Weekly Wrap: Live!-ing on a 3G Prayer
By Carlo Longino, Fri Nov 12 08:45:00 GMT 2004

Vodafone takes 3G Live!, handset vendors acquiesce to operators' customization demands, and more...


All eyes were on Vodafone this week as the giant carrier launched its 3G consumer services as an extension of its Live! portal. While other carriers have beaten Vodafone to the 3G punch, its size and footprint has made this the launch to watch. It's pretty much the same story as anybody else, betting heavily on video content and music downloads. Vodafone wants 10 million 3G customers by March 2006, and is hoping for an ARPU bump from them similiar to what it sees from 2G Live! users -- 7 percent.

One hallmark of Vodafone's 3G launch is the 10 handsets it's procured, all of them showing the degree to which handset vendors are catering to carriers' customization demands, reflecting a significant change in tune over the last few years. While there's been plenty of posturing on the part of the carriers, the real motivation is probably economic: they sell 60-80% of handsets in Europe, making them a force vendors can't afford to upset.

Just as carriers look to evolve their offerings to fit new networks, so too are marketers. The rise of video has caused some relief from advertisers in North America that have to this point struggled to hit the mark with mobile campaigns, as now they can take traditional TV ads to consumers' handsets, but some are even realizing mobile marketing has to be handled differently than traditional media. What will they think of next?

A few straggling earnings reports came out this week, with Symbian reporting strong shipment figures and revenues, while handset quality issues hit Siemens' sales. T-Mobile saw strong growth at its US unit, powering the whole business to a profit, while Telefonica Moviles' prospects aren't looking so hot as it fights off competitors in Spain and Brazil.

More doubt was cast over the future of China's homespun 3G standard, TD-SCDMA, this week, as the results of field trials of it and other systems were revealed in the country. WCDMA and CDMA2000 passed just fine, while the Chinese standard didn't do so well, with poor performance from the few available handsets, alongside poor stability and low reliability of its core network. The results call into question just how the government there will proceed with its 3G licensing plans. It appeared to be waiting for TD-SCDMA to get some sort of validation before mandating at least one nationwide network running the standard be built; speculation now has it awarding licenses soon with a requirement carriers add TD-SCDMA support when it's feasible.

The FCC in the US this week issued a ruling that individual states can't regulate Voice over IP telephone systems, spurring ideas that mobile operators will make a push to integrate VOIP and Wi-Fi with their networks soon. But converging the three technologies isn't so simple for any number of reasons, regulatory or otherwise. Technological hurdles must be overcome, and operators must get billing and business plans in order before launching the new systems.

Elsewhere on the site this week, Peggy Salz takes a look at how some content providers are trying to work out mobile DRM systems that protect content while taking advantage of the distribution advantages inherent in mobile networks, Douglas Rushkoff grabs his popcorn and settles in for some cinema on the smallest screen, and Howard Rushkoff puts the geoweb on the map.