Telefonica's Northern Exposure

£17.7bn. Again, a lot of dough. But this time and even if this is Halloween, Telefonica is not going for spectrum or spectre with a greenfield operation in Germany : O2* are a full grown operator with positions in both the UK and Germany, not to mention other remains of the British Empire.
If Telefonica Moviles manages to be swift and efficient, Vodafone and T-Mobile should start worrying. This could also prove to be a clue for the future of T-Mobile USA within the pink team.
Whatever. Europe is catching up with America and the wave of concentration ain't over yet. Expect more Air France - KAL - style operations as well as a few low cost airlines crashes.

* about O2 : "Superfast me, O2" (20051023), "Brand new KPN - Brand new USA - Same old standards" (20050901), "One month oxygen supply" (20050827), "Over the air" (20050409)


Subsidies : boosting subscriptions or exports ?

Korea's MIC will reopen a door to hanset subsidies. Household consumption may be up, consumers cannot afford next gen devices and that's a blow to Korean industries : how to sell S-DMB abroad when only early adopters can buy it (see "handle with e-care - China-aware pro gaming") ? how could Korea join leading countries on the W-CDMA / HSDPA tracks (not to mention EV-DO Revision A and B for LG Telecom) and push Wibro standard at the same time ?
But the problem at the root of the law forbidding such subsidies remains. So the MIC decided to restrict subsidies to long time subscribers (3 years or more with the same MNO) : the acquisition war won't be reignited and leading operators will focus on loyalty. One can easily imagine SKT telling his customers : you know you have a right to churn, but think first about what you're about to lose.
Besides, LG the manufacturer can sacrifice LG Telecom the mobile network operator for the sake of Daehan Minguk. The "can do" times are over ; Korea discovers the duties of the "must do" era.


Virgin Mobile - Carphone Warehouse : joint adventure ?

The announcement of a new Virgin Mobile M-VNO operation in France means quite a lot.
First, France is at last becoming the exciting market for convergence it was meant to be : home to FT/Orange (from the beginning the ultimate vision of convergence) and key players in multimedia (ie press, radio, TV, movie, music, minitel/internet...) as well as in retail or commerce-finance (ie Carrefour, banks & insurers...), the country is Europe's TV over DSL leader but still enjoys a significant potential for growth in the mobile and pay TV fields. Here, the Orange vs Vodafone battle has a very specific flavor and historical / capitalistic ties between MNOs and TV operators have to be taken into account (Bouygues Telecom / TF1, SFR / Canal+, Orange / France Television and now M6...).
Second, a JV between Virgin Mobile Holdings (UK) PLC, The Carphone Warehouse Group PLC (The Phone House in France), and Virgin Management Limited proves both how desperate Virgin were to enter the market and how ambitious they are for the future. The Virgin group isn't a big player in the country and clearly, VirginMega.fr seems too weak an entry point as M6, NRJ & co are locking positions. They couldn't deal directly with a MNO and they had to find a partner with a retail background. Since they cannot wait, they're pushing their brand and TTM over control. In the wireless field, that is : they're bringing the multimedia touch The Phone House didn't have (sorry AOL - whatever happened to MVIVA and Steve Case's Revolution ?). Now that they've secured a 5M customer base in the UK, Virgin are attacking continental Europe.
Third, how far can CWH and Virgin go together ? CWH is more a reseller than a M-VNO, even if TPH could learn the trade locally through their Omer Telecom / Breitzh Mobile outfit (49,000 customers to date). There is a point of sale overlap in the UK but elsewhere... CWH need both content and a brand and VM badly need a brand new telecom-aware distribution system...


Super-fast me, O2

They World premiered W-CDMA but they're not exactly ruling 3G.
Yet, are back at it : this time, ManX Telecom will launch the World's first
"super-fast 3G service" on November the 1st, 2005.
"Super-fast" means 1.3Mbps for a start (where are the handsets ?), "3G" means UMTS/HSDPA, and "service" means that O2 and Lucent Technology are gonna smash the ball towards the court hoping for an ace. No referee will tell whether it's in or out or even stuck in the net and no one actually cares whether anyone is on the other end. Now if it were ManU Telecom, more people would feel concerned about the kickstart and the net. But don't expect Malcolm Glazer to relocate his Merseyside Buccaneers on the Isle of Man, where genuine hangovers are more guaranteed than actual handovers.


