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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 19th May 2008

In Today’s Issue: Motorola in the psychiatric ward; Verwaayen takes a bow;Bharti/MTN deal in the offing; Vodafone buys social network app, customers; Orascom: Iraq, Syria, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and now Cuba; C&W soon to be C and W; data from space cheaper than SMS; Qualcomm in the UK; more mobile-TV alphabet soup; Sprint launches WiMAX, loses 1 million customers and Embarq wholesale contract; MacBooks with WiMAX?; new J2ME toolkits; Verizon Linux; NFC SIMs in Thailand; death of muni-WiFi

Oh dear. Evolving Excellence have a killer detail about the crisis at Motorola and the rather non-obvious solutions they’re adopting - namely, picking a CEO who refuses to use computers and cutting back on R&D. Because, you know, they stopped meaningful product development for two years after the RAZRs came out, and that worked so well. Not just that, but the new guy’s background at the company was in the automotive business, which they’ve now sold as non-core.

Let’s go through that again: you’re a mobile telecoms vendor with a serious crisis at the handsets operation due to a lack of good products. So obviously the answer must be to cut back on product development and appoint someone whose expertise is in a completely different business you sold because it had nothing to do with telecoms, who doesn’t actually use any of your products.

Well, it could work. Thanks to our old friends, British insularity and know-nothingism, nobody knew who the hell Ben Verwaayen was when he took over at BT back in 2001; couldn’t they have found a big name, like, Lord Mayo or someone? How long ago it now seems. Verwaayen signed off as CEO with another set of good results, meaning that despite much City scepticism (or rather, cynicism), the dividend target would indeed be hit. And more importantly, as we’ve pointed out before, BT continues to add “new wave” (i.e. ISP, WISP, BT Vision, Digital Vault, IP transit and Global Services) revenue faster than it loses steam voice, even if the LLU boom is weighing on the wholesale results. Telco 2.0 loved this, too:
He shrugged off questions about BT’s total shareholder return, saying a chief executive should never comment on the share price
Profit, and cashflow, people…

The MTN-Bharti deal edges closer; the parties have apparently agreed that the Bharti chairman should be chairman and the MTN CEO, CEO, and the new company should be dual-listed in Mumbai and Johannesburg. The price is somewhere between $41-44bn, to be paid in a mixture of cash and shares; the cash being fronted up by 31% owner of Bharti, SingTel. (Note the Great Indian Developer Summit coming up this week.)

So where is Vodafone? Apparently, they’re more interested in Zyb, a mobile social network app; makes a change for them. But if you think Vodafone takes risks on dodgy foreign acquisitions, try Orascom, who seem to be planning to add a Cuban network to a portfolio that has included Palestine, Syria, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Iraq. Vodafone is keeping up some traditions, though: they’re offering New Zealanders free ADSL with mobile phone contracts. Monetise that.

Cable & Wireless, having reorganised into two chunks and taken the unusual step of sacking several thousand customers, has been looking happier of late. So obviously it’s time to cash out before anyone notices; they’re looking at splitting up the two new divisions and floating them both. Interestingly, the UK half of the company has been renamed “EAU”, for “Europe, Asia, and the USA”; the other half is now called “International”, presumably because EAU is insufficiently so in itself. We haven’t seen corporate geography as odd since Vodafone created a European division that didn’t include France.

Meanwhile, it appears that data transfer from the Hubble Space Telescope costs less per bit than SMS; if you haven’t yet realised that your fat margins are almost entirely economic rent that the OTT-ers will compete away quick smart, this should be a red-flashing screamer warning that it’s time for new forms of voice and messaging.

Qualcomm has bought a spot of UK radio spectrum, which RCR News reckons it wants for “testing” purposes. Well, it could have something to do with their strategic relationship with Sky, right? Not that anyone else in Europe is at all interested in MediaFLO. In other mobile TV news, Korean vendors have joined a new standards body in the US; just what the industry needs.

Sprint-Nextel, wmeanwhile, announced the launch of their Mobile WiMAX network in Washington D.C and Baltimore, which is presumably why they’re reported to be after a ton of Gigabit Ethernet switches. Sprint also announced, with considerably less razzamatazz, that it had lost over a million subscribers in the first quarter. Not just that; the Telco USSR faces the final insult, as its spun-off landline arm Embarq announced it was taking its trade elsewhere.

Swooping in to the fine detail, you might be able to use your Apple MacBook with it: filings with the FCC show that Intel’s latest WLAN/WiMAX card fits the Mini PCI Express slot in the shiny.

There’s a new graphics toolkit for mobile Java around. Also at the Nokia Forum, there’s a truly scary diagram of the Mozilla Platform; it’s getting almost telco-esque in its complexity and the sophistication of the PowerPoint required to depict it.

The LiMo Foundation, the Motorola- and Access-backed mobile Linux community, has signed up a launch customer, as they say in the aircraft industry: Verizon. Apparently, they’re concerned that Google Android is insufficiently open. Heaven rejoices more over one sinner who repenteth; it wasn’t that long ago that Verizon was the evilest RBOC in the valley, the people who sued the FCC in an attempt to overturn the Carterfone ruling. Now they’re into mobile Linux and network-friendly P2P.

Some talk of NFC functions on the SIM, but the (slightly Orwellian-sounding) True Corporation of Thailand is deploying them, with the (rather large) caveat that to ensure it works, you’ve got to install a special antenna on the outside of your phone. Great.

No-one likes municipal Wi-Fi any more; and one of the very first deployments from the days of shiny-eyed geek idealism untempered by radio engineering has just died, as Earthlink announces the switch-off of its deployment in Philadelphia

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