Washington State sues Facebook over political ads

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a lawsuit against Facebook for selling political ads without maintaining information for the public as required by campaign finance law.

The social media giant is of course familiar with the inside of a courtroom, and it might be more at home in Washington State having been sued for exactly the same offence in 2018. Facebook settled the previous lawsuit for $238,000 in December 2018, $200,000 as a fine and $38,000 in legal fees, though it appears this was not enough of a deterrent.

“Whether you’re a tech giant or a small newspaper, those who sell political ads must follow our campaign finance law,” Ferguson said. “Washingtonians have a right to know who’s behind the ads seeking to influence their vote.”

Under Washington State campaign finance law, Facebook is required to publish the sources and payments of political advertising within 24 hours of publication. This information include the name of the candidate or measure supported/opposed, name and address of the person who sponsored the advertising and the total cost of the advert.

Interestingly enough, Facebook has somewhat of an unusual and complicated set of policies when it comes to political advertising. Unlike its Silicon Valley neighbours, Facebook has decided against banning or limiting political advertising, and still allows the hyper-targeting features which makes it such a popular tool for marketers around the world.

However, perhaps the most mind-boggling decision it made in recent years was the decision not to hold political ads accountable to fact-checking thresholds other advertisers must adhere to. Politicians can effectively say whatever they like on the platform without fear of breaking the community guidelines and rules.

These policies are major contributors to the image of Mark Zuckerberg as a successful yet slimy and reprehensible individual with little respect for the users which have fuelled his fortune.

In this case, reported to the Public Disclosure Commission that Facebook had sold a total of 269 political ads for approximately $20,000 to 12 Washington state political committees without making the correct information publicly available. Facebook confirmed these ads, while the Commission also identified sales of an additional $500,000 worth of advertising to political bodies and individuals in the state which had not been properly accounted for in the public information records.

What is worth noting is these are the adverts which have been identified. Facebook could have profited more from these illegal activities, as some instances may have slipped through the net, though we suspect the Commission identified the majority.

With a Presidential Election Campaign on the horizon Facebook is likely to receive a significant amount of interest. President Donald Trump’s campaign demonstrated the power of Facebook’s hyper-targeted advertising platform during the 2016 Election, which perhaps explains why the social media giant is reluctant to ban/limit political advertising like Google and Twitter; it is a lot of money to be turning away.

What this new lawsuit needs to do is dish out an appropriate punishment, however.

Every corporation will push the limits of the law for financial gain and Facebook has demonstrated this assumption here. To ensure Facebook stays within the rules in the future, the penalty should exceed the financial gain. A fine which does not is no deterrent to be compliant in the future as there would be a net gain and no material consequence for the firm.

Singtel to push forward with 5G cloud gaming trial

In partnership with Razer and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Singtel is testing the readiness of its network to capitalise on the fast-growing cloud gaming segment.

As a concept, cloud gaming is attracting a lot of attention in the industry and is attempting to wrestle the crown of go-to 5G usecase away from robotic surgery. Now it seems the Singapore consortium is getting in on the act with its own trials.

“While this is not the roll out of a commercial cloud gaming service, this opportunity is the first step for Singapore to spearhead 5G projects,” said Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan.

“5G is a literal game-changer when it comes to cloud gaming,” said Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, CEO, Consumer Singapore at Singtel. “Latency and bandwidth are crucial to internet streaming and 5G will deliver next-generation connectivity that will support immersive gaming, even on mobile devices.”

The trial itself will focus on the demands of cloud gaming as a usecase on a 5G network, as well as the design and engineering of low latency hardware for cloud gaming. More specifically on the hardware side, ultra-fast responsiveness, portability and seamless device-to-device sync to cloud servers will be the focus of investigations.

With mobile devices commanding growth revenues in the gaming industry, the cloud gaming usecase is charging-up the priority list for telcos. This is perhaps particularly prevalent in the APAC markets, where mobile gaming has gained more traction than the Western markets, though it should not be forgotten this is very applicable for consoles also.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for the cloud gaming segment is the aggressive moves being made by the internet giants to gain supremacy in the space. Amazon, Microsoft and Google are all fighting for attention in the early days, though it is worth bearing in mind more niche players such as Nvidia and HTC are also making moves.

