Twitter tries to find another way to solve the censorship dilemma

Social media giant Twitter is exploring the creation of an open standard that it hopes will provide the answer to the impossible question of censorship.

As you would expect the announcement was made by Twitter CEO via a tweet in which he announced the creation of a small team to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. In the thread he cites some of the inspiration for the move as coming from an essay entitled ‘Protocols, Not Platforms: A Technological Approach to Free Speech’. The author of that essay has already written an article cautiously welcoming this move.

Right now all social media are siloed platforms providing their own technology and rules. That means they’re also in the impossible position of trying to censor the stuff their users publish in order to please other users as well as advertisers and regulators. Right now they face constant pressure from all three and, of course, can never please all of the people all of the time.

At the core of the dilemma, as the essay implies, is free speech and its opposite: censorship. Determining what speech is good and bad is inherently subjective and an impossible tightrope to walk. We have long argued that any attempt to do so is futile and that the best solution for social media platforms would be to throw themselves at the mercy of regulators, thus absolving themselves of responsibility for censorship decisions.

This move by Twitter seems to be an early investigation into the possibility of an alternative resolution by creating a basic social media protocol, of which it would by just one of the clients, that could serve as the foundation for a number of other platforms. All social traffic would take place over this protocol, but then individual platforms could implement their own unique rules about what content they allowed to be published.

It’s very early days and there are all kinds of reasons why it may never take off, but it seems like a step in the right direction. Right now social media companies are being regulated like platforms but as they increasingly curate the content they host are acting more like publishers. Unless they find a way of resolving this conundrum themselves, state authorities will end up doing it for them,

As if to illustrate the point YouTube has announced yet another update to its harassment policy, including ‘a stronger stance against threats and personal attacks’. This amounts to a ban on ‘veiled or implied threats’, ‘demeaning language that goes too far’ and ‘content that maliciously insults someone based on protected attributes’.

On the surface who could have a problem with action against threatening, demeaning and insulting speech, right? It’s only when you try to establish the precisely when speech crosses any of those lines that you see what a futile, subjective and censorious policy this is. Expect a further update within months after some one claims to be upset about something and then another soon after that. You never know, eventually YouTube might come around to this protocol business.

Study claims Financial Identity as a Service could add $250 billion to global GDP

A report published by Oxford Economics has looked into the implications of bringing into the financial system the millions of people currently excluded from it.

One of the key ways of achieving this is to provide these people with some kind of financial identity, something that is currently denied them by their inability to qualify for a bank account. It just so happens that the sponsor of this report is Juvo, which specialises in just that. Read into that what you will, but if the methodology is rigorous and transparent then the vested interest of the sponsor needn’t be an issue.

The kind of Financial Identity as a Service (FiDaaS) Juvo offers only really applies to developing economies as that’s where pretty much the financial exclusion takes place. Among individual countries Oxford Economics identified India ($7bn GDP uplift), Indonesia ($15bn), the Philippines ($15bn), Pakistan ($9bn) and Mexico ($31bn) as the individual markets most likely to benefit from this sort of thing. A lot of the rest presumably came from Africa.

The single most important thing unbanked people lack is any kind of credit score, so it’s very difficult for potential providers of credit to make a risk assessment, which means they usually won’t bother. The direct interest to the mobile industry comes from the ability to offer more punters postpaid contracts, or even micro loans for prepaid airtime.

“These numbers only capture a conservative estimate of this market’s true potential, since many more people are underbanked,” said Anubhav Mohanty, Lead Econometrician at Oxford Economics. “The sheer scale, depth and value of this opportunity is far greater than we’ve been able to quantify here.”

“For financial institutions and the mobile telecom operators they partner with, [establishing financial identities] represents a multi-billion-dollar revenue opportunity,” said Steve Polsky, CEO of Juvo. “And for the unbanked, it opens up fair and equal access to useful financial services that wouldn’t otherwise be available to them.”

While we think it’s unlikely that Oxford Economics was going to conclude that FiDaaS is a complete waste of time (or if it had, that the report would have been published), there’s little reason to doubt the desirability of bringing more people into the global economy. The mobile sector has been looking at ways of compensating for the failings of the banking system in developing economies for years and this sort of thing looks like it could help.

Telefónica Deutschland picks Huawei and Nokia for its 5G RAN

As part of a broader announcement concerning its 5G plans, Telefónica Deutschland revealed Huawei and Nokia are the chosen kit vendors for its 5G radio access network.

Referring to them as ‘proven strategic partners’ TD indicated that it has an established working relationship with the two vendors and doesn’t see any need to change that. That said, TD also noted that they will have to pass a safety certification as required by German law, the details of which are still being thrashed out.

