a week in wireless


Undisclosed sums

AWIW412

Ah, September is here again. Back to school. The Informer’s been down to Clarks to get his new shoes and he’s got a shiny new protractor and compass in his pencil case. Someone’s been away somewhere nice haven’t they? That’s a lovely tan you’ve got. Don’t worry though, the holiday weight will fall away after a couple more days in the saddle.

But it’s not been a slow, lazy summer for all in the mobile industry. Even in Scandinavia, which typically closes for August. In fact, it’s been a summer of acquisitions with Finnish company Nokia leading the charge with the purchase of US-based mobile analytics firm Motally for an undisclosed sum. Motally has a platform for in-application tracking and reporting, designed to enable developers and publishers to optimise the development of their mobile applications through increased understanding of how users engage.

The Finn will port the analytics platform to Qt, Symbian, Meego and Java, and will of course use it to deliver in-application and mobile web browsing analytics to Ovi’s eco-system of developers and publishers.

There’s been something of a theme to the acquisitions of this summer and Canadian BlackBerry vendor Research In Motion (RIM) also moved to pick up its own 90s sounding software firm. Another undisclosed sum was paid for Cellmania, which builds app store infrastructure and developer tools for app distribution. Cellmania has a turnkey white label content system with content management, digital rights management, and over-the-air delivery for browseable media which works for Android, Java, Symbian, and Microsoft devices. The company also handles the billing and provides real-time download reports.

Not wanting to be left out of the party, US vendor Motorola reinforced its commitment to the Android platform, which has been instrumental in the cautious turnaround in the firm’s handset strategy. Again, neither company has revealed the purchase price, which demonstrates to the Informer just how sensitive this whole area is. The target of Motorola’s affections is 280 North, a US firm responsible for 280 Slides, a browser-based presentation platform, and Cappuccino, an open source application framework. What’s interesting here is that the company was founded by Francisco Tolmasky, the original author of Objective-J, and a former Apple employee on the team that created MobileSafari and Maps on the iPhone.

While we’re on the subject of Apple, the iPhone creator is winding down the Quattro Wireless mobile advertising network as it turns its attention to the exclusive support of its recently launched iAd platform. As of September 30, Apple and Quattro will support ads exclusively for the iAd network. The firm is no longer accepting new campaigns for the Quattro Wireless network, and will soon begin closing existing campaigns.

Apple acquired mobile advertising firm Quattro in January for, yes, you guessed it, an undisclosed sum, and has since attracted the attentions of the Federal Trade Commission after releasing new developer terms for iPhone and iPad app developers blocking the rival AdMob mobile advertising platform on its devices. Steve Jobs recently said that Apple has iAd commitments for 2010 totalling over $60m, which represents almost 50 per cent of the total forecasted US mobile ad spending for the second half of 2010.

Back to the acquisitions and infrastructure vendor Alcatel-Lucent is beefing up its presence in the developer space from a different angle. Just this week the firm announced the acquisition (FAUS) of mobile application tools developer OpenPlug. Through the deal, Alcatel-Lucent will get its hands on OpenPlug’s ELIPS Studio – an open software development environment allowing independent software vendors to create and deploy applications simultaneously on the iPhone, Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, Linux and other proprietary operating systems.

The vendor will now be able to extend this functionality to service providers, enterprises and developers so they can create and deploy their own apps, chasing the still elusive Holy Grail of write once, run anywhere app development.

Moving away from all this mobile app stuff now, but sticking with the acquisitive theme, US chip shop Intel has been less shy about its expenditures. After a lot of rumour and speculation German chipset manufacturer Infineon confirmed the sale of its Wireless Solutions division (WLS) to Intel for $1.4bn.

The reasoning is clear. Intel has its Atom media processor business which targets portable devices and smartphones but lacks cellular chipset assets including basebands and RF chips. In this respect, Infineon’s wireless business complements Intel’s Atom business and enables the US company to offer more integrated chipsets similar to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon. The acquisition also expands Intel’s wifi and WiMAX offerings to include 3G as well as giving the firm a path to LTE.

LTE of course has been a hot topic over the summer too. The technology’s Scandinavian cheerleader, TeliaSonera, has successfully launched commercial 4G services in Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg, with users enjoying peak rates of up to 100Mbps, average downlink rates of 85-90Mbps and an uplink of 30Mbps. Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) provided its radio equipment for the operator’s LTE roll out in the city and during 2010 will participate in deployments in Sweden’s 25 largest cities. NSN has also scored a deal with Telefónica O2 Germany to supply a pilot LTE network in Halle, East Germany, with deployment to start in September in the 2.6GHz and 800MHz bands. The network will go into operation before the end of the year. And Telecom Italia is undertaking a trial of LTE in collaboration with NSN in Turin.

Meanwhile, TeliaSonera’s regional cohort, Norwegian carrier Telenor, has tapped Chinese equipment vendor ZTE to build it an LTE network for its Hungarian subsidiary. Telenor used to operate under the brand name Pannon in Hungary and over the next five years will get ZTE to deploy over 6,000 base stations throughout the country.

The Informer spent some time in Hungary this summer—don’t worry, he won’t bore you with the holiday snaps—and was lucky enough to attend the Vodafone-sponsored Sziget festival. The Specials may look like the great grandfathers of two tone, but crikey they’re still good. Johnny Lydon’s Public Image Ltd. (PIL) on the other hand is showing signs of age. The years do indeed go by as quick as you can wink, so enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.

It’s getting late for RIM in India too. The company is currently at loggerheads with the Indian Government over its security policies and has had similar tussles with the authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. None of these countries’ security forces like the fact that they can’t snoop on BlackBerry users messages due to the fact that traffic travels over RIM’s own network and is securely encrypted. As a result, threats are being thrown around which could put RIM out of business in said countries if it doesn’t find a solution.

In its latest proposal, RIM has extended an offer to the Indian Government under which the firm would lead an industry forum “focused on supporting the lawful access needs of law enforcement agencies while preserving the legitimate information security needs of corporations and other organizations”. This forum would work closely with the Indian government to develop recommendations for policies and processes aimed at preventing the misuse of strong encryption technologies while preserving its benefits.

RIM has said it is not prepared to offer “special deals for specific countries,” and stressed that it maintains a “consistent global standard” for lawful government access to its services. The company claims that it does not possess a “master key”, nor does any “back door” exist in the system that would allow RIM or any third party, under any circumstances, to gain access to encrypted corporate information.

There were conspicuous discussions also going on behind closed doors between Google and Verizon during the summertime lull, which may affect The Future of the Internet! On the plus side, the two companies have been doing what the FCC failed to do—forge a compromise agreement on net neutrality. The only thing is that the wording of the agreement raises some concerns.

The foundation of the agreement is supposedly defined by two goals: Users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the internet a transformative medium; and America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure.

There’s more detail here
, and while on the surface, the agreement looks good, especially the reestablishment of the FCC’s authority after the Comcast decision shook things up, but the alarm bells should start ringing at certain points. With mobile broadband connections growing at a surprising rate, something seems amiss if these rules are not applied to the wireless network. In fact applying these policies to the fixed line but not wireless makes it seem like wireless would just turn into the digital Wild West.

There is also a major loophole for operators, using vague terminology that suggests the foundations for an officially tiered internet have already been laid, because despite the prohibition on paid prioritization, there is a clause that seems designed to do allow some services to benefit from exactly that. It is, in effect, a sort of private internet, either physically or logically separate from the public internet, with different rules.

Ah, the danger of undisclosed sums.

Take care,

The Informer


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