a week in wireless

The grand old Duke of York

What ho, ho, ho, readers, the Christmas Lull is upon us once again and the news is laying lower than the founder of Wikileaks.

Upon that divisive topic, the Informer was amused to see Harris Corporation in forelock-tugging mode this week, trumpeting the fact that the Duke of York opened the firm’s new EMEA headquarters. It’s not been a great couple of weeks for this member of our esteemed Royal Family, what with the revelations of his crass remarks offending several nations, most of the press and several high ranking members of his mother’s government. Quite why he felt the need to claim that the British have the “best geography teachers in the world” is beyond the Informer. It’s certainly a new answer to the “what’s left that makes Britain great?” question that so worries the likes of the British National Party.

Harris were undaunted by reports of the Duke’s inappropriate musings, though, with Alan Dye, finance director at Harris Systems UK saying: “We are extremely honoured by the presence of His Royal Highness on this very special day. I’m sure it will be a day we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.” The Informer will let you know if they decide to issue a commemorative mug.

It’s often occurred to the Informer that we should outsource the Royal Family to some third party organisation that has the scale to run them at a more reasonable cost, and will be prepared to meet stricter SLAs on their conduct. Alas this will probably not come to pass. But it’s still big business in the mobile industry, with tower management firm Helios Towers buying more than 1,000 towers owned by Millicom International Cellular’s Tanzanian operation Tigo.

Tigo gets a cool $80m up front and retains a “significant minority interest” in Helios, while the tower firm will lease access to the towers back to Tigo as part of a long term arrangement. Helios will be looking to score similar deals with other Tanzanian operators.

In a similar deal, pan-African carrier MTN has struck up a tower sharing venture with American Tower Corporation dubbed TowerCo Ghana, split 51:49 in American’s favour. TowerCo will take ownership of up to almost 1,900 of MTN Ghana’s towers for a price of up to $428.3m. TowerCo has also undertaken to build at least an additional 400 sites for MTN and other Ghanaian carriers to use over the next five years.

The deal follows a comparable move from Vodafone Ghana and Eaton Towers, which was announced in October, showing the pressure that outsourcing deals put on competitors to follow suit. Africa in particular is ripe for these kinds of deals, Eaton Towers CEO Alan Harper told Telecoms.com recently

“To some extent the business exists because Africa is behind rest of world. Penetration is low; look at Ghana with 30 to 40 per cent market penetration. Operators there have anything from couple of hundred sites to couple of thousand sites and many markets are still based on 2G and voice, but some have 3G rollouts taking place,” he said.

“The state of growth and pricing is not under the same economic pressure as many carriers in Europe. In developed markets operators might be looking at sharing to save costs and consolidation. That’s very different state of development to many African markets,” he added.

Outsourcing tends to send ripples down the line and this week Nokia Siemens Networks announced a preliminary agreement with Finland’s Tieto Corporation, which will see Tieto take on responsibility for developing certain aspects of the device management software for NSN’s base station products. Tieto will take on around 40 NSN staff working in WCDMA and LTE as part of the deal, which still requires the approval of the Finnish Competition Authority. If this is granted, the move should be initiated in early 2011.

Meanwhile NSN was joined by Chinese competitor ZTE in announcing contract wins from Indian player Aircel, a subsidiary of Malaysian carrier Maxis. NSN will be supplying, deploying and managing an HSPA+ network for Aircel in three of the Indian telecom circles; Punjab, Kolkata and rest of West Bengal. The win built on an existing relationship, as NSN already manages Aircel’s GSM and EDGE network in six Indian circles.

ZTE was hazier on the geographic details of its deal, saying just that it would be deploying an SDR-based 3G network for the carrier.

Interetsingly NSN’s head of India said that the market is experiencing its own surge in smartphone ownership and associated intensive data usage. On that wider topic, location-based network optimisation firm Arieso put out some research this week suggesting that Android users are the most data hungry of all smartphone owners.

The study used the data usage profile of iPhone3G owners as a benchmark and looked at usage patterns for a range of handsets, including the Blackberry Bold, the Google Nexus One, the HTC Desire, the Sony Ericsson Xperia and the iPhone4.

Users of the iPhone 4 are more hungry for data than their iPhone3G counterparts, the study found, typically initiatinig 44 per cent more data sessions, downloading 41 per cent more data to their devices, and spending 67 per cent more time connected to the network for data, Arieso found.

But users of handsets based on the Google-backed Android operating system are even more voracious in their data appetites, ranking higher than both the iPhone3G and iPhone 4 in terms of data call volumes, time connected to the network, and data volume (in kilobits per subscriber) uploaded and downloaded. Owners of the Samsung Galaxy handset typically upload 126 per cent more data than iPhone3G users, Arieso found, while HTC Desire users download 41 per cent more data than the benchmark iPhone users.

Android-powered smartphone users also score highest in both the “uplink data volume” and the “downlink data” categories. For example, Samsung Galaxy users typically upload 126% more data than iPhone3G users, and HTC Desire users download 41% more data than iPhone3G users.

The research covered a single 24-hour weekday in an urban Tier-1 network, with more than 440,000 distinct subscribers. Those users made more than 22 million voice and data calls, with the total data traffic involving the transfer of 3.7TBytes of data. Arieso’s comparisons were based on popular devices represented by a minimum of 1,000 users, although the firm said the most popular devices were represented by more than ten times that figure.

The man in charge of Android, Google’s Andy Rubin, tweeted this week that Android handset activations are running at 300,000 per day at the moment, compared to 200,000 in August this year. Obviously Santa’s getting a lot of requests in the run up to Christmas. Gartner estimated that shipments of Android units hit 20.5 million for the third quarter of this year.

In other smartphone news, both Orange and Microsoft have been working to improve their interface with developers populating their app stores. Orange said that it will dramatically cut the time it takes for developers to get their apps to Orange customers.

Under the new regime, Orange Partner Connect allows developers to submit applications online through a single portal interface for distribution—if deemed suitable—across the Orange footprint, the carrier said. The initial phase of the project, which begins this month, caters only to developers of applications for Android handsets, although Orange said that support for Java and Blackberry platforms will be available in the first quarter of next year.

Orange said that developers can register online; sign a single online agreement to distribute their applications through the Orange App Shop in the markets of their choice; submit applications; create their publishing account; benefit from application review and quality assurance testing from Orange experts; know when their applications go on sale in each county; monitor sales and downloads; and collect payments.

The firm said that it will be giving developers a 70/30 split of revenues, although developers will be given the option to channel some of their share into marketing programmes that could see their applications given extra exposure on the Orange digital inventory.

Microsoft’s announcement, made through a blog post from Todd Brix, a senior director of product management on the Windows Phone Marketplace. There are nearly 4,000 apps in the Marketplace now, he said, with more than 18,000 registered developers contributing. Those developers who have been luck enough to achieve success will start getting paid at the end of January, which is just slightly ahead of schedule, Brix said.

Developers looking to find out if there is money coming their way can now access data on the performance of their products within the Marketplace, both in terms of volume downloads and revenue generated. The reports can be filtered by date, country and application, Brix wrote.

He made reference to a number of complaints from developers over Microsoft’s cumbersome registration process and promised that improvements had been made. He said that 91 per cent of applications submitted in the last month had been certified and published within two days of submission and that 86 per cent of new developers that register in the App Hub have had their accounts vetted and validated within ten days. Brix said that more than 1,000 developers are registering each week.

Finally this week, LTE pioneer TeliaSonera has continued to plough its groundbreaking furrow, launching the 4G technology in Denmark.

And that’s about it for this week.

Take care

The Informer

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