AIRCOM International, the independent mobile network planning and optimisation consultancy, has added new features to its ASSETShare network planning tool.  The features will further help mobile network operators match their CAPEX and OPEX constraints against the network performance and design, whilst improving performance for those considering sharing their networks with other operators. 
 
Network sharing is a growing trend in the mobile industry as operators combine their network resources to to reduce OPEX and CAPEX cost by maximising their existing infrastructure investment.  With numorous possible ways of achieving network sharing, operators who are merging their networks need to find the best possible way of saving costs without compromising the performance or quality of service to their customers.
 
Each operator has different technical and network design criteria to consider. An optimised shared network has many possible design permutations, according to the parameters set down by the operator.  New features added to ASSETShare solve this 'multiple design' dilemma and help operators deal with and objectively assess each possible design outcome from an RF and transmission backhaul perspective. This would normally take entire departments months to work through the various "what if" scenarios; with the introduction of AIRCOM's ASSETShare, these complex cross-department permutations can be completed more accurately and with fewer people.
 
Commenting on the new ASSETShare features, Margaret Rice-Jones, CEO of AIRCOM said, "In discussions with our operator customers,  flexibility over network performance criteria and the ability to deliver cost savings emerged as key requirements for those who are looking at network sharing."
 
"With the updates to ASSETShare, we deliver these key requirements, which in turn deliver benefits in terms of cost-saving, greater flexibility and a faster decision-making process - benefits which the operator can pass to the subscriber, in terms of lower tariff costs and improved quality of service."
 
One of the often overlooked requirements in network sharing is the impact on the transmission network when considering which sites to share. ASSETShare's new transmission optimisation module allows the user to add the backhaul elements of both parties into the equation. This capability allows ASSETShare to evaluate the impact on backhaul as part of the overall site coverage equation, significantly improving the overall CAPEX and OPEX savings.
 
ASSETShare can now also accurately assess the costs for meeting a variety of different business requirements identified by the operators for their network - such as minimum coverage levels or a maximum cost figure for network overheads.
 
This improved flexibility allows operators to input specific criteria that they consider a priority for their network sharing arrangement. They can then use the results generated by ASSETShare to make an informed business decision for their shared network model, rather than simply being handed a single recommendation to follow.
 
ASSETShare already incorporates a range of advanced tools that provide valuable integrated support in the areas of network planning, optimisation, configuration and performance management.

Mobile instant messaging (IM) adoption in Europe will grow from 8 percent (26.7 million subscribers) in 2007 to 24 percent (80 million subscribers) by 2013, according to a new study by Forrester Research. Forrester's mobile IM forecast is based on a survey of 22,000 consumers across France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.

Three years after the first mobile IM service launched, Forrester believes operators still lack a true commitment to backing the technology because of fears that mobile IM will cannibalize revenue from their highly profitable text messaging services (SMS). But mobile IM's growth is inevitable and operators' fears of revenue erosion are greatly overstated according to Forrester Research Analyst Niek van Veen.
 
"Young consumers' familiarity with PC-based instant messaging and the growing number of IM-capable phones entering the market will drive adoption," said van Veen. "Mobile IM and SMS are complementary services. Forward-thinking operators will embrace mobile IM as an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition. They will integrate IM with their existing services to build their brand around an enhanced customer experience based on the allure of Social Computing."
 
Further findings from the Forrester report:
·       Sweden and the UK will lead in mobile IM adoption with 35% and 31% of subscribers using mobile IM respectively by 2013.
·       Mobile IM will displace 13 percent of SMS traffic by 2013. In Sweden, where SMS usage is low and mobile IM uptake high, mobile IM will replace 28 percent of SMS traffic; in Spain, where the opposite is true, it will replace just eight percent of SMS traffic.
·       Text messaging will continue to grow regardless of the increasingly popularity of mobile IM. Monthly Person-to-Person (P2P) SMS traffic in Western Europe will climb from 190 billion messages in 2007 to 233 billion by the end of 2013, despite the fact that some traffic will have moved to IM.

