Friday, April 28, 2006

Foot stamping in Almere

Over in the wild, wild Netherlands, Trouw is once again on the tail of UPC. It seems that the city council of the rapidly growing Almere is attempting to get all local utilities, KPN and UPC to agree a coordinated plan for trenches and ducts in areas of new construction. All involved seem to be playing along nicely, though it would appear that UPC walks away from any proposal which would leave additional space for future network deployments. Presumably this is directed at Almere's muni-fiber aspirations. Separately, I am also hearing vague tales of a mounting political backlash against muni-fiber in the country. Maybe Europe gets to have a passionate battle for access neutrality now?

Fixed-mobile crime substitution

This chart from the German Federal Network Agency shows stats on lawful intercept - fixed line flat, mobile way, way up.

I'll whoop your head, mate

No, it's not a new (and highly derivative) English gangsta rapper's debut album. It's some very expensive-looking direct mail marketing stuff from Wanadoo UK, pointing out that broadband costs 50p per day. Don't quite know why they've done this ahead of a rebranding campaign, but wot'evah.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Escapism does not mean escaping advertising

Back at the FTTH event in Vienna early this year, I cited a statistic from last year compiled by Nielsen, which suggested that the amount of time spent by American male teens in playing video games during prime time would make gaming equivalent to the number six rated program in prime time. The WSJ is reporting today (no link to the original article as it would merely prompt you to subscribe) that Microsoft is to acquire Massive Incorporated, apparently to dynamically serve up contextual advertising in XBox game titles. I wonder if we will see something similar take shape around persistent virtual communities - i.e., a micro-revenue advertising model built around what branding I am willing to display on my avatar?

Getting noticed

There's no such thing as bad publicity.

Supersize my recherche

Readers of EuroTelcoblog will be familiar with the theme of the growing politicization of broadband and technology more generally. Having become the envy of Europe for its broadband pricing, France is turning up the heat on innovation, as President Chirac unveils six strategic initiatives to receive EUR236m in state funding:

Intelligent Homes
Next-gen Metro
Quaero search engine, the most heavily funded of all
TVMSL, another mobile TV standard
Hybrid autos

Slice and dice UK

For all the data hogs out there, OFCOM has produced yet another fine survey of the UK telecom/media landscape, breaking out availability and uptake by region and nation. Interesting stuff here. Wales has lower mobile penetration, but a higher level of mobile-only homes, at 14% versus 8% for the UK as a whole.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Seven pillars of IMS self-knowledge

My man Martin Geddes, who long ago achieved "five-nines" for lucidity and eloquence, has done a guest post on IMS Insider which is as clear and compelling as any I have ever read. Would love to have been a fly on the wall at that event.

Auntie 2.0

It's not just the old men of broadcasting who are racing to embrace Web 2.0 - today the grand old lady of British Broadcasting also showed what she can do: on-demand, user generated content, personalization, you want it, we got it. The soundbite from Mark Thompson on the Radio 4 news bulletin was along the lines of "We often get accused of moving too fast, but the real danger is in being more conservative than your audience." Excellent sentiment, and one which others should take to heart. I guess that for those who have been following the BBC's efforts at reinvention or been fortunate to come across some of the very enlightened people doing interesting work there, none of this should come as particularly surprising. Once a standard-setter, always a standard-setter?

More disruptive video dilemmas

Back in the good-'ol-bad-'ol days you had plenty of time to spend on that bathroom break during commercials, which lasted an enternity. Now you've got to be damned fast, or if you're delayed for some reason, at least you can get some blog-reading done and check out viewing options while otherwise engaged. World of wonders.

Happy birthday .nl!

The Mother of all Palladium Class mega-uber value readers in the Netherlands writes in to say that today is the 20th anniversary of the first registration of a .nl domain name, by the Dutch godfather of the internet, Piet Beertema.

Animus and anima

I'm disappointed that BT is doing away with the Tom Baker as Dr. Who text-to-voice service. As an example of incongruity, it was priceless, a short-lived "killer app" for the fixed line world. Now we move on to a genderized text-to-voice world, which in itself is an interesting idea. I am a bit taken aback, however, at the results of the survey on impressions of voices, i.e., are men's voices only really compelling in conveying humor, aggression, air safety and sports action? Sad. Where I think this could be really cool, and the sort of thing people might willingly pay up for, is if you could select the person whose voice you would like to assume, tailored to the message you want to convey. I bet James Earl Jones or Patrick Stewart would be up for it. Homer Simpson would rule.

