#TBT: Motorola tests its first Bluetooth-capable phone; AT&T splits up; CDMA takes on the world … this week in 2000

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!

Motorola intros first Bluetooth phone
NEW YORK-Motorola Inc. has begun carrier trials of its first Bluetooth-capable wireless phone, the Timeport 270, and expects to begin shipping the CDMA handsets by year-end. Depending on “carrier testing regimens,” the manufacturer expects to ramp up to full production of the tri-mode PCS, analog and digital cellular terminals early next year, said Jim McArdle, the Timeport West Products director, based in Piscataway, N.J. Motorola expects the phones to have a suggested retail price of $300-$400, he said. By the second quarter of 2001, Motorola plans to make TDMA and GSM versions of the phone commercially available. To activate the Bluetooth capabilities inside the Timeport 270, consumers also must purchase the new Bluetooth Smart Module, which snaps on in place of the standard battery cover. The module has received approval from the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, of which Motorola is a member. To use the Timeport 270 as a wireless modem for a laptop computer or to synchronize data between the handset and the computer, consumers also must purchase Motorola’s Bluetooh PC-enabler card. Introduced in June and now sold by Toshiba and IBM Corp. for about $200, the card was the first commercial Bluetooth product to receive the Bluetooth Special Interest Group’s approval, McArdle said. … Read more

AT&T splits up
AT&T Wireless Services Inc. could have a more difficult time offering bundled services to its customers after the business unit is separated from the parent group, according to one analyst. Now that AT&T has announced it will create four separate companies, each operating under the AT&T brand, its one-stop-shopping benefit may be lost. AT&T last week said it would split into four groups, with each becoming a publicly held entity trading as a common stock or tracking stock. The four companies will be AT&T Wireless, AT&T Broadband, AT&T Business and AT&T Consumer. Upon the expected completion of the plan in 2002, AT&T Wireless and AT&T Broadband will be represented by independent, asset-based common stocks. AT&T Consumer will be represented by a tracking stock, and AT&T’s principal unit will be AT&T Business, the company said. The news was met by mixed reactions. On Wall Street, many financial analysts saw the split as a sign of AT&T’s weakness and unwillingness to ride out the bumps in the short term in favor of long-term growth. The company’s stock reflected the disdain, dropping 9 percent immediately following the news and slipping even further in the following days. Shares of AT&T closed Friday at $22, up 19 cents from the previous day’s close. Investors wavered between disdain and delight. … Read more

China Unicom opts for narrowband CDMA
BEIJING-Zhang Fan, head of mobile communications at China Unicom, this week said his company would definitely build narrowband networks based on the CDMA standard. After Qualcomm Chairman Irwin Jacobs recently met Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji and China Unicom Chairman Yang Xianzu in Beijing, China’s second mobile operator decided to go ahead with the building of a CDMA network. In June, the company had still ruled out using narrowband CDMA, opting to wait for third-generation technology. On 16 October, Zhongxing Telecom and Qualcomm unveiled a CDMA prototype handset. Domestic equipment makers have invested several hundred million U.S. dollars in the standard. The groups announced what they called the world’s first CDMA-GSM interoperable Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card and compatible handsets during a joint press conference comprising China Unicom, Zhongxing Telecom, Gemplus and the CDMA Development Group. Zhongxing Telecom is a Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer, and ZTE FutureTel in Korea developed the CDMA SIM-compatible handset. The GemXplore World SIM card from Gemplus is designed for use in CDMA and GSM networks. “Our decision to deploy CDMA technology enables us to provide mobility according to the true definition of the word-ability to move freely without boundaries,” said Fan. … Read more

WAP hits its limits with enterprise
OXFORD, United Kingdom-A survey of U.K. businesses has found more than 70 percent have no intention of implementing the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) in the near future, while just 15 percent have already done so, and only 14 percent have plans to. According to Rhetorik, which conducted the study with nearly 5,000 business people in the United Kingdom, it appeared to prove WAP is seen by information technology decision makers as a consumer gimmick, and the business benefits are not clearly understood. The survey found although everyone is talking about m-commerce, relatively few are actually doing anything about it. The figures show only 29 percent believe their company will implement some form of m-commerce, while 42 percent think not, and 29 percent simply do not know what their firm has planned. … Read more

Cricket launches its third market
SAN DIEGO-Knoxville, Tenn., is the third market to gain Cricket Comfortable Wireless, a service from wireless communications carrier Leap Wireless International Inc. Chattanooga and Nashville, Tenn., already get the company’s Cricket service and are part of Leap’s goal of offering Cricket in 10 markets across the country by the end of the year. The company said it expects to expand into Tucson, Ariz.; Little Rock, Ark.; Wichita, Kan.; Charlotte and Greensboro, N.C.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Tulsa, Okla.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Salt Lake City.

