HeyAnita, providers of enhanced messaging software for mobile operators, today announced the international availability of Rapid Message Service (RMS) v2.0.

RMS is a combined voice and text service that allows users to leave voicemails for receivers who are alerted that they have a message by text. It is now available in France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the US, with support for five languages, if you count US and UK English separately.
Hey Anita's pitch to operators is that the service requires no additional software on the handset, although of course operators need to implement the RMS platform in their own network, or use a hosted service.
Users can access the service by a shortcode or hot key on the phone. The service is also intended to enhance voice and text revenues using existing networks, encouraging users to leave threads of messages.
The service is an improvement on normal voicemail, Mark Willingham, vp of Marketing for HeyAnita told Mobile Europe, because the receiver can see who has left him a message, and so can choose whether to listen to it, or ignore it. Users can also leave messages in a non-intrusive way, but get more information and meaning into the message than a simple text.
Willingham said, "RMS has been market driven from day one; we looked at the need for a simple application that addresses real market needs and have continued listening closely to operators and end-users to define and improve our product."

One way mobile operators test the coverage and capacity of their networks is by the drive test. This literally involves a man in a van with a couple of test mobiles sending and receiving calls and a laptop recording what's going on. If you add in some complex algorithms to test certain frequency aspects of the call, you can gain some insight into the actual quality of the call (essentially its audibility) as a user might experience it as well.

The problem is for the operators, most quality audits are carried out as you might an accounting audit. That is on a campaign, one-off basis. So for two weeks or a month or so there is intensive activity, often carried out on a mobile operator's behalf by a test or quality assurance or network specialist. What this then gives the operators is a snap shot at a particular time of lots of different locations. So, for instance, we know that the coverage and call quality on the A40 at 2pm on Friday was this, but what was it like at 5pm, or the next day? We don't know. Because our man in the van has moved on.
The other problem is that it is also a relatively expensive way to carry on, which is why most operators restrict such activity to infrequent campaigns.
So now one company, Sensustech, which is part of network infrastructure specialist Alan Dick has developed a solution that it says "industrialises the process". Sensustech has developed a little black box, no more than 10x15cm that incorporates a combined GSM/GPRS/GPS module. This box, Sensustech says, can be installed cheaply in any number of fixed or mobile locations. For instance, a bus, taxi, or postal fleet could be equipped.

The boxes carry out functions as a test mobile might, making and receiving voice or data calls and recording the quality --- and can be remotely programmed to behave as the operator requires. For instance, an operator could programme in heavy call activity to simulate peak conditions, or instruct the unit to activate when it is within certain locations, using the GPS capability to pinpoint that location. The information is buffered and then sent back to a back-end server over GPRS. Or in the case of a GSM-only network a disc can be physically removed.
Sensustech claims there are several benefits. The first is cost. The company claims the boxes would come in at around 5-10% of the cost of a traditional drive test campaign on a like for like basis. Secondly, the operator can receive information continuously, all year round, giving it a complete picture rather than a snapshot. If a post van drives a route every day, in theory an operator could collect statistics for that route every day rather than just once. The units can also collect information on all the networks present in a location, without the operators themselves being able to do anything about it. All that is required is the relevant SIM.

This then gives the operators the potential to harvest large amounts of competitive information about call quality on their rivals' networks.
Robin Burton, head of marketing at Sensustech, says that the solution fits right into many of the current concerns of operators. One is that operators in saturated markets are beginning to compete on quality --- and claims and counter-claims about network quality are often contentious. Monitoring on this scale, and he envisages thousands of devices going into a network, could prove or disprove many of those claims. As an aside, Burton claims that a couple of regulators have expressed interest in the technology, for carrying out their own independent verification that operators are meeting license service requirements.
Burton is also keen to emphasise that the solution has implications beyond the technical staff within an operator. He wants to grab the attention of the marketing department, the product management people who may exploit the value of the information provided. One example would be being able to provide proof to a corporate customer of the superiority of your coverage or inferiority of a competitors in certain key locations.
At the moment Sensustech is still in early trials with operators, or at the talking about trials stage with others, but it has completed a large amount of Beta trialling to define the product and claims it has always met with positive response within operators. Its place within the AlanDick company means it can draw on that company's global presence, scale and network knowledge. Burton envisages the company initially bidding for the network quality assurance contracts that operators award, which AlanDick already bids for, combining the automated approach with a certain amount of targeted drive testing.

