Friday, March 23, 2007

More corporate action to trigger the telco sector

Continuing on this post, I dug up some more ongoing business dealings.

Operators for sale:
  • Alltel
  • Pipex (and C&W?) in the UK; possibly Lycos Germany, Jazztel (Spain), and PT's PT Multimedia unit
  • FastWeb (Italy) could attract a counterbid (next to Swisscom's).
  • Telefonica not only has Endemol up for sale (late March), but Airwave (UK) as well.
  • Deutsche Telekom is shopping (Spain) and Club Internet (France) around.
  • TDC's owners are looking for buyers for HTCC (Hungary), sunrise (Switzerland) and Talkline (Germany).
  • Both Lebanon and Libya are selling two state-owned mobile operators.
  • Stakes in state-owned PTT's may change hand: OTE, TI, DT, PT, TeliaSonera, as well as the operators of Bulgaria, Uganda, Botswana and Algeria.


  • Infamous Versatel (Germany) and Flag Telecom may re-enter.
  • Several wireless operators: MetroPCS, Colombia Movil, GrameenPhone, Safaricom and Spice Telecom.


  • Fixed line, SNO: Saudi Arabia and Kenya.
  • Wireless (2G and/or 3G): Iceland, Germany (2008), France (2008), Canada (2008), Russia (2007 and 2008), Vietnam, Norway (2007), Sweden (2007)
  • WiMAX: Ireland (2007), Italy (2007), Portugal (2007), Sweden (2007), UK (2007).

Product/service launches:

  • DT will launch a secondary brand in Germany, aimed at the youth market (summer 2007).
  • Handsets: Apple's iPhone (June) and perhaps news around the 'Google Phone'
  • FTTN may come to Australia.
  • FTTH in Paris will be launched by Neuf and Iliad.
  • MVNOs from KPN and BT may come to Spain.
  • Wireless VoIP tests at Vodafone (Starfish) and StarHub (pfingo) may have some impact.
  • Breaking down the wireless walled garden at Hutchison 3G (X-Series) will be followed by Amp'd Mobile's launch of the MOTO Q (with Sling and Orb).


  • EC on international roaming (June)
  • EC v. Germany regarding DT's FTTN/VDSL network (any day?)
  • OPTA on KPN's All-IP network (June)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

StarHub trials pfingo, a WiFi service

TeleGeography reports StarHub, the #2 telco and #3 mobile operator in Singapore, is trialing a new platform, dubbed pfingo, among 30 users for 3 months.

Pfingo is open to subs from SingTel and MobileOne as well and works on any handset. Users receive a new number and for a fixed monthly fee are allowed unlimited on-net voice minutes (pfingoTALK), as well as pfingoACTIVE (not sure what that is) and pfingoMAIL.

Pfingo uses WiFi connectivity.

Comment: Given the size of the nation and the state's broadband targets, it looks like pfingo's WiFi network will have full coverage. At a decent pricepoint, it will not only cannibalize StarHub's own voice revenues, but possibly those of its competitors as well. It could signal a new round of pricing pressure. Of course it remains to be seen how well it works and how it deals with full mobility (handover). I wonder how it is supposed to work on any handset. It looks like the service's purpose is to offload data traffic and free-up some capacity for StarHub's voice services.

Update (March 23): Check out this post. StarHub is taking Vodafone's 'Starfish' quite a few steps further.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Some short-term triggers

Here are some possible triggers for short-term movement, before the new reporting season starts:
  • Telefonica: to decide on the sale of its 75% Endemol stake (late March). Mediaset and John de Mol are candidates.
  • OTE: Greek state to sell 20% stake (late March). This could be the chance for Telefonica or DT to step in.
  • Vodafone: investor day on UK and Germany in London (March 30). Time for bullish news to turn those businesses around. When will topline growth return?
  • AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Sprint Nextel: US government to award Networx Universal contract (late March). The second part, Networx Enterprise, will be awarded late May. Together, they are valued at $20bn over 10 years. Looking at the partners each brings, my bet is on AT&T.
  • KPN: investor day on new structure (April 4). The company will no longer report along the Fixed/Mobile line, but along Consumer/Business. Wholesale & Operations contains the physical infrastructure and a fourth division is devoted to IT services in the Netherlands.
  • Yahoo!: hiring new CFO and Audience Group CEO (weeks away?).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Vodafone launches innovative web phone in Portugal

Vodafone Portugal launched 'Vodafone web phone'. It's a download to your PC, which is assigned a mobile number. Through it, you can IM, voice/videocall, SMS and MMS.

