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Mobile Operators Announce Commitment to Firefox OS (mozilla.org)
213 points by charlieok 1521 days ago | hide | past | web | 91 comments | favorite

I'm just curious, so don't take this comment to mean or imply anything. What does "commitment" to a mobile OS from a operator actually mean? What do, in this case, Mozilla get from it?

As someone outside of the mobile phone industry (Just a simple consumer) I don't see the advantage of having a mobile phone service provider "committing" to your OS. Surely hardware manufacturers are vastly more important as they are the people who are actually going to create devices that can run your OS?

Mobile operators have to certify devices, even if they don't include them in the portfolio.

This is a consequence of commitments to a country's spectrum management organizations.

If an operator expresses commitment, I would take this is a very important initial step, but not necessarily an indicator of full blown embracement of a platform. Operators will schedule time for a device to go through their certification labs. This means that a device can get approval from the regional spectrum bodies for qualifications that ensure the device doesn't interfere with authorized spectrum devices. Lab certification is not free- the operators are eating a cost. But certainly it's not the same thing as buying pallets of devices and trying to sell them to consumers.

Mobile operators tend to have strong distribution networks in their home countries, so they can help with marketing. They are also likely to have partnerships with local companies of various sorts. Their cooperation is necessary for improved billing systems as mentioned in the article. They also develop custom features and integrations with phones for additional revenue streams.

I can't answer for sure for all of them. Just a bit of information: president of Telefónica has repeteadly declared that they're not happy with how Google and others profit by using "their" networks without paying.

Last time, a year ago if memory serves, he also hinted that they were going to create an app store that will revolutionize Internet.

I'm not sure that those declarations had anything to do with FFOS. I don't care anyway. If Telefónica uses their huge physical stores chain and their terminals subside practices to promote FFOS, I'd be happy.

I'm pretty excited about the possibility of Firefox OS gaining significant traction. If it were up to me Mozilla would be in just about every market online. They are great at keeping people honest. Between this and Identify Mozilla is coming back!

Here's a video if anyone wants to see what one of these devices actually looks like: http://www.engadget.com/2013/02/24/zte-open-hands-on/

I'm torn. On one hand, I really want Firefox to succeed. On the other, the blood of mobile operators is as dark and thick as tar. Can this end well?

In list form:

* América Móvil

* China Unicom

* Deutsche Telekom

* Etisalat

* Hutchison Three Group


* KT

* MegaFon

* Qtel

* SingTel

* Smart

* Sprint

* Telecom Italia Group

* Telefónica

* Telenor


* VimpelCom

Deutsche Telekom is known as T-Mobile here in the US. So, the #3 and #4 networks will support it. I wonder if AT&T or Verizon will chime in soon?

DT (non-US) and T-Mobile in the US don't operate as a single unit, so the former committing to Firefox doesn't mean anything in the US. As an example iPhone is available on DT, but not T-Mobile.

The iPhone's lack of availability on T-Mobile is actually a technical limitation, because T-Mobile uses a very unusual frequency band for 3G that most phones, including the iPhone, don't support. They are changing over to something more common, and will likely get the iPhone soon because of it.

Not to argue with anything you're saying, just pointing out that that particular decision was more technical than anything.

Definitely a past tense thing, and there isn't anything stopping the sales of iPhones now. Heck they claim there are already ~2 million iPhones on the network already!

The "unusual" frequency is also known as AWS bands, and are also used by other carriers and in other countries (only 4 at the moment so not pervasive), although there are now LTE deployments happening in the AWS bands.

The frequency retasking that allows a regular GSM iPhone to work is in full swing - http://www.tmonews.com/2013/01/t-mobiles-network-modernizati... - there is even a Twitter account tracking sightings https://twitter.com/UMTS1900 and a map http://airportal.de

When tmobile does start selling the iPhone (rumoured to be a few months out) it will be interesting to see if they piggyback off the parent company or deal with Apple directly. In order to deal with Apple you have comply with minimum order quantities (remember the Sprint $20bn numbers) http://www.asymco.com/2013/01/17/the-iphone-moq/

Well, people were using iPhones on T-Mobile from day 1. It always worked, but 3G didn't. So, while "working", data speeds were excruciatingly slow.

(I actually went the opposite direction for a little while. I had a Nexus One made for T-Mobile which I used on my AT&T account. It had the same problem in reverse, since it only had T-Mobile's 3G frequencies. The phone itself was decent, but the data speeds were a killer.)

Anyway, good to hear that it's happening, and thanks for the links. More competition is good, and I'm sure that a T-Mobile iPhone will help.

