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Three majors to release DRM 

Vodafone has signed deals with Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and EMI Music to offer their tracks DRM free across Vodafone markets for both mobile phones and PCs.

The new deals are the first of their kind for a mobile network operator enabling dual delivery of DRM free music to a wide range of mobile phones and PCs with no need to sideload or synchronize.  Customers will be able to play music bought from these three labels via the Vodafone Music store without any limit to the type of device provided they belong to the customer.

In addition, those customers who have already bought tracks or albums from Universal Music, Sony Music or EMI in WMA format (with DRM) will be able to upgrade them to MP3 at no extra charge within the existing download allowance.  DRM free music will be available through a number of Vodafone countries by the summer and will complement Vodafone’s current music offerings.

“Music is central to many of our customers’ lives,” said Pieter Knook, Vodafone Internet Services Director.  “By Vodafone pioneering DRM free on mobile and offering MP3s on PC, they will now have the freedom to download tracks from their favourite artists without any device restrictions allowing them to experience their music however they want it, wherever they are.”

“Vodafone has been a business partner of Universal Music for six years,” said Rob Wells, SVP, Digital, at Universal Music Group International.  “This new deal shows how serious Vodafone is about music, and opens up new opportunities for both companies - but, more importantly, for consumers and artists.”

 “We are thrilled that this agreement will provide Vodafone’s millions of customers in Europe with access to music by our popular local artists and global superstars,” commented Thomas Hesse, President, Global Digital Business, U.S. Sales, Corporate Strategy, Sony Music Entertainment. “Vodafone’s convenient mobile and PC solution gives fans another great way to integrate music into their daily lives and forge an even stronger connection with the artists they love.”

“EMI has long been a proponent of DRM free music because of the benefits it brings to fans and so we are very supportive of this initiative from Vodafone,” said Douglas Merrill, EMI Music’s COO of New Music and President, Digital Business.  “With its international reach and commitment to music, Vodafone is taking a major step forward for our industry by offering consumers more flexibility and choice.”

Vyke today announced it has formed a strategic partnership with Nimbuzz, the Netherlands based provider of mobile social networking and interactivity applications.

This strategic partnership is said to build upon the component strengths of both Vyke and Nimbuzz by combining Vyke's paid mVoIP service and Nimbuzz' mobile peer to peer mobile social messaging and VoIP services.

The globally available Nimbuzz service is claimed to be currently growing atl over 20,000 new users per day

Th strategic partnership allows Vyke to address Nimbuzz's growing and loyal user base with its paid mVoIP services, adding a new and high-potential sales channel to Vyke's existing distribution structure. This sales channel also positions Vyke to benefit from the high growth rate provided by Nimbuzz's mobile services.

Kjetil Bøhn, CEO of Vyke, commented: "Vyke is delighted to have formed this relationship. Nimbuzz has a very exciting set of mobile social messaging services that will benefit from Vyke's core competency of paid mobile VoIP services. "

Highdeal, a provider of Pricing & Rating solutions, has today announced that Wateen, a Pakistan based Telecom service provider, has selected Highdeal Transactive for the pricing and rating of its postpaid IMS services. 

Wateen already uses Highdeal Transactive for the pricing, rating and balance management of their prepaid IMS services. They were so delighted with the solution that they decided to extend it to their postpaid offering.

Building on their parallel deployments of fibre optic backbones and VSAT (satellite) communications, Wateen has been deploying for the last two years what is believed to be one of the world's largest WiMAX networks for fixed broadband access. On its growing network, Wateen offers a complete range of telecom and multimedia services and a host of value-added services and applications, which make for complex pricing, rating and billing requirements.

Highdeal has adopted a collaborative approach to deployment and development to support Wateen through its growth and the launch of new services. By using Highdeal at the core of its prepaid and postpaid services, Wateen is said to be gaining the necessary flexibility to rapidly introduce new prices and packages and to create attractive promotions across its service offering.