Some of it looks new to me:
  • Vodafone essentially launching a Skype/MSN/AIM-like VoIP-service.
  • Allows calling to and from mobiles, the PC mimicking as a mobile phone. Interesting in countries where SkypeIn is not offered (such as the Netherlands; SkypeIn so far is offered in just 15 countries). Tariffs of course are mobile tariffs.

I'm not sure what the technology is (most likely Microsoft). On-net and PC-to-PC calls are free of course, as any non-Portuguese speaker can understand from the demo.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Amsterdam hooks up first FTTH sub

Trouw reports Amsterdam has hooked up the first customer to its munifiber network, Citynet, owned by GNA (Glasvezelnet Amsterdam). It's a 100 Mbps symmetrical connection. Current plans are to connect 40k homes (10% of the city) by late 2008.

Monday, March 12, 2007

WiMAX round-up

Just for convenience:
  • Technology: IEEE proposes the new 802.16m standard.
  • Hardware: Palm rumoured to plan a WiMAX Treo - ultra-thin, mind you.
  • Roaming: WiSOA sets up the first alliance.
  • IPOs: Clearwire debuted as the #3 pureplay (after xG and Towerstream).
  • Plans: Vodafone and Sprint provide views.
  • Tenders: Italy, Taiwan, Israel, Thailand.
  • Trials: Swisscom, TVA (Brazil), Worldmax (Netherlands), Altech (South Africa).
  • Deployments: BSNL in India, Dialog in Sri Lanka, Nexcom in Bulgaria, Åre Network in Sweden, Neotel in South Africa, Emax in Peru, UHT in the Ukraine, Arab Telecom in Kuwait, ABC in Canada, EgyNet in Egypt, the state of Catalonia, Telecom Namibia, ICE in Costa Rica, etc.

Web 3.0 round-up

We all know what Web 2.0 is all about: sharing and UGC. Now let's just say Web 3.0 is all about pushing and AI. Hardly as much news as there is about Web 2.0, but take a look at this:

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Peer-to-peer round-up

We have recently seen growing interest in peer-to-peer technology - for several reasons: efficiency ('the Internet was not designed for TV'), attacking illegal file-sharing, starting new businesses.
BitTorrent's Bram Cohen invented the protocol of the same name in 2001. It uses 'swarming': files are broken into small pieces and stored on the PCs of network participants.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between downloading (the old illegal p2p file-sharing services) and streaming (e.g. Joost's legal service).

Recent news:
  • BitTorrent launched the BitTorrent Entertainment Network.
  • Veoh launched. Azureus' Zudeo is to follow shortly.
  • Joost launched its closed beta - an open beta to follow this summer. As an early user (but not much of a couch potatoe) I have to say it looks great. At this stage I think it makes no sense complaining about hiccups or limited content.
  • Babelgum too. An open beta is scheduled this month.
  • The BBC plans the iPlayer May or June for distributing BBC content.
  • ROO Group (News Corp bought 10%) acquired Wurld Media, operator of Peer Impact, for its p2p technology.
  • UUSee, over in China, raised American dollars.
  • Robert Cringely speculated about Apple TV as the foundation of Apple's own p2p network, allowing the company to cancel its Akamai contract and save on network costs.


  • Bandwidth has its price. In general, it always makes sense to be efficient about it (compare such diverse things as MPEG4, AJAX and spectral efficiency of WiMAX - all aimed at being prudent about your use of bandwidth).
  • Alexander Cameron points to the fact that p2p networks require 'a critical mass of users watching the same content' and that 'it will bring the ISP's war directly to the content owning communities door'. I might add to the first quote: this spells doom for unpopular content. P2P will not serve the long tail very well.
  • In the end, efficiency (p2p) is fine, but we still need to throw a lot more bandwidth at the capacity crunch problem. Robert Cringely had an interesting introduction to yet another solution (besides CDNs such as Akamai): NuMetra. By the way, he apparently agrees with Cameron: 'p2p cost savings isn't a true savings but is rather a hidden cost borne by the Internet Service Provider running the last mile connection'.
  • DRM comes into play; the new BitTorrent is cumbersome because of it. For a round-up of DRM issues, go here and click on the links in the first paragraph.
  • Who knows illegal file-sharing can be migrated to any of the above legal networks - especially when the services are free + ads (Joost, Babelgum). Skyrider serves ads in video files on p2p networks.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Regulation 2.0 coming to Ireland

Battling cable, eircom apparently has similar plans to KPN: pushing fiber deeper into its network (to street cabinets), going from FttExchange + ADSL2+ (with LLU as an option) to FttCabinet + VDSL (with SLU as a theoretical option), thereby:
  • creating the option of closing COs, savings costs;
  • moving DSLAMs closer to end users, expanding available bandwidths;
  • frustrating altnets who have DSLAMs in those COs as well but lack the scale to move them to the street cabinet level, making SLU unfeasible;
  • forcing regulators to come up with some other alternative to LLU.

