a week in wireless

Big exit

The end of the year is fast approaching and the world is full of people who have just about had enough. Some are choosing to make their own exit, looking for greener pastures in the New Year, while others are having the door held open for them by judgmental colleagues, investors or even the government.

But they say when one door closes another one opens and that’s certainly the case for Lu Xiangdong, now a former vice president of China Mobile. Unfortunately the door that’s opened for him is made entirely of iron bars as Lu is being packed off to the big house to serve a life term for accepting bribes to the tune of $2.5m between 2003 and 2011. Lu was investigated in early 2012 when he ran the company’s marketing operations and digital business.

Fair do’s to China for trying to root out corruption, which was once perceived as rife. Earlier this year several officials in the country’s biggest oil business, China National Petroleum Corp, came under the microscope and investigations have also extended to the shipping industry of late.

The CEO of Belgian incumbent operator Belgacom, Didier Bellens, was also feeling the long arm of the government, having been sacked by the state, which is the firm’s largest shareholder. Prime Minister Elio di Rupo said the Government was unable to tolerate the public criticisms that Bellens has recently levelled at it.

In a recent speech Bellens likened the Prime Minister’s approach to the Government’s annual dividend from Belgacom to a child holding its hands out in expectation at Christmas. Now reports suggest that the Belgian Government does not want to pay Bellens the hefty severance fee that is written into his contract, which may lead to a lengthy legal dispute between the ousted CEO and his former shareholder. You’re either with us or against us I’m afraid.

Moving on to the Informer’s friend Payne now, who is quitting the UK network joint venture MBNL after five years. Graham Payne, MBNL’s managing director will leave with financial director Brian More O’Ferrall, to be replaced by Pat Coxen of EE and Gervase King of 3UK.

MBNL was the network JV created by T-Mobile and 3UK in 2007 and is now owned by 3 with EE. The outfit has installed a new management team as the organisation shifts from the integration of the various UK networks held by its parents to an operational and cost-control model.

EE CEO Olaf Swantee said Payne had delivered “one of the most challenging yet successful 3G integration programmes across the world,” and Payne will remain throughout a six-month handover period.

With her expertise in pushing large volumes of stuff through big pipes, it’s no surprise that Liv Garfield is to step down as CEO of BT’s Openreach during the spring, to take up a new challenge as CEO of Severn Trent, the FTSE 100 water company. The Informer suspects that Severn Trent’s pipes are a lot leakier than Openreach’s however.

There’s plenty of carriers with leaky pipes out there though. Such is the warning from revenue assurance specialist Haud Systems, which the Informer met with recently. We’re talking ‘grey routes’ here, or international links that can be used by unscrupulous operators to avoid paying local interconnect fees to their peers, and these are costing carriers tens of millions in lost revenue.

Haud has spent the last few years profiling operators to help them classify their network traffic – where it’s coming from—and where it’s going and found that a significant portion of this traffic comes from aggregators or third parties that are not paying to terminate traffic on the carrier’s network but are still making money themselves.

According to Claire Cassar, CEO of Haud, operators know about revenue leakage from grey routes and typically accept a level of attrition to it of around five to ten per cent of international traffic. “But in our profiling this year we found that one major European operator was experiencing around 40 per cent of all international traffic coming via grey routes. That works out as tens of millions of Euros of lost revenue.”

In one case in Africa the company found one operator was completely bypassing the local interconnect fees of another carrier by sending traffic over grey routes internationally.

There were plenty of deals being done this week by other firms looking to help operators tighten up their revenues. This big one was Chinese telecoms software provider AsiaInfo Linkage which scored its first European mobile operator win since its launch in the region last year with Telenor Denmark.

AsiaInfo described the project as a BSS transformation, which will include the provision of its proprietary billing, CRM and real-time analytics solutions, with more than 100 legacy systems being decommissioned at Telenor as part of the project. Large deployments of both Amdocs and Geneva (acquired by Convergys in 2001) solutions are being ripped out in the process.

