Friday, April 28, 2006
Over in the wild, wild Netherlands, Trouw is once again on the tail of UPC. It seems that the city council of the rapidly growing Almere is attempting to get all local utilities, KPN and UPC to agree a coordinated plan for trenches and ducts in areas of new construction. All involved seem to be playing along nicely, though it would appear that UPC walks away from any proposal which would leave additional space for future network deployments. Presumably this is directed at Almere's muni-fiber aspirations. Separately, I am also hearing vague tales of a mounting political backlash against muni-fiber in the country. Maybe Europe gets to have a passionate battle for access neutrality now?
No, it's not a new English gangsta rapper's debut album. It's some direct mail marketing stuff from Wanadoo UK, pointing out that broadband costs 50p per day. Don't quite know why they've done this ahead of a rebranding campaign, but wot'evah.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
For all the data hogs out there, OFCOM has produced yet another fine survey of the UK telecom/media landscape, breaking out availability and uptake by region and nation. Interesting stuff here. Wales has lower mobile penetration, but a higher level of mobile-only homes, at 14% versus 8% for the UK as a whole.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Now on the TeliaSonera Q1 conference call, where CEO Anders Igel has clarified a headline I saw running on Bloomberg earlier. Fans of EuroTelco mutual annihilation theory will welcome the news that the company is now open to making acquisitions in Continental Europe in order to bolster its position in the Nordics. This is a EUR24bn company with very little debt, which has heretofore avoided core Europe. Oh dear.
No valuation available until everyone pays up, but here are the winners of the single round, sealed bid auction last week. Besides the usual suspects and newcomers, I note with particular interest the presence of O2 and Opal (Carphone Warehouse) in the winners' circle. Also see Dean Bubley's insightful run-down from a few weeks back, in which he highlights apparent connections between Pipex and Cyberpress, another of today's winners.
UPDATE: Dean now has a predictably worthwhile followup here. I agree with him right down the line. BT's oft-cited research states that 30% of all outgoing cellular calls in the UK are made within the home, and I think a cursory analysis of time use would suggest that another 30% may be made in "nomadic" situations, such as at work or on the university campus. Will we see a university, for example, teaming up with an aggressive mobile player to deliver a lower-cost calling plan for students while on campus?
That's just one of the things I envisage happening in the consumer space, and Dean's right when he says that businesses will find this empowering. Here at Daiwa, our corporate mobile account provider is Vodafone, and there are a number of pico-cells throughout the building. I frequently see guys from IT down in the basement, going into the server room, fielding calls from colleagues two floors up, and I try not to think about what we might be paying for that convenience. Assuming it's too much, then I guess Telefonica/O2 salesmen may be knocking on the door sometime soon. Our IT department has shown no inclination yet to set up WiFi APs, but a "devil-you-know" solution using friendly old GSM might be just the sort of thing they can get excited about.
I don't know how to say this, and it's not any easier in light of our second anniversary last month, but for the past couple of days... I've... well, I've been cheating on you. I'm not proud of it, but there, I said it. Surely it's better to be honest than to carry on living a lie. Anyway, for some time now I've had a feeling our days together might be numbered. Please try to understand.
My long-standing mega-uber value reader, virtual friend, and crypto-contributor Keith has started a blog of his own and has come out swinging. Given the quality of the exchanges we have had offline, I think we can count on him to produce some very interesting stuff.
Monday, April 24, 2006
This one came as something of a surprise - in releasing an update on its pension deficit, BT drops the Crown Guarantee into the mix of issues being discussed. This guarantee was extended to BT in 1984 to secure the pensions of those employees who joined the company prior to privatization. Though not made clear in the release, the company is saying elsewhere in the press that it believes the Guarantee covers 3/4 of its pension liabilities (estimated at GBP2.5bn), which have been perceived as something of a deal-breaker for a potential take-out of the company. What's really curious is that the Crown Guarantee is mentioned nowhere in BT's 20-F, and according to a pensions expert I heard being interviewed on Radio 4 this morning, it doesn't appear in DTI's accounts either.
