Weekly Wrap: Roll On Earnings
By Carlo Longino, Fri Jan 28 08:45:00 GMT 2005

Earnings roll on, SK Telecom moves into the US, RIM makes a Canadian stand, and more...


Earnings season is in full swing, with a number of mobile companies reporting earnings this week. Researchers Strategy Analytics said the fourth quarter of 2004 set a record for handset shipments, and Nokia rode this strength to deliver solid earnings, as did LG Electronics, while Siemens unsurprisingly turned in a loss. Several carriers reported, with Vodafone showing its highest subscriber growth rate in four years, while T-Mobile's US unit powered that company's gains. MMO2 made progress in Germany, while UK growth slowed as it pared inactive prepaid subscribers. In the US, Verizon increased revenues and profits, though ARPU slipped, while the top US carrier, Cingular, saw its ARPU slide nearly 6 percent and turned in a loss thanks to charges from its buyout of AT&T Wireless.

NTT DoCoMo is also finally getting large numbers of users to move to its 3G FOMA platform, adding more than 7 million users in 2004.

American ISP and South Korean operator SK Telecom announced a joint venture this week to set up and MVNO for the American market. SK Telecom looks to be making a play to build on its advanced position in the mobile market, where, although it's on a technological level, if not ahead, of NTT DoCoMo, it hasn't generated nearly as much publicity, while Earthlink appears to be following its strategy of being on the leading edge of the ISP business.

Research In Motion's patent dispute with NTP dragged on this week, with RIM saying to the US court overseeing the case that since it's a Canadian company, and the emails delivered to its Blackberry devices travel through a relay server in that country, US patents shouldn't apply. While the argument may smack of desperation, the company's found at least one powerful ally -- the Canadian government, which says it's concerned about the effects of the ruling on other Canadian high-tech companies doing business in the US.

Stop worrying about your handset getting a virus -- now your ride might be in danger. It's not your dark tint falling foul of the law, or your 20-inch spinners getting jacked, but rather the unsubstantiated claim that the spate of recent Symbian viruses have jumped to some Lexus cars via Bluetooth. Somehow, somebody somewhere is saying three models "have been discovered with infected operating systems that transfer within a range of 15 feet." Never mind the fact that the viruses are still hard to catch because they require tacit approval from users to install themselves, and no word yet if Funkmaster Flex is working on an anti-virus shield to protect all the playas' custom whips.

It looks like BT's Bluephone isn't so blue anymore. The plan, which promised to meld mobile phones with VOIP calls using a Bluetooth connection to a DSL line, has evidently chosen Wi-Fi instead. And forget DSL as well -- when users are at home, their not-so-Blue base station will use GSM for backhaul. So now, they're selling a phone that uses GSM when it's outside the range of the home base station...then uses GSM to connect over Wi-Fi when it's within range of the home base station. So what was one of the first examples of a converged network, now doesn't seem quite so converged.

Ask Jeeves says it plans to move into the mobile search arena, and an executive there says it's cognizant of the differences between searching the Net on a desktop or laptop PC and a mobile phone -- this statement, combined with Ask Jeeves' natural-language search technology, would indicate the company gets mobile search, and the fact that users will be more interested in getting answers to their search queries, rather than links to pages that might have the answers.

Irish telecoms regulators this week got the support of the European Commission to force Vodafone and MMO2 to open their mobile networks in the country up to MVNOs in an attempt to increase competition and lower prices in the country. The two carriers control 90% of the market there, and the EC support may foreshadow the commission getting involved in other countries' mobile markets.

Elsewhere on the site this week, the focus was on mobile music, with the MIDEM music and technology conference in Cannes, France. Steve Wallage says record labels still don't know exactly what to do in the mobile space, Mark Frauenfelder talks to the outspoken Cory Doctorow about the state of mobile DRM, and Douglas Rushkoff postulates the future of mobile music is as much in users creating tunes as downloading them. Peggy Salz also takes a look at the growing P2P VOIP space, and its impact on mobile.