Amazon’s vigilante division Ring moves into crime reporting

Internet retail giant Amazon is making a big push into the neighbourhood watch world and now it even wants to report on local crime itself.

This is what is indicated by a recent Amazon job listing, which is looking for a News Managing Editor, who ‘will work on an exciting new opportunity within Ring to manage a team of news editors who deliver breaking crime news alerts to our neighbors.’ Ring, which makes connected doorbells with mounted video cameras, was acquired by Amazon for around a billion bucks last year.

Why would a smart doorbell outfit want to get into crime reporting? Good question, the answer for which seems to be found in the Neighbors by Ring app. This app essentially creates a local social network through which virtual curtain-twitchers can share footage of an undesirable types they’ve spotted lurking around their property through their sentient doorbells.

The idea is clearly an attempt to bring the concept of neighbourhood watch into the connected era, which is fine on the surface. After all, who wouldn’t want to know if there are dodgy people in their area? But as we’ve seen with regular social media, this does have the potential to create a self-reinforcing loop, with almost anything being potentially identifiable as a threat. And then there are the privacy and legal implications of sharing an image taken of someone without their permission and flagging them as a likely criminal.

Rather than seeking to minimise the possibility of this app whipping paranoid communities into a fervour of vigilantism, Amazon seems to think even more crime reporting is needed and is prepared to invest in it, hence this appointment. According to the job spec this person needs to have ‘a knack for engaging storytelling that packs a punch’.

The Neighbors by Ring app page paints a picture of a network of parochial snitches with the cops on speed dial, an Orwellian dynamic that’s sure to end well. The underlying strategic aim for Amazon seems to be to create as big an installed base of Ring doorbells as possible to drive demand for its nascent in-home delivery service. But it may inadvertently end up driving demand for handguns, snarling guard-dogs and panic rooms in the process.

 

Samsung’s profit crashes on weak semiconductor sales

Samsung Electronics reported a net profit decline of 57% in Q1, with total revenue going down by 14%. The semiconductor unit suffered the worst.

Samsung’s quarterly revenue went down from KRW60.56 trillion ($52 billion) a year ago to KRW52.39 ($45 billion) in Q1. The gross margin level came down from 47.3% to 37.5%. The operating profit dropped to KRW6.23 trillion ($5.3 billion) from KRW15.64 trillion ($13 billion), a decline of 60.2%. The net profit came down by 57% to KRW5.04 trillion ($4.4 billion).

 Samsung 2019_1Q_income

On business unit level, Device Solutions reported a 27% drop in revenue, the sharpest decline among all the business units. Inside the unit, Memory chips declined by 34%. Samsung attributed the weakness to “inventory adjustments at major customers”, indicating its customers including other smartphone makers, have been selling slower than expected.

IT & Mobile Communications, Samsung’s largest business unit by sales, the business was more stable. Revenue from the handset business dropped by 4% from a year ago, but grew sequentially by 17%. Samsung saw strong demand for its Galaxy S10 products, but the de-focus of mid-range and lower products limited the volume growth. The recent debacle of S10 fold, high profile as it may be, should not have had any material impact on Q1 as it was scheduled to launch in Q2. Samsung’s network business, though small in comparison to its competitors, reported a strong revenue growth of 62% to reach KRW1.28 trillion ($1.1 billion), benefiting from the “accelerating commercialization of 5G in Korea”.

Samsung 2019_1Q_BU

Samsung gave cautious lift to its outlook for Q2 but more optimistic with the second half of the year. It foresees the memory chip market stabilising in Q2 and stronger growth in the second half due to seasonality and product line refreshing. On the mobile side, Samsung sees growth in shipment in Q2 thanks to continued demand for the S10 products and positive market response to its new mid-range A series. It sees the 5G products and the fold form-factor making material contribution in the second half.

Apple starts to count the casualties of its poor 5G campaign

It looks like one of Apple’s most senior wireless engineers has cleared off, just days after the company lost its fight with Qualcomm.