Group blog for 60m people

Just got a press release about this site, Ponder Fodder, or "PoFo," which seeks to promote "brainporn." I've signed up and appear to be user number 18, which is somewhat surprising to me. The press release states hamfistedly that "PoFo" sees an addressable market of 60m Americans who describe themselves as "intellectually curious," though there are undoubtedly others in the world who are both intellectually curious and not American. Anyway, I guess we can overlook a little unconscious jingoism in favor of what this might turn into. Is it an unlimited group blog, is it a Wiki, who exactly moderates it and on what criteria? All unanswered questions. I like the thematic, user-defined calendar idea.

Get out of my walled garden

More uncomfortable news for carriers trying to grasp the nettle of Mobile Web 2.0, as Nokia and Flickr! team up on a range of N series handsets. Yes, it's data revenue for the carrier, but the user will inevitably associate the functionality with the Nokia and Yahoo! brands, rather than some carrier portal.

UK Mobile 16.0

No valuation available until everyone pays up, but here are the winners of the single round, sealed bid auction last week. Besides the usual suspects and newcomers, I note with particular interest the presence of O2 and Opal (Carphone Warehouse) in the winners' circle. Also see Dean Bubley's insightful run-down from a few weeks back, in which he highlights apparent connections between Pipex and Cyberpress, another of today's winners.

UPDATE: Dean now has a predictably worthwhile followup
here. I agree with him right down the line. BT's oft-cited research states that 30% of all outgoing cellular calls in the UK are made within the home, and I think a cursory analysis of time use would suggest that another 30% may be made in "nomadic" situations, such as at work or on the university campus. Will we see a university, for example, teaming up with an aggressive mobile player to deliver a lower-cost calling plan for students while on campus?

That's just one of the things I envisage happening in the consumer space, and Dean's right when he says that businesses will find this empowering. Here at Daiwa, our corporate mobile account provider is Vodafone, and there are a number of pico-cells throughout the building. I frequently see guys from IT down in the basement, going into the server room, fielding calls from colleagues two floors up, and I try not to think about what we might be paying for that convenience. Assuming it's too much, then I guess Telefonica/O2 salesmen may be knocking on the door sometime soon. Our IT department has shown no inclination yet to set up WiFi APs, but a "devil-you-know" solution using friendly old GSM might be just the sort of thing they can get excited about.

The more the merrier

My long-standing mega-uber value reader, virtual friend, and crypto-contributor Keith has started a blog of his own and has come out swinging. Given the quality of the exchanges we have had offline, I think we can count on him to produce some very interesting stuff.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Pennies from heaven

This one came as something of a surprise - in releasing an update on its pension deficit, BT drops the Crown Guarantee into the mix of issues being discussed. This guarantee was extended to BT in 1984 to secure the pensions of those employees who joined the company prior to privatization. Though not made clear in the release, the company is saying elsewhere in the press that it believes the Guarantee covers 3/4 of its pension liabilities (estimated at GBP2.5bn), which have been perceived as something of a deal-breaker for a potential take-out of the company. What's really curious is that the Crown Guarantee is mentioned nowhere in BT's 20-F, and according to a pensions expert I heard being interviewed on Radio 4 this morning, it doesn't appear in DTI's accounts either.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Alan Lomax, where are you now we need you 2.0?

If Google really wanted to make a significant contribution to humanity, here is a chance - the UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage. Become the index for documenting human language, customs, music, etc., in cultures where this is under threat. May I propose


Following just one day after Jeff Pulver's viral campaign began, I have received an email from FreePress, announcing the beginning of their grassroots campaign site. I think Washington DC is in for some unseasonably hot weather in May...

