Operators are hoping Euro 2004 and the Olympic Games will be the drivers to make 2004 the year when MMS really takes off. But are operators ready for the delivery of mass market numbers of MMS? And is the public aware that it is expected to take part in this orgy of MMS later this year?

Sicap's head of marketing Per-Johan Lundin believes operators are, in general, ready to send out large numbers of MMS to subscribers signing up for updates, clips and news from Portugal or Athens. In any case, if they are not, he advocates a bulk MMS delivery platform Sicap is touting to European mobile operators. 
But he is more concerned that consumers may not be so ready to partake in this sports-fuelled orgy of MMS. Research from Sicap has found that 82% of all UK mobile subscribers have never sent an MMS.
And it's not rocket science as to why. The two main reasons are not knowing how to send an MMS, and confusion over how much it will cost.
"We in the industry are doing it again," he said, referring to the industry's emphasis on technology rather than services. "We have a constant tendency to misjudge the market and how quick it will be. Even our experience with SMS shows that it is only in relatively recent years that it has taken off," Lundin said.
Lundin said that getting as many MMS compatible handsets into the market as possible would be important, and added that he thought the industry had now "largely sorted out" interoperability issues at the network level.
But MMS is not just about photo messaging, and other types of person to person content. Sports events lend themselves perfectly to application to person messaging.
To enable this operators need an infrastructure that will allow them to send large numbers of MMS across the network near-simultaneously.
Sicap has launched a bulk MMS solution that, by prioritising the messages, Lundin said, will enable operators to send out a large amount of MMS without congestion.
But pinning hopes on sport to drive MMS may not be the wisest route, according to others in the industry. A source at Mobile Cohesion said that operators needed to broaden the scope of the communities of interest they could attract with MMS.
Mobile Cohesion markets a platform that enables operators to manage large numbers of content providers.
 "You can talk about sports and news services, Morgan told Mobile Europe, "but not everyone is interested in sport, and in any case that keeps operators with just five or six content providers."
"We are talking about being able to address multiple communities with multiple mobile content providers --- whatever area of interest they serve."
The implication for mobile operators is that not only do they need to have the infrastructure in place to deliver large numbers of MMS, they need their own partner management platforms to be in place.
Sicap product manager Thomas Kienle said that technical integration of network elements is not the hard part. Most integration challenges come on the process side.
"The problem is more in changing process, changing the authorisation process and information input, content flows, billing in real time, the whole integration into legacy systems," Kienle said.

PCCW has launched a UMTS TDD-based wireless broadband network in the UK, using the 3.4GHz spectrum it acquired in 2003, PCCW and its technology supplier IPWireless have announced.

UK Broadband, the PCCW subsidiary service provider, is offering its branded Netvigator high-speed wireless service to residential and business customers living in the Thames Valley west of London at rates starting at £18 per month.
"The service we are offering with UMTS TDD is truly revolutionary and is going to change people's lives," said Mike Butcher, ceo of UK Broadband.
Six areas in the Thames Valley will be the first places in the country to get coverage. This service will initially available in Aldershot, Maidenhead, Reading, Slough, Windsor, and Wokingham. Subscribers will have an initial choice of a 512kbps or 1Mbps services. 
UK Broadband owns a nationwide UK and Northern Ireland contiguous 3.4GHz license. After completing this launch, it will announce its national rollout plans for service in the UK and Northern Ireland. 
UMTS TDD is a standard that uses unpaired spectrum. IP Wireless' Mobile Broadband solution includes network infrastructure, desktop modems and PC cards. There are an increasing number of devices with TDD chips embedded in them.

The manufacturer of the BlackBerry handheld email and phone device, Research In Motion (RIM), has reiterated its commitment to adding Bluetooth capability to the devices.

The BlackBerry has increased in functionality since its launch as an email-only device but users have been unable to connect a Bluetooth headset to use whilst driving.
But that is all set to change, according to RIM's commercial director Ronnie Burnett.
"We will be supporting Bluetooth in future devices, including the 7000 range. Bluetooth will come first, then WiFi a bit later," he said. "It is likely about the end of the year by what I've seen."
"We resisted Bluetooth and WiFi in the early days," added Burnett. "We didn't want to be viewed as some kind of modem. [Now] with most devices having this, we have done a U-turn."
RIM will also unveil additional push capability with the release of version 4 of its BES operating system, including the ability to push address books out to workers in the same manner as with email and calendar.

T-Mobile International has credited its Relax voice tarrifs and personal ring tones for an increase in subscriber numbers in its European territories in the first quarter of 2004.

