a week in wireless

A load of Tosh

There’s been a bit of a Tosh theme this week, and where better to start than with the news that the 1980s ad-theme of “Hello Tosh, got a Toshiba?” can be wheeled out for the mobile phone market. The Japanese vendor’s TG01, unveiled at the Mobile World Congress earlier this year, is now available exclusively on Orange in the UK and France, with the firm planning to sell it in Switzerland, Romania and Poland later on in the year.

The TG01, which runs Windows Mobile, is the first handset to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor and is the latest addition to a clutch of handsets of which, it’s fair to say, not many people are aware. Toshiba had a stab at mobile phones in the European market years and years ago, without making a great deal of impact. And, while it has continued to forge ahead in its native market of Japan, the firm announced earlier this year that it was shutting down its Japanese operations in the face of a dramatic slump in demand. Mobile revenues were cut in half in the year to end March 2009.

The new phone is available in Germany and Spain through Telefonica O2, meanwhile, adding another dimension to that carrier’s smartphone portfolio which has been much-discussed of late. This week Telefonica O2 confirmed that it will be the exclusive carrier of the Palm Pre smartphone in the UK, Ireland, Spain and Germany. While the much anticipated Pre is already available on Sprint Nextel’s EV-DO network in the US, it will not hit shelves in Europe in its HSDPA form until December.

It was also reported this week that O2 UK will be offering Samsung’s first Android handset, the Galaxy i7500. O2 UK is starting to look like a rich old Sugar Daddy with one too many high-maintenance young ladies to keep in the manner to which they have become accustomed. Quite how it’s going to find the subsidy budget to offer the iPhone 3GS, the Palm Pre and the new Samsung number remains to be seen. No wonder it hasn’t got the N97, a fact that is still drawing wrathful comments from disgruntled O2-using telecoms.com readers.

Staying with phones, but a different kind of tosh, Nokia this week dismissed as ludicrous rumours that it is currently developing an Android handset of its own. Reports that the firm was doing just this surfaced in the Guardian, a UK newspaper, early this week. It would be a pretty surprising decision, let’s face it, given the fact that the Finnish vendor, a clear number one in the handset leagues, has dedicated itself exclusively to the Symbian OS, which we’re due to see in its first open source incarnation before too long. Certainly, if it were true, it would be an indication that Nokia had doubts about its home-grown OS.

On the topic of operating systems, Google is clearly not content to kick its heels in the smartphone OS space and announced this week the planned launch of a full-fledged desktop/laptop OS called Chrome.

In September 2008 Google launched the Chrome browser, which neatly integrates with Google’s online services and is targeted at online users. Chrome OS goes one step further and arguably represents the first OS designed from the ground up by a company that really understands the online world.

“The operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web,” said Sundar Pichai, VP of product management at Google, “[Google Chrome Operating System is] our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.”

In operator world this week, French conglomerate Vivendi poured a whole can of petrol on the smouldering rumour that it is looking to enter into some kind of equity-based relationship with pan-MEA carrier Zain, by admitting that it’s true in a brief statement on Thursday this week.

“Vivendi confirms its interest for acquiring a majority stake in the Zain group’s telecommunications activities in Africa, in line with its clearly defined strategy of seeking growth opportunities in emerging countries,” the firm said, going on to stress, as these firms are wont to do, that there are no guarantees that anything will actually happen.

Last week, you’ll remember, Zain revealed that it had appointed UBS to help it figure out what to do with itself and Vivendi’s open admission of interest would seem to suggest that the Kuwaiti-headquartered firm has, as some observers have suggested, over-reached itself with its massive investment programme over the past few years.

Currently Vivendi’s mobile portfolio is limited to SFR in France, in which the firm is a joint stakeholder with Vodafone, and Maroc Telecom, the leading mobile player in Morocco. Through Maroc, Vivendi also has stakes in carriers in Burkina Faso, Gabon and Mauritania. Africa really is the centre of the global mobile imperial game at the moment, with the French (Vivendi), the British (Vodafone) and the Indians (Bharti) all looking to establish dominance through investment and acquisition.

Let’s hope for Vivendi’s sake that any relationship it does manage to establish with Zain is smoother than the one its compatriot France Telecom has ‘enjoyed’ with Egyptian player Orascom. The two have been engaged in a protracted legal wrangle over Egyptian mobile carrier Mobinil. But on Sunday this week, Orascom announced that it had dropped its proceedings, in the wake of placatory noises from FT. For more information on this frankly rather dull spat, click here.

Swedish vendor Ericsson announced a big deal this week with US carrier Sprint on managed services that could be worth as much as $5bn. Ericsson will take on operational responsibility for Sprint’s CDMA, iDEN and fixed networks, including provision and maintenance. The deal is good for seven years and will see some 6,000 cost centres (or ’employees’) transferred from the carrier to the vendor in the third quarter of this year.

Sprint will retain ownership of the networks and any decisions as to which vendors will supply upgrade kit, so this deal isn’t necessarily a guaranteed sales stream for Ericsson. The vendor has long since recognised the importance of services which are now understood to generate more than a third of the company’s revenues.

On a similar-ish theme, meanwhile, 3 Italy and Telecom Italia Mobile have announced a co-siting agreement that will see the two firms share radio access sites. The deal is good for three years in the first instance and the companies expect to derive cost savings on the likes of poles, cables and power supply of around 30 per cent.

Meanwhile, one-time relation to 3, Hutchison Telecommunications International, has said that it is looking to high-tail its way out of Israel, by offloading its indirect stake in the market’s number three carrier Partner Communications. HTIL holds 51 per cent of the carrier, which could be worth as much as $1.3bn.

Now, earlier on we were talking about tosh and in very few places in the UK are you more likely to be guaranteed of finding tosh than in Sunday newspaper the News of the World. The kind of paper that gets delivered tucked inside other newspapers in more well-to-do parts of the country, the NotW is one of Mr Murdoch’s grubbier organs.

Big on scandal, the newspaper has found itself at the centre of one this week as it has emerged that a significant number of UK politicians and celebrities have had their mobile phones tapped as part of the newspaper’s reporting strategy. Two years ago a couple of the paper’s journalists were jailed after an investigation into just such behaviour. Now the disgruntled great and good are investigating legal action against the paper, while the police have said they are not going to launch a criminal investigation. Happy days.

Finally a technology that is claimed by its developers as best in class, and dismissed by its detractors as tosh of the most excremental kind. xMax is a network technology developed by US firm XG that the company claims can rival WiMAX and advanced cellular technologies at a fraction of the cost. This week XG said that it is field testing its solution.

In its announcement XG said that its technology, “is a radical departure from existing technologies and so the company must prove that it actually works in the real world.” As opposed to the fantasy world?

Take care

The Informer

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