Friday, April 21, 2006
A Titanium Class mega-uber value reader (who is threatening to start a blog of his own) points to two tidbits which may give some indication of what we might expect in the "strategic vision" section at Vodafone's annual results presentation on 30th May. Mobile payment has been an industry Holy Grail since the days of Sonera and the now-legendary SMS-controlled vending machine, and has been plagued by conflicting alliances and proprietary technologies, but we have a compelling success story in the making in Japan, and this is an area where Vodafone's scale and corporate mindshare actually count for something significant. Could European banks hope for a mobile partner with better coverage? On the Web 2.0 front, I find the company's interest unsurprising, but also intriguing. Vodafone must surely look at the deal between Helio and MySpace in the US (using the Cyworld platform, incidentally) with some envy. With over 18m active Vodafone Live! devices in the four core European markets at the end of December, Vodafone would arguably be the most attractive and technically best platform should Mr. Murdoch decide that EuroMobMySpace is next on the list of deals. This could get very interesting.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
From what I can make of it, this new HD set-top box offer from the ever-terrifying Free brings together a couple of my favorite disruptive elements: dual-mode GSM/WiFi wireless service (which looks like it will authenticate on any Free HD box, thus validating the FON model) and inclusion of 18 DTT channels. All for only EUR9.99 a month above the normal EUR29.99 for DSL, SD TV, and inclusive calls (including of course nomadic ones on the WiFi service).
UPDATE: Many Francophone Prix D'Or mega-uber value readers have written in to clarify a few points. First, the EUR9.99 figure is a one-off payment, not monthly, with an approximately EUR200 handset cost borne by the subscriber (hey I studied Spanish in high school, okay?). One also points out that Freebox users will also be allowed to make calls to the PSTN on any internet-connected computer in the world using any SIP-compatible IM client, with calls billed to the Freebox account (I find this very curious). It also appears that the HD box contains a video encoder, for which no purpose is stated in the release.
Not a single photo of a mobile phone in sight in Carphone Warehouse's Cannon Street storefront. It's all free broadband forever, subject of course to your understanding of the terms "free", "broadband", and "forever". Make no mistake, a lot of people will take it just based on the headline economics. I swear I could see a large black cloud over BT Centre a few blocks away, and just a few feet from the Carphone shop a beleaguered-looking BT engineer down in a hole with a handful of cables was getting a lecture from a traffic warden about his parking job.
If you're feeling up to the challenge of masterminding a global viral marketing campaign to raise awareness of Net Neutrality issues, step on into Mr. Pulver's office and make your pitch. I personally like "Whose Net is it Anyway?" - feel free to use it.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
If you're as tired as I am of receiving messages from poor Mrs. Abacha and the Interior Minister of Benin, the next time you receive one, look for the spammer's actual email address (usually found at the bottom of the message), and then ping them back anonymously using the amazing Anonymouse email service. Also good for a number of other tasks, both noble and nefarious.
I think I surprised a few clients at the beginning of the year, when I doubled the RBOC exposure in my model portfolio. As I made clear at the time (as if I needed to given my usual outspokenness), this was not out of a sense of personal admiration, but rather a cynical way to exploit anxieties over net neutrality issues and some obvious shortcomings in the state of regulation Stateside. After all, there a lot of non-smoking, pacifist, environmentally conscious fund managers out there who own tobacco, arms and chemical companies. Now the naughty Europeans have gone and added fuel to my argument by shaming Uncle Sam with their dramatic broadband growth, and causing a lot of soul-searching as to the costs to America of broadband laggardship. Having effectively killed off facilities-based competition in the US, creating regional cable/RBOC duopolies, what would we expect the American broadband call to arms to look like? Maintaining my cynical stance, I couldn't imagine a better template than this policy piece, whose conclusions are are eerily close to the RBOC agenda (tax and regulatory relief on broadband investment, streamlined franchise processes), and very far from the mix which made Europe the somewhat debatable success story it is today.
These two arrived together with the post today. Just wait a few months until Sky and Carphone Warehouse get the broadband mojo going on. I reckon it's not a good time to be living on a wooded hillside in the developing world. UK broadband marketing is out to get you!
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
I find the world of press release composition fascinating. This one from Swisscom heralds a new world of television viewing experience on its Bluewin TV, presumably in an attempt to downplay a 40% price cut only four months into the product launch.
