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The number of subscribers using mobile Internet services will rise from 577 million currently, to top 1.7bn by 2013, spurred by demand for collaborative applications known collectively as ‘web 2.0', and greater 2.5/3G penetration, according to a new report from Juniper Research..

Established mobile players face increasing competition from web-based brands and will have to adapt their commercial strategies to accommodate greater collaboration with other members of the value chain, if future revenue growth in the mobile web 2.0 space is to be achieved, says Juniper.

According to the report, the emergence of applications such as: Social networking; User Generated Content (UGC); Instant Messaging (IM); Location Based Services (LBS); Search calls for delivery of the mobile Internet as it was originally conceived - i.e. an open environment in which users are able to share, collaborate and exploit content/information without any one party controlling the value chain.

This marks a fundamental shift for the industry towards the D2C (direct-to consumer) model and places growing pressure on mobile network operators (MNOs) and handset manufacturers in particular, to relinquish some of their control over the value chain, by opening up their networks/devices to third-parties.

"Major web players have already crossed the Rubicon and established themselves in the mobile domain, placing the onus on MNOs and other members of the value chain to form innovative relationships and grab a share of the new revenue streams being created," comments Ian Chard, Juniper Research Analyst and author of the report.

"The mobile web 2.0 market is still nascent and business models remain in a state of flux, so there is still time for players to establish fruitful partnerships that build on their strengths and are reciprocally beneficial. The window of opportunity, however, is closing."

Blyk, the new mobile network for 16-24 year olds funded by advertising, has announced its next wave of European expansion into Germany, Spain and Belgium in 2009, following its announcement to enter the Dutch market earlier this year. Blyk's rapid expansion is subsequent to its UK success where members are said to have embraced the Blyk concept so quickly that its annual member targets of 100,000 were reached six months ahead of schedule.

To date, Blyk has run over 900 campaigns in the UK for brands such as Coca Cola, STA Travel, Penguin, Buena Vista, L'Oreal and music artists The Kooks and Alphabeat with an average response rate of 29 percent, an extremely high level for any media platform. For example, Penguin's campaign to promote Nick Hornby's new novel, saw 7 out of 10 members engage with the publisher in a dialogue.

Blyk will make further announcements related to activities in each of these countries in the near future.

In addition to Blyk's European expansion plans, the company will continue to strengthen its services in the UK through more members and brands. By the end of the year, Blyk's aim is to boost the number of brands using Blyk to 200 by the end of 2008. In doing this, Blyk wants to deliver on their driving idea to unite young people and advertisers to free communication.

Blyk's CEO and Co-founder, Pekka Ala-Pietilä said, "There is a great opportunity for Blyk in these markets. Our research shows that young people in Germany, Spain and Belgium are interested in the Blyk proposition because they want to interact with brands they like in exchange for free communication. Our success in the UK, illustrated by robust member adoption, has proven that Blyk is a youth media that works and we hope to replicate this success as we enter new countries. We are also working to attract local talent who share our enthusiasm and can help build Blyk into a significant youth media in other countries."

Anam, the provider of 'revenue-generating SMS applications', has announced that it has partnered with NeuStar, a provider of clearinghouse and directory services to the global communications and Internet industry, to showcase seamless SMS and IM interworking solutions as part of NeuStar's Mobile Instant Messaging service.

The integrated NeuStar and Anam technologies will deliver an "SMS continuity" solution that enables operators to remove interoperability barriers between SMS and mobile IM users. IM users will be able to seamlessly exchange IM messages with SMS users without having to leave that conversation. The solution, which is said to help drive service take-up, links a user's mobile number identity to the IM sent, which appears on the received SMS.

Gerry McKenna, CEO of Anam, said, "Our partnership with NeuStar yet again demonstrates the enormous popularity of SMS and its importance as a revenue stream for mobile operators. By adding SMS functionality to NeuStar's mobile IM services, operators can improve the customer experience and increase revenues at the same time."

