Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Wireless trend: Consumers have not reaped the expected benefits of cellphone 'number portability'

According to a report from Analysys Research, there are few countries where more than 10 percent of mobile phone subscribers have taken advantage of number portability, which refers to the rule that a customer can take a phone number to another carrier should he or she switch carriers. In Britain and Italy, just under 10 percent of mobile users took advantage of number portability. France and Germany's figure was so small its percentage was negligible. The U.S. saw about 5 percent of mobile users taking their numbers to a new operator. The curve-breaker of the 25 countries surveyed was (surprise, surprise) Finland, which saw 55 percent of mobile users transferring their numbers to a new carrier during the four years since portability first became available.

Number portability has not ushered in a new paradigm of radically improved mobile services or customer care as the hype machine predicted so many years ago. Here's a new topic to chew on: So, when do we do away with these numbers altogether?

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

One of Four Handsets Shipped in 2011 Will Cost Less Than $20, Says ABI Research

According to a new report from ABI, the global market for ultra low cost handsets (ULCH) under $20 will see more than 330 million units shipped in 2011. Additionally, ABI predicts that 50 percent of these handsets will be shipped in the emerging markets of Asia Pacific, while the other half will be shipped to Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe. India will prove to be the biggest ULCH market during the next five years, growing from 9 million handsets last year to more than 116 million by 2011.

While recent quarterly results from major handset makers like Nokia and Motorola have shown declining profits because of the emerging ultra-low cost handset market, ABI predicts declining ARPUs for mobile carriers in emerging markets as well. The average ULCH user has a monthly spending limit of between $2 and $5.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

US Carrier price changes on handsets

As is typical for the post-holiday season, U.S. carriers, including T-Mobile, Alltel, Boost Mobile and Cingular Wireless are reconfiguring their pricing strategies for handsets. T-Mobile reduced its Samsung t609 from $50 to "free" and the carrier-branded Sidekick 3 from $250 to $200. It also raised the prices of the t619 from "free" to $40, the t629 from $100 to $450 and the Motorola V195 from $20 to $30. The T-Mobile Dash also crept up to $200 from $150.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Apple Reinvents the Phone With iPhone

After months of rumors and speculation, Apple finally unveiled its iPhone hybrid device during CEO Steve Jobs' keynote appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The reality of the iPhone matches closely with the conjecture that anticipated the announcement: It is a quad-band GSM mobile phone, a widescreen iPod music/video player and Internet communications device all in one, complete with the function-over-form user interface hallmarks that are Apple's signature. As expected, Cingular Wireless will serve as Apple's exclusive carrier partner, and both Apple and Cingular stores will carry the iPhone when it reaches the U.S. market in June 2007; the 4GB model will retail for $499, while the 8GB model will carry a price tag of $599.

From a content standpoint, the most compelling iPhone news is unofficial--by spotlighting the Beatles' "Lovely Rita" during the CES iPhone demo, Jobs implicitly acknowledged that Apple finally secured digital distribution rights to the Fab Four's back catalog. No official announcement on a licensing deal was forthcoming, but music biz insiders confirm an agreement is in place. The two entities already share a long history, most of it tempestuous: Branding conflicts have kept Jobs' Apple in legal battle with the Beatles' Apple Corps for two decades, culminating in mid-2006 when a British judge ruled that iTunes did not violate a 1991 agreement stipulating the Apple Computer could continue doing business under the Apple name as long as the technology maker steered clear of the music industry. Interestingly, Jobs announced Tuesday that his company was officially updating its name from Apple Computer to Apple Inc., although it's unclear what if anything the change portends in regards to its relationship with Apple Corps.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ringback tones on the rise

Ringback tones continue to gain traction even as the U.S. ringtone market plateaus, according to new figures from M:Metrics.

The market research firm found that the popularity of ringback tones—music clips that a caller hears instead of a traditional ring before the person being called answers the phone—more than tripled last year, exploding from 2.4 million subscribers in January to nearly 8 million subscribers in November. The application continued to gain ground in Europe, as well, growing at a rate of roughly 150 percent in Germany and the United Kingdom during the year.

Meanwhile, ringtones remain popular, if not as lucrative. Nearly 7 percent of all U.S. wireless subscribers have made their own ringtones, M:Metrics found, as the percentage of users purchasing ringtones slipped from 10 percent of wireless consumers to less than 9 percent.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Cellphone Video Gets On the Beam

Cellular carriers and other technology companies have come up with numerous ways to deliver video and even live TV to cellphones over wireless networks in recent years. So far, the results have been a limited success.

Samsung Electronics announced the development of a new mobile television standard that essentially enables portable devices to receive digital signals from local TV broadcasters. Developed by the South Korean company's Samsung Information Systems America subsidiary, the technology--dubbed Advanced-Vestigial Side-Band--does not rely on wireless network bandwidth, effectively freeing capacity for other data-heavy mobile content services.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the technology operates via existing television infrastructures, including spectrum and transmitting towers, enabling broadcasters to sidestep investments in separate network buildouts or carrier partnerships. The Samsung service does require broadcasters to transmit separate signals to mobile handsets and related devices outfitted with Samsung chipsets, but the company said that hurdle is already being addressed. Among the business models Samsung is reportedly exploring is an ad-supported free service as well as a more traditional premium service.

Samsung will demonstrate the standard for the first time at next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, employing content contributed by Sinclair Broadcasting Group. Sinclair, which operates 58 local stations across the U.S., is currently trialing Advanced-Vestigial Side-Band services in the Baltimore, Buffalo and Las Vegas markets.


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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Manufacturers sued over Bluetooth wireless technology

A foundation named the Washington Research Institute (WRI) has filed a lawsuit against Matsushita, Samsung and Nokia, alleging that Bluetooth technology infringes on its patented work carried out at the University of Washington. WRI filed the suit in December and seeks unspecified damages. The WRI's lawyer, Michael Lisa claimed that the foundation "will not refuse reasonable settlements, but if we don't get an offer to do so, we are going to trial." The lawsuit claims that computers, mobile phones and headsets made by the three companies violate four patents held by WRI. Each of the defendants use chipsets made by U.K. firm CSR, which WRI claims has not licensed the technology.
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