a week in wireless


It’s a knockout!

AWIW424

Check this out! The Informer has had a wonderful idea for a regular slot on telecoms.com: Elevator Fighting! It’s a combination of the elevator pitch and cage fighting with a bit of Dragon’s Den thrown in. This week the Informer was introduced to Ryan Gallagher, CEO of Iovox, a telecom start-up due to launch its platform in early December. But in his spare time Gallagher is a bare knuckle boxer. Just the sort of background you need for this industry eh? Why in his spare time, the Informer is an industry vigilante, roaming the darkened alleyways of the mobile world, fighting for truth, justice, and lower roaming rates. So the plan is to get a VC sponsor for the feature which is willing to stump up some investment money and then have startups fight it out in the confines of an elevator. Last startup standing wins. Any interested VCs and start-ups can get in touch at: the.informer@telecoms.com.

Actually, now that the seed is planted in his imagination, the idea of the Informer as a vigilante superhero is quite attractive. But every superhero needs a city and perhaps there is just the place, complete with twisting alleyways and Gothic architecture, for him to inhabit…

Behold the latest megalomaniac plan from the GSMA: “Mobile World Capital™”. A concept which, and the Informer kids you not, “extends far beyond the industry-leading annual Mobile World Congress event to include a range of academic and business development opportunities, cultural festivals and programmes, and the creation of a permanent centre of the industry.”

The industry body has announced that the six finalist cities vying to host the Mobile World Congress from 2013 to 2017, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Cologne, Milan, Munich and Paris, are also developing proposals to become the Mobile World Capital for the same time period. Finalist cities? Proposals? It’s not the bloody Olympics.

And as for the Mobile World Centre, which will include “technology exhibits, museum features, a retail area, a mobile café, office space and more,” and the Mobile World Festival, “that will be targeted to the general public and will…incorporate mobile-driven festivities including concerts, music and movie festivals, competitions and awards, and dialogues and debates, among others.” Forget Glastonbury, is this where all the kids will be going in a few years?

But why stop there? It is the Informer’s prediction that in 2017, when the tenure for the next Mobile World Capital expires, that the GSMA will have begun plans to construct its own landmass – a continent it can call Mobile World Capital permanently. The Informer has visions of a velvet-suited Rob Conway, much like Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, planting a Kryptonian crystal somewhere in the Atlantic and watching a new landmass start to grow. This would of course raise the water levels across the rest of the world, driving people to the higher ground of Mobile World where they would have to take employment in the giant theme park.

On the subject of employment, further personnel changes were taking place at Nokia this week, which has hired another North American to help newly installed chief Stephen Elop inject some fresh thinking into the company. Jerri DeVard takes up the position of chief marketing officer from January 1, 2011 and will report into Niklas Savander, head of Nokia’s Markets unit. Based on what the Informer’s heard, DeVard is a bit of a wow in the marketing world and should give the Finnish firm a bit of oomph. She did used to head up marketing for NFL team the Minnesota Vikings, which should stand her in good stead.

Meanwhle, HP’s newly installed CEO, Leo Apotheker, has taken a “brave new approach” with the company, which this week posted a five per cent increase in earnings year on year. Whereas former CEO Mark Hurd made HP an efficient technology company by reducing the cost of doing business as well as R&D spend, Apotheker has vowed to increase organic development initiatives.

So Apotheker won’t be looking to enhance R&D by acquiring new technology. Just as well really, look what happened last time. Apotheker joined HP from SAP, where he held the position of CEO until September. But he left the software firm under a cloud, with SAP accused of nicking software from Oracle and reselling it to the latter’s customers at a reduced price. To be fair, the accusation was levelled at TomorrowNow, a company SAP purchased in 2005 and shut down in 2008 when the software piracy was realised. Apotheker had been expected to testify at the SAP trial this week – also his first week on the job at HP – but was instead found, or rather not found, to be on a “listening tour” of HP offices in remote locations around the globe.

