Saturday, September 30, 2006


It's official, now I have indeed seen everything. The party which once didn't believe in society takes on social networking tools as a communication channel. I'd love to have been present during the planning sessions: "Yes Senator McCain, I can identify with your ordeal in the Hanoi Hilton. I had a few scary moments myself back at boarding school."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Creating the second monopoly

A Platinum Class charter member mega-uber value reader points to coverage of the Dutch cable consolidation process in the ever-vigilant Trouw. It seems that there has been total radio silence since Warburg Pincus and Cinven completed their acquisition of Essent Kabelcom with regards to regulatory approval of the merger of Essent with Casema and Multikabel, previous Cinven/Warburg Pincus acquisitions. The article states that Essent sent a letter to the Competition Commission on or around 15th September. Usually this would result in some public acknowledgement within a week or so - but nothing so far (they are pretty busy, it would seem). Some assert that Essent has sent a draft and is in discussions with the Commission to assure approval, after which an official statement will be made. This puts national competition regulator NMa in the strange position of having to ask permission to rule on something which the EU is perceived to have already approved. The Commission previously approved joint ownership of Casema and Multikabel, but this proposed merger would create a combined customer base of 3.3m, more than half of the total cable footprint of the country. Perhaps KPN's claims of the need for an end to assymetrical regulation of cable and PSTN get a boost with the arrival of a second incumbent?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

xG IPO = cojones de acero

A friend and pre-RSS EuroTelcoblog mega-uber value reader (that's unnecessary repetition - all mega-uber value readers are friends!) has kindly forwarded me an IPO marketing note from xG Technology's house broker, Hichens, Harrison & Co. I have just started reading, and my initial reaction is "Whoa, baby!" The cover features a nice Photoshop mash-up picture of Che Guevara apparently talking on a mobile phone - a sense of humor in an IPO? We like it. Among the claims of interest made in the investment summary:
  • Sprint/Nextel's >$3bn WIMAX investment contrasts poorly with xG's claimed ability to give full US coverage for $15m (this is not a typo, that's 99.5% discount folks);
  • to justify the $650 - 700m valuation: "...over the two years of the forecast period, xG need only achieve a roll out of 500 base stations at 20% capacity to achieve our numbers; it already has LOIs (letters of intent) indicating demand of $20m, the equivalent of demand for 400 base stations.";
  • "On a reverse DCF model, on the basis that bid interest from established participants needing to cover their technology bets is likely, and on the grounds that the shares will represent a "hedged option" equivalent in any clients' portfolios exposed to the telecoms sector, we suggest that xG's shares are the only genuinely compelling investment we have seen in years."

I have to say, the last quote is fairly incendiary phrasing for a broker intimately involved in the IPO. That is a trivial concern, however. What really matters is the gap between presentation and reality. For a company to come to market with such a punchy story without substance would be a totally unnecessary, suicidal act, particularly when the amounts of money to be raised (£30m) look so trivial relative to the disruptive potential. So, we must give the company the benefit of the doubt - or is that part of a head-fake? This is going to be a fascinating deal to watch.

High fiber diet

I'm listening to the Verizon FiOS webcast, and while there's an awful lot of telco buzzwords being bandied about, the thing that jumps out at me is that it appears the FiOS TV product has achieved 20% penetration of addressable customers (100k subs out of 500k total FiOS customers), and the company expects this to be at 24% by year end. By contrast, France Telecom's MaLigne was at 6% in Q2, and Telefonica's Imagenio was at 8%.

UPDATE: My buddy Dave Burstein, one of the hardest-working men in telecom (and one of the earliest and most supportive of all mega-uber value readers), has a great piece on FiOS, with lots of behind-the-scenes details. Most fascinating to me is his revelation that in future the set-top box is also to be an open window to video on the net on the TV - perhaps an open gate from the walled garden would be a better analogy. If this is true, I think this marks the first time that an incumbent telco has genuinely acknowledged in an integrated manner what is going on in (cringe) Web 2.0, and how acceptance, accomodation and adaptation is the only sensible course of action.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

All about FiOS, the authorized biography

I see from my overloaded email inbox that Verizon is hosting a live webcast of an investor briefing on FiOS tomorrow (27th September) at 9:00 AM EST, that's 2:00 PM UK time, 3:00 PM CET. I'm sure they'd love to have you join in.

