LR Mobile's 2011 Wireless Turkeys



"The bird, bird, bird, bird is the word."

It's that time of year again, so we've picked five tech events or trends worthy of some mud-slinging, raised eyebrows or desultory chuckles for our wireless turkeys of 2011.

There was plenty to choose from this year, so feel free to tell us why you love or hate our choices, or chime in with some of your own:

The AT&T/T-Mobile merger: Ma Bell's quagmire
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s $39 billion bid for T-Mobile US Inc. may have appeared to be a bold move in March but increasingly appears to a quagmire for Ma Bell. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has now called for a review of the merger, following the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice looking into the acquisition and continued sniping from competitors and consumer groups.

Part of the problem may be that AT&T oversold the idea that it absolutely needed T-Mobile to be able to deploy Long Term Evolution (LTE) across America. Looking into it, T-Mobile simply doesn't own that many towers in rural areas but adds radio density for AT&T in urban areas. A legal letter inadvertently leaked in August, meanwhile, indicated AT&T had estimated that it would cost an additional $3.8 billion to expand its LTE footprint beyond the 80 percent coverage in the U.S. without T-Mobile on board -- in other words, organic expansion would cost less than T-Mobile would. (See Big AT&T & T-Mobile 4G Buildout Ahead? and AT&T: What It Loses Without T-Mobile.)

LightSquared's GPS mess
The would-be wholesale LTE provider has signed up an impressive roster of partners for its proposed hybrid satellite and 4G network. But thanks to GPS interference issues, it's still waiting for the FCC to allow it to get services started. Potential problems with LightSquared's L-Band base stations' powerful terrestrial signals (the claim is that they can be heard by GPS receivers in the adjacent band that have been tuned to look for weak signals from space) came into wider public focus in April. Since then, LightSquared has missed a test deadline, heard from the military and politicians, and repeatedly sparred with the GPS industry. Despite proposed fixes, the Philip Falcone-backed venture still awaits approval from the FCC as 2012 closes in.

RIM's October surprise
It's been a nasty year for BlackBerry in general as it fights to keep market share ascendant against Android and the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone. So, the four-day outage that hit the company in October was a particularly unwelcome surprise. The BlackBerry email and messaging service outages started on Monday in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and spread to India, Latin America and eventually North America as RIM struggled to soothe its battered servers. (See RIM's Three-Day Service Disruption Spreads and Euronews: BlackBerry Outage Hits Millions.)

HP's tablet double-back
In August, HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) killed the WebOS division it created after it bought Palm in April 2010. It also sold off the $499 WebPad tablet at $99. The resulting rush for the bargain-basement tablet caused HP to manufacture another batch to fill "demand." All of which gave rise to the perception that HP didn't seem to have a direction for its mobile strategy. At time of writing, HP has done nothing to shake that off, as it is still not clear how it will license, sell off or spin off the WebOS unit. (See HP Shuts Down WebOS Device Biz, OS Watch: What’s Up With WebOS? and HP Brings TouchPad Back From the Dead.)

Android's malware malady
The success of the open source Android mobile operating system has made it a favorite target in 2011, according to our sister publication, Dark Reading.

"Android took the lead in 2011 as the most often attacked mobile computing platform. With more than 45 percent share of the smart phone market, it's no surprise Android is the leading attacked platform," Adam Powers, CTO of Lancope told Dark Reading. "As we've seen with the Windows desktop OS, attackers follow the masses. Android smart phones offer softer targets compared to Apple's iOS and Blackberry OS. Market share combined with an accommodating attack surface have put Android phones in the crosshairs of many attackers."

Google engineer Chris DiBona has hit back by going after the vendors themselves, claiming that the companies are "playing on your fears" to sell antivirus software for Android and other mobile OSes. "They are charlatans and scammers," DiBona writes in a blog. His point is that a virus -- in the desktop computer sense of the word -- doesn't exist for the major mobile operating system. This doesn't, however, stop unlucky or incautious users from downloading malware or spyware onto their phones, nor does it prevent wireless attacks through avenues like Bluetooth connectivity.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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