This is maybe one of the most encouraging signs for telcos. Usually, there is very much a ‘built it and they will come’ attitude for network investment, though with cloud gaming services already being created and marketed, the demand from service providers is awaiting the creation of networks.

Who, outside of China, would buy a Huawei smartphone now?

Huawei recently launched its latest flagship smartphone, which is excellent in every respect bar the absence of Google apps. That alone will be a deal breaker for most.

While the Mate 30’s spec sheet may only represent an evolution rather than a revolution, the same has been true of all other smartphone launches for some time. On the hardware side Huawei smartphones are as sophisticated as anything Samsung or Apple have to offer, but on the software side it is heavily dependent on Google’s Android.

On top of the many disadvantage that come with not owning your own software platform, Android presents the additional complication of being owned by an American company. Since US President Donald Trump decided to use Huawei as a proxy in his geopolitical arm-wrestle with His Chinese opposite number, that means Google is obliged to cease doing business with Huawei.

Android itself is open source, which means smartphone vendors are free to use it without having to deal directly with Google. Use of the Play Store and all other Google apps, however, does require a licensing agreement with Google, which is no longer possible for Huawei. So the big question for potential Huawei smartphone customers is: how important are those apps?

The simple answer is: very. Huawei is chucking billions of dollars at its own developer ecosystem in a bid to replicate the Android one and it may well achieve considerable success in doing so. But a Huawei version of an app will still be different from the one Android users are used to and it will never be able to replicate Gmail, Google Maps, etc.

This is of far less significance to Chinese punters, who have their access to Google products restricted by their government, lest they get funny ideas about freedom of speech, civil liberties and so on. So Huawei smartphone sales in China are unlikely to be dramatically affected by the absence of full-fat Android. Similarly in the US, where Huawei is effectively barred from selling its devices, it doesn’t make much difference one way or the other.

In the rest of the world, however, prospective smartphone buyers are faced with the choice of a Huawei phone with a compromised user experience, or any number of competitors with similar specs and the Android environment the know and love. There is absolutely no incentive for anyone to accept any user experience compromise, and thus no reason to pick Huawei over a rival.

History provides further evidence of the critical importance of the mobile platform to smartphone sales. A decade ago Symbian and Blackberry went from market-leading to irrelevant in a matter of months once their user experience was superseded by iOS and Android. Microsoft tried to break the nascent duopoly but faced the Catch 22 situation of trying to get developer support for a platform with a small user base, which in turn was impossible to grow with an inadequate app ecosystem.

We also have the precedent set by Amazon, which used an unlicensed fork of Android on its Fire smartphone five years ago. It too had impressive specs but nobody was prepared to accept the user experience compromise and it was left with a warehouse full of very expensive paperweights. Android is the Windows of mobile and nobody wants a vanilla Linux phone.

If we assume the Chinese market remains viable for Huawei, that’s a pretty major consolation prize, however. It accounts for sales of around 100 million units per quarter and Huawei has around a third of the market. But that implies 20-30 million of its total quarterly smartphone sales come from outside of China, nearly all of which could be lost until Trump and Xi patch things up. Far from catching Samsung at the top of the global smartphone vendor list, Huawei will do well to stay in the top five now.

Huawei wants to sell its 5G tech to rivals – report

The latest bid by Chinese kit vendor Huawei to adapt to US sanctions could involve licensing its 5G technology to whoever is willing to pay.

The remarkable claim was made by CEO Ren Zhengfei (pictured) in a recent interview with The Economist. “For a one-time fee, a transaction would give the buyer perpetual access to Huawei’s existing 5G patents, licences, code, technical blueprints and production know-how,” declared the piece. It also noted that the acquirer would be free to muck about with the source code, thus removing the risk of there being nefarious, sneaky bits of spyware or whatever hidden in there.

