Umbrellapps : iPhone but you can't VoIP

James W. Cicconi wrote a letter to Ruth Milkman on August 21, 2009, received on the same day (confirmation # 2009821776906).

In "
AT&T Response to Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Letter, DA 09-1737 (July 31, 2009); RM-11361; RM-11497", Senior Executive Vice President, External and Legislative Affairs, AT&T notified Chief Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Federal Communications Commission a few things:

- We read in the paper that Google Voice application to the Apple App Store had been rejected. AT&T was not consulted by Apple in the decision process.

- BTW : what is "Google Voice" anyway ? What lies behind that strange "umbrellapp" ? We had a quick look at their website and "'Google Voice' appears to be an umbrella term used to describe a collection of different services". Interesting, isn't it ? "AT&T expects that Google will provide a complete description of Google Voice in response to the letter it received from the Commission and we look forward to learning more about Google Voice based on that response".

- Maybe it has something to do with that other "Google Voice application specifically for BlackBerry devices, which AT&T customers may download from the Google Voice website. AT&T does not disable access to or use of this application". Who knows ? Anyway, any AT&T customer may use Google Voice on his or her iPhone without passing by that store, via web browsing. So maybe AT&T did some research on this weird app after all.

- AT&T and Apple do discuss about App services, including with third parties, to fix technical issues. And AT&T does have its say sometimes : "AT&T has discovered applications in the Apple App Store (after they had been approved by Apple) that raised concerns about the potential misuse of certain AT&T services or customer information. AT&T alerted Apple to our concerns and, in two cases, Apple referred AT&T directly to the application providers to discuss whether the concerns could be resolved. In the third case, AT&T understands that Apple addressed the matter with the application provider".

- and oh. "AT&T and Apple have an agreement regarding Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) functionality. Apple also is aware that AT&T’s wireless data terms and conditions prohibit subscribers from redirecting television signals." So we put on the same level VoIP and TV broadcasting. Maybe AT&T doesn't want VoIP because DRM issues are not solved yet for private conversations. Go figure...

- come to think of it, Amazon made a similar trade-off with its Kindle : no voice, but no monthly charge for connectivity. So not adding calling feature to an ebook reader would be equivalent to preventing a smartphone from making smart calls.

Here I want to mark a pause and applaud the poet(s) who wrote this beautiful sentence : "It is widely recognized by economists and jurists that parties to strategic alliances in competitive markets may enter into contracts to promote and protect their respective business interests and to refrain from taking actions adverse to those interests."

You liked it too ? There's a bit more of it until the next comma : "Consistent with such lawful, economically efficient practices common among parties to strategic alliances, including participants in the mobile wireless marketplace,". Now AT&T can deliver the news : "AT&T and Apple agreed that Apple would not take affirmative steps to enable an iPhone to use AT&T’s wireless service (including 2G, 3G and Wi-Fi) to make VoIP calls without first obtaining AT&T’s consent. AT&T and Apple also agreed, however, that if a third party enables an iPhone to make VoIP calls using AT&T’s wireless service, Apple would have no obligation to take action against that third party."

So basically AT&T and Apple agreed on a block of all VoIP applications on iPhones, except via exotic Wi-Fi access.

VoIPoiPhone ? Not OK

VoIPoWiFi ? OK, even on iPhone

VoIPoiCantSeeHowRightNowButSomewhereaGeekMayFindAWay ? Try me, but don't sue me.


Nokia Maemo 5 - Nokia RX-51

Paparazzi keep spamming the media with quasi official pictures of Carla-Nicolas romantic summer, or sneak peeks of Sylvio with Noemi, Patrizia, Maria, Claudia, Anna, Loretta, Rosetta, Carla (another one), Alessandra, Donatella, Paola...

Geeks prefered to browse* snapshots of Nokia RX-51, a.k.a. Nokia Maemo 5, a slim linux-based tablet that can take photos and probably call.

The Maemo community (
maemo.org) claims 16,000 registered members and 700 projects. A far cry from Symbian, but Nokia is first of all into manufacturing phones that sell, and they are also working with Intel on oFono (ofono.org - open source telephony).