The company said that “Telenor was sick of having silos” in its back end systems and suggested that the deal was “the most substantial [BSS let] in Europe for many years.”

The deal may generate speculation that AsiaInfo competed hard on price, leveraging its own comparatively low cost base to undercut Western rivals. Similar observation were made about Huawei and ZTE when the two Chinese NEPs first arrived in the European markets and began to pick up business. But Alex Hawker, general manager for EMEA at AsiaInfo (and formerly of Amdocs) rejected the suggestion, saying “you don’t win business by being cheap.”

Of course that’s not true in every case but the Informer’s certainly not suggesting it was the case in our next story as AlcatelLucent made its first foray into the cyber security sector by partnering with security specialist Arbor Networks to deliver DDoS (distributed denial of service) protection to Telindus Telecom in Luxembourg.

Alcatel-Lucent is new to the security sector. As part of its Shift Plan the company is developing its activities in the cyber-security segment, as it increases its overall specialist focus on IP Networking and Ultra-Broadband Access.

“DDoS has emerged as an incredibly resilient and innovative attack vector. A cloud-based service to handle DDoS attacks is a highly valued service differentiator because many businesses do not have the skill-set or resources to keep up with this rapidly escalating threat on their own.” said Gérard Hoffmann, chairman and managing director of Telindus Luxembourg.

That ‘cloud’ buzzword still abounds and formed the basis of a marriage this week as US multiplay carrier and managed services provider CenturyLink acquired Tier 3, a small infrastructure as a service and platform as a service provider. The double-play will bolster CenturyLink’s growing arsenal of cloud services, which already includes cloud service provider Savvis and Cloud Foundry-based platform as a service AppFog.

The wedding bells were also ringing for optimisation firm Aircom International, which was swept off its feet by assurance, analytics and optimisation specialist Teoco. The acquisition of Aircom adds important new customers and expert staff with an understanding of regional differences to Teoco’s portfolio, as well as giving the company a foothold in new regions.

Looking to gain a foothold in the financial space was Norwegian carrier Telenor, which teamed up with DNB, the country’s largest bank, and identity management specialist Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) to introduce Norway’s first commercial NFC project. Given the sentiment towards NFC these days it may well be the country’s last as well.

Following the success of the Tap2Pay pilot project launched in Oslo in 2011, Telenor is working to expand the scope of the scheme. When the service is launched the users will be able to pay at any payment terminal accepting contactless Visa transactions.

Also in Norway Motorola Solutions (remember them?) has been selected to deliver TETRA (remember that?) digital radio terminals to Norway’s Voluntary Rescue Organisations as well as the Norwegian Fire and Health agencies in the latest tenders from the Norwegian Directorate for Emergency Communication (DNK).

Back to mobile money though and a UK technology company has created a banking app that promises to help customers keep track of their finances at a glance. A glance at the Pebble smartwatch that is.

Designed by crowd-funded start-up company Pebble Technology, the Pebble smartwatch focuses on apps designed for sports and fitness, music and games, and important notifications or reminders as well as seeking a reason for its own existence. Still software firm Intelligent Environments says it is in discussion with several banks about its Interact Smartwatch App, which allows users to view their bank balance and keep track of their finances. At the third stroke your balance will be minus £500.

Samsung’s bank balance is looking a little deflated too. To the tune of $290m, which it has to shell out to Apple for infringement of several of its patents in multiple devices. The verdict was delivered by jury and is less than the $380m Apple was demanding but far more than the $52m Samsung had been hoping for.

Music streaming service Spotify was quids in on the other hand, having reportedly secured around $250m in new financing, valuing the music-streaming company at over $4bn. The round of funding, led by Silicon Valley firm Technology Crossover Ventures, is to help Spotify expand to new markets such as Japan.

In related news, Nullsoft’s Winamp, which the Informer is sure many of you will remember fondly as your first real media player on Windows is shutting up shop on December 20. Oh, the skins you could have…

Until next time, take care

The Informer

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