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Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications has signed up Player X Distribution, a division of mobile media company Player X, to aggregate video content on Sony Ericsson's Fun & Downloads content and application service.

Player X will supply Sony Ericsson with an ongoing schedule of video content from its portfolio of entertainment including brands such as Hellboy and Stan Lee's 7th Portal. Sony Ericsson's Fun & Downloads channel is accessible through Sony Ericsson mobile phones across Europe.

This is a further move into the rapidly growing off-portal mobile video market for Player X and is said to mark another coup for the distribution arm of the company following the success of the 100% Mobile portal on O2 UK .

"We have always believed that the handset is the true off-portal market and this deal with one of the most innovative handset makers in the world underscores how committed we are to this increasingly important sector," said Tony Pearce, Player X CEO.

The Technology Partnership (TTP) has developed platforms and technology to help broadcasters, cellular carriers and accessory brands capitalise on the new mobile-specific (ATSC-M/H) digital TV (DTV) transmissions being established across the US during 2009.

TTP, a technology development company, has developed technology to enable interactive digital radio and TV broadcasts on existing cell phones and has already approached broadcasters, brands and cellular carriers in Europe and China who are interested in delivering products and services in 2009. Having extended the technology to cover the US standard broadcasts TTP now offers its expertise to accessory and consumer electronics brands and cellular carriers planning to capitalise on the new broadcast for mobile DTV channels, announced in January, for 22 major US cities.

Tristan Barkley is head of media technologies at TTP "The US analog switch-off will provide a big boost to TV viewing on mobile devices via the mobile digital TV broadcasts which will be available later in the year in 35% of US households.  For the first time TTP's technology will enable viewers to experience 63 broadcast DTV stations by using an accessory with their existing cell phones thus avoiding the need to change their cell phone or pay the premium prices for TV on their phone, both of which have limited take-up of mobile TV so far."

TTP anticipates that the new mobile TV accessory products will drive the use of existing mobile devices to view and interact with free DTV on the move in the US.  TTP maintains that accessories which connect to mobile devices such as cell phones, laptop computers, PDAs and portable media players as well as in-car entertainment and GPS systems, via widely available wired or wireless interfaces, offer a potential multi-million unit market.

With the addition of rich-media content for broadcast US cellular carriers will be able to leverage the potential of the new mobile DTV channels. New and compelling value added services and interactivity can be delivered via cellular to enable viewer voting, targeted advertising, profiled RSS feeds, cross selling and teleshopping. Furthermore broadcast channels and premium content delivered via cellular unicast are seamlessly converged within a single application offering unprecedented choice and ease of use for viewers.

Olivier Avaro, chief executive officer of rich media technology provider Streamezzo said, "We have been working with TTP to explore some very interesting propositions, based on their ATSC M/H accessory technology, and we are convinced it offers cellular carriers a great way to rapidly capitalise on the up-turn in mobile US viewers. We believe that broadcast interactivity plus converged broadcast and unicast services will be a winning combination for US carriers, broadcasters and viewers alike."

By June 12th the US digital switch over will be complete and the first digital TV transmissions specifically designed for mobile will be just round the corner. TTP has technology solutions which allows brands to get products to market fast and expects to illustrate this fully at CTIA Wireless.

Arieso, the mobile network optimisation specialist, has today announced that a European operator, part of a leading global group, will be rolling out ariesoGEO across its network. The software will be used to help pinpoint technical performance issues and help enhance network quality and the subscriber experience, while reducing network costs.

ariesoGEO uses data transmitted by mobiles in the normal course of conducting a call and requires no additional hardware, such as GPS in handsets, to operate in real time or historical analysis mode. By geo-locating tens of millions of calls per minute, ariesoGEO creates a true-to-life picture of network performance as witnessed by subscribers, whether they are indoors or outdoors, in business or residential areas, any time of the day, any day of the week.

The operator will use ariesoGEO Enterprise across its network to accurately pinpoint network problems such as dropped calls, poor signal strength or low data speed wherever they occur, including inside buildings. Through this network-wide deployment the operator will be able to enhance the customer experience and reduce expenditure substantially. As a result, the operator expects to save up to 60% of network problem resolution costs, comparable to the savings demonstrated in previous uses of ariesoGEO by other operators.