A technology company’s intellectual property is its crown jewels and under normal circumstances offering it up to competitors would be the very last thing it would do. But these are exceptional times for Huawei and it’s having to consider ever more novel ways of adapting to a time in which many countries around the world are blocking its presence in their 5G networks.

The stated aim for this move is apparently to create a viable non-Chinese competitor to Huawei in order to take the geopolitical heat off it. Ericsson and Nokia would be entitled to take exception to the inference there, but at the same time would surely be tempted to get hold of some of that choice IP.

On further reflection this doesn’t really add up. Ericsson, Nokia and to a lesser extent ZTE and Samsung all have competitive networking offerings, so this feels more like a dig at them than a genuine attempt to move things forward. It also feels like a bit of a public relations gimmick, so Ren can say he’s trying everything to resolve the current situation and the US needs to meet him half way.

This move could also be a further attempt to reassure the US that there are no security concerns with its software by putting it in the hands of competitors that have every incentive to uncover any cyber-naughtiness there may be therein. But how can anyone be sure that the IP Huawei licenses to third parties is identical to that contained within its own kit?

Ren deserves credit for continuing to engage with the western media and for at least appearing to try to come up with solutions to the current impasse. As we saw in the matter of the confiscated Huawei gear, the US isn’t always acting in good faith in this case, but it seems unlikely that this latest initiative will do much to ease its concerns about Huawei’s presence in the 5G networks of itself and its allies.

Samsung and Xiaomi benefit from Huawei misery

US aggression towards Huawei seems to be paying-off as smartphone shipments in Europe swing away from the Chinese vendor, towards Samsung and Xiaomi.

Although Huawei is still a profitable and growing company, some might fear this growth is too concentrated on the Chinese market thanks to US attempts to damage credibility internationally. According to Canalys estimates, this could be the case, with European smartphone purchases shifting away from the previously surging Huawei brand and towards rivals Samsung and Xiaomi.

“For years, a focus on operating profit has stifled its product strategy,” said Analyst Ben Stanton. “But this year, the shackles are off, and winning back market share is its clear priority. But its success is not solely due to product strategy.

“Samsung has been quick to capitalize on Huawei’s US Entity List problems, working behind the scenes to position itself as a stable alternative in conversations with important retailers and operators.

“A lack of brand loyalty among users of low-end and mid-range Android smartphones, which has blighted Samsung for so long, has become the catalyst for its best performance in years. Europe keeps its reputation as one of the most brand-volatile smartphone markets in the world, rife with danger, but also opportunity.”

As you can see from the table below, the instability of the European market is living up to its reputation.

Brand Q2 2019 Shipments (millions) Q2 2019 market share Annual change
Samsung 18.3 40.6% +20%
Huawei 8.5 18.8% -16%
Apple 6.4 14.1% -17%
Xiaomi 4.3 9.6% +48%
HMD 1.2 2.7% -18%
Others 6.4 7.7% -17%
Total 45.1

Looking at the shift, there is clearly homage being paid to the troubles of the Chinese vendor.

Last month, Huawei unveiled its financial results for the first six months of 2019 with a 23% year-on-year increase. It did appear many of the gains, including in the fast-growing consumer business unit, were in its domestic Chinese market and this research from Canalys backs-up the assumption, at least for smartphones.

Perhaps this also demonstrates the smartphone has become merely a vessel for bigger and better things. With marginal differentiation between flagship devices nowadays, Huawei made gains with products which met consumer expectations but undercut rivals on price. This pricing strategy was paired with an aggressive above-the-line advertising campaign through football sponsorship and traditional advertising to build brand credibility.

However, the White House endorsed propaganda campaign seems to be hitting home. The only difference between now and 2018 is the dents to Huawei’s credibility. It appears European consumers are much more Android-loyal than they are to the smartphone brand.

The beneficiaries of this fall from favour has been Samsung and Xiaomi. Canalys claims three of the top five selling devices in the European market were Samsung, reasserting its dominance, though Xiaomi has continued its impressive rise through the ranks. This might be down to two reasons.