* ie on engadget : "
Nokia RX-51 tablet captured in the wild"


Star fees and Hutch

Hutchison Whampoa is selling its 51% participation in Partner Communications (to Scailex), which seems to make sense as far as geography and marketing are concerned :

- the Israeli operation carried the Orange brand

- the group operates in Europe and Asia-Pacific :
. via "3" : Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, UK, and Australia (the new 50/50 Vodafone Hutchison Australia JV runs both Vodafone and "3" brands),
. via Hutchison Telecom International Limited / HTIL : Indonesia as "3", Sri Lanka and Thailand as "Hutch", and Vietnam as Vietnamobile
. via HTIL's spin off Hutchison HK Holdings / HTHKH : Hong-Kong & Macau as "3".

"Hutch" as a brand has been dead ever since the group sold its participation in India (see "
3GSM 2007 - A brave new World ? A new and improved Vodafone ?/em>"). Lately, Sri Lanka and Thailand operations have been struggling in most unstable contexts. HWL shall either try to dump them or to switch to "3", as the hybrid logo in Thailand seem to tell. Without India (now Vodafone Essar), Sri Lanka has a relatively limited potential : 20 million inhabitants vs 63 for Thailand, 86 for Vietnam, and of course 237 for Indonesia.

Switching from CDMA to GSM in Vietnam costs a lot. Rolling out networks in emerging countries costs a lot. Competing in the handset arena, even with smart solutions*, costs a lot. Running operations in highly competitive, saturated markets in Europe as well as Hong Kong, costs a lot. And this conglomerate is not as ripe with cash as it used to be.

Rumor has it more dividends could be shed. Such a counterproductive heresy should be counterbalanced with counterproductive promises of productivity increases. Depending on a financial holding can be such a drag.

* Facebook, Skype, and now Twitter shortcuts : after the INQ1, the group announced the INQ Mini 3G, along with a INQ Chat 3G with a full keyboard


IPTV in Korea, an update

Korea Communications Commission (KCC) is now one year old, and IPTV eventually gaining ground.

Korea's 3 IP operators totalled 595,000 IPTV subs at the end of July 2009. They're still dwarfed by cablecos (ie CJ Hello Vision boasts about 800,000 cable TV subs, C&M 700,000), but they gained 26% in one month and 58% over the past two months. And cablecos are feeling the heat as IP players plan to extend the technological wars into new territories.

As we saw earlier*, Korea's 3 IPTV players are also Korea's 3 MNOs. They cannot market VoIP as aggressively as they'd like to, nor propose as wide a choice of TV channels as cablecos, but they keep extending their TV offers, and their triple play offers are claiming new converts.

With 22% of the IPTV market, SK Broadband (SK Telecom) is still lagging behind Qook (KT/KTF, 46%) and LG Dacom (LG Telecom, 32% MS), but it led the small pack with a 35% market share for July and at such a pace, positions could very much change dramatically before the end of the year.

KT intends to remain confortably at the top, and will put more pressure on its competitors by pushing voice over WiBro.

Stuck with cdma2000 for 3G, LG Telecom is speeding up the preparation of LTE (announced for 2013), with the help of its cousin LG Electronics, who will provide NTT DoCoMo with "4G" chips as early as next year for the first LTE devices. LG Telecom can also count on Qualcomm to quicken the transition from cdma2000 to LTE.

In partnership with the National Information Society Agency (NIA), KCC recently announced "Giga Internet" service trials for 2,000 households by the end of 2012. The idea is to lift Korea Inc from the 100M "standard" to 1 Giga all the way across the value chain, with new networks, new devices, and new IPTV services (3D, multi-angle, HD Home CCTV, TV multimedia messenger...). One consortium will be led by KT (the leading "telco") and the other by CJ Hello Vision (the leading "cableco").

Concentration seems bound to accelerate. Most Korea Cable Television and Telecommunications Association (KCTA) operators are not fitted for this kind of race, and some players may be up for grabs for powerful new entrants : controversial new media laws allow press groups and conglomerates to invest in broadcasting, and not all of them may be satisfied with a partner's seat.

mot-bile 2009

* see "
One stop selling", "IPTV wars and WiBro truce", "IPTV in Korea"

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