"Information about customer location is very important in understanding how to save money and improve customer care. Knowing what the subscriber is experiencing, and being able to rectify issues quickly and efficiently, will give this operator a huge competitive advantage," said Paul Turner, VP Global Operations, Arieso. "ariesoGEO will help the operator accurately geo-locate network problems in order to reduce customer churn as well as network maintenance and deployment costs."

Shirin Dehghan, CEO, Arieso, said, "It is a fantastic testament to our track record and the capabilities of our products that this operator has turned to Arieso to help maintain Quality of Service and reduce costs in its network. Being able to identify the actual network performance as experienced by subscribers wherever they may be, 100% of the time, is one of our unique strengths and will help our customers significantly improve their competitive position."

European 2D barcode specialist establishes US sister company

MTag SAS, the European specialist in technology and services for mobile 2D barcodes, has announced the appointment of William ‘Chip' Hoffman as CEO of Mobile Tag, Inc., a Delaware Corporation focused on expanding the use of the technology.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Hoffman is responsible for expanding the use of the company's 2D barcode technology solution mobiletag in the marketplace. Hoffman will position Mobile Tag, Inc to supply Mobile Operators, Advertisers, Brands, Retailers, and others with a single, globally-ubiquitous source for mobile barcode technologies and services.

Hoffman has twenty-five years of global Entertainment, Media and Communications (EMC) experience. He was directly responsible for the large-scale operations of mBlox, Dobson Communications, Advanced TelCom Group, Sprint and Logix Communications Enterprises. He has worked closely with companies like Publicis, Interpublic Group, BBDO-Omnicom, and others on interactive advertising using mobile telecommunications technology.

More recently he was CEO of NeoMedia Technologies, Inc, where he helped develop a global technical and financial system for mobile barcodes.  Prior to that, Mr. Hoffman engineered the creation of mBlox, Inc. the world's largest mobile transactions network, and as its CEO served in London, Atlanta and Sunnyvale, CA. He was instrumental in developing the strategy to reorganise, restructure, and then rapidly grow the business to over 180 countries. mBlox serves more than 2 billion mobile subscribers and 500 wireless Operators around the globe including Vodafone, T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T, creating the world's largest provider of messaging infrastructure.

Service2Media, Appear and Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), the National Dutch Rail Authority, today announced the launch of Reisplanner Xtra, said to be the first implementation of wireless context-aware services for Dutch train travelers.

"The growing market penetration of smartphones opens up new possibilities for bringing a better service to our travelers" says Corine van Drunen, Innovation Manager, NS. "We believe Reisplanner Xtra will be the mobile channel of the future for Nederlandse Spoorwegen."

Reisplanner Xtra is a mobile travel application, which uses current location information (from GPS or cell ID) to automatically determine the nearest station. It offers customised services based on user context, records favorite journeys, preferred or recently visited stations, displays information regarding the station and local points of interest, and can let users share your travel plans with friends and family. Reisplanner Xtra also monitors possible changes to a planned journey and alerts the user to these changes by SMS. 

"A personal travel planner that advises you during the trip is one of the most relevant services on mobile. New context-aware functionalities will be further extended based on the Appear IQ and Service2Media M2Active platform components" says Geert Kolthof, CEO, Service2Media.

"More important than the network itself, be it 3G, Wi-Fi or others, are the value-added services available on the network", adds Xavier Aubry, CEO, Appear. "In the future, what will you do when your train is 15 minute late? Use your mobile device to check the services available in that station, perhaps download the latest news report or your favorite magazine, courtesy of the train operator, while your calendar automatically sends an update to the person you are supposed to meet, based on real-time traffic information. Upon arrival at your destination, your device will automatically request a map of the area to quickly find the location of your next meeting."

Vodafone UK and Ericsson today announced a seven year agreement which will see Ericsson provide maintenance and operations for Vodafone UK's 2G and 3G radio access networks. The contract includes the transfer of approximately 350 employees from Vodafone to Ericsson, scheduled for the beginning of May.