That's always a bold statement to make in the UK, but I'm sticking my neck out. While I was basking in the overcast of Devon for the past few days, the guys over at VoIPUser have been hard at work slicing and dicing usage data with some cleverly devised script. VoIPUser is a smaller community than many (around 12,000 active subs at present), with a concurrent user base of 3,500 at any given time, and the geek quotient is considerably higher than in many VoIP communities. Nevertheless, I think the data is interesting and may be useful as a microcosm of the SIP world at present. Of particular interest to me is the preponderance of Asterisk in the top eight user agents (moreso given future developments), the growth of Fritzbox units in this list, and the prominence of Poland (as with Skype), Brazil and Canada (all of which have large diasporas well-represented in London) in outbound call totals.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
EuroTelcoblog is heading west into the English heartland for a few days of fresh air, rain, and zero connectivity. Whatever happens in the realm of telco disruption over the next few days, I can claim complete ignorance and innocence. Back in service in a week or so.
Still on the Carphone Warehouse webcast, I have just received a voicemail from a Palladium Club charter member, saying that eBay has acquired Camino Networks, which unfortunately doesn't have a public website to point to. This company has some eminent figures from the VoIP world at its head, including Jonathan Christensen, as well as, I am told, some top-class speech codec experts formerly with GIPS. The description of Camino found here is "a voice over IP start-up building unique solutions for high quality speech processing, coding, and transmission for the next generation of mobile IP based networks." Note the operative word - "mobile" - I assume the focus is going to be on low-CPU utilization, wideband codecs. I don't know yet what the implications are for GIPS (though it looks to me like it is about to get un-licensed), which late last year sued Camino and its parent Sonorit (which shares a common investor with Telio - also started by former GIPS folks!) for violation of trade secrets (yet more work for the eBay legal team, I guess). I find this an interesting development, given that I witnessed Jonathan Christensen giving the P2P SIP panel at VON a hard time for "invoking the 'S' word" so often...
UPDATE: I never got anything from Skype PR (thanks guys, nice to see you remaining loyal to your roots!), but here it is from Businesswire. It's 7:22 AM in New York - why is this info not on the eBay site?
UPDATE 2: Jaanus' short post on this is interesting in its understatement: "Sometimes an acquisition makes the most sense."
Well, it's true, of course. A briefing is to take place shortly. Meanwhile, check out IP Development Network's interesting analysis piece.
UPDATE: Now on the webcast, Charles Dunstone says the Carphone Warehouse is currently getting 40k hits per hour on its website in the wake of the announcement. He's now saying that a 40GB download cap gives 8,000 mp3 downloads or 100 hours of movie downloads (hurrah! - except that there are numerous anecdotes of P2P throttling - does he expect that anyone out there is going to actually pay for 8,000 mp3's in a single month?).
The fine print features an 18-month contract period, with a GBP70 cancellation policy, and while the company reckons it will have 1,000 exchanges unbundled by May 2007 (well ahead of previous indications), for out-of-footprint customers there is an added GBP9.99 monthly charge. The company estimates it will take an average of six months per customer across the footprint to migrate from a BT Wholesale product, incurring a GBP70 loss per customer on acquisition (GBP30 SAC, GBP40 IP connection charge for BT), which they say compares favorably to SACs in the CPS market. Also, if an applicant lives in an area which is scheduled to go live within ten weeks, CW will delay connecting the customer for that period - not so sure this will be a hit with customers. There is also some discussion of real-time algorithms which adjust the customer support function capability to match projections of demand, to ensure the company can handle demand (this is at odds with comments I've seen on user forums). P&L hit of GBP50m at EBIT level, cash out of GBP110m in the current financial year. Expecting BT to hand over 400 exchanges by 1st July, with 200 live by that date. Company claims cash breakeven at 250 subs per exchange.
Nevertheless, I think the brand is strong, the price and marketing spin sexy, and the company has distribution and cross-selling opportunities galore. Company aims to have 3.5m residential customers by March 2009, over half of which it expects will be broadband customers. Depending on demand levels, I think this may really challenge Openreach, whose delivery metrics seem to have hit a plateau. It's also going to create an interesting background for entry into the market by newcomers like Sky and Vodafone (and Telefonica/O2?).
UPDATE 2: It's now 11:29 AM, and Charles Dunstone has just said he has received a text message saying the site is signing up a new broadband customer every ten seconds.