"Wateen is committed to delivering a broad range of reliable, affordable and quality customer-centric services in a competitive fast moving market. The Highdeal solution provides the pricing and rating agility and ease-of-use Wateen needs in order to fulfill our commitment to offering affordable communications services that meets and exceed our customers' demands," said Tariq Malik, CEO Wateen.
 
"We at Highdeal pride ourselves on working with innovative customers and partners and are extremely pleased to have been selected by such a forward thinking and pioneering telecommunications operator as Wateen," appreciates Eric Pillevesse, CEO of Highdeal.

Zynetix has today announced the general availability of its next generation maritime GSM platform and service - the updated Zynetix Ocean Linx GSM controller and the new Zynetix Managed Core Services (MCS).  Both elements were selected by Globe Wireless for their new GSM-at-sea service, GlobeMobile, also launched today.

Building on its first commercial maritime deployments in 2005, the Zynetix Ocean Linx is a GSM communications platform with features including bandwidth conservation and an enhanced voice and text feature set to make the most of in-roaming and crew prepaid capabilities.  Ocean Linx has been designed to meet both the market-specific and technical-specific needs of maritime GSM and is available in various configurations including voice over IP (VoIP) and FXO port, according to the preferred satellite backhaul mode.

With Managed Core Services (MCS), Zynetix manages and runs the GSM core infrastructure for its Maritime Service Provider (MSP) partners.  Facilities offered through MCS include: HLR, core MSC, SMSC, prepaid platform, alarm monitoring and multiple GSM partner interconnects.  Zynetix MCS is hosted in a secure facility in London and offers many benefits including faster time to market, reduced training requirements and lower capex.

Commenting on the launch of the GlobeMobile service, Ian Taylor, CEO of Zynetix said "The field of merchant-vessel maritime GSM is now moving from trials and first generation systems to the next generation of highly featured and lower cost platforms.  We congratulate Globe Wireless on the launch of their exciting new GlobeMobile service, which we believe sets new standards for the industry."

SMS biggest riser as mobile marketing recall increases significantly in early 2009

New research is said to have revealed a marked increase in the consumer recall of mobile advertising during the first quarter of 2009, with SMS seeing the biggest increase of all the most common channels.

The survey, carried out by research agency, GfK Technology, in conjunction with Limbo, reveals that consumer recall of mobile advertising has jumped to over half those surveyed (55 per cent) in the first quarter of 2009 to date, up from 43 per cent from the previous quarter (Oct-Dec 2008) and also up from 51 per cent in the period April-June 2008.

Whilst all channels have seen an increase in recall since the last quarter of 2008, the biggest growth is in SMS, web and radio advertising, claims the research. Of these, SMS is the biggest riser - continuing to fulfil its potential as a key channel - making up 45 per cent of the mobile advertising recalled by consumers in quarter one 2009. This represents a significant nine per cent increase in recall of advertising, compared to Q4 2008 (36 per cent).

Network operators (13 per cent) continue to be the best recalled of the various mobile advertisers; followed by music related advertising - specifically music downloads (11 per cent). Aside from operators and music, the other areas in which mobile advertising is most commonly recalled are financial services (8 per cent), adult (7 per cent), gambling (7 per cent) and dating (7 per cent).

Colin Strong, head of Mobile Communications research at GfK Technology comments: "These figures show a strong continued growth in the category, with advertisers continuing to embrace the amazing potential of mobile for very targeted marketing. The nature of the advertising recalled indicates that this is still early days, but more and more blue chip brands are experimenting in this area. SMS is often ignored when analysts look at mobile but it continues to be the most significant channel; with mobile web continuing to show significant growth."

Agito Networks, a specialist in technology for enterprise mobility, has announced the availability of its RoamAnywhere, Mobility Router in Europe. The RoamAnywhere Mobility Router is said to be an enterprise fixed mobile convergence (eFMC) product, purpose built for enterprises to help them increase mobile worker productivity while reducing mobile costs.

Agito Networks has also announced the appointment of Paul Donovan, former VP, EMEA - Global, Strategic and Verticals for Juniper Networks, as its Vice President of European Business and Market Development.