Verizon kicks off prepaid service
BEDMINSTER, N.J.-Verizon Wireless launched its National Prepay Wireless service. A specially-priced starter kit now is available. Customers who purchase a starter time card beginning at $30 and one of several tri-mode mobile phones get a mail-in rebate for two $30 prepay cards. Replenishment cards come in denominations beginning at $30 for 60 minutes and go up to $150 for 750 minutes. Depending on the denomination, calls cost between 20 cents and 50 cents per minute, and voice mail and call waiting are included, Verizon Wireless said. … Read more

CDMA takes on the world
SAN DIEGO-While many at the CDMA’s Development Group’s Americas Congress reminisced about how far the technology had come in such a short period of time, the big buzz on the show floor was about CDMA’s future. And what better place to talk about that future than in San Diego, the Silicon Valley of CDMA. Unfortunately, San Diego’s usual near-perfect year-round weather conditions did not cooperate. But the rain that fell was not enough to dampen attendees’ enthusiasm for CDMA’s future. Perry LaForge, executive director of the CDG, set the tone in his opening keynote address by touching on the present condition of the CDMA market worldwide, noting the technology’s continued subscriber growth in the Asia-Pacific and North and South American markets, and China Unicom’s recent decision to deploy a CDMA network in that country. (See story on page 53.) But the future for CDMA-and what most in attendance were more than willing to discuss-centered on the potential for high-speed wireless transmission, and how that would drive the wireless Internet market. “This year was a great year for CDMA,” said John Lodenius, senior vice president of marketing and product management for CDMA champion Qualcomm Inc. “But this year was just a spring board for next year.” What Lodenius, and others expect next year is the commercial deployment of high-speed wireless transmission speeds, supported by cdma2000 1X and 1X Evolution technology, in excess of 2 Megabits per second. While all the major companies attending were there to tout their latest efforts to support those deployments, including Nokia Corp., which was at the show to shore up its admitted lack of strong presence in the CDMA market, Qualcomm took extraordinary steps by renting the aptly named S.S. Hornblower cruising vessel to show off its high-speed offerings. … Read more

Mobile data: It’s here, and the industry loves it
SANTA CLARA, Calif.-Here we go again. After 10 years of asking the question, we finally have an answer. “Everybody has been asking when wireless data is going to come,” said Tom Wheeler, CTIA president and chief executive officer, at the closing keynote of the organization’s Wireless I.T. show here last week. “Well folks, it’s here.” The wireless data love fest is in full swing and shows few signs of slowing down, if the buzz at this year’s show was at all indicative of nationwide sentiment. Everywhere you looked at the event, there were content developers, application developers, device manufacturers and others all gathering to learn how to talk to each other, and in the end, make a buck. But for all the opportunity, there are also many risks. With wireless data coming to realization, there is a danger for carriers of losing control in the face of the many newcomers. As the old saying goes: Be careful what you wish for; you just may get it. The opportunity talked about today apparently is strong enough to overcome the mainstream press attack against WAP, the continued lack of spectrum and the lack of clear business models. This is the game, and everybody is here to play. The moniker Wireless I.T. points to the obvious direction all this is going. Behind this wireless data growth simply is the ability to wirelessly extend enterprise applications. That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of talk about entertainment and m-commerce services as well, but on a road where content is king, it’s enterprise mobility that drives this car. “It’s going go be a lot more than stocks, movie tickets and news,” said Peter Beiman, chief marketing officer at StarRemote Wireless. “The thing these people will be doing is their jobs.”… Read more

Telecom M&A: VoiceStream buys Powertel, DT buys VoiceStream
NEW YORK-The $41.6 billion bid by Deutsche Telekom AG for VoiceStream Wireless Corp. was the largest merger announced last quarter and the second-largest during the first nine months of this year, Mergerstat L.P., Los Angeles, reported. The semiconductor sector, with mergers totaling $49.5 billion, led the pack last quarter as measured by deals for which dollar value was disclosed. Paging and cellular services carriers placed second, with $49.2 billion worth of transactions whose dollar amount was made public. Overall, Mergerstat said transactions involving American companies totaled $406 billion, up from $258 billion posted during the second quarter. However, the 2,246 transactions comprised the lowest aggregate number since the first quarter of 1999. Some 147 deals in telecommunications services and related equipment sectors were announced, the highest number for an individual quarter so far this year. Of the 61 deals in all sectors that topped the $1 billion mark, seven involved telecommunications companies. VoiceStream’s $4.625 billion bid for Powertel Inc. was the second-largest telecommunications-related merger announced during the third quarter. With eight purchases each under their belts last quarter, AT&T Corp. and Cisco Systems tied for third place among those companies that were the most active acquirers. A total of 18 wireless carrier merger and acquisition deals were announced last quarter, of which 11 disclosed an estimated price tag. … Read more

Italy’s 3G auction underway
ROME-The Italian auction for five Universal Mobile Telecommunications System licenses began last Thursday. Italy is Europe’s largest cell-phone market, with six groups participating in the auction process, which is expected to raise around $21 billion. The German UMTS auction, which ended in August, drew nearly $46 billion, and the Continent’s first UMTS auction-in the United Kingdom in April-raised about $34 billion. Italy’s four incumbent operators are all participating in the third-generation auction. Telecom Italia Mobile, controlled by Telecom Italia, is the country’s largest operator with around 20 million subscribers. The second-largest operator by subscriber numbers is Omnitel Pronto Italia, backed by Vodafone Group plc, with about 12 million customers. Wind Telecomunicazion, which is majority owned by Italian utility Enel and in which France Telecom holds a stake, has about 3 million users. Newcomer Blu is also participating. Blu began wireless operations in Italy in May and is owned 20 percent by British Telecommunications plc, 32 percent by Italian company Autostrade, with other smaller stakes held by international companies. Press reports have said British Telecom is under pressure from Blu’s other shareholders to increase its stake to 51 percent. However, British Telecom is facing scrutiny from the financial community for its high debt. By waiting until after the auction to take majority control, it could share the cash burden of a license with the other shareholders. Reports stated Blu’s shareholders threatened to pull out of the auction if British Telecom did not increase its stake. … Read more

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

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