20051129

BeautifulPhones, cheesecakes, greenfees

A few weeks after BT's BT Fusion, neuf cegetel are trying their WiFi - GSM handsets, dubbed BeautifulPhone. That's about 10 years after cegetel* tried dual mode homezone DECT - GSM handsets, but the continuity of the multimedia / office spheres could succeed where voice only failed to sell.
Swisscom should sell too, or at least be fully open to strategic partnerships : Switzerland are abandoning their 66.1% share of the cheesecake. TDC / easymobile could grab more than a few crumbs of this jewel airline, but why would Vodafone turn their own cheese into a gruyere ?
Elsewhere in Europe, H3G Italia will broadcast DVB-H next year (H2) after taking over Channel 7 and their digital TV frequencies. The only truly pure greenfield 3G player eventually understood profits would come from 3G voice and mobile TV wasn't a 3G application.


* then the no-yet-born long distance subsidiary of the no-yet-born Vivendi, but already with SFR



20051122

TiVocasting on iPod and PSP - from TVNO to M-TVNO

Apple are eyeing Nokia' Series 60 platforms, but I've been also interested by TiVo's extension from TV-VNO to Mobile TV-VNO : DirecTV Group Inc.'s jewel decided to format directly for iPod and PSP.

Radios and TVs have been pushing podcasting, taking liberties with their own schedules and programmings. TiVo had to jump in the broadbandwagon and this defensive move could position them better than ever : instead of a remote TV, they could become a central hub for all devices.

Problem : everything has to pass through the DVR and paradoxically, the remote operator happens to be the most dependent on home networking... Sorry, but this is not "TV your way" all the way yet.



20051118

Hello HELIO - here comes the sun

SKT released their Q3 data. Since January the 1st, they've spent 50% of their overall CAPEX target ($1.5bn), but 60.7% of their W-CDMA CAPEX target ($359M for the first 9 months). That's for the MNO part of the job.

Regarding the virtual part, SK Telecom are also over-mega-hyper-teasing the future services of their SKT-Earthlink JV, which they branded Helio in honor of the young god of sun Helios. The drop-shaped logo and the website's iconography rather remind me of an utility company, but the company is claiming futility for the younger generation : innovative devices, entertainment, movies, music, you name it. Thanks to innovations 2 year ahead of the competition, no less than 3M of 18-32 year-old are supposed to bring a $2 bn annual turnover by the end of 2009. Well... that's what HELIO staff members have been selling to potential partners during a ten day roadshow across the US. Who said I was overhyping ?*

I'm not worrying about technology, nor about marketing know-how. I'm just anxious to hear about their key content partnerships. I understand not much of their $440 M will be invested in networking... but for social networking, that is.

To be continued, as usual.


* see "SKT-Earthlink - Postponing and podcasting" and "From Hallyuwood to Hollywood" or "2005 : how about Europe ?".



Bridging T-DMB & DAB, Hallyuwood & Bollywood, Korea and the UK

April 2006 : digital broadcasting trials will start in the UK with an explosive DAB-Combo bringing together an impressive crowd from Europe's leading media country and the world's leading broadband country :

  • From the UK : Orange, BT Livetime, Ariqva, Frontier Silicon, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Virgin Radio, GCap Media, Emap, Celador, and even SMG Television (producers vith a Bollywood flavor)...

  • From Korea : the twin towers (Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc.), the ETRI (Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute), a few start-ups specialized in DMB / video solutions (Perstel Inc.*, Timetek Inc. / WithUSTech, Pixtree Technologies Inc)...


UK logically brings a key MNO (whose interest in DMB seems consistent with France Telecom R&D's vision as exposed last January), but no European manufacturer. I'm not so sure Nokia are enjoying this after the T-DMB trials announced in France (this year) or Germany (next year).

Diplomatically and smartly** enough, T-DMB is presented as an application of the WorldDAB Eureka 147 standard, the DAB designed by UK researchers. So the trial users will receive European "DAB" digital radio and video on their mobile handsets.

Food for thought for those who considered the UK and Korea as traditional entry points for US technologies in Europe and Asia...

* sponsored by Samsung Venture Investment Company and STIC Ventures, established a UK subsidiary 3 years ago
** nothing to do with Ireland's new entrant Smart Mobile (UMTS 'B' license - 53% coverage by October 2011 - the equivalent of the country's top five cities).



20051113

CDG : you can't beat demographics

The CDMA Development Group announced on november that the 200M 1x subscriber mark had been reached last september. And that EV-DO claimed 2.2M subs within 3 months to reach 18 M overall (20 M by year end). A far cry from W-CDMA's 35M, but "the broadband solution equivalent to 1xEV-DO will not be commercial until 2006". So HSDPA is the real competitor to EV-DO now... Which release are we talkin about, doc J ? Calling HSDPA the competitor instead of joining the band - as a few CDMA players will do - doesn't look like a smart move to me. If you agree with CDG's definition of 3G, CDMA is already 73% "3G" while GSM only stands at 2% : there are over 1.5 bn GSM fellas out there, and CDMA figures at the end of the year will be 20 M for EV-DO out of 220 M for cdma2000 out of 300 M for CDMA. You can't beat demographics.
The truth is cdma2000 is losing its momentum and 2005 was the year, as scheduled from the beginning*. Qualcomm definitely aren't playing fair these days ; they should focus on innovation trials instead of legal ones. The problem is, just like Microsoft, their vision of innovation focuses on the annihilation of competition. This can't last in an open environment.