Untrivial bandwidth usage

Still mostly head-down writing a note and getting ready for Telco 2.0 next week. However, a couple of mega-uber value readers have written in with some interesting observations, which make me question just exactly what we're calculating when we talk about expectations of bandwidth requirements in future. A couple of weeks back Arthur D. Little issued a report on European broadband commissioned by Liberty Global, which made the following conclusion:

"As the majority of broadband customers are still experiencing bandwidths below 1Mbps, the migration to higher bandwidth is not expected to take place in the immediate future. It will become visible in a couple of years. Most markets, including Switzerland, France and Austria, will have the highest demands in the 1 - 6Mbps range in 2011. Still, 30 - 50% of broadband households will have 6 - 30Mbps in 2011; not more than 10% of households are expected to exceed 30Mbps in 2011. An analysis of up- and download bandwidth requirements of next generation broadband services suggests that 8Mbps upload and 50Mbps download rate will be sufficient by 2011..."

However, mega-uber value reader number one said that at IBC he heard the BBC and Sky saying that for a true HD experience, the channels need to "breathe" at 16Mbps, even in MPEG-4. Apparently, the BBC's HD trial over DTT has a bitrate of around 20Mbps (check out the lower section of this thread). Get a couple of HD streams running around the house, with the teenagers uploading HD v-logs and downloading some ripped HD content from the internet while playing World of Warcraft, and the family better hope it's not among the 90% of broadband "have-nots" which Little expects in 2011.

Moreover, I think the industry has become a tad myopic, assuming this is totally driven by video, when there are also other important things to be considered. My second mega-uber value reader sends in this piece from Trouw in the Netherlands, which deals with a grid computing community set to officially launch tomorrow in the Dutch city of Almere, itself an early adopter of fiber. Some grid members with fiber connections are already taking part in a study of bone aging being carried out by the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, which involves files of up to 5GB in size.

Who's to say what applications and innovations will flourish if we focus on unlocking abundance (wink, Martin) rather than counting the reasons why we don't need too much bandwidth?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Breaking news, three months on

It is perhaps a testament to information overload that we sometimes manage to miss news which is placed right before our eyes, often for several months. Om has a good piece on Adobe's aspirations in voice, wherein he apparently breaks the news that Henry Sinnreich is part of the picture. Except that I wrote this back in June:

"Henry Sinnreich has joined Adobe. Contemplate for a moment the number of desktops globally which support some version of Flash (think "all of them"), then consider the growing number of sites/communities built in Flash (YouTube for a start), and then think about how Adobe might want to capitalize on that valuable real estate position by incorporating voice, video and presence. Then be afraid, be very afraid."

Obviously, I picked up the news from the wonderful Richard Stastny, but I also had spoken with the project head at Adobe at Stockholm VON in May to get a view on where things were heading, which informed my subsequent post on the subject.

This is not a criticism of anyone, especially not my man Om. It just calls up some questions for me about our ability to absorb and retain information in an increasingly chaotic media landscape, and ultimately points to a lot of the same power laws of the old media world being reincarnated in Web 2.0.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Message in a bottle

Dear mega-uber value readers, apologies, I am stranded on a distant island. I am trying like hell to complete a long note for clients, once again addressing the traditional telco players from the perspective of the accelerating pace of change surrounding them (bascially revisiting and updating themes previously covered here and here) - everything from the "conventional" markets in which they operate to a big section on user-generated content and its complications/implications for telco content/service aggregation.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I'm finding it daunting for a number of reasons. One is that I'm writing for an audience which includes a lot of non-specialists, which necessitates explanation of a lot of background which I take for granted in the blog - because the blog is a cumulative record of events in near-realtime, which often links freely to others and my own previous output without much need to explain. I find having to construct a coherent narrative from the events of recent months daunting, particularly when the medium - a linear narrative with discrete thematic sections - is ill-suited to the multi-dimensional nature of what is happening. For example, how exactly do you deal with having to divide VoIP, social networking, and user-generated content into separate sections, when they are ultimately inextricably linked?

