Weekly Wrap: The Beat Goes On
By Carlo Longino, Fri Apr 04 07:01:08 GMT 2003

Network launches, takeover rumors, dirty politics. This week's wrap has got it all...

Hutchison 3G continued its push for global 3G domination (hey, it was a slow week...), launching its 3G network in a few major Australian cities this week. It's a similar story to their other launches, though, with the network up and running but no handsets in stores, but the company says they'll be available in a couple of weeks. The company's gearing up for a fight, as Telstra just launched its CDMA1x network and Optus is pushing its GPRS services, though Hutchison says the former company's ads for the service are misleading and it plans to take some legal action. Nothin' like making friends on the first day, eh Hutch?

But it's not all sunny skies for the carrier. It's hit a roadblock to expanding its UK network in Scotland, where a ban by the Edinburgh city council may portend further environmental battles to come. The council has put a moratorium on new base stations and antennas on city land in the run-up to a May election, forcing 3 to look for other less suitable (and presumably more expensive sites to use). Separately, a new study commissioned by Microsoft and PriceWaterhouseCoopers says 3G services may simply just cost too much for UK users to adopt.

An interesting bit of news this week in the mobile OS wars, though not from a likely source: small developer SavaJe, which is creating a Java-based mobile phone OS, received a second round of funding including USD 3 million from the venture arms of Orange and Vodafone. So seemingly not only do they want customized handsets, but customized UIs as well. Like we said, interesting.

China Unicom, that country's second-biggest carrier had some network news of its own this week, saying it had completed its nationwide CDMA1x network. China Unicom, which will market the new services under the name U-Max, hopes the new network will help it steal users from the country's top carrier, China Mobile.

Handset manufacturer Nokia also made some waves in the Chinese market this week when it announced it would begin making CDMA handsets there later this year. The company also said it would consolidate its Chinese joint ventures, which make locally branded handsets and network gear) into one Beijing-based concern. These moves highlight Nokia's recent push to regain ground in the CDMA market, and of course the role users of Chinese carriers like China Unicom will play in that.

Rumors were swirling over central Europe this week as Dutch operator KPN said it was open to the possibility of buying O2's German unit and merging that carrier with its struggling E-Plus operation. E-Plus and O2 Germany are the country's third- and fourth-biggest carriers, respectively, and while O2 says the unit isn't for sale, nothing may be out of the question given its restructuring and as-yet unsuccessful bid to sell its Dutch subsidiary.

We reported last week about US Congressman Darrell Issa's push for legislation that would mandate any new mobile network set up in the presumed rebuilding of Iraq would use the good-ol-American CDMA standard instead of that stinky-like-their-cheese "French" GSM one. We also told you that Issa's district is quite near Qualcomm's California HQ, and it's been reported that the company has donated to his recent campaigns. Now, as Issa backpedals from his position, it's emerging that this supposedly patriotic idea was perhaps driven by the most all-American trait of all, unbridled capitalism. Stay tuned for more...