* actually, back in 2001, I would say 2006 but W-CDMA can thank 3 for boosting its share of "voice"



3Greenfield Japan

So Livedoor eventually didn't get a 3G license in Japan (see "Livedoor to incumbents : you've got mail"), and the winners are IPMobile, Softbank BB & eAccess. Actually, I'm not so sure one can talk about "winners"...

  • IPMobile are already looking for M-VNOs to fill their TD-CDMA pipes (Roll-out : 3,000 BS by end 2007, 8,500 by end 2012 - QoS : 5.2 Mbps downlink, 858 Kbps uplink - TTM october 2006). M-VNOs can be turned down by DoCoMo (network saturation) and Vodafone KK (coverage), but will they really invest in UMTS TDD instead of IPMobile rivals' W-CDMA / HSDPA or KDDI's CDMA2000 ? The good news for IPWireless is their orders are up. The bad news is they might have to pay for them.
  • eAccess branded their greenfield MNO eMobile, which sounds like immobile (fixed, unmovable). The fact is they don't seem in such a hurry : they didn't even complete their business plan before getting the license and their TTM is only March 2007 for a regional launch (National coverage is supposed to be completed by March 2008). eMobile aim at 5M subs after 5 years of operation but even after purchasing AOL Japan last year, eAccess only claim 2.1M subs - besides, dial-up still represents one third of their turnover. TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting Systems, Inc) bring an interesting media / broadband / broadcasting flavor, but they just take 14% of the responsibilities. New partners are welcome but who wants to fight with DoCoMo at home, where even Master Voda struggles for his life ? If no one shows up soon, at least there will be some spectrum for sale.
  • Among the three, Softbank looks like the little pig with the house made of stone : if the Yahoo! deals were already good clicks, Japan Telecom brought actual mortar and unlike Livedoor's Takafumi Horie, Masayoshi Son is now part of the Japanese establishment. TTM is not as aggressive as for IPMobile and one can smile at BB Mobile's "mobile triple play" (voice, video and data !) trials with LG Electronics and Nortel ("pre-WiMAX (802.16e)" + HSDPA), but no one should take TV Bank for a new gadget : this new venture will open early 2006 in East-Asia's leading hubs (Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo). And beyond Japan, Son opened a promising front in China through Taiwan.

NTT DoCoMo are claiming they fear no one and they could be right. But the chances of disruption remain unnerving enough.



20051108

http ftth pfft

While Qualcomm are suing Nokia as a retaliation against a very much needed EU investigation on Doc Jacobs' licensing practices, DoCoMo are caught copying SK Telecom : they're taking a 42% stake in a record company (Tower Records), launching a credit card brand (iD™), and even contemplating investing in Asian MNOs. Taiwan and Hong-Kong look ripe enough but an assault on Korea would be a spectacular move (unless they manage to convert LGT to W-CDMA, they'd have to claim KTF).
Competitors badly need a boost, and both seem to focus on bigger pipes. Vodafone KK are trying as hard as they can to catch up, flexing their muscles in the wireless field (Ericsson just completed a big wave of HSDPA upgrade), but other kinds of fibers are expected to be needed. KDDI decided
last month to absorb PoweredCom Inc, a TEPCO subsidiary (Tokyo Electric Power Company). We're talking about Fiber To The Home (FTTH), we're talking about convergence, we're talking about a born again MNO competing not only with the leading MNO but with the fixed incumbent. Sparks will definitely fly. Concentration is on the way this side of the Pacific Ocean too.



20051103

Li cashing : it's now or never

UMTS TDD Alliance members will hold a meeting around Nov. 9-11 and NFC Forum members around Nov. 7-11 but don't expect the latter to have twice as much fun. Sprint and T-Mobile's Czech unit, who recently joined the Alliance following their trials at home, must have appreciated the interesting way an other IPWireless customer, UK Broadband, found for cashing in from their 3.5GHz spectrum or, as Vodafone would put it, to "Make the most of now".
This PCCW Ltd subsidiary expects £100M from their competitor : UK Broadband rebranded Netvigator "now", a word at the core of Voda's new advertising campain.
The fact is "now" is the brand at the core of PCCW's new strategy : in Hong-Kong, Netvigator is the access service provider's brand and now TV the media / content brand. Almost 2/3 of all Netvigator customers subscribe to now and PCCW are thinking globally. They merged their international section with BtN Access, Inc, a wholy owned subsidiary (that's for Beyond the Network, which sums it up) in order to create a new vehicle, PCCW Global.

And right now, this vehicle takes only two roads outside of Hong-Kong : Asia through China Netcom or Unihub IT, and "Europe" through UK Broadband. Plus Victor Li's group re-entered mobility through Sunday and MobileOne.
But Victor has also been confirmed as Li Ka-shing's successor. UK Broadband looks so small compared to his dad's flamboyant Oranges and Threes. Beyond Trinity Time Investments Inc, you want to watch how Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa could evolve in Europe. And we're not only talking about shopping at Marionnaud's.



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