Weekly Wrap: Questioning the Numbers
By Carlo Longino, Fri Oct 31 09:00:00 GMT 2003

This week's Wrap takes a look at Ericsson's quarterly profit, the real number of mobile subscribers in China, the potential of the Russian market, and more.

Ericsson released its third-quarter earnings this week, with company CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg triumphantly declaring the company had turned a profit, but that's only if you discount the substantial restructuring charges the company billed in the quarter. But however you look at it, it's good news for the company, which has been in the red for nearly three years. But things are far from rosy for the company, which predicts a flat market in 2004, much to the consternation of investors and observers like our own Douglas Rushkoff.

The real number of mobile users in China also came into question this week, with one analyst saying there are only two-thirds as many as the government says. He says many Chinese carry multiple SIM cards to avoid roaming fees, and the government simply counts the number of cards or accounts. But while this knocks back the figures that the Chinese leadership is so proud of, it's good news for handset manufacturers, as it shows market penetration is lower than previously thought.

TheFeature contributor Steve Wallage takes a look this week at another growing market -- Russia. Subscriber estimates and projections range all over the place, and the market is showing the kind of growth last seen in Western Europe five years ago, whetting plenty of companies' appetites -- but Wallage urges them to proceed with caution.

Norwegian browser maker Opera scored this week when Nokia said it would install the company's browser on its just-released 6600 handset. Opera's browser can view most any standard Web page thanks to some special rendering technology that reformats pages for the small screen, opening up pretty much the whole Web to mobile users.

Nokia also made waves this week when it announced its 7700 device, the first to sport the company's Series 90 interface. The device sports a high-resolution screen and a number of other multimedia features, all the usual suspects like a VGA camera, as well as the new pen-based UI. The 7700 will also support an accessory for receiving digital TV broadcasts, something Nokia is working in Europe, while Japan and South Korea hope to have mobile phones receiving digital TV by 2005 or 2006.

Finally this week is an effort by New York City's government to combine mobile users' efforts to generate a comprehensive list of dead spots for each carrier in the city. They hope to collect the info and release it on November 24, the first day of mobile number portability in the US. It will be interesting to see how this list plays out, and what happens when they find out each carrier probably has just as many dead spots as any other. Power to the people!