Endemobile reality check : mobile soaps and bubbles

Endemol's Peter Bazalgette announced two new mobile channels : Extreme Reality Channel and a future Comedy channel.

Freemantle Media Licensing Worldwide announced a mobile version of The X Factor with MIG (Mobile Interactive Group).
Freemantle's rather classical approach shouldn't bring much disruption to the market. No big Fear Factor for Endemol : they intend to shake mobile TV the way they did with SMS (remember Big Brother and Veronica ?) with "a non-stop parade of the bizzarrest and weirdest video clips from the world of entertainment". According to the not so entertaining
Endemol Mobile website, content will partly be "based on the huge back catalogue of Endemol".
I wonder what's more depressing : an microerzatz of existing soaps or the most extreme worst of reality TV trash, straight from the bin. 3G is fine, wait till they get 3D and odorama...


SK-Earthlink - postponing and smartcasting

Gustavo Cisneros elected MIPCOM Personality Of The Year 2005 ? Great news, but it doesn't make for the lack of data from Movida Communications (still "strong" of a "potential" of 40M Hispanics. period).
MIPCOM Personality Of The Year 2006 ? He/she could have something to do with wireless as well.
Why not with
SK-Earthlink ? After settling near Beverly Hills, CA (see "From Hallyuwood to Hollywood"), the M-VNO-to-go seems to have learned the basic tips from great filmmakers : a flashy casting can compensate deviant TTMs.
TTM : now we're talking spring 2006 instead of Q42005, which could lead to a clash with another blockbuster, ESPN Mobile (also on Sprint). I'm not so sure such M-VNOs as Amp'd Mobile can make it, even if they start earlier (and especially with online subscriptions only on time for Xmas).
Casting : SK-Earthlink built a strong roster with experience in the wireless field as well as beyond (Nike, NewsCorp...) :
- Michael Grossi (VP, Business Development) brought some pieces of advice to VirginMobile, Boost or OnStar (through Adventis). I'm not sure SKE can reach 3M subs within 3 years like a Virgin, but it wouldn't be Grossi's very first time.
- Sky Dayton (CEO) brought Skype to Boingo. What on Earth can he do with a 3G EV-DO / WiFi combo ?
- Mathias Duarte (VP, Experience Design) brought the hiptop to Danger. He can bring danger to the competition, and fun to the market.
- Robert Gelick (Head of Music Strategy) brought i-Tunes to Motorola (and came with Moto's Stuart Redsun, now executive VP, Marketing). What on Earth can he do with a 3G EV-DO / WiFi / MelOn combo ?
But the best part of the casting could be Korean : beyond the COO (Sul Won-hee), expect Lee Jae-hwan (VP, Products and Services) and Shin In-ho (VP, Technology) to deliver the goods.


NRJ mobile and bank robberies

From radio to TV to mobile, NRJ Group are heading for a multimedia grand slam. Of course, NRJ owner Jean-Paul Baudecroux cannot leverage on as massive a blog pool as his rival and potential target Skyrock (Skyblog drafted millions and NRJblog followed with a me-too product - still considered as such by the public)... but he's the early bird and remains the helluva dealmaker. Plus he certainly took this media a better way than other players. To the point this French operator could export the concept to Scandinavia, where M-VNOhood started : NRJ/ENERGY operates in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, but also in Germany, Switzerland or Austria. Besides, they know about network operating since the NRJ Group owns the French towerco towerCast, also a SFR partner in their DVB-H trials (see "Satellite of love"*).
Far from your usual reseller, NRJ mobile can be considered a genuine M-VNO. They're not killing voice (35 to 55 cents per mn), they're not killing SMS (6 to 12 cents apiece), they're certainly not killing radio (15 cents per mn), and they're not even killing music : 2 euros per song, that will disturb neither their carrier (SFR), nor their carrier's owner (Universal), nor even NRJ's annoucers (SFR and Universal among others). The core target is young but not so cheap, and their vanity is rewarded : customers can pick their numbers in the 06.06 series (no doubt M6 Mobile is loving it).
NRJ's partners should know about overcharging services : CIC (10% of NRJ mobile) happens to be my bank...

