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CTIA: Wireless News You Can Use

ORLANDO, Fla. — Studies have shown that red-blooded American carriers think about it every six seconds or less. ARPU, that is: average revenue per user. When they are not figuring out new services to drive up what subscribers spend on wireless data, they’re coveting their neighbor’s ARPU. This fact is driven home walking around the conference center where the CTIA Show is being held this year. “Want more ARPU? We can get you more ARPU,” is the brash promise radiated by banner advertising. One large, brightly colored sign in the exhibition hall simply reads (you guessed it): “ARPU.”

With this in mind, Unstrung brings you a roundup of CTIA news that focuses on network operators’ favorite four letter word.

Texting USA: Short messaging services (SMS) have certainly helped give wireless data services credibility and generated some fat revenues in the rest of the world. Now the stage is set for the same to happen in the U.S.

Sprint Corp. has finally joined its wireless rivals and will start allowing its subscribers to send two-way SMS text messages to people on other cellphone networks across the U.S. The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) says that it has been working with operators since December to develop the framework for intercarrier messaging. Verizon Communications Inc. is now the only major operator not to offer inter-carrier SMS; but that is likely to change, as it is part of the CTIA project.

Wherever I Take My Phone Is Home: AT&T Wireless says it has signed more than 25 agreements to allow its subscribers to roam on networks in other countries. The agreements will enable subscribers to make calls in the U.K, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Spain, and Taiwan.

AT&T is able to do this because it’s in the process of replacing its old TDMA (time-division multiple access) network with a GSM (global system for mobile communications) system, which is the standard in Europe and popular in the rest of the world. AT&T will also offer GPRS (general packet radio service) high-speed data roaming where other operators have GPRS, which is a GSM overlay. However, U.S. customers will still require a dual-band phone if they wish to go a’roaming, because GSM operates in different parts of the radio spectrum in the U.S. and Europe.

Microsoft’s Cellular Adventure: Microsoft Corp. continues its drive for carrier partners. Sprint and Verizon said they will offer Audiovox Communications Corp.’s Thera Pocket PC wireless device to subscribers on their new CDMA 2000 1X networks, which will offer faster data services than current networks. Verizon has launched its 1X service in the northeastern U.S.; Sprint plans to have its service up and running nationwide in the summer. Microsoft announced partnerships with major European carriers, including mm02 PLC and Deutsche Telekom AG earlier this year.

I-mode Redux: Don’t hold your breath for I-mode in the U.S., even though the wireless data service now has acquired an eye-popping 31 million subscribers in Japan, two years after it was started. With a smooth European launch under its belt NTT DoCoMo had a massive booth at CTIA but still no word on service stateside. I-mode, or something like it, is probably a year or more away from a U.S. launch, according to Zelos Group’s principal analyst, Seamus McAteer. The holdup is NTT’s partner in the U.S., AT&T Wireless. “There are problems that they have to deal with first,” McAteer says.

For instance, AT&T has to complete its GSM/GPRS rollout so that it can run the I-mode service over a faster, packet-based connection more suitable for the multimedia content that has made the system so popular. The other sticking point, McAteer reckons, is the price of the handsets, which will likely be anything from around $400 up to $600. AT&T wants to get out of the business of subsidizing handsets, McAteer comments.

Not Waving But Dialing: Siemens AG has – intentionally or not – come up with the marketing freebie that best indicates the current state of the wireless industry: an inflatable mobile phone that doubles as a flotation device. There is a “wireless fashion show” at CTIA, but Unstrung’s very own style council isn’t swayed by cellphones in shades of metallic mauve or taupe. We nominate the mobile life raft as this season’s réquisite.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
http://www.unstrung.com
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