Vodafone 2.0

A Titanium Class mega-uber value reader (who is threatening to start a blog of his own) points to two tidbits which may give some indication of what we might expect in the "strategic vision" section at Vodafone's annual results presentation on 30th May. Mobile payment has been an industry Holy Grail since the days of Sonera and the now-legendary SMS-controlled vending machine, and has been plagued by conflicting alliances and proprietary technologies, but we have a compelling success story in the making in Japan, and this is an area where Vodafone's scale and corporate mindshare actually count for something significant. Could European banks hope for a mobile partner with better coverage? On the Web 2.0 front, I find the company's interest unsurprising, but also intriguing. Vodafone must surely look at the deal between Helio and MySpace in the US (using the Cyworld platform, incidentally) with some envy. With over 18m active Vodafone Live! devices in the four core European markets at the end of December, Vodafone would arguably be the most attractive and technically best platform should Mr. Murdoch decide that EuroMobMySpace is next on the list of deals. This could get very interesting.

UPDATE: The wireless payment angle has
many permutations.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Purple journalism

In the cross-sectoral battle being waged, players with entrenched interests must adopt the weapons of their enemies to survive. A mega-uber value reader in the Netherlands alerts me to what may be an all-time Disruption Awards candidate for honorable mention. Multi-newspaper group PCM (51% owned by Apax Partners) is reportedly planning to begin selling Philips PVRs in the Dutch market (apparently for a subsidized price of between EUR200 - 300 each), in an attempt to weaken the appeal to advertisers of television spots. Diabolically ingenious, except that I think conventional wisdom would now say that the real battle is between broadcast and the internet (duh), and I am curious as to why they want to subsidize a strategy focusing on the dwindling revenue stream. Perhaps their resources would be better spent on driving readers to some sexy video ad content within their internet properties?

UK Home Office computer system to crash in late May

Well, that's what could happen, I guess, if the No2ID campaign has its way. They are urging all those opposed to the ID card scheme to renew their passports in May as a sign of protest and also to ensure that as many people as possible get immunity from compulsory ID cards for a 10-year period. Oh dear.

Winging it

You've got to love this whole decentralized media thing. An apparently disgruntled viewer of The West Wing has started a blog to protest the series' cancellation, and even succeeded in getting a press release out. Strange that there is no user profile on the site, and the author's spelling improves dramatically after the first post. I wonder if this is a cast member, or a group of people somehow associated with the show? Fascinating times. I wonder when we will see an anonymous "My Bonus was Crap" protest blog coming out of the investment banking world. Maybe sooner rather than later.

HD = Heavy Disruption

From what I can make of it, this new HD set-top box offer from the ever-terrifying Free brings together a couple of my favorite disruptive elements: dual-mode GSM/WiFi wireless service (which looks like it will authenticate on any Free HD box, thus validating the FON model) and inclusion of 18 DTT channels. All for only EUR9.99 a month above the normal EUR29.99 for DSL, SD TV, and inclusive calls (including of course nomadic ones on the WiFi service). As with everything else Free has ever done previously, we will see iterations of this cropping up in other markets.

UPDATE: Many Francophone Prix D'Or mega-uber value readers have written in to clarify a few points. First, the EUR9.99 figure is a one-off payment, not monthly, with an approximately EUR200 handset cost borne by the subscriber (hey I studied Spanish in high school, okay?). One also points out that Freebox users will also be allowed to make calls to the PSTN on any internet-connected computer in the world using any SIP-compatible IM client, with calls billed to the Freebox account (I find this very curious). It also appears that the HD box contains a video encoder, for which no purpose is stated in the release.

Guerrillas in the mist

If you're feeling up to the challenge of masterminding a global viral marketing campaign to raise awareness of Net Neutrality issues, step on into Mr. Pulver's office and make your pitch. I personally like "Whose Net is it Anyway?" - feel free to use it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Helpful hints, No. 1

If you're as tired as I am of receiving messages from poor Mrs. Abacha and the Interior Minister of Benin, the next time you receive one, look for the spammer's actual email address (usually found at the bottom of the message), and then ping them back anonymously using the amazing Anonymouse email service. Also good for a number of other tasks, both noble and nefarious.

