O2 ceo says large groups can have diseconomies of scale

O2 ceo Dave McGlade is adamant that there is a role for an independent operator in a major European market, and that the operator actually benefits from its smaller size.

Speaking to Mobile Europe shortly after the rejected bid from KPN  triggered another round of “02 for sale stories”, this time with NTT DoCoMo as the main proposed buyer, McGlade put up a spirited defence of the “small is beautiful” philosophy.

“Our view is that we will not compete on size and scale because that’s not the play we have. We’re not trying to be Vodafone where they do more of a cookie cutter approach across regions in the world. Arun Sarin said if they had won the (AT&T Wireless) bid they would have introduced all the brand and approach that they do at Vodadone. Our approach is exactly the  opposite. Everything is about getting closer to the customer, closer to the local market, being more British in the UK, more German in Germany and using that as our advantage.”

McGlade said being smaller actually helped get products to market quicker.

“I actually think at times there’s a diseconomy of scale and that diseconomy kicks in where you get more beaurocracy. It’s slower to move, you’re waiting for a standardised product set that maybe the Germans are developing and it might take six months longer to go to the rest of the world. We can be more fleet of foot and be a bit more customer-centric by being a smaller player with just three countries throughout the group.”

McGlade said that the O2 digital music player, a mobile music player recently launched in the UK, was an example of being able to target an area and deliver the end product.

“We determined that music is a key area we were going to address. There was not a product in the market that we needed. DRM (digital rights management) hadn’t been dealt with as well as it should have been, and we also brought in the compression technology that really works well in terms of spectral efficiency over GPRS. So we went after it and we did it.”

As regards the KPN offer, McGlade had this to say,"We had discussions, we got a proposal, we’re no longer talking, and honestly the hype around this issue has gotten out of hand.
I mean, all I know is we’re staying focussed on delivery and that’s what’s important to us and let these things happen as they do."

External Links

www.02.co.uk

3 unable to resist letting the anniversary of its launch go without making a splash.

The Hutchison 3G outfit has launched a video news and entertainment clips service, called Today on 3, which will let users download or stream content from 25p a clip. User will be able to access content by pressing the triangle key on their phone. Content partners include Sky Sports, MTV, ITN and the Barclaycard Premiership.

Oh, and also Pete Tong, a DJ whose name has become rhyming slang for things not going to plan. For example, you might say, "This 3G’s not what I expected it to be, the handsets keep over-heating and the video quality’s all gone a bit Pete Tong."

On average, the operator says, there will be a total of around 72 minutes of content  available each day, updated throughout the day. Clips will be packaged up to a hefty maximum of eight minutes and can be streamed to handsets using 3’s "Quickplay" option, or downloaded to be stored and played back.

Graeme Oxby, 3's Marketing Director, said, "Today on 3 is going to bring you what you really need to know, when you need to know it - whether it's breaking news or Thierry Henry's latest goal in the Champion's League.  A video mobile is the perfect way to deliver it - it's always to hand and the story is only seconds away." 

3 has been the subject of much criticism for its hasty launch last year, and for reducing the promised 3G wonderland to not much more than large voice bundles. With this service it will hope to put some of that to rest. The service has the look of a walled garden about it, and 72 minutes a day in total across news, sport and music doesn’t seem to be a lot.

The streaming option is based on 3’s Quickplay video streaming platform, which the operator launched in December 2003. Quickplay is based on technology from Vidiator. Vidiator’s product adapts video streams from source formats such as MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 into the different formats required by diverse client devices - such as MPEG-4, H.263+, GIF, JPEG, and Windows Media.

The Vidiator streaming solution also converts audio formats including MP3, AAC, PCM, Windows Media Audio and GSM-AMR, so music, can be tailored to match the capabilities of mobile phones and PDAs.

External Links

3 UK
Vidiator

A hearty welcome back to your desks to all those readers who, like Mobile Europe, spent Monday to Thursday last week at the 3GSM World Congress — and Friday recovering from it. Was it only a week ago we turned our face to the wind and made that first trip along the marquee infested sea front to the waiting queues outside the Palais de Festival?

