a week in wireless

The blame game

If there’s one rule in business it’s that, if you see the buck heading your way, make sure it doesn’t stop. Point one finger elsewhere and keep the rest crossed. Nokia chief Stephen Elop is clearly a master of this manoeuvre, having earned his spurs at Microsoft. Elop said this week that there are a range of factors negatively impacting the struggling handset vendor’s business, namely, “competitive dynamics and market trends across multiple price categories, particularly in China and Europe.”

Not only is Nokia being undercut in the low end space by the Chinese manufacturers, it’s still way out of the smartphone game while it waits for its partnership with Microsoft to bear fruit. As a result, Elop said that it was “no longer appropriate to provide annual targets for 2011.” No longer appropriate? That doesn’t sound at all good. While the Informer assumes Elop’s been working on a tie up with Microsoft since he took the reins last year, he wouldn’t like to be in Elop’s shoes right now.

Fellow handset vendor chief, Sanjay Jha of Motorola Mobility, has been to the same school of business tricks, it seems. Jha this week said that around 70 per cent of Android devices returned to the firm come back because of performance issues. but that the culprit is the Android Market itself. Jha argues that, because the app store is totally open, Motorola is unable to test apps for power consumption and processor usage, and is falling foul of those that don’t play nice. There is some hint here that Moto may use its MotoBlur Android UI to report back on dodgy apps and give the vendor the opportunity to warn users of potential app problems.

Over in the US potential suitors AT&T and T-Mobile have been given a good grilling over merger plans, which the judiciary committee anticipates will lead to heavy job losses and less competition. Naturally, AT&T and T-Mo said the $39bn proposition was all for the good of the customer, because the combined spectrum resources would allow the companies to feed the high demand for data.

Amusingly, John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, responded by saying: “Normally, at antitrust hearings, we get the promises that there won’t be losses of jobs and they won’t raise the rates. The thing I like about these witnesses is, they don’t even promise that. I thank you for your evasiveness on this issue.”

The CEO of 3 UK is doing some evading of his own, stepping down from his post and returning to Australia with his family. Kevin Russell has held the post since 2007, and will be replaced by current Chief Operating Officer, David Dyson. Russell, who is known for his outspoken attitude, did not give a reason for his departure.

Back to the US shenanigans though and wholesale network wannabe LightSquared is understood to be in talks with Sprint over a network share deal designed to accelerate the build out of its LTE network.

The 15-year deal, if it were to go ahead, would see LightSquared pay Sprint a whopping $20bn for access to its network, helping it meet the deadlines imposed on it by the FCC, which require that it cover 100 million US citizens by the end of 2012, and 260 million by 2016. But hold on, Sprint doesn’t even have an LTE network. So, under the deal, Sprint would initially receive as much as $2bn annually from LightSquared, to help pay for equipment and construction costs for said network. The deal would also enable Sprint to access spare capacity on LightSquared’s network.

It’s all bit confusing for the Informer’s old noggin – doesn’t this mean LightSquared is buying capacity from Sprint on a wholesale basis to sell back to… er, Sprint?

While we’re on the subject of things that the Informer finds confusing, the award for vaguest announcement of the week goes to Chinese kit firm ZTE, which is bunking up with UK incumbent operator BT in a new research partnership focused on next generation communications technologies.

The announcement made Wednesday will see BT and ZTE collaborate on the development of ”international telecoms standards which drive the interoperability and convergence of global communications systems,” including fixed line, wireless and mobile.

Beyond that, there’s not much info available. But the Informer wonders if this is just an extension of the ongoing rivalry between ZTE and Huawei. At the end of April, Huawei promised to double the size of its UK workforce over the next three years, recruiting 500 new staff to its British operation. So perhaps ZTE felt the need to make some kind of UK announcement.

In the spirit of a bit of light relief – Microsoft has signed up as the first member of a new organisation challenging specious software patents. The company that has threatened the likes of Salesforce and TomTom over their use of Linux (which Redmond claims infringes on Microsoft IP) has signed up for Litigation Avoidance, a crowdsourcing service “designed to help companies analyse and act on patents of questionable quality.”

The outfit itself, Litigation Avoidance which is run by Article One Partners, undertakes the commendable task of maintaining an online community that uses crowdsourcing to bring together over a million scientists and technologists and collaborate to find evidence of prior art in order to nullify some of the more outlandish patent claims that have been filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Article One is paid by organisations that use its service to pre-empt litigation from “non-practicing entities” or NPEs, otherwise known as patent trolls.

The move comes in a week that’s seen Apple joining Google in the legal sights of patent licensing company Lodsys, which claims developers for both companies’ app stores are violating its patents. Most of the patents relate to in-app billing technology; Lodsys has already sued the likes of Canon, HP and Motorola. Earlier this year, US company H-W Technology launched its claim to ownership of a patent for an “internet phone with search and advertising capability.”

The recent move towards legal action against smartphone application developers is causing concern, not least among smaller application developers who lack the financial means to respond to legal challenges. Many commentators are beginning to express concern that, should developers give in to demands from the likes of Lodsys and H-W, the floodgates will be opened for a sea of other applications for the same technology.

There’s some stuff to look forward to next week – the Appleheads are already chomping at the bit to see what Stevie J will have to say at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference especially about the iCloud – Apple’s forthcoming cloud services offering. The Informer presumes it’s only a matter of time before Jobs appears in all his holographic glory, having cast off his Earthly shell and had himself uploaded to some virtual universe construct, where he can exercise his iD for all eternity, in the white, clinical surroundings of his new iNcarnation.

Perhaps it’s time for us all to transcend to IPv6 as it’s also World IPv6 day on Wednesday, where some of the world’s biggest web organisations such as Facebook and Google will conduct an IPv6 ‘test flight’. Internet registry the Ripe NCC has put up a website here, which handily tells you  if you can see the IPv6 web or not. What if something goes wrong though and all those websites that go IPv6 for the day can’t get ‘back’? Will they be trapped in the dark net beyond the pick n’ mix of phishing sites, porn and Apple iPhone rumours we have all grown to know and love?

To support the occasion the Informer’s got an IPv6 t-shirt ready, with 2001:04c0:8158:0000:0000:0000:0000:0001 written on it. Go on, make your own up, chances are it will be unique.

Take care

The Informer

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