The nominations for the 13th Annual Global Mobile Awards were announced today by the GSMA in London. The winners will be presented at the gala awards dinner on Tuesday 12th February, during the world's biggest communications industry event, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (11-14th February 2008).

The GSMA also announced that International comedian Graham Norton will host this year's awards ceremony, which promises to be a highlight of the congress calendar, as well as the GSMA's celebrations of twenty years of global mobile communications.

With the most diverse range of entries in the 13 year history of the competition, the judging panel were faced with a challenging and demanding task in evaluating the submissions and electing the nominees. Categories range from best mobile handset to a host of mobile entertainment awards, for games, video, music, advertising and social networking services.

"Entries to the Global Mobile Awards this year demonstrate the social, business and economic impact that mobile communications is having in every corner of the world," said Rob Conway, GSMA CEO. "I congratulate the nominees on their achievement thus far, being nominated by our independent judging panel is no mean feat given the calibre of experts it comprises, and the quality and quantity of submissions received. We await the announcement of the winners at the Global Mobile Awards evening with keen interest."

WIN, a specialist in interactive mobile entertainment and information, has announced the acquisition of Pocket Group, a mobile entertainment company and mobile music specialist, providing content and marketing services to more than 50 operators across the world.

The move further strengthens WIN's entertainment portfolio. Pocket Group specialises in mobile music and video, working with leading record labels such as XL and Skint Records to help them implement a mobile music proposition and maximise their revenues from mobile distribution.
 
As a WIN company, Pocket Group will be a key driver in the company's global growth strategy by developing and distributing cutting edge, made for mobile, music, content, video and marketing services. The acquisition will extend WIN's reach internationally by growing new relationships and build on existing relationships with tier one operators in Europe and Asia such as Orange, O2, Vodafone, Smart and M1. WIN will also leverage Pocket Group's existing ties with handset manufacturers such as Samsung and leading brands like ITN and Carlton.
 
"WIN is committed to developing an industry leading portfolio of services, offering operators category management, global content solutions. The Pocket Group acquisition is a milestone on the road to realising this vision," said Graham Rivers, CEO of WIN plc. "By developing an exceptional range of services with global reach WIN offers unrivalled flexibility and scalability for mass market content delivery."
 
He added, "Along with an exciting library of musical content, WIN will benefit from Pocket Group's content merchandising abilities and a highly experienced management team. We also look forward to developing the relationships Pocket Group has established with tier-one mobile operators, handset manufacturers and brands."
 
Pocket Group is based in London with further operations in Kuala Lumpur and Moscow. It works directly with mobile operators through the provision of managed services. Pocket Group directly targets consumers, offering specialised media and entertainment "bundles", comprising music, wallpapers and videos.
 
Andrew Hull, Managing Director at Pocket Group said. "We are very excited at becoming a member of the WIN Group.  Pocket Group is one of the leading providers of mobile music and entertainment content to network operators and consumers. Combined with WIN's expertise across mobile networks and platforms, we can offer a world beating mobile solution."

Logia Group, a global provider of mobile internet services, has announced the international launch of Vidmo, said to be the first video multi-platform for the content sharing community. Vidmo is the first tool to enable users to upload, share and rate videos, pictures, and other content in parallel through the internent as well as mobile devices. Vidmo allows mobile operators and website owners to launch and manage web and mobile sites containing rich video channels with advanced community and sharing tools. Logia Group will be offering demonstrations of the Vidmo user experience at the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The community of mobile content users has been constantly growing with more input and demand for newer applications and services. One of the leading trends today among the youth and young adult populations is to use internet-based social networking websites for content sharing activities, motivated by the desire to have their content viewed and rated by as many of their peers as possible. The ability to conduct the same activities via the cellular network, would provide the users with more freedom of movement and make these activities more fun and accessible, resulting with new revenue streams and increased user loyalty  for operators.

