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The Norwegian Post and Telecommunications Authority has announced the winners of its latest spectrum auction, with one of the three successful bidders an unknown company whose identity has become the focus of much speculation. Challenger Tele2 came away empty-handed and must now look to address the holes in its spectrum portfolio.
Incumbent operators Telenor and TeliaSonera, which operates in Norway as Netcom, each bagged 2 x 10MHz in the 800MHz band, 2 x 5MHz at 900MHz and 2 x 10MHz at 1800MHz. The third winner, which collected the same allocations at 900MHz and 800MHz but 2 x 20MHz at 1800MHz is an unknown quantity.
The new operator is called Telco Data, according to the Norwegian regulator’s announcement, and local reports suggest that the firm has only come into being inside the last week and is backed by a big name foreign player. It is currently being represented by a legal firm and it is understood that it will unveil its true identity in the new year.
Meanwhile Tele2, which operates Network Norway, came away empty handed. CEO Mats Granryd said in a statement that he was “obviously not satisfied with the outcome of the auction,” but added that the firm will make further efforts to gain access to 1800MHz spectrum in future.
Three blocks of 5 x 1800MHz blocks have yet to be allocated, the Norwegian regulator said, and Tele2 will likely be pursuing these to bolster its existing spectrum holdings, which are substantially smaller than those of its competitors.
The operator has 2 x 20MHz at 2100MHz, which it is licensed to use through to 2032. But its 900MHz allocation must be returned to the regulator in the third quarter of next year, a spokesman told Telecoms.com. The operator is in the process of deploying an LTE network, with 2,000 sites and 75 per cent population coverage in place, the spokesman said. But without anything other than 2100MHz frequency it faces challenges in terms of coverage.
The firm stressed its focus on partnerships, adding that its experience in this area will be “valuable going forward” and it may well now look to partner with another operator to gain access to spectrum in the lower bands.
Google is in the process of coordinating mobile development for native Chrome apps according to multiple reports. Given the richness of HTML5 the move, if successful, could be much more disruptive than anticipated, potentially challenging established mobile virtualisation incumbents like Citrix and enterprise mobile app providers more broadly.
According to a GitHub repository led by a software developer at Google and first spotted by The Next Web, the company is in the process of putting together a toolkit that will help developers create hybrid Chrome / native apps running on Android and iOS.
The company hopes to have a beta version of the toolkit by January 2014, and suggests apps developed with the toolkit could be available through Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, although it is unclear how the latter will be achieved as Apple typically forces developers to use its SDK for any apps sold through the App Store.
These apps are fairly powerful, and speak to how much Google has invested in HTML5, one of Larry Page’s “big bets”, and down the line the results of the company’s efforts may even start to disrupt mobile virtualisation and enterprise app incumbents like Citrix and Microsoft (respectively) as these businesses look to bring their productivity and collaboration offerings to a range of mobile platforms in the form of mobilised legacy apps.
Porting Chrome apps to a range of platforms could help bring powerful applications to a range of mobile platforms beyond Chrome OS, a logical extension for Google, and offload much of the heavy lifting to the browser while creating minimal work for developers looking for cross-platform access.
“In general, I like what I see, but I also don’t,” said Rafael Laguna, co-founder and chief executive officer of Open-Xchange, a software as a service pioneer offering a web-based collaboration and productivity suite. “What Google does is make the hybrid model available only on Chrome, which is a good step in the right direction. But really what they should be doing is offering a purely web-based model.”
Laguna, who says he’s also bet the company on the prospect that HTML5 will be the UI programming language of the future for all devices, explained that what Google is doing is only an interim step to realising a fully web-based model for deploying apps on mobile platforms, reducing platform dependency. “Now we’re at the stage where these browsers actually become the operating system for the device – Chrome OS does that, Firefox does that, the mobile extensions are just another step in this strategy. LightDesk does the same thing for the Firefox browser,” he said.
One of the key features Google is bringing to the table here is offline working and syncing, the lack of which being a big barrier for enterprises looking to replace legacy apps with more flexible web-based offerings developed by a new generation of SaaS providers. This often leads businesses to go down the path of virtualising legacy apps at great cost (financially and performance-wise), or using the cloud-based versions of those applications (i.e. Office365), which can be equally costly.
Part of the challenge, Laguna explains, is related to the lack of HTML5 standards: “When we set to work on the HTML5 generation of our product we thought we would have had offline syncing by now. But unfortunately we don’t because there is no offline mechanism that works in all browsers, and we don’t only want to support one browser.”
“The HTML5 standardisation process has really gone up and down over the years. There are actually three or four different possible implementations for offline syncing being proposed but no one can agree on what the standard should be, and each browser has a different file system approach. A lot of this comes down to browser politics, there are three or four big browser providers and they all have to make it work between them but they all have particular interests at play, too.”
He continued: “It seems sometimes that companies like Apple and Microsoft don’t want to be too good on the browser side because they want to protect their proprietary native applications,” he said. “Google is between a rock and a hard place in more or less the same way. Of course they’re trying to offload this by having Chrome everywhere, which is also their control point, but still they need to be careful not to go against standards too much, as they have with discontinuing CalDAV in favour of their proprietary calendar API for example,” he said, adding that, much like adding offline synchronisation, the recent mobile-focused push on Chrome is in part a bid to nudge people towards Google’s services.
“We’re not yet at the point where the web is as robust as native applications, but we’re getting there,” he concluded.
US operator AT&T has announced the launch of a tariff that separates device costs from monthly service fees. The firm claims the plans will save customers $15 per month on average.