The Information has reported that Rubén Caballero, a VP of Engineering in charge of wireless stuff at Apple, has left the building. One of its mystery sources said Caballero was ‘leading Apple’s charge into 5G’, which is especially appropriate considering his surname. Since that charge was resoundingly defeated by Qualcomm’s big guns Apple seems to have decided to discreetly disband its 5G light brigade.

As is its way Apple hasn’t offered any comment on the scoop but The Information says his work emails are bouncing back and his work phone has been disconnected so the circumstantial evidence is strong in this one. Additionally Apple Insider did a bit of sniffing around of its own and got another anonymous source to confirm Caballero’s departure.

Both stories feature a fair bit of speculation about why Caballero may have galloped off after 14 years at Apple, but to us the most likely reason for any wireless casualties at Apple must be the utter farce of its attempted collaboration with Intel. Since Intel was clearly hopelessly inadequate as a 5G modem partner, Apple CEO Tim Cook must have a pretty low opinion of any of his execs that told him otherwise.

A weak France overshadowed Orange’s Q1

The telecom operator Orange reported a flat Q1, with a weak performance in its home market partially compensated by the strength in Africa and the Middle East.

Orange reported a set of stable top line numbers in its first quarter results. On Group level, the total revenue of €10.185 billion was largely flat from a year ago (-0.1%), and the EBITDAaL (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation after lease) improved by 0.7% to reach €2.583. Due to the 8% increase in eCAPEX (“economic” CAPEX), the total operating cash flow decline by 10.2% to €951 million.

Orange 2019Q1 Group level numbers.pdf

Commenting on the results, Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO of the Orange Group, said that “the Group succeeded in maintaining its high quality commercial performance in spite of a particularly challenging competitive context notably in our two principal countries of France and Spain. Our strategy is paying off since EBITDAal is continuing to grow while revenues remain stable, allo wing us to reaffirm our 2019 objectives”

On geography level, France, its home and biggest market is going through a weak period. Despite registering net gain in the number of customers, the total income dropped by 1.8% to €4.408 billion, the first quarterly decline in two years. The company blamed competition, a one-off promotion of digital reading offer towards the end of the quarter, and “a weaker performance on high-end equipment sales in the 1st quarter of this year”. The move to “Convergence” was positive, but not fast enough to offset the lose in narrowband customers. The competition pressure is still visible. The Sosh package (home broadband + mobile) Orange rolled out to combat Free is gaining weight among its broadband customers, which resulted in a decline of revenues despite the growth in customer base.

Orange’s European markets, including Spain and the rest of Europe, reported modest growth, with strength in Poland (+2.6%) and Belgium & Luxembourg (+3.8%) offset by a weaker Central Europe (-1.9%). The bright spot was Africa and Middle East, which registered a 5.3% growth to reach €1.349 billion revenue, taking the market’s total revenue above Spain and just marginally behind the rest of Europe. The company’s drive to extend its 4G coverage in Africa is paying off, with mobile data service contributing to 2/3 of its mobile growth. Orange Money also saw strong enthusiasm, with the revenue up by 29% and total number of monthly active users totalling 15.5 million.

Both the Q1 results and outlook to the rest of the year spelled mixed messages for the wider telecom market and Orange’s suppliers, but negatives look to outweigh positives. On the consumer market side, the slowdown of high-end smartphone sales and prolonged replacement cycle has once again been demonstrated in the weak numbers in France. On the network market side, Orange predicts more efficiency. This includes both the network sharing deal signed with Vodafone Spain, which is expected to deliver €800 million savings over ten years, and an overall reduction in CAPEX this year.

As the CEO said, “while the level of eCapex for this quarter is higher, it should reduce slightly for 2019 as a whole, as predicted, excluding the effect of the network sharing agreement with Vodafone in Spain announced on 25 April.” This means, to achieve the annual target of reduced CAPEX, the spending will drop much faster in the rest of year. There is no timetable to start 5G auction in France yet, but it will be safe to say that any expectations of 5G spending extravaganza will be misplaced.

On the positive side, Orange has seen its efforts to diversify its business gaining traction, especially in IoT and smart homes. But these areas, fast as the growth may be, only make a small portion of Orange’s total business.