Allen Scott, general manager of NeuStar Next Generation Messaging, said, "Providing a seamless interaction between SMS and IM users on the mobile device is key to the uptake of mobile IM, bridging the two services and enabling IM users to experience advanced messaging in real time.  SMS continuity is also a key part of the GSMA's Personal IM initiative, which NeuStar fully supports through the most 'white-labelled' mobile IM services on the market today."

UK mobile users are increasingly turning to social applications such eBuddy, mig33, Bing, Cellity, EQO, Nimbuzz, Flurry, and Trutap for messaging and photo sharing at the expense of MMS, according to GetJar, the mobile application portal.  A statistically precise survey of GetJar's UK users is claimed to have revealed that 15% had already dropped MMS in favour of application-based messaging.

Regular MMS users also said to have reported reliability and service problems, with only one third finding their attempts to send MMS messages to be successful every time.  A further 31% reported that they had rarely or never successfully sent an MMS message via their mobile.  The final third of users indicated that they didn't use their phone to send photos at all.

"Only a short time ago, application-based messaging was unheard of, and now we can see a significant trend towards this form of social communication," explained Ilja Laurs, Founder and CEO of GetJar.  "Users experience a wide range of setup and compatibility issues in their use of MMS, which applications are helping them to overcome - and they are doing so for free."

GetJar has also reported a steep climb in the popularity of messaging applications, both from developers and in the level of downloads, with over 3.7 million downloads by users per month.

GetJar's survey received replies from nearly 600 UK users, with trends in territories such as the USA showing similar developments. 

Motorola has announced the results from its European study into consumer attitudes towards Femtocells.  While the technology is still relatively unheard of amongst consumers with over three-quarters not being familiar with Femtocells, adoption is set to rise.  When key benefits of Femtocells - such as increased mobile coverage in the home, improved call quality and lower cost ‘in home' voice call charges - were explained, over 40 percent of respondents said they (definitely or probably) plan to make a purchase in the next 12 months.

The study of over 1,800 mobile and Internet users across six countries revealed that Poland has the highest rate of early Femtocell adopters with 67 percent planning to purchase a femtocell service, followed by Spain (62 percent), Italy (61 percent), France (34 percent), UK (34 percent), and Germany (33 percent).

The consumer benefits of a Femtocell-enabled service include improved indoor mobile coverage, maximum data rates, consolidated communications billing and reduced "in-home" call charges, with a seamless communications experience as consumers roam from inside to outside their homes. These benefits are all possible for customers using their existing 3G handsets.

Femtocells are set to change traditional phone usage patterns.  In Poland, 41 percent of consumers questioned said the technology would make them use their mobile phone more around the house, closely followed by the Spanish respondents (40 percent).  The survey also showed that Femtocells are viewed as an extension to the family media environment, with 51 percent of respondents extremely or very interested in a ‘family plan' that allowed various members of a household to connect to the Femtocell.

While Femtocells can only be operated by service provider with licensed spectrum, 54 percent of respondents showed a preference to purchase their Femtocell from their existing broadband vendor which indicates that consumers may see Femtocells as an extension of the broadband service.

Also, those questioned showed a clear interest in bundled communications service that includes a Femtocell, with over a third of respondents interested.  This indicates a significant opportunity for integrated operators with both mobile and broadband services.

"Our study shows that consumers would fully welcome the enhanced performance and cost benefits that Femtocells deliver," says Joe Cozzolino, corporate vice president and general manager, Motorola Home and Networks Mobility EMEA. "Consumers are demanding more from their communications providers, and are looking forward to rich personal media experiences.  As a leader in Femtocell solutions we envisage they will form an integral part of the home communications environment, enabling operators to attract and retain new customers through enhanced services and new applications while potentially reducing the cost of delivery."

As more devices enter the home, the importance of ‘plug-and-play' for ease of use is becoming ever more apparent. The survey shows that consumers would be more willing to purchase a Femtocell if they did not have to worry about set-up, highlighting the importance of self-configuring features of the femtocell together with the operators' provisioning and management systems. As home systems become more complex, users expect equipment to work straight out of the box.

