a week in wireless


A New Hope

AWIW526

With Spring just a few days away, it’s a time for new starts, and new starts have been quite the theme this week. While the world’s press has been extensively covering the Catholic Church’s quest for a new leader, with similar fervour the telecoms industry has been monitoring the change of leadership at Android.

Android co-founder Andy Rubin – the man whose name has been synonymous with the platform since its inception, has stepped down from his role as Google’s senior VP of mobile and digital content. In his role, he oversaw development of Android, which within a decade became the most popular handset OS in the world, accounting for 52.3 per cent market share in January 2013, according to stats from Gartner.

The firm looks to be bringing Chrome, Apps and Android closer together. When the smoke turned from black to white at Google Towers, it was Sundar Pichai who was unveiled as the man set to become the busiest in the industry, taking on the responsibility of overseeing Android, along with Google’s web browser Chrome as well as Google Apps.

Rubin will remain on Google’s payroll though and CEO Larry Page was quite vague in his announcement of the news, stating merely that Rubin would be “starting a new chapter at Google”, before adding: “Andy, more moonshots please”.

The Informer isn’t sure if Page made his announcement in a Mountain View bar, or whether he may have been implying Rubin would now join one of Google’s space programmes.

Google has indeed been busy Spring cleaning this week – the firm has dropped some of its less memorable services in the past, such as the unsuccessful Google Buzz and the awful Google Wave, but the announcement that the firm is retiring Google Reader – the firm’s RSS feed aggregator tool – in July sparked unrest among thousands of users. In fact, a Change.org petition pleading for Google not to retire the tool attracted 50,000 signatures the day after the announcement.

Google engineer Al Green (a different one) crooned: “Usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.”

Green also admitted he was sad to see Google Reader go, and that he was tired of being alone.

Google wasn’t the only firm to announce a change of leadership this week. ST Ericsson CEO Didier Lamouche appears to have successfully jumped from a sinking ship, handing in his resignation on Monday. Lamouche will leave the company on March 31 “to pursue other opportunities”, and it’s not hard to find more promising opportunities elsewhere. One of the JV’s partners, STMicroelectronics, has already announced it is trying to exit the joint venture, but Ericsson doesn’t want to be left holding the loss making business either. ST Ericsson has not named Lamouche’s successor, which is worrying as it only has two weeks before Lamouche leaves. But, whoever it is that takes on the role has a tough time ahead.

The consensus is that Lamouche did a pretty decent job, considering the circumstances. Hans Vestberg, chairman of the ST-Ericsson’s board of directors, said: “Didier Lamouche came into ST-Ericsson when the company was in a very challenging situation and has been instrumental in bringing the company to the point where it is more focused on strategy execution, a much lower breakeven point and positive momentum where the new LTE modem-based products are ready for market introduction this year.”

So not only will the new CEO be in charge of a firm that lost $169m in 4Q12 alone, his predecessor is generally believed to be a tough act to follow. It’s a shame Pope Francis has just taken a new job, as ST Ericsson needs more than just a new leader, it needs a miracle.

Elsewhere, the Czech Republic’s telecoms regulator CTU has pulled the plug on an auction for 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz spectrum after bids rocketed out of control.

At the time of cancellation, bids had already topped CZK20bn (€780m) and were still rising. This may sound like good news for the Czechs, but the regulator has decided to reign in spend to stop the charges being passed on to consumers. That’s some good regulating, CTU.

“Such excessive prices of the auctioned frequencies would have to negatively translate into excessive charges for fast mobile internet,” the CTU said. “We therefore consider it necessary to step in and prevent future negative consequences for the customers.”

A new auction will likely take place within a couple of months, when the CTU has had to opportunity to put pricing safeguards in place.

Over in the US of A, the FCC has let the proposed T-Mobile USA and Metro PCS merger be. The regulator has ruled that the two operators would not likely result in competitive harm to consumers.

“It also appears that this transaction could lead to benefits such as greater deployment of advanced Long Term Evolution (LTE) services, the expansion of the MetroPCS brand into new geographical markets, and the development of a more robust, nationwide network,” said FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn.

The deal now hinges on MetroPCS’ shareholders sanctioning it, who have voiced their disapproval since the potential deal was announced in October 2012. They will be holding a vote on the matter in April.

And staying on the topic of regulation, UK regulator Ofcom wants to work with the mobile industry on a series of measures to address the problem of bill shock. It’s a problem that seems as old as Methusaleh, but Ofcom, following its review into the causes of bill shock, believes it can tackle the issue by recommending that UK mobile providers voluntarily introduce roaming financial caps and alerts prior to the EU’s new legislation taking effect.

The regulator has also written to mobile providers asking them to do more to develop and promote ‘opt-in’ measures, such as tariffs that allow consumers to set their own financial caps or receive alerts about usage. And the regulator now intends to work with providers to explore the feasibility of limiting the amount consumers would be liable for if their phone was stolen. If all that recommending, suggesting and letter writing doesn’t produce results, Ofcom said that it would consider mandatory options to tackle the problem.

Meanwhile in Africa, Sweden’s Ericsson has secured a five-year deal to manage mobile networks across Africa. The firm has signed a managed services contract with Atlantique Telecom, part of the UAE-headquartered Etisalat Group, for the operator’s Western and Central African operations.

Atlantique Telecom has operations in Benin, Central Africa Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Niger and Togo. The contract covers network operations, field maintenance, network optimisation and spare parts management for Etisalat’s multivendor mobile networks, including access, core and transmission, as well as value added services.

The firm said that it aims to develop offerings based on value-added services to its growing subscriber base. During the past decade, the number of mobile connections in Africa has grown an average of 30 per cent per year, the firm noted.

Lars Lindén, head of Ericsson in region sub-Saharan Africa added that managed services is a proven business model to support operators in growth.

“It is one of the most dynamic areas in our industry. Our work together will support Atlantique Telecom in defining a new generation of operators in Africa,” he said.

And finally, operator groups Vodafone and Orange have announced they will co-invest in fibre to the home (FTTH) deployment in Spain. The two intend to reach six million households and workplaces across 50 major cities by September 2017.

Under the terms of the agreement, Vodafone and Orange will each deploy street-level fibre in complementary geographies. The fibre will be owned independently but will share the same technical specifications to ensure compatibility as a single network. Each partner will have guaranteed access to the whole infrastructure, according to Vodafone.

The combined capital expenditure is expected to reach €1bn. Vodafone and Orange believe the agreement will increase fibre deployment efficiencies and maximise returns on investment for both operators. The agreement is also open to third parties willing to co-invest.

“This agreement demonstrates Vodafone’s commitment to provide high-speed unified communications services to our customers coupled with our willingness to invest when there are positive returns,” said Vodafone Chief Executive for the Southern Europe region, Paolo Bertoluzzo.

And that’s about all for this week. Take care,

The Informer.


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