Mobile operators are no longer merely just that. One of the big themes to come out of 3GSM is that operators are now keen to position themselves as broadband providers, whether that be mobile, WLAN or even fixed line.

First among these was Orange, whose chairman Thierry Breton outlined a vision to provide broadband access to users wherever they are. T-Mobile followed a day or so later with its "Broadband Mobile" launch, which was about integrating 2G and 3G networks with wireless LAN.
For Orange, Breton highlighted the synergies that the France Telecom group could bring between its fixed and mobile providers. This meant that the carrier would be looking to introduce a  converged fixed and mobile broadband service platform. This converged platform would provide services which could then be accessed by either DSL, WLAN or mobile.

A fixed line presence?

n areas where France Telecom has a fixed line network the vision, and it is still only that, makes some sense. Breton went as far as suggesting that Orange would become a broadband brand across fixed and mobile. In France, where Orange could piggy-back on the incumbent's fixed network and WLAN rollout, that might make some sense. In other Orange territories the converged broadband solutions provider approach would mean the mobile operator hooking up with a fixed line provider, or re-selling the incumbent's DSL solution.
T-Mobile announced a similar approach, although of course it would rather one didn't accentuate the similarities. Anyway, ceo  Rene Obermann said that, instead of being just a mobile provider, the operator wants to create an integrated 2G, 3G and WLAN network.
"All our experience and research tells us that 3G is vital; but it's not enough. Customers want what's best for their needs.  If you want data, you'll want 3G rather than 2G; but if you can access pure broadband via WiFi, you'll want that. So, we are creating one multi-speed, multi-media network; integrating 2G, 3G and WiFi; and moving towards total seamlessness," explained Obermann.

Campus WLAN trial

To get to grips with providing this broadband mobile network T-Mobile has pieced together a partnership with IBM, Intel and Cisco Systems to provide wireless access networks to 100 universities across Europe. Frankfurt University has a live pilot up and running, with T-Mobile supplying connectivity, Cisco the WLAN infrastructure, IBM the laptops using Intel based thinkpads. Students are issues with vouchers for access, which is via WLAN when on campus and UMTS and GPRS when off-campus. The vouchers will also cover T-Mobile hot-spots off-campus.

Mobile substitution

The desire among mobile operators to become all-round broadband providers plays well into another mantra of 3GSM, that of mobile becoming a substitution technology. Operators are keen to point out that the future for the industry lies as much in persuading subscribers to do things wirelessly  that they are used to doing in another medium as creating new activities.
To do this, there is an awareness that the pricing needs to come down to a level so that the mobility premium is not too steep. In fixed/ mobile voice substitution that could be by offering voice over IP services, in data services it means providing connectivity at speeds approaching what subscribers expect from a fixed line connection

HSDPA upgrade path

To achieve this, the vendors are insistent that operators need to be thinking now about how they will upgrade their UMTS infrastructure to the R5, IP version. This means thinking now about the upgrade path to HSDPA. The vendors from whom one hears most about HSDPA at the moment are those who have not done so well in the early rounds of UMTS contract awards.
Motorola's Laith Sadiq, EMEA strategy director of its GTSS division, said that if operators are serious about mobile broadband, HSDPA will be crucial.
"Where HSDPA comes through is being able to offer operators a real differentiation from 2.5G, and also enable them to go into mobile broadband. It will give them capabilities similar to ADSL, and enable them to offer the kind of things like flat rate charging that may start to open up this market.
"It will also enable you to  improve the end user experience. If you want  to encourage your users to use MP3 download, for example, on your mobile network you have to have a very good end user experience --- and if you can download within 45 seconds to a minute then users will be willing to do that and pay for the mobility. But if it is going to take two hours then they would prefer to go home to do it.
"The second thing is how much you are going to be able to charge for this kind of download. If you want to  download an album for 1MB or even 2MB it enables you to compete with other providers of entertainment or music. For example, if you take a CD for £11 --- if you can sell that same amount of data on your MP3 for £5 then you've got a service substitution capability to enable you to grow the business. Consumers will spend so much and they will not go above it. What we are saying is you can grow through substitution of service."

