Weekly Wrap. DoCoMo Up, Research in Motion Down.
By TheFeature, Fri Aug 08 11:51:07 GMT 2003

MVNO space becomes crowded, transatlantic data transfer with laptop data card...and spacecraft wedding.

There were fewer gadgets released but a few signs of recovery continued this week. NTT DoCoMo reported 1.6 billion dollars for its fiscal first-quarter net profit. The mobile operator reported that user growth of FOMA services climbed up to 658,700 subscribers. DoCoMo's second-generation service reported more than 44 million subscribers.

However, one company struggled. Shares in Research in Motion fell sharply this week when the company was ordered to halt US sales of its Blackberry email client and was to pay $53.7 million in damages for patent infringement to US based NTP Inc. The companies have been locked in a bitter legal dispute since 2001 when NTP alleged that RIM infringed patents covering email over radio frequency wireless technology.

The number of cell phone users will double in the next couple of years bring the total number of users to 2 billion according to In-Stat/MDR. However, the industry will grow at a slower rate that is has in recent years. The big growth areas will be in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Europe on the other hand will remain steady as seventy six percent already have a celly in hand.

There is hardly a week that goes by without some company announcing that they are getting into the MVNO business. Last week, Disney and British Telecom joined the bandwagon. This week Qwest signed a deal with Sprint PCS, which will enable the company to extend its wireless service to the whole of the United States. While Virgin, Disney and MTV will use their brands to flog mobile devices to hipsters and youngsters, other MVNOs such as Qwest and BT need to find something unique to offer their customers, if they are going to compete with the network operators. Eventually, of course, cellular services might mirror the US terrestrial services whereby most wireless companies simply rent space on other peoples networks.

Vodafone and Verizon have inked a deal whereby they will develop a laptop data card so that road warriors can send and receive data while on the move in Europe and the US. The card will combine CDMA and GPRS technology and will take advantage of the Vodafone network that operates in 28 countries around the world. Verizon, by the way, is partly owned by Vodafone.

Meanwhile, Motorola and NEC America Inc are developing an IP telephone that incorporates both WiFi and cellular phone technology. Users will be able to make calls that travel over the Internet and not use the telephone network. IP based telephony is being heralded as one of the big business trends. However, last time we looked the same people own both the Internet and the telephony back bone. Go figure.

On Sunday, a Russian Cosmonaut, Yuri Malenchenko will exchange marriage vows with his true love wirelessly as he makes a call from his spacecraft 240 miles above her. Its not the longest cellular call in history but perhaps it the weirdest. It promises to be an exciting wedding but a petty dull wedding night.