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GPRS roaming still has a future despite a slow rollout, initial customer dissatisfaction and 3G on the horizon, believes Jesper Holm Schlichtkrull, roaming manager of TDC Mobil in Denmark.

On top of that, he said there had been problems testing GPRS roaming because it worked differently on different manufacturers' handsets.
"This means the settings and usage can be difficult for the customer to understand," he said. "Customers also don't know which operator in a country provides GPRS roaming, can end up trying on the wrong network and then give up and abandon GPRS roaming."
He said that although GPRS roaming accounted for less than 1% of GSM subscribers, there was a future for it.
"But the rollout is slow," he said, "and it will be even slower if we do not provide the right applications and make them easy to use. We need to kick-start the GPRS services such as MMS to make customers aware of them."
He also said the pricing models had to be kept simple.
John Hoffman, consulting director with the GSM Association in the USA, said there was a danger of some smaller operators being left behind with GPRS roaming. "It is the small independent operators that don't have many GPRS networks up and running that don't have the roaming agreements," he said. "It is fine for the large global organisations such as Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile."

Rumours about the imminent termination of mmO2's 3G trial on the Isle of Man have been firmly denied by both mmO2 and Manx Telecom. However, Simon Gordon, spokesman for mmO2 said, "The trial will not last indefinitely."

Although no date has yet been set for the end of the trial, the 3G networks being rolled out by mmO2 in Germany and Ireland are expected to supercede the Isle of Man when it comes to providing a learning experience for the group.  According to Gordon, the Isle of Man trial has "been invaluable," but, he suggested, as the German and Irish networks use newer infrastructure equipment they would render the Isle of Man trial "redundant."
In line with licence conditions, a network covering 25% of the German population has to be in place by the end of the year and commercial service is expected around the same time. The experiences of achieving this and early service usage and network behaviour information will then be shared amongst the mmO2 group, as has been the case with the Isle of Man trial.
Similar, although less stringent conditions exist in Ireland, and combined, the real, commercial experiences of these two rollouts will take over, leaving the future of the Isle of Man network in the hands of Manx Telecom. Said Gordon, "This is the benefit of only having solely-owned companies in the group."
The end of the trial will not mark the end of 3G on the Isle of Man as Manx spokeswoman Christine Clucas explained, "The trial is going very well and we are evaluating the situation. There are certainly no plans to terminate the 3G network." Like much of Europe, the Isle of Man is likely to be offered a commercial service comprising both 2.5G and 3G technologies.

Mobile operators have been accused of operating a cartel over roaming prices.

"There is a reluctance to compete resulting in higher charges to users," said Ewan Sutherland, executive director of the International Telecoms Users Group in Belgium.
And he said the situation was going to get worse with 3G: "Some say 3G stands for 'games, gambling and girls', I say it stands for 'gullibility, greed and grief'."
He was speaking at the Mobile Roaming and Interoperability conference held in London.
Looking particularly at call termination charges, he said: "The roaming market looks very much like a cartel. The operators are ripping off each others' customers. It is a wonderful scam. And there is evidence of price collusion."
One of the problems, he said, was the pressure on operators to produce monthly ARPU figures.  A cut in roaming prices would cause an immediate drop in ARPU but might not lead to an increase in usage for six months.
The other problem is that reducing call termination charges benefits customers of operators other than the one cutting prices.
"So everyone is waiting for the regulator to tell them to reduce prices," Sutherland said.
Meanwhile, he said multinational operators such as Vodafone and Orange could reduce prices internationally. Or they could offer "happy hours" during which holiday makers could phone home for cheap rates.
"But they are scared of driving general revenues down," he said.
But Julian Keeley, head of regulation and carrier services at mmO2 in the UK, hit back saying there were already special rates for holidaymakers that could cut roaming process by between 30 and 70% for a month. He said these were introduced as part of a competitive response to Orange and T-Mobile.
He also said that traffic direction would increase competition in roaming prices by removing the random factor concerning which network a handset logs on to. This, he said, would let operators do deals with operators in other countries.
"The inter-operator tariffs did stay high for many years, and that was unacceptable," he said. "This was because it was random which network your handset picked up on."
The delay in introducing this properly will be the time it takes to convince existing users to update their SIMs.
"All new customers get SIMs with traffic direction built in," he said.
Ben Niestadt, director of global sales at Dannet in Denmark, said roaming prices had to be competitive to increase revenues.
"You need to optimise roaming traffic," he said. "If you reduce cost, you increase your market share. The right price plan will increase ARPU, keep you competitive, bring transparency to end users, prevent churn of high-usage roamers and reduce the number of customer call enquiries."

