a week in wireless


No such thing as a free lunch

AWIW567

A reclusive, 64 year old Japanese man was chased from his California home this week by rabid reporters, after a Newsweek article outed him as the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of the Bitcoin protocol. The chase ended at a nearby sushi restaurant, where Nakamoto denied having anything to do with Bitcoin and just “wanted his free lunch”.

Evidence in the aftermath suggests, contrary to Newsweek’s claims, that this Satoshi Nakamoto, isn’t the real Satoshi Nakamoto. What kind of shadowy, security-paranoid, crypto whizz uses his real name to release an anonymous digital currency anyway? Unless it’s the classic double bluff and he’s hiding in plain sight?

Given the number of reporters and Bitcoin fans now heading to his California home, let’s hope it was a good lunch.

Not so over at Russian carrier VimpelCom, where the belts are being tightened after the company was forced to write down over $2bn in Ukrainian assets in the wake of political instability that shows little sign of imminent resolution. The operator group reported a fourth quarter loss of $2.6bn versus a 4Q12 profit of $195m, while revenues for the same period also took a dive of seven per cent year on year to $5.5bn. The news this morning also suggests the situation is about to get a whole lot hairier as the Kremlin signals support for a Crimean move for secession.

Orange on the other hand is looking forward to the end of austerity measures, having seen its consolidated net income after tax almost double year on year for the full year 2013. The group posted a figure of €2.13bn for net income after tax for FY2013, a 93.2 per cent improvement on the €1.10bn figure it posted for FY2012, but still well short of the €3.83bn it generated in 2011. The boost was largely due to fewer goodwill impairment charges in the year and extreme cost cutting measures. When you can say that your annual profit doubled because there was less negative publicity about you, you’ve either run out of bad news or someone’s about to ruin that winning streak.

“The impact of regulatory measures” got a few mentions where performance was affected negatively and, in the operator’s home market of France, revenues fell by 4.8 per cent. Orange noted, however, that it began showing signs of recovery in France. Its net sales in of mobile contracts in 4Q13 were the highest of the year and its fibre customer base rose by 17 per cent in the quarter to 319,000.

But things are getting scrappy. French conglomerate Vivendi is currently fielding two competing bids for France’s second largest mobile operator, SFR.

Third placed Bouygues has offered €10.5bn in cash and 46 per cent of the new entity, in a move that would create a market leading mobile network and a strong second fixed network. A merger between Bouygues and SFR would also realise synergies estimated at €10bn, the company said.

Meanwhile French cable operator Altice is understood to have made a higher offer but the company has not made details public.

Bouyges and SFR agreed to roll out a shared network covering 57 per cent of the French population earlier this year, creating a joint venture to manage the shared base station assets and a RAN share covering 2G, 3G and LTE services in the area covered by the network. In the wake of the deal, French regulator Arcep said it would work closely with the nation’s Competition Authority to ensure both operators remain independent in their business strategies and sales and that the agreement “will not squeeze certain competitors out of the market,” so the Informer is pretty sure Arcep will have something to say about proposed merger plans.

There was more merger talk going on in South Africa, where Telkom has confirmed it is in talks with local rival MTN over a RAN share/outsourcing agreement. Meanwhile in India, Reliance Jio Infocomm has signed a tower sharing agreement with local infrastructure provider Bharti Infratel.

These kind of partnerships are becoming more common and will be increasingly  so in a more virtualized world. The Informer heard of an unlikely partnership through sister site Business Cloud News the other day, when it emerged that the Cloud Security Alliance is looking to release an open source version of its Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) network, which essentially works by allowing datacentres to point their routers to the cloud and have all users coming off the public internet go through an identity authentication and management application that only reveals addresses to application servers once identity is verified.

But the initiative is led by Bob Flores who is none other than former chief technology officer of the CIA and president at Applicology Inc., and Junaid Islam, founder and chief technology officer of Vidder Technology.

In another life the Informer fancies that Flores would have been chasing Islam around and now the two have put their differences aside to work for the greater good.

There was some offloading action over in Germany, where E-Plus, which is in the process of being acquired by Telefónica, has completed handing over the reins of its network management to Chinese firm ZTE.

In what must have been one of those heart stopping moments where the switch is thrown, ZTE said it implemented the takeover of E-Plus network operations during just a single night, migrating the whole IT infrastructure from the previous service provider to a ZTE data centre.

Over in the Nordics, local carrier Tele2 is evaluating its options in Norway. The move is not entirely unsurprising, given that in December it failed to win any spectrum in the latest frequency auction, leaving it at a serious disadvantage in the market.