The sun may not have shone on Cannes, but the temperature of the Congress was notably warmer than in the last three years. There was a collective sigh of relief that finally the industry has some real live active 3G networks up and running. And this was despite the fact that the operator with the most UMTS networks, 3, had not chosen to come along to the Riviera to tell the world how it was done. Wonder why?

Orange was there in full, however, turning up the pressure on its three UMTS equipment suppliers – especially newcomer Nortel, which had been given the job of providing a trial 3G network for Cannes.
Nortel’s vp of UMTS solutions, Scott Wickware, told Mobile Europe that although the pressure had been on to ensure the network performed well, "there isn’t a man inside each base station making sure it all holds together." You can be sure they considered it, though.

There were other 3G sighs of relief as well, notably from T-Mobile, along with a tempering awareness that corporate data card services, while providing a start, aren’t exactly what 3G is all about.

There was the traditional blast from a big operator (Vodafone) about the lack of handsets. There followed little in the way of traditional counter-blast from the handset vendors. You wouldn’t want to offend Mr Sarin these days. Talking of which, it was tickling to see Sarin and Nokia’s Jorma Ollila share a platform. It seemed very much as though Nokia has bought into the Vodafone Live! concept in order to get back into Vodafone’s handset good books.

It was a little bit like watching the best-looking boy and girl get together at the school disco — who is doing who a favour in the relationship is very much up for grabs. But for the moment, it looks as if it is the one spending the money that is calling the shots. 

Elsewhere, we were particularly pleased to get button-holed by a vendor of a messaging, well, vision is all we can term it, that was giving a good old-fashioned blood and thunder, clear blue water presentation on the merits of its smart messaging engine. For pure chutzpah and energy it made us come over all nostalgic for the glory days. The company is Avalanche Mobile, and boy have they got a lot to talk about.

But just in case things seem to be getting too far ahead of themselves, one industry watcher told us how he was bemused to have been told by one operator prior to the event that the big issue of the congress would be "GPRS interoperability." Perhaps we haven’t come as far as we thought.

For more on the stories mentioned here and many, many more, Mobile Europe will be providing a full post-Cannes round-up in its March issue – out soon in print and online. Click the subscribe button to get the full story.

By Keith Dyer at 3GSM World Congress
Nokia gave one of the strongest indications yet of where the real power now lies in the industry, when ceo Jorma Ollila confirmed that Nokia would be producing handsets that complied with Vodafone Live!

When Vodafone launched 2.5G Vodafone Live! Services Nokia handsets were conspicuous by their absence. The reason? It was said that Nokia didn’t like the idea of its phones going out carrying too much Vodafone branding and, more importantly, carrying the Vodafone Live! user interface.

Yet, at a joint press conference at the 3GSM World Congress, Arun Sarin, Vodafone ceo, confirmed that Nokia had now committed to providing 3G handsets that were "completely compliant" with Vodafone Live!

Both men were canny on the reasons for the turnaround. But with Ollila graciously conceding the success of Vodafone Live!, it seemed as if Sarin was too polite to point out that, certainly in terms of the UI,  it was Nokia that had come to him, not the other way round.

Nokia is proud of its own user interface, and credits it as one of the main reasons for its dominance in the handset market. So, for it to comply to Vodafone’s requirements is a considerable change of attitude, and also of engineering. Ollila did talk of the importance of "co-branding in the 3G world", so it will be interesting to see how the handsets are developed in the coming months.

Ollila also outlined Nokia’s other main concerns for the year which were; push-to-talk, ever-more enterprise integration and multi-media services. Prime among the multimedia services was Visual Radio, which is Nokia’s plan to put digital radio services onto handsets. On the enterprise side Nokia announced an alliance with IBM to further mobilize business applications. And on voice, Nokia also claimed to have, in its 5140, the "first GSM push-to- talk" handset.

By Keith Dyer at 3GSM World Congress
OpenWave has one version or another of its software in half a billion mobile phones. MSN has 140 million hotmail users and 110 instant messenger users. Put them together and what have you (potentially) got?

The two vendors have announced that MSN services will now be available in a mobile version on all phones equipped with the OpenWave’s version 7 software. This announcement is different, OpenWave director of product management Brian Dally told Mobile Europe, because previously such value added data services were seen as the preserve of the smartphone. This brings mass data services onto mid-market feature phones.

