a week in wireless

The ‘i’s have it

As is usual on the morning of the commercial launch of an iPhone, there were queues outside Apple retail stores so long that even the Parisian paparazzi struggled to photo the guy at the back with their hi-tech lenses. But although the majority of those sleeping rough for several nights to be among the first to own the slightly thinner, slightly taller and slightly faster version of last year’s phone were hardcore Apple fans, an increasing proportion were opportunists, lining up to be caught on camera in their promotional t-shirts or selling their space in line for four figure sums.

Perhaps, as Samsung is betting, “normal people” are realising that the competition has finally caught up. The Korean firm has embarked on quite a clever advertising campaign that claims “the next big thing is already here”. LTE? Yeah, we’ve had that for a while. Big screen? Hmmm, ours is bigger. Check it out.

Apple only made modest changes to the iPhone 4S, but the introduction of iOS Maps, does not seem to have helped its cause. Since Steve Jobs famously declared “thermonuclear war” to “destroy Android”, his successor, Tim Cook, has overseen a movement to remove anything Google related from its devices, which has seen evidence in the absence of a native YouTube app and the removal of Google Maps.

However, even the CEO of a company that helped Apple build its Maps, Waze’s Noam Bardin, warned before iOS6 was made available that: “With Apple maps, you’re literally not going to find things.” And those that have downloaded the update to the OS have found this to indeed be true.

For instance, as the BBC reported, parts of Scotland in Apple’s satellite view are totally obscured by cloud (the iCloud? The och-aye Cloud?), there’s a museum apparently located in a river, and football fans using the Maps function to find Manchester United FC, will instead find themselves watching children’s football at local community club Sale United FC. Though whether they’ll notice the difference in the quality of football remains to be seen.

Google is said to be preparing a version of Google Maps for iOS6 but whether it is allowed to make it available will be down to Apple’s App Store team, who decide which apps are approved for its devices. The Informer reckons Google’s chances might be quite high.

Analysts have warned that Apple could peak with the iPhone 5, forecasting merely incremental changes to the handsets of the future, rather than the revolutionary transformations that could be attributed to the firm when Jobs was still at the helm. The rest of the market is looking to capitalise on the slowing of momentum that is anticipated to be seen from Cupertino. Motorola, HTC and ZTE all launched new handsets this week in a bid to at least partially steal Apple’s thunder.

Google’s recently-acquired handset business, Motorola Mobility, launched its latest flagship smartphone. After seeing the business post consecutive quarterly losses, the web giant radically overhauled the management of the firm. The marketing department apparently sat down to brainstorm ideas for the device and came to the conclusion that the key to launching a market-dominating handset is to simply use the letter i somewhere in the name—a radical departure for Motorola, given its historical aversion to vowels.

And since the Razr is Motorola’s best-selling brand, why not call this new device, the iRazr? Too obvious? How about the Razr i? Yes, why not? No-one will notice. The Informer spies with his little i, another potential lawsuit from Apple.

HTC meanwhile, followed in the footsteps of Nokia and Samsung by launching a pair of handsets running on Microsoft’s new OS. With similar imagination and ingenuity of Motorola’s brand specialists, the firm has opted to call its Windows Phone 8 handsets the Windows Phone 8X and the Windows Phone 8S. Who said smartphone manufacturers these days lack creativity? ZTE meanwhile, opted to call its latest Android handset the Blade III, not to be confused with the third instalment of the Wesley Snipes movie trilogy, which is actually called Blade: Trinity. That would have been awkward.

But it’s not just the handset firms that have been making the headlines this week, the world’s operators have been busy too. T-Mobile USA, for instance, has appointed a CEO. Former Global Crossing CEO John Legere succeeds Jim Alling, who has served as interim CEO since June. Alling will now return to his position as the firm’s COO.