It should be pointed out the solution has no diagnostics capability, it can only flag where there are problems. But then the operators have a clearer idea where to send their technical staff from where it can carry out diagnostics and take corrective action. Also, as yet, the back end server that collects and processes all the data is stand-alone, meaning it is not integrated with existing network management and fault management views. Burton said the plan was to proceed with such integration in the future.
Another potential drawback will be operators getting nervous about who is getting the information. Burton admitted that several have hinted at some sort of exclusive arrangement, stopping Sensustech working with their competitors, but Burton said exclusivity was "not likely although not impossible".
Sensustech is launching publicly at 3GSM, with a presence on the Alan Dick stand. Burton, known to many in the industry for his former role with billing specialist Cerillion thinks his new stable has a winner, and Mobile Europe wouldn't bet against it. With a bit of technical integration and lateral thinking, operators could do a lot with a cheap means of collecting so much network information.

One of Ofcom's proposals in a raft of topics in a consultation document dealing with spectrum allocation and trading is that, "in general, there should be no restriction on the ability to use spectrum for mobile phone services other than 3G."

This means that the regulator is proposing opening up several frequency bands for possible mobile telephony use, in accordance with its already stated intention to allow spectrum trading and liberalisation by 2007.
The 12 bands and their possible uses are listed below, and Ofcom is calling for comments by 24 March 2005 on the proposals.
A statement from the operator says, "Ofcom is today publishing details of twelve spectrum bands that it expects to be available for award by the end of 2008.
"Some of these bands are small allocations, or are likely to be only of limited use.
"Other bands, however, such as the 190 MHz of spectrum at 2500-2690 MHz, represent a significant amount of spectrum that could be used for a wide range of different applications such as next generation mobile applications or wireless broadband."
It should be noted that the regulator is also proposing that a transitional period, lasting until 2007, be put in place before restrictions on using such spectrum to develop future 3G services are lifted.
The regulator also said that it was "clarifying" the situation in the case 3G operators fail to meet their licence obligation of 80% population coverage by the end of 2007.
 It made clear that revocation of licences is only likely in the case of serious non-compliance (ie it won't happen) but did list several less-severe options (ie payment).

T-Mobile has mirrored Vodafone's One Vodafone project, whereby the operator hopes to make a billion in savings by closer network integration  technical development and increased buying power, by announcing  its "Save for Growth" plan.

T-Mobile seems to have hit on a similar number for operational costs, around EUR1 billion a year, which it says is about 10% of its current operating cost, by the end of 2006.
The headline news of the announcement is that the operator is expecting there to be around 2,200 jobs cut across Europe, with around 1,200 going in Germany. The operator also plans to save EUR500 million by "optimised management of handset subsidies, which sounds like management speak for "fewer, more targeted, subsidies",  and save EUR50 million by introducing more focussed service portfolios. The operator will also seek to improve its procurement processes, extracting EUR250 million savings, and reduce overheads by EUR50 million.
Timotheus Hoettges, Member of the Board for European sales and service activities and responsible for the "Save for Growth" programme said there would be a shift of approach in handset procurement. "In the past, we have placed emphasis on a very large range of models, though only a portion of these met with significant customer response. In the future, we will match our range more strongly to our customers' actual needs and narrow the range. We will place a stronger focus on selected T-Mobile specific devices that deliver real competitive advantage."
 As an example, he cited the MDA family of devices. Overall, T-Mobile plans to reduce its terminal range to between 30-40 models from its current more than 50. It seems it will follow the trend for more ODM devices tailored specifically for its needs.

Mobix has launched a mobile conference call service that allows mobile users to arrange conference calls on demand for up to 10 people. The service, called 2buzz, is available now, and Mobile Europe had a go.