"For the first time we are breaking the trade off between efficiency of implementation and ubiquity by having fantastic user applications - but on volume handsets," he said.

Phil Holden, the director of MSN International Subscriptions, said, "Our core focus is on trying to merge the PC world and the mobile world and this OpenWave client gives us a smarter and more intelligent experience. Only the v7 software gives us the breadth of reach at the level of the feature phone."

Holden stressed that the OpenWave partnership was not exclusive for Microsoft. "Generically we are trying to support as many platforms as operators require," he said. Dally said the deal was an example of the functionality of the v7 software. "Handset manufacturers are faced with a variety of demands. v7 lets them add applications as needed and MSN is an example of that customization."

The MSN Hotmail and IM mobile protocol clients will need to be pre-installed on v7 enabled phones. There are no announced operators or handset vendors as yet who are working with MSN and OpenWave on this implementation. Dally said the announcement was the start of the process.

By Keith Dyer at 3GSM World Congress
What do you do when a new gadget or technology comes on the market? Are you one of those who pre-registers for the latest DVD player or games console or are you the kind of person who likes to sit back, wait for the price to drop and then buy the same product for half the price later on?

The question is relevant because if Orange's cfo Sanjiv Ahuja is to believed, it was worth waiting around before making a commitment to buy UMTS RAN equipment.

Ahuja said that the price of UMTS RAN equipment has been decreasing in price faster than the inverse of Moore's law. Moore's Law, you may remember, is now industry shorthand for something doubling every year. Therefore, we can surmise the price of the radio infrastructure for W-CDMA has halved year on year for the past three years. Therein perhaps lies the reason for the number of second and third round contracts operators have signed for 3G networks.

Orange's top brass, presenting at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, used the word "pragmatic" the way that UK chancellor Gordon Brown used to declare his love for Prudence in his budget statements. But with Orange spending EUR7-8 billion over the 2003-2005 period on 3G, that pragmatism seems only sensible.

Orange senior management were outlining their current and future progress in UMTS network rollout. Three cities, including the currently sensitive Cannes, are now live trial sites, being used by selected Orange subscribers. By the end of the year, 20 French cities will be covered by 3G networks, Orange said. In the UK the situation is that Orange will have 60% of the country covered by the end of the year, including coverage of the top ten cities.

Each of Orange's three cities is being covered by one of its three UMTS infrastructure providers. Nortel in Cannes, Nokia in Toulouse and Alcatel in Lille.

In France the operator will also try to make best use of the fixed line network of parent company France Telecom. Bretton announced that the goal was to develop one "fluid" broadband services platform, which users could access either by mobile, WiFi or fixed line technologies. For the rest of Orange's properties, there were hints that it would look for fixed line service partner providers to provision the fixed line side of that converged broadband platform.

The operator also announced the launch of nine developer centres where handset manufacturers and applications developers could bring their products to play.

LG and Motorola were the early announced handset vendors, but there will be more to follow. Lucent is providing its GPSR/UMTS PCMCIA cards to enable laptop users to get wireless access to corporate and other data services. 3G handsets would be available to business customers by around October 2004.

In total it was a quiet message, underlined by the fact that announcements were restricted to Orange's French and UK territories. It's a long long road – and we're still travelling along it.

Content and technical providers are hoping to help operators unlock a market that could soon be worth billions. The market is in mobile ring back tones, but the providers are stressing it is crucial operators regain the trust of the music industry.

Mobile ring back tones (MRBT) is the name given to the service which lets a subscriber decide what someone will hear as the ring tone when they call him. So instead of the usual brr-brr or beep-beep, a caller will hear an excerpt from a particular song or piece of music.
A subscriber can set his phone up so that different callers hear different music.

The industry is excited about MRBT because in the fist market where it was introduced, South Korea, the earnings have been phenomenal. The service was launched by SK Telecom in May  2002 and within 12 months 55% of subscribers had taken the service. In 2004 it is estimated that MRBT will earn Korean operators $200 million in revenues.

Another reason for the excitement is the growing number of smartphones in the market, which allow people to hear music much closer to its recorded quality.

One of the important things to grasp about MRBT is that it is not a download service. A user selects a tone through a website, much as he would download a ring tone for his own phone The difference is the ring tone is streamed over the network from a platform sitting in the operator’s network. This means the operator can control and bill for the content, and handle the many copyright and DRM issues that the service creates.

