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Au Revoir, 3G Schmoozefest

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
2/26/2004

CANNES, France -- 3GSM Congress -- As the annual wireless orgy of industry back-slapping draws to a close, Unstrung reports on the events that actually stood out amongst the dearth of real news on offer.

The best of friends? Voodoo warms to Nokia
Nokia Corp.'s (NYSE: NOK) press conference on Monday set the tone for the rest of the event, with CEO Jorma Ollila and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) head honcho Arun Sarin cozying up to one another in an attempt to put on a united front for the world's media.

Lest we be swept up in the feel-good fervor, recall that Vodafone's favored 3G network supplier is actually Nokia archrival LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) and that in the past, Vodafone has publicly opted not to work with the Finnish vendor on its Live! service launches.

When asked when if Voodoo would use Nokia's 3G phones, Sarin delayed a few seconds before replying in the positive. A Vodafone presentation involving a slide of a Sharp Electronics Corp. cell phone also raised a few chuckles.

Most notable absentee of the week: Hutchison 3G
Despite the show's rather obvious focus and the market's strong [ed. note: desperate?] desire to finally get these pesky 3G networks up and running, the event was memorable for the complete absence of the only global carrier to have actually launched such a service. Perhaps Hutchison 3G Ltd. believes its marketing dollars are better spent attempting to ramp up its much-maligned subscriber base? (see Hutch's Subscriber U-Turn)

LogicaCMG's Carribean Dream
The messaging vendor was keen to tout its set of nineteen MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) carrier deals worldwide -- notching up what it claims is a 24 percent market share against rivals Nokia and Ericsson (see LogicaCMG Wins MMS Deals).

This is a respectable showing in light of past Nordic dominance, but on closer inspection the bevy of wins includes the not-so-lucrative islands of Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, Anguilla, Turks & Caicos, St. Lucia, Aruba....

Of course, LogicaCMG (London/Amsterdam: LOG) bases its market-share figure on the number of contracts won, rather than the revenue gained from such deals.

Playing the 3G Blame Game
Carriers and handset vendors spent the week pointing fingers at one another over who is to blame for the delays in commercial 3G network launches. Vodafone's Sarin made clear his frustration at the lack of quality 3G handsets, a view echoed by T-Mobile International AG and mmO2 plc.

Meanwhile, Ericsson and Nokia struck back with the argument that the carriers are to blame for not having their networks fully prepared for handset testing.

Calm down, children....

Hype of the week: Bring on HSDPA!
W-CDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) network rollouts may be experiencing severe delays amidst concern over long-term potential for revenue success, but that hasn't stopped vendors from bleating on about the benefits of future so-called 3.5G HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) technology [ed. note: 3.5G? Oh puh-leeze].

With W-CDMA still a distant dream in much of Europe, some guilty vendors spent the week talking up the near-term potential of HSDPA. According to Reuters, Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) expects trials to start next year and is confident that market volume will start to build up around 2006, while Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) said it will roll out its offering in next year's first quarter (see HSDPA to the Rescue? for more info on the standard).

"It is a 2005 technology," claims Motorola Inc.'s (NYSE: MOT) Margaret Rice-Jones, corporate vice president and general manager of its GTSS EMEA division.

Hmmm... anyone beg to differ?

À bientôt, mes amis!

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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