Archive by Kevin Fitchard

Clearwire completes 2009 WiMax footprint

With a month to spare, Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) closed out its 2009 WiMax rollout, announcing the commercial launch of its final two markets planned for the year: Seattle and Honolulu. Clearwire has now fulfilled its promise of covering 30 million people with the 4G mobile broadband network by year end. It now has all of December to pave the way for an even larger rollout in 2010 that will see its footprint expand by a factor of four and bring some of the largest metro areas in the US under its umbrella. more

Sprint calls it quits with QChat

Proving you don’t ever mess with a classic, Sprint (NYSE:S) has decided to abandon QChat and shift its push-to-talk efforts back onto the network which popularized the service: Nextel’s iDEN network. A Sprint official told PhoneNews that while Sprint would continue to support existing QChat handsets in the market, no new CDMA PTT phones were in its roadmap. Instead Sprint will focus on PTT as one of the principle services on its newly reinvigorated iDEN network.

Nextel set the gold standard for PTT services a decade ago and since then no one has been able to replicate it. many carriers have introduced push-to-talk solutions using the 2G  voice channel or VoIP, but they’ve been of limited success. The main barrier for those services has been matching the sub-second session setup times of iDEN, which none of the alternate technologies have been able to achieve. Operators also underestimated the potential size of the PTT market. While Nextel drew a loyal subscriber base of blue collar workers and emergency personnel, the service failed to appeal the mass consumer markets–with the possible exception of the youth market. Much of the early enthusiasm for PTT in the business and consumer markets dissipated in 2007 as customers wearied of its intrusiveness and found alternatives in SMS.

Prepaid mobile broadband gaining traction

AT&T (NYSE:T) this week became the latest operator to explore prepaid mobile broadband, further validating the trend toward pay-as-you-go wireless services. Previously prepaid operators like Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) and Virgin Mobile were the only ones interested in being prepaid data operators, while the big operators stuck with their big monthly contracts. The landscape, though, is shifting as both AT&T and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ, NYSE:VOD) have taken up prepaid data plans.

Likely neither operator expects that prepaid will supplant postpaid, but given the high cost of monthly data plan, the length of the contracts required, and the onerous data caps applied for going over one’s data budget, they’re likely getting wise to the fact that a contract plan isn’t for everyone. The prices they’re charging–$50 for 500 MB of usage–also ensures that a postpaid plan will always be more attractive if you can afford the cost and contract commitment. But with daily and weekly options, prepaid would be far more attractive to intermittent users.

The question is whether the big operators’ more restrictive plans can hold up to far more competitive pricing in the market. Virgin, now owned by Sprint (NYSE:S), is charging $60 for 1 GB of capacity. Leap Wireless charges $40 for unlimited access to its EV-DO network, while Clearwire (NYSE:CLWR) is charging $45 a month for unlimited access to its WiMax networks and $30 a month for 2 GB. The advantage AT&T and Verizon have over Clearwire and Leap, though, is nationwide network availability, which is nothing to scoff at.

Study: Mobile backhaul market will grow 60% in 2009

Mobile backhaul equipment has been a hot sector in wireless this year and last as operators invest more in high-capacity data technologies, according to a new research report by Infonetics. Backhaul gear investment among carriers grew 59% in 2008 to $3.7 billion globally and will jump an additional 60% in 2009, making it a $5.7 billion industry, the report found. more

SingTel launches latest LTE beauty contest

While LTE vendors are still slugging it out for Vodafone (NYSE:VOD) and China Mobile’s (NYSE:CHL) 4G business, a new large-scale network competition has emerged. SingTel today became the latest multinational operator to dangle a big fat LTE contract in front of equipment vendors, announcing plans for a LTE roll out spanning Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore. more

VZW gains edge in global LTE race

Verizon Wireless’ (NYSE:VZ, NYSE:VOD) chances of launching the world’s first long-term evolution (LTE) network just improved. The first operator to launch a 3G network, NTT DoCoMo (NYSE:DCM) announced today that it will launch commercial 4G services in the final month of 2010. Verizon hasn’t given exact dates for its own deployment in 2010, except to say will launch the service commercially in 25 to 30 markets in the second half of the year. VZW might be planning a grand unveiling at the end of the year, turning on 100 million pops of network coverage in one fell swoop–and Verizon certainly isn’t opposed to theatrics–but it’s much more likely it will gradually roll the service out throughout the latter half of the year, beating NTT DoCoMo to punch in the process. more

Ericsson’s Nortel CDMA-LTE acquisition final

Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) today officially closed its acquisition of Nortel’s CDMA business and long-term evolution assets, allowing it to assume the mantle of largest telecom equipment vendor in North America.