There are many such platform providers now appearing on the scene but the original provider to SK Telecom is WiderThan.com, whose platform is called ColorRing.
Operators are jumping on board, and the technology is viewed as the relatively simple part.

Where the real issues lie is in content and rights management. This is further complicated because the music publishing industry has a big problem with the mobile industry due to feeling rather used and abused over ring tone downloads.
As far as the music industry is concerned ring tone downloads were a debacle, consisting of little more than re-worked rip-offs of its content that exploited assets whilst paying nothing back.

WiderThan.com’s ceo Jinwoo Soo outlined the problem. "As music contents evolve, newly emerging music services are bundled to produce more value-added services  — making them more complex to service and manage. The need for simplified management and service delivery is increasingly becoming an issue."

One company that it looking to bridge the gap between the mobile industry and the musis publishers is Muzicall. Muzicall bills itself as the link between the two communities, and itself is formed of a partnership between technology company and music management company. It sources music from major and minor labels, re-edits songs so that they can be played sympathetically in 30 second clips to be heard on the ring back tones, distributes the songs to the operator’s streaming platforms and, crucially, handles the rights issues.

Muzicall’s senior management team includes mobile techies as well as record industry veterans; this has been crucial, it said, in gaining music industry trust.
Nick Price, director of music content, has held many senior positions in the record industry. He said, "It has been a long haul to get the relationship re-established because there has been utter hatred between the phone companies and the music companies, who have seen a complete pillaging of their copyright."

Price said that music companies needed to trust the content manager, that it will do a good job of presenting the material and of securing appropriate rights. The relationship is such that music companies are now revising much of their back catalogues, to re-edit content for ring back tones, as well as ensuring new material is edited for mobile use. The music industry has its own motives, of course, faced at it has been with a steep fall in singles sales in recent years.

WiderThan.com’s Jinwoo Soo said that MRBT is just the start of a new relationship between the two industries. "The closer mobile music content gets to achieving original sound quality, and the more mobile devices emerge as a basic music content distribution channel, the more appealing the music industry is finding the mobile music business."

"It won’t be long before users can enjoy diverse on-demand music services from their handsets anytime, anywhere." he added.

External Links

WiderThan.com
Muzicall

26 operators sign up to RealNetworks

RealNetworks, which a year ago at Cannes could point to one handset deal with Nokia and an infrastructure agreement with Ericsson, has returned this year with 26 European operators on its partner list, as well as a range of new handset partners.

Real, whose Helix mobile platform and RealPlayer mobile client software competes with Windows Media and PacketVideo in the content delivery space, credits its June 2003 win with Vodafone for the range of customers coming on board over the past six months.

Operators including 02, Telefónica Móviles España, Telecom Italia Mobile, TMN, WIND and TeliaSonera have installed the Helix platform, Real’s product family which includes server, mobile gateway, content producer and delivery suite — as well as the RealPlayer — for the streaming of content over mobile networks.

On the handset side Real has announced a partnership with SonyEricsson, formerly a PacketVideo partner, to incorporate its player in SonyEricsson’s media phones, alongside its 3GPP version.

Real also has agreements with Motorola for its Linux phones, Nokia for its Series60 handsets, on the Siemens SX1 and Sendo X. The player is also on Palm OS based devices from Treo and Palm, and is the standard player on the Openwave Phone Tool v7 platform.

General manager of mobile products and services at RealNetworks, Lee Joseph, said that the Vodafone deal had helped in two main ways. First was that in producing a platform to Vodafone’s specification, other operators could be confident that the product had been rigorously tested and proven. The second was that Vodafone could bring its muscle to bear to lean on handset manufacturers to incorporate RealPlayer Mobile.

"We are petty well into the market based on our work with Vodafone. Our technology was built to their specification. We approached this market brand new, as a leader in Internet streaming, and said tell us exactly what we need to do to build this. Vodafone was important because rather than having an operator in one country this was about requirements coming in from all over Europe. So if we’ve built to the Vodafone specification we felt very comfortable we could take that and sell to the rest of the market."