I had an iPhone 4s on T-Mobile in NYC for about 2 months late last year (I think October–mid December or so), and the whole time, saw a 3G signal about one time (a particular block in the West Village, IIRC.) The rest of the time I was stuck on edge.

T-Mobile was a sponsor at the Firefox OS app day in Mountain View and had a speaker devote some time to why they thought it was a good thing.

While that doesn't necessarily mean a commitment to carrying devices running it, it'd an awful lot of effort to go to if that weren't likely at all.

Note that tmobile is moving to a sales model where you pay the full cost of the phone up front (although they do allow explicit 20 month payment plans). The result is cheaper service since it doesn't include the hidden costs of recovering phone subsidies (approximately $20 per month).

This will mean that US consumers will be seeing the true hardware price for the first time, and be able to make value judgements. Of course everyone expects the whole thing will fail because Americans are used to cell phones being really cheap, and tmobile has to try to convince people by doing arithmetic on lifetime costs, which is a far harder (and more complicated) sell.

I'm extremely sceptical that consumers will pay more for Firefox phones than iPhone and top end Android. And I have no doubt they'd pick Firefox (or anyone else for that matter) for phones that are "free", $50 or similar amounts, but those phones won't exist on tmobile except for feature phones around the $150 mark. Given a choice between a $350 Firefox or Android phone it will be interesting to see what happens, and the consumer will have to strongly consider if they are getting that much value from their purchase.

I have bought unlocked, new Android phones for less than USD100 in the UK, so I'm not sure I believe that a USD150 phone on US T-mobile will only be a feature phone.

ZTE and Huawei are just the beginning of the wave of cheap smart phone providers that I expect to destroy the feature phone as a widely used device in the rich world in the coming years.

Granted, the two phones I bought weren't very fast and had smaller screens, but they did have GPS, mobile data and ran all the apps that I tried from the Play store.

(BTW I'm a Brit living in the US). There are multiple issues in the US.

* The vast majority of phones are sold by carriers due to the subsidy model. This leaves a considerably smaller market for the rest. Note the carriers chose which phones to carry - they will not provide arbitrary phones. Note this also applies even when someone like Amazon or Costco sell phones as they act as an agent for the carrier and the prices shown are the subsidised ones, and the phones are the carrier ones.

* Because of that most consumers think phones already cost free/$100 or $200 for high end ones, and there is no incentive to buy a non-carrier phone since plans aren't any cheaper for a non-subsidised phone (with the exception of one type of plan on Tmobile and some of the pre-paid MVNOs).

* Of the big 4 carriers (~85% of all mobile users) half have a CDMA legacy and half GSM, so those phones you bought could only work on 2 of the 4 carriers anyway

* And even that wouldn't be enough. Many cheap GSM phones are tri-band. To work with voice in the US they need to be quad band (also support 850MHz). There are various issues with the data frequencies too (eg Tmobile's AWS band) and even differing LTE bands for newer/more expensive phones

* If you care about coverage then you generally have to go with one of the big 3 (tmobile has notoriously poor coverage except in the most populated areas). If you use an MVNO then you are typically limited to the hosting carrier's network only. As an example I'm a tmobile subscriber, but in various areas a lot of their coverage is actually provided as a transparent roaming arrangement by AT&T - you don't see roaming on your phone. Similarly Verizon and Sprint have roaming in various places. But when using an MVNO you would using the native underlying carrier coverage only which will be a lot smaller footprint.

* All phones have to pass the FCC certification which is added expense and time especially if your sales aren't going to be that high

* People don't visit other countries as much (proportionally). You could fit the UK (including NI, Shetland, Jersey etc) in 2/3rds of California. Montana is the same size as Germany. This means a huge internal market with virtually no external influence or need for interoperability. That said the Canadian market is even more messed up than the US one. I don't know about Mexico.

That said you can buy some cheap phones including below $100 - eg see Walmart http://goo.gl/yoABV but note they are usually locked to a prepaid carrier! This http://goo.gl/KiUje is what consumers usually see - the subsidised prices which get you better phones at "cheaper" prices.

5 out of the top 10 mobile providers in the world are on that list


Any idea why? Too new or maybe because Mozilla is not corporate backed? I thought telcos hated the fact that just Android and iPhone were it

looking at how the galaxy nexus was treated on Verizon, I doubt they have much interest. Verizon would probably be for measures to prevent the bootloader from being unlocked and want control of updates.

Mozilla probably doesn't want to agree to those terms either, so I would be surprised if Verizon ever had one.

Just my experience with being a long time Verizon user and Android OS hobbyist modder.