Logia Group has developed Vidmo, a WEB-WAP based multi-platform for content sharing, which offers content providers an easy way to distribute their content and enables website managers to automatically offer their content to mobile users. This advances the user expierence of viewing and sharing of videos and photographs, both on the PC and mobile phone. Vidmo offers full community synchronization between the internet and the cellular network allowing users to upload videos and other content and rate it on both environments. The platform  enables users to easily create and manage their content, e.g. send photographs from the cellphone to the Vidmo website, using MMS or the WAP service. In addition, through Vidmo's cellular and hyper-blogging service, subscribers can send updates to their friends via SMS or directly through the website.

"We are excited to bring the content sharing experience to the mobile wolrd", says Kobi Marenko, Logia Group's President & CEO, "We believe that Vidmo will attract significant numbers of new users and at the same time help leveraging the brands of operators, service providers and websites, enabling a cost effective solution to increase traffic and generate additional advertising revenue."

T-Mobile and Yahoo! have announced a strategic partnership which will see the first graphical advertising appear on T-Mobile's pioneering Internet service. Web'n'walk, which was the UK's first service to offer people unlimited access to the whole internet on a mobile phone,  is set to carry a variety of innovative graphical ads exclusively sold and  served by internet giant Yahoo!.
 
Mobile advertising is revolutionising the market by allowing advertisers to deliver more targeted messaging to consumers on their mobiles when on the move.   As pioneers of the Internet on your mobile, T-Mobile and Yahoo! will combine their expertise in the industry and knowledge of consumer habits, to enable advertisers to offer consumers targeted graphical ads when using the web'n'walk service.  Mobile advertising is unique in allowing consumers the ability to interact and respond directly to the messages that advertisers try to deliver to them, when they are out of the office or home.  T-Mobile and Yahoo! intend to roll out the first mobile advertisements on web'n'walk in the first half of 2008.
 
Phil Chapman, Director of Marketing at T-Mobile, said: "Mobile advertising is a key area of development for T-Mobile in 2008 and this partnership with Yahoo! shows our commitment to making this strategy succeed. With conventional mobile marketing tools limiting the levels of interaction, banner advertising through the Internet on your mobile creates many opportunities for potential advertisers to adopt innovative marketing campaigns. We regard Yahoo! as a leader in display advertising, and with its deep understanding of the mobile space and the potential that mobile advertising can offer clients, we're glad they are on board as our partners." 
 
"This partnership with T-Mobile demonstrates Yahoo!'s continued focus on mobile and extending our leadership in graphical advertising across multiple platforms," said Geraldine Wilson, VP of Connected Life, Yahoo! Europe. "Advertisers are fast recognising the value of mobile advertising as a core part of their digital campaigns, and we are excited to work with T-Mobile to create superior experiences that deliver great value to advertisers and mobile users alike."
 
Thomas Husson, Senior Analyst at JupiterResearch, said in a recent report: "The mobile channel enables advertisers to interact with consumers at different and unique peak times when they are relatively more difficult to reach through other media. More than any other medium, mobile can be leveraged to make the most of unique contextual, individual, and behavioural targeting."

Mobile media company Player X has been appointed by Virgin Mobile UK as its official aggregator for all its mobile games and video content.

This is one of the first times that a company has been able to offer operators both games and video aggregation in what is a unique deal for the industry. Player X will sign up all games as well as video partners on behalf of Virgin Mobile UK and execute all portal management including encoding, QA and deployment as well as promoting the content across all platforms.
Under the terms of the deal, Player X will source all entertainment and adult comedy mobile video content as well as choosing games content for the Virgin Mobile portal from its range of content suppliers.

"We searched high and low for a partner that could offer us definitive revenue streams in both games and video. With Player X we have found such a partner and look forward to expanding our relationship with them," said John Conlon, Head of Content at Virgin Mobile UK.

"Bringing together games and video is a first for the industry and the perfect outsourcing deal. Virgin can continue to focus its energy on what it does best - by attracting subscribers with fantastic content and we take all the pain out of it for them by using our new porting and QA facility in India to offer the perfect end-to-end solution," said Tony Pearce, Player X CEO. 
 
