a week in wireless


Numbers up

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There were growing signs of a turnaround in the industry this week, with a number of mobile players reporting investor-satisfying quarters. First up was once-troubled handset vendor Sony Ericsson, which delivered its second consecutive quarterly profit during Q2 with a whopping €12m. Ok, it’s not a lot but it’s better than the loss of €213m delivered in the second quarter of last year, although it is down from a profit of €21m in Q1.

Still, head honcho Bert Nordberg said the company was displaying “continued momentum” even if the initial impetus has tailed off somewhat. Sales were up both consecutively and year on year however to €1.7bn although unit shipments were down slightly year on year at 11 million.

The good cheer continued over in Mountain View, California, where Google reported its customary increase in earnings, from $1.4bn in 2Q09 to $1.8bn in 2Q10, while revenues jumped 24 per cent year on year to $6.82bn. The search giant doesn’t break out mobile in its earnings, but expect it to be a growing part of the business, especially now that the AdMob deal is good to go ahead.

Chip giant Intel also reported its best ever quarter, with revenues rising 34 per cent year on year to reach $10.8bn in the second quarter of 2010. Net income for the same period was up 175 per cent year on year to $2.9bn. The good fortune was largely down to strong demand for desktop processors in the corporate space but Intel said Atom microprocessor and chipset revenue, which targets portable devices and smartphones, hit $413m during the quarter, up 16 per cent sequentially.

However the semiconductor giant lacks cellular chipset assets including basebands and RF chips and is presently understood to have its eye on Infineon’s wireless business, which would complement its Atom business. According to Malik Kamal Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, the acquisition of Infineon’s wireless business could help Intel to serve all segments of the mobile market, while Infineon’s HSPA/LTE baseband assets that currently power a number of successful smartphones including Apple’s iPhone, could enable the company to offer more integrated chipsets similar to Snapdragon offered by Qualcomm

There was more M&A speculation this week with Nokia Siemens Networks believed to be mulling a bid for Motorola’s networks business. The number being bandied around in the press is between $1.1bn and $1.3bn, but the Informer does not think it would be a marriage made in heaven. What with every operator and its dog jumping to LTE, Motorola’s CDMA business has a finite lifespan, and NSN’s not really interested in its WiMAX bits either. The Finnish-German vendor did lose out on Nortel’s CDMA and LTE assets last year but the fact that it didn’t bid big bucks against Ericsson suggests that it wasn’t desperate for them. So really the only thing Motorola’s got that NSN might want is a foothold in North America. A classic case of the potential partner being well past their sell by date but still having a nice place in the Hamptons. But whether that’s worth a dowry of more than $1bn remains to be seen.

Going back to LTE for a moment and the 4G love-in continued with Israeli infrastructure vendor Alvarion, a company that bills itself as a “founder of the WiMAX industry,” evidently deciding that if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em, by announcing plans to start making LTE kit.

The firm, which was badly burned by Nortel’s demise, has decided not to put all its eggs in one basket and has expanded its product line to support the TD-LTE standard. Alvarion expects to engage in TD-LTE field trials in the first quarter of 2011 and will incorporate TD-LTE support into its 4Motion infrastructure portfolio.

Eran Gorev, president and CEO of Alvarion, was quick to point out that the company will continue to actively drive WiMAX activities but said: “The trend in wireless spectrum availability around the globe supports the fact that unpaired TDD spectrum will have an even greater role to play for broadband wireless deployments in the future.”

To be fair, this does fit with what the Informer has heard about the potential for TDD spectrum, and it does seem that there is growing momentum behind the TD-LTE flavour of the technology, even outside of China where China Mobile is flying the flag having already had enough of TD-SCDMA.

Over in Oz, Telstra announced that it has successfully tested LTE in its 1800MHz spectrum, tapping Chinese vendor Huawei to deliver the equipment. The carrier will continue to evaluate the technology in Victoria, using MIMO antenna configurations as well as several advanced features including Inter Cell Interference Coordination to reduce radio network interference and improve throughput, and Self Organising Networks. Telstra expects its 1800MHz spectrum deployments to complement the 2600MHz spectrum and the 700MHz band anticipated to be made available through the digital dividend.

US WiMAX pin up Sprint is also knowing to be considering its options with LTE, after chief executive Dan Hesse said that the company is mulling a deployment of LTE alongside its existing WiMAX network. This week the carrier switched on WiMAX services in a handful of other US cities and revealed that its first WiMAX-enabled handset, the HTC Evo 4G, is selling so well HTC can’t deliver units fast enough.

Still at least HTC’s Android devices won’t self destruct. Crafty handset hackers have discovered that Motorola’s recently announced Droid X, which will be available on Verizon Wireless this summer, has an anti-tamper mechanism called eFuse that will permanently kill the handset if someone tries to modify or install another operating system, which one might think goes against the open source ethos of the Android operating system no?

In other Android news, free mapping and navigation firm Skobbler has launched a version of its app for Android, citing great success for the iPhone version, which was released just four weeks ago and has already chalked up 82,000 downloads in the UK. Vodafone was also getting free in the mapping sense, making its location based services software open source after its little jaunt with Wayfinder reached a dead end.

The Flying V bought Swedish location firm Wayfinder for €26m in December 2008 but revealed in March this year that the unit would cease operations in the face of free offerings from the likes of Nokia and Google. Now Vodafone is releasing its code in the hope of stimulating development from independent players that will see new applications brought forth for its customers.

Meanwhile, Apple chief Steve Jobs himself swam down to the Gulf seabed on Thursday and did what no one else could do, even Kevin Costner: he plugged the leaking BP oil well with his iPhone (is there an app for that?). Ok, he didn’t actually do that but his feat tonight will be on a similar par if you believe the foam-mouthed and frenzied consumer press. Apple is holding a special press conference, presumably to deal with the leaky antenna issues plaguing the iPhone 4, but the big question is, will they hold it the right way? (Boom boom).

Now is it the stormy weather, old age, or not enough milk as a child that makes the Informer’s bones ache so? It’s comforting to know that the industry which has fed and nurtured him so well over the decades also intends to look after him through his golden years. There’s been a right flurry of activity in the mobile healthcare sector led by Telefónica, which launched a global e-health unit tasked with the decentralisation of clinical processes and ubiquitous and remote access to these services.

According to the slightly depressing presentations given in Madrid on Tuesday, by Trinidad Jiménez, Spain’s minister of health, and Telefónica chairman, César Alierta, in 2010, 13.5 per cent of the world’s population – 980 million people – will be over 65, and 60 per cent of these will suffer from chronic and degenerative illnesses. This situation, combined with the current shortfall of specialists in key medical assistance sectors, and the fact that these specialists must spend between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of their time on administrative tasks instead of healthcare activities, are putting additional pressure on public healthcare budgets. But not to fear, mobile technology can save the day.

Orange UK is also in on the action with Smartnumbers, a healthcare specific service that gives callers instant access to the best placed person or team available, providing patients and workers with the ability to reach the right person the first time they call.

Pay attention: you’ll be needing this kind of thing before you know it. Like the man sang, it’s later than you think.

And on that cheery note, the Informer bids you a good weekend.

Take care

The Informer


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