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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 14th July 2008

In Today’s Issue: Some phone or other launched; “ZZZPhone” debunked; Verizon ODI dip stick; Launchcast “Dashboard” open to hackers, in a good way; Verizon - dangerously interesting?; Sprint pushes push-to-talk; iPhone Truphone; NTT DoCoMo on the unwise monster acquisition trail again; unwitting private equity fund sups with Richard Li, helps 3UK double its customer base; pass the separator, Mme Reding; Comcast in trouble with the FCC; open search at Yahoo!; the coming mobile data boom?

Apparently the 3G version of some device or other launched today….but beyond such trivia, there were far more interesting things going on in the industry. For a start, wouldn’t you like to design your own phone? It’s a cool idea, but you’re probably best starting with an OpenMoko; it turns out that the devices are actually a job lot of old ZTE stock and the orders tend not to be fulfilled.

Here’s something more, ah, fulfilling: the first Verizon ODI device is out! And it’s something genuinely interesting - a module that fits into a tank of liquid and reports the level of the contents by text message. That’s actually useful, and could actually make money for operators and users, which is why nobody’s going to promote it very much.

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless shipped the first gadgets with its “Dashboard” portal on board, aka Adobe Launchcast. More interestingly, details of it are being published so developers can make things to fit in with it; is Verizon gradually turning itself into one of the most interesting telcos around? FTTH, P4P, ODI, and this…which’ll come in handy, as they surrender to the falling price of SMS.

Quietly, Sprint gets some work in on its core voice & messaging products, rolling out its push-to-talk service to 47 new markets around the US. On the other hand, though; Truphone launches an implementation of its SIP client for the iPhone, but you can’t use it over-the-top on the 3G data network, because Apple doesn’t want its users burning the bundled data connectivity competing with the operators who both buy and subsidise the Jesus Phone.

Mike Elgan of Computerworld, meanwhile, asks the right question. Mobile phones have improved beyond measure in the last ten years - but what about calls? Hear, hear….literally.

The first rule of telecoms investment: don’t buy a Japanese network operator. The second: don’t buy a Japanese network operator’s good idea for use elsewhere. The third: if you are Japanese, don’t buy a foreign network operator. It is with a heavy heart that we read that NTT DoCoMo wants to buy stakes in foreign telcos again; oh dear.

Another piece of good advice is not to become a minority shareholder in anything Hutchison-related; there have been so many asset trades inside the empire that result in one-off gains for them and dilution for the others. Here go some private equity funds, looking at a 45% share of HKT. After all, 3UK will be wanting some capital if it’s going to double its business by 2012.

In the fixed world, meanwhile, they are about to feel the force of Viviane Reding for a change; so far the mobile operators have been the prime target, but now the European Commission is looking to push functional or structural separation across Europe. It might hurt at first, but it’s for your own good…

In other regulatory news, the FCC isn’t happy about Comcast and their Chinese Firewall-style use of spoof TCP RST messages to spork BitTorrent users.

They’re trying to buy Yahoo! again - that’s Microsoft and Carl Icahn, who’s apparently temporarily had enough of kicking Motorola around the pub car park like a sack of waste. Perhaps this is why? Yahoo! is introducing a platform to let third parties build their own specialised search service using Yahoo! APIs….which sounds cool.

And Informa crystal-ball merchants reckon we’re going to see mobile data volume race past voice in 2011.

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