The media player market sees competition between Microsoft and Real, with PacketVideo also a contender under the 3GPP standard. Joseph’s opinion is that Microsoft will not have the dominance in the mobile market it has in fixed line computing.

"We have an advantage here that in the internet Microsoft took control of the OS. I don’t think the mobile industry is going to hand over control and let them have that kind of dominance that they have today on the internet side."

On the 3GPP standard, Joseph acknowledged the attraction of an open format and said people might query why operators would adopt the 3GPP media standard as well as the Real format. But he also questioned whether the "committee" approach of standards building was the best way to proceed. 

"We’ve always had the approach that the 3GPP format will never gain ubiquity unless they are as good at or better than the proprietary formats. We’re not going to slow down and let them catch up - we’re going to continue to drive forward and put the onus on them to make sure they innovate quickly. If we don’t do that Microsoft will pass us by and leave us in the dust."

In any case, Joseph claimed, the attraction of Real is that an operator can have a Real server and middleware platform and still stream content to Windows Mobile or 3GPP handsets.

"We’re getting away from this idea that you’ve got to only use our technology with this device. We can stream to a device with Microsoft, Linux, Symbian, and are part of the OpenWave platform. So we want 3GPP to be adopted because we support it but they have to earn that adoption."

External Links

RealNetworks
SonyEricsson
Microsoft
PacketVideo

Selected laptop users get data cards for now; more later

T-Mobile UK has joined its sister networks in Germany and Austria with an active 3G network. At the moment service is restricted to selected laptop users who have been equipped with GPRS/ UMTS PCMCIA data cards.

The operator has not yet announced when more services and 3G phones wil be available. It was also remaining tight lipped on the extent of its 3G coverage.

Vodafone took a similar approach to the launch of its 3G services in Europe, saying dual mode 2.5 and 3G data cards would be available over the next month in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK. 

A spokesperson said T-Mobile is outlining its group 3G strategy at the GSM World Congress in Cannes next week. Orange Group has also promised a strategic announcement on 3GH. Mobile Europe will be there to bring you the latest developments.

External Links

T-Mobile
Vodafone

UK giant withdraws from race; Cingular takes prize

Vodafone has failed in its bid to take over US operator AT&T Wireless, following a short bidding battle with Cingular, which has submitted the winning bid.

Vodafone released its first formal public statement of the process on 17 February, stating that it had withdrawn from the auction after concluding that it was not in its shareholders' interests to continue with the bid.

The operator had made a $14 per share $38 billion offer for AT&T Wireless but decided to go no further when Cingular, jointly owned by BellSouth and SBS Communications, declared a $15 per share, or $41 billion, bid.

Many in the industry had queried Vodafone's commitment to the bid, despite Arun Sarin's insistence it was a viable target.

Vodafone's shares jumped 5% on the news, as did shares in Vivendi Universal, owner of French operator SFR. Vodafone has often said it intends to buy SFR and the temporary halt to its US aspirations is seen as pushing SFR up its "to do" list.

Vodafone remains a 45% stakeholder in US operator Verizon. The AT&T bid was interpreted by some as a shot to signal Vodafone's intention to increase that stake. But one industry watcher has told Mobile Europe that Verizon and Vodafone have "almost no partnership to speak of." One main difficulty for Vodafone is that it is not technically compatible with Verizon, which has been seen as a bar to getting visibility for the Vodafone brand in the US.

Vodafone's statement:
"On 9 February 2004, Vodafone Group Plc ("Vodafone") announced that it was exploring the opportunity to acquire AT&T Wireless.

On 17 February 2004, Vodafone withdrew from the auction when it concluded that it was no longer in its shareholder's best interests to continue discussions.

Vodafone remains committed to its existing position in the US market with its successful partnership in Verizon Wireless. "

Analyst reaction

Julian Hewett, chief analyst at Ovum, said if Vodafone's intention was to drive up the price it had succeeded.

"It's a very full price for a business with falling subscriber numbers and profits," he noted. Even so, he conceded that the deal would put Cingular on top of the pile in the US in terms of subscriber numbers, with Verizon now in second place.

As for Vodafone's aspirations in the US, Hewett said that with the technical differences between its UMTS service and Verizon's CDMA network being smaller, "perhaps Vodafone can develop a virtual 3G service on Verzon's Wireless network."

