The UK culture secretary Karen Bradley is in a bind. She knows that most UK Members of Parliament distrust the Murdoch family and don’t want it in total control of Sky, and she also knows that they have previously been cleared of any wrong-doing in the Leveson Enquiry, which her own government chose to ignore anyway. She says she is thinking of referring the acquisition to the Competition Commission and Ofcom. Neither of those have agreed on Sky in the past – especially over issues of dominance. However, since 21st Century Fox already controls Sky, and much of it is in Europe, this is only about the difference between management control and 100% ownership. We cannot see Bradley doing anything except keep her career from being tarnished, and the deal will go through. It is a banana skin rather than a real issue.
This week’s UK government budget had little on the technology front, some funding for 1,000 extra PhD’s; and £270 million ($328 million) for disruptive technologies such as robotics and driverless vehicles and building out a £16 million ($19 million) 5G tech hub. The UK chancellor is being careful as he still has Brexit to fiscally navigate.
Anyone shocked at the revelations that the CIA hacks smart TVs is fundamentally naïve. But we are asked to believe that while the CIA can turn a smart TV into a listening post, the parallel internal bureau, the FBI, could not get into an iPhone and so had to take Apple to court. Well their friends over at the CIA already have the tools to break into “any” smartphone, according to millions of documents revealed through website Wiki Leaks. The latest theory is that a foreign power (let’s blame everything on the Russians) is most likely responsible for the leaks.
Fans of the Chronicles of Riddick, will note that he was the last of the Furians, a bit quicker, tougher and better put together than us mere humans – so it was only a matter of time before that name was used on a chip. Imagination Technology’s new PowerVR Furian GPU architecture is said to give a massive step up in performance; and is targeted at VR/AR and machine intelligence apps. Imagination GPU cores are almost as ubiquitous as ARM cores inside phones these days. The first GPU core variants based on Furian will be out in mid-2017.
US MNO Verizon said this week it would introduce a FiOS prepaid triple play offering TV, Internet and fixed line phone service. We assume that it plans to pick up all those credit-suspect individuals dropped by AT&T and loved by Sprint. The Pre-pay deal includes the equipment necessary to get started, although how Verizon will get back the cost of running the fiber into a home, we have no idea. But then again it needs to accelerate its customer acquisition as it is not planning any further fiber build out. The lowest deal just for internet is $60 a month, and the cheapest triple play is $110, with $60 for internet, $40 for 155 channels of TV, and $10 a month for the phone with $90 for installation, but you can self-install for nothing. How do you do that with fiber, dig the trench yourself?
Dell EMC has cut a deal with French encoder firm Ateme to host the company’s encoding software and future IoT products on its servers and on its storage products, in private clouds. Dell EMC and Intel will offer a joint hardware system for the Ateme software, who says that because these systems are so physically dense it can now lower capex for its customers. This is critical as broadcasters move their workflow to private clouds.
Telefonica has cut a deal to offer its Movistar+ TV service on Spanish high speed trains operated by state owned rail company Renfe, using its existing Nagra supplied software. Actually, this service has been in place since November, but Nagra only just issued a release. The signal uses a specialist LTE network along the tracks to backhaul the WiFi. The service is powered and secured by the Nagra MediaLive platform. The service is called PlayRenfe and offers video, ebooks and music.
It would have been pointless to make Ajit Pai the new FCC chairman and not renew his term on the FCC, which came due in June, and was extended until now. He had a meeting with President Trump just a few days ago, and will now have to be confirmed once again by the senate, which we suspect is a formality. Pai is expects to kill of the Title II legislation which guarantees Net Neutrality in the US, and simplify regulation around the internet and generally make things less competitive in the US market.
We have mentioned the fantastic pace of Reliance Jio, the Indian mobile phone service, passing 100 million customers after under a year of operation, and this week Japan’s Access wanted to claim a tiny bit of that credit, telling us that its Twine software was used for the video portion of the service which has clients among set tops, gateways, smartphones, tablets and PCs, running on Linux, Android, iOS or Windows. It can even add things like DTCP-IP and VidiPath to a system and works with most DRMs.
A snippet from SiriusXM that it has renewed its deal with Nascar to cover most of its races via radio over the next six years, means that John Malone, via Formula 1 and by this deal, has pretty much a monopoly on motor sport in the US, as he now controls SiriusXM.
Skype has said it will close down its WiFi service, by which it gave users cheap access to WiFi hotspots. It is likely that homespots and their ubiquity is making it harder and harder for its new owner, Microsoft, to make a profit on WiFi.
China is expected to continue to dominate the 4K TV market, in 2017 when 42% of all TVs will ship with 4K panels, says IHS Markit. It also said that in 2016 there were 25 million 4K TVs shipped in China. By 2020, that number will almost double to 44 million, the same as Western Europe and North America combined. The researcher said that it is getting hard to buy a large screen TV in China without 4K. Japanese manufacturers are also aggressive on 4K, but many Japanese homes are too small for large 4K screens. Panel makers have now added 8K resolutions to their roadmaps which will accelerate as new Chinese LCD fabs start production.” This will lead to even larger screens and once again China will dominate in 8K shipments, beginning at around 65-inches.
