Weekly Wrap: Making and Breaking Friends and 3G Pains
By Carlo Longino, Fri Oct 03 10:00:00 GMT 2003

Some Euro carriers made friends this week, others can't play nice, the first study to say UMTS causes health problems came out (though 3 could have pretty easily told them that 3G causes headaches), Verizon cranks up the speed in the US, and more...


O2 led a group of smaller European carriers this week to create a pan-European roaming alliance that hopes to be able to keep roaming traffic off Vodafone networks in the continent. This follows a move earlier this year by 4 top-tier carriers, though news emerged this week that cartel could be crumbling as T-Mobile and Orange squabble over roaming revenues in the UK.

A Dutch group of researchers said this week that UMTS base stations could have a negative effect on human well-being, the first such study geared towards 3G standards in the UMTS frequency range. Companies from across the industry poo-poohed the results, saying one study does not a scientific bedrock make, and called for additional research. Interestingly, the study also found that both GSM and UMTS signals increased people's performance in some cognitive tests.

That study said in addition to nausea, the UMTS signals could cause headaches -- something carrier 3 could confirm for them. After announcing huge reductions in its UK voice tariffs to attract users, the incumbent 2G carriers announced price cuts of their own, undercutting 3 and setting the stage for an intensely competitive holiday shopping season.

US carrier Verizon Wireless this week launched its CDMA2000 1X EV-DO network in a couple of American cities, saying it offers downlink speeds of 300-500Kbps, though one reader says it's a bit slower than that, and upload speeds aren't too hot. Anyhow, it's the fastest network in North America, and looks set to stay that way for a while.

An analyst firm released a report this week saying that a lack of interoperability is hampering the growth of MMS in North America (putting the cart before the horse, perhaps, and not wondering what's hampering the growth of SMS in North America, but I digress), and readers from a couple of other continents commented that it's not just a North American issue, carriers all over aren't implementing agreements as quickly as they'd like. In other messaging news, the impact of viruses and lost time is leading some companies to abandon internal e-mail, sometimes in favor of SMS.

TeliaSonera's Finnish unit was on a bit of a teeter-totter this week: they said they'd be the first European carrier to offer an EDGE network, and in fact that their network is ready to go, they're just waiting on handsets. But Sonera also revealed this week that it had lost 30,000 customers in the two months since Finnish authorities implemented mobile number portability, mainly to small, upstart carriers with simpler tariffs.

TIM, which also coincidentally said this week it plans to launch an EDGE network in the summer of 2004, said it would begin broadcasting TV from a few select networks over its GPRS network. Call me crazy, but I just don't get it.

A development from last week that happened after the Wrap had wrapped, Nintendo and Motorola released an attachment for the GameBoy Advance that will let users wirelessly connect and play Pokemon. The attachment evidently uses some TDMA-based protocol in the 2.4GHz range, eschewing common standards. Probably not coincidentally, the release comes about a week before the launch of Nokia's N-Gage mobile gaming deck.

Elsewhere on TheFeature this week, Justin Hall checks in from the Tokyo Gaming Show and Kevin Werbach hits on the outmoded idea of spectrum regulation.