2 + 2 = 7

I think I surprised a few clients at the beginning of the year, when I doubled the RBOC exposure in my model portfolio. As I made clear at the time (as if I needed to given my usual outspokenness), this was not out of a sense of personal admiration, but rather a cynical way to exploit anxieties over net neutrality issues and some obvious shortcomings in the state of regulation Stateside. After all, there a lot of non-smoking, pacifist, environmentally conscious fund managers out there who own tobacco, arms and chemical companies. Now the naughty Europeans have gone and added fuel to my argument by shaming Uncle Sam with their dramatic broadband growth, and causing a lot of soul-searching as to the costs to America of broadband laggardship. Having effectively killed off facilities-based competition in the US, creating regional cable/RBOC duopolies, what would we expect the American broadband call to arms to look like? Maintaining my cynical stance, I couldn't imagine a better template than this policy piece, whose conclusions are are eerily close to the RBOC agenda (tax and regulatory relief on broadband investment, streamlined franchise processes), and very far from the mix which made Europe the somewhat debatable success story it is today.

Other stuff

EuroTelcorama No. 6: How do you want to watch? Sky and the future(s) of television

Long note released February 2005. The company disagreed vehemently with my assessment that it needed broadband access as part of its offering, waited a few months, and then went and bought Easynet. I am proud of this one, despite its somewhat odd and disjointed structure.

EuroTelcorama No. 5: Fragmentation is the name of the game

Daiwa Global Telecom Monthly, July 2004

Here I made a somewhat controversial case for why sell-side research would inevitably be marginalized.

Daiwa Global Telecom Monthly, September 2004

To my knowledge this is the first broker note published on Skype and its implications, only a few days after it launched.

Eurowireline 2003: It's a marathon, not a sprint


Train journey from Stockholm Arlanda to Stockholm Central Station (torrent, MP4) - shot with Orange SPV C 550 from Arlanda Express 15 May 2006

Behind the Scenes in Blogland (torrent, AVI) -
Blogging isn't all fun and games and glamor - there's a lot of physically taxing work involved


Here are links to presentations I've given, updated as I remember to do it.

VON London 2004 (torrent)
VON Europe 2005 (torrent)
Carriers World 2005 (torrent)
Amsterdam 2005 (pdf)
Amsterdam 2005 (mp3)
FTTH Council Europe 2006
Spring VON 2006 (torrent)
VON Europe May 2006 (torrent)
Telco 2.0 - "10 Things I Hate About You" October 2006
Telco 2.0 - Broadband Access Workstream presentation October 2006
VON Europe November 2006
MIT Cambridge Institute Net Neutrality event December 2006
Telecom Finance panel on emerging/disruptive technologies January 2007
FTTH Council Europe 2007

Welcome to Chaotica

Greetings. Some of you may know me from EuroTelcoblog, which somewhat to my surprise, has attracted a respectable readership over the past two years. It's my aim that this blog starts in parallel with its forerunner, but may replace it entirely over time. Here are a few reasons why this might be.

Recently I've increasingly found myself writing about topics which, while touching on European telecom, don't necessarily involve Europe or telecom directly, as such. It is also the case that my professional coverage universe looks likely to expand beyond Europe in near future, and I am determined that this will also involve more than just pure telecoms. For these two reasons alone, a blog with "Euro," "Telco," or any other limiting element to the title is simply too narrow for the future, and doesn't reflect the true shape of things.

What do I mean by "the true shape of things"? As watchers of the industry are probably all-too-keenly aware, the competitive landscape grows more complex with each passing day. Device and hardware players are insinuating themselves more deeply into consumer consciousness and behaviors, sometimes testing the boundaries of supplier/customer relationships with their telco "partners". Media and internet players doing voice is already a commonplace thing. Broadcasters are getting into broadband access. Telcos are trying to do video. Old media is rushing to find the Web 2.0 Holy Grail (arguably NewsCorp's acquisition of MySpace makes it much better exposed to this trend than many hipper internet names). Decentralized, user-generated media development continues to grow explosively and unpredictably, frustrating big media and advertisers. Mass gaming incorporates communication and social aspects more commonly, and social community platforms are incorporating virtually all forms of communications and publishing technologies. P2P continues to run circles around "legitimate" content services. I could go on, and on...

Stated plainly, everyone is in competition with everyone else to chase economic returns from a consumer phenomenon which knows no traditional industry or national boundaries, and which is constantly evolving in ways which defy explanation or prediction. The outcome of this process will see huge market displacements, value transfers, and entirely new markets and networks taking shape. Most importantly, the outcome will always be something far from previous predictions and expectations, because it always has been. The world is in motion. Welcome to Chaotica.