Users can either send a text to the service listing the numbers they want to conference with (each number separated by a space), or can download the application if they have a smartphone.
Mobile Europe had a go at the smartphone version. First, we sent a text from a Palm OS device to 07797898689. We received a text back that had a link to a WAP site in it which we clicked on. Once we connected via GPRS the site informed us the application was suitable and offered a Palm OS compatible application for download. We accepted and the app, very light, installed itself within the phones application folder.
A tap on the 2buzz icon and we were asked if we wanted to create a new group. Tap , and up automatically comes our contacts list   each name with a tick box next to the name. Tap, tap, tap we had three people selected for a conference call. Application then sends each of those people a message asking them to dial in to a conference call, as it does to the originator of the conference.
So, full of hope, we called in, only to be left alone as none of the requested conferees phoned in. Oops! Only partial success then, but nothing to do with the applications, probably more the inclination of Mobile Europes selected participants to take part!
So, a few conclusions based on this very limited trial. One, the downloading of the app and useability couldn't be easier. Two, until such applications are allied with presence applications then it seems arranging a conference will not be quite as ad hoc as Mobix would like to make out.
But if you and a couple of colleagues wanted to arrange a conference at reasonably short notice, and at least one of you is out and about, it would be a quick and efficient way of doing so.
As for cost, normal text, GPRS and call charges apply. A good effort, Mobix, and one operators will be keeping a close eye one, we imagine.
Mobix itself says there is pent-up demand for a quick and easy conference services.
In a survey of mobile workers, carried out on behalf of Mobix by research firm Vanson Bourne in November 2004, 88% of respondents stated that they needed to communicate with two or more colleagues at the same time whilst on the move at least once a week, and more than half (59 percent) said they would take advantage of a quick and easy conference call service.

Not long after Vodafone brought two business focussed service providers back in to the fold it has taken a step in the opposite direction in the field of M2M by signing a deal to turn GSM module distributor Spectre into an airtime managed service provider.

Spectre, which distributes the Telit GSM telematics module, has signed a deal with Vodafone to be provide a managed airtime service to businesses offering telematics services who have no wireless experience themselves.
Douglas Gilmour, managing director of Spectre, told Mobile Europe that the ability to act as an airtime provider rather than a mere Vodafone agent means that customers can aggregate data allocation across a number of machines, rather than having to take a contract out on each individual machine.
With individual contracts, users have found that they pay over the odds on machines that generate large amounts of data and also pay out fixed amounts for under-utilised modules. Spectre's manages service will enable them to average data use across all their active modules.
Gilmour also said that Spectre has a bundled capability to provide an interface between X.25 networks (typically still used as a data protocol for applications such as point of sale) and the Vodafone's GPRS network. This would make the integration of wireless technology with users' own IT systems much easier, he said.
Machine to Machine communications is a big target area for operators, with Orange in particular making it a priority for its business solutions portfolio, but Gilmour said he thought many in the industry had really yet to fully consider its implications.
As well as data collection and delivery, it can be used for diagnostics and control. For instance, a business service provider could use a very simple command protocol to use a module to turn off a photocopier, air conditioning system or other item of industrial equipment for which the user had not paid service charges.
For an application like Electronic Point of Sale wireless technology can take out several links of the network chain, and reduce dependence on proprietary hardware and software, Gilmour said.
For operators, a service provider like Spectre can provide a level of customisation and service to a customer that the may not be efficient for the operator to provide. Vodafone has re-integrated many of its service providers in recent times but M2M may just be an application that sees that layer return.
According to Jeremy Flynn, head of commercial partnerships at Vodafone UK, "The partnership with Spectre will build on Vodafone's M2M tariff with a service package that enables customers to gain additional value from the data they receive. Spectre is well-positioned to develop solutions for customers with Vodafone UK, and to adapt new service solutions as customer needs evolve and grow."

Turkish operator Turkcell has become the latest operator to launch push-to-talk services following the completion of "successful" trials.

