a week in wireless

Legalised lying

HG Wells described it as legalised lying, but advertising looks to be doing rather well in the mobile space; as it tends to within any medium to which it is exposed. Global revenues from mobile advertising are set to hit $3.5bn this year, according to research released this week by Informa Telecoms & Media. The market is set to grow to $24bn over the next five years and, as usual, it’s all down to Apple and Google.

Yup, it’s more bad news for the inhabitants of planet operator, with Informa forecasting that the carriers’ share of the mobile advertising market will dwindle between now and 2015, from 26 per cent this year to 20 per cent in five years’ time.

“The launch of Apple’s iAd advertising platform is forcing rivals to speed up their own mobile advertising strategies. Google has responded by acquiring AdMob and has announced it is on track to generate $1bn in revenues from mobile in 2010, a significant portion of which will be mobile advertising revenues. Google has also reported a 500 per cent growth in mobile search queries between 2008 and 2010,” said senior analyst Shallendra Pandey

In other mobile advertising news, Blyk has opened a new Asia Pacific office in Singapore. It will be headed up by Susanna Hasenoehrl, who joins the firm from Nokia Siemens Networks.

The twin threats of Google and Apple were the subject of much discussion at Broadband World Forum in Gay Paris this week, which is where the Informer has been. Much of the chat on the show floor centred on what is to be done about the two firms and their increasing encroachment into the carriers’ personal space. A Google exec was actually scheduled to speak at the event but he was unable to reach the show because of strike action; a local pastime more popular than Pétanque, as far as the Informer can work out.

Meanwhile another battle raged between two vendors who, for the sake of their own face, the Informer shall refrain from naming. Not content with booking meeting rooms right next to each other, the two vendors took it in turns to block each other’s customers from getting to said meeting rooms. And the tit-for-tat antics didn’t stop there. Couriers delivering to the event were intercepted and redirected to the rival’s meeting rooms, relieved of their packages and sent on their way. And, while both companies won an Infovision award on the first night, one of them is appealing against the other’s success. It was a trade show, for crying out loud; not a crèche!

The French may love to strike, but it seems they are also prepared to share.  This week French operator SFR tapped up vendor Nokia Siemens Networks in what is being claimed as a world first: The creation a 3G 900MHz network which will be shared at the access level with the country’s two other operators—Orange and Bouygues.

NSN will upgrade and build out SFR’s network in rural France, putting HSPA+ capabilities on the carrier’s 900MHz infrastructure, which was previously used only for GSM. The Radio Access Network will be shared with Orange and Bouygues, although NSN will also run the infrastructure as part of a managed services contract.

The three French operators, perhaps reluctantly, signed a network sharing agreement in February, after increasingly firm persuasion from regulator Arcep.

Back to Apple, though, and there was some more good news for Mr Jobs, as the firm broke into the top five handset vendor ranking for Q3 this year, according to figures from IDC. Apple shifted 14.1 million iPhones in the quarter, an improvement of more than 90 per cent year on year, which leapfrogged the vendor over rival smartphone player RIM and Sony Ericsson into the fourth spot.

Apple has been a high flyer in the smartphone sector for about as long as it’s been making iPhones but it’s arrival in the top five measured by all global handset shipments reflects the level of the firm’s achievement. It’s only really got one product, after all, and it’s outselling established players with broad portfolios. Impressive stuff.

The firm remains some way off LG in third place, which sold more than twice as many units as Apple. But the Korean player seems to be on the slide, with Q3 shipment volumes dropping more than ten per cent year on year to 28.4 million units. That slide was rather effectively illustrated by the fact that LG’s Q3 profits plummeted by more than 99 per cent to just $6.4m, although there had been wide expectations that LG would post a loss for the quarter.

In fifth place, RIM turned in some decent growth as well, improving its shipment volumes by 45.9 per cent year on year to 12.4 million. Samsung improved by 18.6 per cent to shift 71.4 million devices, while Nokia managed only a slight improvement in shipment numbers to 110.4 million, and continued to lose market share, dropping from 36.5 per cent for Q3 last year to 32.4 per cent in 2010. But it was a bad day for Sony Ericsson; IDC said it was the first time the JV had slipped out of its top five since it started tracking the market in 2004.

RIM was also in the news this week following the announcement by Telefónica-owned VoIP telephony outfit Jajah that it has developed a Facebook calling application which it is beta trialling on the Blackberry platform. Jajah has released what it claims is “the first true calling solution for Facebook”. The service, dubbed Social Call, lets users establish single click calls to any Facebook friend who is online, the firm said.

The user selects the friend they wish to call, causing the application to send a message to the friend over the Facebook Chat channel. When the friend clicks on that message, the call is established. Jajah, which is based in Mountain View, California, said the service will incur no extra charges.

The firm’s CEO, Trevor Healy, said that the creation of a service that allows voice calls over Facebook was the “holy grail” for communications companies. “Facebook calling has been the holy grail for telecommunications companies all over the world who are trying to come to terms with the rise of social networking,” Healy said. “We have seen numerous announcements from many companies, but Jahah is the first to bring a genuine calling service to Facebook,” he claimed.

Holy Grail or not, Facebook is certainly popular, as some figures released this week by 3UK illustrate. The carrier said that social media and social gaming dominate mobile broadband usage over its network, with Facebook proving the most popular service among users accessing the 3 network from a PC or tablet device. 3UK said it was surprised to find social gaming site Zynga.com and its top game Farmville also among the top five sites.

The firm said its figures were based on almost 2,500 terabytes of data traffic that flowed across its network in June this year, and noted a marked difference from traffic on fixed networks. Google, which is the leading site in the UK for fixed users, generated only a quarter of the traffic volume generated by Facebook, for example.

If 3 has seen all this traffic generating decent data revenues, it might want to cast its eye over Verizon Wireless for a cautionary tale. The US carrier is having to pay a fine of $25m to the US government and more than $50m in refunds to disgruntled customers who had mistakenly initiated data sessions at some time over the past couple of years. The FCC said that it was the largest settlement in its history.

And while we’re on the topic of punitive regulators, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has succeeded in forcing first- and second-placed carriers Vodacom and MTN to lower their termination rates in a bid to make services more affordable to the nation’s consumers. But the third player Cell C, has not been brought into the cost cutting fold, and MTN said that discussions with its competitors are ongoing. The firms proposed a cut of 19 per cent in the first instance, with further cuts to come in future years.

And we’ll finish off this week with a whistle-stop visit to the world’s two most populous nations, China and India. China’s second placed mobile operator China Unicom announced this week that it is to launch its own application store, dubbed the Wostore. As a beta trial the Wostore currently stocks some 2,000 apps but the carrier has pledged a big push from next week onwards as it seeks to catch up to market leader China Mobile and offerings from handset vendors. China Mobile’s Mobile Market launched last year and has more than 20,000 apps on its shelves.

In India, meanwhile, the leading mobile operator Bharti Airtel has pledged to launch 3G services before 2010 is out. The firm’s competitors, Tata and Vodafone, had both previously announced their deployment plans. Tata has said it will switch on 3G by Diwali, while Vodafone has promised 3G early next year.

And that’s about the size of it this week.

Happy Halloween

The Informer

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