Vodafone found vulnerabilities in Huawei kit but stuck with it because it was cheap – report

The latest mini-leak in the ongoing Huawei propaganda war saw Vodafone admit to finding security flaws in some Huawei kit in the past.

The scoop comes courtesy of Bloomberg in a story headlined Vodafone Found Hidden Backdoors in Huawei Equipment. The kit in question was mainly domestic routers and some optical service nodes supplied to its Italian business back in 2011, which the report claims had security backdoors that could have given Huawei access to the whole fixed line network (which Vodafone denies). Vodafone told Bloomberg the issues were eventually resolved, but it’s far from an open-and-shut case.

Vodafone said it asked Huawei to deal with the backdoors as soon as it spotted them and was told that they had been, but it took further prompting to get the lot of them. Furthermore some anonymous sources told Bloomberg that the vulnerabilities remained beyond 2012 and were also present in Vodafone networks in other countries, including the UK. Vodafone allegedly knew about this but stuck with Huawei regardless because they were relatively cheap.

Apparently some in Vodafone had concerns about the security of Huawei routers from the start and flagged a bunch of bugs up, the most critical of which was a ‘telnet’ service that allows remote access. Vodafone Italy asked Huawei to remove this telnet and was once more told that it had been, while subsequent testing revealed it hadn’t. Huawei then apparently shifted the goalposts, saying it needed the telnet to configure devices, and offered to remove it once the configuration had been done.

This reportedly caused concern for Vodafone’s chief information security officer at the time, Bryan Littlefair, who wrote the following in a 2011 report: “What is of most concern here is that actions of Huawei in agreeing to remove the code, then trying to hide it, and now refusing to remove it as they need it to remain for ‘quality’ purposes.”

Now it should be stressed that this is still far from the smoking gun evidence of inherent security vulnerability the US claims to have and which Huawei wants to see. This stuff took place years ago and seems to have been quite isolated. Furthermore Huawei is hardly the only vendor to have vulnerabilities in its routers. Having said that this latest piece of circumstantial evidence is certainly unhelpful l to Huawei in the current environment and could well cause some reputational damage to Vodafone too.

Vodafone discovered backdoors in Huawei telecoms equipment

Telecoms giant Vodafone has revealed it discovered backdoors in equipment supplied by Chinese vendor Huawei that could have enabled spying.

Acknowledging the discoveries to Bloomberg, Vodafone said the vulnerabilities date back years. The issues have since been patched, but Vodafone claims they remained for some time after Huawei claimed they'd been fixed.

If exploited, the backdoors would have provided Huawei with unauthorised access to Vodafone’s fixed-line network in Italy. As Europe's largest telco, the revelations from Vodafone are damning.

In a statement, Vodafone said:

“In the telecoms industry it is not uncommon for vulnerabilities in equipment from suppliers to be identified by operators and other third parties.

Vodafone takes security extremely seriously and that is why we independently test the equipment we deploy to detect whether any such vulnerabilities exist. If a vulnerability exists, Vodafone works with that supplier to resolve it quickly.”

The primary concern is with the time it took for Huawei to address the problems, and claiming they'd been rectified when further tests proved they had not been.

Security testing by an independent contractor for Vodafone identified a telnet backdoor which presented the greatest concern as it could provide unauthorised access to Vodafone’s broader Wide Area Network. Huawei is then said to have refused to remove the telnet service as it's needed to configure device information and conduct tests.

“Unfortunately for Huawei the political background means that this event will make life even more difficult for them in trying to prove themselves an honest vendor,” Vodafone said in an April 2011 document seen by Bloomberg and authored by Bryan Littlefair, Vodafone’s chief information security officer at the time.

“What is of most concern here is that actions of Huawei in agreeing to remove the code, then trying to hide it, and now refusing to remove it as they need it to remain for ‘quality’ purposes,” Littlefair wrote.

Vodafone has a lot to lose if Huawei equipment is banned due to widespread existing use of the company's gear in previous generation networks. The operator has warned replacing Huawei's equipment would be costly and delay its rollout of 5G.

External pressure

Just last week, a secret meeting to decide Huawei’s fate in the UK was leaked and suggested the company would be allowed to provide ‘non-core’ equipment for national 5G networks.