"We see this as a strategic long-term relationship, offering real operational and financial benefits allowing us, over time, to reinvest savings in delivering new products and services for customers," said Jeni Mundy, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone UK.  "Ericsson is the specialist in this area and will be critical in helping maintain our high quality network - which customers expect from Vodafone."

Mats Granryd, Managing Director, Ericsson UK, added: "We are honored that Vodafone has chosen Ericsson as its Managed Services partner for its UK network. We believe Ericsson's experience in Managed Services and the skills and experience that the transferring staff bring will combine positively with our scale advantage to significantly benefit Vodafone with improved quality and superior cost structure. In this contract we are ideally positioned to deliver value to Vodafone UK and it also offers us the opportunity to build on our strong relationship and develop our collaboration further to deliver future business benefits."

Want greater control over mobile experience

Skype published data today from a recent Zogby survey which shows that most mobile users still perceive a gap between the purpose and controllability of their computers versus their mobile devices. The gap correlates with the finding that the vast majority of mobile users do not yet download applications to their mobile devices, says Skype.

However, the survey said that the same people expressed a strong desire to be able to choose mobile applications for themselves, and not have their carriers decide what applications they can use. The results also indicated that people will pay more for a device that will allow them to control the applications.

The study surveyed approximately 3,000 mobile users in four markets -- the U.S., U.K., Japan and Spain - between December 2008 and February 2009. Highlights of the findings include:

-  62% do not yet view their mobile device as an extension of their computer.

-  Only 23% feel that they have more or the same level of control over their mobile device as they have over their computer.

-  70% have never downloaded an application to their mobile device.

-  67% want to be able to choose their mobile applications for themselves, rather than have their carriers choose for them.


Regional breakout: Spain leads way

When the results are broken out by market, regional differences emerge. In Japan, the U.S. and the U.K., respondents felt the least control over their mobile devices versus personal computers (67 percent, 78 percent, 65 percent, respectively), which correlates to few users downloading applications to their mobile devices (22% in Japan, 26% in the U.S., and 28% in the U.K.)

The results from Spain, however, paint a different picture says Skype, one that hints at what happens when mobile consumers are given more control. In that market, more than half of the respondents felt there was no difference or they had more control over their mobile devices (53%) as they have over their computers (46%). Nearly half (47%) view their mobile devices as extensions of their computers. Given these attitudes, it is perhaps not coincidental that nearly half of Spanish mobile users (48%) have downloaded applications to their devices, a much larger percentage than the other markets surveyed. And, a much larger percentage of Spain's mobile users - 50% -- are willing to pay more for a mobile device that allows them to control their applications.

The age gap: younger people less likely to view mobile devices as merely phones

The survey results also indicate that younger adults have a different view of what a mobile device is than their older counterparts. When asked if they view their mobile device as a phone to make calls on, a computer to access the Internet and download applications, or both, younger respondents were less likely to consider their mobile device to be just a phone. For example, in Japan, respondents under 30 were more likely to view mobile devices as a computer, or both (50%) than view them as merely phones (47%), while only 1 in 4 respondents in that market between the ages of 50 and 64 shared a similar view.

"These results show that work could be done to continue to blur the line between the computer and the mobile device, and that advances in new Internet-based services and mobile devices will help drive innovation. Overall, people want the ability to have control over which applications they download and this is consistent with trends in other industries," said Chad Bohnert, VP Marketing and E-Commerce at Zogby International.

"This is a clear call to action for all of us in the communications industry - carriers, device manufacturers, and software companies like Skype - to work together to deliver what the mobile consumer, especially the next generation of device and data plan buyers, obviously want and expect," said Scott Durchslag, Chief Operating Officer of Skype. "Together, we can bring a rich PC-like communications experience to mobile devices - one that combines voice, video, presence, instant messaging, and file sharing. In doing so, consumers win, and so does the industry as it fuels growth in data minutes and revenues."

According to Juniper Research, Mobile Coupons are expected to be one of the biggest winners of the current global recession, with the company forecasting that the redemption value of mobile coupons will increase by over 30% by 2010.

