a week in wireless

New Year’s Resolutions

People always say ‘happy new year’ when they see you first thing in January, and the Informer was about to confer the same blessing upon his readers. But then the following thought occurred to him: Just how happy is it?

How many of you have given up smoking (again) dear readers? How many are staying off the sauce for a few weeks? How many are on a diet, in a bid to shed the pounds gained over the festive season? How many of you have joined the waddling throng of red-faced January joggers, clogging their city’s arteries and wrecking their knees in the name of the Healthy Lifestyle?

How many of you, in short, are pig miserable?

Oh well, here’s A Week in Wireless, to lift your spirits. It’s going to be a great year, 2008, full of amazing developments in technology and spellbinding strategic master-plays from the industry’s leading organisations… Have you spotted that the Informer’s new year’s resolution is to be more positive?

Like most new year’s resolutions, of course, it’s a complete waste of time. So let’s dispense with that immediately. The New You, the Informer is here to tell you, is just the same as the Old You, except a few stony-cold steps closer to the grave. Bah!

Speaking of pointless exercises, Sony this week unveiled a proprietary close proximity wireless connectivity technology which it will pitch against Bluetooth and Wireless USB. TransferJet, as it’s called, offers up to 560Mbps, according to Sony, within a 3cm range. So you can touch your (Sony) TV with your (Sony) digital camera and your snaps will hop across. Same with your (Sony) PC and your (Sony) MP3 player.

Anyone clock the problem here? Sony TV, Apple iPod, Canon Camera. It’s unlikely that other vendors are going to want to adopt Sony’s tech when there are non-competitor alternatives out there. So TransferJet will likely remain the reserve of obsessive Sony cultists.

Perhaps it will make it onto Sony Ericsson handsets as well. Although, the JV terminal vendor this week announced a Bluetooth headset with a press release that looked designed to set gender politics back by several decades.

Billed as a ‘must have handbag accessory’, the HBH-PV712 Style Edition (for her) is, apparently, the Bluetooth headset “with the female touch”. Since we’re mired in 70s TV cliche here, that presumably means it wants to know why you’ve been out so late and looks like it’s had one too many home made gins and tonic. So you give a heartless laugh, tell it “You’re a bloody mess, love”, and fix yourself a stiff scotch.

It gets better: “Throughout the design process, women have been thought about, from the considerable amount of talk-time available and the user-friendly technology, to the comfortable swirl ear hook which makes the headset easy to apply.”

So there you go, Sony Ericsson has based this product on the premises that women chatter like monkeys, have trouble operating basic consumer electronics and need Bluetooth headsets that don’t challenge their limited motor skills. Bless ’em.

SE also launched a few new phones this week at the CES show in Las Vegas. (For a round up of announcements from CES get yourself over to telecoms.com.) There’s not an awful lot to say about the Sony Ericsson handsets, but one of them can be silenced with a wave of the hand when it’s ringing or acting as an alarm clock. And one of them is a new Walkman phone.

That latter piece of information is most useful as a link to the fact that crystal ball gazer Juniper Research this week predicted that mobile music revenues will hit almost $18bn by 2012, largely led by consumer demand for subscription services. The market for these ‘rental’ services alone will hit $3.3bn in that timeframe, says Juniper, as they “surge in popularity”. Alongside this surge, full track downloads will enjoy greatly improved uptake as 3G services are deployed in emerging markets. Juniper expects downloads on the Indian subcontinent to grow from two million in 2007 to 480 million in 2012.

In preparation for this revenue boom, O2 Telefonica’s UK operation has appointed itself a new head of music. Matt Ward will be breaking it down at O2, having left Mobix Interactive for the new role. Prior to Mobix, Ward was at Kickin Music, which is a record label.

In other O2 news, the firm this week announced that it is to fork out £15m to staff after the company hit targets set by its ‘Thanks a million’ customer service campaign. At the end of last year, an independent survey commissioned by O2 UK placed it above its competitors in the customer service stakes, and so the staff are to get their reward.

“Through Thanks a Million we’re thanking our employees with a cash reward and thanking our customers with our continued dedication to satisfying them,” said O2 UK head man Ronan Dunne, with a line so saccharine it would have been cut from the Hanks/Ryan vehicle Sleepless in Seattle for over-egging the cake.