It emerged that the new entrant, subsequently revealed to be backed by the owner of Norway’s rural-coverage focused challenger Ice.net, won the largest spectrum haul in the auction.

Tele2 named Jeff Dodds as the executive vice president and CEO of its Netherlands subsidiary as of mid-April. Dodds leaves his role at Virgin Media, where he has been for five years, most recently holding the role of chief marketing officer. He replaces acting CEO Ernst-Jan van Rooijen, who will resume his role as CFO of the firm.

There was some executive reshuffling going on at iPhone maker Apple, where senior vice president and CFO Peter Oppenheimer has announced his retirement at the end of September. He’s had a good innings has Oppenheimer, acting as CFO for the past decade; a period in which the firm saw its annual revenue grow from $8bn to $171bn. That’s a damn big wristwatch he’s got coming to him.

Oppenheimer will be replaced by current vice president of finance and corporate controller Luca Maestri (presumably soon to be known as “Filthy Lucre” Maestri), who prior to joining Apple held the role of CFO at network infrastructure vendor Nokia Siemens Networks as well as document management firm Xerox (they don’t make photocopiers!).

Maestri’s experience at NSN will likely be drawn upon in his role as Apple CFO. His knowledge of the network infrastructure space could prove valuable as Apple infamously has a policy of independently testing and approving mobile operators’ LTE networks before allowing its devices to run on them. His 20 years at General Motors could also give Apple important insight into the automotive market, as the firm gears up to launch its connected car initiative, Apple CarPlay, which it announced earlier this week.

The initiative basically involves sticking a big iPhone on the dashboard and presumably includes some Siri-like co-pilot. US operator AT&T was going down a similar route with plans to develop an in-vehicle video service as part of its connected car offering, allowing users to stream hundreds of live linear TV channels and hours of premium video on demand content.

If that sounds a little dangerous then rival Sprint has the solution in the form of a system that will tell your insurance company just how good a driver you are.

The IMS UBI Intelligence tool claims to offer insurers a way to accurately determine a driver’s policy premium based on their driving behaviour. A telematics device plugged into the port of a vehicle will measure metrics such as distance travelled and their braking and acceleration patterns.

To quote old US metal band Pantera, Android was making a vulgar display of power in the tablet market having captured 62 per cent of the global sector in 2013, according to statistics released by analyst house Gartner. The company estimates that worldwide sales of tablets to end users reached 195.4 million units in 2013, a 68 per cent increase on the previous year.

While sales of iOS tablets grew in the fourth quarter of 2013, Apple’s share declined to 36 per cent in 2013 and market growth was fuelled by the low-end smaller screen tablet market and first time buyers, which allowed Android to capitalise.

It’s the low end market that Finnish handset maker Nokia, in the process of being acquired by Microsoft, is going after, according to Peter Wang, VP platform & technology delivery at Nokia.

Wang told the Informer that Nokia intends to use its fresh line of low end Android handsets as a platform to entice users onto Windows-based smartphones. And this is the main reason why the Nokia X series sports a tiled user interface not dissimilar to the Metro UI found on Windows 8.

“Take what you can and give nothing back,” that seems to be the sentiment from the company, which plainly stated that it would use only open source code from the Android project and would not be contributing anything back. The word is that Microsoft will also announce new Windows phones in April. Watch this space.

US disruptor Dish Network was certainly space watching, having walked away with every one of the 176 spectrum licenses most recently auctioned off by the FCC, it has been revealed.

Dish paid the minimum reserve price of $1.56bn and now owns 10MHz nationwide of the PCS H block spectrum which it can use to deliver wireless broadband. The company has been trying to crack the market for some time, including failed attempts at acquiring Clearwire and Sprint in 2013.

The industry is traditionally a bit quiet the week after Barcelona so it’s time to put this issue to bed. If you’re having trouble getting up though Oscar Mayer might have the solution in the form of a device that plugs into the iPhone and synchronises with the alarm clock to wake you up to the smell of cooking bacon. A bit like if Air Wick did an English breakfast flavoured room scent.

Yet surely the only thing more disappointing than being woken by your alarm in the morning is being woken by the smell of cooking bacon only to discover that there is no bacon! Way to start the day off on the wrong foot.

Then again it could be worse, you could be wearing a “fitness” bracelet designed by entrepreneur Maneesh Sethi, who believes in negative reinforcement as form of habit changing. If the Pavlok detects unacceptable inactivity it actually shocks the owner into action. Apparently the people want it though, as he’s already scored $100,000 in funding. Then again this is the same guy who (in)famously hired a woman to slap him across the face every time his productivity levels dropped.

Right the Informer’s colleague has just been taken out for lunch and sadly the Informer is not invited.

See you in the sandwich aisle,

The Informer


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