What's your backhaul?

Sadiq also points out that HSDPA doesn't have to be used as the access technology. Operators could use the capacity to provide backhaul to their WLAN hotspots.
"Take Orange. In France it's easier for them because they've got FT as a backhaul provider --- but if they come to the UK what could they do? One thing is to use HSDPA, rather than  having to hire multiple E1 links from BT.
"The R99 node B will be upgraded to R5, which has an IP capability. But it could be they want IP backhaul or IP interfaces. It may be you want to be very flexible on your backhaul, and offer MetroLAN type capabilities. We are looking at the holistic broadband capability. Rather than what does it take to introduce HSDPA it's, 'What does it take to deliver broadband and give the operator flexibility to choose the technology they need to offer broadband?'"

Who pays and how?

or Sadiq, a further question is on pricing. Broadband is not a high margin business, and the pricing relationship per megabit is not linear. This will present operators with a choice "between remaining in the high margin business or moving to broadband."
"Operators have very good margins on their SMS and MMS systems, so the important thing for them is to lower the cost of delivering broadband services to a level where we can the offer these services at reasonable margins. But many of them will have to move to broadband because they cannot keep SMS at the level they have at the moment. There's too much competition coming through from MVNO providers. Look at what's happening in Denmark, where the level of competition means all the premium has been almost wiped out."
If that serves as a warning, so does the alternative.
"If operators don't succeed in this then there will be other technologies coming in to offer these services. It's important for operators to be successful in these technologies to attract broadband, because there are thing like 802.16 which, if the delays in 3G continue, will flourish."

Avalanche Mobile is one of those companies which might best be described as disruptive. It combines a measure of disdain for its competitors with enthusiasm for its own reflection in the mirror. But it is difficult to argue with the logic. Which is as follows.

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Wouldn't it be good, Avalanche says, if you could do more with the SMS?
It wouldn't hurt to be able to look at SMS coming into and going across your network and give certain messages priority --- making sure that business critical SMS, for example, always got through quicker --- and then charge the user for that.
It would also be half useful when television programmes are generating surges in message flows, to be able to manage those message flows, load balance them across the messaging infrastructure, re-writing the SMSC destination rather than merely forwarding on the the nearest one. Perhaps an operator would like to be able to attach adverts to a message on the fly, after a user has bought into a package of sponsored messages or likewise. Might it even be useful to be able to send a parent all the messages intended for their child, before the child gets it? And then charge the user for that, creating two billable events where previously there was only one.
Avalanche says it can help operators do this with the introduction of a new network element that sits between and edge SMSC and the core SMSC. This element employs what Avalanche calls a transparent SS7 stack, which means that it is able to inspect the sender, route, recipient etc of each message using SS7, providing real time analytics.
Offering service like this make the IntelligentText engine different from SMS routers such as those being profitably sold by Telsis. These edge routers, "offload boxes" as Avalanche terms them, are attracting attention because they let an operator re-route messages across an IP backbone without having them queue at a possible SMSC bottleneck. Avalanche says it is different because rather than merely "offloading" the messages it adds value to the messages coming through the switch.
It claims that in the case of priority for business users, a premium of EUR0.06 per message could results in incremental ARPU of EUR11.20 per month.
Managing director Jan Olsen, a veteran of several European mobile operators, said, "Most big operators throw a truckload of equipment at the problem of over-whelmed SMSCs and invest in more and more SMScs. We think that doesn't enhance the data stream with any intelligence.
"IntelligentText is an element sitting in the mobile operator environment built on a transparent SS7 stack, which means we are able to see and process all different kind of messages and do interesting things with them."
Marc Hanson, cto said, "The engine sits in the SS7 network and the key is it is transparent. There is no point code and it is invisible in the network and can be put in without changing existing configurations."
Avalanche claims to have the product simultaneously testing with four operators in one European market. It has just made its formal launch, having received $4 million series A venture capital funding in the summer of 2003.

