Weekly Wrap: Axis of Evil?
By Carlo Longino, Fri Jun 25 09:15:00 GMT 2004

Carriers look to gang up on handset vendors, the new DoCoMo boss lays out some plans, and more...


Some more details emerged on the Open Mobile Terminal Platform Alliance, a new group of carriers that have banded together, they say, to push handset standards and software. The group says it wants to determine the best standards for things like messaging and other mobile applications, then dictate those to handset manufacturers to foster consistent user experience and ease interoperability. Many observers also see the group as part of carriers' push to get device makers to greater customize their products for individual carriers, something several manufacturers have been keen to resist.

Along these lines, mobile OS startup Savaje got an investment from T-Mobile this week, with that carrier joining Vodafone and Orange among the company's backers. It appears the carriers want to prove they'll have alternatives in the smartphone OS market beyond Microsoft and Symbian in an effort to force further capitulation and cooperation from the handset manufacturers.

New NTT DoCoMo boss Masao Nakamura revealed some of his plans for the carrier, saying the company would shy away from the huge foreign developments that were the mark of his predecessor's reign in favor of smaller technological tie-ups with foreign companies. Nakamura is looking to beef up DoCoMo's application and service offerings in an attempt to stem sliding market share and revenues. He's also hoping to quadruple the number of 3G FOMA subscribers over the next three years to 25 million, and is looking for cheap 3G handsets to get there.

DoCoMo also said this week it was joining the ranks of carriers that will offer a converged phone system that straddles the mobile and fixed networks with a single handset. But unlike the other previously announced products, its will use Wi-Fi, instead of Bluetooth, to talk to an AP connected to the fixed network. DoCoMo hopes the system will drive corporate sales -- which are only 10 percent of the Japanese mobheile market -- higher.

Vodafone's struggles in the Japanese market cost the unit's CEO his job this week. Though Darryl Green reportedly left for "personal reasons", the smart money says he was forced out as Vodafone looks to rebuild in Japan. The carrier also lost the head of its Italian unit and southern European operations, Vittorio Colao, who left to run Italy's largest publisher. Colao had been tipped by some as a future Vodafone CEO.

US carrier Sprint announced this week plans to deploy a nationwide EV-DO network over the next 18 months, quelling widely held rumors it would skip from its current 1xRTT network right to EV-DV. Rival Cingular also said it was planning to speed up its 3G plans and launch its network next year as well.

High-speed data will be extremely important to carriers, at least those in Western Europe, one firm said this week. The Yankee Group predicts that all revenue growth for carriers in the region will come from data. It says voice markets are saturated, and data ARPU will more than double over the next five years to 29%.

Two other studies of note this week: the first says carriers are missing a huge opportunity in marketing their services to the elderly, who can be loyal and lucrative customers. The second suggests that a third of people are "addicted" to their mobile phones. The study seems less than scientific, and says a number of people are "in denial" of their addiction.

Patent problems are popping up in the Wi-Fi industry, as Canadian company Wi-LAN hit Cisco with a lawsuit alleging the giant's 802.11a and g products infringe on its patents. Cisco may decide, like others, the suit isn't worth fighting and settle, further emboldening Wi-LAN, which strangely admitted it didn't sue earlier because it didn't want to stunt the market's growth -- a tacit admission that it could hold back the industry.

Mobile advertising is making a comeback, though it's a far cry from the initial efforts of a few years ago. Advertisers are attracting users with free content and contests and getting them to opt in to receiving messages, with marketers seemingly respecting the invitations and not using them to start a deluge of spam.

Elsewhere on the site this week, David Pescovitz tells us about an up-and-coming wizard in the black art of antenna design, Steve Wallage says to hold on to your wallet as the mega-merger looks to come back, and finally, Mark Frauenfelder says cops in Texas are bustin' perverts with wireless technology.