After a spell in which I was reduced to making bizarro guesses about why Siemens is wildly rumored to be after MicroLink or barely disguised stories of visits planned to some rich nerd with glasses in Redmond, things have started happening. In fact, a shitload of stuff. That's American slang for "a lot" (for my Latvian readers, well, sūdukrava has a different flavor of meaning, but it may apply to what has been made of the Electronic Communications Law).
So let's start with the exclusive, deep-background stuff I picked up while in London at a seminar partly sponsored by TeliaSonera. Mostly it was academic leaning stuff, like whether entrepreneurship was happening according to the whatshisname model or the Schumpeterian model (the latter is dead, is he?). Anyway fucktozin as I would say in my amalgam of English and Latvian at this late hour (background earphone music, Quicksilver Messanger Service «Who Do You Love» live 1960-something concert cut).
The Baltic IP TV master plan
So this is the deal -- IP TV is coming to the Baltics on some kind of an extension of TeliaSonera's platform being used in Sweden. It makes sense, why invent the wheel again? As I understand, the core network runs on its own Unix-based whatever, the delivery to households will be with ADSL2+, something that is one fast m***f***ker (24 Mbps if done right and you live on the same block as the switch) except that 2 Mbps was the fast m-f of yesteryear, wasn't it?
This might be a hint that the IBM-Ericsson-Cisco package being fronted by IBM here some weeks ago isn't the front runner, although Ericsson is already putting in the fast m-f DSLAMs and other stuff, at least for Lattelekom in Latvia. Since Swedish momma already controls the Estonian operations and Lietuvos Telekomas, it should be no problem to do the deal. Then there would be one core network, one core set of content alternatives – and here is what would be a very good thing – the need to subtitle the non-local content in whatever language the viewer chose. No more mutterers attempting to mumble the dialog over the English or Swedish or German soundtrack (although the Latvian dubbed softpornos one accidently channelcruises across on TV5 should get the bizarro shows of the year award, the perfect combo of the strange and inadvertently funny).
Having said that, content and getting the audience to come watch is going to be the really hard part. There has be some way to get the folks who watch Russian language free to satellite channels (well, free to the distributor, you pay Mr. Sharashkin LVL 1.25 a month for the wire from his dish on the roof), as well as to get a good value for money package of news, entertainment, movies, video on demand, etc. Plus all of that has to be packaged as triple play, because there aren't many other ways of doing it. That means the price is going to be significantly higher than your cheapo cable connection and it will have to compete with and draw customers away from both Baltcom TV and TeliaMulticom. Between them, these companies have close to 200 000 subscribers, probably most of the audience that is willing to pay LVL 5 and upwards for a cable TV selection that is, to be honest, mediocre. So there's the challenge...
Lattelekom links up with T-Systeme
Lattelekom signed a memorandum of understanding (some kind of German Verständnis -thing) with T-Systeme, the IT and systems integrator of Deutsche Telekom, one of the mothers-of-all telecoms giants with turnover of EUR 50 billion in 2003, or around six times the GDP of Latvia.
The idea is that Lattelekom will be T-Systeme's partner for their customers seeking business process outsourcing, telecoms and other related services here in the Baltic/Nordic region. Initially it will be a lot of public sector stuff, EU funded e-government, e-health, e-brainsurgery and e-dogcatching, you get the picture.
While I can't be serious at this time of the night while listening to Iron Butterfly, believe me, this is a serious connection for Lattelekom. Just hope that a certain paper doesn't shitcan this story simply because it is about Lattelekom. Well, one can always find some f**kwit to comment that this is somehow bad or that they don't see whatever...
That means a load of shit. Various sources are saying this is what has been made of the Electronic Communications Law, where some 70 revisions were slipped in under the guise of amending it to ensure that all electronic communication service providers can be subject to eavesdropping by the security services. Now apparently this can be done with GSM operators, since there is a kind of rotten Easter egg in most switches (Easter eggs being cute features or animations that programmers hide in applications just for fun) that can be turned on when the spooks ask for it. What it then does is tap whatever conversations are of interest. With internet service providers, it gets harder. Basically, you have to tap and analyze the whole datastream and pluck out the suspect packets. This, I am told, requires gigantic storage and fantastic datamining resources, especially if one is doing some kind of near-realtime analysis. That's what it is all about unless you want to end up as a nasty footnote in some future 9/11 report, indicating that Security Agency X actually detected the how-to-make nukes e-mail two days after the bomb went off (because of a backlog).
Not too many neighborhood ISPs, nor even the spooks in Latvia can afford a cluster of Crays or Deep Blues to do what is needed. Plus there are seven flavors of encryption, proxies, etc. Only a moron would send criminal messages in the clear.
However, this extra cost is not what is upsetting the local organizations. It is also the fact that the amendments (so I am told) give a lot of clout to VITA, the State Information Network Agency, which will given a tighter grip on state and municipal data services, apparently in contravention of EU directives, etc. The Saeima passed the revisions with a two-thirds majority, so apparently not even the president can stop them from coming into force.
I have to look at this revised law more closely. I actually printed the whole f**ker off the Saeima homepage. I'll try to get back to this, but I am going to Cannes all of next week, where my wife is showing her film at the Film Market.
Other music behind the rant -- Lou Reed, Peter Tosh, Jefferson Airplane.
"Standin' on the corner, suitcase in my hand..." headin' for Cannes...
P.S. This post was slightly edited for spelling and obscene (though hopefully appropriately funny) expressions at 0830 Friday -- the 13th!