What are the implications of Nokia buying Psion’s stake in Symbian, taking its ownership to 63.3%?

If you assume Nokia takes up the 31% share that Psion is putting up for grabs, then it gives Nokia a share far greater than any of the other partners. The next biggest shareholder is Ericsson with 17.5%, then Panasonic at 7.9%. But even though Nokia would be by far the largest stakeholder it would still be shy of the 70% that would give it outright control of the venture.

It was one thing to see Motorola make its graceful exit from Symbian. (Although it has continued to release the odd Symbian phone, most recently the A1000 smartphone, it has also been working with Windows Mobile and Linux.) But Psion, which holds 31.1% of Symbian, exiting from the partnership is more symbolic, because it was on Psion’s EPOC that Symbian was based. But it is still symbolic. For a while now the rest of the mobile world, and operators in particular, has suspected that Symbian would become a Nokia shop in all but name.

Not that those involved in Symbian would agree. A spokesperson for Symbian pointed out that the sale to Nokia is not nearly confirmed, and even if it received full board approval would take until July 2004 to clear.

A spokesperson for SonyEricsson echoed the point that nothing is certain yet, and that the sale has yet to go through. He added that SonyEricsson  remained fully committed to Symbian, and that he expected Nokia to remain committed to the board structure of the alliance.

The SonyEricsson spokesperson also denied that there was wide industry concern about Nokia effectively taking over Symbian.

"I wouldn’t say there is especially widespread concern. People are aware of the situation and are watching it closely but they are not pressing the panic button as yet. The Symbian management board is in place and although Nokia at present has a much larger share than other partners they remain committed to the management board staying in place."

The perception that Symbian equals Nokia wasn’t one SonyEricsson recognised, either.
"With the market share for the [SonyEricsson] P800 and P900, which are both based on the Symbian OS, you could regard Symbian as SonyEricsson, as we have the market share. Some may regard Symbian as Nokia, but it’s all about how you use the OS and who makes best use of the Symbian platform."

Nokia itself has been at pains to point out that it is not interested in sole ownership of the direction of Symbian. But there is a problem for all collaborative ventures in keeping up with the single-minded direction of a Microsoft, say. In that regard, if Nokia regards Symbian as critical to its future innovation and growth, it may wish to have more direct control over the venture.
That, says Symbian, is exactly why Symbian is a common platform that handset manufacturers can license, but on which they can then innovate — for instance by adding their own user interface.

As a byword, the much-publicised opposition to Psion’s sale by shareholders holding a total 31% stake in the company was driven by a desire to make more money from a proposed future IPO than a sale now. It was not about preserving British technology for the benefit of Britain, or the status of Symbian as an open mobile operating system for the wider good of the industry. It was about the return on investment for institutional and small investors who felt they stood to gain more by Psion staying in Symbian until a possible future pay off. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but attempts to portray objections to the sale in a moral light are wide of the mark. 

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Radio station owner and music publisher Chrysalis is the latest music company to have launched a mobile arm designed to supply music content to mobile phones.

The conviction that there is real money to be made in getting music in all forms onto phones has led to a variety of different approaches to skinning that particular musical cat. The essential element has been the introduction of rights control to a market that, in the realm of ring tones, was previously a free-for-all.

Chrysalis Mobile’s take on the market is twofold. One is to use its radio stations to provide momentum for delivering content to mobile phones. A listener might hear a song and then text a number to receive a ringtone, other related content such as wallpaper, or in time a full download of the song. The other role Chrysalis wants to take is that of aggregator for independent records labels.

Nick Gregg, strategy and business development director at Chrysalis Mobile, said that radio is a great marketing model for driving a record sale. He added that the company was taking the route of being an aggregator for independent labels because the big five labels generally had direct relationships with mobile operators.

"Mobile operators are creating portals as retail front ends for ring tones and real tones and we aim to be a service provider to those," Gregg said. "The five majors provide feeds direct to operators and we wouldn’t participate in that content. But we would aggregate as many independent labels as possible and provide a feed into an operator’s portal as a sixth major partner for them."

