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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 12th May 2008

In Today’s Issue: DTAG wants a monstermerger; T-Mobile USA subscriber surge; Sprint/Google/Clearwire/Cable/Intel; superduper HSPA; the coming US mobile broadband price war; profit at HTIL; cunning Charlie Dunstone; Broadband (breadth differs); some sort of device from Apple; TV needs a new business model; Vodafone vs MTN?; Huawei handsets havailable; BlackBerry discovers “fun”; poor KDDI results; TeliaSonera likes the FTTH; heart-controlled mobile games; Brough Turner is right

Deutsche Telekom boss Rene Obermann didn’t want to discuss the Sprint-Nextel order, but he did confirm that there will be a huge (and undoubtedly overpriced) foreign merger in the company’s future and that he wants the company to make two-thirds of its income abroad in the future.

That’s not necessarily such a bad idea. T-Mobile USA’s revenues were up 14% in the first quarter as the company claimed 981,000 net adds, even before the acquisition of SunCom Wireless was counted. Churn was marginally lower, too, and their UMTS network in New York was switched on. You could wonder what they would want Sprint for, especially now the big WiMAX deal is done. Yes, it’s finally happened - in the single biggest act of vendor financing in the history of telecoms, Sprint has sold 49% of its WiMAX operation to a consortium including rival WiMAX op Clearwire, Google, Intel, and a squad of cable operators. The game is clearly to spread the cost of a national roll-out between Sprint and Clearwire, to find alternative sources of funding for the roll-out, and for Intel to guarantee the job gets done in their home market.

But the really interesting thing is that the new entity has signed a wholesale agreement with Google. So yes, Google could soon be in the mobile or ISP markets. At least, it’s taken out an option to get in, which gives it critical leverage on key regulatory issues. And it gets to be the default search engine on all Sprint mobiles. At the same time, they are announcing their own take on Yahoo! OneConnect-style stalkerware.

DTAG might not want Sprint for the WiMAX, anyway, especially in the light of this story. Mobilkom Austria announced they were getting speeds over 10MBits/s out of Nokia Siemens HSPA kit, specifically the “Internet HSPA” option, which breaks out Internet traffic at the RNC level. If the HSPA people can deliver that, you’d be forgiven for thinking DTAG might just skip on the others. That makes five national mobile-IP networks in the US. Hello, price war!

Rather surprising news: contrary to long-standing tradition, Hutchison’s telecoms holding company HTIL has declared a profit. Just remember that too much champagne really does deliver a terrible hangover.

Carphone Warehouse, meanwhile, sold 50 per cent of its European shops to US retailer Best Buy, in exchange for an in on Best Buy’s chain in the US. The deal is valued at £1.1bn, and you have to remember that Charles Dunstone still owns 30% of the shares. No wonder he’s such an enthusiast.

Less enthusiastic were the good people at telecoms.com over BT’s new “Broadband Anywhere” offer. You get an HTC smartphone and some BT Openzone WLAN thrown in, and a 10Mb monthly data allowance. Well, it’s one way of fighting the broadband incentive problem [PDF], even if describing GPRS as “broadband” may set some kind of record.

According to Telephony Online, Apple may be about to launch some kind of mobile phone. Really? They’ve even managed to sell all the existing ones, apparently. And the new one will at last be a 3G device; which would be handy if you want to use the new native TV streaming client. Regarding television, meanwhile, their colleague Carol Wilson reckons that ads in Web video or IPTV will never replace the lost revenue from classic TV ads and subscription — where have we heard this before? She reckons we’ll need to come up with a new business model.

If you don’t want to, you could still go chasing emerging market growth: it’s rumoured that Vodafone is thinking of wading into the MTN-Bharti deal. It makes sense, in a grimly Telco 1.0 aggressive sort of way — Vodafone loves its South African (Vodacom) and Indian (Hutch Essar) investments, so why not some more?

What connects MTN and Bharti, by the way? Possibly this new submarine cable from Europe to India. MTN is one of the companies in the consortium working on it, which could be handy.

It’s becoming something of a trend that you can’t go to China for cheap labour any more. Those days are gone. So it comes as no great surprise to see Huawei looking for buyers for a stake in its handsets operation, perhaps as part of a strategy to get it listed on a Western stock market, or perhaps because they’re the latest megavendor to decide that handsets are no fun. Especially not super-serious RIM BlackBerries: but what is this? It’s a triband HSDPA Blackberry for the super-executive suit, with… music. Are they going soft?

KDDI might be, with an unexpected loss of subscribers. However, they claim it’s due to the termination of an older network and the transfer of its subs. TeliaSonera, meanwhile, joins KPN among carriers who are learning that their wholesale sides can profit from The FTTH Menace.

Meanwhile, Paul Coulton at the Nokia Forum shows off an unusual form of user interface — mobile games controlled by your heart rate. And finally, some wisdom from Brough Turner:

The ultimate solution for any activation process is to get rid of it
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Does anyone have experience of mobile broadband coverage in Cornwall? I travel down their regularly and am thinking about signing up with a mobile broadband provider but have heard coverage can be poor in some rural areas. I've been looking at various different mobile broadband providers here: http://www.broadband-expert.co.uk/broadband/mobile and am leaning towards Vodafone.

Any advice would be great. I don't want to sign up and find I'm paying for a product that doesn't work!

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