Verizon Digital Media Services has signed a multi-year partnership with Pontis Technologies of Argentina in OTT content delivery services, and Pontis will make the services available to broadcasters and content publishers throughout Latin America. The services will include the Uplynk Video Streaming service and Edgecast Content Delivery Network, which will be integrated into the Pontis CloudTV platform.
Insight TV, a producer of adventure travel and extreme sports viewing in 4K UHD, said it has won a major distribution deal with Vodafone Spain. The service features original programming such as innovative documentaries, accessible reality series and cutting-edge factual infotainment. The Vodafone TV UHD service is currently available to Vodafone One customers via the new TiVo box, with a wider roll-out planned in the next few weeks.
MTV Oy, the largest Finnish TV company, has chosen Norigin Media to build smart TV applications on Samsung and LG Connected TVs. MTV is part of the Bonnier Group and plans a new premium TV streaming service using these Norigin Apps and integrating them into MTV´s existing OTT platform, which already supports the popular Katsomo Apps today. Genres will include kids, sports, TV series and movies.
Orange France says it has a new LTE-based fixed broadband service targeting residential customers, branded as 4G Home. It comes with a new Flybox 4G router, and right now can only be bought where LTE is stronger than its DSL connection. This follows a similar launch by rival Bouygues Telecom, branded the 4G Box. This service can be standalone broadband and comes with a data allowance of 40 GB for €37 a month with no minimum contract. The Flybox 4G router costs €74.90 or is free with a 24-month subscription.
Eutelsat in Europe and the US satellite firm ViaSat have signed a partnership agreement combining Eutelsat’s established European broadband business with ViaSat’s broadband technology know-how and satellite ISP expertise. The idea is to expand Eutelsat’s current wholesale broadband. Eutelsat is contributing its current European broadband business including the KA-SAT satellite to the newly formed entity, owned 51% by Eutelsat. ViaSat has acquired a 49% interest in the business for a consideration of €132.5 million.
US CDN player Limelight Networks said this week it has a deal with MultiTV to use its Orchestrate Platform to bring high-quality online video to within reach of 40 million viewers across India. MultiTV is also using Limelight Cloud Storage Services, to manage large video libraries.
UK broadcaster apologist Thinkbox, a research subsidiary of The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), has reanalyzed its 2016 data, along with data from Rentrak and comscore and concluded there is nothing but good news for broadcasters. It says that linear TV grew in 2016 by 2 minutes on average to four hours 37 minutes a day, and that 75% of all UK viewing was still on TV, not OTT video. Well that’s fine then, we have only lost a quarter of all ad revenues. It says that during 2016 these viewing hours only fell 1.2%, which is, of course, rubbish. Live linear TV is still 60% of TV viewing, it claims. We know of no-one that watches linear TV or adverts. Keep up Thinkbox or rename yourself to “Donotthinkbox.” It says that Netflix and other OTT was just 4% of viewing and that the average person in the UK watched 20 minutes of video advertising a day. And the tooth fairy is as real as Father Christmas.
Charter Communications says that it has begun testing and deploying DOCSIS 3.1 services, said CEO Tom Rutledge, speaking at the Deutsche Bank 2017 Media & Telecom Conference and confirmed that it had just put out its first major RFP. Better raise the guidance on Arris and Cisco then. Comcast has already begun deployment on DOCSIS 3.1.
On the subject of US cable operators, Altice US reported an increase in revenues of 5.1% in Q4, despite no real customer gains across its Optimum and Suddenlink cable operations. Altice reported adding 15,000 broadband lines in Q4 and losing 15,000 video customers. The gains must be price rises for the most part.
A new online survey from Netherlands based content security firm Irdeto says that 70% of Latin American consumers in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico are watching pirated video content. It concludes that the right way to deal with this is to embark on an intensive educational campaign. The survey found that consumers residing in Argentina do not care as much about piracy’s negative impact, with only 43% saying this knowledge would lessen or stop their consumption of pirated video content. Has anyone thought of correlating the tendency to indulge in piracy with how poor the pirates are? Is education a luxury of the rich?
The WiFi First MVNO FreedomPop has come out with its first branded smartphone, a dual-SIM FreedomPop V7, which sells for $72. It is now available in the UK and Spain, and will launch in the US later this year. FreedomPop didn’t disclose the manufacturer but it is a 5 inch screen, Android smartphone.
The EU Court of Justice has concluded that calling a customer service line should not cost more than a normal phone call. The decision came in a case involving German online retailer Comtech which tries to make money out of its customer service lines.
The WiFi Alliance has launched certification for precise location technology using WiFi, which positions a person or object precisely within a building. This is seen as an opportunity because cellular solutions cost a lot more. The WiFi version of the technology uses the Fine Timing Measurement (FTM) protocol, part of the latest release of the IEEE 802.11 standard.
Velconet, an Argentinian Telco, has signed a multi-year agreement with Eutelsat Americas, to provide broadband services across Argentina, Peru, Paraguay and Chile via the Eutelsat 115 West B satellite.
Dish Network in the US which has plentiful spectrum, which it had designated for LTE Advance, is thinking about launching a cheap narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network just to meet the FCC’s buildout requirements for the spectrum it holds. FCC rules says it needs 40% signal coverage in its 700 MHz E-Block licenses or will have to reach a 70% buildout rule by March 2020. Look for its partnering over NB-IoT in the US with an existing operator, although personally we think it may end up losing the spectrum.