Let's All Do the Cannes-Cannes
By Carlo Longino, Fri Feb 21 12:45:00 GMT 2003

The 3GSM World Congress trade show this week saw a flurry of activity...

It's trade show time, and first up this year was the 3GSM World Congress, in the lush French coastal resort of Cannes. While network equipment operators don't have much to cheer about at the moment, they still managed to generate some news, and handset and device manufacturers were as busy as ever.

While there wasn't a lot of buzz around 3G network gear, SonyEricsson and Nokia managed to make some headlines with news about their first 3G handsets. SonyEricsson announced their first effort, called the Z1010. A dual-mode GSM/UMTS phone, it's a colorful clamshell design that features two video cameras. Nokia said this week that it would begin commercial shipments of its first 3G offering, the 6650, by July.

The Finnish behemoth also announced a major push into the enterprise market at the show, announcing a trio of deals with major computer technology companies. It inked an agreement with Oracle mobilize companies' Oracle databases for Nokia devices and a reseller agreement with Sun where the server company will sell Nokia's Delivery Server, a mobile content delivery product. Nokia also expanded a previous agreement with IBM to create products tailored for Nokia devices to let them access corporate data from IBM system.

Motorola didn't keep quiet, either. A company exec said in an interview that the network equipment market won't see any upturn until 2004, adding that the company hoped to become the clear number-two network infrastructure manufacturer (behind Ericsson) by focusing on emerging markets like India and China.

But perhaps one bright spot for network gear makers, as we reported earlier this week, will be widespread deployment of EDGE hardware in lieu of early 3G launches. Reportedly about 20 European and Asian carriers have deployed trial EDGE networks in addition to the 12 carriers in the Americas that have said they'll deploy the technology. SonyEricsson also announced in Cannes it would sell an EDGE-enabled PC card that allows laptop users to access the networks, and also that it was creating a strategic alliance with AT&T Wireless, the first carrier to commercially deploy EDGE, to support the technology.

More news from the Fence-Sitting Department: Korean handset maker Samsung reinforced its position squarely on top of the pickets this week when it announced it would buy a 5% stake in mobile OS consortium Symbian for about USD 27 million. This, of course, comes right on the heels of the company's release of a PocketPC-powered hybrid device, which of course was preceded a few months back by a Palm-powered device (cross-file this item with the "Covering All the Bases" Dept. as well!). Though Samsung is licensing Microsoft's software, it's still wary of the company: "Symbian will be a good asset," San-Jing Park, Samsung's mobile handsets chief, told Reuters, pointing to the PC industry. Microsoft and Intel "took all the value and left hardware makers as clone producers."

China did its best to pull some attention back its way this week, announcing government plans to spend up to USD 85 billion in the next five years on technology research and development, including its independent TD-SCDMA 3G standard TheFeature told you about last month. Also in the news this week was the announcement from Microsoft and Intel of the first release of a phone based on their concept design announced last fall.

But most shattering of all was the "insight" from "analysts" speaking in Cannes that only 0.01% of all mobile users worldwide are using WCDMA networks. So 3G is of course a failure, right? Talk about some hype...