The Informer has heard that Oracle boss Larry Ellison was desperate to get Apotheker on the stand and was perhaps chasing the new HP chief around the world in his Mig 29, subpoena clutched in hand. But it wasn’t to be and a federal court on Tuesday fined SAP $1.3bn, without the need for Apotheker to swear.

Still it’s a small world and Ellison can probably find a bitching buddy in Mark Hurd though, who has taken the role of co-president at Oracle. Hurd quit HP over the summer amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Back to the topic of this little chronicle though and according to Roy Illsley, principal analyst at Ovum, HP’s new emphasis on finding the future revenue streams from within makes sense. This could be good news for Palm, which was acquired by HP for $1.2bn in cash in April, at which time the new owner said it intends to heavily invest in the webOS platform, developing software and hardware products from smartphones to slate PCs and netbooks.

HP’s Apotheker was not the only executive on the lam this week. Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, the former of mobile messaging firm Comverse who fled to Namibia in 2006 to avoid prosecution over stock option backdating has agreed to pay $54m to settle with the US Attorney’s office. He’s still a fugitive however and extradition proceedings are still ongoing, if slowly.

While we’re in Africa, India-based Bharti Airtel, the new owner of Zain’s African assets has begun the re-branding process across the 16 operations in the region. With the unveiling of the new brand identity, Airtel becomes the master brand for all the group’s 19 operations in Asia and Africa covering over 200 million customers. The Zap mobile money service will also be re-branded Airtel Money with immediate effect. Zain completed the $10.7bn sale of its African operations (excluding Morocco and Sudan) to Bharti in June of this year, allowing the Middle Eastern firm to will refocus on its “highly cash generative operations” at home.

There was more selling in the region this week as Egyptian carrier Orascom Telecom, part of Naguib Sawiris’s Weather Investments portfolio, offloaded its operation in Tunisia for a total of $1.2bn. The 50 per cent stake in Orascom Telecom Tunisie was acquired by Wataniya Telecom, a 52.5 per cent subsidiary of Qtel (Qatar Telecom) and local partner the Princesse Holding consortium. As a result of the deal, Qtel now owns 100 per cent of the Tunisian operator and will fully consolidate the business.

Moving on to Asia, and a group of 11 companies including operators and vendors have formed the Asia Cloud Computing Association. But the protagonists seem to be throwing a party for those who want to enter the region and not necessarily the region stakeholders themselves. Under the banner of ACCA, the non-profit organisation will work to address regional issues and challenges in the adoption of cloud computing in Asia, addressing privacy and security concerns, compliance and regulation, business models and service levels. Founding members are AlcatelLucent, Cisco, EMC, Microsoft, NetApp, Nokia Siemens Networks, PLDT/Smart, Rackspace, REACH, Telenor, and Verizon. As analyst house Ovum pointed out, the founding members include a number of heavyweights but all the leading regional cloud computing telcos are noticeably absent.

“The association will need to be engaging policy makers, service providers, and especially early users of cloud computing within the region to promote, sponsor, identify and share some standard messages with the stakeholders (including regulators). This will also include sharing best practices within the region, as well as setting achievable goals that will reduce barriers to cloud adoption. It is likely that a prioritized list of issues, starting with a few countries and focusing on a few barriers, will be more successful than having broad and general goals across too many complex issues and countries,” according to Mike Sapien, principal analyst and Claudio Castelli, senior analyst at Ovum.

Right, the Informer is off to Dubai this weekend, to attend the Middle East Telco World Summit conference taking place next week. He expects to be in good, even royal, company as he was pleased to note that the Queen and her escort, the Duke of Edinburgh, have just touched down in the UAE for a five day state visit of the Gulf States. Expect to read about some real clangers dropped by Prince Philip in the UK press very soon. There’s probably a good reason why it’s the royals first state visit to the region since 1979.

Take care

The Informer

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