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Dolphin Gets Canned

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
3/30/2004

Troubled U.K. carrier Dolphin Telecommunications Ltd. has filed for administration [ed. note: Brit-speak for Chapter 11] for the second time in its six-year history, casting further doubt on prospects for the much hyped European push-to-talk (PTT) market, according to analysts.

Established in 1998, the country’s only digital Tetra (terrestrial trunked radio) carrier ploughed over $500 million into network infrastructure from Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK).

Dolphin’s services are aimed at mobile workforces in the logistics, public sector, and construction industries, offering a public radio technology similar to Nextel Communications Inc.'s (Nasdaq: NXTL) successful iDen PTT functionality (see Nextel's Nationwide Walkie-Talkie).

PTT-type technology allows people to use their handsets as walkie-talkies, merely pushing a button to talk to another user or group of users.

Dolphin originally filed for administration in August 2001 and was acquired by Qualcomm-backed Inquam Ltd. for just £25 million (US$46 million) in June the following year (see Qualcomm JV Buys UK Network).

Despite improvements in handset technology and a series of targeted marketing campaigns, it appears the company has been unable to brake its decline (see Dolphin Frees Up Group PTT and Dolphin Intros Nokia Handset).

Analysts argue the failure of Dolphin casts a shadow over recent hype surrounding the rollout of PTT-type services in Europe (see Orange Pushes Startup, MMO2 Joins PTT Gang and Europe Catches PTT Bug).

“The idea [of Dolphin] was to become the European version of Nextel by offering push-to-talk services to the business community,” comments Ovum Ltd.'s research director Dr Jeremy Green. “It is interesting that in all the hype and fluff about push-to-talk there is little reflection on the state of Dolphin. It’s odd that vendors don’t feel the need to say why it is going to be different next time.”

Dolphin today declined to comment on the situation. A posting on its Website states that “the affairs, business and property of the company are being managed by the joint administrators [KPMG].”

"We are trading the business normally, and are in touch with a number of potential purchasers of the business,” comments KPMG administrator Richard Heis. “We urge any interested parties to contact us as soon as possible."

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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