Technically they could just take FirefoxOS and lock it down if they wanted - Mozilla's approval is not needed

True, sans all the Firefox branding and such they could do that without Mozilla's consent. With how Verizon went out of their way to ensure their Galaxy S3 was the only one that prevented users for easily unlocking the bootloader and enabling system writing, I don't foresee a positive future with any open OS on Verizon. I'm probably switching to T-Mobile when my contract is up next year. I enjoy the unlimited LTE dataspeed on Verizon I still have, but I'm not interested in keeping it while paying full price for a phone I don't really want.

But they wouldn't be able to call it FirefoxOS. The source may be open but the brand & trademark certainly aren't.

Yeah, I think you're correct. They'd have to remove all Firefox branding/advertising if they went against Mozilla's wishes.

Perhaps something could be added into the license agreement to prevent such usage?

Why would they?

I'm excited about Firefox OS and would love it to succeed. But I'm sceptical about this announcement.

In this list are Megafon and VimpelCom (AKA Beeline), two of the three leading operators in Russia. But their commitment means nearly nothing in this case. Mobile operators in Russia have little control over their customers' devices. Very few people buy phones and mobile contracts together.

That doesn't means operators aren't trying to sell devices tied to mobile contract. But it's still far from common.

In a place where phone sales are not based on contracts, the commitment of the operator is meaningless. On the other hand, it is not really necessary as it would be in the US.

BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21522713) says they will launch in "Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela". All middle income countries, with the exception of Spain.

During the Q&A, Gary Kovacs (CEO, Mozilla Corp.) mentioned that a USA release would probably happen around 2014, given that the initial launch is designed to deliver "mid to mid-high smartphone capabilities at mid to mid-high feature phone costs."

Also "Telstra is welcoming the Mozilla initiative as an opportunity to deliver an innovative mobile Web experience to their customers."

No idea why Telstra got their own little sentence, but they're australias traditional monopoly carrier who own all the phone lines.. so them being on board doesn't really give me a positive impression of what this commitment will entail.

Makes it sound like telstra was not happy to be called "committed" but said something nice back in the email reply so they thought it was worth putting in their PR.

Not sure if your comment is negative on Telstra? Despite their faults they do run the best mobile network in Australia.

Some of their faults IMHO..

- They charge like a wounded bull

- They have let the copper network fall into ruin [1]

- I have only ever had bad experiences with their customer service

- I have contempt for their service technicians

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/technology/articles/2012/11/23/3639761...

Yeah, guess I avoid any copper issues by using mobile only and cable internet.

Lets how many of those will feature operator "enhancements".

Not one damn operator from India. What a shame.

This is frakking awesome. This means that a considerable part of the world will get access to Firefox OS and afforable phones.

"It takes a one man to lead a horse to a river, but even forty cannot make it drink". Having access does not mean a lot will care.

I hope they don't do an Android I.e 18 fragmented broken rarely upgraded OS's with horrible carrier customisation.

This is the area that Microsoft with WinPhone 7+ and Apple with iOS have got right.

But that's what will happen. This looks destined to be a competitor to Android in the low-end space, allowing carriers and handset manufacturers to customize their offerings to differentiate them from the other cheap offerings.

It really amuses me that those Android phone manufacturers seem to believe customers gave a s--t about them trying to differentiate themselves from other brands. Actually, if customers obviously don't care about their horrible disimprovements, it only shows that they don't care at all. Do those managers even use their own gadgets? I believe not.

What I don't get is why they don't allow me to put a vanilla Android on the device. Oh, wait: they want me to buy a new phone when a major Android update comes out. Nope, guys, I'm gonna stick with iPhone or Nexus. Too sad the majority of customers likes to be fooled.

> Too sad the majority of customers likes to be fooled.

Not really fooled, just ignorant. Google is partially to blame for not marketing and cultivating Android as a brand more and leaving it up to OEMs (who mostly ignore it as a brand to differentiate once again).

It has some key advantages update wise, if carriers play the game properly. You can update FFOS in a restartless fashion for most cases.

Given it doesn't make carriers (only the OS) look bad if they don't, why would they bother to put in the engineering effort to do this?

The release cycle should be quite rapid, more so than any of the the existing OS platforms on the market. Additionally, if you can develop web sites/apps well on "evergreen" desktop browsers like Firefox and Chrome, the experience will be almost identical. Do you feel desktop Firefox and Chrome browsers upgrade too slowly today? If not, you're in luck, because the Gecko (JS, HTML, CSS) engine in Firefox OS can be updated just about as fast - after all, the Gecko engine that evaluates your markup, styles, and JS code in Firefox OS is the same one that's in the Firefox desktop browser ;)

I don't think that carriers will take a rapid release cycle.

