a week in wireless

Next time he does it, just punch him on the nose

There’s a popular topic among the anti-tech handwringers at the moment: Cyber-bullying. Parents, teachers, politicians – they’re all wailing about the insidious nature of mobile phones and email accounts when they’re in the hands of The Bullies. It never used to be like this, they say.

There have been one or two high profile tragedies involving student suicides after sustained cyber-bullying but, at root, this has nothing to do with technology. Kids will always find new ways to make other kids’ lives miserable, because – by and large – a small but vocal minority of people just aren’t very nice.

But let’s not yearn for yesteryear just yet. The Informer doesn’t know about you, but he’d rather receive (and delete) a text message saying something nasty than get his head stuck down the school toilet as the chain’s pulled – a favoured bully-tool of yore.

Still, it’s good to see that someone’s found a commercial angle on childhood misery, as the below from AdaptiveMobile reveals:

“Studies show that parents will pay a premium for the ability to blacklist individual numbers and block messages from short codes or content providers to prevent such persecution. As long as they guarantee that the mobile service they are offering their customers is safe, monitored and secure; and provide parents with the ability to put controls in place, operators can reduce customer churn and ensure that both parent and child feel protected from cyber-bullying once and for all.”

Perhaps if cyber-bullying were to be effectively blocked by technology, the bullies would just go back to physical abuse. At least we all know where we stand with that.

And if you’re not getting cyber-bullied, you can now buy a service that does it for you, at least in the US. Sensei Inc. – a “pioneer in web-based and mobile solutions that motivate and empower consumers to lead healthier lives” – this week launched a new service that will harass users with messages about what they should be eating and what exercise they should be doing in a bid to “increase the user’s prospects for weight-management success”.

So just as you’re about to pop that donut into your mouth, you might get a text message that says “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”. Or something. Who knows what will happen when distressed kids, under enough body-image pressure as it is, get hold of this service.

And, just as anti-bullying solutions are great for combating churn, Sensei’s product, it says, is wonderful news for “employers facing rising health care costs and declining productivity due to weight-management issues”.

Well, bully for you.

A mobile phone that nags you and calls you fat. Isn’t that great? The Informer can just imagine the scene: A housewife of middle years sits, shaking, on a chair in the kitchen clutching a large saucepan. The police survey the scene: The remains of a mobile phone are scattered around the room and the woman stares blankly into the middle distance saying: “I just… finally… snapped…”

European carriers were facing their own bullying problems this week, or so perhaps they see it, as Big Viv Reding, the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, unveiled her new plans for a European Super Regulator – presumably while rubbing her knuckles. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a European Telecom Market Authority, faster than a speeding HSPA network, able to leap tall roaming charges in a single bound, etc.

The unit will task itself with ensuring that its rules and consumer-championing regulations will be upheld across all EU markets. It could even be granted the power to overrule national regulators, which they might not like. On the other hand, it could free them up to operate without fear of unnecessary national government intervention.

Reding proclaimed that dominant telcos, which are, “often still protected by government authorities, remain in control of critical market segments.” She continued:

“This is why new consumer rights, a new dose of competition, an effective system of independent telecoms regulators, new investment into competitive infrastructures and more space for new wireless services are needed to put Europe’s digital economy on track.”

As yet there has been no response from operator lobby groups. But to see what other industry types thought about it all, click here.

The playground spat between Nokia and Qualcomm descended into minor fisticuffs again this week. The big Q scored a minor win in the District Court of The Hague, in the Netherlands. The court dismissed a complaint filed by the Finn that sought to limit Qualcomm’s intellectual property rights. The Dutch court said that Nokia’s complaint was too unspecific – the firm was being vague in The Hague.

Nokia was about to hit back, but the bell went and it was double maths.

The sums were adding up nicely for Vodafone this week, which turned in some decent results. The Big V notched up a profit of £3.3bn for the six months to end September this year, a marked improvement on a loss of £5bn for the same period in 2006. The firm’s emerging market investments served it well, contributing in no small way to revenues for the period of £17bn.

Voda saw revenue growth in Egypt of 33 per cent, while Romania managed 24 per cent, South Africa 19.6 per cent and Turkey 28 per cent.

The flip side was leaner times in Western Europe, where revenue growth overall was just 1.5 per cent. A solid performance in the UK and Spain was offset by declines in Germany and Italy.