Anyway, I trudge on, and along the way somehow find time to practice what I preach. I have tried out Truphone on a Nokia kindly supplied by the company for review purposes. So far I'm impressed - it was easy to set up and sounds great, though I've only had time to make a few test calls to my work voicemail. I look forward to some more time at the weekend to put it through its paces.

I also decided, long overdue, to give birth to myself in Second Life. My Second Life name, in case you run into me, is Jimiinc Mikazuki (Mikazuki, incidentally, is the Japanese word for "crescent moon," though it's not a real Japanese surname - it seemed both so poetic and ridiculous that I had to have it). I have to say that the graphics are amazing, but it's a CPU and bandwidth hog, at least in the context of my dull Dell laptop and anemic broadband uplink capacity. While other new arrivals on the Orientation Island seemed to be galloping around like excited yearlings (these people must be on fiber connections), I was a bit jerky, at one point suddenly ending up in the stream when I should have been crossing the bridge. Oh well, fascinating nevertheless.

There's some clever stuff going on here. For example, as new arrivals enter, there is a prompt to change appearance from one of the standard character templates on offer. When another person is editing their appearance, what you see is a generic character looking in a mirror, but the reflection in the mirror is of the new character they are becoming. This alone fascinated me, but then I wandered into the stream, and back in the real world I looked at the clock and thought I should get back to attempting to explain Second Life to the uninitiated.

Off to bed now, see you tomorrow, in this world or some other...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Nobody does it better

I have just been told that the OnsNet project in Nuenen (which I have written about a few times) has been awarded the Cornerstone Award by Broadband Properties magazine in the USA. Apparently this is in recognition of it having "the most modern and future-proof ftth network now in operation in the world." And who built and operates Nuenen? VolkerWessels - what a surpise.

Hot Rod

My friend, coopetitor, and long-time mega-uber value reader Rod Hall has resurfaced in the blogosphere after leaving DRKW and joining another firm. Rod is a maverick in that he actually went through the pain of getting an officially approved, client-facing blog within DRKW, and even had the cojones to publicly acknowledge me as an influence in his inaugural post for his client and colleague audience, for which I have always respected him immensely. Welcome back, Rod.

Hear all, see all, say nought?

Looking at my traffic logs over the past few days, I've been somewhat surprised at the apparent (based on incoming links and outclicks) lack of attention which my revelation about muni-broadband in the UK seems to have generated. So, I'll underline a few key points, just in case I wasn't clear. The Digital Region South Yorkshire project will be bigger than Amsterdam, covering 1.5m population and 500k households, and from what I'm able to gather, there are some other regional projects in stealth mode which are looking to this as an indicator of how to proceed. It will also be intriguing to see how the BAFO (best and final offer) stage, which would appear to be happening now, (at least according to the timeline oulined in the site) comes out, in light of the short list of candidates.

The other day a valued friend and mega-uber value reader said I should shout more loudly about past predictions I have made which have come to fruition. I won't bore you with a list now, but one of which I'm proud is that in January 2004 I wrote a long note in which I highlighted UTOPIA, Stokab, and a handful of citizen-driven projects as indicators of a coming wave of tension between the agenda of telco/cable broadband service providers, and the social/economic development agendas of local and regional governments, in their pursuit of broadband self-determination. Well, it's happening all around us now, and finally in the UK, so hold on to your flat caps.