Agito Networks' RoamAnywhere Mobility Router is claimed to enable enterprises of all sizes to drastically reduce their mobile expenses with dynamic least cost routing and use of VoIP over WLAN.  The Agito solution extends IP Telephony and Unified Communications capabilities to mobile phones, providing mobile workers with their deskphone and desktop UC capabilities anywhere, ensuring greater productivity and enabling collaboration inside and outside the office.  According to Agito, the solution accomplishes this by uniquely fusing WiFi, mobile carrier networks, IP telephony, and location information, operating on any and all mobile carrier networks, and natively integrating with enterprises' existing equipment, including WLAN infrastructure and directory stores. 

In addition, RoamAnywhere provides <100 ms, automatic handover between WiFi and the mobile network to reduce mobile costs and improve in-building coverage.  Purpose-built for the enterprise, RoamAnywhere is also said to offer high availability, redundancy, security, enterprise scalability, and broad mobile handset and IP-PBX support, including European support for Alcatel and Shortel PBXs in addition to existing support for Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft, Nortel and Asterisk IP-PBXs. 

It has qualified support for more than 35 different types of handsets from Nokia and those running Windows Mobile 6 Standard and Professional operating systems. Agito also claims that, unlike other eFMC solutions that require enterprises to tamper with their enterprise route plans and desk phones during deployment, Agito, with its line-side capabilities, integrates seamlessly into existing customer networks, requiring no changes to the ecosystem. 

"In a lot of enterprises, people are using their mobile phone as their primary phone, instead of their deskphone," said Gaetan Claeys, Business Development Manager Mobility at Dimension Data.  "Many companies today are thinking of using dual mode phones and are looking for a solution such as Agito to reduce and better control cellular charges and roaming charges, save money by not having to buy deskphones for some users, and improve reachability of users.  Agito's solution will help our customers better control and reduce their cellular charges while offering to end users enterprise-class features on their mobile device.  As a network integrator with strong expertise in both wireless technology and unified communications, we are now uniquely positioned in the market to provide our customers with complete enterprise mobile telephony solutions."

RoamAnywhere offers European customers Dynamic Least Cost Routing, which uses patent-pending algorithms to determine how best to route mobile calls, enterprise calls and country-to-country calls, resulting in significant savings.  For global workforces, RoamAnywhere intelligently re-directs international calls through the enterprise PBX with no user involvement, reducing international charges by a factor of 10 or more in most cases.  For in-building "corridor warriors" and telecommuters, the Mobility Router intelligently routes business calls through high-quality home, hotspot or enterprise Wi-Fi networks, off-loading mobile minutes from cellular to the WLAN.

Among other features, Agito's RoamAnywhere introduces into Europe Secure Remote Voice, a first-of-its-kind capability that addresses the challenges of poor in-building mobile coverage outside the enterprise by delivering a secure voice over WLAN (VoWLAN) connection from Wi-Fi networks in homes, hotels and public hotspots.   While other solutions send VoIP traffic unencrypted over the Internet, the RoamAnywhere client uses an application-layer SSL connection to secure VoWLAN from non-enterprise networks.  Users can now realize the cost savings for international roaming as well as enhanced voice quality that VoWLAN provides, in addition to the increased responsiveness of having enterprise PBX connectivity, in a simple-to-use, secure solution.  Secure Remote Voice supports all of Agito's industry-leading capabilities remotely, including sub-100ms secure handover between Wi-Fi and mobile carrier networks, and access to corporate directories - all without a mobile data plan, which other solutions require.

"Agito is the most scalable and redundant solution that I've seen on the market," said Claeys. "It uses proactive handover techniques while most other solutions are only reactive, and the local routing capabilities are very important for companies looking to reduce cellular charges.  It has a very beautiful product interface which is easy to configure, easy to use, and provides a lot of monitoring capabilities.  In addition to the unique Secure Remote Voice functionality, what impresses me the most about Agito is that the system was easy to setup and all IP-PBX features were working in a minute."

