a week in wireless


Territorial Boundaries

AWIW450

Whichever way you cut it, it’s not been a good week for US LTE-satellite mash-up LightSquared. The firm has been under pressure over the likelihood that the satellite element of its game will interfere with GPS systems. Early in the week LightSquared announced its intention to switch spectrum bands so that its operations would be “further away from the GPS frequencies, greatly reducing the risk for interference.”

If it had been hoping to sooth the rankled members of the Coalition to Save our GPS – which includes Garmin, TomTom and FedEx – then it’s hope was very much misplaced. And if a name like The Coalition to Save our GPS makes you think of Nimbys trying to evict a group of gypsies, then you’re on the right lines.

The Coalition’s response was unequivocal. “This latest gambit by LightSquared is bordering on the bizarre,” it said, going on to argue that the newcomer’s plan would still result in interference, as proved by US Government and third party studies. “It is time for LightSquared to move out of the MSS band,” said Jim Kirkland, VP of Coalition founding member Trimble.

The Coalition has clearly been lobbying hard. Towards the end of the week, a US House of Representatives committee passed a bill blocking the FCC from granting LightSquared the waiver that it needs to progress with its plans. The carrier, you’ll remember, had been given permission by the regulator to go ahead on the condition that it tested for and moved to resolve any interference issues. But the FCC would have to fund testing to verify LightSquared’s results and the House Appropriations Committee has now passed a measure preventing the FCC from spending any money on the waiver; which it would have to do to get the testing done. It’s Machiavellian stuff.

The Informer found himself wondering how it could have come to this. These people have launched a satellite into space. That’s no mean feat. Surely they could have anticipated this kind of reaction from existing spectrum users.

The US G has also been getting stuck into mobile industry nomenclature. A bill was introduced into the senate this week named the “Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act” that aims to hold wireless providers to account over the true capabilities of their networks. Senator Anna Eshoo said: “My legislation is simple – it will establish guidelines for understanding what 4G speed really is.”

In October 2010 the ITU mandated that only services offering 100Mbps download speed on the move could be classified as 4G, but two months later expanded the definition to any service that offers a significant increase in throughput over initial 3G deployments, a decision based on the realities of US marketing strategies.

Verizon Wireless describes its LTE network as 4G and says that it can deliver 5-12Mbps. MetroPCS promotes its networks as 4G-LTE, while Sprint refers to its slower WiMax offering as 4G. AT&T calls its HSPA+ service 4G and  T-Mobile USA even defines its HSPA 14.4Mbps network as 4G. If only they’d stuck to the ITU definition in the first place, Senator Eshoo wouldn’t have to do all this work! On top of dealing with a name that sounds like a sneeze!

Maybe she could have a word with the neighbours. Last week, Rogers Wireless of Canada took things to another level by touting its forthcoming LTE offering as “beyond 4G.”

Anyway, if it does all go tits up for LightSquared, then the firm’s pain will be shared by Nokia Siemens Networks, which has a multibillion dollar deal to deploy and manage the firm’s network.

Things are looking brighter for NSN in the UK, where it is planning to announce a new managed services deal next week. The word is that, once the curtain’s lifted on the deal, NSN will be managing 40 million subscribers here in Blighhty. It already has an outsourcing deal in place with Orange, so one scenario is that this deal is expanding to cover T-Mobile, which is now coupled with Orange as part of Everything Everywhere.

The problem with that is that Ericsson runs the network at MBNL, the 3G JV owned by T-Mobile and 3UK. So if Everything Everywhere is the focus of the deal, NSN would just be managing T-Mo’s 2G network, effectively allowing T-Mo’s 3G customers to be counted by both vendors.

Ericsson also has maintenance deals in place with O2 and Vodafone’s UK operations, although these are less far reaching. We’ll have to wait and see what comes out next week. Keep your eyes on Telecoms.com.

Here in the UK we have now got spectrum trading, thanks to regulator Ofcom. From Monday UK carriers are permitted to trade spectrum in the 900, 1800 and 2100MHz bands. Fifth-placed 3UK wasn’t happy. “ This move simply allows those who have been gifted access to public spectrum to profit from it, with no benefit for UK taxpayers. Ofcom’s ambition to deliver faster and more capable services to consumers is best served by a truly competitive allocation of this public asset.”

Back to NSN, though, which was in generous spirits this week, investing in ClariPhy, a silicon outfit that develops integrated circuits for optical networks.

Silicon still doesn’t seem to be working out too well for Ericsson. The firm’s silicon JV, ST Ericsson, announced 500 job cuts this week as part of the latest round of cost savings. The aim is to achieve $120m in annual savings by the end of next year, necessitated by “recent changes in the business environment and reduced demand for legacy products at certain customers.” The restructure itself is expected to cost $55m.

In the Heart-warming News department, meanwhile, Ericsson is leading a campaign in partnership with Refugees United and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to get operators to make their technology available to help reconnect some of the world’s 47 million refugees with their loved ones. The plan is for an anonymous database of refugees that can be searched by families, through SMS, internet or an Android smartphone app. Good stuff.

Overall there are reasons for cheerfulness in the vendor world, at least according to research outfit iSuppli. The firm predicted this week that global spending on wireless network infrastructure will grow year on year by 7.7 per cent in 2011, to hit $43.2bn. Spending will be up in all regions apart from MEA and Central America, where in total it will fall to $1.9bn, the firm said. Asia Pac will see the highest spend, at $19.8bn, followed by Europe at $11.5bn, North America at $7.6bn and Latin America at $3.3bn.

Perhaps it is this kind of buoyant news that has convinced Samsung it can make a go of the European networks business, despite coming a little late to the party. So late to the party, in fact, that some of the original guests have actually died. The Korean outfit stated recently that it would be making a play for LTE network deals in Europe and this week it announced one closer to home, with Japanese carrier KDDI. The plan is for KDDI to switch on LTE services next year, built on Samsung kit. The Korean vendor has previously supplied KDDI with CDMA and WiMAX kit.

We’ll finish up this week with some handset news, though, and the Nokia MeeGo phone released this week. The Informer didn’t understand why Nokia did this, given that MeeGo has been sufficiently sidelined within the organisation that one of its most senior loyalists left the firm in high dudgeon. Nokia has strapped itself to Microsoft’s WP7 in a last ditch bid to retake the higher ground in the handset space, so what’s it doing messing around with MeeGo at all? Does this mean that WP7 handsets are running late? Or was the project just too far down the line to make it worth calling off. We don’t know.

But the emphasis on a single interface gimmick, which sees applications closed with a sideways swipe of the touchscreen, apparently negating the need for a hard home key, was stony ground indeed. Back in the day, a single interface gimmick was enough to make Nokia phones like the 7110 effortlessly cool. But that’s just not the case any more.

Take care

The Informer

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