The US has been pressuring its allies not to use Huawei equipment in any part of networks over concerns the company is controlled by Beijing. Robert Strayer, a deputy assistant secretary at the US state department, threatened that a UK decision to allow Huawei in 5G networks would put security cooperation at risk.

Yesterday, China's ambassador to the UK said that a ‘Global Britain’ should ignore external pressure and make its own decision over Huawei.

A dedicated Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) has been established in Banbury, UK since 2010. HCSEC only found minor concerns with Huawei's equipment until last year when it could ‘no longer’ offer assurance that risks could be successfully mitigated.

A follow-up report this year highlighted that Huawei has been slow in addressing the concerns of UK intelligence officials. If Huawei is to ease Western concerns, it needs to be much faster in addressing them.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

T-Mobile/Sprint merger approval is still hanging in the balance

The US DoJ’s anti-trust chief has not made up his mind on the T-Mobile/Sprint merger case, saying the deal must meet key criteria.

Speaking on CNBC (see below) Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General for the US Departments of Justice’s Antitrust Division, said he has not made up his mind yet. Although he refused to comment on if his staff resisted the deal, as was reported by the media, Delrahim did allude to more data being requested from the two parties.

Delrahim also dismissed the notion that there is any magical number of competitors to deliver optimal competition in a regulated market like telecom. Any proposed deal needs to deliver efficiency, but the efficiency needs to be both merger specific, that is the efficiency cannot be achieved through other means, and verifiable.

With regard to the effects of the merger on consumers, Delrahim listed two items, price effect and coordinated effect. The first is related to the potential price move up or down after the merger. The second refers to if the merged company has the incentive to continue to compete with the existing competitors on price, in this case AT&T and Verizon. 5G will also factor in the DoJ’s decision making consideration, Delrahim said. But, instead of being positioned as a counteract against China, in this interview Delrahim was treating 5G in the framework of service offer to consumers, and the merger’s impact on it.

When being asked on the timeline, Delrahim said there is no deadline on the DoJ side, except that the deal cannot be completed before a certain date. This timeline can be extended if more deliberation is needed.

On the FCC front, another hurdle that the two carriers need to overcome before they can become one, they continued to play the offensive. Last week representatives from the two companies, including John Legere, the CEO of T-Mobile, and Marcelo Claure, Executive Chairman of Sprint, called on the FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and her Legal Advisor. The team presented the updated merger case, including their pledge to deploy home broadband, drive down prices, deliver more benefits to prepaid customers, and create, instead of cutting, jobs.

FCC’s unofficial 180-day consultation period was reopened early this month, after being halted three times, and is now on day 147.

Makan Delrahim’s CNBC interview is here:

 

 

China’s UK Ambassador: ‘Global Britain’ should make its own Huawei decision

China's ambassador to the UK has urged the government not to be influenced by allies when making its decision whether or not to ban Huawei from 5G networks.

Beijing’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, called on the government to make its own determination on the issue rather than follow allies like the US and Australia in banning Chinese telecoms equipment from official networks.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Liu wrote:

“Countries of global influence, like the UK, make decisions independently and in accordance with their national interests.

When it comes to the establishment of the new 5G network, the UK is in the position to do the same again by resisting pressure, working to avoid interruptions and making the right decision independently based on its national interests and in line with its need for long-term development.”

Liu urged the UK to resist ‘protectionism’ which is seen from Beijing’s perspective as the reason for the ‘trade war’ between the US and China which saw billions of tariffs imposed on each country's goods.

Post-Brexit, the UK has expressed a desire to pursue an independent trade policy with fast-growing economies such as China with its ‘Global Britain’ initiative.

Liu added: “The last thing China expects from a truly open and fair ‘global Britain’ is a playing field that is not level.”

The ambassador's comments represent the first time Beijing has officially spoken about the Huawei issue in the UK.

Last week, government officials were furious after details leaked from a secret National Security Council meeting where Prime Minister May and other senior cabinet members spoke in supposed confidentiality about the risk posed by Huawei with members of the intelligence community.

According to the leak, May is minded to allow Huawei in ‘non-core’ parts of 5G networks. A government spokesperson maintains that no decision has yet been made.