UPDATE: A mega-uber value reader writes in to say that this project may not be strictly comparable to Amsterdam, as Amsterdam is explicitly a FTTH project, whereas specific technologies are not mentioned in the Digital Region brief. Additionally, he argues, the lower housing density in South Yorkshire would make FTTH a more expensive option, so they're probably starting with FTTC and VDSL, possibly eventually migrating to FTTH. I would suspect the same, and I should have made this clear in the post. However, as an example of a muni (actually multi-muni, quad-muni?) broadband initiative, it would still be bigger than Amsterdam, if not faster.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Lessons to telcos number 56

Okay, it's not telco, but it's VERY big: Amazon white labels itself. For eBay power-sellers, once you've gotten over the immense friction of cutting the deal, get yourself some fulfillment at Amazon. Or hell, maybe you'll want to set up your own webstore with access to Amazon's back end. If a "Skype me!" (or was that "call me"?) button is essential, they're easy to add...

The secret life of mobile yoof

Literally just off the presses, check out what promises to be a fascinating look at usage of, and attitudes towards, the mobile phone: Mobile Life 2006.

Monday, September 18, 2006

What a weekend

Sometimes we go for a week with no significant news, and then a slew of it hits all at once, mostly over the weekend:

  • Yesterday Telecom Italia took another step forward in its cross-border broadband incursion strategy, getting a decent price from AOL for its 3.2m customers. Adding AOL's 1.1m broadband customers to its own base (745k in H1) brings it pretty much level with market number two United Internet.
  • Meanwhile, Tiscali was throwing the gearbox into reverse, getting out of the Dutch market on a relative high note. As I argued here, it looks like KPN's FTTC strategy may be succeeding in discouraging some of the more marginal players from remaining in the market. With this deal, my numbers suggest KPN will have over 75% of the retail DSL market in the Netherlands - I wonder at what point the regulator begins to get uneasy?
  • Also in the Netherlands, problems with UPC's digital migration strategy, which I covered here, have now reached the attention of the Dutch parliament.
  • Just as Telecom Italia is piling into Germany, Reuters is this morning running a story apparently quoting a Deutsche Telekom insider as saying that the new DSL/voice bundles offered by the company have signed up 200k customers already, ahead of internal expectations.
  • Back to the Netherlands, DT is launching a home-zone mobile product there for EUR6.95 per month.
  • XG Technologies is going for an AIM listing in London.
  • Rounding out in the Netherlands, a Palladium Club mega-uber value reader points me to a successful example of a FTTH collective in the town of Nijmegen. A group of citizens carried out a feasibility study and began a trial three months ago with 23 of the town's 2,500 homes. Now they are ready to scale up, with a cooperative ownership structure and maintenance/operations outsourced.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Lost in cyberspace

You probably can't see this now, because as far as I can see, the entire blogspot domain seems to have collapsed. How about applying some of that massive Google computing power to this Google service?

UPDATE at 11:50 AM: We're back live again, after an hour.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Polish Power

I was looking up some stuff today on our Bloomberg terminal (okay, it's a walled garden, but it still rocks, and I'm not sure if people outside the financial world appreciate how much it serves as a communications hub for salespeople and traders - people were saying "Bloomberg me" long before they started saying "Skype me"), when I stumbled across a story saying that homegrown Polish VoIM giant Gadu-Gadu (which apparently means something like "jabber", "chit-chat", or "talktalk" [though I'm not sure they'd appreciate the association at this point - thanks Keith]) is going to go for an IPO. More as I find out more.

Check out this lovely photograph from the Gadu-Gadu blog, where he winner of a company-sponsored contest appears to have stumbled across (presumably) a cafe while on holiday in Cyprus (his prize in the contest), which has a sign outside announcing free internet access and a number of VoIM options. Gadu-Gadu is mentioned prominently (notice he is also pointing to his own T-shirt, which says "Gadu-Gadu"), in fact more prominently than a couple of other "global" household names. Notice that Skype, apparently a very Polish phenomenon, isn't mentioned at all. I guess this points up, probably more for the American audience which might be tempted to believe that the usual suspects have cleaned up globally, that there are still pockets of the world which have not been subdued.

