Ethernet/WLAN router, and some other stuff running on its kernel. Specifically, there’s a socket for a standard PSTN handset, so you can use FT’s carrier-VoIP service, and a Bluetooth radio so you can walk about with the same service. There’s also an IPTV client, so you can watch FT’s TV.

Now, I don’t know what’s actually driving the thing - but many of these boxes have a real operating system, usually a small Linux distro. (Note that if you want to DIY, there’s a Linux available for the Linksys WRT54G router.) A lot of them can be remotely managed by a system administrator over the Internet - something which has already had embarrassing consequences for at least one ISP, whose CPEs shipped with the default passwords set and were promptly hacked.

This has all been a little techie by Telco2.0 standards so far. But here is the vital upshot: this is what a platform for new services looks like. Once you have a little box in the customer’s living room with an IP address, a general-purpose OS, and remote admin access, you’re in a position to come up with new ideas and get them out to the market very quickly indeed.

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July 19, 2007

By Grand Central Station SunRocket declared Chapter 11

The US’s second-biggest VoIP carrier, SunRocket, is bankrupt. You wouldn’t have been very surprised, had you read this article on Telco2.0, or even this one from back in 2003.

Not so long ago, Google bought a small company called GrandCentral Technologies that provided a hosted SIP gateway - permitting its customers to route multiple PSTN/PLMN or carrier VoIP numbers, or SIP names, to a single inbox they can access from any Internet connection. What connects these two facts?

First up, companies like SunRocket and Vonage originally succeeded because they confiscated some of the traditional telcos’ economic rents. An economic rent is defined as a return which is entirely due to scarcity; you don’t do anything to get it. In the past, bandwidth was scarce and difficult, and bound tightly to the telco’s infrastructure of identification, billing, and authorisation. With the plummeting cost of moving bits over IP, the proportion of a telco’s profits which are attributable to artificial scarcity has greatly increased - as Li Mo, chief network architect at ZTE USA put it, “the network is so much simpler when you take out the charging mechanisms.”

With the arrival of IP, it became possible to separate addressing, identification, authorisation, and payment from any one particular network. Instead, you can now assemble functions horizontally across different companies. VoIP carriers do their own number allocation and billing, and use other people’s networks for access (but usually their own in the backbone, whether real or virtual). It’s what we call Voice & Messaging 2.0.

Using really cheap transport, and being willing to accept lower margins, providers of what we might call “bog-standard VoIP” were able to capture some of those rents. But the same principle applies to them, in so far as their business model depends on the difference between the price they charge an average customer per bit and the price they pay to their transit providers, less the cost of customer care. Somebody could always come along and undercut them, and they did; traditional carriers entering a price war with deep pockets, new VoIP providers, and software-based VoIP operations like Skype or Gizmo - who don’t carry their own bits and whose product is often free.

These companies rely for their money (where they actually make money, that is) on the sort of alternative value propositions you’ll find at Telco 2.0 - and especially in our Data Transport Systems project - on a regular basis - presence/availability control, integration with other applications, and premium interconnection with older systems. So what does this have to do with GrandCentral?

Continue reading "By Grand Central Station SunRocket declared Chapter 11" »

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July 17, 2007

Behold the Data Transport Systems Project

So you’ve read about our methodology, and you understand that it’s all about the distribution of bits that the recipient considers valuable. You’ve read the map, and the essay that goes with it.

But how will all this be put into practice? For that, you need our Data Transport Systems project - think of it as Telco 2017. From here to October, Martin Geddes, Rafil Khatib, Keith McMahon and I will be inquiring into how the forces detailed in the maps will twist the telecoms industry over the next 10 years. We’ll be looking at everything from BitTorrent to cinemas and USB sticks, and drawing lessons from electricity grids and container shipping networks on how mass wholesale businesses can make very personalised, targeted ones possible.

Not just that, but we’re also interested in failure.

We’ll be looking at the differences between things that succeed and then go obsolete, and the ones that hit the trees at the edge of the airfield. MMS, this means you. There’s also going to be peering, interconnection, and the pressing question of whether telecoms is going to be a for-profit activity in 2017, rather than a huge cost centre like a corporate IT department, a government agency, or Haiti with routers. And if it is still profitable, where it will be making money.

Remember, the Map says by then we’ll see “other” passing broadband, steamphone, and NGN added together. DTS is intended to answer the question of what the other will be. It’s traditional to say that the future might be X, Y, or “something we can’t imagine yet”; but it’s also trivial. It’s abundantly clear that the traditional telco model won’t be “it”, but there are also good reasons to imagine that classic ISPs are not “the future” (so many are morphing into sizable telcolike entities, after all). So what will the synthesis be?

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