The impression I got is that FirefoxOS is designed in such a way that it'll be a bit easier to upgrade than e.g. Android.

I think with Android, carriers are slow to upgrade because each update can create hardware incompatibility. With FF OS, they can hopefully upgrade Gecko (thus exposing new functionality to web apps) without messing with the device drivers etc. For whatever reasons, that doesn't seem possible with Android updates.

They can also upgrade the UI really easily (it's just HTML), but I assume that wouldn't be able to expose new APIS/functionality to apps.

That's basically correct. We can update Gecko (the web runtime) and Gaia (the core apps) independently of firmware updates.

This is what will get stuck in carrier certification I imagine.

WebOS tried the same thing around 3.xx when they moved the App catalog out of ROM. How will you handle overriding user changes to the apps? Will you overwrite them automatically?


Part of this simply has to do with Android's fledgling early versions and their rapid development. There were a lot of things that required core updates and driver updates that OEMs drug their feet on. Now, that's pretty well smoothed out with 4.0 and 4.x and hasn't been an issue and should be much less of one going forward.

[not true:] The great irony here of course is that Firefox OS uses SurfaceFlinger and relies on the Android stack. They can add new Gecko functionality, but if Android improves the graphics stack again -- guess what? If Firefox OS wants to leverage those (and they should) then they have to make the same core difficult-for-OEMS changes. [/not true]

The analog of "add APIs through Gecko" is "Android Compatibility Library" that adds new functionality to older versions of Android to allow targeting of older devices.

There is no irony other than you are misinformed. SurfaceFlinger is not really involved. They setup an OpenGLES context and then use a custom compositor.


[Edited for tone. Frustration got better of me]

Wow. Way off, my apologies. Post has been edited.

Firefox OS doesn't use SurfaceFlinger at all. Our graphic susbsytem talks directly to the GL layer.

Yeah, I just realized that I confused Ubuntu with Firefox OS (ubuntu does use SurfaceFlinger). IIRC, as of several months ago, there were a few components that Firefox OS still piggy-backed on Android for. Either way, my point was quite invalid. Thanks for the correction.

Most Windows Phone devices in the hands of customers aren't even running the same kernel as the most recent version.


Apart from the Kernel, 7.5 and 8 are pretty much identical and 99.9% of all apps work fine on both. I have both devices sitting in front of me.

The same cannot be said between say Android 2.3 which is still in circulation and 4.whatever-is-current.

>The same cannot be said between say Android 2.3 which is still in circulation and 4.whatever-is-current.

Pfft. Says who?

> Pfft. Says who?

Says Google, with 45% still using 2.3. Also, all my apps outside of ones for root users are still a majority of 2.3 users.


There are only few apps that dont work on 2.3 versions of android - most often new launchers - i think thats what the comment above was implying.

Didn't think of it that way, but they would be correct if that was the case. 2.3 and above is easy enough to code for with the compatibility library. 2.2 is mostly okay, unless one wants to use something like the download manager api added in 2.3.

Which has nothing to do with what Meaty said. Target 2.3 and progressively enhance for 4.0 if you need/want to. I see the other comment already pointed this out. Saying it's fragmented is like saying Windows is fragmented because users are on XP, Vista, 7 and 8 in significant numbers. Or OS X is fragmented because there are a block of users that effectively refuse to upgrade. Or his own example of WP... you have to be conscious about what you're targeting.

It's just a silly excuse to try to slander Android and I'm tired of people like meaty using "fragmented" to try to make some sort of "point".

I agree with you of course with your clarification now :).

I just misinterpreted your context to mean you were calling in question how many users were on which OS. Android fragmentation is much overblown by those that have probably never even tried to build an Android app. Especially if one is targeting 2.3+. I generally target 2.2 and above without any issue.

If I do run into issues, it's really because I'm playing around with things that were never intended to be messed with (reflection or things that require root). Neither of those two examples are fair to blame on Android though.

Maybe someone here will know - is Firefox OS going to be customized by manufacturers like Android, or the same everywhere like Windows? I know it's open source so manufacturers could do whatever they want, but maybe there's some agreement I don't know about which will make them keep the standard ui. Anybody know?

As far as I know, the UI is completely HTML/CSS/JS and can be entirely replaced or customized.

Sadly that will just cause horrible fragmentation and bad design as it has for Android.

Yeah - I don't see why people are so excited about this. To me, it looks like the Firefox OS will end up being a carriers' vector to try and assert more control over the phone ecosystem again. Without a big player like Apple, Google, or MS to enforce some ground rules, the carriers can just completely screw with any phone.

I think this will be a miserable experience for consumers - think about it - why else would carriers be so excited?