UPDATE: A mega-uber value reader in Poland pointed out my stupidity in the earlier version of this post, wherein I initially assumed that the man in the photo was the founder of the company. Indeed, it was a stupid assumption to make. My informant continues, very informatively:

"The Polish internet is quite interesting. As you probably found out, Gadu–Gadu is by far the most popular IM communicator in Poland. Global IM software is rather not popular, and other Polish based communicators are also much less accepted (most are compatible with Gadu – Gadu). The GG phenomenon is caused by the fact that it was the first Polish communicator (first version delivered on 2000 15th August, author was inspired by ICQ). Besides it was easy to use, though not advanced and easy to sniff. The specific character of the "Polish Internet" is mostly visible when one looks at traffic stats. Until Q1 2006 a local player, (this site was founded by a Polish based PC manufacturer, every machine shipped by this company had the site address imprinted below the monitor display – a few years ago the portal was separated from the PC producer), has been the site with the highest reach, now it's losing out to (but only when reach is taken into consideration).

Other high-ranked sites are also of Polish origin - global players, except for Google, are quite far down in the stats (short guide to vocabulary: zasięg = reach among Polish Internet population; czas = time spent on the site; odsłona = number of times the site was loaded). And going back to Skype, it is used rather for international voice communication (it became popular because of relatively high charges for international calls in Poland), whereas Gadu-Gadu is used almost only for instant messaging, though it is VoIP-enabled (GG Nagłos). Skype is used by the relatively young Polish population, among others, to speak with friends from abroad (train their language skills using SkypeMe), so IMHO it is not just about the Polish Diaspora around the world.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Surrealist or futurista?

This Telecom Italia situation is getting very strange and emotionally charged. Keith believes the whole thing is a politically motivated ruse. If it is, it may have unforeseen consequences. A Reuters story (which I can't find in their site right now) drew my attention to Italian comedian Beppe Grillo, who has already organized a campaign to oust the management by getting shareholders to transfer their voting rights to him:

"Let me enjoy this. Rise above the humiliations that have been suffered in recent years as users and as shareholders. The Board of Directors sacked by its real shareholders through a comic. Something that has never in the world been seen before. An 11 September of the capitalists without capital that weigh on our society."

Jabbering on

I am head down working on dayjob projects, as I should be, so a brief summary post of a handful of things which caught my eye this morning:

Asterisk new release: For all the Asterisk enthusiasts out there I'm sure there are a lot of features here which will please and excite, but what interests me is the new compatibility with GTalk/Jingle/Jabber. The Asterisk ecosystem just got a lot bigger.

Low-fat pipes?: Apparently, at the IBC show in Amsterdam, UPC has presented the results of a study it commissioned from Arthur D. Little, which finds that even by 2011, 50Mbps down and 6Mbps up will be sufficient, even for "heavy users". I guess all these fiber projects, especially the municipal ones, are misguided then? Glad we cleared that up.

Yorkshiremen on the march: Despite having heard some vague rumors over the past year about independent fiber in the UK, I always assumed it would be a cold day in hell before we saw a concerted effort at municipal level - perhaps 11 years in London has left me skeptical of public infrastructure projects in the UK. However, the other day, while speaking to a client, I entertained the idea that an independent-minded city bent on economic reinvention might take the plunge - I used Sheffield as an example. Thanks to a Palladium Class mega-uber value reader, I now know just how close that was, but the truth is much bigger - try all of South Yorkshire (I love the banner line "The 4th Utility?") - and it appears to be more advanced than I could have imagined (preferred bidder expected by the end of this month). There is also something afoot in North Yorkshire, and a bit of Googling uncovers that the county of Somerset is formulating its strategy.

Mobile RFID payments: Anyone interested in this space may find useful a survey from Japan (summarized free of charge in English by yours truly) looking at consumer awareness and usage scenarios. In contrast to much of its peer group, I continue to be intrigued by DoCoMo's transformation into a transaction platform, and its willingness to invest in various parts of the whole mobile value chain.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


More momentum for the voice peering space, and for XConnect in particular, as today XConnect acquires IPeerX, expanding its total footprint to 300 carriers and 8 million active numbers in its private ENUM registry. As I see it, this space is all about gaining critical mass quickly, and I assume that larger carrier deals flow from an expanded universe of potential partners.

