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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 26th August 2008

In Today’s Issue: Mobile gambling, music in Uganda; HSPA in Senegal; profits bashed at TA; freeee calls with Gizmo and Asterisk; Qtel keeps expanding; Hutchison wins on mobile broadband; P4P goes to SIGComm; the talking dog browser; fake queues for iPhones; Forbes vs Forum Nokia - fight! fight! fight!; 3G iPhone vs Nokia N73; Android out, no Bluetooth or Gtalk; Nortel buys a world; Embarq kits out for more unicomms; BT wins termination fees lawsuit

Think there’s still a telco-dominated high growth world out there in the emerging markets? Yes, we mean you, Vodafone… Warid Telecom has just announced its new gaming and flat-rate music subscription service, in Uganda. Said Warid’s COO:
“We have been pleasantly surprised by the response of the consumers to these services and will strive to make a mobile phone go beyond mere voice telephony to a complete 360 degree consumer experience.”
Meanwhile, Senegal gets its first HSDPA upgrades from Orange; so far it’s a trial with 200 customers, described as mostly being journalists, but it’s a start.

Unsurprisingly, with these signs of abundant cheap bandwidth spreading, it gets ever harder to make money from telcos - especially the fixed-line kind. Telekom Austria reported first-half numbers, with profits down 26% as its fixed operation was battered.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise. Throughout telecoms history, a fixed factor has always been that people will go to incredible lengths to make phone calls without paying - dangling coins on strings into payphone slots, blowing plastic whistles into their handsets, reverse-engineering their own switch tone emulators, running VoIP clients. Check out this guide to extracting free SIP peering with Gizmo, Asterisk, and one of various free SIP proxies. You have to wonder if it’s worth it for the free calls alone.

You also have to wonder whether, in the light of all this gloom, buying a telco is the best move ever. But Qtel is apparently not going to stop, at least not until something breaks. It will be interesting to see what the upshot of Vodafone moving into their home market is. Despite it all, Hutchison managed to sharply cut its losses; interestingly, they say that their 1.5 million mobile broadband users generate less ARPU but more gross margin than their phone subscribers.

Meanwhile, apparently there’s something called P4P about. The only new thing in the story is that the technology is going to be presented as a paper at SIGComm this year; all good news, we say. Whilst we’re on the subject of new technology, have you spoken to your mobile Web browser today? Me neither; it’s not what we mean when we say we need new forms of voice and messaging…

Orange Poland was caught out paying actors to queue for 3G iPhones, which throws a nicely ironic light on the Forbes article Gabor Torok fisks at Forum Nokia. Yes, guaranteeing interoperability is quite easy when there are only two devices involved. Relatedly, an experiment demonstrates that the iPhone’s 3G radio problem may not be that serious. However, the Nokia N73 still beat it out, and that’s hardly the newest gadget around.

Android is out in beta, but apparently it doesn’t have Bluetooth support; perhaps Google will add it in the production version. But then, Google does have a habit of leaving everything in beta status for a very long time…more details are here, and the official announcement is at the Android Developers’ Blog. They mention something everyone else doesn’t, which is that as well as Bluetooth, this version is missing Google Talk support - which is a pity for those of us who were hoping for a wave of Android-powered innovation in the industry’s core business, voice.

Nortel Networks may be trying something in that line - they’ve bought a specialist virtual worlds firm in something called “Project Chainsaw”. But for the time being, Embarq is concentrated on its hosted-VoIP products for enterprises. That’s sense. And some fixed line operators do succeed; BT won the termination fees row in the UK.

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