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Top Ten 2003 Vendor Bloviations

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
12/30/2003

Where would the wireless industry be without its potential to create a marketing storm in a teacup? For that matter, what the Tom Thumb would we write about?

2003 has seen both startups and incumbent players eager to tout (and possibly even "trout") their potential for market dominance, whether by predicting big contract wins, speedy product launch roadmaps, or just their all-round-general-industry-excellence-goddamit!

Problem is, such claims made months previous to the actual event have a nasty habit of returning to bite the arses of the folk that make them. To honor such wanton exuberance (and, indeed, arse-biting) Unstrung is proud to present our pick of the top ten boastful wireless faux pas from industry players this year.

No. 10: IPWireless Conquers the Carriers!

Alternative universal mobile telecommunications system (UMTS) equipment provider IPWireless Inc. just couldn’t stop waxing lyrical on its forecasted bevy of contract wins expected this year.

In April, marketing director Mark "Let Me Tell You About Our Customers" Pittick claimed the vendor was in trials with ten of the top 20 mobile carriers worldwide, but was unable to reveal names [ed. note: how conweeenient]. (See IPWireless's Stuck Record.)

In August, when the vendor finally managed to announce a meaningful contract win with AtlasONE Malaysia Sdn Bhd. [ed. note: it pvides BROADband cmmunctin SERVics, apparently] Pittick followed up with further big promises. “We are about to announce a bigger deal in the next four weeks in Europe! And another one in the Americas shortly after that! And some major mobile names towards the latter part of Q3 and into Q4!" [emphasis added] (See IPWireless Strikes Double Deal.)

Pitstop stopped short of claiming that his company would then invade Poland. However, the fact that Unstrung is still waiting for some of these "deals" [sic!] to flood in has somewhat reduced the credibility of these claims (and the gullibility of the reporters) round these parts.

No. 9: Tahoe: Feeling Much Better!

2003 went from bad to worse for troubled wireless router startup Tahoe Networks. Speculation over the vendor’s health (or lack of it) was rife all year, following a spate of layoffs and management restructuring, coupled with ongoing failure to deliver on previous promises of customer announcements (see Tata to Tahoe?, Tahoe's VP Roundabout, and Tahoe Loses Bodies).

At least one backer was keeping the faith though. “We are not out of business,” declared Geoff Yang, of the company’s VC partner Redpoint Ventures, in September (see Tahoe Tumbles On).

Clearly someone was Yangking old Geoff around. Five weeks later Nokia snapped up Tahoe's few remaining employees (see Nokia Sweeps Up Tahoe).

No. 8: Intel’s Chafing Chipsets

File under: Ooh, that smarts!

With a reported $300 million marketing budget for its 802.11b (11 Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) Centrino-branded product, you’d think Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) would be able to adhere to timescales for the launch of its 802.11a (54 Mbit/s over 5GHz) chipset variant (see Centrino: How Much?). Apparently not.

Despite rival vendors already shipping so-called multimode (a/b/g) chipsets for over a year, Intel struggled to confirm an exact date for its late arrival to the party.

Initially tagged for a March launch date, this was then pushed back a few months. “We’ve said publicly we’ll ship in the summer,” stated spokesman Dan "Golden Gaze" Francisco in June (see Intel Denies Dualmode Delay and Centrino Adds A, Not G).

Two delays and a long hot summer later, the a train finally came huffing and puffing into the station at the end of October (see Intel's A Train Arrives (At Last)).

No. 7: Lucent Misses UMTS Boat?

At the CeBIT tradeshow in March, Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) CEO Patricia Russo spoke bullishly of the vendor’s confidence for major success in the UMTS equipment market, even though the vendor had just two trials and no contracts to date.

“We are very confident about our technical capabilities and our trials with T-Mobile and Telefònica Mòviles,” she opined at the time. “The opportunities exist for us.” (See Lucent Sticking With UMTS.)

Ten months on, and the only slice of commercial UMTS action the company has seen are a handful of minor deals in Europe (see Lucent's 3G Bit Part and Lucent Does 3G in Seville ). Time, analysts believe, may be running out.

No. 6: Moto Mulls Euro 3G

Fellow U.S. vendor Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has also experienced limited success in the UMTS world.

Despite such troubles, the equipment maker swept into the GSM Congress at Cannes claiming it would emerge with 3G infrastructure deals from major Western European carriers “within a year,” claiming carriers will renegotiate their existing 3G rollout contracts (see Motorola Blows Hard on Euro 3G ).

The event was held in February, and so far there has been no word of a “major” deal on the Olde Continente. If the vendor is to keep its promise, the next two months will have to be very interesting.

No. 5: Hotspots Cool Down

Set up in March in an effort to enable roaming wireless LAN users to access global hotspot services, the Wireless Broadband Alliance was bullish from the outset in its goals for hotspot interoperability.

The Alliance secretary, the Amazing Shrikant Shenwai, told Unstrung that the venture wanted to see 26,000 hotspots (yes, that's thousand) accessible to all by the end of 2003 (see Hotspot Roaming Fires Up).

Such plans were later revealed to be somewhat unrealistic, with the alliance yet to iron out many aspects of roaming interoperability. “You can see the levels of complexities involved,” groaned a spokesperson (see WBA's Hotspot Hiccups?).

No. 4: Nokia Nixes on Capex

In July Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) chief executive Jorma Ollila said he expected no “major investment” from operators in the next eighteen months (see Nokia Dismisses Network Upturn).

Fast forward to October and fellow employee Jukka Bergqvist reckons carriers are beginning to ramp up investment in 3G networks (see Nokia Sees Network Boost). “There’s clearly change in the air,” he observed. “We’ve seen acceleration of third-generation networks after the summer holidays.”

Three months is obviously a long time in Northern Europe. That or the Nokia boys have been consuming a little too much of the local Finlandia.

No. 3: LogicaCMG Gets the Message

Messaging vendor LogicaCMG (London/Amsterdam: LOG) defended its relative lack of success in the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) market earlier this year by forecasting that the market was unlikely to become dominated by the likes of Nokia and LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) (see Duo Flexes MMS Muscles).

“No one is going to have a dominant position in MMS like Logica and CMG had in the SMS space,” said company spokesman Will Cameron.

By midyear Cameron was eating his words, as analyst estimates gave the Nordic vendors 70 percent control, with few major deals left on the shelf (see LogicaCMG Plays Catchup).

No. 2: Siemens Stalks Finns... Sort Of

Spurred on by a home crowd, Germany’s Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) surprised CeBIT visitors in March with the shock revelation that it expects to usurp Nokia as the No. 2 equipment vendor in the world (see Germans Stalking Finns ).

Siemens itself clearly hadn’t given the notion too much thought. When asked when it expects to take second prize, Volker Jung, a member of the company’s corporate executive committee, commented: “Er, well... I don’t know. We will try very hard and see what happens.”

What a Volker! Watch your backs Nokia, the Germans are coming [ed. note: sometime].

No. 1: A Kick in the Hutch

The Gold Medal for this year’s most impressive feat of ludicrous optimism is awarded to 3G startup Hutchison 3G UK Ltd.

Following a series of launch delays, the carrier finally managed to report a piddly 155,000 subscriber base at its first-half 2003 results in August. Despite a massive shortfall, the carrier was adamant it would sign up at least a further 845,000 by Christmas, enabling it to reach its targeted one million customer goal by year end (see Hutch Bullish on Targets). Analysts and industry watchers meanwhile were left shaking their heads in disbelief.

It wasn’t until November that Hutch finally admitted the aim was just a tad roseate (see Hutch's Subscriber U-Turn).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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