Vodafone’s home competitor, O2, had some results of its own out this week and was happily reporting a continued shift to post pay contracts among its customer base. In Q3 this year, O2 herded 115,000 net customers onto its network, taking its user base to just under 18 million. In the same period, prepay users dropped by 44,000. The carrier booked a 9.7 per cent revenue increase for Q3 year on year, and a nine per cent increase in operating income to Eur530m.

At the firm’s German operation, operating profit was up 8.4 per cent. In the Czech Republic, O2 revenues and operating profit were up by 3.4 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively. The carrier’s Group revenues came in at Eur3.7bn for the third quarter, compared to Eur3.6bn in the same period last year, while operating income remained flat at Eur1bn.

All this helped Spanish parent Telefonica turn in a 38.7 per cent year on year increase in net profit for the third quarter. Net income topped Eur4bn, while consolidated group revenues increased 4.8 per cent to Eur14.2bn.

O2 launched the iPhone in the UK after the Informer had gone home on Friday last week and, while there were plenty of staged photos in the mainstream press, and reports about a few weirdos queuing for 24 hours just to get hold of one, the consensus is that demand was far from feverish, with many of those specially recruited in-store experts left snapping their gum and wondering which club to go to later.

In other handset news, Korean vendor Samsung has launched a phone that it claims is the first to combine HSDPA and TD-SCDMA. It probably is the first, to be fair. The Informer can’t imagine why anyone else would have bothered.

Meanwhile, in Android news, Google’s put together a prize fund of $10m in a bid to persuade developers to get to work on applications for its product. This is turning into something of a modus operandi for Google, which a few weeks ago offered up an identical sum for the first private company to trundle across the surface of the moon taking photographs. Google released an SDK for Android this week.

Tit for tat acquisitions are never far away at the moment, stimulated by just the sort of cross-sector expansion upon which the likes of Google are currently embarked. This week Microsoft splurged $46m on mobile music outfit Musiwave from Openwave Systems.

And, Motorola dug into its wallet this week as well, taking an investment in contactless payment technology firm Vivotech. The size of the investment wasn’t revealed. “Motorola continues to invest in new technologies that enable consumers to expand the value and functionality of the mobile phone,” says Reese Schroeder, managing director, Motorola Ventures. “This investment reflects Motorola’s commitment to building and participating in a world class mobile commerce ecosystem.”

Just don’t expect Moto to get involved in the service side of things – remember the firm’s reaction to Nokia’s Navteq binge?

But there might be fisticuffs on the horizon for Moto too, as corporate raider Carl Icahn increased his holding in the firm to become the third largest stakeholder in the company. In the past, Icahn and Moto CEO Ed Zander have had very public bust ups over the performance of the company, even resorting to using full page ads in the Wall Street Journal to take pot shots at each other. Evidently, the kind of bullying that goes on between grown men in the business world is a whole different ball game.

Right then, who’s a glutton for punishment? Disney, that’s who. Undeterred by the dismal flop of its homeland MVNO strategy, the firm is trying again – this time in Japan. A Disney MVNO will launch on the Softbank network next spring, the two firms revealed this week. They’re sticking with the Disney Mobile brand in a market that is arguably more open to cutesy cartoon character-branded stuff than the US.

And if you wanted further proof that the folks at Disney like nothing more than barking up the wrong tree, there were reports this week that the firm is considering jumping on a peculiarly US business bandwagon and buying a UK football team. Derby County, no less, a club languishing at the bottom of the table, which might be described in the US as the ‘losingest’ team in the Premiership. It would be a tough decision as to whether you should put your money on Disney Mobile or Derby County.


  1. Avatar Kathy Ristic 16/11/2007 @ 2:59 pm

    I read your letter every week, and I just finally had to tell you: you’re hilarious!

  2. Avatar Paul Ruppert 18/11/2007 @ 2:41 am

    Given the connectivity of kids these days, multiple devices, while engaged in multi-tasking it isn’t surprising that cyber bullying would develop. After all, most parents thinking they have wrenched the risk out of their children’s lives by nurturing a “bedroom culture” instead of them just going out and experiencing the world. Perhaps all the technology, always on and always connected is the source of why kids are taking longer to leave home, and may indeed by reducing the survival capabilities of humans. Who knows….

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