The news follows Player X's recent innovative moves in the mobile content market. Towards the end of 2007 the company announced it was bringing Knight Rider to mobile in the form of Retrosodes, signed up with Amobee to deliver ad-funded games and extended its deal with Turner Broadcasting.

2ergo, the provider of convergent mobile communication solutions, has been awarded a five year contract with O2 for the provision of mobile marketing services, underpinned by its recently launched MultiSend interactive messaging suite.

MultiSend will enable the mobile communications giant, O2, to revolutionise the way it engages with its 17.8 million customers using a range of personalised and interactive SMS, MMS and email messaging features, via a single application.

Having already completed a number of successful campaigns, 2ergo's MultiSend suite will be introduced across O2's marketing teams, and plans are in place to use this leading technology to deliver the mobile network operator's core digital marketing programme. 

Andrew Day, Head of CRM at O2, said: "We see real potential in MultiSend, it will allow us to enhance further the O2 experience, communicating and interacting with all of our customers on a truly one-on-one basis.  At a practical level, MultiSend gives us the capability to streamline the many processes involved in delivering multi-media and interactive campaigns to just a single application."

MultiSend will be fully integrated over time with O2's CRM system to maximise automation efficiencies and gain a greater insight into customer demands.  This will free up time for marketeers to devise further interactive campaigns, drive marketing results and build on customer relationships.

Neale Graham, Joint CEO 2ergo Group plc, said: "MultiSend enables companies to quickly and simply target their customers, capture instant responses and achieve the best possible return on their marketing investments.  Whether you have an audience of hundreds or millions, you can personalise each message or response, so that communication can be fast, frequent and incredibly cost-effective.

"It will enable O2 to explore new opportunities in areas such as MMS, and look to automate campaigns to improve the timeliness of messages being sent, as well as enhancing the end-user experience."

Other companies that have already signed up for the MultiSend suite include the travel giant Thomas Cook, the major UK car rental company National Car Rental, and the publishers Reed Business International.

The suite gives organisations the capability to fully automate many of their regular outbound communications and to engage in one-to-one dialogue with their target audience, not only to encourage rapid responses, but to also conclude many forms of business transactions. For example, appointment and payment reminders, membership and subscription renewals, or marketing campaigns and customer surveys.

TextMagic, a provider of easy-to-use online text messaging solutions, has today launched its new and improved web-based SMS service, TextMagic Online. This new generation of online SMS delivery allows businesses and individuals to send text messages directly from any computer, mobile or handheld device without the need to install dedicated software. The online interface lets users send multiple or individual texts, create and manage campaigns and keep in touch with valued customers with just a few clicks, all for just a few pence.

TextMagic Online is said to be a quick and easy way to create ad-hoc awareness campaigns and communicate with customers via their mobiles. Its web-based interface means it's more scalable than a desktop solution and is secure - all personal information is protected with secure data transfer protocol, so consumers can trust SMS messages sent with TextMagic. Mobile contacts can be easily imported from different customer relationship management (CRM) systems and programmes like Outlook, Excel, Salesforce.com and many more.

Companies can use SMS as an effective way of communicating with customers in a way that is more immediate and effective than email or phonecalls. For example, TextMagic Online allows estate agents to update multiple buyers and sellers on viewings and new properties the moment they come onto the market, all with a single SMS.  Logistics and delivery companies can use text messages to arrange deliveries and confirm good have arrived - potentially ending the problem of never being at home when the delivery van calls!

"More than 1 billion text messages are sent every week in the UK, making text messages the perfect way to deliver personalised services quickly and cost-effectively," commented Priit Vaikmaa, Marketing Manager of TextMagic. With over 70 million mobile users in the UK alone, mobile is the most ubiquitous device we own, and with the increase use of mobile for business, our service provides an essential business tool for companies that are looking for tailored ways to market their services and manage their customer relations."

The rise in musicphones has spurred adoption of mobile music consumption across the United States and Western Europe, according to M:Metrics, the mobile media firm. It reports that sideloading accounts for 83 percent of mobile music usage across France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Among other methods, sharing music outpaces full-track mobile downloading in the majority of these markets.

