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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 14th January 2008

This year, we’re focusing on seven themes in the industry; Investment and Market Valuations, Disruptive Threats, Two-Sided Business Models (a key theme in the forthcoming Platforms report), Adjacent Markets, Core Products and End-User Needs, and of course Regulation. So these news posts will be centred around these concerns.

Despite everything, it looks like Sprint is going ahead with the big WiMAX rollout; launch is scheduled for mid-April, and a gaggle of new contracts have been issued to hardware vendors like ZyXEL. The mob that is the Apple fanbase is working itself up over the thought that this year’s Macworld might see the launch of a WiMAX-capable device of some sort — apparently they’ve got ad banners reading “There’s something in the air”. There’s conclusive evidence for you.

However, it’s true that Sprint is looking at bundling WiMAX connectivity with devices, just as it wraps EV-DO data in the price of the Amazon Kindle (“In Amazon, book reads you!”), so perhaps there’s something in it. Meanwhile, China Mobile doesn’t want the iPhone.

It’s been a regular barrage of WiMAX news this week; the ITU has accepted it as a standard, and it looks like there’s a FDD radio air interface coming for use on legacy spectrum allocations. Libya is getting a public WiMAX network, using ZTE kit. Tunisia gets WiMAX. Russia gets WiMAX. Colombian state telecom is going to invest heavily in wireless Internet access; probably WiMAX. Sprint and T-Mobile USA want spare TV spectrum for their backhaul; fixed WiMAX anyone? Potential WiMAX operator Frontline Wireless, which was angling for a cut-price slice of the US 700MHz band in return for public-safety services, has gone bust. In Vietnam, however, they’re ripping out CDMA networks to shift to GSM; so is Rogers Wireless.

And we remember when a Very Important industry figure told us that WiMAX “wasn’t a commercial reality” at last 3GSM…

Speaking of commercial realities, it’s been a sub-theme of a lot of Telco 2.0 work that not only is ARPU falling around the world, but it’s increasingly irrelevant as a measurement of success in telecoms. Vision Mobile agrees, in a blog post you should read now. Even if you’re an Indian operator who just saw their customer base grow by 62%.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, has found a way of making fixed-line ARPU go up; harass VoIP users and soak down the GSM operators for interconnection. Microsoft, for its part, is pushing into the telco revenue base by threatening to charge users of Live Messenger; good luck with that.

The first efforts to get Google’s Android working on an actual gadget, rather than a software emulator, have succeeded. iPhone hackers, however, are still struggling and waiting for the promised SDK. Symbian S60 hackers might be more interested by the unpublicised accelerometer API Nokia is apparently planning to use for their next GUI.

Watch out, then. Because a mobile user interface that involves waving your hands about could combine with this scheme to blitz football crowds with Bluetooth ads, causing a weird software-mediated terrace ruck. That’s not taking any account of rootkit-ridden electronic photo frames and the like.

BT is reportedly relieved that OFCOM isn’t going to force it to roll out fibre; perhaps it was because the company just announced plans to wire up all major new developments with 100Mbits/s to the home. Ebbsfleet in Kent will provide the lucky guinea pigs; it seems that BT is going to maintain the structurally-separated Openreach model on fibre, letting customers pick one of multiple service providers using the new infrastructure. Good for them, we say.

Finally, Peer-to-peer IMS? That’s just…unnatural.

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