a week in wireless

Forget me not

The Informer this week found himself having several conversations about mobile dating app Tinder, a kind of local-lonely-hearts that has claimed something of a reputation for facilitating casual trysts lasting not much longer than a Vine video. In a world where consumption of everything has become so rapid fire, it stands to reason that relationships would eventually fall in line. Figuratively spun up and spun down after the required time period like so many virtual machines, waiting to fulfil their as-a-service destiny.

Naturally such an environment is a magnet for the undesirables, keen to thrust their oily affections on the unwitting—indeed meeting people from ‘the internet’ is either interesting or terrifying, or both. To navigate this minefield, subscribers are required to bare their souls in a tiny textbox, exhibiting their plumage in a handful of words, hoping to catch the fast moving eye of a potential mate.

So you can imagine the Informer’s surprise when he learned that Vodafone UK had signed a national partnership with Tinder Foundation to build wider confidence in the mobile internet. Surely connecting people with the kings of inappropriate opening gambits is not going to do much for confidence in connectivity?

Ah, but on closer inspection it turns out that the Tinder Foundation is nothing to do with the dating app, it is instead a not-for-profit organisation which supports 5,000 local community partners to be smarter in how they use digital technology.

The partnership will see Vodafone provide Tinder Foundation with a range of practical and solutions to promote the benefits of using mobile devices and how to use them to access the internet.

According to Voda, a staggering 6.7 million people across the UK or 13.8 per cent of the population have never used the internet and approximately two-thirds of non-users said that lack of a computer or lack of skills were the main reasons.

That’s a significant chunk of people not oversharing every detail of their life. People put a lot of very personal stuff out there and once it’s on the internet it’s very difficult to remove it. So that’s why this week’s landmark European Court of Justice ruling on the right to be forgotten is such a big deal.

It’s reported that Google has received takedown requests to remove “irrelevant and outdated” search results including an ex-politician asking to have links to an article about his behaviour in office removed; a man convicted of possessing child abuse images requesting links to articles about his conviction be removed; and a doctor seeking to have negative reviews from patients removed.

While some, like EU Commissioner Viviane Reding, are championing the ruling as “a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans” there are plenty more who think the decision sets a dangerous precedent and gives search engines an insurmountable task in catering to these requests.

UK retailer Carphone Warehouse has had some success on the dating scene of late, agreeing this week to shack up with electronics giant Dixons and make a push into the high street when many shops are closing down.

The two companies expect to achieve integrated mobile retailing and procurement synergies, together with cost savings of at least £80m on a recurring basis from the financial year 2017/18. The benefits are expected to be delivered progressively, with the firms achieving almost half of them in financial year 2015/16.

According to Kester Mann, principal analyst for operators at CCS Insight, the merger between a consumer electronics retail giant and one of the UK high street’s leading mobile distributors is a logical and forward-thinking move for both companies.

Still in the exploratory stages, French telco Orange has reportedly been seen going for a drink and chat with Bouygues, with a view to a tie up between the two. No doubt the smaller player is looking for a shoulder to cry on after having its amorous advances dismissed by local rival SFR. Some commentators believe however that Bouygues is actually showing affection to Orange in a bid to make Illiad jealous and perhaps prompt the disruptive player to put in an offer of its own.

But the plot may get more complicated than a chapter of Game of Thrones, as Carphone Warehouse revealed that it is in discussions to sell Omer Telecom, the holding company which owns Virgin Mobile France, to French cable player Numericable. In April this year Numericable’s parent Altice struck a deal to acquire SFR, which it intends to merge with Numericable.

The value of the deal is €325m according to Carphone Warehouse, which owns 46 per cent of Omer Telecom. The remainder is held by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. Virgin Mobile France currently operates on the Orange network but, if this deal is successful, it would likely strike a host deal with SFR.

While a relatively small transaction compared with the €13.5bn that Altice is paying Vivendi for SFR—Vivendi will also receive a 20 per cent stake in the merged company should the deal be approved—the Virgin Mobile deal increases the pressure on third placed French operator Bouygues, which had mounted its own bid for SFR.

Still with us?