Stuart Carlaw, vice president of mobile wireless at ABI Research stated that: "This pent up demand for a Femtocell like product does not only start and finish with voice services. The survey clearly outlined that there is significant opportunity to link the handset into the connected home concept that leverages rich multimedia services as well as voice.  It is imperative that vendors and carriers recognise this at the earliest outset and engineer products and service bundles that facilitate this post haste."

Foundation established to provide royalty-free open platform

Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and NTT DOCOMO have announced plans to unite Symbian OS, S60, UIQ and MOAP(S) to create one open mobile software platform. Together with AT&T, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone, the four are planning to establish the Symbian Foundation to 'extend the appeal of the unified software platform'.

Membership of the non-profit Foundation will be open to all organizations, while the initiative is supported by current shareholders and management of Symbian Limited, who are said to have been actively involved in its development. Plans for the Foundation are also said to have already received wide support from other industry leaders.

To enable the Foundation, Nokia also today announced plans to acquire the remaining shares of Symbian that Nokia does not already own and then contribute the Symbian and S60 software to the Foundation. Meanwhile, Sony Ericsson and Motorola also announced their intention to contribute technology from UIQ, and DOCOMO has also indicated its willingness to contribute its MOAP(S) assets. From these contributions, the Foundation will provide a unified platform with common UI framework, while a full platform will be available for all Foundation members under a royalty-free license, from the Foundation's first day of operations.

Contributions from Foundation members through open collaboration will be integrated to further enhance the platform. The Foundation will make selected components available as open source at launch, and will then work to establish the most complete mobile software offering available in open source. This will be made available over the next two years and is intended to be released under Eclipse Public License (EPL) 1.0.

The Foundation's platform will build on the leading open mobile software platform, with more than 200 million phones, across 235 models, already shipped by multiple vendors and tens of thousands of third-party applications already available for Symbian OS-based devices.

"Ten years ago, Symbian was established by far sighted players to offer an advanced open operating system and software skills to the whole mobile industry", said Nigel Clifford, CEO of Symbian. "Our vision is to become the most widely used software platform on the planet and indeed today Symbian OS leads its market by any measure. Today's announcement is a bold new step to achieve that vision by embracing a complete and proven platform, offered in an open way, designed to stimulate innovation which is at the heart of everything we do."

"Establishing the Foundation is one of the biggest contributions to an open community ever made," said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, CEO of Nokia. "Nokia is a strong supporter of open platforms and technologies as they give the freedom to build, maintain and evolve applications and services across device segments and offer by far the largest ecosystem, enabling rapid innovation. Today's announcement is a major milestone in our devices software strategy."

"The complete, consistent platform that the Foundation plans to provide will allow manufacturers to focus on their unique differentiation at a device level" said Dick Komiyama, President of Sony Ericsson. "Sony Ericsson believes that the unified Symbian Foundation platform will greatly simplify the world for handset manufacturers, operators and developers, enabling greater innovation in services and applications to the benefit of consumers everywhere."

AOL UK has today announced a partnership with WIN plc that will see the interactive mobile innovator provide AOL with a mobile content delivery platform for web and mobile.

Under the terms of the agreement, WIN will provide AOL UK with a fully managed mobile content store on both its mobile and web-based portals, supplying entertainment, information and paid-for content to AOL users.

In addition, WIN will provide content aggregation, web and mobile portal design and ongoing service development.

As well as sourcing and managing content for AOL, WIN will integrate mobile delivery of AOL UK's popular Instant Messenger service (AIM). WIN's extensive product suite will also be available under this agreement to support the future enablement of multimedia, video and WAP services.

Announcing the deal, Chris Locke, Director of Mobile at AOL Europe, said: "AOL strives to offer our users a compelling mobile experience; we want to continue to enrich the web to mobile experience and attract new mobile users through attractive, made for mobile content. As such I am delighted that in WIN we have a quality partner who can deliver a strong and relevant service."