The timing is also interesting from the standpoint of market adoption - VoDSL offerings from the European carriers are now at impressive levels of penetration (Iliad 87% of DSL subs, France Telecom 28%, KPN 9%). In the age of flat rate calls to much of Europe and North America, having the potential for settlement free termination is probably going to grow in appeal as penetration rises.

Additionally, many of these same carriers are increasingly seeing the value of having their own softphones, which means that being able to preserve the integrity of wideband voice codecs, presence information, and video calling is likely to be more important to them, beyond merely the cost-savings of not touching the PSTN, or indeed the opportunity to recreate PSTN charging mechanisms in an IP world (which this release from Arbinet seems to suggest is its game plan, at least in the short term).

From my point of view, this deal gives XConnect a crucial foothold in the North American market, with what I am told is a state-of-the-art NOC. It also brings Jeff Pulver into the fold, and given his profile, connections, and role in galvanizing the industry, I think he will prove to be an important asset to the company.

Time to unwind

I assume that TI's move to separate mobile and fixed subsidiaries after waving the banner of integration so avidly will prompt some to speak of the failure of FMC strategies and the inherent impossibility of overcoming legacy organizational silos within incumbent telcos. I'm not sure that I would necessarily rush to read across from Telecom Italia, which I think is a unique case in terms of capital structure and its home market, into any other incumbent telcos. There are too many layers of complexity to this story. However, one thing that does seem to be validated by this proposal is the concept of the separate LoopCo (as pioneered by BT, albeit under duress), both as a short-term regulatory lubricant to speed time to market for new products, and (in my view) as a potential long-term regulatory inevitability for the sector as a whole in Europe.

Omega man

Well, here's one of my scoops referred to last week, which I claimed would advance the disruption of a certain industry - and that industry is my own. Longstanding readers of this humble blogatelle may recall that one of my recurring themes is that, if IP can enable disruption of voice, "entertainment" and distribution of all forms of media, then surely the hallowed halls of investment research may be candidates for makeovers as condominiums or shopping arcades.

My thesis has always remained that the mindshare of bloggers and other independent opinion shapers inevitably would collectively overwhelm the walled gardens which are brokers' research products. The expertise "out there" is just too great, and the analysis too frank, to be ignored - and it grows daily into something I like to call "open source analysis". I have argued that investment banking research, to remain relevant, would have to adopt the same tools and approach, to create a "point of presence" in this new ecosystem, indeed to create a Media 2.0 profile for its analysts. It's no longer enough to go on CNBC looking buff and hyperconfident.

So, for any depressed analysts on Wall Street, or within the Square Mile, go pour yourself another half-caff skinny latte and consider what it means that David Jackson and his team at Seeking Alpha have struck a deal with Yahoo! to get the insights of the open source analysts into a prominent placing on Yahoo! Finance. David (an early reader of EuroTelcoblog who has offered a lot of moral support and was kind enough to include me as an early occasional contributor to Seeking Alpha) has worked hard to make the site genuinely useful, funding free conference call transcripts, taking on experienced editors who understand what makes a piece relevant.

For the fund manager or independent investor who hasn't had the time, stamina, or knowledge to amass and keep up with a long list of RSS feeds on a wide range of issues, having a trusted aggregator of independent voices within an already trusted and familiar source of financial news and data poses more than a trivial challenge to the brokers for gaining and holding one's attention.

UPDATE: An Eldorado class mega-uber value reader writes in with an appropriate musical quote, challenging me to complete it:

"Once I built a tower way up to the sun
Of bricks and mortar and lime
Once I built a tower, and now it's done ..."

In this case, I think the appropriate tagline is "Buddy can you spare a Ferrari?"

Monday, September 11, 2006

VOX populi

This VOX for Skype release from VoxLib is what I was writing about here as the product demo which blew my head off back at Spring VON in San Jose. While there are undoubtedly some interesting things happening in the FMC space, SIP clients on multi-mode phones and Skype on WiFi handsets, during the intervening years it will take for all these developments to permeate over 2bn handsets, speech recognition is a practical, sensible and painless solution for harvesting the benefits of VoIP on 2G cellular (or fixed line, for that matter).