For watchers of the development of push-to-talk (PTT), which has attracted operators because of the increased ARPU and decreased churn it has brought to US operators, most notably Nextel, the most interesting aspects of the service launch will be that Turkcell has chosen to address the business market first, and has based the service on PoC technology from Nokia.
PoC (Push-to-talk over Cellular) is the name given to the standard currently being fully defined within the Open Mobile Architecture to be compatible with the IMS as standardised in 3GPP. Although all iterations of PoC from the leading OEMs are necessarily pre-standard the vendors have been selling PTT hard now for over a year.
Nokia says its technology offers a "full feature set and smooth migration" to the upcoming standard, and has more than 30 operator trials ongoing and commercial contracts with 22.
Muzaffer Akpinar, CEO of Turkcell, said that Nokia was the obvious choice given its existing relationship with the operator.
Turkcell had 22.3 million subscribers at the end of September 2004, and has now opened its PTT service to business customers. The adoption of PTT as a mass-market application within any operator will require a large update of the handset base, as well as user education and network side technical capability

T-Mobile's Czech Republic business is having a look at a new way of implementing Assisted Global Positioning (A-GPS) services. The operator is trialling an IP based A-GPS system that can be integrated directly into the mobile network and communicates with a mobile terminal (equipped with an A-GPS ship) via an IP connection. T-Mobile is trialling the Siemens SX1 phone fitted with an A-GPS chip.

The current standardised version of A-GPS specifies that there must be alterations, often costly, made to the mobile network, in accordance with the 3GPP location services standard. This presents operators with a double whammy of equipping the network and getting enough compatible phones with A-GPS chips into the market. The IP based version is currently going through standardisation specification within the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA). The OMA is expected to conclude that work by around the middle of this year.
Heinz Schmid, Executive Vice President Technology T-Mobile Czech Republic, said the IP version said that the technology had a "clear advantage" in that it meant that the operator could introduce location based services with "a reasonable investment."
Christophe Caselitz, President of Mobile Networks at Siemens Communications, said IP A-GPS would give the market for A-GPS based navigation services a "significant boost."
"These standards are essential if the terminal devices of different vendors are to be able to exchange data with all mobile networks"", Caselitz said.
Operators have been convinced of the value of LBS for years but have balked at the cost of implementing truly accurate solutions, both on the handset and network side. A-GPS has solved some of the issues involved with buildings blocking satellite signals to a GPS receiver, but problems still remain, requiring operators to take a dual-technology approach to LBS. A reduction in the network investment required is considered essential by many observers of the market.
l Location system vendor CPS has found one home for its network based Matrix location technology.
Matrix is CPS's latest attempt to crack the market for supporting location based services. It is unusual in that it needs no additional hardware to be added to the network. This gives it a cost advantage over GPS, as well as the lead it takes by being workable indoors, as it needs no sight of a satellite. But (like GPS) Matrix does require an application to be installed in the handset or wireless module using the service.
Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to get in at the chip layer, which is what CPS has done with TTPCom, which is based in the same town as CPS. TTPCom has added the CPS Matrix location application to its tri-band GSM/GPRS ITM338 and ITM339 modules Chris Wade, Chief Executive of CPS said operators are currently "actively evaluating and selecting".
"The availability of these new Matrix-enabled devices offers more choice to the market and significantly lowers the cost of entry for end users seeking high accuracy location capability to support corporate and enterprise services," he added.
Stephen Larder, MD of TTPCom's module business said the Matrix l technology would add value to the modules, especially in comparison to embedded GPS modules.
"We are delighted to be able to enhance the functionality of our already popular module designs to enable new market opportunities. In particular, our Matrix-enabled modules address needs where previously the high cost, complexity and power-consumption of GPS-based solutions has greatly limited the adoption of location based applications."

Jabra BT800 is the first to combine caller ID display, built-in ring tones, vibrator alert and DSP technology for ultimate convenience and superior sound quality

Jabra, a leading brand of hands-free communication products for the mobile consumer market, is announcing the shipment of its latest Jabra Bluetooth product, the Jabra BT800 - the industry’s most advanced Bluetooth headset. The Jabra BT800 combines more features than any other headset and sets the standard for future headsets by incorporating many of the same standard features normally accessed via a mobile phone directly into the headset.

The Jabra BT800 combines unique Over-the-Ear headset design with cutting-edge technology including a backlit LCD display, call vibrate feature, a variety of ring tones and digital signal processing (DSP) technology for improved sound quality and clarity. The headset also features a jog wheel for volume control and menu navigation, a mute button, and USB connectivity for charging directly from a PC. The enhanced functionality gives users added convenience and freedom from their phone.