Firstly, Xiaomi’s reputation as a more price-aware brand is clearly catching-on. The Chinese challenger has been making promising gains in some of the developing markets, India is a prime example, though it has managed to position itself as a cheap but reliable alternative for cash-conscious consumers in the European market also. A 48% year-on-year gain is impressive in anyone’s eyes.

Secondly, telcos and distributors might be pushing Xiaomi and alternative Android devices more heavily through advertising campaigns. The more Android fanboys who are turned-off by Huawei, the more prominent Samsung becomes. The more prominent Samsung becomes, the greater its weight during negotiations with channel partners. A market dominant smartphone brand is not good for any of the telcos or the distributors.

The Apple decline is certainly an interesting one also. This is traditionally a quiet quarter for the iLeader, with flagship devices usually launched in September, though a 17% decline is a worrying sign for executives. With the fall in smartphone shipments significantly below the global total decline, either the iCultists are becoming much more price-sensitive, or they are being tempted by Android rivals. Neither is good news.

The global smartphone market is in decline currently, which is perhaps down to two factors more than anything else. Firstly, the current 5G hype might have consumers delaying the purchase of a new device, and secondly, the high-prices of largely uninspiring smartphones might be encouraging longer replacement cycles.

There will of course be numerous other factors to consider, but one thing is clear, some brands are negotiating the baron times much more successfully than others.

Which pans UK broadband leaders for woeful service

Consumer publication Which has slammed the UK broadband scene, pointing towards the unacceptable and consistently poor performance of market share leaders for customer service and performance.

According to its latest broadband satisfaction survey, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media supply broadband services to almost nine in ten of UK broadband customers, but these are the worst performers when it comes to meeting customer expectations. The satisfaction score has been built on whether customers are satisfied with their current service, and whether they would recommend it to anyone else.

The satisfaction score for TalkTalk and Sky stood at 50%, while BT was only marginally better at 51% and Virgin Media collected 54%. Year after year the heavy-hitters of the broadband segment have shown customer satisfaction is a low priority, with these results just emphasising the point.

At the top of the list, Zen Internet collected the plaudits while Utility Warehouse sat in second place. The challenger brands clearly recognise there is an opportunity to secure customers through customer service and experience, as opposed to competing in the dangerous race to the bottom or over-promising on speeds.

“It’s outrageous that the biggest providers are still letting their customers down with shoddy broadband, especially when we know that longstanding customers are the most likely to be overpaying,” said Natalie Hitchins, Head of Home Products and Services at Which.

“Anyone who is unhappy with their current provider should take back control and switch to a better deal – you could get better service and save hundreds of pounds a year.”

This is perhaps what is most frustrating about the status quo. With the telco industry geared towards aggressive customer acquisition as opposed to building a successful business through retention, profits must come from somewhere. Customers are lured into the traps with the promise of under-cutting current providers on price, but it is the loyal customers who are getting punished with price hikes.

Looking at performance, 27% of TalkTalk customers said they experienced slow speeds, below the telco’s promise, while this number was 22% for Sky customers and 20% for BT. 20% of BT customers also said they experienced network drop-offs, while 17% of Virgin Media customers said they had been left without a connection for hours or days at a time.

While the tendency to favour new over existing customers is unlikely to change at any point in the future, Ofcom is currently working on new rules which will force telcos to be more communicative with their customers when it comes to contract expiration and is also considering pricing practises. Both of these factors could have a big impact on the business with many customers already stating they will switch providers.

The other factor to consider is the emergence of alt-nets around the country. In days gone, customers dissatisfied with a poor performing provider would only have the option of other poor performing telcos, though there is increased competition emerging. The likes of Vodafone, making use of CityFibre’s fibre networks, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear are growing quickly, providing alternatives with satisfied customers.

“Unfortunately, the UK broadband industry is notorious for awful customer service, mid-contract price hikes, and poor value for money,” said Richard Tang, founder of Zen Internet. “Too many providers in this industry put short-term profit ahead of the customer, but at Zen we continually work to ensure that consumer happiness comes first and to reward the loyalty of our existing customers.”

