Weekly Wrap: .Mob Rule
By Carlo Longino, Fri Mar 12 15:30:00 GMT 2004

Industry leaders push for a mobile-specific Net domain, one carrier fudges subscriber numbers while another doesn't need to, CDMA 1x gets another speed boost, and more.

Nine top mobile companies said this week they'd apply for a mobile-specific top-level domain, so that mobile Net URLS could end in .mobile or something similar. While the new domain could make it easier for users to locate mobilized versions of sites, it could drive the mobile and wired Webs further apart, rather than integrating them more closely, and still won't solve the problem of the number of different formats used to code mobile content.

The 3GPP this week approved the latest revision of the CDMA2000 1x EV-DV standard, widening the speed chasm between it and WCDMA. The new revision has a theoretical downstream speed of 3.1 Mbps and upstream at 1.8 Mbps, and also features simultaneous voice and data transmission. The CDMA Development Group says EV-DV will be commercially available next year.

While EV-DV is in its infancy, one EV-DO carrier is already going out of business. US carrier Monet, a data-only operator that was the first in the US to launch and EV-DO network, said this week it was shutting down next month after being unable to attract enough subscribers. Monet's failure asks some interesting questions about US mobile data, but seems to be more a condemnation of standalone mobile data rather than in tandem with voice service.

The were some red faces at NTT DoCoMo this week when it emerged that employees at its Kyushu unit had in February signed up for 800 accounts to avoid being the first subsidiary to have a net loss of monthly subscribers. The employees got caught when they cancelled the accounts shortly after the beginning of the month, raising red flags in DoCoMo's computer system.

One carrier not needing to fudge its numbers is T-Mobile, which said this week that it saw growth in 2003 in all its markets. Its US unit lead the way, increasing subscribers by a third and service revenues by a half and tripling EBITDA. T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom also said it had no plans for a T-Mobile IPO, and that it saw no need for T-Mobile to consolidate with another US carrier.

Sony Ericsson announced several new handsets this week, playing up the devices' camera functions and hoping to use Sony's reputation in digital cameras to help sell handsets. It's an interesting idea and one that may become more prevalent as the quality of cameras in mobile devices grows. It may also show digital camera manufacturers a way to gain back some of the ground they'll lose to the devices by working with phone vendors to integrate their cameras and co-brand the devices.

There are a few applications on the horizon that promise to make blogging simpler, and an automatic extension of our mobile life, with details of Nokia's Lifeblog project emerging this week. Lifeblog is a Windows app that takes SMS, MMS, photos and notes from forthcoming Series 60 devices and creates a timeline-based diary. While Lifeblog itself doesn't have an online component, its output can be easily funneled to the Web.

Elsewhere on the site this week, Eric Lin says music is coming back to wireless -- wireless data, Howard Rheingold wonders who's doing what and where, Douglas Rushkoff speaks of his struggles to set up a mobile-development course, and Peggy Salz fills us in on some mobile usability enhancements.