The carrier had 63.4 million customers across all its majority owned companies, compared to 55.1 million at the end of the fist quarter 2003. During the first quarter 2004 it added 2.4 million customers in total, with half of that number coming from the USA.
T-Mobile Deutschland added 348,000 new customers, over half of them on contract, during the quarter. It also contributed EUR773 million to the group's EBITDA, a slight fall on the previous year's figure. 500,000 customers in total have signed up for the Relax tarrif, since its launch in February, and 300,000 customers have registered for the SoundLogo personal mobile ringtone service.
In the UK, 700,000 signed up with the operator, with churn on a total of 14.3 million customers falling to 1.2%. Revenue was at EUR1.1 billion, up from EUR1 billion in 1Q 2003, and the country made an EBITDA contribution of EUR385 million (EUR278 million 1Q 2003).
T-Mobile said the positive effect of its contractual changes with Virgin Mobile was one reason for the improved EBITDA performance.
In Austria the operator blamed intense competition and the sale of a photographic equipment chain for reduced revenues (EUR236 million against EUR273 million last year) and EBITDA, down 42% at EUR55 million. But the unit also failed to add much in the way of net customers, although 150,000 customers signed up for Relax.
There was better news from the Czech Republic as the unit added over half a million customers in the year from 1Q 2003 to reach almost four million. But revenue was constant and EBITDA down --- this time T-Mobile blamed a 17% increase in VAT as a result of the country joining the European Community.
In the Netherlands revenue improved 37% to EUR250 million and EBITDA was just positive, for the first time, at EUR1 million.
In mobile data, which now stands at  17% of the average revenue per customer in Europe, there are now around 5.5 million active users of t-zones or Photo Messaging services. There were 5.4 million t-zones downloads in Europe in the quarter, with 40% of those accounted for by ringing tones.
Worldwide, T-Mobile carried 12.2 million MMS in the quarter, a rise of 45%. But the number of SMS was still far, far ahead, at 7.36 billion.

Alcatel has joined the push-to-talk (PTT) fray with the launch of its own PTT solution.

Alcatel says its version can run on a wide variety of handsets already commercialized and equipped with this function, thanks to client software enabling interoperability with most of the devices on the market. The system is based on SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) for signalling and RTP (Real Time Transport) for voice broadcasting, following the early specifications of the OMA (Open Mobile Alliance) and uses the capabilities of the IMS (IP Multimedia Sub-system) as specified by 3GPP.
Using Alcatel's Proxy Platform software architecture, the Push To Talk server runs on Intel Xeon processor servers, using Linux OS.
"Push-To-Talk is a key service and a turning point in the mobile operators data strategy," Jean-Michel Cornille, President of Alcatel's mobile solutions activities, said. "The application gives operators an immediate revenue opportunity."

Motorola has opened its European  Innovation Centre in Swindon, in the UK. The centre is designed to demonstrate mobile communications technologies to the end user and to assist customers when choosing technologies appropriate to their subscriber needs.

The newest technology to be showcased at the innovation centre is Motorola's High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) for UMTS. 
Other technologies that Motorola will be showcasing in the Swindon Innovation Centre include Push-to-Talk over Cellular (PoC), 3G including videos calls, video downloads and streaming as well as simultaneous voice and data calls, Public WLAN, private WLAN and Voice over WLAN demonstrations, and the Motorola SoftSwitch.
"For a mobile operator planning its business strategy, the ability to test and compare real system performance in a live working environment is crucial," said Margaret Rice-Jones, corporate vice president, Motorola.

By Bryan Betts
Self-adapting networks are the only way forward as demand grows for wireless networking,and for voice over wireless (VoWLAN), say established companies and start-ups alike.

The IEEE's proposed 802.11e standard for quality of service (QoS), due later this year, addresses voice and data applications contending for bandwidth, but the problem of too many wireless access points (APs) sharing the same radio space may be a tougher one to crack.
So far, suppliers have looked to centralised security switches as a partial solution, says Isabelle Guis, a WLAN product marketing manager at Nortel. These allow existing APs to be connected to the LAN, creating a centrally managed hybrid wired/wireless network.
Now though they are coming up with adaptive networks, which study the world around them and react accordingly. "Adaptive networks are plug and play so they are more efficient," Guis says, noting that Nortel partnered with Airespace to gain adaptive WLAN technology.
"Both adaptive and hybrid support voice, but an adaptive network has better overall QoS. For example, if an AP in a meeting room is overloaded, the system can recognise that and move users to another AP. And where before we could detect a rogue AP, now we can prevent the client from connecting to it."
Start-up company Bandspeed has also spotted the crowding problem and come up with an ingenious solution: APs that transmit on different channels in different directions, intelligently changing channels and adjusting radio power for the best coverage and least interference.
"There are capacity issues as more users come on board," says Blaine Kohl, Bandspeed's marketing VP. "Today the AP is a hub that everyone shares. Most say you can get six to 10 clients per AP, then you can have three APs per space.
She adds that VoWLAN will make the problems worse, as it will increase the number of WLAN clients and also because phones tend to move around more than PCs.
"People are struggling with RF manageability --- they quickly find out it's not scaleable, as with more than three APs in one space they will hear each other. In large public spaces like airports, it is already becoming a problem."