External Links

Vodafone
Cingular
SFR
Ovum
ATT Wireless

Nortel was chosen by Orange as one of its listed suppliers for UMTS only after the Canadian company threatened the French Government with the closure of its manufacturing facility in the country if it was not awarded 3G contracts, the head of Alcatel's mobile business group has alleged.

Etienne Fouques, president of Alcatel's Mobile Communications Group, told Mobile Europe during a wide ranging briefing, that Nortel had threatened the French government with the closure of its plant, and the loss of five thousand jobs, if Orange did not include it in its list of suppliers.
Orange was forced to issue a statement in September confirming that Alcatel, Nokia and Nortel would all be suppliers of UMTS equipment to the operator. The announcement embarrassed Orange, as its existing 2G supplier Ericsson was not on the contract list at all, and Nokia, which had expected to reap the lion's share was now sharing the limelight with two other vendors.
"Nortel have been saved in Orange for political reasons  because they pressurised the French government. They threatened to  close the plant, which employs 5,000 people," Fouques said. He added that where technical considerations had been to the fore, Nortel had lost out on UMTS, listing Taiwanese operator CST and French operator Bouygues as examples. Alcatel and Siemens are the two shortlisted companies for Bouygues' UMTS development, Fouques claimed.
But Fouques' suggestion that

Nortel had thrown its weight around to get on the list was summarily rejected by the rival vendor in a curt statement. ""Our contract negotiations are based on the viability of our technology and the value our wireless solutions provide to the operator business model," the operator responded in an official statement to Mobile Europe.
Other sources pointed out to Mobile Europe that such a threat would be almost impossible to make in a country such as France, which has  very tough employment protection laws.
The two vendors also clashed over Fouques' interpretation of Nortel's EDGE strategy. Nortel's head of wireless Dave Murasighe told Mobile Europe that the vendor was having success selling EDGE to operators to complement their UMTS networks, rather than to augment GPRS coverage, as was originally envisioned in the 3G upgrade roadmap. But Fouques rejected such an interpretation of Nortel's strategy.
"The reason Nortel is pushing EDGE is because it lost the contract to supply UMTS to Bouygues. Nortel supplies 90% of Bouygues' 2G infrastructure and lost the contract for UMTS for technical reasons. It pushes EDGE where it is not selected for 3G."
The Alcatel man conceded that operators may be interested because it "can appear" a good strategy, but he claimed it was doing Nortel damage within Orange.
"Orange is not at all happy with Nortel because Nortel is pushing 2.5G in France. You have to choose your camp. They have taken a very big risk."
Nortel's official response to that allegation was that it was certainly not making up its EDGE strategy on the hoof. The vendor has EDGE implementations in the USA with AT&T Wireless, Singular and T-Mobile,
"Nortel Networks is a global infrastructure provider, and one of our primary business strategies is and has been to be industry's only end-to-end provider of all 3G technologies," the company stated.
Fouques did have the grace to admit that Alcatel's own UMTS history has been far from smooth. Its original joint agreement with Motorola had been annulled, leading to the loss of T-Mobile and SFR, he admitted. But the company's current relationship with Fujitsu had been far more profitable, he said, and there were a lot of battles still open. In particular there was room as the number two player with Telefonica in Spain. But being an Orange supplier means it is not likely the vendor will do business with other major international operators. "We are on the Orange ride and that's life," Fouques said.
Fouques added that he expected the division of revenues from Orange to be around 80% for Nokia in the UK, with Alcatel at 20%, supplying Scotland, Northern Ireland and Eastern England. In France he expects Alcatel to get about 505 of the pie, including the greater Paris area. Nortel and Nokia were looking at around 25% each, he said. "Nokia has lost a lot, compared to the first attribution."
But this would not be uncommon.  "A lot of operators are going to be changing their minds and reviewing their lists of suppliers," he predicted.

Mobile Europe is very happy to announce that it is the official media partner of the fourth annual Telecom Valley Association's Gallery at the 3GSM World Congress 2004.

