a week in wireless


Cheese and ham

The Informer has thought about this a bit but he can come up with no circumstances under which a person would need so much carbohydrate in a single dish that a potato omelette sandwich would be necessary. But they’re a staple foodstuff in Barcelona – and almost unique among the local cuisine in that they do not consist of cheese and ham. The Informer likes cheese, and he likes ham. But have too much them and you’ll start to experience strange and unsettling effects.

In this way they are similar to the Mobile World Congress, which is the reason the Informer has been in Barcelona this week, eating cheese and ham for breakfast, cheese and ham for lunch and cheese and ham for dinner.

The Mobile World Congress – 2008 is the first year the show has operated under it’s new name, which allows the GSMA to spread its tendrils further out into the industry – is a big show. It makes the Informer feel a bit like that bloke in A Clockwork Orange, whose eyes are pinned open while he’s subjected to a barrage of jagged, flashing images. Fortunately, the Informer is immune to the re-conditioning efforts of marketing directors, so maintained his usual healthy levels of cynicism throughout the whole sordid mess.

As well as being a major exhibition, one where pretty much everyone views attendance as essential, the show acts like a giant megaphone for the GSMA, which has been flexing its message management muscles this week like a pro body builder.

The trade association’s principle theme at the beginning of the week was redolent of that message on the statue of liberty about the weak and the huddled masses. Come one, come all, the Association was saying:

“We need to be agnostic about the precise technologies being used – or not used – at the radio access layer,” said chairman Craig Ehrlich. “For some operators, for example, WiMAX may be a threat. For others it may be an opportunity. Irrespective of these individual considerations the GSMA needs to embrace the entire constituency, including CDMA operators.” The Informer hasn’t heard a change of tune like that since he stopped listening to King Crimson.

Ehrlich even said that CDMA carriers would have representation at the GSMA (which is surely destined for a name-change itself in the near future) inside 12 months. Does anyone remember the days when these people used to loathe one another?

With the recent news that US CDMA player Verizon will be following the LTE route to 4G, the GSMA has clearly realised that it has an opportunity to expand its membership and its influence.

But it didn’t stop at the CDMA crowd. If the GSMA has had a bête noire in recent months, then it’s been Vivienne Reding, the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, whose personal crusade against exorbitant roaming charges has elicited a range of responses from the GSMA: everything from a kind of faux-injured “what, us?” to outright hostility.

But here was Reding, sat alongside key GSMA players at a press conference. Unfortunately, for some accidental reason no doubt, Reding didn’t really get any time to speak about the issues dear to her heart. Demure she ain’t, though, so she announced that she would be giving an impromptu speech after the press conference and led the assembled hacks outside where she stood on some steps and delivered her message, as the Sky News crew’s camera rolled. Some people just know how to work it, don’t they?

Word from an insider at the event’s Show Daily suggested that the love wasn’t being spread evenly, though, with coverage of any WiMAX news being scanned for worrying traces of positivity before being allowed through.

Vodafone’s CEO Arun Sarin – whose remarks about the lead that WiMAX was stealing over LTE at last year’s event were the source of considerable interest – had another message this week, urging the industry to consolidate the number of handset operating systems that are available. This would appear to be in contrast to the prevailing trend, as the likes of Apple and Google look to make their mark in the handset space.

The Informer met with Symbian CEO Nigel Clifford at the show, who was in expansive mood with some positive figures to report. Google is an application partner of the Symbian alliance and when the Informer asked Clifford why – with Symbian’s lead in the feature phone market fairly pronounced – he thought that Google was dabbling in the world of Linux.

“We may even have said that to them ourselves,” he said. “You never know.” He continued: “The unknown about a number of the new entrants is how their business model is going to work. How cooperative, competitive or challenging is it going to be to the established business models of the operators and the vendors?” It’s probably fair to say that this is one of the most prominent questions in the industry at the moment.

There were 22.4 million Symbian units shipped in Q4 last year, which represented year on year growth of 53 per cent, while revenues were up 18 per cent at £56.5m.

Symbian platforms are shifting down into lower end handsets as the overall level of functionality across terminals in general is on the increase. Interestingly, though, market share in the Symbian range does not accurately reflect overall terminal vendor rankings. Aside from the fact that Nokia’s out in front, of course.

In other handset OS news, Swedish-Japanese JV Sony Ericsson introduced a Windows Mobile phone – the Xperia X1 – which is being built by Taiwanese vendor HTC.

Back to the march of the internet players, though, and T-Mobile this week announced a partnership with Yahoo that will see the carrier implement Yahoo’s oneSearch function. Yahoo is not so keen on the partnership with Microsoft that the Redmond outfit suggested, though.

It reckons that Microsoft’s bid of more than $40bn “substantially undervalues” the firm. In a letter to stockholders, Yahoo said:

“We have a huge market opportunity – and are uniquely positioned to capitalise on it. The global online advertising market is projected to grow from $45 billion in 2007 to $75 billion in 2010. And we are moving quickly to take advantage of what we see as a unique window of time in the growth – and evolution – of this market to build market share and to create value for stockholders.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal was this week reporting that News Corp was looking at a bid of its own for the search giant. Gulp.

In other Yahoo news this week, the firm unveiled a mobile platform called oneConnect that plugs into every available social networking site – Myspace, Facebook et al – allowing users a single interface for all of their mobile social networking needs. Kind of a social networking site for social networks.

Mobile advertising remained a popular topic at the show this week, as it has done for the past few years. And the big international players, Vodafone, Telefonica O2 Europe, T-Mobile International, FT-Orange and 3, this week launched their own advertising initiative. The move was described by M:Metrics Paul Goode as “unprecedented”. The carriers are conducting a study on the UK market to see whether or not they can draw up a series of common metrics and measurement tactics with which they can simplify, and thereby stimulate, the mobile advertising offering.

O2 was making announcements on the network side as well, revealing this week that it is trialling NEC femtocell technology, ahead of a possible launch in 2009. The Informer caught up with Simon Saunders, chairman of the recently established Femto Forum, who pitched the technology as a low-risk option for further network deployments:

There has been a certain hesitancy among the operators to spend on network upgrades because there is no available capex for big rollouts,” he said. “Femtocells effectively de-risk the upgrade, they are low cost and they can be deployed where the data growth is highest.” All you’ve got to do is persuade an already jumpy public that having one in their living room will not put them at further risk from The Rays.

Back home now, the Informer is going through that process of looking back at the week and wondering if it wasn’t all just a strange dream. But the bag of show freebies sitting at his feet reminds him that he was, in fact, there. Not to mention the extra grey hairs. Amidst all the excitement this week, the Informer had almost forgotten that A Week in Wireless turns 300 today. So happy birthday to me! But just how do you stop yourself from going grey? The Informer would have liked to ask Robert Redford, who was at the show this week sporting a fiery thatch, but he couldn’t get anywhere near him.


3 comments

  1. Russell Whitworth 18/02/2008 @ 5:07 pm

    I’m very sorry to hear that you’ve stopped listening to King Crimson. There’s no need for that. Should you feel the need to resume, you’ll find plenty of downloads — many of them free — here:

    http://www.dgmlive.com

  2. Peter Mercier, BBC 18/02/2008 @ 5:26 pm

    Nice piece. I haven’t had a vegetable for a week. Good to be back and happy 300.

  3. Dave Moore, OnePin 18/02/2008 @ 5:27 pm

    Especially enjoyed this week’s report – much more amusing than the telco rags on this side of the pond – no mention of Redford’s syrup here!

    Cheers,
    Dave

    PS: are you any relation to The Stig?

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