It’s with a heavy heart that The Informer puts hand to keyboard today, following the ignominious exit of the English football team from the World Cup in Brazil. As ever, following the national football team has been an emotional rollercoaster, exacerbated by violently shifting expectations in the build-up to the tournament.
European mobile operators are big boys and can look after themselves, but sometimes the Informer can’t help feeling for them as they strive to fend off attacks from Silicon Valley OTT giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook, while being constantly hamstrung by their own side.
You can tell a lot about people’s enthusiasms by the language they use; the greater the enthusiasm the more conventional adjectives prove insufficient to truly do the subject matter justice. Wine connoisseurs, for example, refer to obscure fruits, nuts, minerals or even abstract concepts in order to fully convey the majesty of some grapes that have been left lying around for a year or so.
Transformation. It’s such a positive word, isn’t it; one that conjures images of butterflies emerging from the crysalis, of landscapes freshly draped in virgin snow. Or, more prosaically, of the kind of massive weight loss that drives people to pose for photographs standing inside a pair of parachute-sized trousers, holding the waistband out with their thumb and beaming the beam of the newly and evangelically slender.
Telecoms is an industry so fast-moving that even reflecting back on how things were a decade ago evokes sepia-tinged images of people from the past walking unnervingly fast to the soundtrack of frantic piano. “I remember when the point of mobile phones was to make phone calls,” sneer parents everywhere to their digitally native children.
“Get rich or die tryin’,” is the motto coined by rapper Curtis “50 (“fiddy”) Cent” Jackson and subsequently linked to rap culture worldwide. This week another famous rapper and producer, Dr Dre, became the richest of the rich – to the tune of $3bn – and is still very much alive.
There is a stereoptypical portait of the London taxi driver as a bubbling cauldron of anger and resentment, white-knuckled hands clenching the steering wheel, scowl alternating between the road in front of him and the passenger in the rear view—a passenger now cast as an audience of one to a spittle-lipped tirade about how UKIP’s immigration policy is too liberal. Many cab drivers would take issue with such a narrow-minded portrait, which is ironic, as nobody loves a bigoted stereoptype like a London cabbie.
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 no 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 under the hammer of transience. Figuratively spun up and spun down after the required time period like so many virtual machines, waiting to fulfil their as-a-service destiny.
Poor old Mobistar. The Belgian operator was probably bristling with pride this week after becoming the first in its market to complete a test of LTE Advanced technology. In partnership with Huawei it aggregated 1800MHz and 800MHz spectrum to drive throughput of more than 200Mbps. The firm’s chief network officer heralded “the future of high-speed mobile” upon the trial’s completion.
As the Informer was routinely deleting his morning email today he overheard one of his colleagues exclaim that they had just downloaded “a really great album of Crowded House covers.” Now the Informer is not normally one to judge but that’s a sentence he never expected to hear. The only real exposure the Informer has had to the Aussie chart toppers is those two songs that everybody knows and that was only because an ex-housemate, who had the worst music taste in the world, had a big crush on them.
The Informer once spent a month in Costa Rica. What a beautiful place it is; spectacular jungles, intricate river networks, active volcanoes, perfect, deserted beaches. Admittedly the presence of MASSIVE spiders everywhere made for a holiday that wasn’t unequivocally relaxing. More than once the sights and sounds of the Informer high-stepping at full tilt like an NFL wide receiver, while shrieking like a B-movie scream-queen, disturbed the tranquility of the forest.
The Informer has often thought that it would be fun to work in France. He is full of admiration for the two-hour lunch; the 35 hour working week and the Gallic shrug. Well the country has gone one better this week, bringing in rules to protect employees from being disturbed by work email when outside of office hours.
Social media darling Facebook this week had an eye on the future as it announced the acquisition of virtual reality technology provider Oculus for a hefty $2bn. CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained that the decision to acquire Oculus was made to place the firm in a commanding position for the future, as it expects immersive virtual [...]
It’s a funny old world, isn’t it. One minute you’re riding high as the Best Network in the UK and the next you’re sending sheepish text messages to your customers, apologising for a 13-hour service outage. That’s been the story this week for UK operator EE, whose network fell over on Wednesday evening, less than a week after it issued a press release proclaiming its status as the number one mobile network in the market.
Of the three mobile operators that had been operational in Uzbekistan over the past few years, one has now had its spectrum licence revoked and the other two are facing criminal investigations. On Wednesday, European operator group VimpelCom announced that it had received a letter from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) informing the operator that is conducting an investigation into the NASDAQ-listed group. Its headquarters in Amsterdam were also visited by Dutch authorities, including the Dutch public prosecutor office, who told VimpelCom it is the subject of a criminal investigation. The operator said that the investigations appear to be focused on its business in Uzbekistan.
A reclusive, 64 year old Japanese man was chased from his California home this week by rabid reporters, after a Newsweek article outed him as the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of the Bitcoin protocol. The chase ended at a nearby sushi restaurant, where Nakamoto denied having anything to do with Bitcoin and just “wanted his free lunch”.
For all the industry’s current focus on virtualization there are some things, it would seem, that you still have to do in the realms of the physical world. One of these, according to more than 85,000 industry folk, at least, is Mobile World Congress. This was the attendance figure published by GSMA at the end of the show and it’s an awful lot of bodies.
On Monday, Mark Zuckerberg will stand in front of the operator community that has fought to stem the negative impact of OTT messaging services on their revenue. And he will deliver a keynote just hours after whacking a staggering $16bn (rising to $19bn) on the table for one of the world’s most popular OTT messaging services, WhatsApp. The Informer would not be surprised if his keynote was a simple: “Take that, suckers.”
That’s what John Lennon said, at least. The Informer’s not sure Lennon is an entirely reliable source, however. After all, this was a millionaire who entreated us all to imagine no possessions. And let’s not forget that he also claimed on at least one occasion to be a walrus. The Informer thought of Lennon when he saw the news that Vodafone was attempting, in this most romantic of weeks, to woo Ono; the Spanish cable and TV provider.