"Agito Networks has garnered its share of industry accolades and customer traction in the U.S., and I'm seeing significant interest from European end users and channel partners alike," said Donovan.  "Mobile operators have yet to solve their issues with FMC or deliver enterprise mobility to their customers, paving the way for Agito.  I'm excited to join the company and benefit from the clear greenfield opportunities here in Europe to deliver robust enterprise convergence mobilizing enterprises' unified communications and voice applications."

Streamezzo has today announced that its Rich Media Client will now support T-DMB (Terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) and natively integrates the BIFS (BInary Format for Scenes) standard in compliance with the ISO MPEG-4 specification. BIFS enables the display of additional multimedia data in accordance with the broadcast audio and video streams and is available in all countries implementing T-DMB as their digital TV or digital radio infrastructure, such as France, Korea, Ghana, the Netherlands, Norway, and Vietnam.

With Streamezzo-enabled T-DMB devices, consumers can now access information such as artist or song details, latest news or weather headlines while listening to their favourite radio channel. Streamezzo's solution for T-DMB also brings interactivity into the show which allows listeners to purchase goods, services or music, vote on games and programs, open emails or send SMS messages.

The first commercial T-DMB device integrating Streamezzo's technology is the ETEN-Glofiish V900 mobile phone. The V900 is designed to receive TV broadcast in T-DMB, but also supports the DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting Terrestrial), and DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld) standards. Streamezzo's solution seamlessly integrates these broadcast features with its traditional 3G-based solution in a unique interface, therefore enabling the development of a complete eco-system of connected services integrated around the broadcast signal.

"It's a great achievement for our company" said Oliver Avaro, CEO of Streamezzo "Following the Best Innovator Awards we received several weeks ago, this announcement is a new example of our consistent commitment to be one of the innovation leaders in the broadcast and mobile industry.  By enabling applications developers and services providers to publish interactive content not only across the widest range of devices but as well across various publication standards, we pushed the boundaries of our mission one step further".

Application stores help drive demand
A new report from Juniper Research has forecast that smartphones will account for 23% of all new handsets sold per annum by 2013. Driving interest in smartphones will be the proliferation of online stores selling specialised applications that will make these devices better suited to individual users' needs, says Juniper.

The runaway success of Apple's App Store - reportedly 300 million applications were downloaded by iPhone users within five months of its launch - underscores the rapidity with which smartphones are being adopted by ordinary consumers, eager to build a complete multi-utility lifestyle tool rooted in the Web 2.0 culture. The App Store was not the first on the market, but its high visibility and ease of use has prompted players such as Nokia, RIM, and Google also to jump into the applications market.

According to report author Andrew Kitson: "As vendors increasingly open up the operating system software on their devices, so will the rate at which mobile handsets evolve into personalised Internet-centric mobile computers gather momentum. In this way, users are having an indirect impact on the way in which devices are changing their form and function as well as how they interact with their surroundings. Very soon, the majority of new phones will be smartphones."

Other findings include:   

  • By 2013, annual smartphone sales will reach around 300 million
  • Sales of smartphones will remain healthy during the recession as fewer mid-range devices compete for buyers' attentions and pricing becomes more attractive, while consumers will come to believe that they will be getting more for their money by buying high-end devices
  • Device vendors are seeing falling margins on handset sales and need to diversify into service provision with high-value content from which they and their network operator partners can profit

 

As the result of new research, Informa Telecoms & Media says it expects the Mobile Content and Services market to generate over US$340 billion in end-user service revenues in 2013, up from around US$183 billion in 2008. The two most significant service categories for revenues in 2008 were mobile messaging and mobile Internet, which together contributed over 80% of the total revenues, says Informa.

According to Informa, in recent years many new players have emerged in the mobile content and services value chain and numerous merger, acquisition, and partnership activities have taken place. The traditional players have been joined by a slew of new companies and a significant list of players from other markets including the likes of Google and Apple. It is these companies that present the most credible threat to mobile operators and to the degree of control and influence they have over mobile subscribers.