The market leaders are seemingly happy in their current position. Many will state customer service is a critical aspect of their business, but year after year customers are dissatisfied. These numbers suggest no-where near enough is being done to evolve the profit-centric organisations or there is a level of incompetence present when devising new strategies.

Germany outlines its 5G security requirements

Short and to the point, did we expect anything from the German 5G security requirements other than meet our standards and you can operate in our country?

“We regularly adapt the applicable security requirements to the current security situation and the state of the art,” said Jochen Homann, President of Bundesnetzagentur. “The security requirements apply to all network operators and service providers and they are technology-neutral, covering all networks, not just individual standards such as 5G.”

What is worth noting is that while 5G and international security concerns might be the catalyst to these requirements, they will be applied across all networks and communications infrastructure moving forward, as well as all vendors.

The announcement from Bundesnetzagentur, the German regulator, will come as a blow to the aggressive geo-political ambitions of the US. It seems the anti-Huawei propaganda is running low on fuel, and such is the weight of Germany’s influence across Europe, Chinese executives might be letting out a sigh of relief.

Although the new safety requirements are only a concept for the moment, Bundesnetzagentur plans to release a draft of the rules for feedback over the next couple of weeks.

The requirements are quite broad-ranging, though there are enough clauses to ensure Germany is the master of its own fate. For example, critical components can only be used in communications infrastructure should there be certification recognized by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). Employees who install or manage this equipment will also have to be certified by German authorities.

There does also seem to be a move towards the UK’s approach to monitoring and managing risk. As part of the new requirements, network traffic must be regularly and continuously monitored for abnormalities, while safety-relevant network and system components must undergo regular and continuous safety checks. This is a more forensic approach to network management, which allows for companies like Huawei to operate in the country, but the risk is managed.

Another interesting aspect to be included in the new rules addresses ‘monocultures’. Although this is a term which is usually used in agriculture, Bundesnetzagentur is essentially ensuring there is depth in the supply chain. Redundancy must be built into the networks through using multiple vendors for different segments and aspects of operations.

While this might create more work for telcos, vendors and regulators, we feel this is a more proportionate response to the risk of nefarious external parties. Simply banning one company, or companies from a single country, will not work, such are the complexities of the digital ecosystem. Vulnerabilities are everywhere, and the most pragmatic approach should be to understand 100% secure will never exist. Its all about managing the risk most appropriately, and Germany seem to be taking a very sensible approach.

In the UK, the industry is eagerly awaiting the results of the Government’s supply chain review, which will potentially dictate how telcos interact with the vendor ecosystem. Rumours have emerged suggesting no single-vendor can own more than 50% of a certain area, but we hope the result is somewhat similar to the German approach here. This seems to be the attitude of Vodafone also.

Speaking at a briefing in London, Vodafone UK CTO Scott Petty highlighted the team has been working with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to identify the levels of risk associated with each segment of the network (Radio, Transmission, Core), and building a diverse supply chain to mitigate risk where appropriate.

This approach has led to Chinese companies being excluded from certain areas, though on the radio side where right has been deemed to be very low, Huawei supplies 32% of equipment. This approach allows best-in-breed kit to be considered but considering the sheer volume of cell towers around the UK, even if some equipment is compromised, the impact would be incredibly minor. Resilience has been built in through volume, data encryption and security gateways.

Interestingly enough, Germany is taking another very sensible approach to managing risk; the assumption that everyone is nefarious. All components and equipment will have to be certified, not just those products from countries which are deemed underhanded by paranoid opinion. Every vendor’s supply chain is becoming increasingly complex, suggesting vulnerabilities could appear anywhere. This impartial approach to suspicion will certainly place Germany is a sound position.

A considered approach to security

While certain countries have taken a knee-jerk reaction to security requirements, pinning the blame of an insecure digital ecosystem on one country or a very limited number of countries, Germany is taking a much more considered approach.

Having such a laser-like focus on security, scrutinising single elements of the ecosystem is incredibly dangerous. Cyber-criminals are incredibly intelligent, managing sophisticated networks through the dark web. If the risk of exposure becomes too high through a single route, another will be sought. Taking a blanked approach to security as Germany is doing minimises risk throughout the supply chain.