So TD seems to be saying it has no problem with Huawei, at least in the RAN anyway, but ultimately it can’t fully commit to it until the government makes up its mind whether or not it constitutes a security threat. What will happen if the government does throw a spanner in the works is unclear, but since TD has a multi-vendor policy that might be good news for Ericsson. The decision on the core network will apparently be made next year.

The broader strategic statement made by TD is to significantly accelerate its growth for the next couple of years by spending 17-18% of its revenue on expanding its 4G network and getting its 5G one off to a flying start. As Light Reading notes, this will require a dividend cut, which will upset some investors, but you can’t have it both ways and the money has to come from somewhere.

Vodafone Idea reportedly looking to flog assets to cover government bill

Beleaguered Indian operator group Vodafone Idea has apparently been reduced to a fire sale of its fibre and datacentre assets to raise funds in a hurry.

The news comes courtesy of the Economic Times, which has been chatting to those handy anonymous insiders. They reckon Vodafone Idea has been in discussions with Brookfield Asset Management regarding the sale of its fibre business and with investment firm Edelweiss over the prospect of flogging its datacentre in Navi Mumbai.

Vodafone Idea apparently has 156,000 km of fibre buried somewhere in India, which is thought to be worth up to $2 billion according to bankers consulted by ET. Even the datacentre could raise $100 million, they were told. Having said that, since the Indian government wants at least $5 billion in historical license fees from the company, it’s unlikely to get full value from its asset sale thanks to its weak negotiating position.

An additional complication, according to experts quoted in the story, is the fact that the entire Indian telecoms sector is mortgaged to the hilt, so there simply isn’t that much cash circulating around it in total. This makes the decision by the government to call in these massive historical debts even more flawed. India seems to have dug itself into a very difficult hole with regard to its telecoms sector and it’s not obvious how it’s going to climb out of it.

Optus claims making world’s first 5G data call using 2300MHz spectrum

Australian telecommunication company Optus is claiming that it has made the world's first 5G data call by making use of a 2300MHz spectrum.

Optus conducted the test in Sydney with Ericsson kit. According to the company, it is the only Australian telecommunications firm with shares in the 2300MHz and 3500MHz spectrum bands.

Optus network managing director Dennis Wong said: “With its lowest frequency, the 2300MHz spectrum band, in the future, will finally offer our customers even higher speeds, as well as provide greater depth of coverage that will allow even more customers to benefit from 5G services.” Optus was looking to activate its 2300MHz spectrum "sometime" in 2020, Wong added.

In its latest Mobility Report, published last month, Ericsson predicted that global 5G subscriptions will exceed 2.6 billion within the next six years. By this time, 5G will cover 65% of the world. The firm also believes that total mobile subscriptions, including to previous generation networks, will reach 8.9bn from 8bn over the next six years. Current average monthly data-traffic-per-smartphone is expected to increase from around 7.2GB today to 24GB in the same timeframe. Over a quarter of the worldwide subscriptions will be 5G by 2025 and will account for around 45% of global mobile data traffic.

A Deloitte survey published last week argued that two in three consumers are more likely to buy a new phone once 5G-compatible devices are available. The survey also found that 16% of consumers who are using smartphones said that 5G capabilities will be the most crucial factor when they choose their next phone. While 26% chose display quality as their top preference, 22% opted for brand.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

How blockchain technology is disrupting the telco industry: A guide

According to Statista, the telco services market - including fixed-network and mobile services - will grow to almost $1.46 trillion by 2020. The majority of this growth is expected to occur in the Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America regions.

In a bid to leverage this growth, both industry newcomers and incumbents have begun to explore the disruptive potential of blockchain technology. By deploying blockchain solutions on cloud platforms, these communication service providers (CSPs) hope to optimise existing processes while enhancing network security. However, blockchain integrations come with challenges, and telco integrations are particularly complex.

Because they operate in a highly regulated industry, telco companies must determine when and where to leverage blockchain capabilities. Despite this uncertainty, emerging projects can show us how future applications might work, laying the groundwork for others. In this article, we'll analyse the benefits of blockchain integrations, potential obstacles to widespread implementation, and the future role of decentralisation in the global telco market.

Blockchain for communication service providers

As mentioned, many CSPs have begun to explore potential blockchain applications. In a recent survey from Accenture and TMForum, one in five respondents predicted that blockchain would have the most significant impact on their business. But what exactly do these companies hope to gain from decentralisation?

To answer this question, let’s begin by exploring opportunities resulting from this integration.

Blockchain and telco opportunities

Communications service providers face many challenges, and blockchain technology represents a potential source of relief. Interest in the technology continues to grow, resulting from its potential to overhaul business models while improving processes such as roaming and identity management.

As more telco companies experiment with blockchain applications, it’s apparent that many value-added opportunities exist.