O2 competitor T-Mobile was thanking its customers in more material a fashion this week, by dishing out free wifi access to existing Web ‘n’ Walk customers. These subscribers pay £12.50/month for unlimited 3G access and are now cleared to use the carrier’s network of 1,000 UK hotspots, located in various coffee shops, travel terminuses and service stations. For customers not on the Web ‘n’ Walk plan, an hour’s T-Mo wifi costs a fiver and a month £10. It’s £20/month for customers of other carriers.

In other UK wifi news, BT has bought a network of wifi hotpsots that services the nation’s marinas, coastal and inland. Kind of a niche market, really but at least all those sailor types will be able to buy pastel T-shirts whenever the mood takes them.

In the world of WiMAX, there have been a few developments, too. Chinese vendor Huawei announced this week that it is to deploy a commercial 802.16e mobile WiMAX network for Bulgarian operator TransTelecom which will cover business districts in the country’s largest cities. The contract includes provision of terminals for the network, which will operate at 3.5GHz, and the companies are confident that the network will be live sometime this year. TransTelecom took delivery of an 802.16d WiMAX network from Huawei in 2006.

Huawei of course, enjoys a light-hearted rivalry with compatriot vendor ZTE, which – not to be outdone – timed its own WiMAX news to coincide with Huawei’s this week. ZTE has struck a deal with Libya Teleom & Technology that it says will result in Africa’s “first commercial deployment of a WiMAX network.” Eight major Libyan cities will be covered by the 802.16e network which is scheduled to be ready for switch-on by the third quarter of this year.

Buoyed, no doubt, by these displays of WiMAX bombast, Sprint this week pledged to have its US nationwide mobile WiMAX service Xohm commercially available by the end of April this year. Sprint’s path to WiMAX deployment has not been altogether free of obstacles, as readers will be aware.

One of the common barriers to WiMAX cited by industry types whose feet are not firmly in its camp is that it is designed to work in TDD spectrum, while the majority of today’s cellular carriers will be looking for a technology to deploy in FDD spectrum. This week the Informer spoke to Paul Senior, CTO of Airspan and founding member of the WiMAX Forum, who had this to say on the matter:

“The WiMAX forum will have an FDD profile for Mobile WiMAX inside six months. We’ve been working on it for the last 12 months. We’ve been a bit quiet about it because we wanted to get the IMT 2000 decision. And if we had gone to IMT with an FDD profile, we probably couldn’t have got it through. We decided to go for something that was a little less threatening, which was a TDD profile. We didn’t talk too much about the FDD work which we’ve been doing for the last 18 months. There will be an FDD profile, it will sit at 2.5GHz FDD allocations just as well as any other technology.”

We’ll get back to you on that come mid-July.

Right, what else. There were couple of mobile TV dabblings this week, with Ericsson announcing a contract to supply Israeli carrier Cellcom with an end to end MTV solution, while Nokia Siemens Networks announced that its gear is being used by Vodafone and T-Mobile’s Hungarian operations and local broadcaster Antenna Hungaria in some DVB-H tests.

In the Middle East, NSN also struck a deal with Kuwaiti carrier Zain that will see the vendor supplying a GSM/3G network for a cool $1bn that will enable Zain to launch services in Saudi Arabia, where it recently blew $6bn on a licence to operate.

Back in the UK, the new head of Orange, Tom Alexander, has lured three of his old chums from Virgin Mobile to keep him company in his new office. Andrew Ralston, Gerry McQuade and Steven Day have all joined Alexander for a ‘Gentlemen, we meet again’ moment at France Telecom’s UK mobile outpost.

That’s about the size of it this week, apart from the traditional New Year SMS figures. According to Acision, global SMS traffic was up 30 per cent year on year as lots of drunk people texted their friends, family and people in their phone address book who they haven’t spoken to for years to wish them all the best for 2008. Some 43 billion text messages were sent as the new year came in around the world. That’s quite a number.

All the best for 2008


  1. Avatar From Amsterdam 11/01/2008 @ 3:01 pm

    I wonder who is your therapist.
    I appreciate the information about technology but I don’t follow your jokes if they are jokes.
    Your newsletter is a proof that technology does not give happiness. It seems to be that only facilitates that people like you with your worthless opinions invade thousands of emailboxes accross this world.
    Oh sorry, maybe I don’t understand your irony.

    The Informer says: looks like someone’s given up smoking…

  2. Avatar From Amsterdam again 11/01/2008 @ 3:46 pm

    yes I don’t understand your irony.
    “Si no entiendo la ironía de este tipo…
    ?Qué querrá decir con tanto sarcasmo?
    ?Por que le publicarán en este respetable medio?”

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