I guess one potential drawback for some users is the need to have Skype and VOX running on a PC somewhere in the world. But I also wonder if this limitation doesn't present Skype and VoxLib an opportunity to offer "hosted presence" for those who may need it from time to time. In other words, Skype could host an "image" of the user's client (the contact list is not centralized in any event) and the VOX for Skype service. Personally I could certainly envisage paying a small fee for the ability to switch to hosted presence on an ad hoc basis, say when away on a camping trip or driving in the car. Maybe this is a far-fetched idea - I would be interested in your feedback.

La Ville Numerique

Switched on the PC this morning to the news that Free (Iliad) is to deploy a fiber access network in Paris. My French is poor, and the press release somewhat lacking in detail, but the closing paragraphs state that this marks formal participation by Free in the Paris: La Ville Numerique plan proposed by Paris Mayor Delanoe back in January (subsequently ratified by a vote of the Paris City Council on 10th July), and in my view adds more momentum to the French fiber revolution. Any additional local color from French Prix D'Or mega-uber value readers would be highly appreciated!

UPDATE: Iliad followed 20 minutes later with another release detailing the offer available in Q1 2007: 50Mbps (presumably symmetrical); unlimited calls to French fixed lines and some international; HDTV; all via the Freebox Optique... for a cool EUR29.99, the same price Free has charged for services for as long as anyone can remember.

UPDATE 2: By 9:00 AM, this was coming to resemble a 9/11-esque attack on France Telecom, with another release outlining that Free, through the Free Foundation, would be "engaging in combat against the digital divide" with a free universal service (for basic phone line with no subscription for emergency calls and calls to social services, narrowband internet access, and access to the free channels of France's DTT service). This package of services will be available throughout Paris and in other areas of France where Free has/will have fiber.

UPDATE 3: Another half hour, and Free announces that it will open its FTTH network to wholesale customers.

UPDATE 4: A Palladium Class mega-uber value reader points out that the releases are in English here. I have always received them via email in French for some reason, and historically there has been a time lag between the French and English versions, so I didn't even stop to look at the English site. Then again, this is huge news, so I guess they mobilized the translators a bit faster than previously.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Busta move

The folks who brought you On Instant have released a new tiny cool-looking widget called Busta, which Dean at VoIPUser has tried out (screen shot also there). My IT Gestapo obviously won't sanction this, but I intend to try it out at home. I'm not completely thrilled at the prospect of yet another VoIP client, but for as long as GTalk doesn't do PSTN breakout, it would probably be nice to have the option to hand right on my Google page.

UPDATE: Of course, first I tried to download the full version from the site at work and got blocked, but then later I downloaded the ActiveX plug-in and set it up. If only I had a headset! One very clever thing here from the ease of adoption point of view is that, since the user registers with an email address, they can be called using that address alone. No separate user ID or handle. Call set-up to the PSTN also seems to be damned fast. Undeterred even without a headset, I had just clicked to make a test call to my desk phone, when said desk phone rang, so I cancelled my Busta call, thinking someone else was calling me coincidentally at the same time - then I realized that the call to my desk phone was from Busta. Given the call set up times for PSTN breakout in Skype or Gizmo (which aren't particularly bad, but noticeable) I hadn't expected that Busta would connect immediately, but it did.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Shameless self-promotion 2.1

How can you mend a broken heart? What is the sound of one hand clapping? How do you solve a problem like Maria? Who'll stop the rain? Do you remember Walter? If a telecom company collapses in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, does it really make a sound?

These are among the many burning questions which will not be on the agenda at the Telco 2.0 Industry Brainstorm next month, 4-5th October in London. Join us instead for a differentiated, challenging and stimulating consideration of the issues facing telecom. I will be there, or perhaps just my avatar (he's younger and thinner), doing some stimulus speaking (quite possibly stimulating people to hurl furniture at me) and also serving as "analyst in residence" on some sessions. I have had a hand in putting together the agenda and recommending speakers, and I genuinely believe this will be an event with a difference.