Symbol Technologies has introduced the Mobility Services Suite (MSS), to help enterprises decrease the time it takes to deploy a mobile infrastructure. The Symbol Mobility Services Suite consists of three components: Mobility Services Platform (MSP); Mobility Services Agents (MSAs); and MSS Studio.

The MSP is an appliance that provides control of deployments by communicating with MSAs resident on all Symbol mobile devices and systems. This enables mobile device and wireless network management and monitoring, including discovery, remote control, configuration, provisioning and troubleshooting.
The MSS Studio enables application developers to create new and extend existing back-end applications to a large variety of mobile computing devices over WLAN, GPRS and other networks. MSS Studio is built on standards including J2EE and Web services. Future versions will include SDKs for Microsoft Visual Studio .NET and .NET Compact Framework.  
The Mobility Services Suite was designed to be extensible to accommodate emerging mobility services, including voice over IP, security and RFID.
The MSS is also designed to  integrate with existing enterprise network management solutions, such as IBM Tivoli, HP OpenView and CA Unicenter, supporting interaction through standard networking protocols.

GRIC Communications is adding support for GPRS in the forthcoming  version of its Mobile Office solution.

GRIC Mobile Office users who subscribe to a GPRS service will be able to wirelessly access their corporate networks and applications, anywhere there is a GPRS signal. End users can also exchange SMS messages with other devices on the GPRS network. GRIC already offers WLAN, Ethernet or dial-up access choices to subscribers.
"GRIC is delivering on our vision of providing secure, reliable, and cost-effective access to corporate networks, and applications using all popular access methods including wireless," said Rob Fuggetta, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for GRIC.

Processor and technology developer TTP Communications said it was encouraged by the outlook for the year ahead, despite reporting a pre-tax loss of £2.7million for 2003/4, compared to a 36.6million profit in 2002/03.

The company said a profitable second quarter gave it reason to be cheerful,despite a rough first half to the year, and it is forecasting revenues up 20% in financial year 2004/05. Revenues from ip access, its in-building GSM unit, were up to £3million from less than half a million in the year previous. TTP is targetting £10million revenues from in-building business in the coming year.
There was also a good market reaction to the company's single processor modem, TTP said. The single processor configuration of its cellular baseband engine integrates the complete modem from RF drivers to protocol stack software (GSM, GPRS and EDGE) on the Digital Signal Processor (DSP). A single processor enables handset manufacturers to use the second processor for applications or open operating systems, whilst minimising silicon count.
TTP began interoperability testing of the single processor EDGE modem in March 2004.

Teleca will supply Symbian OS and Series 60 support for Intel's PXA27x  processors aimed at mobile phone and other wireless device developers.

Recently appointed as a Symbian Independent Design House and a Series 60 boutique, Teleca will develop reference platforms and complete mobile phone designs for Series 60 licensees across GSM/GPRS, CDMA, WCDMA and multimode technologies.
Teleca integrated applications that execute high performance gaming, multimedia and telephony capabilities based on the Series 60 User Interface for the Intel PXA27x platform. The Series 60 Platform is a terminal software, optimised for Symbian OS that Nokia licenses to mobile handset manufacturers.
"Our Nokia Series 60 Boutique status has given us the ability to support Intel XScale technology-based mobile phone developments globally," says John Cooper, director, Smart Phones Business Segment at Teleca.

Chip manufacturer Qualcomm has said that it has the largest number of manufacturers working with its WCDMA chipsets, compared to other chipset vendors. There are now 21 device and equipment vendors integrating Qualcomm's WCMDA chipsets, including newcomers Vitelcom Mobile Technology, BenQ Corporation and Misubishi. Established players such as Samsung, LG and Toshiba have long been Qualcomm licencees.

Dr Sanjay Jha, president of Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, said the broadening customer base would aid adoption of UMTS, as more products hit the market. Proven interoperability would reassure the operators, as well.
"We expect global adoption of WCDMA to accelerate as our customer base brings new products to market," Jha said. "Qualcomm's extensive interoperability testing, in addition to the testing we've conducted with our WCDMA operator partners, provides our handset customers with the confidence that their development efforts can remain focused on quickly addressing new market opportunities."
Qualcomm's chipsets support its Launchpad and BREW environments for application development, as well as J2mE environment. The chipset vendor views WCMDA as an ideal entry point into a European market previously off-limits in the GSM world. It has made efforts to ramp up its BREW presence in Europe, signing up a series of application development partners.
l Qualcomm has also announced it expects to launch an HSDPA chip in 2005. Qualcomm says samples of its radioOne RFR6275 diversity receive chip, which it says will increase network capacity and deliver higher speed data rates for the next-generation UMTS technology High Speed Downlink Packet Access, is expected to ship in the second quarter of 2005. 
The RFR6275 chip extends the functionality of the RTR6275 transceiver device, also just announced, to include support for HSDPA receive diversity and Assisted-GPS (A-GPS). 
The RFR6275 supports HSDPA receive diversity, which uses an additional antenna and associated receive chain to provide improved signal reception, enabling higher data throughput and significant increases in network capacity, especially in dense urban environments. This allows the RFR6275 to enable up to 5 dB receive diversity gain. This device also integrates a GPS receiver, which supports Qualcomm's gpsOne solution.