Graham Rivers, WIN plc CEO, continued; "This is a milestone agreement for WIN and a tremendous endorsement of our capabilities. We are providing AOL with best of breed mobile and web storefront portals and services, as well as the capability to deliver its IM traffic to any UK mobile, regardless of network operator."

 

The LTE SAE Trial Initiative (LSTI), a global group of LTE equipment vendors and operators, has outlined plans for cross-vendor device to network interoperability testing of LTE. With the testing, LSTI says it is fostering the development of a global LTE ecosystem that will include a wide range of LTE devices that will function consistently on all LTE networks worldwide. This will mean that consumers have the prospect of super-fast wireless broadband coverage no matter where on the globe they roam or what type of device they prefer.

LSTI members, including some of the telecommunications industry's largest and most innovative players, are developing a phased approach for validating LTE functionality and performing standards based interoperability testing. In an initial step, a common set of features for LTE Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and Time Division Duplex (TDD) equipment is being defined as the basis for early interoperability tests between devices and infrastructure. This feature set definition is expected to be complete by the end of 2008 and will be followed by interoperability tests across infrastructure equipment, mobile devices, and chipsets from the various LSTI member companies. These cross-vendor interoperability tests will foster increased industry synergies, consolidated 3GPP specifications, smoother LTE network launches, and improved LTE time to market.

"LTE is positioned to become a global standard for mobile broadband networks," said Dr. Jinsung Choi, vice president of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Technology Research Lab. "Having common LTE specifications and achieving widespread interoperability across LTE networks regardless of who designed, built, or operates them will simplify the worldwide adoption of LTE. The network essentially becomes invisible to consumers, making connecting from anywhere in the world as simple as turning on your mobile device."

"LSTI is focused on accelerating the development of LTE wireless broadband networks and devices," said Dr. Klaus-Jurgen Krath, senior vice president of Radio Networks Engineering and Quality, T-Mobile, LSTI Member. "Not only will the early existence of a large, global, LTE ecosystem drive the adoption and proliferation of LTE mobile broadband, it will also create choices for consumers. More mobile devices, from smartphones to laptops, will allow consumers to experience true mobile broadband in any way they want to and in a way that fits their budget."

The initial device-to network interoperability tests will focus on basic connectivity and high-speed data transmission over LTE networks, including more advanced features such as high quality video. LSTI plans to begin cross-vendor interoperability testing in 2009, on the basis of 3GPP specifications which are planned for closure in the fourth quarter of 2008. This testing phase follows the LTE proof of concept work that LSTI is currently undergoing to show what the technology is capable of, including demonstrations of the download speeds needed to support high-bandwidth mobile applications such as high definition video streaming. Proof of concept work started with the FDD version of LTE and now LSTI is also developing the proof of concept validation for the TDD version of LTE to support various spectrum requirements globally.

LSTI's efforts to accelerate development of the LTE technology and ecosystem are said to have recently been enhanced by the addition of several new members to the trial initiative. The latest companies to join LSTI are Agilent Technologies Inc., Motorola, Rohde & Schwarz, and Telefonica.

LSTI is also working in close cooperation with the NGMN Alliance to further enhance the LTE ecosystem by ensuring that the tests which LSTI performs reflect the needs and perspectives of operators.

ip.access, a developer of femtocell and picocell solutions, has developed new 3G Home Routing technology that connects 3G phones into a home network via its Oyster 3G femtocell.

3G Home Routing uses the Oyster 3G to provide a real-time "bridge" between the user's home network and any 3G handset, enabling a new generation of entertainment and communications applications for consumers, and allowing them to use their mobile phone in new and exciting ways at home.

Using a femtocell, a 3G phone can connect directly to a home network, enabling new applications such as streaming live video from a home media server to the handset, using the phone to browse the music on the home server and select tracks to play, or displaying a slideshow of phone photos on the TV.

"Femtocells can open up these applications to any 3G handset quickly and easily, putting your mobile phone at the heart of your connected home," said ip.access VP of Marketing, Dr. Andy Tiller.  "Our femtocell-powered 3G Routing technology means there's no need to have a special WiFi-enabled phone, and you don't have to spend time configuring any settings either."