The organizers have very kindly offered a 10% discount to EuroTelcoblog readers. All you have to do is contact the event production team and quote “Enck 10% discount” - online:, email:, tel: + 44 (0) 207 864 9912.

P.S. - I have no financial interest in this event, but am expecting to do much damage to the buffet lunch and drinks reception.

Pretty damned relevant

Hats off to Howard, Alec and all the chaingang at iotum for landing a partner like AOL, which has learned some lessons from the rise of Skype (ahem, telcos) and embraced the open API. Wish I were going to be in Boston to check it out in person!

Opening up a can of whoopass

That's a term used in the Dear Old Southland sometimes to express the concept of "putting the hurt on" or "doing great damage to." My second spectacular scoop of the week, embargoed until next week, will mark another pivotal moment in industry disruption - but I can't say which industry just yet. That's just the sort of helpful insight you'd expect from a financial analyst isn't it?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Don't look now

Boy, oh boy, did I get the mother of all mega-uber value scoops this morning, but have been asked to hold back until it is formally announced. You're probably wondering, then, why I even bothered to make this post. I guess it's just so that when the time comes, I can say, "this is what I meant."

But what the hell, there's still plenty of big news to report: SPIT has arrived in suburban Memphis, my home town and cultural mecca. Sure, when it was just a couple of spoiled little girls mucking about with IP wizardry, it was funny, but buddy, when a Collierville retiree isn't free to mow his own tiny bit of the American dream in peace, you're on the fightin' side of me. Add something like this to the mix and let the nastiness begin.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ranking full stop

I've been playing with Ning, and have created a site as an experiment. Stop by and vote.

For the map lover in you

Well, the Dutch mega-uber value readers are sending me some really cool stuff today, the latest being this nice new summary site for 3G services in the Netherlands, including this collection of coverage maps. Dank u veel!

UPDATE: Turns out this site was put together by a couple of students. Good work guys!

SMS for MS

A Palladium Class mega-uber value reader in the Netherlands sent in this image from a train platform in Utrecht, where the displays also host this clever charity fund-raising effort. Send an SMS to the appropriate number and your message is displayed for all to see. The majority of proceeds go to MS Research. This message is directed to me ("Hello James," it says), but I assume there must be all manner of weird and wonderful things crossing the screen daily, from "Feyernoord rules" and "I hate my job" to "You're kinda cute, weren't you the bass player in Golden Earring?" and "If you think this is bad, you should try the English trains." If anyone out there happens to have any stats on how much SMS traffic this service is generating, I would love to see them.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Another ETTH step towards fiber speeds

Some time back I wrote about Essent's Teleste-backed drive towards 100Mbps service using Ethernet over coax, and got some pessimistic reactions. The last update available on the website is from 21 August and trumpets the success of the 10Mbps service, but a Platinum Club mega-uber value reader has faxed me a press release dated 31 August (not yet on the corporate site for some reason) which claims that a 40Mbps service will be available from this month, for EUR69.95. Interestingly, the default upstream speed of this product will be 8Mbps, but for an extra EUR4.95, the subscriber can opt for "Quattro-Up," an upload speed four times faster, i.e., 32Mbps.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Air guitar city

Given that it's Friday afternoon and I have just come out of one of the most depressing research meetings of my career, a little levity is in order. So I'll be fluffing up my mullet and tuning in tomorrow at 20:30 CET to the Dutch Air Guitar Championships on Fabchannel - one of my favorite success stories of content at the edge supported by fiber to the club. Rock out!

Takin' it to the streets

The BBC News technology team spent the day in Norwich yesterday, putting the city center's WiFi network to the test and pondering just how feasible a nomadic work situation is in the current technology environment. Check out their experiences here. Predictably, it appears that most of the problems encountered involved human error, environmental factors such as noise, and first and foremost, battery life. Perhaps WiFi-enabled city centers should be equipped with work stations fitted to stationary exercise bikes, which could generate electricity to recharge laptops of nomadic workers - this could also be a secret weapon in the UK's War on Obesity. Note that Skype is mentioned no fewer than five times.