Hopefully Mozilla can assert some control over when a carrier/manufacturer is allowed to call something "Firefox OS" (like they do with Firefox itself) so that there is a core brand which is un-crapware-ified.

Except mozilla has no real experience in marketing. So you are hoping they can build a brand big enough and powerful enough that carriers are willing to cast aside their main goal of differentiation from each other, just so they can call their phone a "firefox os" phone, instead of hiding what it runs and calling it whatever they want.

Good luck with that. :)

Flexibility doesn't cause bad design. If you want an iPhone and a tightly regulated app store because only an Apple-type platform is acceptable to you, you will still be able to buy an iPhone.

Has/will Ubuntu Mobile, Tizen or any of the other minor players announced anything similar?


They sure would love to. Their last move was to call out for mobile operators and constructors.

If anything, this move will lower their chances (a mobile operator already committed to an endeavor might not risk another). They may get a niche market if their tech is good, however.


They will announce a market release, but really it depends on partnerships with mobile operators.

I feel the coming irony of the days when FirefoxOS will perform better and be faster than Ubuntu phones.

(It's already true, but since Ubuntu phones aren't there yet, the comparison is unfair.)

The low end ubuntu hardware specification is better than what they are showcasing FirefoxOS on at MWC currently. It's hard to guess what the end comparison will be once it's fully production ready.

Android and FFOS perform similarly on the same hardware platform for what it's worth - each have their own advantages in some cases.

Totally irrelevant until operators actually start selling and subsidizing the devices. Operators will support all OS's, it's in their interest to make sure there is competition at the device and OS level. True commitment comes when they start putting marketing dollars behind the real products.

I love watching how incentives drive so many things I see around me.

Looks like the operators have just realised that Android is commoditizing their services and turning them into just dumb substitutable commodity data providers.

How many phone OS do we need? I think the reason we have so many is the same reason we have so many different power connectors and screw heads. Because too many A$$hats are alive.

Competition is good.

If you're worried about connectors, it probably has a MicroUSB-b port, and you don't have to get it.

Suck it, Google. This is what you get for being control freaks and abusing all the other players. You cant own everything. You are going to lose the billing, application distribution and DRM battle for sure now. Your burgeoning YouTube-based media empire cum ChromeOS/DRM wet dream is destined for failure. Wake up and smell the roses. You are evil. We hate you.

"The majority of our revenue comes from the search functionality in the Firefox browser. Google is the largest source of revenue and in December 2011, we announced that we negotiated a significant and mutually beneficial revenue agreement with Google. This new agreement extends our long term search relationship with Google for at least three additional years." -- http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/foundation/annualreport/2011/

I upvoted you because so many tend to forget this. Any comparisons of Firefox v. Chrome need to bear in mind the fact that development of Firefox is enabled by Google.

It's also important to note that the $1B they pay Apple isn't insignificant either:


The only reason they pay is the marketshare firefox/safari holds.

If it wasn't google paying, it would be microsoft, with bing.

It would be a huge loss for Google currently. Don't doubt for a second that if Firefox marketshare falls under 5% Google will stop paying anything.

Don't be so sure. Google is also one of Opera's biggest clients, paying a significant sum to Opera for search traffic from their desktop browser, despite its much smaller desktop market share:


Opera makes about $15M per quarter in revenue from its desktop browser:


ok maybe instead of 5% i should have said "an insignificant market share" (5% is still pretty big)

Even Opera's marketshare is significant.

But just imagine, for a second, that 20% of the internet just gets to use bing instead of google.com because it became the default overnight. Outch.

just like large part of GOOG revenue comes from Google being the default search engine in Firefox,

some day Mozilla may pull the plug and switch to some other SE i.e. Bing or DDG

Very true - it's definitely a symbiotic relationship. I doubt DDG could drop $300M a year, but MSFT could. Mozilla isn't going to give up that kind of $ just to hurt Google. The numbers vary by source, but across the board you see that FF's market share has dropped by about 1/3 or more since 2009, so every month that number gets lower (which seems to be the trend), FF becomes less and less valuable to Google.

You should probably link your numbers, as from what I know, that's pretty much FUD. In fact, Firefox has gained market share over the past month.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Usage_share_of_web_browser... (same marketshare now as in 2009.)

Should have been clear. I wasn't saying beginning 2009, but their high in market share, which was late 2009. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers, which contains the graphic you linked to. In November 2009, FF's market share hit it's high of 32.2%. January 2013: 21.4%. Not FUD: the graph you linked shows the same. That's a reduction of 33%.

Specifically, they're getting about $300 million per year from the Big Bad Google.

I wish I had the karma to downvote you into oblivion.

Don't worry, I agree with you.

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