With the exceptions of Spain and the United States, more mobile music consumers listened to music that was shared (for example, between phones via Bluetooth), than was downloaded directly to the phone using a music service. France and the UK posted the highest frequency of this activity, accounting for 12.5 percent of those who listened to mobile music in the month.  At the other end of the spectrum was Spain, with only 7.1 percent of mobile music users transferring music between devices.
 
"Mobile music is quickly catching on, and the fact that consumers are sharing music demonstrates its potential as a social, viral phenomenon centered on mobile handsets," said Jen Wu, analyst, M:Metrics. "The proliferation of musicphones is causing a shift in digital music toward the mobile platform, which opens numerous opportunities for music-related content, services, hardware and accessories built to accommodate or enhance these mobile music activities."
 
The measurement firm found that 10.7 percent of mobile subscribers across the six geographies reported listening to music on their mobile device, ranging from 5.7 percent in the United States to 20 percent in Spain.
 
Musicphone penetration has grown considerably in the United States and Western Europe, at an aggregated rate of 50.7 percent growth from November 2006 to November 2007 across the six geographies. The United States is the fastest-growing market, with 63.6 percent growth, from 23.2 million subscribers owning musicphones in November 2006 to 63.8 million one year later. Musicphones include all mobile handsets that are, at a minimum, capable of digital music playback (AAC, MP3, MPEG-2 AAC, MPEG-4 AAC+ or WMA codecs) and storage (greater than 47MB or support for memory expansion) or are a smartphone.

Subex, the provider of Operations Support Systems solutions for communications service providers, has announced the release of Prevea 2.2, the latest version of its credit risk management offering that enables communications service providers to continuously assess and mitigate subscriber credit risk throughout the customer lifecycle.

Designed to help service providers achieve greater operational efficiency and a key component of the Revenue Operations Center (ROC), Prevea tracks credit risk in near real-time, prior to subscriber acquisition, ongoing usage, and recovery. Prevea builds an extensive customer profile consisting of demographics, usage patterns, payment information and other relevant customer information.

Prevea 2.2 brings out the 'true exposure' of the subscriber and enables operators to automatically track credit risk by removing the guesswork associated with the value of service utilization. It creates structures and processes for defining credit risk assessment schemes and customer-specific credit limits, allowing for alert conditions to be configured that track risk variations, such as deviations in customer behavior and payment delays/reversals.

It also raises alerts at the earliest signs of an account problem and provides workflow mechanism to aid investigation. The benefits of deploying Prevea are increased customer profitability, improved collection rates, reduced bad debts and operating costs and improved bottom-line financial performance.

Mark Nicholson , Chief Technology Officer, Subex, said, "This latest version of Prevea is designed to enable service providers to easily monitor subscriber risk and improve the bottom-line. These latest product updates make it easier for our customers to optimize their margins and become leaner and more efficient in their operations."

MACH, the global clearing and settlement partner for mobile based transactions, has today announced that Telefónica Spain is using its Data Express and Fraud Protection solutions to achieve Near Real Time Roaming Data Exchange (NRTRDE) compliancy. MACH will monitor and protect Telefónica Spain against roaming fraud.

Manuel Franco, Director of Revenue Assurance & Fraud at Telefónica Spain commented; "MACH has one of the most advanced NRTRDE & Fraud Protection solutions available. As MACH provides Clearinghouse services & NRTDE to other Telefónica Group members as well as other leading global operator Groups it has for both solutions, the right level of expertise to combat roaming fraud."

Lodewijk Cornelis, Head of New Sales & Marketing at MACH commented, "With MACH Data Express and MACH Fraud Protection, Telefónica benefits from a fully comprehensive solution against roaming fraud. The operator will have early visibility of roaming subscriber activity and data intelligence and a global view with fraud 'fingerprint' matches across all networks. MACH also has a specialist 'rapid responsive' fraud protection unit with 24/7/365 surveillance, detection and monitoring of suspicious behaviour. MACH acts as the watch tower and has the capabilities to instantly shut-down roaming fraud."