112 won't necessarily be a boost for LBS

Oranges launch of its "Find Nearest" SMS service is evidence that operators are far from giving up on location based services (see link at the bottom of this page for the news announcement). There is clearly a demand, latent or blatant, for services designed to add to your life as you move around the world a yearning for a drink and a mobile in your pocket.

Oranges technology provider for this service is Webraska, which uses a Cell-ID based system to map a mobiles location. In a nutshell, the service will compare your location to a directory of whatever it is you are trying to find. The service uses two-way SMS rather than WAP, which Orange initially used when it first launched its Find Nearest service last year.

This kind of service was expected to be so commonplace by now, that it comes as something of a surprise to see that operators are only now beginning to get to grips with the practical issues of how to deliver them to users. The issues for location based services (LBS) are no different to any other service. First, users have to know the service exists, then they have to know how to work it, then the service itself has to work. This requires operators to have a complete view of marketing, service delivery and quality of service.

There are also still plenty of discussions up for grabs as to which technology is best placed to help operators deliver these services. Cell-ID is the dominant European platform at the moment, but there is increasing momentum, not least from the handset manufacturers, behing Assisted-GPS (A-GPS), which is a kind of souped-up version of GPS.

But Jason Angelides, director, Global Services, for TruePosition, a US based LBS company which has just opened offices in London and Stockholm to address the European market, says that reducing the debate down to the level of technology platform is what has been, in many ways, holding back the LBS market.

TruePosition is "not technology agnostic", Angelides says. Indeed it holds most of its IPR in a technology called U-TDOA. U-TDOA is what Cingular and T-Mobile, two of three national GSM 1900 US oeprators use, so TruePosition naturally falls more on that side of the fence.

But Angelides insist that what operators need is to take a whole view of what LBS they want to offer, and to what level. If, for instance, it is vital that an operator has high accuracy, even for a user in an indoor environment, then GPS is not going to be a natural fit. If an operator has dense cells in an urban area then Cell-ID could provide the correct level of accuracy, but if the cells are more dispersed in a rural or suburban environment, then Cell-ID may not provide a uniform service level, Angelides argues.

Therefore the answer is a consultative approach, blending technologies to suit customer demand and operator need. There is one further event which overshadows the LBS market  that of 112, emergency number, legislation along the lines of the 911 mandate in the US.

It seems increasingly likely that the EC will make some move to lean heavier on operators to be able to locate emergency calls accurately. Perhaps by the end of the year there may even be a legislative requirement. Now, although you might expect a provider of LBS technology to be leaning heavily on government to introduce such a mandate, Angelides thinks too heavy-handed an approach will be counter-productive.

In the USA, he argues, the mandate concentrated operators minds solely on meeting the requirements by a certain date and to a certain spec, and meant that commercial applications of the technology inevitably took a back seat.

External Links

TruePosition

802.11b helps to track assets in enterprises

Much has been made of the ability of 3G technology to pinpoint mobile phone users' location, but a wireless LAN (WLAN) company is hoping to take those location techniques and adapt them to locating assets in the workplace.

Airespace, a Guildford, UK-based company which manufactures WLAN appliances and access points, is to release a wireless 'tag', which can be attached to any piece of equipment to help locate it.

The tag emits a beacon, which is picked up by up to three access points, which, using triangulation, locate where the tag is.

Airespace claims it is accurate to one metre, subject to sufficient WLAN coverage.

Its vp for EMEA Marcel Dridje acknowledges that it has been possible to locate WLAN devices using triangulation, since the technique was developed in 2003, but argued that this is the first time it has been possible to locate a non-WLAN device.

"What happens if you want to track a dumb device that's not WiFi enabled?" he said.

"It doesn't make sense to stick a WiFi radio on the device because it's expensive. So what you can do is to stick this tag on it."

The tag, which is a more advanced version of the RFID tags used in supermarkets, is matchbox-sized, and will cost around £70.

Dridje believes the tag will have more success in healthcare, for locating emergency equipment, and in the manufacturing sector.

His company is trialling the equipment in the British armed forces and at a well-known leisure park.

The Airespace tag has been developed by Bluesoft, a start-up established entirely to develop the tagging technology.

External Links

Airespace