Fraud prevention and roaming

Telco blockchain adoption has the potential to reduce roaming fraud through smart contract functionality. By using permissioned (private) blockchain networks, roaming agreements between operators would become transparent. Under this scenario, designated nodes might act as validators (miners) to verify each transaction broadcast on the network.

Let’s break down this relationship further for clarity. When a customer triggers an event in a visiting network, the Visited Public Mobile Networks (VPMN) broadcasts the Call Detail Record (CDR) information as a transaction to the Home Public Mobile Networks (HPMN). In turn, this information triggers a smart contract, executing roaming agreement terms.

Identity management and authentication

As a result of its decentralised nature, blockchain can bring additional value to identity management applications by circumventing intermediaries. Under this scenario, customers would only require a Virtual ID to authenticate themselves, resulting in far fewer processes higher levels of satisfaction.

Several industry incumbents are extensively exploring this use case. For example, both Deutsche Telekom and SK Telecom are using blockchain technology to build a real-name authentication program, streamlining verification and subscription processing. SoftBank has also been working on a secure, cross-border identification system.

The 5G transition

It’s no secret that the transition to 5G technology is underway. According to a recent report from Ericsson, 5G subscriptions are expected to reach 1.9 billion by the end of 2024. And as telcos move to implement 5G functionality, blockchain provides an opportunity to streamline this transition. To deliver the universal access that 5G promises, CSPs will need to handle disjointed access nodes and diverse access mechanisms.

In managing this process, the rules and agreements between various networks would take the form of smart contracts. These dynamic, self-executing contracts can connect devices to the nearest service provider while seamlessly rating and charging services across access nodes.

IoT connectivity

The Internet of Things (IoT) represents how devices interact over the Internet, and the industry shows no signs of slowing down. According to Gartner forecasts, the enterprise and automotive Internet of Things (IoT) market will grow to 5.8 billion endpoints in 2020, representing a 21% increase from 2019. By the end of 2019, 4.8 billion endpoints are expected to be in use, up 21.5% from 2018.

Although this movement continues to revolutionise industries, network security is a crucial consideration. When devices transmit sensitive information online, there’s always a chance it falls into the wrong hands. Here, blockchain could create a more secure environment for data transmission by creating highly secure peer-to-peer self-managed mesh networks.

Blockchain and telco obstacles

Despite the many apparent opportunities, there are also several obstacles to blockchain adoption in the telco industry ecosystem.

Data standards: The current telco industry adheres to set data standards, structures, and transmission infrastructure. As such, bringing blockchain applications to this existing framework presents significant challenges.

Regulatory framework: Because many blockchain applications employ self-executing smart contracts, managing their use would require standard guidelines. Although establishing a clear regulatory framework is a massive undertaking, it's necessary to ensure the secure implementation of digital contracts.

Data management: Blockchains retain all historical data in a transparent, immutable structure. However, the size of an established blockchain might become unsustainable as a result of continuous operation. As such, a mechanism to archive historical data remains a crucial feature of future infrastructure.

The future of blockchain in telecom

CSPs have much to gain from blockchain integrations. Companies operating in this space have an opportunity to prevent fraud, improve identity management, ease the transition to 5G, and enhance IoT security.

However, CSPs must also ensure that blockchain technology aligns with internal business processes, adding value where it matters most. In an industry reliant on interoperability and standardisation, CSPs would be wise to collaborate on blockchain integrations to realise the full potential of blockchain applications.

As major telecom companies continue to invest in blockchain projects, it’s apparent that stakeholders recognise the value of future integrations. It’s time to start leveraging the power of immutable, transparent, and decentralised telco solutions.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

Samsung had three quarters of 5G shipments in Q3 – IHS

While the 5G smartphone market is in its infancy, Samsung has been the most proactive vendor and accounted for a quarter of shipments in Q3 as a consequence.

Research firm HIS Markit reckons a total of 4.3 million 5G smartphones were shipped in the third quarter of this year and 3.2 million of those were Samsung ones. This was more than double Samsung’s Q2 total of 1.5 million units, when it accounted for 83% of all shipments. Surprisingly the only other s% smartphone vendors of significance right now are LG and Vivo.

“Samsung has come out of the gate running in the initial stage of the 5G smartphone business,” said Gerrit Schneemann of IHS Markit Technology.  “The company successfully capitalized on its home-field advantage in the fast-developing South Korean market to rapidly ramp up shipments. Samsung also has moved quickly to fill out its 5G smartphone line, giving it the largest portfolio of any brand.

“5G devices enable smartphone OEMs, carriers and service providers to offer new handsets with a feature set that is not backwards compatible as existing 4G devices will not be able to connect to 5G networks. Here lies an opportunity for the entire ecosystem to reverse user behaviour, from increasing device lifecycles to delivering an upgraded mobile experience.”