"In the coming years, the area that will see the most activity and will make or break many players in the mobile content and services value chain is that of the distribution channels," said Shailendra Pandey, Senior Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media

"Off-portal (direct-to-consumer) mobile content distribution is becoming common in most developed markets, and in those where it isn't, operators are under increasing pressure to open up their user base to third parties," added Pandey

The billing relationship operators have with subscribers marks them apart from other companies, allowing them to exert significant levels of control over what content the majority of subscribers have access to.

However, the research from Informa is said to show that this picture is evolving as brand owners and media companies are increasingly looking to leverage the consumer loyalty they have developed through their years of market presence and invest in direct-to-consumer channels. The research is contained in the latest strategic report, Mobile Content and Services, 7th Edition, published by Informa Telecoms & Media.

The report includes 650+ pages of in-depth analysis on all mobile data services including the following topics:

        * Mobile Internet
        * Mobile Social Networking
        * Mobile Advertising
        * Mobile Entertainment
        * Mobile Messaging
        * Location Based Services (LBS)
        * Mobile payments, banking and financial services
        * Plus exclusive Industry Survey 2008

The Telekom Austria Group has today announced that Hannes Ametsreiter has been appointed by the Supervisory Board as the successor to Boris Nemsic as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of the Telekom Austria Group and Chief Executive Officer of mobilkom austria AG as of April 1, 2009. Hannes Ametsreiter also remains Head of the Fixed Net segment. Together with Hans Tschuden, who is Vice Chairman of the board and Chief Financial Officer he will lead the Telekom Austria Group.
 
"Together with my colleague Hans Tschuden, I am looking forward to continuing to execute our strategy in line with the criterias recently laid out," comments Hannes Ametsreiter, newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Telekom Austria Group.
 
"With the appointment of Hannes Ametsreiter, the Supervisory Board has unanimously chosen one of the most internationally renowned telecoms managers. The wealth of experience as well as his strong national and international sector expertise ideally qualifies Hannes Ametsreiter for the role as Chief Executive Officer. Through this appointment, the seamless execution of the ongoing company's strategy is guaranteed. I have full trust in the management team, Hannes Ametsreiter and Hans Tschuden, and I am confident that they will run the Telekom Austria Group to the benefits of all its stakeholders," states Peter Michaelis, Head of the Supervisory Board of the Telekom Austria Group.

A survey scheduled for release on March 9th, conducted by pure mobile social network itsmy.com which surveyed 2,500 active users in mobile internet, is said to show that there are comprehensive synergy effects between mobile social networks, the operators and the mobile phone manufacturers.
 
The survey is said to show that more than 75% of all active mobile social network users in the US and UK would love to have a quick link to their personal operator or phone manufacturer portal on their personal community site, in Italy and Spain the figure being over 80%.
 
On the other hand, over 90% of the respondents access their mobile site of choice directly as the first page they surf in the mobile web and not via the operator portal or any other site. They use bookmarks saved in their mobile phone browsers or widgets, click on links in their phone book or links saved in text messages. Bookmarked links in the phones browser is the most favoured entry point to the mobile internet in all the participating countries.

The survey says that many people have a high trust in their operator and the mobile phone manufacturer and therefore would like to have the option to visit their operator or phone manufacturer portal to top up their prepaid cards or download the latest software for their mobile or even buy music, phones and get the latest news.
 
"The mobile customers main problem is: where can I get what? I don't know what is a safe place to shop and what really works on my phone! Now it's the time that the services are coming to my place. To my mobile networking site." says Jukka Saarelainen, CTO itsmy.com.  
 
"In your mobile social network you have your friends and all kinds of entertainment. A closer relationship with the operator and the mobile phone manufacturer, e.g. a link from your personal homepage to their portals and content, fitting for every user and his mobile phone model, would offer a new service level to the consumer. This is the way to stay in touch and communicate with customers you normally don't get any feedback from once they left your shop on High Street, nowadays you have to be lucky to see him again unless he has troubles with your product." adds Sabine Irrgang, COO and Co-Founder of itsmy.com.