Because all the data traffic is routed locally over the femtocell, the end-user benefits from full HSDPA data rates for all their connected home applications.  3G Home Routing removes the delay associated with carrying data traffic from the phone over the mobile operator's core network and back, which also saves costs for the operator.

"Femtocells can offer consumers more than just better 3G coverage at home," said Tiller.  "We believe that connected home applications and other ‘femtozone' services will become compelling reasons for consumers to adopt femtocells."

Next2Friends, the mobile social media platform, has announced the launch of version 1.0 of its ‘Live' application. Designed to provide 'true real-time streaming' from mobile devices to the mobile and static web, the development is set to eliminate pointless delays in mobile video streaming technology.

Inclusions such as one click broadcasting are claimed to simplify and speed up the use of the application, while both public (cross network) and private (friends only) streaming options provide 'easy yet intelligent' quick methods for sharing live streams according to content and preference. Once videos are on the Next2Friends network, sharing them further by embedding them into third party sites, services and blogs is said to be simple. Next2Friends Live has a 15-30 Frames per Second (FPS) speed and fully supports GPRS, 3G, 3.5G and Wi-Fi connectivity.

This technical achievement results in the ability for live video to be streamed from mobile device to web with, at most, a 0.2 second delay under optimal conditions. Previously unachievable in the industry, where even optimal conditions result in anything from a 2 to 30 second delay, Next2Friends' true live streaming enables users to capture and share life as it happens.  Built from the ground up to be both mobile-centric and mobile aware, the application also delivers both manual and automatic video quality selection to guarantee that optimal streaming results are achieved independent of location, carrier or connection speeds.  

"When designing an application of this complexity, it's often a challenge to remain a purist about what you're trying to achieve;" commented Anthony Nystrom, CTO of Next2Friends. "We stuck to our original aim of providing a real time, real life experience for our users with no degradation or delay and by developing all the technology in-house, we've delivered exactly that."

Next2Friends' patent-pending technology is a proprietary, unique solution. With R&D based on three continents, the Next2Friends technical team is comprised of world class software developers individually selected for their particular expertise in different mobile and internet platforms. This team have worked together on a number of different projects over the last decade, and are today focused on honing and perfecting the Next2Friends suite of applications and features.

fring has released the fringAPI, claimed to bring 'fringsters' a potentially unlimited selection of mobile games, tools, services and communities to enrich their mobile-internet experience.

The fringAPI enables third-party web-developers using only XML and JavaScript know-how to bring the fring community new mobile applications and mobile versions of web-based applications, providing access to fring client GUI with web browser extensions and basic phone functions. Integrated within fring, all new applications are enriched with fring's built-in presence indicators including real-time awareness of users' presence (online, away, offline, or in a call). Users will benefit from a rich, augmented experience combining a selection of new mobile applications with fring's service featuring VoIP talk, multi-community chat, online presence, file transfer, 3G-Wi-Fi auto-roaming and more interaction between fring users (fringsters) and their online buddies.

"We built the fring community by harnessing and bringing our users the benefits of internet communication & experience, within the challenging mobile environment. By opening the fringAPI, we are now sharing our "mobile-internet key" to let talented developers worldwide add-on any flavor of mobile internet fun and functionality for our users to enjoy." Explained Alex Nerst, Co-Founder and CTO of fring. "We're looking forward to the ride, welcoming the worldwide pool of talented developers to join us in creating the best and broadest selection of mobile internet applications via fring."

Any fringAdd-on application is automatically integrated into the fring interface free of charge with strict privacy control, and becomes widely accessible to fringsters on hundreds of devices across platforms, service providers and communities. The fringAPI is currently available for fring clients for Nokia S60 v9.2 and additional devices and platforms will be added in the coming weeks.

The GSMA, the global trade body for the mobile industry, and the NGMN Alliance, the group focused on the evolution to the next generation of mobile networks, have agreed to cooperate to help steer the development of mobile broadband communications to give customers a 'compelling mobile broadband experience'.