Liu expresses an understanding of the 5G security concerns but urges any decision to be made based on facts.

“The risks should be taken seriously but risks must not be allowed to incite fear. They can be managed, provided countries and companies work together,” he wrote.

“Huawei has had a good track record on security over the years, having taken the initiative to invest in a Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, which employs an all-British monitoring team. The company has been working hard to improve its technology and to enhance the security and reliability of its equipment.”

Responding to Liu’s article, Tory MP Bob Seely tweeted that China had “a bad record on: hacking, IP theft & arguably using big data and AI against own people”.

In a letter to Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, six Conservative MPs – including Seely – expressed their concern over the leak:

“Having China anywhere near our communications systems poses structural risks about the level of Chinese influence in our society.

Chinese law demands that Chinese firms work with the Chinese secret services.”

The UK is facing pressure from its allies, particularly the US, to implement a ban on Chinese equipment. American officials have expressed concern that it may damage the ‘Five-Eyes’ intelligence-sharing relationship.

If the UK leaks are correct, the Trump administration is expected to urge the government to reconsider its decision.

A criminal investigation is expected to be launched into the leak. The focus has been on the five objectors to allowing Huawei into 5G networks: Sajid Javid, the home secretary; Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary; Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary; Penny Mordaunt, the development secretary; and Liam Fox, the trade secretary.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

Verizon secures partnership with Google to bring YouTube TV to customers

Verizon is partnering with Google to bring YouTube TV to its global customers.

Customers will now be able to subscribe to YouTube TV through Verizon and get access to their favourite contents. The partnership will now also allow Verizon wireless mobility customers to stream the contents, which they like more through YouTube TV. For customers across platforms, Verizon will also be offering unique and high-value YouTube TV promotions.

“As we pave the path forward on 5G, we’ll continue to bring our customers options and access to premium content by teaming up with the best providers in the industry and leveraging our network as-a service strategy,” commented Erin McPherson, head of content strategy and acquisition at Verizon. “We were first in the world to bring commercial 5G to our customers and now another first on the content front as we offer our customers’ access to YouTube TV on whatever platform they choose.”

Heather Rivera, global head of product partnerships at YouTube, added: “With this partnership, we're making it simple and seamless for Verizon's customers to sign up to enjoy YouTube TV on-the-go on their mobile phones or tablets or at home on their big screen devices."

Additionally, Nokia with its patent-pending 5G virtual testing environment is trying to make 5G deployments more cost-efficient as well as quick. The firm is working along with operators to simulate massive MIMO antenna beamforming performance by merging physical testing with a leading edge virtual environment. In the 5G test lab, which is located in Oulu, Finland, Nokia combines a unique physical OTA test environment with VR to test and verify the optimal site locations of the antennas for operators.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

China Telecom gets a piece of the Philippines new third telco

Chinese operator China Telecom has signed a $5.4 billion deal to get involved in Mislatel, the Philippines third CSP.

The other stakeholders are Udenna Corporation and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corporation but it’s not clear how much cash each is contributing to the enterprise. The full name of the new operator is Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company but presumably it will be available to the entire population of the Philippines.

“This is a historic occasion,” said Udenna Chairman Dennis Uy. “This is another step forward in realizing Udenna’s vision to improve the lives of Filipinos. Everything that we do is about making lives better not just for this generation, but for the next generation. And that is happening here. Thank you to our partners and to all for being a part of this journey.”

Isn’t that nice? There was no quote from a China Telecom person, although apparently its Chairman Ke Ruiwen turned up to the ceremonial signing that seems to be a prerequisite to actually doing stuff in that part of the world. Presumably he is no less committed to improving the lives of successive generations of Filipinos and any strategic benefit his company achieves as a result of bankrolling infrastructure projects outside of China is entirely incidental.

The big signing took place at the second belt and road forum for international cooperation event, which is China’s big international trade strategy and an opportunity for President Xi Jinping to get his photo taken shaking hands with other politicians. A lot of it seems to involve massive foreign direct investment, so this was certainly the right place to make such an announcement. Here’s an infographic summarising what it was all about.

belt and road