Juniper says it found that the twin effects of shoppers needing to make economies in their spending and merchants ever keen to make sales will combine to have a very positive impact on the overall demand for mobile coupons.

Mobile coupons are attractive to both consumers and vendors as they can be targeted at specific groups of customers and can be matched against particular interests and purchasing patterns, as opposed to the vanilla approach where "everybody gets every coupon" as in the traditional model.

Mobile Coupons Report author Howard Wilcox explained: "We believe that merchants will see targeted, quick one-to-one marketing campaigns via mobile coupons as a valuable marketing weapon. Considering that mobile coupons offer much better redemption rates and are more cost effective, they represent a win-win approach for innovative retailers."

Peter Johnson, VP, Market Intelligence and Strategy from the MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) says; "Juniper's research confirms the MMA's own findings that consumers are most likely to respond to mobile marketing offers that result in clear personal benefits. Mobile coupons are a prime example of how mobile can be used in this way, combining relevance with immediate, tangible value for the consumer. We welcome further research such as this report from Juniper which helps to build a clearer picture of the way in which mobile marketing will develop over the next few years."

Other findings from the Juniper Research report:

      •  With in excess of 100m mobile phone users globally forecast to use mobile coupons in 2010, Juniper Research sees significant growth across the developed markets of North America, Western Europe, the Far East and China.

  • As well as the key drivers, however, there are some significant hurdles, including the lack of suitable point of sale (POS) infrastructure at the supermarket checkout allowing for the quick and easy redemption of coupons, which is critical to the consumer shopping experience.

Truphone, a provider of low cost international mobile calls, has today announced the launch of Truphone Business, a BlackBerry application enabling business users to make international phone calls from their devices at fixed line rates, typically saving 50% or more on call charges, says the company.

Truphone claims that its global infrastructure means that these savings are available for calls made from the UK to every destination globally, while never compromising on call quality. Truphone Business is also said to be entirely invisible to end users who simply dial an international number as usual, without noticing that the call is being connected by Truphone.

Truphone Business is quick and easy to provision, being pushed to each device via the BlackBerry server, instantly activating the service on every BlackBerry device. Specifically designed for business use, the service also offers centralised monthly billing with itemised and departmental reporting.

Geraldine Wilson, CEO of Truphone said, "Hundreds of thousands of consumers are already enjoying the cost savings on international mobile calls that Truphone offers. The launch of Truphone Business follows demand for a business solution from our existing customer base. The proposition is extremely compelling, particularly in this economic climate. Companies are keen to cut costs but find that an increasingly mobile and global workforce need to make international calls from mobile devices as a part of day-to-day business. Truphone solves that problem by providing international calls from mobiles at fixed line rates."

Truphone Business works alongside existing mobile operators. Users dial a number as usual and if the number is international, Truphone intercepts the call and connects it to the international destination via the Truphone global platform. Companies only pay for the local rate call to Truphone (which is usually included in their bundled minutes) and the international leg of the call, at fixed line rates.

mobilkom austria, the Austrian-based mobile phone operator, is launching a new NFC mobile phone, the Nokia 6212 classic, complete with Topaz NFC tags from Innovision Research & Technology in the box. mobilkom austria is said to be the first mobile operator to commercially distribute a phone with a set of NFC service tags in 2009.
 
mobilkom austria will distribute the Nokia 6212 classic together with the four Topaz NFC tags in the box enabling quick, safe and convenient access to mobile services.
 
This is made possible by the four WAP links pre-programmed into each of the four Topaz tags.  The user touches the appropriate tag with their NFC phone and follows the link to the desired Vodafone live! WAP page.  The use of NFC tag technology is said to allow the user to more easily access ringtones, pictures and animations.  Other services include traffic information and fuel price updates provided by the Austrian automobile club (ÖAMTC) and sports news provided by Austria's sport channel Laola1.
 