We suspect the Chinese government is not completely innocent in light of all the accusations, but we also believe they are not alone. Many of the fingers are being pointed in one direction, but Germany is not falling into that trap.

Vodafone claims first live 5G network connection to a smartphone

Ahead of MWC 2019 Vodafone has been conducting live trials of commercial smartphone networks in Barcelona and Madrid.

It reckons it’s the first in the world to do this and is timing this claim to perfection as that will give it something significant to bang on about at the show. The four week trials have been conducted with 5G phones that will be launched at some stage this year, maybe even next week. Vodafone also said it will be launching 5G in a bunch of European cities later this year.

“Vodafone’s networks are increasingly ready for 5G, which will enable us to deliver significant benefits over time for consumers, businesses and society,” reiterated Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer of Vodafone Group. “Our focus now is on optimising the customer experience before we launch 5G in some European cities later this year.”

As if to illustrate how difficult it’s going to be for operators to persuade all but the most rabid early-adopters to pay a premium for 5G, Vodafone chose to illustrate how great this first live 5G connection was by noting it was able to make “a seamless 4K video call” over it. At last, the dark days of unreliable 4K video calls are behind us – take our money, please!

The connection used NSA 5G, which was standardised in 3GPP Release 15. Vodafone is claiming download speeds of 1.5 Gbps and will back up that claim by driving a car around Barcelona and continually shouting “one point five gig” out of it or something, so that should be a bit of fun.

Docomo builds 5G system to stream 8K stereoscopic VR

NTT Docomo has built a 5G-ready system which can stream 8K stereoscopic VR, opening a wide range of possibilities.

While most of us are just getting to grips with 4K, technology is already moving on. 8K is becoming the next big thing (quite literally, in the case of some displays!)

Docomo’s system can stream high-resolution panoramic VR content from any location over 5G.

The solution consists of an 8K 3D camera with 360-degree video recording abilities, a Yamaha-developed spherical 3D microphone with 64 channels of audio recording, several computers, and a 5G base station.

In order to deal with the processing and bandwidth demands, the carrier is using a new 8K video encoder with a 60 FPS output to limit nausea.

Several computers turn the 3D camera’s nine 4K video streams into two 360-degree 8K 3D videos in real-time. Another machine converts a 3D audio mic’s 64 sound channels into 36 channels of 3D audio. This is all then compressed for streaming over 5G.

Here’s how the whole system looks:


VR is yet to gain much traction. Incoming technologies, such as 5G and VR, appear set to unlock the lofty promises made about it.

Virtual reality has been held back in a couple of key regards. The first is that hardware was expensive and often required a high-end PC.

The next is they were cumbersome and not agile enough for our mobile world. Few people want to be attached by wires to their computer or have to be within the range of a strong WiFi signal.

Devices like the Oculus Quest are solving the first problem, while 5G is solving the latter.

5G promises increased speeds and reliability in addition to low latency. This means it’s opening up new possibilities when it comes to applications like streaming live events.

Last week, around 10 million Fortnite players watched a live in-game concert from the artist Marshmello. It was described as “an exciting glimpse of the future” by The Verge, and quite rightly.

While the Fortnite/Marshmello concert was not in VR, it could one day be. The spectacle was proof of the appetite for such events. Systems like Docomo’s bring us one step closer to making them a reality.

(Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the IoT Tech Expo World Series events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

BT’s bids farewell to Gav on positive note

BT might have reported a slight fall in earnings, but beating market expectations will have helped departing CEO Gavin Patterson repair his reputation a bit.

Gavin Patterson’s reign as chief of BT has been somewhat of a chequered tapestry. A bold and suspect venture into the competitive world of content was interspersed with scandals and bad news, though as he hands the keys over to new CEO Philip Jansen, the company is looking in a slightly better position. Whether the former monopoly can re-capture the fortunes of old remains to be seen, but at least the raw materials are there.

“We have continued to deliver consistently against our strategic objectives in a tough market, resulting in another sound quarter of operational and financial performance,” said Patterson.