The acquisition will add 2500 new employees to Ericsson’s ranks, most of them in Nortel’s wireless division HQ in the Dallas area and its R&D facilities in Ottawa, but also in China. They will join Ericsson’s wireless operations in the Dallas area, its San Jose-based IP division (formerly Redback Networks and Entrisphere) and the 6000 Sprint (NYSE:S) employees who will come over to Ericsson as part of its network management outsourcing deal with the CDMA operator. The resulting operations will make North America Ericsson’s largest market, surpassing even Europe in total revenues, as well as make it the largest telecom equipment vendor in the region, surpassing even Franco-American rival Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU)

“We’re now engaged with all of the major operators in North America,” said chief technology officer Hakan Eriksson, who last week announced his plans to relocate to San Jose to head up its IP business and raise Ericsson’s executive profile in the US. “We’ve gone from having a few thousand people in North America to–with the Nortel deal and the Sprint outsourcing contract–having around 14,000 employees. That makes it the largest group in Ericsson outside of Sweden.”

Ericsson paid $1.13 billion for the assets, which Nortel was forced to sell while in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Compettor Nokia Siemens Networks (NYSE:NOK, NYSE:SI) made the intial move on Nortel’s assets, bidding $650 million for its CDMA and LTE divisions. A bidding war ensued, however, which Ericsson wound up winning.

Open Mobile Summit growing despite the economy

The Open Mobile Summit may be a tiny show compared to its larger wireless counterparts CTIA Wireless and Mobile World Congress, but unlike those shows the summit is actually growing. In its second year, the event in San Francisco drew almost 400 attendees and speakers, nearly double last year’s attendance, despite the economic downturn. Robin Batt, the summit founder and director of Open Mobile Media, said show registration reached 70% of capacity six weeks before it was scheduled, prompting her to scale back on marketing and search for a larger venue.

“Last year, the writing was on the wall for openness, though not everybody was reading it,” Batt said. “Now everyone realizes open mobility is the future.” One major difference between this year’s events and last year’s was interest from the operators. Batt said she always intended the invent to be a neutral ground for carriers and developers to meet, unlike more operator-centric shows CTIA Wireless and MWC, but last year the event wound up being a forum for developers, wireless vendors and Internet companies. This year, carriers were represented in force.  John Donovan, chief technology officer for AT&T, and Cole Brodman, CTO for T-Mobile USA, delivered keynotes and carriers were well represented across the panels.

“Last year people thought it was going to be an anti-establishment show,” Batt said. “It would have been another thing if we had something called the Open Mobile Summit and stood around bitching about the carriers. Last year most carriers didn’t participate because that’s what they felt we were going to do. Carriers realized that that wasn’t the case.”

Not that there wasn’t any anti-operator sentiment at the show. Walt Mossberg, columnist for The Wall Street Journal, compared wireless operators to “Soviet ministries” during his introduction on the second day of the show, and he and the audience didn’t give Donovan much slack during a Q&A session after his keynote. But Donovan also drew applause when he suggested to the audience that openness shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the operators, but also of the device, software and applications community.

NSN reorg to slash work force, focus on partnerships, acquisitions

Faced with mounting competitive and financial pressures, Nokia Siemens Networks (NYSE:NOK, NYSE:SI) is launching a major overhaul, reorganizing its business into three divisions, focusing more attention on partnerships and acquisition, and contemplating cutting its work force by as much as 9%. more

Motorola ships 10,000th WiMax base station

Motorola (NYSE:MOT) has shipped 10,000 WiMax access points or base stations, drawing on 35 network contracts globally for the new 4G technology. more

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