Weekly Wrap: Burger and Wi-Fries
By Carlo Longino, Fri Jul 11 13:30:00 GMT 2003

McDonald's adds more hotspots, cameraphone link-up, and more...


McDonald's this week announced plans to install Wi-Fi in 75 of its restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area, expanding the program beyond its initial New York City launch. Burger-buying surfers can use an existing account from Wayport, who is providing the service, or buy an access code from the restaurant for USD 4.95 for two hours. But who would really want to sit in a McDonald's for two hours?

Sharp and Texas Instruments said this week they would collaborate on a reference design for GSM/GPRS phones featuring Sharp's 1-megapixel CCD camera and LED technology and TI's chipsets and processors. The companies hope the reference design will accelerate the launch of Japanese-influenced handsets that can handle advanced photo and video functions in other parts of the world.

Investors and analysts were looking forward to earnings announcements next-week from Nokia and Ericsson, though the outlook for both companies isn't too hot. Ericsson, which reports Friday, is expected to report another quarterly loss as cost-cutting measures can't keep pace with falling sales, while Nokia is expected to issue a cautious outlook, thanks to depressed handset sales in China, which have offset gains in the US, where the company had lost ground to rival Motorola.

T-Mobile this week made an interesting venture investment in Flarion Technologies, a startup that's developing wireless broadband systems based on Flash-OFDM technology, which it says is more spectrally efficient and cheaper than other wireless standards. Korean carrier SK Telecom, which is also trialling Flarion equipment, is also one of its venture backers.

The good news continued to roll in for Japanese carrier KDDI, which added more subscribers in June than Japan's biggest carrier, NTT DoCoMo, for the third straight month. A Japanese industry group also reported this week that handset sales in the country in May grew 24% from last year, as consumers continue to upgrade their handsets to take advantage of picture- and video-messaging services.

But a DoCoMo spokesman said users were waiting for the arrival of the full line of the carrier's new advanced 505i i-mode handsets - one of which is the first to feature a 1.3-megapixel camera and another which features "surround sound". DoCoMo this week announced another device in the line, the mova F505i, which features fingerprint-recognition technology to thwart unauthorized users.

WAP use continues to grow in the UK, with usage numbers going a long way to shake off the idea that it's a failed technology. WAP page views in the country have doubled over the last nine months, with sites offering ringtones and screensavers the most popular, though sports and news sites represent a growing percentage.

Hutchison 3G also continued its push in the UK this week, opening 60 retail outlets in Superdrug stores throughout the country. The carrier's parent gained control of the stores when it bought parent company Kruidvat last year. 3 also unveiled a new device, the NEC 808y, which features a PDA-like form factor and QWERTY keyboard, which is priced at GBP 49 after the carrier's recent hefty price cuts.

And finally, just in time for summer, SK Telecom in Korea is selling a mobile download that evidently wards off mosquitoes in a 1-meter radius from a handset. Nice...