The slow start from Huawei observed by HIS is at odds with the Strategy Analytics view of the 5G smartphone market. In its recent forecast SA gave Huawei a 30% share of the market going into 2020, for the two firms’ numbers to align Huawei is going to have to seriously raise its game in Q4 of this year.

SK Telecom and Samsung give 5G remote-controlled ships a go

Korea is looking to lead the way on autonomous shipping following the development of a 5G-based test platform by SK Telecom and Samsung Heavy Industries.

The new platform even includes a 3.3-meter-long test ship made by Samsung, which is equipped with with 5G-based LiDAR, a cloud-based IoT platform and T Live Caster, SK Telecom’s real-time video monitoring solution. Its maiden voyage took place in a shipyard that is covered by SK Telecom’s 5G network, enabling it to be remote controlled from 250 km away and to remotely keep an eye on its autonomous decisions.

“Today’s successful test marks a meaningful step towards commercialization of technologies for autonomous navigation of ships powered by 5G,” said Choi Il-gyu, Head of the B2B Office of SK Telecom. “SK Telecom will continue to drive innovations in the manufacturing sector with the world’s best 5G network and technologies.”

“We have now secured an optimal research environment to make a leap in the area of autonomous navigation ship technologies by combining Samsung Heavy Industries’ autonomous and remote navigation system and SK Telecom’s 5G communication technologies,” said Shim, Yong-Lae, VP of the SHI Ship & Offshore Research Institute.

While the thought of a supertanker cruising around the place thinking for itself is pretty alarming and dystopian, the companies involved insist this kind of technology actually improves safety, especially in narrow or shoreline environments, thanks to the ability to monitor the movements of other ships in real time. So long as the technology also ensures a human can step in if needed then that does sound plausible, if still a bit scary.

Wearables market doubles, but only if you include wireless headphones

The latest global wearable device market numbers from IDC reveal it grew by 95% in Q3, but much of this came from a category that didn’t used to be counted.

The launch by Apple of its AirPod earphones provided a general boost to the Bluetooth headphones market. Wired headphones never used to be included in assessments of the wearables market but, for IDC at least, the removal of those wires had been sufficient for them to qualify. As a result, a category that used to be comprised mainly of fitness bands and smart watches is now dominat3ed by earwear.

“Hearables have become the new go-to product for the wearables market,” said Ramon Llamas of IDC. “This began with multiple vendors removing the headphone jack from their smartphones, driving the move toward wireless headphones. It continued with hearables incorporating additional features that either augment or expand the audio experience. Next, hearables have taken on multiple form factors – ranging from truly wireless to over-the-ear headphones – appealing to a broad base of earwear user preferences. Finally, prices have come down significantly, with some reaching below $20.”

Not with Apple they haven’t. AirPods start at £159, going up to £249 for the Pro version. Nonetheless, Apple being Apple, it’s still shifting a ton of them. IDC reckons Apple tripled its total wearables shipments to 29.5 million units in Q3 and since there’s little evidence of an explosion in Apple Watch sales, much of this must be down to the AirPods. If Apple decides to ditch the lightning port, that trend seems bound to continue.

As you can see from the second table below, earware shipments are by far the biggest wearables category now and are almost entirely responsible for its rapid growth. However it’s highly debatable whether a single function accessory should be counted as a wearable device in its own right. Even fitness bands have some degree of smart functionality and the mere removal of a wires seems like a crude reason so suddenly designate something ‘wearable’, since the human interface has barely changed.

 

Top 5 Wearables Companies by Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q3 2019 (shipments in millions)
Company 3Q19 Shipments 3Q19 Market Share 3Q18 Shipments 3Q18 Market Share Year-Over-Year Growth
1. Apple 29.5 35.0% 10.0 23.0% 195.5%
2. Xiaomi 12.4 14.6% 7.4 17.1% 66.1%
3. Samsung 8.3 9.8% 3.2 7.4% 156.4%
4. Huawei 7.1 8.4% 2.3 5.4% 202.6%
5. Fitbit 3.5 4.1% 3.5 8.0% 0.5%
Others 23.8 28.1% 16.9 39.0% 40.4%
Total 84.5 100.0% 43.4 100.0% 94.6%
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearables Tracker, December 5, 2019

 

Worldwide Wearables Market by Product Category Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q3 2019 (shipments in millions)
Product Category 3Q19 Shipments 3Q19 Market Share 3Q18 Shipments 3Q18 Market Share Year-Over-Year Growth
Earwear 40.7 48.1% 11.9 27.4% 242.4%
Wristband 19.2 22.7% 12.9 29.7% 48.6%
Smartwatch 17.6 20.9% 11.9 27.4% 48.0%
Others 7.1 8.4% 6.7 15.5% 4.7%
Total 84.5 100.0% 43.4 100.0% 94.6%
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearables Tracker, December 5, 2019