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#TBT: Razr peaks; touchscreens take over; Verizon picks up Rural Cellular … this week in 2007

Editor’s Note: RCR Wireless News goes all in for “Throwback Thursdays,” tapping into our archives to resuscitate the top headlines from the past. Fire up the time machine, put on the sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

AC/DC shakes Verizon all night long
Verizon Wireless won an exclusive deal to distribute AC/DC’s entire catalog of 18 albums through its Vcast music service. One of the last holdouts in the age of digital music, AC/DC opted to join with the nation’s second-largest mobile carrier rather than forge a pact with Apple Inc.’s iTunes. Verizon Wireless is offering full-album downloads of the Australian rock band’s 18 discs, and grants the carrier exclusive mobile rights to the content through March of next year. The deal also includes exclusive performance footage, but includes several constraints: only the hit “You Shook Me All Night Long” will be offered as a single … Read more

iPhone’s first software update, coming soon to a cable near youv
Buried deep in the support area of its Web site, iPhone maker Apple Inc. provided instructions on how to update the handset via a cabled connection to a PC. The company titled the item “Updating and restoring iPhone software.” The update is available only to iPhone owners. Apple said only that the update includes “bug fixes and security updates,” and did not include additional information. Coming 30 days on the heels of the iPhone’s launch, the update is not necessarily unusual in the mobile handset business. Carriers and vendors tend to launch phones and address software shortcomings on-the-fly after the units are sold, though the trend is toward over-the-air updates that don’t require a PC connection. … Read more

With the Razr on top, the only place to go is down
There’s good news for a beleaguered American handset giant named Motorola Inc.
The company’s Razr handset-beefed up on functionality and spun off in customized form in myriad colors for all four of the top-tier network operators-represented two of the top five bestselling handsets last quarter in the United States, according to new data from Strategy Analytics. Perhaps inescapably, there’s sobering news as well. Motorola, far ahead of other vendors in U.S. market share, lost four points of share here between the first and second quarters, dropping to 33% market share from 37%. “The Razr has peaked in terms of volume creation,” said Chris Ambrosio, analyst at Strategy Analytics. “The company’s follow-on products are not generating the volume that the Razr generated at this time last year.” … Read more

Touchscreens take over
First, Balda AG and its partner, TPK Holdings, won Apple Inc.’s business for the touchscreen module for the latter’s iPhone. Now Balda’s shareholders are agitating for the company to spin off its touchscreen business to bring more visibility to that business’ value, according to German media reports. (Balda has not commented on the report.) After all, Apple has said it intends to build a third business in mobile devices, beyond its Macintosh computers and iPod music players. It will develop a family of iPhone-related products, which indeed may bode well for the Balda/TPK venture. Whether Balda’s shareholders have picked the best direction for the touchscreen unit is debatable. But their urgency reflects the amount of interest Apple has managed to generate over a technology that is more than three decades old, has a limited but established track record in wireless and is now firmly in the spotlight. Another sign of touchscreens’ ability to capture the imagination: The U.S. market will see a number of touchscreen-based handset launches after Labor Day, according to analyst Bill Morelli of IMS Research. Morelli declined to provide details but indicated that he had had vendor briefings to that effect. … Read more

FiberTower gets Sprint Nextel WiMAX backhaul deal
Details about Sprint-Nextel Corp.’s ongoing build out of its WiMAX network are continuing to come to light. FiberTower Corp. announced that it has inked a deal with the No. 3 carrier to provide backhaul services in seven of Sprint Nextel’s initial WiMAX launch markets. Terms of the deal were not disclosed due to confidentiality agreements, according to FiberTower. FiberTower did, however, disclose that Sprint Nextel’s network deployment will rely on an Ethernet-based backhaul, reportedly a first for any mobile backhaul provider. “We are extremely pleased and excited to have been selected by Sprint Nextel to be the first backhaul provider to deploy commercial Ethernet services,” said Michael Gallagher, FiberTower’s president and CEO. … Read more

Verizon picks up Rural Cellular
Verizon Wireless backed up its strong second-quarter customer numbers with solid financials and a new acquisition that will make the nation’s largest CDMA carrier a roaming provider for GSM services. The carrier announced that it had agreed to buy Rural Cellular Corp. for $2.67 billion, which will add another 716,000 customers to Verizon Wireless’ base as well as extend its reach in rural markets, primarily in areas of the East Coast, South, Midwest, and Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Because Rural Cellular operates both CDMA and GSM networks across its markets, the deal gives Verizon Wireless the chance to expand its own CDMA network as well as take up a role as a GSM roaming provider, which it said it intends to do-similar to the path taken by Alltel Corp. upon its acquisition of Western Wireless Corp. Verizon Wireless said the acquisition, which is expected to close in the first half of 2008, was expected to generate around $1 billion in synergies due to reduced roaming costs and operations expenses, as well as opportunities in new markets. The acquisition will give Verizon Wireless an additional 4.7 million licensed potential customers. … Read more

Telus dragged down by Amp’d shutdown
Canadian telecom provider Telus Corp. reported Q2revenues were up 4% year-over-year due to growth in wireless and data, but that its earnings for the second quarter were impacted by the advent of wireless number portability in Canada as well as the bankruptcy of Amp’d Mobile Inc. The company said that customer acquisition and retention costs increased by about $44.6 million due to number portability, and that another factor affecting its performance was the introduction of a new billing and client care system in Alberta. Telus also said its profits were affected by its venture investment and business with Amp’d Mobile. Telus had partnered with the now defunct U.S.-based mobile virtual network operator to bring its content to Canadian audiences, and sold the MVNO’s wares through its distribution channels as a way to offer up a youth-specific product. Telus stopped selling Amp’d Mobile products shortly before the MVNO ceased operating this week. However, Telus added that it is “reaffirming our commitment to Amp’d clients by ensuring that all voice and basic messaging services continue to function until we are able to contact subscribers to offer them a comparable or better package of voice and Spark multimedia services.” … Read more

Check out the RCR Wireless News Archives for more stories from the past.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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