David Hughes, director of BT Mobility, launched an attack on Bluetooth at the WLAN Event recently held in London.

During a presentation on BT Openzone, he said that he "was struggling to know what to do with Bluetooth."
He said, "I'm giving up on Bluetooth. I don't think it will be a competitor with Wi-Fi. Anything that can be done on the internet can be done with Wi-Fi. It is about broadband everywhere."
He admitted though that the Wi-Fi industry was in its "infancy" when it came to pricing policies.
"There are lots of people who will want to pay for broadband access at hotspots," he said. "We will see experi-mentation over payment methods."

Orange retail in the UK has taken the decision to promote the more effective use of existing terminals by the company's subscribers rather than the continual sale of new handsets.

According to Nick Moore, director of Orange Retail, "80% of phone users use 10% of the handset's functions." The three main reasons identified by Orange for this shortfall were that: services aren't seen as being relevant, they aren't usable or the user doesn't know how to use them.  As Moore explained, "Mobile phones are not complicated, they are just misunderstood."
The initiative has taken the form of a UKP10million advertising campaign, promoting the idea of the Orange Academy which trains staff to ensure that customers get the most from their terminals. To back this up 1800 staff across 250 retail outlets nationwide have been reclassified as 'trainers.' Their priority is now to 'train not sell,' in order to encourage people to use their phones more.
Herein lies the motivation for the initiative. Moore explained, "There are some hidden gems within Orange such as our answer service. Once customers personalise their answer service, usage increases by 3%."
In a mature market such as the UK, any increase in revenue is welcomed and the handset is an obvious starting point. Furthermore, it sits well with the operator's handset policy. "Handset subsidies are reducing and prices are increasing which leads to a desire for increased handset life spans. Therefore customers need to be encouraged to use their handsets more."
The initiative has been backed up by a number of concrete steps that demonstrate that this is more than a marketing push. An extensive training programme has been ramped up over the past three months, comprising both in-store and full-day training sessions on particular terminals, supported by manufacturers. In addition, each new terminal is given to a different member of staff to build up the outlet's hands-on experience. Perhaps the most telling move, however, is that commission structures have been changed, meaning that retail staff will be paid commission based on the number of training sessions they undertake, not just the number of handsets.
In addition, and in line with the ease of use theme, Orange has re-launched its WAP portal. The aim, explained Matthew Edgar, from Orange multimedia operations, is to offer services to all Orange's customers in the easiest way possible. He explained, "This is not an exclusive handset offer. It gives people the chance to use all the relevant functionality, irrespective of their terminal. Orange always believes in the mass market." He further suggested that, "Content is not a huge differentiator; the real difference comes with the packaging, the access and the value for money."
To introduce the new look, Orange is offering three month free trials to all pre- and post-paid account holders with the aim of "getting customers in the habit of using these services," according to Edgar. However, the cost barrier has also been attacked by Orange which then offers the services at a fixed fee of UKP4 per month.

The cost of 802.11 wireless LAN equipment is set for a dramatic fall following the announcement that the makers of the key chipsets will cut their prices by about 75% in the next year.

The chipsets cost about USD16 today, but this could fall to only UD4 by this time next year, making the cost of manufacturing WLAN cards cheaper.
John Kirby, vice-president for global wireless at IBM, said the fall in price was being caused by higher volumes rather than any technical innovation.
"If you look at the volumes today they are very small, but look at the volumes you are going to see," he said at the Mobile Enterprises exhibition in London in June. "Prices will halve within 18 months."
However, he said for WLAN to take off, issues such as the different ways to connect in different places had to be sorted out.
"Technically this is not difficult," he said, "We need to get the companies to agree. And to agree whether you pay by time or volume."

Vodafone results for the year ending 31 March 2003 showed increased turnover, albeit including figures from Japanese operations.

Losses slowed and 11% customer growth was reported, including the addition of over a million subscribers to the Vodafone Live! service. The revenues from data services also rose to UKP3,622million, as did mobile business propor-tionate EBITDA margins.
Eight new partner network agreements, the launch of Mobile Office (secure, remote laptop connection using GPRS data cards and software) and new services like GPRS roaming elicited a confident assessment of operating performance from coo, Julian Horn-Smith.
"We have laid the foundation for profitable growth and success in the years ahead," he predicted, as outgoing chief executive Sir Christopher Gent handed over control.