Monday, April 10, 2006
... it's coming sometime. Here are two more steps. Interesting that the Man U. article mentions financial services but not the team's foray into broadband, which seems more relevant to the topic. Clearly the Carphone Warehouse news is exciting and audacious, but I don't know how "unexpected" it is in the current climate. But before we get too excited, I'd like to pull back the EuroTelcoblog curtain and say that, in looking at my site traffic patterns, one fairly common set of search queries which drives people to the site consists of things like "TalkTalk eDonkey" and "TalkTalk peer to peer," suggesting there are some issues at work here. A little Googling turns up some disgruntled users (online gaming is classed as P2P - priceless!).
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Where to begin? Most exciting, Palladium Club charter member Sam Critchley, whose A2B location-based search engine I have mentioned occasionally in this bloglet, has gotten a nice write-up on Reuters. Way to go Sam!
Another mega-uber value reader notes that KPN's AGM is looming next week, and on the agenda is the formal elimination of the Golden Share (this is already a done deal in practice). He also cites a spike in call option volumes yesterday as a sign that speculation is reaching fever pitch.
A Prix D'Or hyper-valeur reader in France reminds me that I failed to remark on the France wireless 2.0 developments by Iliad, and coverage in Les Echos (get out your French phrase book and wallet) points to some uncertainties over coverage and subscriber outlay (EUR100 for CPE is mentioned, but this is speculative). I like the reader's summation: "But if it turns out to be serious, it’s going to a big mess in France, among ISPs and mobile operators…"
A Platinum Class mega-value reader in the Netherlands points to coverage in yesterday's Financieele Dagblad relating to potential options for Orange in the Dutch market. I can't find a link, and the site is mostly locked down anyway. According to my trusted reader, the Orange MD in the country, when asked to identify preferable merger partners, replied, "That's not on the agenda and wouldn't be my decision. But I would prefer UPC. They have many customers and their television gives them a stable cashflow and a product we don't have." Interesting, as Orange Switzerland has previously been linked to speculation about a tie-up with Cablecom, now also part of the Malone juggernaut.
Reuters yesterday ran a story about yet another denial by Mediaset of an impending merger with Telecom Italia (which we first got wind of last month in Il Sole 24 Ore). Then again, if Mr. Berlusconi gets un-elected and heads off to the pokey I wonder how things change? I think the DSL/DTT fusion is a powerful one.
Friday, April 07, 2006
I think mega-uber value readers probably found this previous post in equal parts funny and distressing - but the picture has gotten much bigger and murkier (thanks to both of the Platinum Club uber-value readers who sent this in almost simultaneously), though it may be all-too-clear for some vendors (maybe with one exception or two).
In my recently published meditations on bandwidth for clients, fortunately I put in a big caveat statement to the effect that my scenario could be significantly altered by quantum changes in a number of technologies, including crucially video compression. Wish I'd spoken to my friend Thomas Anglero as I was putting on the final touches, because it turns out that late last week, he unearthed a diamond. Euclid Discoveries has a codec, EuclidVision, which certainly seems to open up so many opportunities, risks, and unforeseen outcomes that it makes one question a lot of very fundamental assumptions - resulting in a migraine (particularly for an industry getting to grips with MPEG-4). Not good on a Friday afternoon. Quotes of note from the press release:
"It took 15 years to move from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4, which represents a 50% improvement. In a fraction of that time, we’ve gone from 50% to 460%."
"Ultimately, EuclidVision should be able to reduce the current MPEG-4 attainable 700 MB file size for 2-hour long videos down to 50MB – finally making feature length movies as 'swappable' as MP3s."
That wording should make the MPAA real happy.
Thomas makes an interesting observation, that this level of compression might help make the "my pipes" issue less sensitive, and I think he's right with regards to streaming content (another hat-tip to you Thomas) - and he's also very right to say that mobile players should be excited about this (this also supports some recent statements from my co-opetitor Rod).
Then again, I guess the uncertainty in my mind is: what is the elasticity of demand on P2P? In other words, would people be content with being able to download a single episode of The Sopranos in ten minutes as a 30MB file, end of story? Or would they go for all the seasons ever produced, followed by Sex in the City, Desperate Housewives, Lost, an entire season of Man U games, and every Tora-san film ever made (approximately 29,000), all in rapid succession?