Gregg said the aggregator would provide ring tones and real tunes, as well as artwork and imagery and — "in the next year to 18 months" — the provision of full song download. "We would provide a bunch of files to the operator, in any edit and format they would like."

"People have missed that ring tones have been generating massive revenues, and whatever you say about them they are a form of music that people will pay for. Now with the advent of rights control things are moving back to the music industry," Gregg said.

Gregg said Chrysalis is working with "a number" of technology partners to manage the service, including a "very large" CRM element. The service is going live this week and the first client will be Galaxy, one of Chrysalis’ radio network, inn April 2004.

It’s not only pure-play content aggregators trying to get in on the music action. Alcatel has recently announced an alliance with Universal Music, to bring Universal’s content to operator customers of Alcatel. The vendor hopes to combine that relationship with one or all of its DRM, content management, streaming and billing platforms – creating a whole content package for operators. Boyd Muir, executive vice president of Universal Music, said that with a thousand times more mobiles than music players in the world, and with ringtones already composing 10% of the global music market, "mobiles and music are a perfect combination."

External Links

Chrysalis Mobile

Another week, another 3G network goes live. Oh to be in England in springtime and be able to say those words, or something…

Well, rather, oh to be in Sweden in the last grips of a winter hanging on with the grim determination of your uncle exploiting the free bar at your wedding. But you get the gist.

Here’s how TeliaSonera launched its 3G network this week:

Customers will pay the same for a service no matter which network they connect to. In varying degrees, 3G will be present in 280 out of Sweden’s 290 municipalities. Certain 3G mobile phones wil feature video calling. The price for video calling (for consumers) is SEK 5 per minute, Monday - Friday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, and half price at other times. The call initiation fee is SEK 0.50.

Services will remain under its TeliaGO banner. Rates for GPRS will be cut by 40-55%. MMS prices were but by 25%, with free MMS at weekends, and from 2 May 2004, on Fridays as well. TeliaSonera’s own research predicts that almost one out of every three managers believes their companies will use 3G services on a daily basis within one year.

Now, you can argue the toss on some of those. If services will cost the same, no matter what network users connect to, is that a clever marketing play, or is it because the operator isn’t confident of being able to offer differing class of service agreements from one network to the other? I mean, especially at a corporate level, if you weren’t able to say "3G will be this much better than 2G and here is the premium you must pay, then why not make it a flat fee and try to extract some goodwill from that. But it’s also a sign that here is another operator keen to give the message that it is selling services, not bit rates.

MMS and sending emails will be cheaper – which could be seen as a result of stiff competition. Or of a desire to stimulate usage on the new network.

But even so, there it is — a 3G launch in a major country, with 280 localities with some level of 3G coverage, with incentives to use the network including flat pricing and price cuts for MMS and other data service usage. 

Now, when Dave McGlade told us of the benefits of not being a global group operator last week he was making the case for O2. But this is the kind of thing he was thinking of. This is a national launch, aimed squarely at the needs of the country. And, in the spirit of that uncle at the wedding, go on yersel', wee man.

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Er..five new  phones… Bluetooth media viewer… EDGE PC card, … stuffed toy, er…hands free car kit … trio of headset accessories … crystal decanter…

Absent at Cannes (now we understand why), SonyEricsson went mad today, launching a range of phones,for the European and American markets. Allied to this were a variety of accessories, designed to make your mobile life easier. 

First off the block in terms of prestige were the K700 camera phone, the S700 swivel-opening phone, and the Z500 EDGE phone (for the US market).
For more details on all of these follow the links at the bottom of this page.

Also off the conveyor belt from the Swedo-Japanese alliance was a rather nifty Bluetooth media viewer, and a bunch of headsets and accessories.

Check them out by looking in our Newswire section. Go for the "See more NewsWire" bit below on SonyEricsson.

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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."

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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

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, 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.’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.’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.

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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."

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