a week in wireless


There’s no fool like an old fool

AWIW_01.04.11

Given the day that’s in it, the Informer thinks it apt to kick off this week’s instalment by handing out a bit of kudos for the best April Fool’s story. Take a slap on the back, Microsoft. We’re sure somebody, somewhere was taken in by your report that 36,000 developers had each paid $99 to punt their apps on the Windows 7 Mobile Marketplace, but you’re not pulling the Informer’s leg.

Credit is due for the attempt to lend the whole thing a bit of credence by injecting a vein of false modesty into proceedings – according to Microsoft, it would be easy for them to claim they had 1.5 million devs in their ecosystem, because that’s how many times the tools were downloaded, but they’d “rather give a nod to the 36,000 members of the AppHub community who have voted with their wallets and become members of the Windows Phone developer community.” Indeed. And the geese fly backwards over the Informer’s house. But only when the pigs get out of the way. At least Redmond didn’t try to fool us all by releasing upbeat W7 handset sales figures.

Microsoft wasn’t the only one with its head in the clouds this week. Amazon’s announcement of the launch of a cloud-based music platform is a) likely to be infinitely more popular than a W7 handset ,  b) unlikely to brick your phone with a dodgy update and c) actually work on other platforms. Taking a three-pronged approach with Amazon Cloud Drive, Cloud Player for Web and Cloud Player for Android, the offering allows users to securely store music in the cloud and play it on any Android phone, tablet, Mac or PC. The offering integrates with the Amazon store so music purchases are saved to the cloud drive, while existing content can be uploaded.

Consumers start with 5GB of free storage and anyone purchasing an album from Amazon will be upgraded to 20GB, while Amazon MP3 purchases saved directly to the Cloud Drive do not count against a customer’s storage quota. Additional other types of content can be bought as add-ons and Cloud Player for Web currently supports Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari for Mac and Chrome.

Support for multiple formats seems to be flavour of the month lately. Swedish telecom operator Hi3G did its bit to enhance the Scandinavian reputation for, um, openness to all the possibilities by announcing an LTE play that will support both of the standards currently on offer. ZTE and Hi3G are partnering to launch what they claim will be the world’s first LTE TDD/FDD dual mode networks. ZTE will provide the kit for the rollout, which will take place in Sweden and Denmark. As part of the deal, ZTE will also be involved in the upgrade of the operator’s 3G network.

Hi3G says it expects to develop its Swedish and Danish networks for mobile broadband during 2011 and “will introduce LTE technology with very high data speeds of up to 100Mbps.” Two versions of LTE will be launched: Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and Time Division Duplex (TDD). The telco owns some 500MHz of TDD spectrum in Sweden and 25MHz of it in Denmark. The TDD version of LTE is used mainly in China, where China Mobile has been the principal advocate and developer of the standard. While FDD remains more popular outside of China, Hi3G is hedging its bets on a dual-mode play. The cost of TDD spectrum is lower than FDD, but the two technologies are compatible. Hi3G isn’t the only telco throwing its keys into the bowl, either – earlier this year, Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Clearwire were among the players announcing their backing for an initiative to make TDD LTE a global standard.

As the Informer knows only too well, however, the gift of popularity is sparsely distributed. Having offered its eldest child to some of Europe’s more eligible telcos in the hope of a good match, the government of Serbia now looks set to be sending Telekom Serbjia off for a quick back-wax and a dental overhaul in an effort of improve on the lone, low bid that it attracted when offered for sale recently.

Earlier this week, the sale of Telekom Serbjia looked set to be cancelled following the likely rejection of the only bid for a 51 per cent stake in the company. The Serbian government, which owns 80 per cent of the telco, was hoping to raise €1.4bn from the sale. Under the circumstances, Telekom Austria’s offer of €950m seemed unlikely to result in it having its hand bitten off. With Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic under massive pressure to balance the country’s books under the terms of an international bailout plan, analyst Goran Saravania told Bloomberg that the government is suffering from “poor expectation management”. Be that as it may, the government remains ever-hopeful. Describing the Austrian bid as “incomplete”, the Serbs are doing their bit for an entente cordiale and giving the suitor 15 days to submit a more attractive offer.

The Serbs may be struggling to get to the altar, but on the other side of the planet, America’s third-placed operator Sprint is hoping to rain on the $39bn marriage of T-Mobile and AT&T. Rather than wait to make a grand entrance, storming up the aisle just as the “I do’s” are being said, Sprint’s decided to get its retaliation in first, calling on the US government to stop the show before it even gets on the road.

In a statement issued earlier this week, Sprint said the proposed deal would reverse almost three decades of activity by the US government and courts that “modernised and opened US communications markets to competition.” The telco followed up by saying that “unprecedented levels of competition, job creation and investment” could be undone should the transaction be allowed to go ahead.

According to Sprint, the proposed union is likely to result in the birth of the telecoms equivalent of Damian, the satanic child from The Omen films. Giving, as it would, AT&T a 43 per cent market share, Verizon’s 35 per cent would give the pair an effective duopoly  in the American wireless market. Sprint’s statement concluded with the assertion that it will “fight this attempt by AT&T to undo the progress of the past 25 years and create a new Ma Bell duopoly.” You can almost hear the rousing strains of the Star Spangled Banner.

European carrier, Telefonica, was feeling in a more conciliatory mood this week, announcing that it had joined forces with Microsoft in a bid to improve its relationship with the developer community. José Valles, head of Telefónica’s BlueVia developer programme, openly admitted that operators had not had the best relationship with developers in the past before proclaiming that all that is about to change.

“Telcos used to see developers as demanding,” Valles said. “The kind of words they use to describe us [carriers] are: slow, bureaucratic, arrogant and greedy. Developers were not seen as a source of revenue.”

Valles acknowledged the harsh reality that drove developers into the arms of Apple and Android and the respective app stores that have since become a real threat to the carrier business model.

Through a partnership with Microsoft, Telefónica will seek to readdress that balance and win the developer community over. The deal essentially opens up Telefónica’s BlueVia platform to Microsoft’s six million strong developer community on the .Net framework – think Silverlight, Visual Studio and Azure. It expands app development opportunities across a range of platforms, including mobile devices, PC and games consoles like the Xbox, combining networks, software and services for the benefit of the developers.

BlueVia, which launched in February, builds on Telefónica’s existing developer programmes, O2 Litmus in the UK, Open MovilForum in Spain, Movistar Developers Platform in Mexico and Plataforma do Desenvolvedores Vivo in Brazil, offering up a collection of APIs allowing engineers to hook into network services.

The partnership seemed to strike a chord with the handful of developers on hand for the launch as well. This is probably because the favoured app store revenue share model means that developers shouldn’t have to worry about up front costs to get access to network APIs. Instead, developers get between ten and 20 per cent of revenues from SMS transactions and mobile advertising as well as retaining 70 per cent of application sales and subscription revenues. One of the big draws of the model is reoccurring revenues. Also, Telefónica handles all the billing on the developer’s behalf.

And that about wraps it up for the week.

Take care,

The Informer


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