Faster downloads would mean more BitTorrent seed files would be created in shorter time, and content would proliferate much faster. It would also be a lot more feasible to transfer films via IM. How about all six Star Wars films on a USB stick? Give me a couple of hours. "You've got a fiber connection? Duuuude!" In other words, would demand compensate for the dramatic effective increase in capacity freed up by this development? I suspect there's a decent chance it would, given the relentless growth in downloads we're witnessing currently, even with today's unwieldy file sizes.
Om is stoking the controversy about podcasts, centering on this report from Forrester. Here's some data from the terra incognita known as "not North America" to add, for what it's worth. Look at the statistics (page 4) from the BBC's podcast trials, which show, among other things, that the 8:10 interview on Radio 4's Today show got 330k downloads in February, I presume mostly from within the UK or UK ex-pats around the world, as the content is typically domestic and frequently political in focus. Then again, it's a daily feature, so it's unclear what the unique user figures might be. The other thing that's noticeable in looking at the detailed figures published in the last three months is the volatility in downloads of individual programs. Only In Our Time, Sportsweek, The Weekender, and Letter to Gaelic Learners have seen two consecutive months of growth in downloads, so the momentum is not evenly spread by any means.
Still, looking at the total download activity in February (1.73m), average downloads per day were up 2.3% month-on-month, following 5.6% growth in January. Again, it's very difficult to get a grip on the listenership split between UK and non-UK (I'm sure the BBC has logged all the data, but it's not public), but for some of this stuff I would think the users would overwhelmingly be UK residents or nationals. I guess initially we could be tempted to say that the user base looks like it might be pretty small, but has a respectable growth rate.
Maybe it's more relevant to look at the addressable potential converts to podcasts, i.e., the users who are already doing on-demand listening to BBC programming. I have been tracking this data, which runs from October 2003 to present, and it shows some interesting things. In February, all BBC radio channels collectively had 11.9m on-demand listening sessions (+32% YoY, +167% since Oct. '03) from a pool of 8.8m "unique user agents" (a fancy way of saying that we don't know how many individuals are represented by a single cookie, though I guess RFID might fix that in future), logging 6.3m hours of on-demand listening (+42% YoY, +244% since Oct. '03).
That's about 44 minutes of on-demand listening per day (normalized) per unique user agent, which is up 14% YoY and 47.6% since November 2003. In contrast, average live listening per day is higher, at 75 minutes, but it's only up 11% since November 2003. So, unsurprisingly, there's an apparent shift to on-demand listening (now 37% of total online listening) and away from live, and the number of podcast downloads is at a level which is already equal to 16% of on-demand listening sessions per month. If we remove the mystique of "podcasting" and view it as just another mechanism for a behavior which is already widespread and gaining momentum, perhaps its potential as a force to be reckoned with becomes more visible. And of course, if doesn't hurt that the BBC is promoting the hell out of it on radio.
My wife couldn't recall if this came through the mail slot or was a newspaper insert. Inside, the message is, "Get a second phone line without paying extra line rental. Why get frustrated waiting to get on the phone?" Frustration is the national sport of the UK (ask any commuter or taxi driver), so I'm not sure that's such a big issue, especially if you buy BT's statistic that 30% of all outgoing mobile calls are made from within the home. One thing I hadn't clocked before I turned the leaflet over was that they have distribution with Comet and Staples.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
I was just sitting here, loosening my Hermes tie, downing a couple of Viagra with an ice-cold Coca-Cola, listening to my iPod and using a number of Microsoft's wonderful products (you really ought to try them) at once on my Dell PC with NEC monitor, when I got an email alerting me to this provocative new report on local TV stations in the States which have been found to air corporate and government promotional content in the guise of news (check out the Google map mash-up, proudly showing good old WHBQ in Memphis, TN, as a transgressor - I guess next you'll tell me that the Saturday morning wrestling I enjoyed as a child was faked). Stay tuned for my next post, "Why IMS rocks!"
A few minutes ago I got a press release (not yet on either company's website) saying that Cable & Wireless is working with ComBOTS. It starts like this:
"Cable & Wireless today announced that it has connected the data centre of ComBOTS AG over a 10 Gig Ethernet IP access port in Frankfurt directly to its own IP network. ComBOTS AG, which is currently preparing for the introduction of new products within the 'Personal Digital Communication' market, has set up one of the largest data centres in Europe at the company’s central headquarters in Karlsruhe. Its co-operation with Cable & Wireless represents a milestone in how companies handle the transfer of large data volumes."
