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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 30th June 2008

In Today’s Issue: WiFi in your car; connectivity included with O2UK iPhones; Nokia buys Symbian and gives it away; LiPS and LiMo; OpenMoko ships; Sony Ericsson struggling; Reding terminates 70% of termination fees; France Telecom hits the silk from the Telia deal; T-Mobile USA launches femtoVoIP; FemtoForum+NGMN=sense; where is the network API? probably not in the IMS; Blyk expands; FISA fight goes on; T-Mobile UK goes down; Vodafone to buy Ghana Telecom?

Just what I always wanted — WiFi in the car. Chrysler’s UConnect product will essentially give some vehicles a WLAN router with a 3G radio modem for the backhaul. The interesting question will, of course, be the business model. Chrysler says there will “be no tie-in to long term contracts”, but it’s going to be hard to get this off the ground without some element of two-sidedness — perhaps by bundling connectivity in the car as an optional extra, or doing something clever with GPS and localised ads.

You’d better hope the WLAN is encrypted by default, or the term “wardriving” will take on a whole new layer of meaning as hackers chase open WLAN vehicles down the freeways of California, trying to stay in range just long enough to finish that torrent download, or to spork the satnav display with a specially crafted packet. All your SUV are belong to us.

That’s if their attention isn’t distracted by one of this week’s wave of shiny gadget developments. For a start, pricing and launch details of the 3G iPhone are leaked; it looks like O2 in the UK will bundle data connectivity with the prepaid version for the first six months. It’s astonishing; you show a carrier an iPhone and they’ll sign anything.

More seriously, Nokia spent the equivalent of two years’ Symbian royalties buying out the other partners in Symbian, before immediately promising to transform the software house into an open-source foundation. We’d say more about it here, but we’re saving ourselves for a much more detailed post on the issue, so watch this space. It’s an interesting thought, however - what would have happened had Psion decided to open-source the whole thing when they gave up on mobile back in 2001? Another one for the “great moments in the failure of British industry” file.

Almost immediately, there was more mobile open source activity — the LiPS (Linux Phone Standards) Forum has merged with the slightly better-known LiMo Foundation. It’s a sensible move on the face of it - LiMo’s membership contained more carriers and developers, whereas LiPS had more hardware vendors, so the merger will help to provide a comprehensive Linux environment from the silicon up.

Compared to LiMo, the plans for the Symbian Foundation look…not very open at all. But there is one mobile-Linux group who are even open-er than LiMo - yes, up to 1000% more bigger openosity now! It’s the OpenMoko community, makers of the Neo1973 and FreeRunner all-open-source, glatt kosher mobile phone. Well, it’s in the shops, or rather, available through a group of selected e-tailers. Pricing in the UK is around £272 from Truebox. We’ll see your iPhone and raise you…

No wonder Sony Ericsson is looking green at the gills. It’s profits warning time; apparently the economic downturn has hit its speciality of midmarket fashion gadgets disproportionately hard. Smartphone sales are holding up reasonably well, cheaper devices are benefiting from trading-down, but the midmarket shinies suffer.

And the carriers have no business smiling, either; here comes Viviane Reding again. The European Commission has published more details of its plans on mobile termination fees — it wants them cut by around 70 per cent. Ouch! It’s enough to make you abandon a misguided monster merger. Like France Telecom just did. We didn’t think much of the attempt to buy TeliaSonera to begin with, and now it looks like it’s a dead’un. It just wasn’t a good idea in the first place…after all, you could be improving your crucial voice and messaging products, like T-Mobile USA. They’re offering a $10/month unlimited VoIP service to all their cellular customers, on condition they get a “router” which we think is probably a femtocell.

It’s a smart move; not only are they competing sharply on price, they’re doing so using their competitors’ costs. And, as we’ve often pointed out, CPE is an underexploited opportunity for fixed operators to astonish their customers and mobile operators to infiltrate the fixed subscribers’ front rooms. So we’re also pleased to see that the NGMN, the carriers’ talking shop on 4G, is talking to the Femto Forum about including femtocell support in the LTE or WiMAX standards.

As well as improving your core voice and messaging products, what else should you be doing? That’s right, exposing key enablers as APIs so third-party developers can create interesting new services, while redesigning your business to gain upstream revenues. Gary Kim of IPCarrier asks where the network API is. He seems to reckon IMS might help. And Blyk has announced its ad-funded virtual operator is expanding into Germany, Spain, and Belgium.

Finally, thanks to Senator Chris Dodd, the FISA fight goes on; T-Mobile UK’s data service goes down, hard; and Vodafone may buy into Ghana Telecom.

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T-mobile isn't using femtocells - the HotSpot@Home service is based on dual mode handsets that use WiFi in the home.

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