The second round of 3G contract awards and build outs will provide Chinese vendor Huawei with a real opportunity to break into the European market, according to the company's assistant managing director, Soeren Puerschel.

"Huawei has advanced 3G technology and is not behind as it was with GSM," he said.
Huawei, which has established a dominant position in its home market, has a broad communications portfolio within which it offers the full spectrum of 3G wireless technologies --- W-CDMA, cdma2000 and TD-SCDMA.
However, Puerschel identified the company's expertise in other areas such as optical networking, data comms and value-added services, as central to Huawei's market positioning. He explained, "Huawei has always been at the cutting edge of technology. The problem for us has been that we are not so established in Europe.
"We have had to build this up first.  The slow down in the market has allowed us to develop and we are now very well positioned to deliver 3G infrastructure and service support in Europe."
He continued, "Europe is much more open to new vendors than it was a few years ago. We have proven interoperability with all other major vendors and are committed to providing operators with the right solution."
In concrete terms this means a W-CDMA product roadmap that saw a second version of the company's Release 99 products launched in Q4 last year, while its first Release 4 products are soon to be released. Furthermore, Puerschel explained that Huawei has a strong hand when it comes to the new services that are now rolling out. The company has installed a national MMS platform for China Mobile designed for 100 million users, something which Puerschel explained gives Huawei "huge experience in high level, high volume MMS solutions."
Puerschel concluded that he expects Huawei to make concrete moves in Europe, in terms of contracts for its wireless network or services infrastructure before Telecom 2003 in October.

As Europe's incumbent 2G operators look to make the most of their investment in GPRS, Motorola's decision to deliver infrastructure capable of supporting Coding Schemes 3 and 4 defined within the GPRS specifications, now looks like a prudent one and could provide the company with a significant market advantage.

The point of CS3 and 4 is that they deliver faster throughput, the value of which becomes greater as many commercial rollouts of UMTS are pushed further into the future or into smaller geographical areas. Combined with Motorola's compression techniques, CS4 delivers throughput at up to 21kbit/s per timeslot including overheads and around 16kbit/s when the overheads have been taken into consideration. This compares to 8--9kbit/s for CS2 (minus overheads).
For many of the current GPRS terminals which offer four slot downstream transmission, CS4 equates to a realistic throughput of 64kbit/s (depending of course on cell capacity) which Laith Sadiq, director of marketing strategy for Motorola's GTSS group suggested, "is a key speed. With this, GPRS can handle 90% of data requirements for the next few years."
Sadiq refuted the suggestion that Motorola's interest in CS3/4 was due to its relative failure to make an impact on the European UMTS market, "It is in Motorola's interests that 3G is launched in Western Europe," he said. Sadiq further explained, "Operators expect more from GSM/GPRS than they thought two or three years ago. This is providing a rational business case for CS3--4 and we can deliver it now."
The software required to upgrade Motorola infrastructure for CS3/4 has been on the market for a year and so far has be delivered to six commercial networks in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, with a further eight or nine trialling the system. However, those operators with infrastructure from other providers face a more difficult task. "We expect most vendors to support this functionality but a separate hardware upgrade may be required," said Sadiq.

The mobile phone and air travel have long been seen as mutually exclusive but this situation is set to change according to Mike Fitzgerald, ceo of Altobridge.