ComBOTS may be unfamiliar to many, but this group was behind the highly successful Web.DE portal, which still kicks butt in the German internet market (parent company United Internet is ranked fourth as at this writing, behind only eBay, Microsoft and Google), and also was (to my knowledge), the first European sort-of-internet-telephony play with the launch of Com.Win back in late 2002.
I'm intrigued as to what they're working on, because let's say that statements to date have been somewhat less than clear. What I find interesting about the press release I have received, and this previous one, is the fact that connectivity is stated in terms of numbers of photos which can be exchanged between users in an hour - 72m prior to today's release, and 100m after the deal with C&W, and there is also a prominent reference to photos in the vision statement. I would guess that ComBOTS is working on some more social aspects to the VoIP experience than perhaps we have seen so far, but I haven't a clue. The company has committed to a launch of ComBOTS by 12 July at the latest, to coincide with the AGM, and it's doing a helluva lot of hiring apparently. If any German mega-value readers out there have any insight, please don't hold back!
Things sure seem to be moving fast, and here are a few more semi-random datapoints to consider:
- Om pointed a couple of days back to a seismic shift towards MySpace;
- This YouTube video (which I alluded to in my recently published bandwidth note) has been viewed 7.3m times in four months and 700k times in the past six days by my observations;
- The most recent additions to Flickr! are tagged with numbers in the 124.1m range, which means 3.4m images added in the six days since this post;
- This blog, apparently created today in Blogger, bears the ID number 21866935. EuroTelcoblog, which was launched at the end of March 2004, is Blogger number 6695967.
- Go to Cyworld (don't be intimidated by the Hangul characters) and point your cursor at some of the photos of featured members. I see numbers as high as 49m, which I presume to be account IDs, probably including Japan and China. [This is a rare case where a telco (SK Telecom) demonstrated the sense to get involved in something truly revolutionary.]
Understandably, mainstream media and advertising are "bricking it" as some Brits would indelicately put it, and it's fascinating to see the attempts at a response. The site is here - have a play around. It looks beautiful, and luckily it doesn't end in a shoot-out with the ATF.
If we needed any proof that Vodafone has gotten IP religion (like Sky before it), here it is, a new organizational structure, which puts CTO Thomas Geitner (someone who I think genuinely "gets it") at the heart of a new business development unit. As I have stated before, I think some M&A is on the way.
No, that's not an offer. I subscribe to the Yahoo! Groups email list for Weedshare, the paid content superdistribution solution, and a couple of days ago the proprietor of this Weed file hosting site, 96decibels, posted some interesting stats to the list, which seem to point to explosive growth. In March, the site logged 2,049,468 page views from 254,336 visitors, and there were 254,614 Weedfile downloads in the month. In the first four days of April, the site had already seen 516,182 page views, 66,168 unique visitors, and 69,475 Weedfile downloads. His final remark was that he expects the site to exceed 3.5 million page views in April - that's month-on-month growth of 71%. While that number itself is pretty impressive, I'm also struck by the close correlation between visitor and download numbers - that's an almost 100% conversion rate, viewed in crude terms. It doesn't necessarily convert to revenue (recall that Weed files can be downloaded and previewed three times before the downloader is prompted to pay up or lose the file), but it's impressive nevertheless. I would love to know what proportion of the downloads actually end up converting to a transaction.
I keep coming back to this topic of the tremendous value of local knowledge and connections which still rests in the hands of good old-fashioned Yellow Pages businesses across much of Europe - the point being it's too time-consuming and costly (I would say it's practically infeasible) to replicate it as Google and others push local search out across the region. Better to buy it, and El Pais today suggests that Google is about to strike a deal with Telefonica's TPI for just this sort of access in Spain (presumably some of the LatAm content would also be of interest). Curiously, the deal is expected to make TPI more attractive as a disposal candidate. I can't understand why telcos want out of this business.