And AT&T has deemed that Apple’s decision to make its video-chat app FaceTime work over cellular networks is not one that will be particular helpful to its own business. AT&T has said that it would only provide this feature for customers who subscribe to its Mobile Share tariff, which imposes data limits on users. That even goes for iPad users, who as it stands, will have to subscribe to a deal that includes voice and SMS messages to use FaceTime over cellular, despite the fact that the device is actually incapable of making voice calls.

The move sparked backlash from public interest groups Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, who are so incensed that they have gone to the extent of sending a letter to operator warning that they’re prepared to file a formal complaint. You wouldn’t want to mess with these guys.

They argue that using FaceTime over the network is particularly important for the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as going against the principle of net neutrality. But AT&T has brushed off those concerns, as it thinks it has spotted a loophole in the net neutrality argument. It isn’t stopping its unlimited data customers from downloading apps, it’s just stopping them from using apps that are already on the device. And that’s ok.

Meanwhile in Russia, MTS has launched a TD-LTE network across most of Moscow and 40 other major residential areas in the Moscow region. Offering mobile broadband speeds of up to 100Mbps, the operator is focused on achieving LTE coverage in 96 per cent of Moscow by the end of 2012.

NSN is the sole supplier of the TD-LTE kit and has migrated MTS’ complete network over from WiMAX, deploying 2,200 basestations.

Rival VimpelCom also announced that it will transfer 1,300 staff to Chinese infrastructure vendor Huawei, as part of a five-year managed services deal.

Huawei will take complete responsibility for the multi-vendor, multi-technology fixed and mobile networks, which cover the Volga region of Russia and the Far East. The Chinese firm will provide end-to-end network management, including multi-vendor operations and maintenance, field operations, 24/7 network assurance and spare parts management.

In a bid to make see more of these deals emanating from the country in the future, China’s Ministry of Industry and IT (MIIT) is planning to accelerate the development of broadband access in the country to bolster its economic and social development, according to the ministry’s website.

Liu Lihua, vice minister of MIIT, wishes for China to have more than 250mn broadband users by the end of 2015, with access speeds to reach 20Mbps in urban areas and 4Mbps in rural areas. The ministry is also aiming to increase broadband service coverage to 95 per cent of the country by 2015.

The UK is embarking on a similar strategy, and has announced that it will share out a £114m kitty between 10 cities in a bid to accelerate broadband rollout on these shores. According to Rob Gallagher,principal analyst at Informa: “The most interesting question looming over the UK government’s latest broadband funding announcement is whether the 10 cities choose to spend the £114m with the former state-owned monopoly BT or with its existing competitors and new entrants.”

European operator group Telefónica’s innovation division, Telefónica Digital also announced this week a global partnership with augmented reality platform provider Aurasma. Telefónica Digital intends to integrate the technology into a range of media services Telefónica offers to brands and advertisers.

Aurasma claims its technology recognises images and objects, allowing interactive digital content such as videos, coupons, competitions and 3D animations to be unlocked from virtually any type of media, including outdoor billboards, print adverts, products, physical locations and in-store materials. With a focus on advertising in the UK, Telefónica claims the deal is one of the biggest between a global telecoms company and an augmented reality provider to date.

And while sci-fi fans who have grown up seeing self driving on their screens such as KITT, from hit 80s show Knight Rider, or those used in Ridley Scott’s classic Blade Runner, could soon see those visions become reality. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) predicts that by 2040, 75 per cent of cars will be self-driving.

With the emergence of driverless cars, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication services are set to play a huge role in the role of transport, as driverless cars operate through use vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.

According to Jeffrey Miller, IEEE Member and associate professor in the Computer Systems Engineering department at University of Alaska Anchorage: “Car manufacturers have already started to incorporate automated features, including parallel parking assistance, automatic braking systems and drowsy driver protection, to help people slowly ease into utilising driverless technologies.

“Over the next 28 years, use of more automated technologies will spark a snowball effect of acceptance and driverless vehicles will dominate the road.”

The Informer just wants one that says: “Roadblock up ahead, Michael”.

Take care

The Informer.

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