The operator’s Mobile Share Value plans are available for subscribers who pay the cost of their smartphone in monthly instalments with AT&T’s Next service, already have their own smartphone or buy the device at full retail price.
The plan includes shared data as well as unlimited voice and SMS, and consumers can connect up to 10 devices, including tablets and other wireless devices. Business customers will be able to connect up to 25 devices. The plans offer data options ranging from 1GB up to 50GB.
In March, rival T-Mobile USA also abolished handset subsidies for premium devices in favour of an interest-free scheme that separates the cost of the device from the cost of network service and annual service contracts were also withdrawn.
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The government wants to make the UK a world centre for the testing and development of driverless cars
The UK government will open a £10m fund in early 2014 to test innovative solutions to deliver superfast broadband services to remote areas of the UK. It has also pledged to make the UK a centre for the testing and development of driverless cars.
The fund is part of the UK’s national infrastructure plan, which details how the government intends to invest over £375bn into public and private sector infrastructure investment.
The £10m figure may be used to enhance mobile services, although “new fixed technologies” and “alternative approaches to structuring” have also been mentioned as investment opportunities.
Commenting on the announcement, a spokesperson for UK operator Vodafone said: “The government’s decision is a real step in the right direction and signals a willingness to be pragmatic when it comes to rural broadband. Wireless 4G is better value for money and is the best technology to help close the digital divide between urban and rural Britain.”
The government is also looking to help the UK develop driverless car technology and will conduct a review to ensure that the legislative and regulatory framework to support this aim by late 2014. It will also create a £10m prize fund for a town or city to become a testing ground for driverless cars.
The investment builds on the 2013 announcement in which the government outlined plans for £100bn of capital investment in infrastructure projects.
Deutsche Telekom has announced a strategic partnership with Twitter to create a tailored experience for the operator’s devices
German carrier Deutsche Telekom has announced a strategic partnership with Twitter, allowing subscribers with selected Android smartphones to keep up with the social site directly from their home screen. The service will launch next year, initially in Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, Greece and Croatia.
In addition, the operator will be a preferred partner for Twitter for marketing, advertising and customer services opportunities on Twitter.
“Twitter shows how lively a communication in 140 characters is,” said René Obermann, CEO at Deutsche Telekom.
“We experience this in our daily dialogue with our clients for example via our customer care account ‘Telekom hilft’ (Telekom Supports). With the cooperation with Twitter we will reach even more people in the future even better.”
Last month, Deutsche Telekom posted a €588m profit for 3Q13 after posting a €7bn loss in the same period of 2012. The group’s net revenue grew six per cent year on year to reach €15.5bn. Organic revenue growth – adjusted for changes to the Group such as the inclusion of the US operator MetroPCS and exchange rate effects – grew 2.4 per cent.
Ultra Mobile is aiming to disrupt the market with an international call plan starting at $19 per month
US MVNO Ultra Mobile, already disruptive with its free international texting plan, has launched an international calling plan packing 1,000 minutes for $19 per month.
The firm, which operates on the T-Mobile USA network, said its service eliminates the need for calling cards and global texting add-ons. The included international minutes can be used to call more than 70 countries and unlimited SMS texts go to more than 190 countries.
“We wanted to make an international call just like any other call,” said Chris Furlong, EVP of Ultra Mobile product development and marketing. “It shouldn’t require add-ons or calling cards or cost half a month’s rent; it should just be a call. Most of our customers are immigrants who came to America for equality, education and opportunity. If we can indeed make their lives in the United States a little better and the world a little smaller, we are delivering on our mission.”
Furlong added that Ultra Mobile is planning to continue extending the country destinations for the service, but the firm is facing challenges due to different global political climates.
“We are reaching a point where politics is placing a much larger role than network build-out costs and carrier economics in determining international calling costs. The many other markets that we want to include in Ultra Zero are kept high because national governments use incoming international call tariffs as a source of foreign currency. Nevertheless, we will continue to advocate for fair pricing on behalf of our customers and offer free international texting as an alternative.”
The move follows an outburst by the CEO of parent network T-Mobile USA, John Legere, who recently described roaming costs as “completely crazy” and “insanely inflated” before announcing that data roaming and text messages would generate no extra costs for “most” users on its Simple Choice plans.
T-Mobile announced that it is cutting data roaming costs for its customers when they are travelling in more than 100 countries worldwide, building on the firm’s pricing overhauls in March, when it cut contract lengths and separated the cost of device from the cost of service, lowering monthly rates.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Legere said. “The truth is that the industry’s been charging huge fees for data roaming. But what’s most surprising is that no one’s called them out – until now.”
EE and O2 have announced gaming partnerships in a bid to create differentiation in their service offerings
UK operators EE and O2 have announced gaming partnerships in a bid to create differentiation in their service offerings. EE has partnered with US games network provider WildTangent and mobile solutions provider Infomedia allowing WildTangent’s games service to feature on select EE handsets.
O2, meanwhile, has announced that it is extending its gaming range and will be selling the Xbox One bundled with the Nokia Lumia 1020 handset. The console will be available to both new and existing customers on O2’s Refresh tariff.
The EE partnership allows its subscribers to play all WildTangent games for free with adverts and customers can earn in-game items from sponsors. Users will also be able to buy games or pay for in app purchases through their monthly bills or pay-as-you-go credit.
Meanwhile, O2’s Xbox One bundle costs £52 per month with an £99.99 upfront cost and includes an Xbox One, FIFA 14, Kinect, 12 months Xbox Live Gold subscription and a Nokia Lumia 1020 with unlimited minutes, texts and 1GB data.
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