The Mother of All mega-uber value readers points me towards Jean Michel Billaut's empassioned post on the Hauts-de-Seine FTTH decision, with accompanying video. If you have 54 minutes to spare and speak French, then tune in to the deliberations of the council and Nicolas Sarkozy as they take the fiber plunge.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Though I try to refrain from it, there are times when I feel compelled to pass on something cool just for the hell of it. Yesterday, while wandering around in the amazing Internet Archive, I found the answer to something I haven't understood for around 31 years or so. No, it wasn't "What was it like to sit in a meeting between John F. Kennedy and Douglas MacArthur?" Actually, it was those strange sounds I heard on my old, mostly-broken short wave radio late at night all those years ago in suburban Memphis (I didn't have much of a social life at that time). Well, now I know - it was spooks. Listen to/download the amazing recordings here and read the companion booklet. Interesting that security agencies get worked up about lawful intercept of VoIP and the dangers of Skype encryption, when a low-tech, legacy technology seems to work really well - though apparently no one acknowledges that this has been going on for 50+ years.
CTIA kicks off today, and the folks at Bridgeport Networks have come out swinging at the bell, with a whole slew of interesting announcements. First, the company has given a name, MobileSTICK, to the USB SIM development announced last month. Secondly the tie-up with Boingo and Kyocera to launch a dual-mode WiFi/CDMA handset seems to be a pretty strong endorsement of the Bridgeport technology from both the vendor and services side (lent further credibility by the IMS Voice Call Continuity achievement they also highlight today), and makes me very curious to see how the Japan market shapes up, given Kyocera's position in the CDMA handset market there, and also its position as largest shareholder in KDDI (a search for "KDDI" in Bridgeport's website takes me to a list of NomadicOne versions, one of which is labelled Kddi [?]). (I am also somewhat intrigued as to what this could mean for the Sprint-Nextel/MSO unholy alliance, though I can't see any Kyocera handsets in the current Sprint portfolio.) I am similarly intrigued by the expanded relationship with Openwave, particularly as it relates to that company's position as an MVNO enabler, most recently in - wait for it - Japan. Maybe I've been working at a Japanese firm too long and am reading too much into all this, but I would swear the model pictured on Bridgeport's home page is also Japanese. I suppose I might have to start a Japan telecom disruption blog...
UPDATE: The link I posted to the list of downloadable NomadicOne versions has mysteriously vanished into 404 land one day later. I guess I inadvertently exposed something, but I'm not sure what.
Monday, April 03, 2006
The mother of all Platinum Club mega-uber value readers alerts me to breaking news of KPN's as-yet unannounced purchase of 49% of CasaNet, a FTTH provider in the eastern town of Enschede, of which the other 51% is owned by housing corporations. Apparently the network currently has 5,000 homes passed, with ultimately 100k in sight. This makes me even more curious about the question I posed at the end of this post.
UPDATE: Press release is now here, and it appears that the Planet story was partially wrong. KPN is to own all the 5,000 fiber subs, and work towards 25k with CasaNet, thereafter adding other housing corporations in search of 100k connections over time.
The UK is unique in having five network-based mobile operators, but I guess these tough times for the existing players may look like the good old days by around 2009. Pipex today announced formation of a partnership, called Pipex Wireless, with Intel Capital (who are kicking in $25m) to roll with WiMax in London and Manchester in 2007, and the other six top population centers by 2008.
UPDATE: The very prolific Disruptive Dean has a typically interesting and worthwhile post on the deal here.
UPDATE 2: In response to this post and a subsequent one on Iliad's WiMax aspirations, a Palladium Club mega-uber value reader writes in to say:
"If I were a UK or French mobile player, an operator with:
Spectrum at 3.6 GHz
Mobile Wimax handsets that will only be available in 2008 (laptop cards next year, admittedly)
a date when MNOs will have:
75%+ pop coverage of HSDPA, delivering (real world) speeds of over a megabit/sec with decent latency with handsets that look like the RAZR but with decent battery life (HSDPA is to 3G as GPRS was to GSM in terms of ease of implementation)
...wouldn't be top of my list of worries. I'd spend more time thinking about (for example) the effect of lower termination rates on people's ability to offer US-style 'big bundles' and thereby drive down voice pricing."
For the sake of clarity, I never meant to suggest that WiMax alone is going to topple the incumbent players, but rather is an incremental source of pain. I just took it as read that, given the recent coverage of termination and roaming regulation, that was something I didn't need to dwell on.