We have seen this in the Netherlands, and now it is spreading to Ireland. Watch out for regulation 2.0 coming to Europe in the next few years.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The market will decide on regulation 2.0 in the Netherlands

OPTA, in its 'late February' (February 30, aka March 2) letter, has decided to let the market come up with an alternative for LLU. KPN will not be separated, neither functionally (Openreach style) nor structurally.

(As fiber is pushed deeper into the network, LLU will be replaced by SLU.)

Market parties (KPN, the ACT body (excluding bbned), bbned and Reggefiber) responded to OPTA's January 24 letter and are in talks. OPTA will monitor the process and expects a solution within 3 months. By 07Q2 it will publish both findings and rulemakings.

Further, OPTA has asked NERA to look into options for Openreach-style separation of KPN in the Netherlands. Unsurprisingly, NERA concludes that there are some large differences between the Dutch v. the British market: national cable coverage; Dutch regulators legally cannot force structural separation upon KPN (Ofcom threatening BT to refer the case to the Competition Commission was instrumental in getting the company to cooperate); service-based competition on the PTT-network takes away the stimulus for both altnets & PTT to invest in the local loop (FTTH).

In other words, the reach of cable and KPN's willingness to work with altnets stave off the threat of separation (functional or structural).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Deutsche Telekom: strategy update brings little news

Deutsche Telekom has a strategy update and investor day, which unfortunately bring little real news.


A. Four key areas.

1. Improve competitiveness in Germany.

  • IP-technology.
  • Productivity in customer care.
  • Savings targets remain: EUR 2.0bn for 2007; EUR 4.2-4.7 mrd for 2010 relative to 2005.
  • Broadband for IPTV and triple play:
    Available to 17m homes by year-end 2007. Target 1.5m IPTV-subs by late 2010.
    VDSL (50 Mbps) for HDTV: 50 cities by end of 2008.
    ADSL2+ (16 Mbps) for SDTV: 750 towns and villages.
  • T-Mobile:
    Focus on existing products web'n'walk and @Home.
    New products, such as MyFaves (personalisation, proven success in the US)
  • Branding:
    T-Home for the home, T-Mobile for on the road, T-Systems for businesses.
    A second brand, to be launched before the summer, for basic products, F/M bundles, low tariffs, young demographics.
    T-Mobile for outside of Germany.

2. Growth abroad with mobile, possibly with acquisitions.

  • FMS.
  • Data: WiFi, data handsets/terminals, web'n'walk handsets.
  • Takeovers, both in existing and new markets.

3. Mobilizing the internet and the Web 2.0 trend.

  • Personal & social networking, like mobile blogging.
  • Open, multiportal internet access.
  • Partnerships.

4. Developing key ICT accounts with a strategic partner.

  • International footprint & scale are essential.
  • A partner.

B. The planned sale of non-core assets:

  1. T-Systems Media & Broadcast
  2. DeTeImmobilien and Sireo (real estate)
  3. Club Internet and (triple play providers in France and Spain)
  4. Tower business in Germany (Deutsche Funkturm) and the US (US Towers).


  1. The German fixed network is where the trouble is. Moving to IP and increased efficiency is all fine and dandy, but almost meaningless when the associated cost savings are hard to reap.
  2. Germany gave its go-ahead to the VDSL-network, including a regulatory holiday, but the EC started a procedure to hault it. Also, the target of 1.5m IPTV subs looks uninspiring (cf. BT aiming for 2-3m in the mid-term).
  3. Will the regulator allow DT to introduce a new F/M convergence brand? I'm not sure about this (over here in the Netherlands, OPTA wouldn't allow KPN to do this, but apparently the German governent is much more lenient on the local PTT).
  4. Abroad, DT aims for a purely mobile approach (unlike FT/Orange in the UK and Spain). That makes a lot of sense: mobile markets are larger and more profitable than broadband markets. Acquisitions could be expensive though. Focus must be on Easter Europe and France, where a fourth UMTS license will be auctioned off.
  5. T-Mobile is leading the way, with 3UK and Vodafone, in opening it's network for internet access and web 2.0 partnerships. As long as they can do the rebalancing act, that looks OK.
  6. The planned sale of Club Internet and is not a surprise. It is part of the new mobile focus. Should T-Mobile buy Orange NL, it will sell-on the DSL-network. FT/Orange will not bid for Club Internet (giving it too much market share), but certainly makes sense. Similarly, Telefonica will not buy but may look at entering France through both Club Internet and the new UMTS license.
  7. DT is committed to the ICT-market, which will add to growth. Therefore, no sale of T-Systems, but no acquisition either, as the unit is now looking for a partner.