Total revenues for the nine months to December 31 stood at £17.5 billion, a 1% decline year-on-year, while profit was up 20% to $2 billion. The final quarter saw profits of $1.88 billion, £60 million above the consensus estimate compiled by BT. Revenues for the final quarter also exceeded expectations at £5.98 million, although this was a year-on-year decline. The situation could be better, but in beating expectations Patterson is signing off on a positive.

“Early signs of Patterson’s restructuring strategy is bearing fruits,” said independent telco and tech analyst Paolo Pescatore. “The incoming CEO will still need to make some tough decisions. First and foremost, whether the current strategy should be tweaked.”

Over the last couple of months BT has had to make some tough and unpleasant calls, the biggest of which was a re-structuring process which would cut 13,000 jobs. While it is never pleasant to talk about redundancies, it is a harsh reality in the telco world which needs to be tackled head on. Many of the telcos are companies which are not built to tackle the demands of the digital economy; with new pastures to be farmed, new skills are needed and that often means new people.

This will come as little comfort to some, but BT appears to be a business which is ready to move back into prominence. It just has to make use of the promising position it has created (or inherited) and translate potential into cash.

When you actually look at the assets which it has at its disposal, you have to wonder how BT managed to get itself into such a precarious position. An MNO which sits in second in the market share rankings, but it regularly named as the best performing network. 5G is also on the horizon and BT is leading the race in the UK to hit the market first. It owns the national broadband infrastructure which fuels many subscriptions around the UK. The content offering, which has admittedly been managed badly, is prominent on the landscape. Wifi is transforming into a key pillar. Not to mention the enterprise business unit, and Global Services which people would rather not talk about.

The ingredients are there, but shareholders will now be hoping Jansen is a better chef than Patterson turned out to be.

“I am handing over the business with good momentum behind its ongoing transformation programme and wish my colleagues all the best for the future,” said Patterson.

The big question is how BT moves forward with this momentum, and the consumer business will be all important.

As the only unit which has registered growth over the first nine months, enterprise took a hit on landline calls while Openreach suffered at the hands of regulatory change, a lot of hope will be pinned onto Consumer CEO Marc Allera and his disciples. With the assets mentioned above, BT certainly does have the potential to offer a considerable convergence play, based on the foundations of connectivity not bells and whistles.

Over the course of 2018, BT’s CTIO Howard Watson was sent on a roadshow to give various conference audiences the same presentation. The message was relatively simple; consumers want the best connectivity experience, and BT is going to deliver it. Content might be an add-on for value, but the core mission for BT will now be enabling all the wonderful promises of the digital economy.

“For the consumer, it’s not about their wifi, or their mobile connection, or their fixed broadband, or even their landline,” Watson said at Broadband World Forum in October. “It’s about connectivity as a whole.”
Stepping away from the shiny distractions, such as Premier League football, which were arguably the cornerstone of Patterson’s demise is critical. Around the world, the most successful telcos are the ones which concentrated on delivering an incredibly positive connectivity experience and then moved onto the bells and whistles. Orange has done this very effectively across Europe, while T-Mobile US is still focusing on the basics despite everyone wondering when it will launch a TV challenger service. This is where Jansen could play an influential role.

Despite being linked with the BT job in years gone, Jansen was not a prominent feature in the prediction articles to replace Patterson. But, he does have experience which might prove very useful.

Prior to BT, Jansen was CEO of Worldpay since 2013 and oversaw a $10.4 billion merger with rival e-commerce platform Vantiv. This was a big and complicated deal, which has arguably allowed Worldpay to flourish since completion. Perhaps this is what BT genuinely needs, as we are seemingly still waiting for the benefits of the EE acquisition to hit home. BT doesn’t want a flashy marketer in charge right now, but someone who will connect the boring dots and make two monster businesses integrate.

Rivals will be casting a cautious eye over at BT following these results. Patterson is leaving on a positive and fresh leadership could provide the impetus to dominate the UK. The raw materials are there for Jansen to prove he can be an empire-builder.