The company has created a mobile management unit --- a software platform which manages a mini, on-board mobile network made up specially designed base stations smaller than pico cells. Fitzgerald explained that the safety worries about EMC and interference come primarily from the power levels associated with public mobile networks. However, he said, "In GSM, the network dictates the power levels and therefore you need a solution that monitors and manages the RF and that is what our solution does."
Just exactly what power levels don't interfere with the aircraft systems is still unclear.  The standard GSM level of around 2W is banned but Fitzgerald explained, the Altobridge management platform has operated at 100--200mW in tests, a level resulting from the comparatively small area and simple RF propagation involved. Unlike standard GSM, the signal does not need to, and in fact is designed not to penetrate the aircraft's chasis and works on line of sight.
In addition, Altobridge is working with the European and North American aviation authorities to create a system that is safe, something which, Fitzgerald suggested, is not the case today. Many phones are left on in error at the moment causing a safety risk, as could interference from terrestrial networks on the ground which the system also monitors, he claimed. Furthermore, the market is now right for the technology to take off.
The mobile and airline industries have been through the most testing years in their histories and both are looking for ways to increase revenues in mature and competitive markets. According to Fitzgerald, this provides a compelling business case. "The business model is based on the fact that GSM volumes will drive the price down. Initially, the service will be offered in first and business classes, but everyone involved is working on the presumption of diminishing returns as volume increases...the goal is for prices around USD2 per minute."
These rates are significantly lower than those offered by the satellite phones currently installed in aircraft. Although the Altobridge system uses satellite for backhaul, Fitzgerald stated that the volumes GSM offers provides a bargaining position for lower backhaul rates, while the management platform minimises the satellite bandwidth used.
Fitzgerald stated that Altobridge has a clear advantage over competitors looking to provide similar systems as it has a real product ready for trial, while he suggested the business case was fundamentally stronger than those of competitive technologies. "The WLAN connection being trialled by Boeing and Lufthansa is priced at around USD30 per subscriber, while for the cost of installing that system on a single aircraft, 7--10 aircraft could be equipped with our platform."
The system is being trialled in the US and Fitzgerald sees the business jet market in the US as the first target. However, he suggested that there was "no reason to delay entry into the European market," and that the speed of rollout would be dictated by the availability of funding and the regulatory environment.

To meet the demands of a growing mobile content publishing market Nokia has launched an updated Mobile Internet Toolkit (version 4.0).

This incorporates Open Mobile Alliance DRM version 1.0. Including the content publishing feature to protect the intellectual property value of applications and content is in line with a recent report from Zelos Group, which highlights integrated support for digital rights management as a crucial concern for developers and publishers.
Other improvements to the toolkit include an update manager for new tools available through the Forum Nokia website and extra support for non-Latin character encoding for Oriental and Arabic language content creation. MMS wizards also further creation in different modes, including automatic generation from SMIL content and step-by-step part selection. Lee Epting, vp and gm of Forum Nokia, stressed the increased DRM would improve "ability to generate revenues" and "make it very easy to begin developing" content on wireless networks.

One of Scandinavia's largest retail groups, Reitan Group is to acquire the region's largest mobile service provider Sense Communications following agreement by the respective boards on the terms of a final cash offer.

Reitan Group believes it can strengthen Sense Communications' existing share of the Scandinavian mobile phone market, principally by using Reitan's 2,109 stores as increased distribution opportunities and greater branding focus. In addition, Reitan's channels of distribution are expected to reduce customer acquisition costs, while its existing pre-paid services will  now be complemented by a post-paid offering.
Commenting on the offer, Magnus Reitan, Chief Financial Officer of Reitan Group, said, "Sense Communications is an established business with a large and loyal customer base.  Reitan Group is confident that its existing infrastructure will provide an ideal opportunity to further expand the customer base and grow into new markets.  Reitan believes that the deal offers a good commercial opportunity both for Sense Communications shareholders and the Reitan Group. After completion of the acquisition Reitan's mobile customer base will be in excess of 235,000, representing nearly 10% of the Norwegian market."

IN-FUSIO, the mobile games service provider for operators in Europe and China, has announced new user figures that demonstrate the growing importance and the ARPU generating capability of its mobile games services.

IN-FUSIO now has over 3,350,000 players registered worldwide and has accumulated 7,000,000 game down-loads. This means a new player joins every five seconds and one download is made every four seconds. Since its launch in July 2001 these usage figures have been increasing by 15% month on month.
After downloading a game, IN-FUSIO's service allows the player to unlock further game levels, challenge other players or post scores using SMS. As well as delivering all-important interactivity to the games service this has also proved an important revenue stream for operators who have benefited from the 35,200,000 premium text messages that have been sent by mobile gamers to date.
"We have seen a significant shift in the role mobile games play within an operator's armoury of data services. This is probably why a third of all handsets sold in France since the beginning of the year are enabled with IN-FUSIO's games engine client --- ExEn.
Of the 3,350,000 registered players, over 1.1 million were active users last month, making at least one paid interaction in the last four weeks. With almost 700,000 downloads per month this represents "enormous revenue-generating potential," says Gilles Raymond, CEO & founder of IN-FUSIO.

Churn costs European and US mobile operators USD4billion a year, yet the operators themselves spend a large part of their advertising budget encouraging people to switch from one network to another. Steve Rogerson explains.