* by the way, TF1 & co have just started their T-DMB trials in Paris on October the 15th (one month after DVB-H), I'm sure with the blessing of LG (see "Mobile Real TV - LG and the H-free handset").


A bridge on a bluetooth ?

Berlusconi's Mediaset* will fuel TIM's DVB-H service next year. That's about mobile TV.
M6 mobile signed their 100,000th customer 4 month after launch. That's about TV and mobility.
apple discovers video. That's about time.
Cisco & Nokia launched 3G-WiFi phones together, and the rumor had IT Cisco purchasing Telecom Nokia. Do they need to put a bridge on a blue tooth ?
RealMedia joined Netscape & co for a $700M tip. Microsoft didn't even have to open their warchest. How much for a Sony ?

* talking about mobile TVs : Le Lay plans to move Eurosport's headquarters to Milano. To spy Mediaset or to strengthen an Axis of Anvils ? Competition, beware.


IEEE 802.11number and number - I'm waiting for the LAN

Five year ago, IT players would seize the opportunity and boost 802.11b as telecom players were all popping 3G bubbles. Now that 3.5G & 4G are under way under a tighter control by their rivals (soon embedded in a Dell near you), wintel & co want to repeat their gig. Cisco & intel, Toshiba & Gateway... the newly formed EWC (Enhanced Wireless Consortium*) sounds like another boring alumni banquet. Sony & apple bring some color but they don't look very motivated. They just didn't want to miss the broadbandwagon...
Especially since it's about providing a more performant version of WiFi to satisFi more demanding needs (ie handling multiple HDTV streams). IEEE 802.11n means 600 Mbps, Space Time Block Coding (STBC), beamforming, a truly next gen LAN. Whoa.
And we were just getting used to 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11b-Cor1, 802.11d, 802.11e, 802.11F, 802.11g, 802.11h, 802.11i, 802.11j, 802.11k, 802.11m, 802.11REV-ma, 802.11p, 802.11r, 802.11s, 802.11T, 802.11v, 802.11u, 802.11w, 802.11.1 and 802.11.2... not to mention 802.15 and PANs, 802.16 and MANs, WiMAX and WiBro (eight oh too)...
The success of WiFi was based on a quite simple scenario and quick decisions. Now IEEE's 802 Project could fuel a few X-Files seasons. Anyway, long life to Enhanced Wireless Complexity.

* The 27 initial EWC members : Airoha, Apple, Atheros, Azimuth, Broadcom, Buffalo, Cisco Systems, Conexant, D-Link, Gateway, Intel Corporation, Lenovo, Linksys, LitePoint, Marvell, Metalink, NETGEAR, Ralink, Realtek, SANYO, Sony, Symbol Technologies, Toshiba, USRobotics, WildPackets, Winbond, ZyDAS.