The fourth tag features the link to a WAP page for purchasing ÖBB Handy-Tickets.  This ÖBB tag is currently in use in a trial launched in January 2009 by mobilkom austria, ÖBB and Nokia. Participants in the trial simply place their mobile ticket order by touching the ÖBB Handy-Ticket Topaz NFC tag with their NFC phone to receive an electronic ticket, which will be validated via NFC by the train conductor. The Handy Ticket trial is currently running on two routes around Vienna.

Icomera, a provider of cellular broadband gateways, has announced that Eavesway Travel has equipped luxury team coaches for football clubs including Manchester United and Wigan Athletic with Icomera's Moovbox M200 mobile gateway that provides in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity at broadband speeds.

The Moovbox will allow Premiere League footballers access to the Internet and email on the move, while also enabling Eavesway to communicate with drivers and send operational information such as schedules and itinerary amendments.

Lancashire-based Eavesway Travel operates a fleet of twenty-seven Van Hool coaches, of which the Internet-enabled vehicles are branded with the 'Eavesway Exclusive' livery. Manchester United Football Club has been an Eavesway client since 1999 and, with the arrival of the new Moovbox-equipped team coach, has extended its contract by a further four years.

"The primary purpose of our corporate coaches is the transportation of the Premier League clubs to all their first and reserve team fixtures," said Mike Eaves, Managing Director at Eavesway Travel. "The real-time high-speed communication link provided by Icomera's Moovbox not only offers our passengers the very best on-board Internet facilities, but also gives us the means to manage and operate our fleet more efficiently."

As well as serving some of the Britain's top football clubs, Eavesway Travel offers its Internet-enabled vehicles for private hire, working for a number of major corporate customers around the UK. Eavesway operates its Cruiselink services on behalf of P&O and Princess Cruises, transferring passengers to and from the port of Southampton in the south of England.

The Moovbox M200 mobile broadband gateway acts as a bridge between a vehicle and high-speed cellular data networks, providing Wi-Fi access and an Ethernet-based local area network (LAN) for connecting on-board systems such as CCTV, automated announcement, and e-ticketing. Eavesway Travel utilizes Vodafone's 3G HSPA network which offers speeds up to 7.2Mbps.

"Premiere League teams expect the very best facilities on their vehicles," said Dave Palmer, SVP of Worldwide Sales at Icomera. "The Moovbox M200 has helped Eavesway distinguish their fleet from the competition by offering the very latest in carrier-class on-board communications, which ultimately not only benefits the passengers but also day-to-day fleet operations."

The Moovbox is a ruggedized industrial-grade Wi-Fi access point and cellular router, offering multiple wide area network (WAN) radios for automatic failover and bandwidth aggregation between carriers, and featuring built-in GPS for real-time positioning. Moovbox products also offer multi-port secure Ethernet for IP-CCTV, DVR and telematics equipment with remote in-bound access for device control, and supports plug-and-play upgradability to future technologies such as WiMAX and LTE. The multi-user MoovManage service provides real-time device tracking, schedule adherence monitoring, remote device configuration, and Wi-Fi portal and usage statistics.

Streamezzo has announced that Samsung has selected Streamezzo's software products and professional services to develop, deploy and run its Rich Internet mobile portal.

Samsung Rich Internet application, natively embedded on multiple Samsung devices, allows subscribers to access to a large variety of free and premium services such as news, ringtones, music, video-on-demand, and games. Special announcements or latest news from Samsung are also directly accessible from this portal, and the service offering is continuously extended and provisioned over the air, without requiring any software upgrade on the devices.

"It's highly rewarding to work with a forward-thinking organization like Samsung who looks beyond the status quo and strive for high valued services for their customers." said Olivier Avaro, CEO of Streamezzo.  "Putting Streamezzo's experience at the service of Samsung's vision confirmed our capacity to deliver in short time compelling mobile applications despite the fragmented environment."

"This technology opens up attractive business models that end users will really get excited about," says Dr. Anthony Park, Director Business Development at Samsung Telecommunication Europe. "Mobile users want everything perfectly adjusted to the mobile device here and now." And that is precisely what Rich Internet applications are all about."

The first releases of the Rich Internet Portal were in Russia, Germany and United Kingdom. Several other countries are planned to be rolled-out in the coming months.