The two groups will cooperate to ensure that users of next generation mobile networks, such as those based on the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard, will be able to roam on to existing GSM, W-CDMA and HSPA networks, which now cover more than 80% of the world's population. The GSMA and the NGMN Alliance will also develop the commercial frameworks and technical platforms necessary to ensure that all mobile services will be able to travel across both next generation networks and existing networks based on the GSM family of technologies.

The two have also agreed to co-operate in other essential areas related to the development of next generation mobile broadband services, such as intellectual property rights and spectrum requirements.

"Now is the time for the mobile operator community to bring together all the pieces that are needed to ensure that our industry can meet the rapidly rising global demand for mobile broadband services in the decade beyond 2010," said Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer of the GSMA. "This agreement with the NGMN Alliance will help ensure that users of the mobile broadband networks of the future will enjoy all the benefits, such as economies of scale, global roaming and interoperability, inherent in the GSM ecosystem today."

"This cooperation will certainly help to steer the future of mobile broadband and will support the rapid deployment of NGMN technologies," said Dr. Peter Meissner, Operating Officer of the NGMN Alliance. "Our agreement is not just about liaison, it is project driven and we have clearly identified those areas where the mobile industry needs to cooperate. We are happy to share our milestone achievements in technology evaluation, trials, IPR and spectrum."

Anite, a specialist in testing technology for the wireless industry, has announced that its LTE test solution, the first in a portfolio of LTE test systems being jointly developed with Agilent Technologies, will be used by Freescale Semiconductor for the advanced demonstration of its LTE implementation. The demonstration will take place at the Freescale Technology Forum in Orlando, Florida, on 16- 19 June, 2008.

The demonstration will show High Definition video being streamed to Freescale's LTE mobile chipset using LTE protocols, with Anite's Development test system simulating the LTE network. During the demonstration, the chipset decodes the LTE protocol, enabling the HD video to be played. The demonstration is significant as it shows LTE technology working with the type of intensive high-bandwidth application that users will demand.

"Anite's participation in Freescale's LTE demonstration at this year's Technology Forum, is a testament to its highly collaborative approach and sustained ability to provide state of the art testing solutions for early development testing of LTE." said Kevin Traylor, Director of Cellular Products Group, R&D, Freescale.  "The ability to independently verify our designs is an essential element in the ongoing development of LTE."

The demonstration at the Freescale Technology Forum also showcases Anite's Development Toolset (DT). DT is a solution that provides a fully integrated development environment enabling the creation of the LTE Protocol layers for comprehensive testing at every stage of product development, whether for protocol, baseband, or RF implementations. Using DT, developers have full control in creating, amending and reusing tests, which can provide consistency across each of these different stages of product development and realize significant cost savings.

"The pace of LTE user equipment development is a testament to the commitment and focus of the industry," said Dan Oosthuizen, Managing Director, Anite. "In particular, the demand from pioneering companies like Freescale for the ability to demonstrate and test their designs shows the acceleration towards commercially-viable solutions.

"What is distinctive about the early days of a new technology like LTE, is that user equipment developers such as Freescale can't independently verify their designs without working with a test solution partner. This close collaboration involves alignment of standards, advance test tools and provision of early test capability. In effect, through these relationships, we are pioneering the eco-system needed to make LTE happen."

Palringo, a messaging service that extends to mobile devices all the functionality of PC-based instant messaging services, has released its software client for BlackBerry smartphones.

BlackBerry users can now chat using voice and picture messages as well as traditional text.  Further, they can do so with other users of eight popular PC-based IM services (including AOL's AIM, Windows Live Messenger and Google Talk) through one interface.  Equally importantly, they can do so whether sitting at a computer, tapping with a smartphone or Pocket PC stylus, or using a Blackberry.

Palringo combines a user's contacts from all services into a single, presence-aware list, eliminating the need to continually switch between multiple IM tools.  In addition, Palringo offers walkie-talkie style vocal instant messaging, the real-time text functionality of IM, and the ability to share pictures - all within the context of one ‘threaded' discussion.