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Telecoms news you may have missed

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With days getting hotter, the pubs becoming more appealing and summer holidays last approaching, most would forgive you for missing a few of the telecoms stories from last week. We’ve got your back.

Samsung and Alibaba eye smart home euphoria

Two of Asia’s largest technology brands are reportedly on the hunt to cash in on the fast-growing excitement around the smart home, with the launch of AI-powered smart speakers.

Alibaba has officially launched Tmall Genie, a voice-controlled device play music, run third-party apps and buy goods from the Chinese retail giant’s online stores. For the moment, it only understands Mandarin, though it should hardly be considered unusual for Chinese brands to target the Chinese market first and foremost. The product is only available in Beta for a limited number of customers currently, though the team has stated it will also feature Alipay, which is pretty much its own various of PayPal.

Over in Korea, the Korea Herald has reported Samsung is in the final stages of developing its own smart speaker which would be powered by its own AI offering Bixby, though there have been delays to the English-version due to data issues.

The issue here is the amount of data which the company has access to in English. Teaching such a machine to comprehensively understand a language takes a huge amount of data, and we’re slightly surprised it caught the technology giant unaware. The challenge here is response time and accuracy. We’re quite fussy apparently, therefore the devices accuracy would have to be above 95% to meet our tolerance threshold.

Despite the set-back, the team does have some pretty lofty ambitions. The target here is to have Bixby powering 7.5 billion intelligent devices by the end of 2021. It might not have the technology to dominate the industry just yet, but it might just have the reputation as a consumer electronics giant to make such a claim a reality.

Belgium regulators look to open up broadband market

Regulators in Belgium have put down their waffles and decided to have a crack at increasing competition in its broadband market after an investigation found Proximus, Telenet, VOO and Coditel have too much influence in the wholesale space.

Each of the players have created a position of dominance in certain regions of the country, though regulators are seemingly concerned the current set-up would create a series of monopolies. The new rules would force the network owners into a fairer pricing system, allowing for additional bundles to be offered to customers, and a greater level of competition throughout the country.

“Several options have been examined for fibre access, ranging from ‘passive’ access, enabling the alternative operator to install  his own equipment, to ‘active’ access, if the passive access option is technically or economically impossible. Several regulatory adaptations have also been proposed to improve the competition environment of broadband services for businesses,” the report reads.

Chinese smartphones on the up

Despite the worldwide smartphone market on a bit of a slowdown, HTC and Xiaomi have claimed the last couple of months have been pretty rosy for their devices business units.

Xiaomi SVP Wang Xiang tweeted the smartphone division had returned to growth after shipping a ‘record high’ 23.16 million units across the second quarter of 2017. This number is up roughly 70% from the first quarter, though as Xiaomi stopped releasing smartphone numbers in 2016, that’s as much info as we can give for the moment.

The turnaround itself has been credited to the R&D department, as the team aimed to create an ‘aspirational brand’ as opposed to one which has been associated with ‘value for money’. Over the course of 2017, the team hope to ship 100 million units.

HTC is also having a good time of it, after it claimed revenues in June were the highest since December. Revenues across the month increased 8% year-on-year to roughly $225.2 million, with its new flagship HTC U11 as the main driver. It’s a long-way back to the glory days where HTC’s ruled the world, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

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