Informa Telecoms & Media has forecast that mobile operators in Central and Eastern Europe will increase their annual service revenues by more than 30% to US$77 billion in 2013. As the rise in voice revenues levels off from 2011, overall growth will be driven by a doubling in the value of data revenues which will reach US$23.4 billion in 2013.

Growth will be chiefly driven by continued expansion of the mobile subscription base, which Informa Telecoms & Media forecasts will increase almost 20%, from 447 million at end-2008 to 534 million at end-2013.

"New customers will be signed up in fast-growing markets in Central Asia and the Balkans," said Abigail Browne, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. "But growth will also be fuelled by the increasing tendency for people to maintain two or more SIM cards in active use - in some cases buying the second for a mobile broadband connection."

'Central & Eastern Europe: Mobile Market Analysis and Forecasts', the new report from Informa, is said to show that annual mobile data revenues in Central and Eastern Europe will increase 107% from US$11.3 billion in 2008 to US$23.4 billion in 2013. As a result, the proportion of operators' revenue generated by data is forecast to increase by more than half, from 19.4% in 2008 to 30.4% by 2013.

Voice revenue from existing subscriptions will also rise gradually, due to increased usage: leading Russian operators MTS and VimpelCom, for example, have already seen average outgoing and incoming minutes of use (MOU) exceed 200 per subscription per month in 2008, which can be attributed partly to promotions offering low-cost on-net calling.

Higher monthly rental incomes are also contributing to revenue growth in markets where operators have concentrated on migrating prepaid subscriptions onto contracts - a trend that will continue to have a positive impact on revenues in the region over the next five years. "The share of subscriptions on contracts in the Czech Republic, for example, increased by 3.3 percentage points over 2008, helping to shore up blended ARPU, as revenue from contract subscriptions increased," said Browne.

However, the forecasts may be impacted by the ongoing financial crisis with leading operators in Central and Eastern Europe having registered a fall in revenue in 4Q08 reported in US dollars. This was due in large part to the sharp fall in the value of many of the region's currencies against the US dollar (the Ukrainian Hryvnia lost around 52% of its value in 4Q08 alone, while the Russian ruble and Polish zloty have both lost more than 30% of their value since September 2008).

Although voice revenues, particularly in the enterprise sector, are likely to be suppressed by the contraction of the region's economies, operators have expressed optimism that mobile data services will prove resilient.

Northern Ireland company, SLA Mobile, has signed an agreement to provide multi-media technology platforms to Fox Mobile Distribution (FMD), a unit of Fox Mobile Group and one of the world's leading mobile entertainment distributors. The deal will enable millions of mobile subscribers across Asia, the Middle East and Africa enjoy content from hit US shows such as ‘The Simpsons' and ‘24'.

FMD's Jamster service in Indonesia will be the first to integrate technology from SLA, with countries throughout Southeast Asia to follow.  Additionally, opportunities exist for SLA's technology platforms to be leveraged by FMD as it rolls out its Jamba and Jamster services to new regions.

"This is a major deal for SLA Mobile, a major win for Northern Ireland and it also confirms our place among the top mobile technology companies in the world," SLA Mobile CEO Nic Stirk said.

"Through our agreement with Fox Mobile Distribution, our expert team will design, build and operate specially-designed platforms to enable fans of popular programmes like ‘The Simpsons' to download content such as ringtones, wallpapers and screensavers.  The agreement will also allow Fox Mobile Distribution to put more targeted mobile advertising across a range of sites."

"Partnering with SLA Mobile will enable Fox Mobile Distribution to reduce the time and cost involved with taking high-demand content to market," said Kaj Hagros, Fox Mobile Distribution's COO. 

"Using SLA's custom-built solutions, we'll be able to deliver the most compelling content experience to mobile consumers in a way that is efficient and cost-effective."

SLA Mobile recently opened an office in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, deepening its commitment to establish a global team of industry-leading experts and increasing its reach in the Asia Pacific region.

Pictured L-R - Kaj Hagros Chief Operating Officer at Fox Mobile Group and SLA Mobile Chief Executive Officer, Nic Stirk