Galileo Positioning System

In order to compete with America's GPS, Europe gave its satellite navigation system the name of a famous victim to Christian fundamentalism, Galileo Galilei. Despite the infiltration of endless meetings by Uncle Sam's experts in standard gasfactorization, Galileo seems back on tracks (sed movet). It will leverage on Europe's EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service), Russia's GLONASS (Glown Ass ?) and even China's PATHOS. The promoters of the technology consider themselves joint undertakers*, which gives you an idea of how much they believe in what they do.
To find the EU's home page for the Galileo program, you have to go down to
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/energy_transport/galileo/index_en.htm. The path to the NASA's Galileo space program looks much shorter : http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/galileo/. So short indeed the Americans crashed Galileo on Jupiter. Acte manqué ?
Galileo.org leads to the Galileo Centre in Calgary, AB. They are into networking, but of the educational kind. The program locked the URL back in 1997.
Galileo.com has been preempted since 1994. The owner is no other than
Cendant Corporation, the owner of Avis and Budget Rent a Car, not to mention Century 21, Sotheby's International Realty, Days Inn, HoJo, Ramada Inn, Travelodge & co... Location based services if any, but located in Englewood, CO.
On the other hand, GPS.org leads to the homepage of a gay couple. Locating your mate as the killer app ?
But guess to whom belongs GPS.com ? A certain Microsoft Corporation - 1 Microsoft Way Redmond, WA 98052 US...

How to square the circle or from triangulation to quadrature...

* For the Galileo Joint Undertaking, type
http://www.galileoju.com. Sounds like a Korean alcohol to me.


Treaty of Roam - October the 5th, 2005

Viviane Reding made quite a show about InfoSoc's new website devoted to international roaming, but surfer can only browse through a non user friendly collection of sample tariffs. Consumer groups dubbed this portal to go an excuse for a war on high rates.

The very same day, Microsoft lobbyists were roaming Brussels and Steve Balmer meeting with Neelie Kroes without any specific agenda. Well, she would let him know she just hired Professor Neil Barrett as the technical expert in charge of keeping an eye on microsoftian abuses. The Briton is said to be a specialist in computer security and in UNIX. Stevie is said to be a specialist in securing a unique computer OS. Neelie is said to be a specialist in securing seats in the most unique boardrooms.

And always the same day : among the people who would love to enjoy actual wireless roaming in Europe, a few found out in Melilla the EU could be more about wires, and the barbed kind.

PS : How many Europeans among the 119,474 people who roamed CEATEC Japan 2005 during the first 3 days of the event ? They were all aahs and oohs in front of DoCoMo's Mova HO! or at Fujitsu Labs / Net-2Com Corp's latest VoIP handset (PHS version is ready, GSM and CDMA could follow, Skype is the limit).


Handle with e-care - China-aware pro gaming

Still keepin' an eye on SKT's stats, and especially TU media (following Slomobile TV) : now covering 84 cities, the mobile TV service claimed 200,000 subs after almost 5 months of operation. That's about 1,400 customers a day, but this average is supposed to be 2,400 nowadays (the first 100k took 2 months and 22 days, the last 2 months and 6 days). 90 more days at this pace would bring them over 400k subs at the end of the year and I guess they can push to an average 3,500 with the high season coming but they'd need a strong 4,500 to reach their original 600,000 target.
More impressive : last summer and 5 years after launch,
e-Station (SKT's e-CRM portal) signed its 10th million customer. The service averages 160K users per day (70% being in their 20s-30s) and 16.4M acts per month (about 3 times as much as over the phone). Many MNOs would die for such figures.
For those as well : over 94% of SKT's customers are equiped with cdma2000 phones, now dubbed "2.5G"*. 84% have color screens and 52% are active Nate users. The mobile portal keeps improving and proposing new services, but the operator knows "wireless internet" is not the only field beyond voice. Hard to tell how m-finance and banking are contributing.
As far as international is concerned, I'm still expecting some juicy fruits from the SKT-Earthlink partnership, but the only news came from the MNO's professional gamers' team, T1, which drafted two Starcraft players from China. I don't know whether these hardcore gamers are ready to die for their new bosses but the mobile arena could be safer than a PC Bang : a 23 year old Briton, Darren Prior, was recently saved by his LG U8210 during a bank robbery, the handset stopping the bullet.

Welcome to Korea, the country where operators become bankers and handset manufacturers life insurers.

* still no specific statistics for EV-DO, but good news for 3G UMTS : since SKT are preparing commercial launch of HSDPA early 2006 (Nortel-LG to deliver the goods), they are pushing W-CDMA as well in the South : commercial launch this November for Jeju-do, Jeolla-do and Gyeongsang-do + Busan.

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