Over in the US, Deutsche Telekom is taking things a bit more seriously, trying to get Sprint to sign a pre-nup to the tune of $1bn as a break-up fee for any failed attempt to take over its US operation T-Mobile. The payment, from Sprint to Deutsche Telekom, would be required should an agreed deal be derailed; perhaps blocked by regulatory or competition authorities.These deals are fast becoming a business model for T-Mobile USA, which trousered $3bn when AT&T was blocked from buying it.

On the subject of apps that get people chatting, Facebook-owned mobile messaging service WhatsApp has struck its fourth carrier deal in India, extending its services further into the territory through a contract with Bharti Airtel. The carrier this week introduced mobile data packages tailored to WhatsApp usage, allowing both 2G and 3G users to buy 200MB of application specific data by texting a shortcode to the operator.

WhatsApp has similar existing deals in place with Reliance Communications, Tata Docomo and Uninor and claims some 50 million users in India. In April WhatApp announced that half a billion people around the world are now regular, active users.

Subsidised application access is a key driver for OTT services in India. Last year Twitter moved in with a similar deal and struck a contract with Reliance Communications to effectively subsidise data access for a limited period of time.

But with all these apps, why don’t we talk anymore? Well given the rash of VoLTE focused news this week you could easily think voice is about due for a big return.

US operator AT&T has is to launch Voice over LTE services on May 23rd, simultaneously introducing HD Voice services. The initial market will be limited, however. HD Voice will only be available to customers who have a Samsung S4 mini and are making or receiving calls in a limited footprint comprising “select areas” in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. AT&T said more devices and an expanded coverage area would follow in due course.

Japan’s NTT DoCoMo has also revealed plans to launch VoLTE following a network software update scheduled for late June or early July this year. Meanwhile in Russia, operator MTS and Nokia have announced the completion of what Nokia said was the first VoLTE call to be carried on virtualized telco cloud infrastructure. The test was carried out in MTS’ live network, using a Nokia-supplied suite of virtualized core network elements, including IMS, Telephony Application Server (TAS) and Home Subscriber Server (HSS), running in MTS’ private cloud. These were controlled by Nokia’s Cloud Application Manager.

There was a bit of wholesale news about too as Belgacom-owned interconnect specialist BICS switched on HD voice and VoLTE to end users. Following the establishment of an extensive LTE data roaming community worldwide using the IPX platform’s IP-based next-generation services, BICS claims the infrastructure is now in place for the rollout of an international VoLTE community.

Meanwhile, IP interconnect provider XConnect and Malaysian and Indonesian ICT specialist Extol launched the Asian Interconnect Exchange (AIX), giving local service providers access to an IP hub where they can exchange IP traffic and services.

The combined population of Malaysia and Indonesia is nearly 300 million, according to the CIA Fact Book, and the aim of the AIX is to make adopting IP services like VoIP easy for local and regional operators in order to drive growth in IP services in Southeast Asia.

Amsterdam-headquartered operator Vimpelcom, is only dreaming of growth in services at the moment, reporting a 90 per cent year-on-year dive in net profit for the first quarter of 2014. Revenue was down ten per cent to $5.02bn, while profit for the quarter sat at $39m, down from $408m for the first quarter of 2013.

The company, which has operations in Russia, the CIS as well as Algeria, Bangladesh, Italy and Pakistan, said that its revenue decline stemmed from a drop in operational performance in Russia, a price war in Italy that was particularly intense during summer 2013, regulatory and government activity in African and Asian markets and unstable macroeconomic situations in Pakistan and Ukraine.

That operational performance fed through to the bottom line, Vimpelcom said, and the firm also recorded foreign exchange losses of $92m. Ouch.

If VimpelCom has trouble keeping the lights on it might want to speak to Ericsson, which won a contract from Brazilian operator Vivo that will see the vendor manage the deployment of smart parking and lighting solutions as part of Vivo’s digital city project in São Paolo. Ericsson will partner with specialist providers as the project’s lead systems integrator and will assume responsibility for design, installation and deployment as well as post-deployment managed services, operations and maintenance.

The new lighting system will monitor the power consumption of each street light and switch them on and off accordingly. Remote monitoring will also enable cost efficiencies for the municipal authorities. Meanwhile the parking solution will monitor available parking spaces in the city.

Until next time, take care,

The Informer

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