The Gallery is situated directly opposite the Palais des Festivals at the La Potiniere du Palais restaurant, and provides a meeting place for 3GSM delegates to find out more about the technical expertise of the Cote D'Azur's thriving telecoms community.
Many of the mobile industry's leaders from the region use the gallery to demonstrate and exhibit their technology, but the relaxed surroundings of the gallery are just as popular for delegates to hold formal and informal meetings over a drink.
For more see www.telecom-valley.fr.

External Links

Telecom Valley

Altobridge, the company which provides GSM connectivity on aeroplanes via satellite, has launched a maritime version of the system.

The gateway connects a GSM picocell on board a ship to a satellite network. Altobridge says the system overcomes t he two main barriers to take-up of GSM on-ship solutions, namely capital cost and the overheards of signalling, by keeping signalling down to a minimum.
It sees an opportunities for maritime use in tracking as well as crew and passenger calling.  At present, many tracking systems can operate only when in range of terrestrial wireless systems. With this system, a individual container could be tracked right throughout a journey with an SMS alert sent if, for instance, it was opened mid-journey.
Altobridge says that the cell sites avoid interfering with on-shore sites as  a GIS database embedded within the Altobridge system ensures that it will not operate within coastal waters where terrestrial coverage exists.

The continuing battle for contracts to supply 3G infrastructure to Europe's mobile operators has brought some relief to Motorola, which was able to announce its first UMTS contract.

Motorola managed to oust Nortel from its position as "first round" UMTS supplier to Portuguese operator Optimus to become the sole supplier  in the north of the country.
Optimus' existing 2G supplier in northern Portugal is Motorola, although it chose Nortel in 2001 to provide preliminary UMTS infrastructure in the region, which has Porto as its main city. Ericsson is Optimus' 2G supplier in the rest of the country and currently looks favourite to be 3G supplier as well.
Neither Motorola nor Optimus was willing to release details about the size of the contract, or scope of the rollout, beyond saying that services would be available by the middle of 2004.
Margaret Rice-Jones, corporate vice president of Motorola and general manager, GTSS EMEA, said that although the contract was Motorola's first, Motorola's blank score in the 3G contracts market had not been a millstone.
"We are obviously very excited to win our first contract, but we have been saying we would be ready to deploy at the right time when our customers were ready. This proves what we have been saying for the last two years. They are now ready and we are ready to deploy with them," she said.
Conceding that the market had already made many first and second round contract awards she added, "And you may question why there was the need for second round contract awards."
Rice-Jones also intimated that Motorola has far from given up on future 3G deals. "We are currently bidding on other contracts. The technology will continue to develop. This is an evolutionary technology and that will continue over time as GSM has. It's a long term market."
For its part, Optimus said that ease of integration with existing 2G equipment had been a contributory factor to the decision to go with the vendor. Rice-Jones added that Motorola 3G equipment can stack on top of a 2G base station in the same footprint. This had been especially important in Porto where space is at a premium.
A source at Nortel, who did not want to be named, confirmed that the Optimus contract had got away from the vendor, and said the main issue had been cost.
Elsewhere on the Iberian peninsula Siemens and Ericsson jointly notched up a goal many were hoping to score, with the announcement that they will work together on the second phase of Telefonica's 3G rollout.
The happier partner will be Siemens. The company is new to the operator   and was not part either of the 2G network or of the 1,100 base station rollout made in 2003.
Telefonica has progressed through the roll call of equipment vendors in the search for suppliers. Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola were all initially retained in 2000, whilst Ericsson and Nortel were tasked with the initial rollout in 2001, with Nortel supplying the radio infrastructure and Ericsson everything else. Now, for the push to the finish, as up to 8,000 base stations are installed in a â‚-1 billion programme up to 2006, Siemens has joined the roster.
A Siemens spokesperson was unwilling to comment on project details, but said the company was delighted to win the deal.
Siemens is also taking UMTS into central and Eastern Europe, having been named as supplier to two T-Mobile subsidiaries --- T-Mobile Czech Republic and Poland's Polska Telefonica Cyfrowa.
The deals are Siemens' first and second in Eastern Europe. In the Czech Republic Siemens will deliver radio and switching equipment and in Poland will be turnkey network supplier.
l Greek operator Telestet has launched the country's first commercial W-CDMA network, offering services in four areas, including Athens. The network is built on RAN and core network equipment provided by Nokia after an agreement between the two parties announced in April 2003.