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has announced the results of its inaugural Mobile Attitude and Usage Study for five markets in Western Europe. The study surveyed 1,535 participants in the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain and provides actionable insights into the region's consumer mobile usage by demographic group and awareness. The report also identifies usage of mobile phone features and services, and interest in and concerns about specific applications.

The study's key findings are said to include the following:

One in ten mobile users in the Western European markets is highly interested in mobile marketing and another three in ten indicate moderate interest. This level of interest translates into an overall growth opportunity for mobile marketing.

Italian and Spanish consumers are most interested in mobile marketing. Over half of all users in Italy and Spain are at least moderately interested in mobile marketing and similar proportions express potential to opt-in.

2-way text messaging is the most important mobile feature across all age groups. The ability to send and receive SMS was at the top of the list for all age groups except teens, for whom it ranks second to camera functionality. Across the Western European markets surveyed, seven in ten have experience with text messaging, with the most text-savvy consumers in Italy and Spain. Over half of all users surveyed use SMS at least weekly and 37% are daily users. Daily use is most common among 13 - 24 year olds.

Western European consumers poised for an increase in mobile marketing. 15% of all consumers surveyed have had some experience with mobile marketing. Mobile phones are almost universal and most phones are equipped to receive mobile messages. More than half use text messaging at least weekly and 7 in 10 are familiar with the technology.

Interactive voting, receiving ads and product/service information are the most common applications of mobile marketing.  18 - 34 year olds have the highest rate of participation in mobile marketing efforts. However, age is not strongly predictive; interest levels are similar across ages 13 - 54.

Across all regions surveyed, mobile coupons, status alerts about accounts/purchases and special sales have greatest appeal.  Over half the users have increased data usage to some extent in the past year vs. slightly under half reporting an increase in voice usage.

"This study confirms that mobile users in Western Europe already appreciate mobile marketing and have a desire to opt in to receive relevant product and services," said Richard Saggers, MMA EMEA Chairman and Head of Mobile Advertising, Vodafone Global Services. "These results indicate Italy and Spain are significantly advanced users of mobile, and already have the most experience with mobile marketing and are therefore more likely to participate. At least 60% in all age categories surveyed have experience with text messaging, indicating a big opportunity for marketers."

"Western Europe represents a significant opportunity for mobile marketers.  One in three consumers surveyed indicated that their mobile phone is highly important to them and they are very dependent on it.  With consumers acknowledging their mobile is always on them, brands need to begin integrating mobile into their marketing campaigns ASAP. Clearly, mobile is proving its potential value as a marketing tool," said Laura Marriott, President of the MMA.

Nokia has announced plans to discontinue the production of mobile devices in Germany and close its Bochum site by mid-2008. The company plans to move manufacturing to its other, more cost-competitive sites in Europe.

As a consequence of the planned shift of production from Bochum to other European sites, Nokia also intends to discontinue other non-production activities at the Bochum site. In conjunction with the announced plans to close its Bochum site, Nokia is also announcing plans to sell its line fit automotive business and it is in negotiations with Sasken Technologies to sell the Bochum-based adaptation software R&D-entity.

The planned closure of the site in Bochum is estimated to affect approximately 2,300 Nokia employees.

Nokia's decision to discontinue manufacturing in Bochum is based on the lack of competitiveness of the location. Renewing the site would require additional investments but even this would not result in manufacturing in Bochum being globally competitive.

"The planned closure of the Bochum production site is necessary to secure Nokia's long-term competitiveness," said Veli Sundbäck, Executive Vice President of Nokia and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Nokia GmbH. "Due to market changes and increasing requirements for cost-effectiveness, production of mobile devices in Germany is no longer feasible for Nokia. It cannot be operated in a way that meets the requirements for global cost efficiency and for flexible capacity growth. Therefore we have to make this tough decision."

Nokia will start the consultations with the employee representatives as soon as possible in order to to reach a satisfactory solution for all parties concerned.

The financial costs associated with this restructuring will be determined along with the consultation process and reported in Nokia's quarterly reporting for 2008.