The LCD display is a complete information source for the headset and provides caller ID and a menu for access to the battery status, a call list, and settings for selecting ring tones, ring type, language, the light on the display and Bluetooth connection. The caller ID feature is especially convenient for users who wish to see who is calling when they are not wearing the headset or between calls. When working in an office, for example, and the headset is in a user’s pocket or on a desk, they can easily see who is calling. The LCD display for caller ID on the headset means that users will always know who’s calling without having to look at their phone.

“The Jabra BT800 Bluetooth headset enables users to do more with their headset than ever before, and is designed for people who want to own the very latest in headset design and innovation,” said Ben Bushell, country manager, Jabra UK and Ireland. We believe the Jabra BT800 is well positioned to provide a state-of-the art headset solution for customers who want the most functionality available.”

The Jabra BT800 is also the first Bluetooth headset to feature a fully-integrated DSP solution. By integrating the DSP together within the Bluetooth chipset, the Jabra BT800 is able to take advantage of new patent-pending DSP technology resulting in enhanced audio performance. The additional proprietary software programming within the DSP solution enables an overall improvement in the sound quality through reducing background noise and automatically adjusting the volume control when in noisy surroundings such as in a car, airport, busy office or on a train.

“By adding DSP technology, The Jabra BT800 offers superior sound quality by significantly reducing interference from troublesome background noises such as traffic or in-car noise. The headset continually adjusts the volume level based on the ambient background noise, resulting in the incoming voice coming through much clearer. In addition, since the headset digitally improves the signal, both the headset user and the personal at the other end can hear the person they are speaking to much better,” said Niels-Henrik Valentin Knudsen, senior product manager, Jabra.   

The Jabra BT800 features are easy to use and access, and are similar to the operation of a mobile phone. Just four controls; the mute button, jog wheel, call ‘Answer’ and ‘End’ buttons provide access to all the functionality offered by the headset. The jog wheel can be used as a volume control during a call or for scrolling through menu functions in standby mode. Users can also select from five ring tones in the headset, or use the call-vibrate feature so calls can be silently detected. The LCD display allows users to view either the name or number of the caller depending on the mobile phone and is placed on the inside of the headset ensuring privacy during the conversation. The display also offers information in multiple languages including English, German, French and Spanish.

Expect between half to one Mbps in busy cells

UMTS cell sites equipped with HSDPA technology will probably offer users average  data rates of between 500kbps and 1.5Mbps when they are working at full capacity, the results of trials carried out by Motorola suggest.

Motorola has been conducting HSPDA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) trials with five European operators, simulating a variety of different network conditions, including that of a cell working at peak capacity. HSPDA is labeled by the 3GPP standard as having a peak of 3.6Mbps on the downlink (and 14.4Mbps with the most powerful modulation),  but Raghu Rau, corporate vice president for marketing for Motorola's networks business, says that in reality the throughput will be tempered by the amount of users in a cell, and the extent of their use.

“Motorola estimates that the average user throughputs will be approximately between 500kbps and 1.5Mbps during the download. Overall HSDPA will appear to the user between 3 and 10 times faster than UMTS. This differential will increase as the cell size gets smaller," Rau said.

Motorola did clock a speed of 2.9Mbps in one of its trials, at the edge of a cell using a single HSDPA test device.
The trials were designed help the mobile operators concerned build optimised HSDPA-enabled networks. The results will also help the operators design networks that offer highly reliable 3G connectivity, access and competent service delivery considering a variety of traffic levels, service demand, device and location.

Motorola set up a menu of test options for the participating operators to choose from, to mimic the individual operating conditions of each network, with different access options to measure performance, compatibility and interoperability.

During the trials, services ranging from e-mail, video streaming, music downloads and web browsing are being tested for speed, capacity and data quality from
normal to high-traffic conditions.

HSPDA offers enhanced data rates on the downlink by adding a new downlink channel that is shared by users. Complex algorithms dynamically allocate bandwidth in the shared channel, which is managed by the existing Node B UMTS base station.

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