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#TBT: 3G tech wars rage on; AT&T/BellSouth deal under scrutiny; Duplicate devices and the future of wireless … this year in 2006

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!

Best Buy opens wireless-only stores in NYC

NEW YORK-Big box retailer Best Buy has branched out with a new emphasis on wireless, opening new stores in the New York metro area that focus exclusively on offering a wide selection of handsets from various carriers. Five of the new stores are stand-alone outlets, and the others are located within existing Best Buy stores; the stores are a result of a previously announced deal with United Kingdom cell phone retail giant Carphone Warehouse Group. For Carphone Warehouse, the deal includes a computer repair service under Best Buy’s Geek Squad brand. The New York stores opened up within the past two weeks, just in time for the holiday shopping season, and are located in particularly high-traffic areas of Manhattan such as Times Square and Grand Central Station. John Zittrauer, sales lead at the new stand-alone store in Union Square, said that while a normal Best Buy store might offer around 30 handset models, the new store is “closing in on 100” different models and colors of devices. … Read more

FCC awards AWS spectrum

WASHINGTON-The Federal Communications Commission officially awarded more than half of the 1,087 advanced wireless services licenses won at the agency’s auction that began in early August and ended Sept. 18. The FCC said the 550 AWS licenses it granted represent $12.2 billion of the $13.7 billion in total net high bids in Auction 66. A portion of auction receipts will fund the relocation of defense and other government users from the 1710-1755 MHz band-one of the two AWS bands-to other frequencies. “T-Mobile is extremely pleased to receive its AWS license grants . from the FCC. The agency is to be commended for moving so rapidly to award these licenses,” said Tom Sugrue, vice president for government affairs at T-Mobile USA Inc. We want to thank FCC Chairman (Kevin) Martin, the FCC commissioners and the staff of the wireless bureau for their superb efforts in making this important spectrum available at this time.” T-Mobile USA, the smallest of the four national mobile phone operators, topped all bidders at the AWS auction by acquiring 120 licenses for $4.2 billion. … Read more

3G technology wars rage on

As the world’s more mature wireless markets shift to third-generation networks and beyond, it seems as if backers of CDMA technology and those who are pushing 3G flavors of GSM are racing each other to hype their respective market gains. The GSM Association recently published a list of CDMA operators that have reportedly decided to switch to GSM technology; hence the CDMA Development Group quickly unleashed its own list of GSM carriers that were supposedly jumping on the CDMA bandwagon. The truth about the lists, according to analyst Andrew Seybold, is that “GSM operators in a number of places are deploying CDMA in addition to GSM and several operators have decided to move from TDMA to CDMA and not follow the TDMA-to-GSM route.” The GSM Association claims there are 2.1 billion GSM/GPRS/EDGE and UMTS subscribers in the world, whereas the CDG says there are more than 350 million CDMA users. Seybold opined that since all flavors of 3G are basically CDMA-based, 3G has become the fork in the road for many GSM operators. “The GSM community might want to call its flavor of CDMA (W-CDMA) ‘3GSM’ or ‘UMTS,’ but at the end of the day, a rose is a rose and CDMA is CDMA. This means that as GSM operators continue to deploy their 3G (W-CDMA) networks, most if not all of their 2.1 billion customers will become CDMA customers.” Not surprisingly, Seybold’s sentiments echo those of Qualcomm Inc. spokesman Jeremy James, who said he expects some form of CDMA snaring about 80 percent of the market. This estimate includes W-CDMA, as well as CDMA2000’s iterations. … Read more

AT&T/BellSouth merger under the microscope

WASHINGTON-Top mobile-phone carriers may have gained leverage to have stringent conditions imposed on AT&T Inc.’s $79 billion acquisition of BellSouth Corp., with the Government Accounting Office concluding competition in the special access market is generally lacking in major U.S. cities. Jessica Zufolo, a telecom analyst at Medley Global Advisors, said the GAO report casts a shadow on the AT&T-BellSouth negotiations at the Federal Communications Commission. “The release of this report comes at an inconvenient time for AT&T, which continues to face pressure from competitors and Democratic [Capitol] Hill and FCC officials to adopt conditions as part of the merger. In particular, pressure is likely to increase on AT&T to freeze special access rates for longer than the 30 months currently on offer and possibly require the FCC to re-examine its rules permitting Bells to increase special access rates,” said Zufolo. “As we have said in previous reports, the final set of conditions agreed upon between the parties will probably not manifest in any material harm to AT&T.” No. 1 wireless carrier Cingular Wireless L.L.C., currently co-owned by AT&T (60 percent) and BellSouth (40 percent), would be held in total by AT&T if the deal manages to gain final regulatory consent by the FCC. Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA Inc., the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless carriers, have urged the FCC to subject the merger to strict conditions on special access lines. In context for the wireless industry, the lines are dedicated links used to carry traffic from a wireless base station to a mobile-switching center and/or onto the public switched telephone network. … Read more

Seeing the future of devices?

Consumers’ tendency to carry duplicate devices–think camera phone and digital camera, or smart phone and PDA–may contain a seed of wireless’ future. That may seem like a bit of a stretch on such a simple premise. Take the implications, however, and work backwards. Enjoy a few leaps of faith, too; the exercise will do you good. The mobile-phone and consumer-electronics industries could follow complementary strategies to mutual advantage, according to Bill Hughes, an analyst with In-Stat. The mobile phone might evolve to play the role of a simplified wireless data hub that, when linked via cable or Bluetooth to a consumer-electronics device, for instance, could provide content downloads and software updates for the latter. Portable consumer electronics themselves might include a wireless modem for the same functionality. This scenario conceivably might follow the de-evolution of the feature-packed, “Swiss Army knife”-style handsets on today’s market, Hughes said, toward more streamlined, dedicated devices more clearly linked to productivity. Hughes bases these extrapolations on the current trend to pack handsets with features to entice customers at the retail level. But his research suggests that this trend will have diminishing returns for a number of reasons. Among consumers, the costly, added features are not well-utilized-complicated user interfaces tend not to be well-utilized-and thus don’t produce the data revenues that would justify the expense. For the enterprise, promoting productivity does not extend to providing employees with games, music players, digital cameras and video services. This line of reasoning, of course, flies in the face of the current trend to offer combination productivity-and-entertainment devices at the $100 price point. … Read more

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


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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