Spotigo has announced the launch of its fully integrated positioning solution HyPS, which can combine GPS and Spotigo's WiFi and Cell-ID positioning methods as inputs to calculate the position of devices.

HyPS integrates Spotigo's WiFi-based positioning solution and the Cell-ID-based positioning, and GPS when available on the device. This means that any device that contains a GPS chip and/or a WiFi card and/or a SIM card can be positioned. HyPS supports the smart management of all these different inputs in order to decide which position to choose as the most reliable and accurate one.

"After focusing on WiFi-based positioning only, we see this fully integrated solution as the logical and consequent next step of our strategy. We are really proud to be able to offer a pure software-based solution that combines all available positioning technologies in the market", states Daniel Prümers, CEO of Spotigo. "Our customers can be sure that they will be able to use the best location information for their LBS based on the intelligent combination of different positioning methods".

HyPS is available for the most common platforms in the market and flexibly deployable in various different scenarios. This solution is targeted to hardware manufacturers and any kind of Location Based Service providers.

Tektronix Communications, a provider of network intelligence solutions, today announced new product enhancements that provide fixed, mobile and converged network operators with the necessary capability required to monitor key protocols in IP signalling and transport networks.

The enhancements to Tektronix Communications' GeoProbe monitoring system and Unified Assurance for Converged Networks (UACN) suite of products help operators advance their development of converged services and networks towards IP while reducing the cost of ownership.

"Tektronix Communications is committed to helping network operators achieve the vision of convergence and evolution towards an all-IP environment," said Mark Driedger, Vice President and General Manager, Network Management, Tektronix Communications. "As operators make this transition, there is a clear need to show ROI at every step. They must also address a tremendous amount of complexity with this shift to all IP, and having visibility across the network and over multiple protocols is critical."

Network operators face a broad array of technology challenges and financial pressures as they deliver complex services that span multiple network technologies into an increasingly competitive market. These enhancements to Tektronix Communications' scalable portfolio of probes and network, service and customer-assurance software packages, enable operators to address these challenges better - with access to actionable information to monitor network performance and deliver services and applications more effectively to their customers.

The need to address complex protocols across signalling and transport networks is critical to ensuring network and service performance. The three new enhancements address signalling, converged and mobile networks - and will enable operators to monitor across a broader range of technologies as they migrate from legacy to next-generation networks.

Jaxtr, a social communications specialist, has added mobile messaging operator TynTec to support its international SMS global coverage. Under the deal, TynTec will be the provider of SMS capabilities for Jaxtr's consumer-facing web-to-SMS service.

Jaxtr offers users free and low-cost local and international calling and SMS via its website.  It supports more than 10 million customers in 220 countries and its free, text-advertising supported international SMS service has already generated millions of messages since its launch in April 2008.

Using its proprietary SMS-C and multiple points of connectivity into the deep-level (SS7) global mobile network, TynTec offers high-speed, guaranteed delivery SMS to more than 400 networks in 160 countries.

By partnering with TynTec to provide global SMS termination, Jaxtr will ensure that its users can send SMS reliably and quickly to a huge number of international destinations.

Phillip Mobin CTO of Jaxtr, said: "We always look for providers that can offer our customers great international reach, timely delivery and utter reliability, and Tyntec is just such a company. TynTec's technical infrastructure means that it can offer this combination and that made them a great partner for this project."

"For a disruptive communications service like ours then user experience is everything - if our consumers suffer from delayed or lost messages it would reflect badly on our service as a whole.  By partnering with TynTec we know that we're offering customers the very best service we can."

Michael Kowalzik, CEO of TynTec, said: "Jaxtr is bringing a new model to mobile communications - combining VOIP and SMS telephony with an intuitive online interface, ad-funded model and social media capabilities." 

"Internet businesses are increasingly introducing an SMS functionality into their offerings and it is something that we support through our messaging infrastructure as well as our renowned reliability and international reach."