a week in wireless


May I interest you in the parts of my body?

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Canadian vendor Nortel continued its impersonation of the cow in Douglas Adams’ Restaurant at the End of the Universe this week, offering up for consumption various bits and pieces of its anatomy with a pacific smile and a batting of its long eyelashes.

This week it was the turn of the firm’s optical networking and carrier Ethernet assets, sliced off and plated up for Ciena, which may or may not have swallowed nervously when presented with a bill for $390m in cash and ten million shares of Ciena common stock estimated to be worth a further $131m.

Gary Smith, Ciena’s CEO and president, said he believes the transaction will position the firm for faster growth through greater geographic reach and a deeper portfolio of solutions. The company intends to make employment offers to at least 2,000 Nortel employees under the deal, with Ciena expecting to incur integration-related costs of approximately $180m.

As with Nortel’s other sales, this proposed transaction is subject to a competitive bidding process and requires the approval of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Ciena expects hearings before these courts to be held within the next several weeks.

Another of Adams’ many memorable creations, of course, was Marvin the paranoid android. We have no news of him this week, but his namesake operating system has continued to grab the headlines. (That’s Google’s Android, by the way, not a new OS called Marvin.)

First up was the announcement that US carrier and Vodafone-Verizon progeny Verizon Wireless has struck a deal with Google that will see the two firms collaborate on a variety of services for the platform and a number of Android devices that will be pre-loaded with applications from both companies as well as third party developers. This isn’t one of those deals that stretches into the far blue yonder, either. The pair have clearly been beavering away for some time as Verizon promised to unveil the first of its new phones inside a couple of weeks.

We don’t yet know the manufacturers involved but there’s one more possibility this week than there was last week, with the report in the WSJ this week that PC vendor Dell is developing an Android handset for Verizon’s US competitor AT&T. Such an announcement has been expected for some time, since Dell nabbed Ron Garriques, head of Motorola’s handset unit, in 2007. This summer, Garriques confirmed that the firm has been working with carriers to provide hardware solutions, suggesting that carriers have “massive needs that are not being met,” by the current raft of terminal providers.

AT&T is better known as the first provider of the iPhone than as an Android peddler and this week the carrier graciously cleared the way for previously outlawed VoIP applications to run on the Apple product. iPhone VoIP applications had hitherto been allowed only over wifi, despite the fact that other handsets offered by AT&T have been VoIP enabled for use on the cellular network.

Commenting on the move, Josh Silverman, president of internet telephony firm Skype, said: “Since launching our iPhone application six months ago, consumers have downloaded and installed Skype on 10 per cent of all iPhone and iPod touch devices sold. This clearly demonstrates that our customers are extremely interested in taking Skype conversations with them on the go on the iPhone.”

He wasn’t interested in letting it lie though. “Nonetheless, the positive actions of one company are no substitute for a government policy that protects openness and benefits consumers and we look forward to further innovations that will enable even more mobile Skype calling.”

Where Skype goes, Adobe would like to follow with its Flash platform. But so far, because of the depth of involvement with the iPhone’s innards that would be required, it has been kept off the iconic handset. Now, though it looks as if a sort of fix has been found, with Flash arriving on the phone as a native application rather than an in-browser player.

At Adobe Max, the company’s worldwide developer conference, taking place in Los Angeles this week, the firm gave a sneak preview of how developers can use Flash Professional CS5 to export applications for the iPhone. This does not mean that website designers can incorporate Flash into their sites for display in the iPhone’s Safari browser. Instead, developers can create standalone applications built in Flash that can be downloaded from the App Store.

Other devices fared better. On Monday, Adobe announced plans for a full fledged Flash player for mobile devices. Flash Player 10.1 is designed to work on smartphones, smartbooks and netbooks as well as PCs and other internet-connected devices. A public developer beta of the browser-based runtime is expected to be available for Windows Mobile and Palm webOS later this year, while public betas for Google Android and Symbian are expected to be available in early 2010.

Sticking with Windows, the first handsets based on version 6.5 of the mobile version of Microsoft’s OS were announced this week. HTC and ZTE were at the top of the list, with the Taiwanese vendor launching the HD2, the first Windows handset to sport its in-house Sense UI, previously seen on Android phones. Chinese vendor ZTE, meanwhile, announced two Windows Mobile 6.5 devices to be launched on TMN’s network in Portugal.

Now we’re going to take a little break. The Informer would like you to imagine wriggling your toes on white sandy beaches, considering the prospect of a dip in a crystal clear aqua sea warmed by tropical rays so it feels like a relaxing bath. A chilled beverage is within reach and all is at peace. That’s right, it’s A Week In Wireless-in-the-Sun, a new, possibly never to be repeated feature, bringing you news from places you’d rather be. First up, Jamaica, where Cable & Wireless has announced a network expansion. Here, have a rum punch and turn up the Marley. “Don’t worry, about a thing, ’cause every little thing’s gonna be alright….” Mmmmm, that’s nice. And now over to Mozambique, where the G is about to launch a tender for the country’s third mobile licence, having calmed the objections of the two incumbents. Now, let’s grab a cold beer and go catch us some Marlin. It doesn’t get much better than this, readers. Feel that lovely sunshine.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeee… Bump!

Where are we? Quick, duck!! Cripes, what was that? Looks like it was the news that Motorola has won a deal in Iraq! How’s that for a contrast? Still, you’ve got to take what you can get, the Informer supposes.

Motorola said Tuesday that it has been awarded a managed services contract by Zain Iraq. Under the terms of the deal, Motorola will focus on improving Zain Iraq’s network performance, as well as operation and maintenance of the network and training for its technical support team, leaving Zain free to focus on its customers. Exact financial terms for the three year multi-million dollar contract were not released.

Sometimes it seems like bad things will never end, doesn’t it. But the Informer’s here to tell you that time is the greatest healer. Just ask Telenor and Altimo, protagonists in the most drawn-out, catty and tedious disputes about which the Informer has every been required to scribble. Until this week, news of hatchets being buried by these two firms would have made one think of very serious head wounds.

But Nordic operator Telenor and Russian conglomerate Altimo (Alfa Group) ended years of legal disputes on Monday with a plan to combine their common assets in Russia and Ukraine. The two companies have reached an agreement to combine their holdings in second-placed Russian operator VimpelCom and Ukrainian player Kyivstar into a new jointly-owned mobile telecoms operator, VimpelCom Ltd.

The united company will provide mobile services in Russia, Ukraine and other CIS countries, as well as Georgia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. As a result, the operators have agreed to suspend all their ongoing legal proceedings and take action to withdraw or settle them prior to the transaction being completed. The governance structure agreed for VimpelCom Ltd. is designed to significantly reduce the potential for new disputes between the shareholders, Telenor said.

So perhaps Mr Marley was right, after all.

Take care

The Informer


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